If there’s going to be combat, it needs to be good. That goes for every game system, really, but combat is an obvious one and nearly universal. I don’t care what system you use — you could use the traditional MMO hotbar-and-target system, you could go with TERA or WildStar’s more active approaches, you could make it a third-person shooter, or you could make combat into a puzzle minigame a la Puzzle Quest. That isn’t the point because all of those systems can be done well or done poorly. Whichever system you choose needs to be done well and offer strategic options, and it should be polished.
It needs to have setting, for one. FFXIV Gold A thin layer of generic fantasy nonsense doesn’t cut it; if I suspect your setting to have started life in a spiral-bound notebook, I am not going to be happy. The setting needs to have cultures, regions, religions, villains, heroes, turns of phrase, languages — it needs character. And that means it also needs a story, something going on that’s bigger than just where I choose to build a farm. I should have a reason to care about this place.
There’s no universal answer to this. For some people the answer is EVE Online, for others it’s World of Warcraft, and for a vocal and presently quite unhappy portion of the population the answer is City of Heroes or Star Wars Galaxies. If there were one template for what MMOs should be, we wouldn’t have a plethora of different games; we would have one that occasionally received a major update. What I can say with authority is what I want from an MMO, what makes a game something special.
I’m a big proponent of celebrating what you love instead of tearing down what you don’t like, so now that I’ve hopefully angered everyone still reading, let’s take a step back. What actually makes for a good MMO?