January’s over and that means I no longer have an excuse to be a lazy bum and not blog. During my holiday break, I returned to an MMORPG I used to play, Blade and Soul. However, my experience was mostly a solo one as my usual group of gaming friends refused to return to Blade and Soul. This sparked a discussion of why I enjoyed Blade and Soul yet they did not, and what aspects of MMORPGs make them fun. In other words, what makes a good MMORPG? Disclaimer: I’m not an expert by any means on MMORPGs, nor have I played very many. This is simply an opinion piece which may even be based on outdated information.
= The Trifecta of Gameplay =
The three main gameplay points in MMORPGS are its PvE content, its PvP content, and its economy. Different games focus on different points and cater to different audiences.
= Player vs Environment: Kill the raid boss! =
The heart of many MMORPGs is its PvE content, where players work together to fight against foes and monsters. Two factors are the most important for enjoyable PvE:
- a variety in enemy types
- a grand sense of scale
Take for example, Maplestory. The snails, slimes, mushrooms, pigs, and more simply boil down to walking punching bags that die the same to whatever attack you throw at them. In terms of enemy variety, there isn’t much. Sure they may look different, but the mechanics behind them are almost universally the same. What Maplestory does well, however, is that grand sense of scale. Its world is massive with tons of areas to explore and its bosses are behemoths that can take down masses of players in one go.
As another example, Tera has interesting bosses with fun mechanics. Different attacks keep me on my toes while I try to stay behind the boss to do maximum damage. Or if I’m playing a tank, I have to time my blocks and dodges perfectly while keeping the boss’s attention. The thrill of facing these giant monsters in varied and exciting locations makes Tera my favorite in terms of PvE content.
Compare that to Blade and Soul which on NA release, Blade and Soul had very weak endgame PvE content with endgame dungeons such as Blackram Supply Chain pretty disappointing in terms of mechanics and overall enjoyment. Though Poharan is adorable, one boss does not make an entire dungeon. Most of the early bosses are humanoid in nature and are barely visible with particle effects flying across the screen. It has definitely gotten better over the months, but most bosses boil down to short mechanics and the occasional dodge. Combine that with the lack of dedicated roles and you just have a mishmash of players all attacking the boss without a care for anything but max damage.
Most MMORPGs do well in the PvE aspect, so there’s not much to talk about here. It’s how the other parts of the game tie into the PvE that makes an MMORPG great.
= Player vs Player: Test your skills. =
Come for the PvE, stay for the PvP. I personally value PvP more than PvE because PvP should be a pure test of skill. In PvE, higher level gear can alleviate player mistakes and weaknesses. However, in the best PvP systems, gear is equalized and balanced such that only the better player will win. Ignoring the actual gameplay of these games, let’s compare the MMORPG I am currently playing, Blade and Soul, and the MMORPG I played the longest, Tera.
I believe a game’s PvP system should tie into its PvE system but not be dependent on it and vice versa. Tera has the problem of its two systems being too independent. Most of its PvP game modes, such as Corsair’s Stronghold and Champion’s Skyring, have equalized gear between teams of players. Equalized gear is fantastic but back when I played Tera, the rewards for playing PvP were so trivial that only hardcore PvP players like myself queued for true PvP modes like Champion’s Skyring. Corsair’s Stronghold was the other PvP map, but with huge teams of 24 (I think? I don’t remember exactly), there was less PvP and more slaughtering of ungrouped teams. Either way, there was very little reason to PvP because there was no incentive. This caused queue time to be incredible long which led to why I quit Tera.
Then there’s Blade and Soul. I personally think Blade and Soul’s strongest aspect is its PvP as one of the few MMORPGs I know with a dedicated 1v1 ladder system. However, because of its weaker PvE content, I see Blade and Soul as more of a fighting game than an MMORPG. This is problematic, however, because Blade and Soul’s PvP content is actually very dependent on its PvE content. Your skill points are directly tied to your character’s level, which is most quickly obtained via PvE content. Furthermore, Hongmoon skills are advanced versions of skills that give major advantages to those who have them against those that do not. Some Hongmoon skills even completely change matchups such as granting additional invulnerability frames or damage buffs. These skills are mostly acquired from PvE content; while they are available via PvP methods, the grind required to obtain them makes the PvE option far more preferable. A new real money purchase option for the Hongmoon skills was added to Blade and Soul to alleviate this, which is something I quite liked.
That being said, Blade and Soul has the best PvP in an MMORPG that I have played. It’s tons of fun and the sole reason I still play it.
= Economy: Playing but not playing =
Something the MMORPGs that I have talked about lack is a way to play the game without actually playing the game. This is playing a game’s economy. Some call it the social aspect of MMORPGs because a healthy game economy is fueled by the flow of currency from the PvE/PvP players to the market and vice versa. Think of a guild’s crafters, gatherers, vendors, and such.
Both Tera and Blade and Soul fail in this regard because “gathering and crafting” are nearly non-existent until the late late-game. All of the gear in Tera can be easily obtained as dungeon drops, with all upgrade materials (feedstock and alkahests) coming from quests and drops as well. Blade and Soul does not have a crafting system at all. Instead it has a waiting simulator for barely profitable items based solely on the fact that every crafting material is dropped from dungeons or is extremely widely available. Tera has extremely late-game crafting with some materials coming from drops and some from gathering; my only issue is just how late game it is, making it worthless until you put in a lot of time and currency.
The problem with those two games is that early game crafters do not affect the economy at all. Having early game crafting materials be used in late game situations can not only help new players make money but also encourage players to start crafting early. There may be the issue of bots abusing this, but I’m hoping there is a solution to be had for that.
Games like Archeage and Final Fantasy XIV supposedly do this well, but I never stuck with them because I never liked their combat systems.
Hopefully in the future, there may exist an MMORPG that combines exciting PvE, challenging and balanced PvP, and a robust economy. Revelation Online seems promising but only time will tell. The last time I played Revelation Online, everything was in Chinese and Russian so I couldn’t read any of it. Really hard to enjoy a game when that’s the case.
What about you? What MMORPGs do you enjoy? What aspects of them do you like?