Discussion – Irritating MMO Conventions
Last night I was playing Dragon Nest when I screwed up my free respec on my Cleric. I got so fed up that I thought of this article topic. Allow me to point out some really stupid and highly irritating conventions in online games (and possibly some single player games) to me.
– When allocating skills, there’s no room for error
Seriously, I’m tired of this. It’s been around for a very long time and it always ticks me off. A good early example of this is Diablo II. If you weren’t sure about allocating that one skill point per level, you could let it sit, but if you spent it accidentally, there was NO way to get it back. At all. Today, Hellgate Global (well, Hellgate: London in general) and Dragon Nest leap to the top of my thoughts when I consider this shortcoming. If you spend that skill point, you’d better be damn sure that’s the skill you want to improve because there is NO going back (unless you throw money at the game in the case of Dragon Nest). Star Trek Online has a slight issue with this, but it’s got a much more forgiving respec system than most games. Essentially, when you get your skill points, you can allocate them and they’re spent, but when you go to respec (and they give you a free respec per rank – Lieutenant Commander, Commander, Captain, Rear Admiral, and Vice Admiral I believe) you can add and subtract your skill points willy-nilly to see what you’d like to do and only when you’re ready and have spent all your points can you hit the Apply button. For a possible remedy, I want to see plus and minus buttons so I can fix things just the way I like it before hitting the apply button and making things permanent. Leveling up my character should not be an exercise in frustration.
– Marketplace/Auction Hall/Exchange prices are too high
This is a classic case of people not understanding how to price things I think. I mean, what Lieutenant Commander has 1 million credits and will spend it on ONE Mark IV Phaser? I didn’t and I don’t expect other people to as well. I price things to SELL, not to sit on the Exchange for days as a thing for people to laugh at and then be outsold. In Dragon Nest there’s a 30 item limit per week with a max of five items up at a time (without throwing money at it, I think). The downside is that I’m seeing items that are going for 5 gold when I’m lucky to have any gold after buying one pesky item off the marketplace. The over pricing problem is rampant and is very obvious when the stacks of 20 Crude Onyx used for upgrading Rare Level 16+ equipment is going for 65 gold AT MINIMUM. Yeah, I’ve never seen that much money and I don’t really ever want to because then I’d have spent way too much time playing a game where the max level is currently 24. It gets to the point sometimes where if I can’t find it myself, I don’t worry about it and I just make do. I don’t think this is as big a problem in Lord of the Rings Online, but still, it can rear it’s ugly head if you’re looking to buy your class quest items so you don’t have to go into Carn Dum and Urugarth. For an example of a possible remedy to this, Star Wars Galaxies has always had (I think) a 200k credit limit (maximum bid) in the Bazaar, however you can price things however you’d like on your personal vendor.
– People spamming the chat with inane crap (mostly gold sellers)
This one’s an obvious one, but a goodie. Dragon Nest currently has an infestation of gold sellers and there seems to be at least three in every instance of Carderock Pass. I remember in Star Wars Galaxies making my Commando unsearchable because at least that way I couldn’t get private messages from other people advertising their billions of credits for cash. I don’t care how hard it is to make money in an online game, I’m going to make this statement: I NEVER HAVE AND WILL NEVER BUY IN-GAME MONEY FOR REAL MONEY. There’s a caveat and that’s only if the company who makes and maintains the game decides to make a cash-shop that has a money tree or something in it. I could see it in Lord of the Rings Online, but just barely. However it goes, I really want to club these chat spammers to death every time I walk by them and their chat bubbles. If people are having a stupid conversation, I’m willing to look the other way. At least in that case the chat box is being used as intended. As a possible remedy, I’ve seen used in games a (not sure what it’s called) repeat chat limiter that prevents people from saying the same thing too many times in a row. It won’t stop spammers, but it will definitely make them talk less often.
– A lack of a Buy Back option in NPC stores
Lord of the Rings Online did something smart here. They allow for the last few items you’ve sold to be bought back in the same session you’re playing in (I think it’s the last 20 items sold). Sell too much at once or log off and log back in and you’ve lost your chance to get back some of your stuff. Dragon Nest? You sold it, you lost it. I think it was the same with Ragnarok Online too. Star Wars Galaxies had a similar issue where if you accidentally sold something you’d have to file a help ticket to get it back and even then you might not get it back. Eventually the developers for Galaxies popped out this device that sits in everyone’s datapad and allows for personal rescuing of items accidentally sold. Star Trek Online has a buy back mechanism as well and even allows you to reconstitute things in the replicator that you accidentally threw into the recycler. Some developers seem to be catching on here, but really, I need to pay more attention when selling stuff in my inventory. Wish the item locking mechanism from LOTRO could be used in other games. I like it. For a possible remedy… well, just add the buy back function!
– Players crowding around particular NPCs
This is a problem in every game where there’s really only one NPC for a particular thing. LOTRO attempts to remedy this by providing multiple Auctioneers and Vault-keepers where they can, but from time to time it’s really irritating to go to click on an NPC and wind up trying to figure out how to get rid of a pop-up menu for interacting with this other player that you don’t know. In Dragon Nest I’ve noticed something here: if you’re in a group around, say, the blacksmith and you need to click on him, move the mouse over the NPC and it turns into the NPC interaction cursor. Basically the game ignore people in the way. I like that. Not quite sure how they did it, but it definitely makes the crowds seem more manageable. Star Trek Online seems to manage this issue by increasing the range of talking to some NPCs I think (it might just be my imagination). I think to handle this issue, possible solutions may be to increase the interaction range on certain NPCs or whatever. Expanding the zone of interaction would allow for more people to get in there and such. Another possible solution here is letting the player hold a key or something that fades player characters a bit or completely and keeps the NPCs or environmental interactions in full color and brings them to the foreground (so to speak).
I think that’s enough for today. I don’t expect these issues to go away overnight, but sometimes just airing them out makes them feel more manageable from a player’s perspective. I’m not a developer, but I’ve tried to offer solutions where I could.
Until next time, keep your eyes open.
P.S. “Only through observation will you perceive weakness” – Charles Darwin