If you could change one thing about your favorite MMO, what would it be?
We can all find things that we would change in anything we come into contact with. Me? I would love to change my receding hairline, but alas, it’s not that easy. However, what if we could change one major thing about our favorite MMOs for the better, what would it be?
Play armchair game developer for a moment. You are in a meeting room with other developers and creatives on your team, trying to find the best way to improve your game. Is it tweaking a mechanic to make it more streamlined, or is it determine what you need to do to keep players in your game? Is this something to do with a major game selling feature that could be improved? What would you change?
If you’ve been here for a while (and a lot of you have been here for quite a while now), you know my favorite MMORPG out there is Lord of the Rings Online. There are a number of things I would change about the venerable MMO, starting with its aggressive cash shop, but taking that out of the equation for a second the main thing I would change is LotRO at the moment would be its engine.
It’s a fourteen year old game. I fully understand that an engine overhaul is probably impossible. I’m not even talking about upgrading it for prettier graphics – although that would be nice. The Standing Stone Games team have shown their willingness to iterate their engine to make improvements, adding DirectX functionality as it upgrades, most recently per pixel lighting dimming. This is a great addition, but it doesn’t solve any of the LotRO’s biggest problems: its performance.
If you spend most of your time in the old Shadows of Angmar areas, and even in places like Caras Galadhon or in Enedwaith, you won’t experience too many performance issues. On the one hand, these places aren’t as crowded as they once were in their heyday, but two, they’re a bit older at this point. With every major update LotRO tried to push graphics fidelity, but the engine itself never really felt like it could keep up with some of the systems the developers were adding to the game.
The greatest example of this was the Horsemen of Rohan the mounted combat of the extension. Rohan, the vast steppe-plains that they are, are ripe for mounted war. When mounted combat was added, it was new to begin with. However, it quickly became apparent that the lag he introduced into the fight was not worth it. Horses are always springy when going too fast or circling around enemies. Skills seem retarded and unresponsive. Even the simple act of using your warhorse to roam the land can feel a bit fishy, as the client and server clash to see who can get your character where they need to be first. It’s not a great system, and it looks like all of the major systems added to the MMO have mostly felt the same lag.
The epic battle outside Minas Tirith, the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, is a sight to behold. Fires dot the landscape outside the Watchtower, as Nazgul atop their Fell Beasts spins above their heads. You are responsible for the defense of the city, eliminating the siege towers and Mumakil. However, the battle is also known for the wicked lag introduced by the region. Even in the Epic Battle instance, it feels like too much, as if mechanics and functionality are just too important for an engine made even before the game launched in 2007.
We know that the team intends to work on a graphic overhaul of LotRO. And for some, the MMO needs a new lick of paint. However, I hope they take it a step further and really see how they can improve performance at all levels with their engine, whether it’s massive improvements to the bones that are already there or a massive overhaul of the engine or the game itself (I mean, Blade and soul does, although it may be easier to switch from one version of Unreal Engine to another).
I totally get my change is a pipe dream. The amount of money it would cost to do something like this might not be worth it for SSG, Daybreak, and their new owners, EG7. But, if there is one thing I could drastically change about the MMO, it would be an engine upgrade.
What do you think? What would you change in your favorite MMO, and why?