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.