Category Archives: MMO Game Design

Are MMORPG Character Stats Actually Serving a Purpose?

Whether it’s attributes on gear or points spent on the character sheet, character stats are one of the most universal aspects of MMORPG design. If you looked hard enough, you might be able to find some MMOs without character stats, but it’d be a pretty short list.

The character stats pane in World of Warcraft

And yet there are a lot of problems inherent with the way MMOs handle character stats. These problems are so fundamental and so widespread that you probably don’t even think about them most of the time, but they’re no less real despite that, and I have a much harder time identifying what good stats actually do.

It’s enough to make you wonder: Are character… Continue reading


What MMOs Can Learn from Mass Effect: Andromeda

Have you noticed that things are a bit quieter than usual in your MMO lately? Are the streets of Stormwind a little barren? Is the fleet not quite buzzing as much as it usually does? Is the crowd in Cyrodiil a bit thinner?

The planet Havarl in Mass Effect: Andromeda

If you’re finding that the online population is looking a bit smaller all of a sudden, you can probably place the blame on Mass Effect: Andromeda. Bioware’s juggernaut release has drawn the attention of almost everyone with any interest in RPGs, and one would expect plenty of MMO players to dive into it. I know I have.

While playing Andromeda, I can’t help but compare it to MMORPGs… Continue reading


Why Themepark MMOs Work

These days, themepark MMOs — games focused on structured, developer-created content — dominate the genre. They are both the most common and the most successful games around. But what is it that makes the themepark MMO such a successful model? Why have these games enjoyed such success?

The Vault of the Wardens dungeon in the themepark MMORPG World of Warcraft

I’m a pretty diehard themepark fan myself. I may play sandboxes here or there, but in the end my heart still lies with the carefully constructed worlds that only themeparks can provide. Therefore I think I can speak to what it is that has given the genre such enduring popularity, or at least why I keep coming back to them… Continue reading


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