Something I would like to see a lot more in MMOs is proper player driven empire building. Not just guild alliances or one faction zerging the crap out of a server, but proper empire building which has a tangible impact on the game world itself. In my mind this needs 3 key things:
1) Certain areas of land that have high amounts of natural resources.
2) An extensive crafting system that can provide lots of useful items for everyone. AKA a reason to want those resources.
3) Purposeful buildings that are constructed by players in the actual gameworld (not instanced and hidden away).
Actually they’re pretty much the exact same reasons we’ve got nations (and therefore territorial disputes) in the real world. In its most basic sense it’s simply groups of people that survive by working together, utilising their varied skills and controlling natural resources. Backed up by a bit of shared beliefs, at least at first anyway...
Those 3 points give purpose and value to the land itself, which leads to people wanting to claim it for themselves and reap the benefits through crafting or sale of those resources. Then the construction of buildings in the area to provide crafting and trade facilities will only increases the value of the land further. This means territory actually worth defending, which obviously prompts players into doing so with both defensive structures and their own arse kicking powers.
Key words: resources, community, power, territory, control, war…
I suppose this is just the theme-park versus sandbox debate again, but for me it’s this particular element of the sandbox that I would like to see someone do properly for once. There are a few games that have had a crack and most of them would be considered niche and quite possibly flawed.
Ultima Online used to work like this, but unfortunately that was shaken by the introduction of Trammel and then all but destroyed when they copied EQ and went artifact item horny, effectively annihilating crafting and the communities built around it. Since then a few have tried, but most have either closed, sunk into obscurity, or just weren’t that good. Wurm and Darkfall for example; not terrible games, but so smothered in flaws and just so lacking in overall polish that they’ll never reach their potential. Age of Conan appeared to have actually thought about going for it, but they bottled it and went with the instanced player city shite that makes it all irrelevant.
EVE is the big game that really does it all and (I think anyway) it’s the only proper high quality MMO that has real player run empires. Yet EVE for all it’s magnificence is a game that will always divide people due to it’s sci-fi setting, overall harshness and because it is fairly awkward to get into, mainly because of it’s stupidly bad control system for the ships (a tragic waste really).
I’d love to see a fantasy themed MMO that was more than a glorified chat lobby for running dungeon and pvp instances. A game where we could shape the world a bit and where the land itself mattered so it was more than just something you visited as a lowbie. Yet I don’t know if this will ever happen outside of the small niche games, because it must be one hell of a risk for developers to attempt. It is one thing balancing a class or instance, but it’s a whole other thing balancing an entire world and its potential economy… And that’s before they start thinking about how you deal with the problems of alarm clock raids and making a system that prompts player ownership of territory but doesn’t force you to guard it 24/7... So obviously if you’re investing money into developing a game, it’s safer to just make another scripted dungeon and pvp scenario instance based game where the landscape is merely something to glance at as you level through.
But then just because something is difficult or a bit risky, it doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. You might say that gamers only want their theme-parks, but I would argue that you don’t know that because we’ve never been given a choice, apart from a smattering of poorly made games, which is no choice at all.
Apart from EVE, of course.
Actually there’s one game that comes close to it… Minecraft when played on a multiplayer server. Now if only that had a MMO version :P