MMORPGs are no longer in their infancy, as enough have come out in the past 5 years that some lessons should have been learned on what seems to work and what doesn't. If you were to summarize what are the important do's and don'ts, what would be on your list?
My initial list and reasons:
1. Make it fun at all levels of play. Whether you are a first level person who only plays an hour at a time or you are a hardcore player who spends 60 hours a week, the game should be enjoyable.
2. Make content feel unique. Canned entries and canned quests suck because it shows that the development team put no effort into telling a story. It is like watching a movie with no story or dialogue but with lots of special effects: it might appeal to some of the people some of the time, but if you want people to play month after month, you need to make them feel like they are part of an ongoing epic story, not a "cut and paste" computer script.
3. Customization. No one wants to feel they are identical, or even similar, to another person of the same profession. People want to be unique, so the game should focus on allowing people to be unique. You also need to keep it balanced, or everyone loses their uniqueness in favor of the "power template."
4. One thing that SOE has done that people seem to grudgingly like is put in games within the game to give players something to do. Casinos are a money sink and add to the games appeal by adding variety. Developers should focus on variety like this. What is wrong with having archery tournaments that are entirely server driven? Jousting tournaments? Trivia tournaments about the history of Azeroth? A Thieves Challenge? The casino is just the easiest to code to this facet of MMORPGs, but there is more to a knight's life (or any other profession) than killing monsters.
5. Storywrite with consistency. I don't think this is going to be a problem with WoW, since they are used to keeping a solid story without discrepencies, but it seems to plague other MMORPGs: too many people writing the story that don't know the entire history of the world, so they are contradicting parts. Players like a good story, but they probably don't want something convoluted, doesn't make sense, or is not easy to remember for retelling to other players.
6. Even non-PvPers like to PvP sometimes. PvP is one of the most elusive aspects to do correctly, but if it is done right, your game will be held in the highest esteem and everyone will emulate your model.
1. Don't keep certain key aspects unofficial, or if you do, make sure it is well advertised. For instance, in Star Wars Galaxies, they had two unofficial role-playing servers, yet most people didn't know which they are. Role-players were scattered on many servers and eventually role-playing died off. Without newbie customers knowing which server focuses on which aspect of the game, the churn made every server boil down to the least common denominator of non-focused blandness.
2. Don't nerf unless it is necessary. No one likes nerfs. It is better to start everyone off weak and balance them upwards then to start people off strong and balance them downwards. You attract more flies with honey then you do with vinegar.
Edited, Mon Jan 26 21:53:14 2004 by Kuritsu