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What do Players Want to See in MMOs?

(I would like to thank Sam Natale, a second-year student at the University of Vermont, for helping read through and code the responses for this data.)

Asking players about their current gaming experiences may constrain us to thinking “within the box”. The data we get simply reflect the effects of current design trends. As a way of getting out of this constraint, I asked players in an open-ended question to tell me the one thing they would want to see in an MMO. An open-ended question was used because there is no way to come up with a meaningful set of multiple choice options for such a question a priori. The trade-off is that it takes time to read and code each of the responses. For this data set, we took the first 500 responses and coded them into categories.

Overall, no one category accounted for more than 10% of the total coded sample. Below are the coded categories with brief descriptions in descending order.


  1. Quests (9%): More interesting quests. Quests with variable outcomes. Quests that involve trade skills. Quests that drive social interaction. Quests that utilize logic.

  2. Customization Options (8%): More customization features. Ability to look truly unique. Unique classes or races. Hybrid classes. Unique abilities.

  3. Solo Content (7%): Soloability and solo content.

  4. Storylines (6%): More lore and background threads. Interesting stories or plot lines. Active storyline.

  5. Casual Content (6%): More casual-friendly content. More content for small groups. Low-level content.

  6. PvP Content (5%): More opportunities for PvP. Well-designed PvP content.

  7. Crafting / Tradeskills (5%): Robust crafting and economic systems.

  8. Role-Playing (5%): More support and enforcement for role-playing. Tools for role-playing.

  9. Community Changes (5%): Regulate farmers. Ways to report people. More mature / honest / civil players.

  10. Social Tools (5%): Ability to build houses or social spaces. Group transportation. Collective player-created content. Social events tools.

  11. General / Regularly Updated Content (5%): More content in general.

  12. Grouping (4%): Content for small groups. Content that fosters cooperation among players. Player interaction more integral to gaming.

  13. Combat Changes (4%): More skill-based combat mechanics (as opposed to gear-based). Better AI. More complex mechanics. Simpler combat mechanics.

  14. Alternative Leveling Options (4%): Ability to level via non-combat routes. Alternatives to leveling and grinding systems.

  15. Events (4%): Holiday events. GM events. Server-wide events. Community events.

  16. World Impact (3%): Actions having a persistent impact on world or environment.

  17. Technical Features (3%): High graphical realism. Better class balance. Faster turn-around time on bugs.

  18. Dynamic/Random Content (2%): Randomness in loot stats or mob stats, etc. Dynamic terrain. Dynamic events. Dynamic content.

  19. High-Level Content (2%): Content for large raids. Challenging endgame content.

  20. Difficulty of Play (2%): More difficult content. More danger in the world. Larger death penalties. More complex mechanics.

  21. Fun Fluff (2%): More humor. More fun, little things in the game. Fun mechanics.

  22. Exploration (1%): Bigger emphasis on exploration. More zones to explore.

  23. Variety (1%): More variety. More choices overall.

  24. Content Changes (1%): User-created content. Content that adjusts to group level.

  25. Ease of Play (1%): Simpler game mechanics. Less grinding. Higher drop rates.

Because of the small number of responses in individual categories, drilling down into gender or age won’t yield reliable results so that analysis won’t be presented here.

Added Note: Given the open-ended format of this question, there was no easy way to analyze a large amount of data. On the other hand, small samples usually lead to uneven spikes in the data, but we don't really see that here. Responses were pretty evenly spread out, so one conclusion is that in general players do not perceive MMOs as needing one single important thing.

Also, while the exact percentages may not be entirely representative, the generated list does give a good sense of the areas of change that players tend to point to.




Comments

its cool to see that people are so fixated on getting more interesting quests to work out, prolly to repel the same old delivery//escort//killing quests :3

also, i hope that game companys will someday get more customasation stuff.
if 500 people play, non should look the same~

Posted by: Filecreator on June 11, 2008 3:29 AM

An old saying among longtime gamers is, "I came for the game but I stayed for the people." I suspect that this survey is showing us 25 ways players can think of to make their gameing more sociable for them.

Posted by: Gary Deckard on June 11, 2008 5:17 AM

>also, i hope that game companys will someday
>get more customasation stuff.
>if 500 people play, non should look the same~

You've just describe City of Heroes. The question is: "How important is gear to you?" CoH accomplishes their amazing costume creator because they divorce clothing from stat buffs. Loot in CoH consists of "enhancements" that you slot into your powers and "salvage" that you use to craft specialized "enhancements".

This means that you can change your look whenever you want to, in whatever way you like. It also means that your loot is more generic. You never loot a +5 Harmonic Dagger or Breastplate of Chivalry.

Basically, it's like the old computing adage. "You can have it on-time, within budget, or correctly implemented. Choose two." If you want to have a game where 500 people all look different, you have to give up on the idea that a character's apperance depends on their gear, since those 500 people will all wearing the same top-of-the-line gear.

Posted by: Slickriptide on June 11, 2008 6:18 AM

On topic, how statistically significant is a population of 500 users? What conclusions do you draw?

What I see here is that the responses are spread so evenly that you can't really draw any conclusions. Or maybe the conclusion is simply that interests are so varies among individuals that you simply can't please everyone.

Posted by: on June 11, 2008 6:25 AM

I'm interested to note how games like spore hit on so many of these: customization, casual, solo, crafting/player created, content, dynamic/world impact, exploration. I think my favorite part is the alternate leveling (well the idea of it, it's not like anyone's really tried it yet) options. I recognize the absence of most of the aspects of a mmo like the social and competitive parts of mmo's, but single player games will definitely affect mmo's, just as soon as our computers can handle it. You can already see this in other mmo's, especially in nightfall which aims (as I understand it) to make oblivion a multiplayer game.

Posted by: iseu on June 11, 2008 6:43 AM

oh, not Nightfall, I meant Darkfall...

Posted by: iseu on June 11, 2008 6:46 AM

Somebody oughta take these 25 points and make a game.

Posted by: Gary Deckard on June 11, 2008 8:09 AM

June - Given the open-ended format of this question, there was no easy way to analyze a large amount of data. On the other hand, small samples usually lead to uneven spikes in the data, but we don't see that here. Responses were pretty evenly spread out, so one conclusion is that in general players do not perceive MMOs as needing one single important thing.

Also, while the exact percentages may not be entirely representative, the generated list does give a good sense of the areas of change that players tend to point to.

Posted by: Nick Yee on June 11, 2008 10:52 AM

That data is interesting BECAUSE it is so flat.
It's too bad we can't compare that with results to a similar query made, say, 5-10 years ago.

I suspect that the "what we want" pareto has flattened over time. And I'm guessing this is because the playing community has gotten so much bigger.
In order to hold onto such a large group, MMOs have to provide something for everybody.

Another thing to note is how this wide spread of wants is mismatched with internet blog text. What I mean is that much 5% of blog space is devoted to PVP. But look - PVP only merited 5% in the overall scheme of things, putting it under casual content at 6%.

Posted by: Rochmoninoff on June 11, 2008 1:12 PM

>Slickriptide
hmm, never played CoH, but thats what you will get indeed.
in most games, appearance is gear dependant.
so all the strong players will have the same gear, they`ll look the same (epic gear in WoW)
so CoH pulls a new concept over it,
armor, with clothes xD

>June (no name)
i gave 500 as an example,
sure, most games have populations of that in 10 vold, easy.. but there is also a limit in what you can wear.
if you have 500 sets, you can always mix them,
(pants set 1, shirt set 2)
that way, you get 500x(500x500)
well, something like that..
but to write the whole sum down it will just be spam..
either way, you`ll get allot more stuff to costumize yourself with

Posted by: Filecreator on June 12, 2008 1:45 AM

A number of these seem to go together well -- a lot of individual or small group combat, and interest in things other than combat (customization of apperance, tradeskills). Both of those come way ahead of massive doing the same thing to look more and more alike. (I've had ample opportunity in office jobs to get paid to look more like office standard...)

Posted by: Trueasiteverwas on June 12, 2008 11:03 AM

As mentioned above a great many appearance options, maybe not so many as Vanguard offers but more than 3-4 hairstyles at least. Along this vein having graphics that changed the shape and not just the texture map with equipment changes.

Back when I played EQ somebody commented in chat that people seemed to behave as if the game was a chat room with graphics. My thought was the problem was that the developers treated it that way. Long ramble short, it'd be nice if character naming conventions were better. I don't like the idea that the only way to track a character is by a single name. (Like chatrooms and email, and once used can never be reused.)

In you friends list the characters name, appearance, equipment, place of origin and more should all figure in to differentiating (sp?) them.

It would also be nice if games would have servers with special rules sets, like the FV server in EQ. That way a game could have both "hardcore" and other styles of play.

Posted by: Jenqduxo on June 13, 2008 11:30 AM

I think you left out what is probably the most important thing. At least for WoW, anyway.

CLASS BALANCING.
(nerfing warlocks/resto druids/sub rogues lawl)

Posted by: Elmo on June 15, 2008 4:15 PM

“Asking players about their current gaming experiences may constrain us to thinking “within the box”. The data we get simply reflect the effects of current design trends. ”

I deeply agree with this statement。

and maybe we can get more information after you finished the whole report based on all responses

Posted by: carol on June 17, 2008 1:06 AM

With reference to your other article on Social Architectures I thought it was interesting that 7% wanted more solo content, while 4% wanted more group content (6% if you include high-level content).

Similarly, 6% mentioned more casual content compared to 2% wanting more difficult content (though I realise the two aren't mutually exclusive).

It would seem to me that the expanding player base of MMOs (possibly due to more accessible or 'easier' games) has brought in more players interested in a less involved gaming experience (you can achieve things in a shorter space of time and without the reliance on other players).

It would be interesting if you could tell whether it was the changing nature of the games (presumably driven by the game designers) which lead to changes in social architecture, or if it's the case that 'easier' MMOs appeal to a different type of player who is interested in a different social experience within the game environment.

Sorry, went off on a bit of a tangent there.

Posted by: Kel on June 18, 2008 6:41 AM

They would have been more representative if you picked the sample of 500 randomly, rather than just the first 500, but I guess it doesn't matter if they were evenly spread out like you said.

There's also a whole bunch of improperly formatted spam in the recent comments, screwing up the design of the site.

Oh and Jenqduxo, that is the right way to spell differentiating.

Posted by: mage5625 on June 21, 2008 10:45 PM

I think this is great.

I see a lot of things here, but no one mentions directly any of the important economics motivators. I think people don't think about it directly as something they want, but its definitely important to them when they play.

I think there is something to be said for strong economy driven games because it drives competition. Since everyone is familiar with it, I'll use wow as an example. The players in WoW are driven to play not only by progression and social fullfillment, but the very strong game economy entices people to play more. I know you played it if your reading this. So really tell me again how many hours did you play solely to farm materials for your epic mount? Whats that you bought three and it only took 350 hours thats great!

I'd love to see deeper research into the validity of game economics and their crucial role promoting game longevity. When I do I start thinking about the bloom of the socio-economic games like Half Life. A game with no purpose other than walking chat and economy.

I'm actually attemping to do my graduate paper on an MMO topic but since I'm IT I couldn't drill into the economy thing. I should have gotten a business degree, he he.

Posted by: Steve on June 26, 2008 6:58 PM

"When I do I start thinking about the bloom of the socio-economic games like Half Life. A game with no purpose other than walking chat and economy."

Hahaha, that's not how I remember it :P

Posted by: mage5625 on June 28, 2008 10:02 PM

Stat caps, please have stat caps, DAoC did it right imo. More PvP area's like those in DAoC as well, large, manueverable, keeps to take/defend, etc. I'm sure I'm missing 1 or 2 things, but that is my 2 cents :)

Posted by: Lisa on July 13, 2008 1:34 AM

For a great MMO 4 things need to be forgotten:

1. Class balance, healers shouldn't do damage, tanks shouldn't solo and rogues cant tank. they have to need each other

2. Soloing, after a certain low level soloing should not exist.

3. Instant travel, this is a game killer, just look at any game that has insta travel, it ruins games.

4. Devs who cave into the whiners, you can NEVER make whiners happy, don't try. SOE had it right "Your in our world now" So learn how to play with the rules and situations given, kinda like real life.

Posted by: ColdSwede on July 17, 2008 11:18 AM

Hey, was just wondering how you'd manage to incorporate housing into an MMO, i mean the only one I've played is WoW and that doesn't have much to do with homes and all, how can it be done in games and what motovation would there be to get one?

Posted by: Jigilo Joe on July 21, 2008 10:12 PM

Would like to see a workable system of Player vs. Player where bravery is rewarded and cowardice is punished. Some way to highlight PvP participants who fight on an even playing field vs those who spend their time fighting in cant lose fights.

Posted by: rob on July 29, 2008 10:06 AM

To the person who said someone ought to take these points and make a game... i intend to.

Myself and a freind of mine are working on a low community-high customization game play environment. No player should look the same and our idea is to take the ideas of every player who cares about the game community and to create a well balanced and very playable game.

Posted by: Ret on August 5, 2008 8:14 PM

After going through that first 500 and getting these results, I think it would be interesting to use them in a follow-up poll, as in "Which of these do you think are the top three most important? Which ones are the three least important?" (rate them as 1-2-3) Then compare the results of that with this earlier poll to see if the averages stay the same. Also leave a text box at the bottom for the person to add anything they think important.

Posted by: palenoue on August 7, 2008 10:24 PM

Forgot to mention this in the previous posting, but people who make MMOs should pay attention to the Mac users (and possibly Linux). One of the reasons World of Warcraft is so popular in the US and Canada is that they have a Windows and Mac version and treat them the same. Before they went world-wide, a solid 30% of WoW players were Mac, and research has shown that an additional 10% to 15% of Windows users were playing specifically because they could join their Mac using friends.

Basically, if they make their MMOs Windows-only, they are alienating 40% of their potential market. You'd think they'd learn this lesson by now, but it seems all of the MMO's they're working on are for Windows only.

Posted by: palenoue on August 7, 2008 10:29 PM

I've spent about a few months looking for things like this that can really benefit the game im working on, If you've even got suggestions of your own (For a shooter MMO) then your more then welcome to send them to zuriku@hotmail.com, I really want to have players have as much fun as they possibly can,

I just hope on first release 350+ different types of customisation, for 7 parts of the body (Head,Torso,Toparm,Bottomarm,Bottomleg,Topleg & foot)and being able to choose color from a color wheel will be enough.

Posted by: Cody on March 30, 2009 2:19 PM
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