Tobold, whose blog I’m reading more and more, made a couple of really interesting posts recently.
The first post is about repetition in game design. Basically, lots of MMORPG games are designed around the “fail and repeat” methodology. You fight, you lose, you try again with gathered knowledge. This can be great if you are the first, but once guides get put on the internet, chances are your guild is trying to learn the fox trot instead of inventing new dance moves.
I agree with Tobold in that games need more unique content. And by unique I don’t mean cramming a hundred developers in a room and refusing to feed them until they create a hundred unique dungeons, but instead games need a way to have content such that if you fail you can’t just repeat it, but instead it will learn from your failure or have a random set of possible design parts that combine upon spawning, if you kill all a bosses henchmen, they should have different henchmen when you return, not the same guys standing in the same places. But this isn’t something really easily done… there is a problem in that games that have tried to use randomly generated content feel randomly generated, and no one really likes RPG games that feel tossed together. They should feel like the tasks you are undertaking are important.
His second post about grouping in games details exactly one of the major issues that I have in World of Warcraft. The problem with grouping is in actually finding a group (well, not for me, I play a priest, I have half the server on ignore). So his conclusion is thus:
But even more effective would be for the developers to introduce tools that diminish the group finding time. World of Warcraft could make huge improvements in their looking for group tools. And meeting stones could be reprogrammed to work like a warlock summoning, so the first three people arriving at the dungeon could summon the two stragglers. The beauty of such changes would be that at first sight they don’t change the rewards rate at all. But by cutting down on the rewards lost to a group due to waiting, improved group finding and gathering tools would make grouping relatively more attractive to players, and lead to more positive social interaction between them. We are not a bunch of hermits preferring to play alone, it is the parameters of the game that influence our behavior and preference for soloing or grouping.
And that’s it. WoW needs a looking for group tool beyond the meeting stones, which most people won’t use anyway because they don’t want to be in queue so long that the game decides to make weird groups.