Tuesday, July 12, 2011

So what's in an MMORPG?

I recently had the agonizing pleasure of reviewing Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising. I love the game; it's almost like it was made specifically for me... but, I'm not everyone, and there were some features that people tend to expect from an MMORPG that it doesn't have out the box. Mind you some of these are specifically mentioned as upcoming features in the FAQ on the game's official website, but they're not in the game at launch.

Specifically, Gods & Heroes currently has no PVP gameplay. You can't attack other players, period. You can play alone or you can work with friends (or strangers, for that matter) to go up against more powerful enemies and to conquer the dungeon areas, but you can't attack other players. In most MMORPGs, there are generally two sides (factions) and you select which side you are on when you create your character, then there is generally some provision for attacking other players from the other faction, and often even a "duel" option that allows players to challenge other players to a fight, on an "opt-in" basis. Some games have specific servers set up for PVP gameplay, which essentially means that you've opted in by creating a character on that server. Gods & Heroes doesn't offer any sort of PVP gameplay, even though one of the character classes in the game is Gladiator. Since the "bad guys" faction are NPCs and all players are Romans, I don't see how Faction PVP could be easily worked into the game, but I can imagine the gladiator arenas being brought into play, which could be a nice way to handle duels.

Also missing from Gods & Heroes is any crafting or harvesting, although both are planned post-launch features, and Magnolia bushes can already be found and the act of harvesting them can be performed (although I don't think you actually gain anything from it, just yet). When I play games that have crafting and harvesting, I will do a decent amount of it, but I don't typically make it my focus, so I can't say I missed it much.

So, the question comes down to what exactly is needed for an MMORPG these days? IS PVP gameplay a must-have? Does a game HAVE to have factions? Are crafting and harvesting important MMORPG activities or just ways to keep easily bored players busy? If I can get new items and armor from enemy drops and/or by buying it from vendors, how important is it that someone in Colorado can make a tunic for me, when it comes down to it?

This is just questions, without any real answers, but it seems to me that a lot of "neat" features that have sprouted in MMORPGS have gotten swept up into the common recipe, without necessarily deserving a permanent place as a staple of the genre.

As for Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising, what has been delivered so far (at launch) seems like it has very little focus on the online aspects. It seems like it could have been a perfectly good RPG, without being an MMO. As it is, the value of the game for a player who likes Gods & Heroes with just its current features is reduced by the fact that you have to pay a monthly fee and the fact that, should the game not prove to be popular enough and the servers get turned off, then you can't continue to play the PVE parts, because the game requires a backend server to run.

So, thoughts? Is PVP a must-have for an MMORPG? And what of crafting? harvesting / mining? auctions?