Category Archives: MMO Game Design

Building a Social MMO for the Solo Player

Confession time: I’m one of those awful solo players you always hear are ruining the genre. I used to be more of a social MMO player, with a small but tight-knit World of Warcraft guild that I called home, but after they broke up, I’ve found myself becoming ever more of a virtual loner. I generally don’t join guilds, and if I group at all it will be in a PUG.

A solo player in World of Warcraft

But despite that, I still admire the potential of MMOs as a social medium, at least in theory, and I generally support the idea of finding ways to make MMORPGs more social.

The trouble is that most of the solutions… Continue reading


I Hate Training Gear

In Elder Scrolls Online, player gear can be customized in a number of ways. One such way is through traits, which can add effects like more damage, penetration, healing, etc. Training is one of those traits, and I hate it. You wouldn’t think so given its effect of increasing EXP gained from ALL sources. I must be crazy, right? Who doesn’t like leveling up faster?! Yet never have EXP bonuses felt so tainted as they do with training gear.

Training gear has a massive impact on leveling speed. Depending on the quality of the individual pieces, a full training set can increase EXP gains by over 80%. It’s really hard to pass that up in a genre that is first and foremost about advancing one’s character. And it’s nice… Continue reading


Comparing ESO and TSW’s Build Systems

Elder Scrolls Online and The Secret World are games with a lot in common. They’re both highly story-driven and solo-friendly. And they both have highly flexible build systems that give you great freedom in how to construct your character.

But which system is superior? Let’s break it down.

Combat in Elder Scrolls Online

How they work:

The Secret World has a pretty unusual take on character progression. There are no classes at all, and every character has access to all 500+ abilities in the game, organized in a complex menu called the ability wheel.

The ability wheel is divided into sections based on the game’s nine weapon types, as well as three small miscellaneous skill lines roughly… Continue reading


Why MMO Holidays Suck and How to Fix Them

Around this time of year, holiday events are springing up in MMORPGs like desperate last-minute shoppers at the local mall. Rare indeed is the game that doesn’t throw together an in-game event to coincide with the winter holidays.

A snowglobe in World of Warcraft's Winter Veil holiday event.

Of course, Christmas isn’t the only real world holiday MMOs like to jump on. Most will also throw something together for Halloween, and depending on the game, you might also see events for Valentine’s Day, Easter, or any number of noteworthy occasions.

Unfortunately, there’s one common thread that runs through nearly every holiday event in nearly every MMO: They’re pretty lame. What should be joyous times for the players to come… Continue reading


China Leads Charge to Fix MMO Gambling’s Biggest Problem

eso storm atronach gambling mounts

A totally sweet storm atronach mount can be yours…maybe!

Last week, Elder Scrolls Online launched their latest cash shop additions. The store now sells some pretty sweet storm atronach mounts, along with equally cool new skins. Unfortunately, gambling is the only way acquire these new collectibles. Alongside these items, Zenimax Online Studios has “welcomed” gambling crates to ESO.

As Deltia’s Gaming shows, the gambling crates aren’t a great value. Each crate costs $3.33 – $4 (depending on how many are purchased). Deltia purchased 45 crates, worth about $150. How many of these rare mounts did he receive for supporting gambling? Zero. Zilch. Nada. But that’s OK (or should be) because… Continue reading


What The Secret World’s Rider has to Teach Us About Social Design

A few weeks ago The Secret World held its traditional and much-lauded Halloween event. The new additions for this year broke with tradition a bit by offering an event that was more community driven, instead of the solo-focused stories we’ve gotten in most years.

A group of worshippers during the Rider event in The Secret World.

The new Rider event required cooperation from the entire community — or at least a large section of it — and it was really quite unlike anything I’ve experienced in an MMO before. It got me thinking about the nature of social play in MMOs, and organic versus forced socialization.

A rider approaches:

First, let’s explain a bit about the event… Continue reading