Friday, October 22, 2010

Blizzards next MMO

Let's assume for a second that Blizzard does not plan to make a groundbreaking different MMO, but rather a WoW follow-up. That is, they try to beat WoW at being WoW and since they are Blizzard they think they have a chance where a generation of game developers failed.

What could they change? What would be possible differences to WoW? What would be the lessons learnt?

1) Trade
A nice economy with meaningful trade. This would easily be an addition to WoW. You can even keep teleporting players, if you really want. You just need to forbid teleporting goods. I consider this unlikely, as it is impossible to make a two hour trade route fun to a player that plays 1 hour a week. But it is a possibility. And it would open WoW to a completely different kind of player.

2) Just one faction.
Almost every MMO in the last decade had at least two factions, sometimes more. Considering how neglected the conflict was in WoW and considering the problems it caused - especially at PvP, I am convinced one lesson learnt would be to have just one faction.

3) The core gameplay should stay the same. That is targeting, movement, controls, camera, hotbars, global cooldown. This is the real strength of WoW. No need to change a perfectly working system.

4) They might add several different resource mechanics. They actually try to do this with WoW already: Rage, energy, mana, holy power, chakra, cooldowns, random proccs …

5) Despite the obvious advantage of a cartoon style, future graphics might make it reasonable to create semi-realistic graphics. I have no idea whether it would be a good idea in the end. But it might be worth a try. After all, good graphics is something you can buy for money. And money supply will be practically unlimited for Blizzards next MMO.

6) System requirements, of course, need to stay relatively low. That's a lesson most developers have learnt by now.

7) Full voice output. Bioware does it. And it is just a question of money. So .. I guess they will do it. There isn't really a reason not to.

8) Player housing? Guild Halls? Somehow this, also, is just a question of money. Especially guild halls. But if Blizzard doesn't like these features, because all cities (in addition to the landscape?) are empty as a consequence, they might not do it.

9) Player controlled construction, land estate, ... in short: Sandbox elements. Now .. I can dream. I certainly think that this would be the direction they should go. But it also makes a game much more complex and harder to 'control'. Blizzard do not seem to be sandbox fanatics with WoW, so this might be unlikely. On the other hand, this would be a perfect opportunity to catch the other half of the MMO players. In my opinion they should try this, because the potential benefits would be huge. It is, however, possible to fail here. So this probably comes down to: How bold are they?

10) Raiding can and will be part of the new MMO. Let's hope that it does not have the kind of focus it enjoyed in WotLK.

11) Unpredictable content. This would be a logical consequence of Diablo - influence. In my opinion it is likely that some small unpredictable elements will be part of the game. More is unlikely.

12) Dungeon Masters for every server. Would be great. Is, however, unlikely.

13) Grinding will be part of the new MMO, I hope. But I don't think so.

14) Achievements. Are a pest; but they will be part of that game. The management will see to that.

15) Lore will be completely new. This is actually something Blizzard has already state. It is the right decision.

16) Vehicles will be part. How much they are used, especially for combat, is another question., considering WotLK experience. The engine, however, will be designed to allow for that.

17) Naval combat. Oh yeah. Hell, why not? Seems to be a matter of money after all.

18) Air borne combat. I'm not so sure that is a good idea. Unlikely.

19) Flying in general was a bad idea for WoW, in my opinion. On the other hand, some players seem to consider it mandatory. They will likely have 'flying mounts'. *sigh*.

20) Space combat. This really depends on the setting. I still hope for a fantasy setting. But there are settings that allow for space combat. This is tricky, but has great potential. Especially, because it can be considered a matter of money to have a team that designs this in addition to teams that design other parts of the game.

21) Massive instancing. 99% certain, unfortunately.

22) Talent trees will be removed or be completely different. Star Craft 2 comes into mind.

23) Makros and user-written add-ons will be part of that game. This is one of the success secrets of WoW - and the iPhone, for that matter.

24) Destructible environment. They will try to have an engine that supports this to some degree. Questionable how much they will use it.

25) Some kind of a Chain-of-Command. Depends on the setting. Unlikely.

26) Diplomacy between guilds / user created factions. Would be great. Unlikely.

27) Under-water combat. They will wait for Cataclysm and see how it goes. In my opinion it will be nothing but problems; and not immersive, too.

28) Inventory system will stay the same. No item weight/size - unless they have some kind of trade.

29) Mob AI will stay very simple. Better AI is incredibly hard and the benefit of better AI, even if it worked, is probably low.

30) Collision control instead of threat. Now that is hot iron. If they can make it feasible, technically, this were a real match winner. Possible.

31) Holy Trinity (tank, healer, dd) will probably remain. No good alternatives in sight.

32) Variety. Worth an own blog post. More variety between mobs, dungeons, battlegrounds, raids, etc. There is no good reason to have all BGs take 20min and all dungeons 30min and all mobs 12600 HP.

33) A Dungeon Finder. There will be some kind of DF, but it will not teleport you as much as in WotLK and it will perhaps be embedded in a server architecture that makes you care about your reputation at least a little bit.

34) Infinite dungeon crawls by procedurally created content. How I would love that! 100% worth it,  but unlikely.

35) Dangerous travel. Unfortunately unlikely.

36) Locks, traps. Unfortunately unlikely.

37) Player-owned shops. Worth it, but tricky. Unlikely.

38) Player companies, shares. Unlikely.

39) Player-run financial services. Unlikely.

40) 'Soulbound' items. Quite probable.

41) RvR. Possible.

42) PvP, in general, will be limited to instanced areas.

43) Business Model. Subscription plus careful microtransactions in EU/US. Basically the same as WoW. Perhaps some limited amount fo free content, too.

44) Server identity. No chance. They will concentrate on 'guild identity' to be able to connect servers much more than today.

45) Immersion: Relatively strong focus in the beginning. Will quickly be reduced.

46) Character progression via standard levels. They will not adopt the EVE system nor will they introduce a skill points system.

47) Size of the world will be huge. This is a matter of money.

48) Death penalty will be low, perhaps innovative. Perhaps there will not even be nominal 'death' (Guild Wars 2). They will observe GW2 very closely.

49) Arena-like PvP. Probable. One lesson learnt is that a game needs to be balanced around PvP first and the PvE content will be balanced around PvP abilities then. This does not mean that PvP will be more important. It is just the reasonable thing to do, because PvE mobs don't complain if you nerf them.

50) In general, they will concentrate on their one undeniable advantage: Money.


  1. That's a neat list you have. Some of it will be right, other maybe not. But I think we can agree on number 50!

  2. #9) Sandbox Elements: Very complex, but would be extremely fun to figure out.

    #39) Player run financial services: I've often thought this would be really fun to attempt, but can never quite figure out how to implement it. Like you say, unlikely.

    #50) Money: Absolutely the most overwhelming and important factor from ATVI's perspective. Agreed!