(This post was originally post on Ginny O’s blog on March 22, 2018. All thoughts in this post are Ginny’s opinion.)
Last week, I discussed four of my priorities as a female gamer. And there ended up being eight of them and the post got out of hand. So, I handily was able to cut it in the middle. Last week I said that when it came to MMOrpg style games, my first four priorities were story, world building, customization (oh pretty!) and a simple user interface. The rest of these don’t have a weighted importance and are more considerations that I take into my gaming experience equally.
- Good Ratio of PvE and PvP
Outside of customization, the major difference between a regular RPG and an MMO is the whole second M, the Multi-player aspect. This means that the game tends to get divided into what is called player versus environment, this covers the main story of the game, the hero’s journey so to speak, and player versus player or players pitting their characters against each other in competition. The social aspect of being able to play with other people and form little groups and communities and do things together as a group (such as roleplaying or dungeon crawling or fighting other groups or even competitive racing) is unique to an MMO in that you have an actual “avatar” to respond to as if there was an actual other person playing with you at the time.
This social aspect is what makes a lot of MMO First Person Shooters so popular as well. You just aren’t competing against a computer or working with the computer, you’re competing and cooperating with actual people on their own computers all over the globe forging friendships and drama and everything messy that comes from playing with other people!
So while the story, the PvE is really what gets a player hooked into the game and keep coming back, the PvP is the glue that bonds everyone together. We’re just one big happy family playing this big game together and see aren’t we having fun now! So, PvP that’s balanced and plays a somewhat important part of the game for different player types is essential to having a good MMO.
- The Ability to Complete the Game By Myself
The caveat being, there are people such as myself that don’t really care about competitive PvP and dislike cooperative PvE. I’m an introvert. I don’t mind helping other people. I really don’t. But I’d rather play through the game by myself. I don’t want to have to rely on a big group of other people to get through a PvE quest.
I know. I know. “Go find a single player game.”
You do realize that not a lot of singer player games are actually made to follow the MMO format, correct? There used to be more single player games of this type, back in the late 90s and early 2000s. But then the MMO took over and companies saw a legitimate business practice! And an MMO can cater to a person who prefers to be a “lone wolf” if done right.
Being able to play through the story by yourself is a legitimate player type in these games. Eventually, Guild Wars realized that they did have players that preferred this style and allowed for computer controlled NPCs to form a party. (Not that they were great NPCs stats or level wise. It was a halfway there type of effort.) And by the third expansion, the player could actually befriend NPCs and train them to be a party where they controlled the NPCs skills set. (One very good reason I played Guild Wars.) Not that this made quests where you had two player groups trying to get through the same dungeon from opposite sides any easier. (Seriously, don’t do this games. I stopped playing Guild Wars because I couldn’t get through that dungeon. I know it had to be possible! I got too frustrated and stopped.)
And players who like to play story by themselves may not want to do other things by themselves, such as role play or something. Needless to say, I want to get through your game without having to rely on other players to defeat the dungeon. Yes, I know. But this is my thing and I know there are a lot of other players like me!
The way a game looks does tend to play into whether not I choose to play the game. There are certain styles of game animation that aren’t my cup of tea. There is also a limited threshold for MMO graphics that can be reached and have the game still play smoothly. There comes a point where realism and fancy graphics take over and you’re no longer in MMO territory but Red Dead Redemption, Assassin’s Creed, and Elder Scrolls: Skyrim!
I personally prefer a semi-realistic style. I liked Ever Quest, Guild Wars and City of Heroes for this reason. Outside of WoWs very confusing user interface and complete inability for me to play by myself, I didn’t really favor the three dimensional American Cartoon look they had going for them. I understand that it’s from the battle strategy games that started the franchise and I get it! I liked Warcraft 3 as much as the next gamer who enjoys strategy games. (I liked Star Craft better!) If there was an MMO with the three dimensional cell shading like Sly Cooper, I’d probably play it! Some styles resonate with some players than others and I prefer realism.
But I don’t really care in the long one if your game has late 90s style graphics or cartoon style graphics or anime style graphics or whatever three dimensional style you choose, as long as the style of graphics are thematically similar! Meaning, I want them to look like they all came from the same game and that the transitions from area to area make sense. If the game has a desperate need to update their graphics to make them “higher” resolution (and thus a more pain in the ass for players in lag time) then do it all at once and don’t piece it out. If someone from an old game needs to be in the MMO, remake their character to fit in with the current style of the MMO and don’t just rip them from the old game. Also, the NPCs and your player avatars also better look the same!
This type of nonsense as an artist drives me batty. Look, have a color palette, stick to it and choose your style and stick to that.
- Limited Micro-transactions.
Gaming is a business and it’s big business. Games need to make money. However, if I can’t play through your game after buying it for fifty to seventy bucks without paying another fifty bucks or more to get full enjoyment out of it or to be able to actually play through the game by process of some micro-transaction. Then you’ve built the game wrong.
Small purchases that use real money for something in game is on the grey scale of morally wrong in my opinion. The player has purchased a game and by purchasing that game they should have a full experience without having to purchase more. But human beings and certain player types have bad impulses and gaming companies aren’t above taking advantage of that. This is hard especially on young players who may not have a lot of money to begin with. And when micro-transactions give better gear and equipment than can be found through crafting or other purchasing means, then it’s downright unfair. One shouldn’t have to “pay to play” to stand a fighting chance in the game.
I don’t mind a purely optional micro-transaction or two. These should be strictly optional. Nowadays, I open MMOs and find micro-transactions littering the ground practically everywhere. From in game goods to customization options to mounts, well, you get the idea. (Map travel as a micro-transaction, just what?)
Okay, I’m older and old school. There are game player types that have to have everything in a game and these micro-transactions really take advantage of this tendency to buy, buy, buy. Some micro-transactions even come as “mystery” boxes so you’re gambling on what you’re going to get. And yes, it is really the responsibility of the player and if the player is young, the player’s parents to monitor and control their spending. However, it is also the responsibility of a gaming company not to exploit this as it does drive players away from the game.
How a game makes me pay for their game is also a factor in whether or not I buy it. I’m a fan of the onetime payment and done option. Give me other ways to support your game than monthly subscriptions. I will take a payment plan over a subscription any day of the week. And this is why I’m not willing to rule out micro-transactions entirely. As long as they are completely optional and not in every facet of the game. If I can pay for some optional micro-transactions or extra character slots and I’m enjoying the game, I’ll do so!
These are my priorities as a female gamer. I’m not sure how many male gamers you’d ask if they bought a game for the story or if they bought a game for the cool battle mechanics. A lot of times, the males I know don’t even mention the story in their game pitch of “you should play this game because…” fill in the blank with ‘cool graphics,’ ‘you can be a mage’ (okay maybe I want to play a brawler, does that ever occur to you,) or the ever ‘I play this game!’ Sometimes, I’m not sure they even know what the game is about.
I haven’t made an informal poll of late. I simply know that of the female gamers I know and the females that get into games, the stories and characters were a lot more important to them than how they took the ogre’s head off. “And so and so is so cool! AHHH!” Female gamers try to tell me about the story and the characters and usually get frustrated and go “does that sound interesting to you, just play it please!!!” Sure, I do have my favored methods of game play mechanics! But MMOs tend to be a lot more drag and drop and mash a button to cast a spell than having turn battles or mini-games. (I am thoroughly in favor of adding mini-games to MMOs.)
Like it or not, MMOs are here to stay as a viable game type and they mostly cater to males. It’s unfortunate that more MMOs don’t also cater to their female playing base. Hopefully, that will change in the future as companies experiment with putting together different types of game types.