#1: Thou Shalt Not Require Vulnerability to Other Players.
Consider the number of active EQ Subscribers (henceforth "customers") complaining that their server is too crowded. Now take a good look at how many people are on the Player–Versus–Player (henceforth "PvP") servers. Either they are being hypocrites, or as a whole the customers do not want to be vulnerable to harm from other players at all times. And yet I find it curious that practically every upcoming MMORPG I’ve looked into has Mandatory PVP – one (Atriarch) even goes so far as to have permanent PvP (if the character dies, it’s time to start a new character). Others (UO2, Anarky Online) skirt this by making some areas Non –PvP – and yet it takes something less than a rocket scientist to realize you won’t be able to stay in the "safe" areas all the time.
#2: Honor Thy Customers and Consider Their Suggestions, for Thy Game is Not Holy.
Commandment 2 is also known as Business Rule One – if you don’t take care of the customer, somebody else will. Both of the headlining MMORPG’s (EQ & UO) have suffered from massive customer–relations problems. In both cases, those behind the game refused to re–examine fundamental game issues "because [problem] is part of the game – learn to enjoy it or go play Chip’s Challenge," to quote a statement made to me by a representative of Origin. And Verant has made similar if not quite as inflammatory statements regarding a number of issues (melee binding being the most egregious but certainly not solitary). Origins faced a gradual but considerable exodus due to this; I for one will never purchase an Origins product again, and this is coming from someone who has never eaten at KFC because of poor service his mother received 28 years ago. Verant finds numerous customers prepared to do the same (I would still buy from them at this time). Both companies got away with it for quite some time because there wasn’t a worthy "someone else" – this won’t be true for long.
Another way to say this: don’t tell us Everything is subject to change if Everything doesn’t mean Everything.
#3: Thou Shalt Use All Means at Thy Disposal to Communicate With Thy Customers
I find this issue particularly curious. In a genre in which change is the norm, Verant hardly ever polls their customers for information – yet constantly say they know what how the majority of their players feel. Posts by various Verant personnel on their Official Board seem to indicate they have a low opinion of polling. Granted, the majority is not always right, but here’s a hint: the majority isn’t always wrong, either. As a nigh–complete idiot once told me, "If one person says it’s raining, that only means they say it’s raining. But if half the people coming in the door say it’s raining, you might want to at least look out the window before you go out without an umbrella."
#4: Thou Shalt Not Lie Out Thy @$$ To Customers – And No Misrepresenting the Truth, Either
There’s no way around this. They can make all the PC "we were mistaken", "we had no creative control", "this was pre–release information", and "we are not responsible for second–party statements" dodges they want – both Origins and Verant committed outright lies to their customers on various issues. And both companies had misleading statements in Official sources as well. Sure, "soloing is supported" – for maybe two classes, over maybe 2/3rds their careers. It is my personal opinion that Verant’s problem is not deliberate misinformation, but an utter lack of quality control. On that subject…
#5: Thou Shalt Test Thy Product Before Thy Releaseth It or Any Part of It
Should be assumed, and yet everybody but game manufacturers seems to know better. Here’s a clue – if it’s "your world", you bloody better well be willing to sign your name to it. Now granted that the very nature of the MMORPG genre is such that updates will be constant, and that any changes that need to be made can be handled quickly. Nonetheless, there is NO EXCUSE WHATSOEVER for a game to be out for a year before the people responsible for it discover something along the lines of Wolf–form having the wrong faction. There is an equivalent amount of excuse for quests that appear to have been in the game from the beginning to still appear broken (which reminds me, I haven’t checked Kinool Goldslinger since the last "quest" patch). A recommendation? Absolutely NOTHING in the game should go Live until the person most responsible PERSONALLY confirms it is working on a Test Server, and this confirmation should be made the same way the player would be doing it. The recent incident in which Abashi actually went into the game and made sure the spells were dropping before he said this to customers (after weeks of insisting they were dropping without doing so, unfortunately) is a start.
#6: Thou Shalt Remember That This is a Game, and is Supposed to be Fun.
Or, to quote the Ogre, "Fun good!" I myself am baffled by Verant’s view of doing anything except fighting in EverQuest. They create a high–level Magician spell that summons beer "for fun", but disallow the Shrink spell outside of dungeons "because it would serve no useful purpose" and all but mock enchanters for wanting spells that serve no purpose but to "look cool." An interesting thread about the Fishing skill gets ignored for three weeks while a post describing the prospect of X–Rated visuals in the game received an almost instant answer. Here’s a clue – players play games to have Fun. It is the role of those running the game to give them as many different ways to have Fun as possible. Is that really so hard to figure out? Here’s another clue: anything that represents a lengthy "do nothing" time (the boats in EQ being a hideous example) is bad for Fun and therefore bad for the Player – and what is bad for the Player is bad for the Game. By the same token, what is Fun for the Player is good for the Game.
#7: What Thou Expecteth Players to Have, Players Should Expect to Obtain
Go ahead and call this the Casual Commandment if want. Or, to quote the Ogre, "Camping Bad!" If "Crafted isn’t 50th level gear", 50th level players should be able to obtain 50th level gear REGARDLESS OF WHETHER THEY CAN PLAY 1 HOUR A WEEK OR 50. In a Non PvP environment, there is NO reason for a player not to have the gear they are "expected" to have at a certain level. This is not to say that the player who can play 50 hours a week shouldn’t have better gear – quite the contrary, the 50–hour player deserves better equipment. The problem is that the 1–hour a week character shouldn’t still be carrying a basic Long Sword at 25th level (don’t laugh, I’ve seen it). There are several methods around this (viable trade skills come to mind, as does the "piecework" quest suggestion), and I strongly advise game makers to look into them.
#8: Problems, Not Puzzles
This is an old roleplaying GM rule I’ve followed for years when I run campaigns. The fact I heard a lead designer for the upcoming Deux Ex game say this in an interview is one of the reasons I will be buying that game. What it means is this: do not create situations that can only be solved one way. Create problems, and then create multiple ways to solve this problem. Reward players for using less–obvious methods. If the only way to get a treasure out of a room is to kill the monsters guarding it, what you have is a war game, not role–playing. I enjoy war games, but not when I’m trying to role–play.
#9: If Thou Must Have Classes, Balance Them in Quantifiable Ways
Or, to quote the Ogre, "me kan’t eben spel cum–bel–ink, let alone play it." Another nice little sound bite: the Compelling Reason to play every class should be known, and should outweigh the Compelling Reason not to play the class.
#10: If Thou Must Have [whatever], Have [whatever].
Or, to quote a near–complete idiot I once had as a boss, "Swimming is not putting your feet in the water." Is there Tinkering in EQ? Technically. Can enchanters make magic items in the game? Technically. Can rogues use poison? Technically. Are their religions in EQ? Technically. Are their quests in EQ? Technically. See where I’m going with this? First person to answer "Technically" is gonna be the next victim of my Kerran Fishingpole.
"We’re in Your World Now. Convince Us to Keep Subletting."
"Auntie" Shaynta IdolSlayer
20th (darn that last pixel to 21st!) level High Elf Enchanter, E’ci Server