Designing an MMORPG: Duels in MMORPGs

PvP can make or break a game. How it’s implemented, how many options there are…all of this has to be balanced with the PvE portions of the game. It’s a complicated topic, which is why we’re starting with duels in MMORPGs.

Last week we didn’t cover a new topic, instead, we took some time to look back at what has come so far. There was also the first peek at a map and the results of the previous week’s poll were announced. If you want to see any of that be sure to take a look at last week’s article. This week it is full steam ahead as we begin our dive into PvP.

For this series of articles, we’ll work through all the types of PvP by size, so it begins with duels in this article and we’ll work our way up to massive server v server battles. When it comes to duels there are really only two ways for them to be done, or you can go the route some MMORPGs go and not allow them at all.


Open World

Designing an MMORPG: Duels in MMORPGs

Sometimes when you’re walking down the street you see a guy who just needs his face punched in. It’s an urge we’ve all had in the past. Doing it in real life gets you in trouble of course, but what’s stopping you from doing it in-game? With open world duels, you can challenge anyone almost anywhere they’re standing. In a volcano? Not really the best place. Todmorden, the central, neutral city doesn’t allow fighting on the streets either. But anywhere else in the world is free game. It doesn’t matter if that person is the same faction as you or a different one. Everyone has that one friend who needs their ass kicked while you’re lost in a forest somewhere.

Duels out in the open world are initiated by sending an invite to whoever it is you want to fight. So long as you aren’t on a PvP server (if there are any, more on that in the future) you’ll be able to take part in a fair fight between you and the other guy. None of his friends can do anything but stand by and watch, at the same time you don’t have backup either. This could allow players to create their own fight clubs and start up one-on-one player-run tournaments.

Open world duels seem like they offer a lot of potential but many MMORPGs leave them out entirely. Guild Wars 2 is perhaps the best example of an MMORPG that has left out dueling, while in World of Warcraft you can usually find people dueling outside major cities.

Much like in World of Warcraft, it’s important if you do have open world dueling that you allow players to have the option to automatically reject invitations. Some people will just never be interested in dueling whatsoever.


Arena Only

One way to keep players from harassing each other for duels in the open world is to limit duels to arenas only. City of Heroes had a fantastic PvP arena system that allowed for customizable fights. You could restrict what level you would be fighting at, change some rules, and even change the win conditions. Arenas can take the idea of a duel and elevate it to a whole new level, it isn’t just fighting until someone dies. These arenas could be placed all over the world, though limiting the number of them is for the best.

You also have to take into consideration the fact that if the arenas are their own instances, it will make the game less populated. One way to prevent this from happening is to have what are basically cages and pits out in the world where people can watch you duel in a limited space.

Arenas also allow for tournaments to be formed with ease. This could be a tournament hosted by a single person, a guild, or even an official tournament.

The other thing arenas do is allow for dueling to be a spectator sport. You can watch the action from a variety of angles instead of being restricted to watching a duel on the ground.


No Duels Allowed

Finally, there is the option of not including duels at all. It has the benefit of keeping the peace amongst players, though it also leaves a bit of an empty hole. Players crave the ability to fight each other. In the game, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to ban duels either. More than anything, not having duels in the game benefits the development team. It allows them to focus on other areas of the game instead. Even this argument can be seen as a bit of a weak one, though, as a well-implemented duel system doesn’t need a lot of babysitting from the devs.


And now we’ve come to the point in time where we cast a vote for which of these options will be implemented in the Dark Fantasy MMORPG of our dreams. There are three options for you to pick from: open world, arena only, no duels. If you’d like to see both open world dueling AND arena dueling be sure to vote for both of them because no one has ever said that they HAVE to be mutually exclusive. One thing to keep in mind is that this doesn’t have any impact on PvP servers, which would have their own set of rules, though if Arenas do win then the PvP servers would have the arenas in addition to the open world PvP.

Voting for which system of duels in MMORPGs you prefer will continue until Monday when I start writing the next article.

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Designing an MMORPG: 10 Weeks In

At this point we’ve been doing the designing an MMORPG thought experiment for 10 weeks now and we’ve already come a long way. We started with only the very basic idea: designing an MMORPG. What genre that game would fit into, what the world would look like…all of that would come later. In fact, there’s still so much left we’ve barely scratched the surface.


The World

Our exploration into game development started with the most general view, a base that has followed us and shaped every choice we’ve made since, picking the Dark Fantasy genre. While MMORPGs are dominated by the fantasy scene dark fantasy is severely underrepresented. Rappelz and Secret World Legends both call themselves Dark Fantasy, though since rebranding SWL has dropped the MMORPG aspect. So, while in the beginning, it looked like we would be going down the WoW clone route we’ve actually managed to find a corner of fantasy that is widely ignored.

Once we knew what setting our game would be in it was time to start populating the world. This started with looking at the playable races and how those races interacted with each other. A game like Guild Wars 2 where all player races are friendly is a totally different world to Azeroth with its two factions. For our game, we’ve split 10 races into 3 factions, each faction has 3 races plus Humans. Humans are included in all of the factions because it has been shown in the stats for many, many MMORPGs over the years that Humans are the favorite. So, in order for the factions to remain balanced, they all need a group of Humans. The factions haven’t been given a name yet, so if you have any suggestions I’m all ears.


The Map

This brings us to the map of the world so far. I created this map using, which is currently in beta. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to make a map for any reason. I’ve only recently started playing with it but I’m already in love. My goal with this map was to give a bit of an overview of the playable world along with the major cities of each race. This also ties in with the starting zones, because we’re taking a page from Guild Wars 2 and having each starting zone be located next to the main city for each race. In the middle(ish) is Todmorden, the city that is open to all factions.

Dragons of Lhanbyrde
Fae of Laewaes
Lalers of Nefaria
Humans of Lautu


Dwarves of Tarrin
Shifters of Romsey
Hellspawn of Zalfari
Humans of Lautu


Vampires of Aria
Shadows of Erith
Dark Elves of Isnaas
Humans of Lautu


How big and where each starting zone is at, I’m not quite sure yet. What I do know is that I’d like even the shortest distance between two cities to be massive. So while it looks like Aria, where the Vampires are based and Nefaria, where Lalers are from, are close together, in reality, the distance between them is a hundred miles or more. In theory, this means it would take a horse several days to ride between the two cities if it were a real-world horse. In between, there could be several zones.


The Game

In between talking about factions and starting zones, the articles talking about the world, I’ve also been doing articles on the actual game. There are a lot of game mechanics that need to be decided on but I thought it would be fun to start with crafting because it’s a system that is out in the open that everyone sees and interacts with at some point. Everyone who voted picked a more realistic, complex crafting system. This means that you’ll have a limited number of skills and you can only learn crafts that are related. So, metals might be the common theme and you’ll be able to do blacksmithing, armorsmithing, and mining, just as an example. The realistic crafting also means we will have a player-driven the economy with stalls for players to sell their wares.

From there we had a look at the different business models that currently exist, plus one that I made up called the Total Honesty Model. In the end, the Subscription model won the popular vote. It isn’t much of a surprise really. While free to play is the current favorite on the market those who are die-hard MMORPG fans have watched the genre collapse into a massive money grab with shady practices all around.

We had a week that didn’t involve any votes at all, it was all a discussion about how to change the chat systems in MMORPGs. Voice seemed like a popular route to go in the future, but there were a lot of problems pointed out. In the end, it boiled down to having a robust and customizable chat system, which is really something you can’t argue with. For now, at least it seems that the old chat system that has been part of MMORPGs since the beginning is the best.

Finally, in last week’s article we had a look at how to unlock the special, unlock only races; Dragons and Vampires. 74% of people who voted decided that Dragons should be unlocked through an epic quest. This means that Dragons will be somewhat rare and difficult to get. Will it bother some people that they have to work at it? Yes. But it would also bother people if you didn’t. The vote for unlocking Vampires was a little bit more divided. 56% of the vote went to getting a bite from an NPC. Specifically, there will be one NPC who travels the world granting bites to people who can pay for them. Ascelin Heinrich is the name of the NPC and he only appears on the 13th of every month. Player conversion got 34% of the vote while getting to level cap got just 10%.

It has been an incredible 10 weeks and I think we’re really only just getting started. There are still so many topics to cover. If there’s one you would like to see discussed let me know in the comments and I’ll add it to the ever-growing list of topics. If you’re interested in reading any of the previous articles here’s a list of them all with links. See you next week for more Designing an MMORPG.


The Beginning: Picking a Genre
Fantasy Subgenres
Playable Races
Starting Zone Layout
Business Models
Changing MMORPG Chat Systems
Unlocking Dragons & Vampires

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Designing an MMORPG: Unlocking Our Dragon and Vampire Races

For the last week, we’ve been having a pretty interesting conversation about improving MMORPG chat systems. There seems to be some support for voice chat integration, though the inherent flaws in it have been acknowledged. There also seems to be some disagreement on if global chat is a good thing or not, personally I think it’s a wonderful thing, but I think AlexanderDLarge on Reddit made the best point talking about how games today are made to be played solo and that the industry needs to get back to that. Overall though, it seems like the chatbox is here to stay and the best improvements that could be made would be eliminating restrictions on what is possible.

This week we’re looking at how to unlock the special races in our game, specifically the Dragon and Vampire races.



Dragon and Vampire Races

Vampires are perhaps one of the most unique races for our game because they start out as a different race entirely. Vampires start their lives as Humans, Dark Elves, Dwarves, or Hellspawn. This means they will actually be able to change faction, the only race able to do so. But we still haven’t answered how vampires come to be. Obviously, it comes from a bite. But where that bite comes from opens up a lot of options for us.

NPC Bite

Ascelin Heinrich considers himself a charitable man. On the 13th of every month, he leaves his mansion to give those he deems worthy eternal life. How does he decide who is worthy and who isn’t? Money. Mansions are expensive and he has an expensive lifestyle to maintain.

So, we have an NPC who will go to a random location in the world once a month who will turn you for a price. He is somewhat similar to Nicholas Sandford from Guild Wars in that he travels the world and appears in a different location every time.

Player Conversion

In the beginning, there is a single GM vampire out in the world, playing the game. He or she will only be able to turn one player per cycle. The next cycle there will be two vampires able to bite two more, the next cycle after that there are 4 vampires and so it spreads. After a few cycles, the GM will disappear and it will be up to players to keep vampirism alive on their server. This will create a player run economy in which the players can charge handsomely for a bite. Or perhaps they’ll feel generous and give you one for free. In the beginning, a cycle is 1 week but as more players are turned that time will stretch until it can only happen once a month. Will players be willing to cross faction lines to turn others? That’s up to them.

Getting to Level Cap

Perhaps one of the less interesting and most straightforward options is getting to level cap. Once you get to the level cap the Vampire race unlocks on the character creation screen and you can roll one up to be a vampire from the very beginning. This would be similar to what City of Heroes did for the Epic Archetypes.



Unlike Vampires, one cannot be turned into a dragon. As a result, the options for unlocking dragons are different. You won’t be biting anyone this time.

Getting to Level Cap

Just like with vampires getting to level cap is one way to unlock dragons. They’ll simply appear as an option on the character creation screen once you’ve had one character reach cap.

An Epic Quest

With this option, if you want a Dragon you’ll have to take part in an epic quest. This journey will take you across the world into all sorts of different scenarios where you learn about dragons, save them from danger, and become their friend. Until the very end when you’re given a dragon egg. With the egg in hand, you’re invited to the Dragon’s inner sanctuary and given a title by them; Dragonkin. Once you get this title you are family and dragons will always recognize you as a friend. You’ll also be given a tattoo on your wrist so all can see what you’ve done. At this point, you’ll be able to play Dragons.

With this option, there is the potential for repeatability. This quest could unlock only one Dragon character and if you want to unlock another you’ll have to repeat the quest on another character. This could be interesting, or it could be annoying. So, for now, we’ll say that it is an optional possibility and not call it fact.

Treasure Hunt

Travel the world on a massive treasure hunt where you have to follow clues, solve puzzles, and complete mazes. The clues will be a mystery for the community to solve together while puzzles and mazes need to be solved by each player independently. The treasure hunt isn’t one you’ll be able to complete in a day. It will take a lot of time to get through it all.

The only downsides to a treasure hunt are that they aren’t repeatable and once the mysteries have been solved it could easily be put into a guide or wiki.


One thing I absolutely want to avoid with unlocking races is any sort of RNG element. As someone who permanently has terrible luck with RNG nothing would piss me off more than having to wait for one stupid thing to appear.

There is one faction that doesn’t have an unlockable race at the moment. That’s the one with Dwarves, Shifters, Hellspawn, and Humans. Shifters could very easily be turned into a race that requires unlocking or it could be something that is left to the first expansion. Like in Elder Scrolls Online with Werewolves and Vampires there could be similarities to how you create Shifters and Vampires. They could have similar methods just using completely different quests. That’s something to consider in the future though. For right now Dragons and Vampires are our special races.

Next week will be our 10th Designing an MMORPG article so I want to take a break from the planning and take a look at what we have so far. This will also be when I give the first look at the world map. It will be made by me in MS Paint, so don’t get your hopes too high for master map making skills.




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Designing an MMORPG: Chat Systems

MMORPG chat systems have remained largely unchanged since the start of MMOs. Does that mean we found the perfect way to communicate in games or might there be a better method we’ve not tried yet? That’s the topic of Designing an MMORPG this week.

Last week we had a look at the different options for starting zones and the results were kind of surprising. Despite the fact that it would cause early separation amongst friends, Race Specific starting zones won out with 31% of the vote. Faction specific and one starting zone for everyone were at the bottom with 15% and 14% of the votes respectively. I had originally anticipated that Faction specific would win because it gives a good balance of the negative and the positive. Scow2 on Reddit made some very good points about how bad it would be to have the starting zone be the game’s central hub. It’s overwhelming for new players as they get thrown into everything all at once.

Having race specific starting zones win does create an interesting question. Where do Humans start? They’re represented in all three factions so maybe there will only be one Human starting area that is faction neutral, or maybe they’ll have to pick from one of the other race’s starting areas from their faction. We’re only a couple of weeks away from having completed 10 of this series, at which point I want to review everything we’ve done so far and reveal the map. This is when we’ll find out where the Humans will be starting the game. Be warned, the map will be made in MS Paint.

For now, though, it’s time for us to look at another topic and the topic this week is MMORPG Chat Systems, or more generally communication systems. This is one part of MMOs that hasn’t really evolved at all since the start. This was a topic that was recommended by a reader early on in the series, but if I’m entirely honest…I don’t have any answers on how to evolve communication. So, because of that, there won’t be anything to vote on.


The Chat Box

Personally, I quite like the chat system as it exists now. You’ve got your chat box in the lower left corner of the screen with various channels for groups, areas, sometimes even level ranges. How complex it is varies by game. I’m personally a fan of both Rift and City of Heroes’ chat systems. Complex and customizable. City of Heroes allowed anyone to create a channel and invite anyone they wanted as well. How would I improve the system? I would allow for even more customization. MMOs rarely allow players to pick the name that appears in the chat box. Some games, like Guild Wars 2, only allow for your character name to display. That’s not a great option though for any game that encourages players to have alts. Again, looking at City of Heroes’ system that had a mix of global and local names worked really well.


Voice Only

world of warcraft raiding

Another option is to use a voice chat system. This would come with severe limitations though. First, you’re requiring players to have a headset or at least a microphone. That’s an extra expense that not everyone can afford. It would also have a big impact on the trans community. Trans-folks often play MMORPGs because they are in safe environments where they can be themselves. Voice chat would only open up the harassment box for them. This is also a concern for women. Already many female MMORPG players will pretend to be men to avoid harassment. Voice chat would make that impossible. A voice only chat system would also make a game completely unplayable for anyone who is deaf, and yes, there are a TON of deaf gamers. They already face hardships from games that offer audio cues but nothing visual to go along with it. Now they’d be completely unable to communicate with players. There’s also the complication with roleplaying. It would put a greater barrier of entry in place for anyone who is shy and wants to try out roleplaying. Even a seasoned RPer like me, who has been doing it for well over a decade now, would refuse to roleplay over voice chat. Also, wouldn’t you hate to be the kid whose mother walks in on them ERPing? Wouldn’t you hate to be the mother?

On the other hand, a voice only chat system would be wonderful for dungeons, raids, and PvP, where voice is faster than typing and multitasking is a must. It would also be fantastic for anyone who has conditions relating to their hands. While these are great positives, I think that the reasons against doing it are far too great and a voice only system isn’t a good idea.


Social Media

MMORPG Chat Systems

Another option is to include social media. I’m not talking about the type of social media integration where you’re asking your friends for 5 berries on Facebook. In fact, I think connecting a game to your social media accounts is a bad idea all around. Instead, have a social media system in-game. Imagine if Secret World Legends had a built-in Twitter clone. This is a great idea for any games with a modern or futuristic setting, but with the majority of MMORPGs taking place in fantasy worlds that aren’t at our technology level, I don’t see how this could work. Bringing back the original idea of a bulletin board is a fun idea for very slow communication, but it doesn’t take into account one-on-one conversation in real time.


Maybe the way to revolutionize the MMORPG chat system isn’t to abandon the chat box at all but instead to change it. Perhaps more games need to embrace the idea that different races speak different languages and if you’ve not put in the time to learn the pretty Elf’s language, you’ll never be able to talk to her.

Or maybe the system is perfect as it is. So, instead of voting this week I would love to know what you think on this topic. Does the MMORPG chat system need a change? If you think it does do you have any ideas on how to do that?

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Designing an MMORPG: Starting Zone

Last week we looked at the various business model options and picked the one we liked the best. It wasn’t all that much of a surprise to see Subscriptions win with 39% of the vote for anyone who has followed the industry recently considering the rise in predatory practices from companies in games that use other models. MMORPG players long for the times when they simply paid for a subscription. From the looks of it, studios are also picking up on this and the subscription model is seeing a bit of a revival. The last MMORPGs that released strictly using a subscription model were The Elder Scrolls Online and Wildstar which launched just a few months apart in 2014. Both of these games ended up abandoning it because at the time the subscription just wasn’t popular.

In our poll from last week, Buy to Play took second place with 33% of the vote. The model I created called Patron, or The Total Honesty model came in third with 13% of the vote. Free to Play and Hybrid were the last two, both with 8% of the vote. On Reddit, the Total Honesty model had a few supporters. It’s a model I also fully support but the fact that it requires companies to reveal how much money they need, how many players they have, and the risk of a quick death are all enough to make sure this never happens. Still, it’s interesting to think about. Who knows, maybe sometime in the future, we will see a model like this pop-up.

With our look at business models out of the way, I want to return to the actual game development to take a look at MMORPG starting zone options. Where players start often has a big impact on their early game and which races they pick. People playing as a group are unlikely to play characters who have different starting zones, so in this case, more starting zones is actually less beneficial. At the same time, it may not make sense to have everyone starting in one place, especially if open world PvP is going to feature heavily. These are all things to keep in mind as we go forward.


One Starting Zone


Having everyone start in one zone builds a fantastic world hub that is open to everyone. It becomes the central unifying place for all things to happen. We saw this in City of Heroes that while technically had two starting zones for heroes, only one of them ever really got any use and the second was destroyed by the developers. Atlas Park was THE place to be for most events player run and developer run. This worked well because the game only had one faction, though. What happens when you have three factions in one place? You have to put in PvP rules that forbid fighting amongst the players in that zone in order to protect the newbie players. It will also make some players unhappy when the cross-faction group they’ve been playing with is forced to break up at the end of the zone.

In our Dark Fantasy MMORPG, a single starting zone would begin in a massive city open to all citizens of the world. It is a merchant town with everything you could possibly need in it from crafting to representatives of your chosen faction. In this zone, your combat skills are put to the test by your faction before you’re sent out into the world to perform basic tasks like delivering letters for them to outposts just outside the city. Of course getting to them means crossing through a forest full of various creatures that think you look delicious. Here you’re taught the basic mechanics of the game and you get your first introductions to the story. You learn why the various factions don’t get along as you get attacked by a group of Shadows who have come to steal your shadow.


Choose Your Own

reshade install guide

Similar to having one starting zone for everyone is the idea of having several small zones scattered around the world for players to pick from that are open to all players in all factions. They would offer the opportunity to have the one starting zone experience in different parts of the world and on a much smaller scale, but there are some downsides. You may end up starting the game on the opposite side of the world from where your faction is based and that cross-faction disappointment is going to come to you a lot quicker. You also won’t be creating the world hub that you did with one starting zone.

For our game, I’m picturing 8 options. Two in each of the player faction-controlled lands, one in a central hub, and one in the universal NPC enemy’s controlled lands. Each offering a different start depending on your faction and the location they’re in.

Alternatively, it could be that each race has its own starting zone near their main city but you’re able to pick which one you want to go to.

Ultimately, it’s likely that there will be one or two that become the favorites and the others end up rarely being used.


Faction Specific

Faction specific starting zones are one of the more popular choices in MMORPGs. You tend to start nearby or in the main city of your faction. Here you will be introduced to the enemy player races rather quickly, learning why they’re your enemy and fighting off NPC versions of them. This is exactly how it would go in our MMORPG. This is a very appealing choice because it doesn’t decentralize your players too much early on and it provides good faction specific hubs.


Race Specific


Every race has a place they come from. When the adventure starts there, you can explore why the factions are the way they are. There are a lot of downsides to doing race specific starting zones, though. If a race isn’t popular, the starting zone will feel like a ghost town, which is never a good thing. Additionally, it forces friends to all play the same races if they want to play together from the very beginning, which they will. That will only further inflate the problem for the least popular races. But having race specific starting areas gives players a greater sense of what their chosen race is all about. You see them in the heart of their homeland doing things that make them who they are.


Class Specific

A little more tricky when you have factions is the class-specific starting zone. For our game, this means starting at schools where you learn the art of…whatever your class is. Maybe you’re a new student who just graduated, or you’re returning to your school after having graduated years ago. In these schools, your faction doesn’t matter. The schools themselves are neutral and only interested in educating. What you do with your knowledge outside the school is your business. The pros and cons of this option are similar to those we’ve already seen. You may end up making friends with people in a different faction. There won’t be a central hub created by these starting zones. And if you’re playing with people who want to play different classes to you, which…of course you are, you’ll be forced to play the start of the game without them. In a later article, we’ll be looking at which classes will be in the game.


As you can see whichever MMORPG starting zone option is picked will ultimately start to shape what our world looks like. Starting next week we’ll be able to get our first look at what the map of our world will look like. For now, though, vote on how you’d like the starting zone to work. Keep in mind that with this you’re influencing how the world looks, and what the tutorial will be.

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Designing an MMORPG: Business Model

This week we’re taking a look at one of the most hotly debated topics there is; the MMORPG business model. There are a few different models that are popular at the moment and a new one at the end that takes inspiration from outside of the gaming industry, but before we can get into that, we need to take a look at the last topic, crafting.

It may not come as much of a surprise but the “Hire a Guy” crafting system only received 5 votes out of 101. I was actually surprised to see it even get that many. Though at the same time I will admit Neverwinter does have an interesting crafting system that stands out. The more traditional, middle of the road crafting system you’re used to seeing in MMOs got only 24 votes. Which means, that with 72 votes, 71% the winner is the more realistic, complex crafting. This means that crafting is complex and time-consuming. You are also limited in how many skills and which skills you can pick from. Your talents will have to follow themes. If, for instance, you decide to become a Cook you won’t be able to also be a Blacksmith. You only have so much time in the day to learn skills.

That brings us to the second part of crafting; which skills we should have. Alchemy had the most votes at 52 while the option with the least votes was City Crafting at 35 votes. It isn’t a massive difference between the two but 9% vs 6% of the vote it seems like City Crafting isn’t a winner. Guild crafting was the next lowest with 37 votes. It seems that while group-based crafting is an idea that gets talked about, it isn’t something people actually want to have implemented. So, we are left with all the solo crafting skills going forward. They are; (in order of the number of votes received) Alchemy, Fishing, Mining, Jewelry Making, Hunting, Runs & Glyphs, Timber Harvesting, Gardening, Foraging, Archaeology, and Scrolls.


With that out of the way, it’s time for us to move on to MMORPG business models. There are five different models to pick from. We’ve left out Pay to Win and Lifetime Subscriptions because both models have proven that they have issues with long-term viability with Western audiences.


Free to Play

Path of Fire Elite Specialization

Today the free to play model is the norm. As a player, you don’t have to buy the game and there is no subscription fee. In return, however, you’re faced with microtransactions. It’s very easy for these microtransactions to turn the game pay to win, though this is something our MMO would, of course, be avoiding. With this model expect to get the very minimum for free and regularly have to pay for new content, cosmetic items, and boosts. Lockboxes also prominently feature in this business model but an option for the lockbox could be to offer everything on the store for slightly more money than you otherwise would have. A compromise that many who are against the gamble of lockboxes claim they would accept. If this option is selected we will have a look at lockboxes vs no lockboxes in the future. This is the model that Guild Wars 2 uses.



Subscribe or don’t, that is the debate with a hybrid model. With this model, you’ll be paying for the game but if you pay for anything more after that it’s up to you. Once again, there is a delicate balance to be struck. SoulWorker recently ran into some trouble with their hybrid model as one of the things they offered subscribers had fans crying pay to win. A good hybrid model needs to offer enough perks in the subscription to make it worth it, while not offering so much that it seems like a requirement.

Alternatively, you could offer the option to pay for the subscription using in-game currency. This is what World of Warcraft does with their WoW Token. Of course, the in-game currency route is not an easy one. It requires you to spend a lot of time in the game earning that currency. Which is still a win for the studio because the longer you’re in a game the more likely you are to buy items from the in-game store and the more you’re there populating the world for those who do pay.

If the hybrid model wins, a future article will dive into the different types in more detail.


Buy to Play

eso free play week

The buy to play model is very similar to the free to play model with one exception, you have to buy the game before you can play it. You will still have the in-game store, lockboxes, and pay for content updates. Buy to play is especially beneficial to the studio who are tasked with the job of making back the investment made in creating the game, to begin with. ArenaNet has made the buy to play model famous as they’ve used it both with Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2, though Guild Wars 2 eventually became free to play when the first expansion released.



Avoid the nickel and diming that comes with the other models and be ready to fork over $12-$15 a month on top of buying the game. A subscription model has a lot of perks though. You’ll get regular small content updates completely free, though large expansions you’ll still have to pay for. You’ll get all the flashy outfits and weapons you’d usually expect to be in the in-game store for free. Double XP events, and others like them, will make a comeback.



MMORPG business model

Here’s where I propose a business model that started out being called the Total Honesty Model. It is inspired by Patreon. The idea is the studio gives a monthly goal. The studio comes right out and says “we must make this much money every month to continue running.” Then it’s up to the players to decide how much they can give, offering perks for different amounts given. These perks can include exclusive skins and mounts. Higher tiers can include players being able to design NPCs or even art of their character done by the game’s artists. Going over the goal for the month means work can be done on an expansion. Want to see that expansion made? Put in $50 over the next 3 months and it’s yours. Doing this means you’re voting with your wallet because the studio is only working on the things that have already funded. This complete honesty can have its downsides though. A decline in Patrons will be obvious and will snowball. So, the death of the game will be swift.

Once items are made (not the Patron exclusives) they can go into an in-game store for people who don’t reach the Patron threshold to buy. Maybe you put in $5 towards the expansion when it was being created because that’s all you could give at the time. It still funded, but you didn’t really contribute enough to get the expansion. You’ll still be able to buy it and you got an epic sword for the $5 you gave.


So now there’s just the question remaining, which MMORPG business model seems the best for our dark fantasy MMORPG? Does the Patron model work in your mind? Would you be a Patron rather than a subscriber or buying in the in-game store? Leave your vote in the Strawpoll and your thoughts in the comments.

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Designing an MMORPG: Crafting Systems

Crafting is a core component of MMORPGs these days, the few MMOs that don’t have any kind of crafting system in place feel like they’re missing something. This week we’ll not only be looking at what kinds of things we should be able to craft, but also how complex the system should be. So brush up on what games have done before because we’re about to dive into MMORPG crafting systems.

Before we can do that, we have to take a look at last week’s poll on factions. There was a lot of discussion about different ways of doing factions ranging from not having them at all to letting players pick which faction they’re in without it mattering what race you are. Ultimately though, a three faction system won the poll with 50% of the vote! We’ll be exploring what all of that means more in the future when we get to PvP and story details. For now, though, keep in mind that factions now look like this:

Dragons Dwarves Vampires
Fae Shifters Shadows
Lalers Hellspawn Dark Elves
Humans Humans Humans


Crafting in Two Parts

As mentioned in the introduction, we’re actually going to be looking at two different things in this article which means for the first time, we’ll have two different polls. This is because crafting is more than just the traditional “walk up to the station and push the button” that most MMOs go with. Also, you have to decide what kinds of things will be craftable.

Crafting Mechanic

When it comes to deciding how the crafting mechanic will work, it seems like the complexity is what you should be looking at most.



A realistic crafting system is a complex crafting system. It’s almost a mini-game in its own right. It’s a time-consuming system that could if you wanted, take up all of your in-game time. In this system, you’re limited in the number of crafting skills you can have and the types. For instance, if you decide to become a smith you only work with metals and limited amounts of wood or leather to create armor and some types of weapons. If you decide to become a woodworker, your skills are gathering wood, making staves, and other things using wood. Potions and cooking can go together, so can fishing and cooking. Basically, crafting is thematically appropriate and requires cooperation. Once you’ve finished making your items it’s time to set up shop. Yes, taking a page from Star Wars Galaxies and giving you a table or two in the town’s market.

Traditional MMO Crafting

You have your workstation being manned by master crafters where you simply click a button to craft your item. This is the system you see in most MMOs so much so that it’s considered the traditional way of doing things. You can spice it up a little though. Guild Wars 2 reduced the number of recipes you’re automatically given in favor of a discovery system. Place random items in the workstation and see what you make. This route is taken because it is hands-on without being too complex for casual users to use, a nice middle of the road option.

Hire a Guy

Maybe you want to be almost entirely hands-off with crafting. That’s an option too. Don’t bother spending more than a couple of seconds in game on crafting, you know a guy. Hire an NPC to craft the items you desire. All you have to do is provide the materials, which you can either gather yourself out in the world or buy, then wait a certain amount of time before the item you wanted is mailed to you. Making a simple health potion might take only 5 minutes while the most exotic armor in the game could take days to be completed. The game that most comes to mind with a system like this is Neverwinter, which also allows you to do crafting without even logging into the game. For added complexity, you could send in armor and weapons you aren’t using to have them broken down to make the item you requested. This will add to the crafting time, but also makes it cheaper.

Vote for which of these sounds most appealing to you in the poll below.


Crafting Skills

So, now we’ve talked about how crafting will work, we need to look at what things we’ll be able to craft. Below is a long list of crafting skills that you can find in other games, as well as some ideas I came up with on my own. For the sake of ease, I’m leaving out armor and weapon creation, along with food as those are a given. But after that, it’s up to you and your vote. You’ll be able to vote for as many of them as you like.

Fishing – Create lures and bait to go out to catch yourself some fish. Minor skill advancement comes from catching fish, most comes from the creation of lures and bait. Depending on the complexity of mechanic chosen, you may or may not be able to create poles and lines. Additionally, you’ll either be able to buy a pole or make a rudimentary one that is nothing more than a stick with a string.

Hunting – Leather will drop from some creatures in combat for all players, but those with the hunting skill will be able to harvest more, like eyes, guts, and even meat. Trapping is also a key component which allows hunters to catch creatures out in the world.

beginner crafting MMORPG Crafting Systems

Alchemy – Create potions and medicines to aid in fights. Everything from healing potions to anti-venoms. Also able to create items that aid in combat like smoke bombs and venoms.

Runes and Glyphs – Craft magical enhancements for gear that can boost stats or have interesting effects.

Scrolls – Create one time use magical scrolls that allow you to cast a magical attack you couldn’t otherwise perform. Short term stealth, summon a small elemental creature, and more.

Foraging – The world is filled with edible foods hanging on trees and growing out of the ground. It just takes someone with the right skills to recognize them. You’re also able to collect items for alchemists to use.

Mining – Only you can identify and harvest metals and gems from the ground. You might even get lucky and find a good place to mine salt. Maybe you’ll have to go into mines to get them, or maybe you’ll get lucky and see a little shimmer next to the road. This crafting skill is a great one for those who like to go off the beaten path.

Timber Harvesting – Go out and chop down some trees, you’re a lumberjack! But, you’re a responsible lumberjack, so every time you cut down a tree you’ll plant three more. Once you’ve harvested your logs it’s time to drag them to a mill to make planks. As your skill advances, you can start creating things with the wood you’ve got like bowls and spoons. You also have a vital role in regional crafting projects.

Archaeology – Make a small plot of land yours for a short time and start digging. In the beginning, you might only find arrowheads and pottery shards but as your skill increases, you can find old armor, runes, and much more. Grow your skill high enough and you may even be able to successfully uncover cloth and books.

Jewelry Making – Jewels are for fashion and have magical uses which is why jewelry making has two branches. You can make things that look pretty but have little use or you can make things that look less pretty and give you some fantastic benefits. Need a personal shield for a couple of seconds? There’s a gem for that! Want to increase your stamina slightly, wear this bracelet.

Gardening – Instead of going out to forage for materials find them in your own backyard. Travel the world to find exotic seeds to bring home and grow into exotic materials alchemists and chefs will love. As your skill increases, you’ll be able to add trees to your garden.

Guild Crafting – Large scale buildings, boats, and other things that benefit the whole guild.

Regional Crafting, aka City Crafting – Build a town from the ground up with regional events that go on for months. Start by building the crafting stations themselves then move on to building taverns, markets, and more. You are building a city of out of nothing. Requires a lot of participation.

What do you think of the crafting options? Leave a vote below for your favorites. If there’s another crafting skill you’d enjoy seeing leave a comment here, on social media, or on Reddit. If there are any popular choices that keep coming up, we’ll add them to our final list. How many will we end up with? That’s anyone’s guess. We’ll go with the most popular ones that are within a few percentage points of the others.

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Designing an MMORPG: Factions

It has been nearly a month now since our last dive into designing an MMORPG but we’re back again, and the results of the poll on the races of our new world are in! Plus it’s time for another poll, this time deciding how to do our MMORPG factions.

Before we can start looking at that, let’s take a look at what we know so far. In previous articles, we picked fantasy as our genre, specifically Dark Fantasy. Then we went on to the races. It was already established that Humans would be in the game, so they were removed from the poll entirely. Joining them are 9 other playable races, created by me, and chosen by you. They are:

  • Dark Elves
  • Hellspawn
  • Fae
  • Lalers
  • Dragons
  • Vampires
  • Shadows
  • Dwarves
  • Shifters

Most interestingly, the ones that didn’t make the list are the gender-specific Harpies and Corvids, the plant people, and the fish people. What we generally see is that the attractive and darker themed races won, while those who are a little less people-like did not. So we say goodbye to those who didn’t win.

This week we’re dividing those races into their factions. There will only be three options to pick from, so hopefully, it will be an easy choice to make. Each choice can have implications for PvP that should also be taken into consideration but we’ll be looking at PvP specifically later on in another article.

Factions are important quite simply because they help you decide which races are friendly and which are not. It will tell you who you can play with and who you can play.


No Factions

Are the major factions of the world all at peace? Is there perhaps a threat greater than any of their petty differences? Or maybe the world is more complex and racial lines mean nothing. Having no factions at all allows for two clearly distinct options. The world has come together, be that to fight a common enemy or because they all get along…mostly. The other option is that the world is complex and the racial lines aren’t what define us. The first option doesn’t really allow for open world PvP outside of duels, while the second one allows for a PvP free for all. Picking no factions will also have a large impact on our world’s story, as well as what our enemies are like. If this option wins in the polls, there will be another poll in the future to decide between the two directions.


Two Factions

The world is torn in two. One side vs the other. 5 races vs 5 races. On one side you have the more sophisticated, older races; Dragons, Shifters, Shadows, Dark Elves, and Fae. On the other side are the Vampires, Dwarves, Lalers, Hellspawn, and Humans. The two sides couldn’t be more different with one side very set in their ways, while the younger races try to carve out their place in the world. A two faction system would allow for open world PvP between the two factions as well as create an interesting dynamic for PvP battlegrounds. Additionally, it leaves the opportunity open to having a third faction made up entirely of NPCs. Maybe the races that didn’t win the playable race poll still have a place in the world after all?

One downside to having a two faction system is that Vampires are limited to only one side. This means that the turning event is very one-sided as the other faction doesn’t have anything like it. This could be fixed by allowing Shifters to also take part in the turning event or by getting rid of the event entirely.


Three Factions

MMORPG Factions

Three factions are the ideal setup for PvP. Just take a look at Rock, Paper, Scissors. In the PvE world, it serves to divide the races even more, meaning that each faction has fewer race options to play with.

Dragons Dwarves Vampires
Fae Shifters Shadows
Lalers Hellspawn Dark Elves
Humans Humans Humans


As you can see there are only 4 races for each faction. Though it does allow each faction to have Humans. Since they are notorious for being the most popular race in every MMO this is something that could prove to be very important. In the two faction system, it might be difficult to balance the two sides if the majority of players are playing Humans. On the PvP side of things having three factions allows for massive battles like World vs World in Guild Wars 2 and Cyrodiil in Elder Scrolls Online. The three faction system is also going to be put to use in Crowfall.


For the options with more than one faction, it is possible to unlock the other races for those factions in the future if we so desired. Though with their background you have to wonder about some combinations. Would Dwarves ever really be willing to look past their history with the Dragons to work together? In a no faction system Dwarves tolerate Dragons simply because they have no other choice. That won’t stop Dwarven NPCs from making comments about the filthy Dragon players as they walk past though.

Vote for your favorite of the three options in the Strawpoll below. On Friday evening I’ll take a look at which one is the winner and it will be officially announced at the beginning of next week’s article. Next week we will be taking a look at crafting systems and deciding how complex the crafting system will be and what kinds of things can be crafted. If you have any ideas for the crafting system I would love to hear them. In the last couple of minutes, I’ve considered guild crafting, allowing you to make boats all the way down to making archaeology a part of the crafting system, where you dig up artifacts which can be used on yourself like a rune, weapon, or even a history book.

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Designing an MMORPG: Dark Fantasy Races

We’re all taking part in a little thought experiment in which we design an MMORPG as a group. Our focus this week is picking MMORPG races but before we can get into that, we need to take a look at how the previous week’s vote went.

Last week we were voting on which fantasy subgenre to set our MMORPG in. For quite some time it looked like Dark Fantasy and Gaslamp was going to be tied, then High Fantasy snuck into the lead for a bit. But in the end, it was Dark Fantasy that won. I’m really excited to explore Dark Fantasy as it relates to MMORPGs because The Secret World is really the only title we have in the genre.

For races, you won’t get to vote on Humans. They’re pretty much a given. Instead, you’ll be able to select from 16 different races and you can vote for one or up to 10. Those with the top votes will be the races we select. MMOGames doesn’t own any of the art used and we’ve done our best to link to the original artists.


Dark Elves

Once, not all that long ago there were two races of Elves. But lifetimes of war between the two took its toll and eventually it was only the Dark Elves that remained. Spending so many millennia fighting for survival turned them into a warmongering race. They are some of the finest fighters in the world, trained in martial arts and magic alike.



With a massive chip on their shoulder, Dwarves today are mostly known as poor drunks who waste their time panning for gold. They swear that long ago, the Dragons stole their homes and their wealth. The other races brush this off as drunken lies and pity the poor Dwarves who, for generations, have been the bottom of society. A new generation of Dwarves seeks to change their reputation though. Learning all variety of skills, working hard to rise up from rock bottom.



Vampirism is the one true way to continue life. Becoming a vampire is to be blessed with eternal youth. Vampires have wealth and power within society. As a group, they keep very tight control on who is turned and who isn’t, only the best for society. Only during the Turning Event, which happens on the longest day of the year, can vampires freely turn those who are less worthy. (Vampires are only unlockable after certain conditions are met or during Turning Event. Can only be made from Humans, Dark Elves, Dwarves, Hellspawn, Dilia, Naja, Gills)


Hellspawn – Demons

The gates of Hell opened and all manner of demonic creatures came pouring out. They altered the land around their gate, burning down forests to make it a little slice of home. While many made a home for themselves here, not everyone was satisfied staying put. So they set out into the world, learning new trades as they traveled.



The eldest of all the races, the dragons are the last people you’re likely to run into. Unless you’ve gone to their mountain range. They live together atop the mountains hoarding knowledge which they pass on only to a chosen lucky few. Having chosen to keep their feet on the ground and live indoors, they have lost the ability to use their wings. Outsiders will only ever see them in their humanoid form as they keep their true form hidden except for those they’re closest to. (This race only unlocks after certain conditions have been met by the player)


Lalers – Undead

Would you like to experience Life After Life? Get a second chance without any of the baggage from the life that came before. Become a warrior, see the world, become nobility. Anything is possible when you experience Life After Life. After you serve just 10 short years in the service of the mighty LAL military force, you’ll be free to make a new life for yourself. Relocation packages are available, speak with a Traveling Second Life Dealer for more information.



Tricksters and thieves, the lot of them. Fae are cheeky, mischievous creatures who will always look for a way to rob you blind. They’re absolute rules lawyers who know every trick in the book. Their beauty hides their true nature, aiding them in their mischief.


Shifters – Were-beasts

Long ago, High Elves cursed a kingdom of men, changing them into terrible beasts. But the curse turned out to be more of a blessing. The Shifters embraced what they had become and the abilities they had been granted. Now they walk amongst Humans, able to blend in perfectly or let their fur hang out.


Harpies (Female Only)

A society of female warriors, Harpies have quite a reputation. They go on the warpath to kidnap men in order to fertilize their eggs. Their battle shrieks strike fear in the hearts of all creatures. The only race that does not fear them are the Crow, who Harpies know better than to mess with.


Corvids (Male Only)

Corvid are expert marksmen, able to hit a target with deadly accuracy further than any other race. Their memory is unparalleled, able to remember events that took place long before they were born thanks to blood memory. Their ability to hold a grudge is also unmatched. They tend to live on the outskirts of society because they remember when your Great Great Grandfather stole their hunt and they don’t like you.


Angias – Plant People

Angia are walking, talking, living plants. They’re considered outsiders in society, odd because they don’t quite fit in. They always smell of something, be it rotting flesh or honeysuckle. The ongoing joke about them is that their bark is worse than their bite, but those people have never felt the torture of deadly nightshade pumping through their veins.


Dilia – Reptilian

Dilians live for excess. They have big appetites and big personalities. Others would say they’re overweight, but they worry the rest of the world is starving. Most of the time they’re a slow-moving race, “What’s the rush?” they’d ask, but don’t mistake their seemingly laid back attitude about life as them being pushovers. These happy-go-lucky people will strike when you least expect it.



Artist Unknown

When a lonely fae gave her shadow life, she would be the mother of a new race of beings. Today the Shadows call her The Great Mother and worship her. She is the only thing they fear, as she is the one that brought them into the world and she’s the only one who can take them out of it. Shadows don’t reproduce so much as they steal the shadows of others and grant them life. They’re sneaks and thieves, murderers and assassins. They’re rumored to have been behind every high profile assassination for the last millennia. Of course, they know this isn’t true, but reputation management is important, especially when you’re a race without words. Yes, The Great Mother gave them life but failed to give them a voice. So everything they do is through body expression and writing.



Once considered architectural décor on Human buildings, Gargoyles were blessed with life by a mysterious force. Gargoyle skin is as tough as stone and they’re virtually impossible to kill, which is a good thing because they’re unable to reproduce. They often work as guards for those who can afford them. Many also train to become stealthy assassins as they can learn to disguise themselves as ordinary rocks.


Naja – Venomous Snakes

The Naja have a rich and vibrant culture and wear gold and the finest jewels money can buy. They’re an incredibly wealthy race thanks to the ability to sell their venom for a high price. They have a reputation for taking shit from no one and rarely backing down from a fight. Along with the fangs in their mouths, they often grow long, sharp claws that are a sign of wealth but also serve as deadly weapons.


Gills – Fish-like

The common language unceremoniously lumps all creatures that have come from the sea into one race; the Gills. This is a term that all members of the species hate and if you were to catch one in a bad mood, might be worth fighting about. The reality is that the race is incredibly varied with everything from the Octopus-headed Kraken (who take their name from the mightiest of them to ever live) to the Batoid, a race of Land Rays. It’s well known that Gills prefer to eat their food wet. It’s often assumed that they have weak teeth but in fact, some have some of the most deadly teeth in the world. One trait that all Gills have in common is the innate desire to travel.

*Note* In the poll Corvid are referred to as Crow Men as I hadn’t come up with a better name for them when I made the poll.

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Designing an MMORPG: Picking a Subgenre

Last week we started off with the most basic question; which genre should we make an MMORPG in? The results weren’t all that surprising. Out of 273 votes, there were 171 for Fantasy, making it the winner of last week’s poll. This week we’re going to take a deep dive into the different fantasy subgenres to pick one.

Before we get started, let’s look at how the vote broke down last week. There were a total of 273 votes placed between the Strawpoll and Twitter.

Designing an MMORPG: Picking a Subgenre

As I said before, Fantasy got the most votes. On the one hand, this wasn’t a surprise. Fantasy is by far the most popular genre for MMORPGs. However, I do see a lot of people complaining about that very fact as well. I guess in the end those who enjoy the genre outweigh those who don’t.

With 59 votes, Science Fiction was the next most popular genre. This reflects what we see in the industry as well. Fantasy games are incredibly popular but a large portion of the remaining industry falls into science fiction.

The modern world, one of my favorites, only got 30 votes. I had expected this genre to do a lot better than it did considering it’s one of the least represented in MMORPGs but perhaps the interest just isn’t there after all.

Finally, with only 13 votes was historical. Again, a genre that is severely underrepresented in the MMORPG genre but with the tight restrictions, I fear that it may only be history buffs who want to see this one.


Now it’s time to move into the subgenres. What is decided here will have an impact on not only the setting but the races that will be available to play and what kind of creatures we see in our world. For this list, I referenced wiki’s entry on Fantasy subgenres.


Contemporary Fantasy

Did you watch Bright? That’s contemporary fantasy, as well as urban fantasy. Contemporary fantasy takes place today but with magic added in. This is where you’ll find the Dresden Files, Harry Potter, and many other popular book series. The world will be one that is familiar to us, but off. Maybe it’s Elves, maybe it’s unicorns, maybe the world has both. How would the world change if there was magic all around us?

Not many MMORPGs with this setting
Modern technology

Modern World isn’t a very popular setting


Dark Fantasy

diablo 3 necromancer closed beta preview

Dark fantasy is fantasy mixed with horror elements. There are monsters and other dark terrors in the night. Interview with the Vampire and Diablo are just two examples of this genre, the most famous of them all being the work of H.P. Lovecraft. Secret World Legends is also considered a dark fantasy. Closely related is Grimdark, most famously seen in the Warhammer 40,000 universe.

Not many MMORPGs in this subgenre
Lots of different terrifying creatures

The possibility of jumpscares


Gaslamp Fantasy

If the Victorian era and science is Steampunk then the Victorian era and fantasy is Gaslamp. You can find examples of it with movies like Sleepy Hollow, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Stardust. In this world, technology is that of the Victorian era while the fantastical elements allow for flying ships and mythical creatures.

No MMORPG presence.

Limited by technology level
Long dresses aren’t easy to fight in, ask Wonder Woman


High Fantasy

The Elder Scrolls Online

High fantasy is the epic adventures. The Lord of the Rings is held up as one of the best examples of the genre and most MMORPGs fall under this subgenre. It’s where you find the medieval fantasy with swords and spells. Neverwinter, Elder Scrolls, and even Conan all fall in this category.

Everyone loves swords and magic
Tons of content to take inspiration from

Most MMORPGs fall into this subgenre so oversaturation is a concern



Age of Wushu Dynasty

Chinese inspired fantastical tales filled with martial arts is the best way to describe Wuxia. The most famous of all the Wuxia MMORPGs is Age of Wushu, which will be getting a sequel in the near future. Jade Empire is another game that fits the Wuxia subgenre. In film, we have Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and even Kung Fu Panda.

Not a very well explored genre for MMORPGs, giving a lot of freedom
Offers something different from traditional Western fantasy

It’s unfamiliar to Western audiences
MMORPGs in the genre aren’t massively popular, though they do okay


This is now where you come in. It’s time for you to pick one of the fantasy subgenres that were listed above. Whichever one gets the most votes by Friday evening will be the winner and we will officially have the genre narrowed down quite specifically so we can move on to other topics. If somehow you missed out on how this experiment all began, take a look at last week where we broadly explored different MMORPG genres. You may be wondering right now why all the different fantasy subgenres aren’t represented on this list. For some subgenres, it’s the fact that they can easily be lumped in with others. Grimdark and Horror Fantasy both fit into Dark Fantasy quite well. For others, it was simply a choice I made to keep the list short and tidy.


How does it work?

There’s a straw poll below, just select which genre you’d like to work in. Late on Friday, I’ll add up the results from the two polls. Next week the winner will be announced with an all-new poll that takes a look at the playable factions if there are any factions at all.

Once we know how many factions we’ll have, we will be able to start looking at the playable races. Which will, in turn, have an impact on who our enemy factions are. Be sure to come back every Tuesday when we’ll take another step forward in our adventure.

If you have any ideas you’d like to see featured in the future leave them in the comments below and we’ll discuss them at some point this year.


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