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I find recent MMORPGs always lacking in something:

Tera Online had great graphics and a huge expanse of world, but the linear growth system made me lose interest because my character would end up the same as anyone else's.

Phantasy Star Online 2 had a great battle system and really fancy duds, but being unable to explore anything but randomly-generated dungeons made me despise the lack of adventure.

Final Fantasy XIV's immersive world made me want to love it if not for the fact that without healers, you couldn't progress in the story due to dungeon quests (having only one class of healer until the second-tier jobs made party-finding worse).

Ragnarok Online was one of my favourite MMORPGs of all time, being able to explore, fight with friends, grab loot, enjoy the world, but it was a major, major, major grind (its sequel, Ragnarok Online 2, lost all the good points though)

I could go on and on, but I've been berating the fact there's never been an MMORPG that seemed to hit the right notes.

MMO, Massively Multiplayer Online, means I could play with friends and/or make new ones, and have fun, but once story quests in MMOs became the norm, there's barely any fun to be had when everyone's running around clearing their own quests.
Yet, is there a way that exists for players to get EXP without grinding, and do stories really belong in MMOs?

Then RPG, Role-Playing Game, meaning I get to build the character the way I'd like. But no matter how customisable the skill-building system is, eventually there'd be build guides that come out for it that become the standard for each class.
Does that mean we should might as well make MMORPG classes follow a standard build to save people the trouble?
Or would taking away classes altogether solve the problem? Is there a way for each character to be unique and different?

Sorry if this was a chunk of text, I was letting my mind wander as I typed.
But I just want to ask:

What makes a good MMORPG?

And is it possible for a 'perfect' MMORPG to exist?
Even newspapers have those nowadays.
There is no such thing as good MMORPG. There are only less obnoxious ones.
I think what makes a good MMORPG are decent players. Even the best game with the perfect graphics, awesome gameplay, and riveting storyline(s); will plummet down fairly quick if the game's players suck.

This problem is not present in traditional rpg's of course, since there's usually only one player. In MMO's, the entire system is reliant on inter-player connections to make it enjoyable; hence being 'Massively Multiplayer'.

Edit: The closest game I played to an MMORPG is Dota (and Dota2), so my opinion could be invalid in that sense.
For me, Ragnarok Online Pre-Renewal (before the stupid changes) was the perfect MMORPG. So if you ask me how to make a good MMORPG then I'd say: Make an MMORPG exactly like this.

Maybe we should just pick out certain aspects for the discussion? Because otherwise there is too much to talk about.

I guess I'll reply to what you talked about yourself:

MMO part - Quests are what ruin every single MMORPG in my opinion. It really is a problem, people will just follow their linear quest path and not want to party up unless you coincidentally have the same quests. If you ask me, quests should completely be dropped from MMORPGs. Player should just role-play and make up their own story to give them reason to visit a certain dungeon or field map. Ragnarok Online originally had this solved perfectly. It was basically about Lore. There were NPCs and if you talked with them you figured out part of the lore bit by bit. There were also quests, but they were rare and only worth doing for the story or to get access to a dungeon. Most of your play time you didn't do quests. In RO it's super easy to find a party because of that. And when you reach the point to do any dungeon access quest you already have so many friends that you will easily find one or two to join you doing them.
MMORPGs really should concentrate more of the MMO aspect. Partying needs to be worth it. Partying needs to be fun (just standing on a single spawn spot is NOT fun, random spawn location or very long respawn times force the group to explore which result in more fun gameplay). And it needs to be easy to find someone to party with. One feature that is also nice which is not in RO is the system to register for a group and then when enough people registered, you would automatically be teleported to the dungeon with random other player and have to work together to solve it. This was a great way to easily get a party and find friends. The only downside is the risk that some idiots are in your group, but with good design the dungeons will be clearable with a bunch of idiots in your group (dungeon should be easier while keeping the same rewards when it's done with a random group opposed to a premade one).

RPG - I'm generally annoying by customizability in games. Games should just have predetermined stats already instead of asking the player to input them. What's the point in customizing your party / player, when it ends up with you going to gamefaqs prior of playing just to check which build is even viable?
In offline RPGs this is particularly stupid, because you will hardly play an RPG through more than once, so what the point in variety? In MMORPGs I can at least see the point in having a customization system because there it's actually nice if everyone has his own individual build. Ragnarok Online is again best here by employing a stat system that allows many classes to be viable in various builds. The system increases stat cost the higher your stat it, actually making hybrid builds viable (while in other MMORPG it's usually just "all in one stat" with the stat depending on the class).
What would be best here? I think what we will see with Tree of Savior is what I imagine as the perfect system: There is no customization for one class, if you have a class, you will also have all skills and stats of that class, however, you have many different classes available that are completely different (in ToS there are 80 different classes). This is basically like 80 predefined optimal builds. You only need to choose the class you want to play and don't have to worry about messing up your build. And as the classes all play completely different, there aren't really balancing issues either.

In short for me a good MMORPG is like this:
A) I log in.
B) I search for a group and can easily find one in some minutes (system doesn't matter as long as it allows finding a group quick).
C) I play with the group and the actual playing is really fun, not repetitive and requires playing skill.

I must say however, that I'm a pure PVE / coop vs AI player. PVP players have completely different priorities.
(For me, it doesn't even have to possible to play the game alone at all.)
Hahaha, I'm the same! I'm always PVE, if I wanted to play PVP I'd pick up a shooter XD

It may be weird, but if players were to be rewarded in some way for communicating and befriending strangers, would it be absurd, or...?
It's nice to play with friends, but I'm thinking it should be easier to meet and befriend other players. Back in Ragnarok Online people would just come up and talk to you, but now people just run around and do their things on their own (maybe it can be attributed to the existence of quests too, but...)

I may be influenced by MMO animes such as .hack and Sword Art Online (terrible characters but such an amazing, amazing game world), but the reason I'd like for players is to be customizeable is because for the possibility to able to gain fame in the community through their unique mastery over certain aspects of the game.

I'd like to see a skill-based MMORPG instead of a min-max race. Shooters, for example, they have set weapons, but how good you are is based off your own skill instead of how much you grind.

I'd like to feel good at playing the game not because I spent years of my life playing it, but because with practice and my own style of play.

But then again, that might take out the essence of RPG...
Maybe something like... Monster Hunter...?
There are a bunch of good action MMORPGs out these days. You named one yourself: Phantasy Star Online 2. You said you don't like instance based games, but they are currently the only way to allow really fast paced action combat as the number of possible player that can see your battle moves is very limited. Dragon Nest is another example for good action combat, also instanced.

There are approaches in open world, most popular is probably Tera. But it's quite slow paced action combat. RaiderZ was a bit more interesting regarding how combat works as it put more focus on dodging and figuring out tricks to even be able to damage bosses.

Also you probably really should check out Tree of Savior's blog, in particular those Q&As that talk about the different classes. It's not so far away from Sword Art Online (http://blog.treeofsavior.com/en/, mostly starting at Q&A 7).

I don't think there needs to be a reward for befriending strangers. Just think about it. Why did people come to you and asked for a party in Ragnarok Online? It's mainly because there aren't any narrow restrictions for partying up. There are no quests, so you can pretty much party up with anyone and who anywhere you like. Also you can share exp in a range of +- 10 levels. In RO that's like 2 months of playtime, so nobody will easily outlevel your range.
Plus there are rewards for partying up. In RO that's mainly: Being able to survive in harder regions and harder regions were significantly more rewarding (in pre-renewal, this was ruined in renewal) and an exp bonus you get for "combo attacks" (multiple players attacking the same mob at once).
Also because RO was pretty boring and for some classes almost impossible to play solo, the community generally was a lot more party friendly because pure solo-players just went play another game eventually.
"It's frustrating because - as much as Corf is otherwise an irredeemable person - his 2k/3 mapping is on point." ~ psy_wombats
Excellently disguised grinding and frequent minor rewards.
Tera Online had great graphics and a huge expanse of world, but the linear growth system made me lose interest because my character would end up the same as anyone else's.

I'd like to see a skill-based MMORPG instead of a min-max race. Shooters, for example, they have set weapons, but how good you are is based off your own skill instead of how much you grind.

This seems like it's the same thing? Tera allows for some customization, probably more than shooters do, but the end result is that the classes (weapons) are mostly set. The only thing gained by a branching class system is having a few more weapons (classes).

For example, having 4 classes that each branch once is exactly the same as having 8 classes for the purposes of end-game content. Thus, while I appreciate varied classes in MMOs, I don't count the class list until the end. Tera has enough for me, though, I concede that it's on the low end.

On the the other hand, I really appreciate what Mabinogi does in that only skills are chosen, not a class. Every character is different, then, unless you've been playing for a decade and have every skill ever, in which case the difference lies only in equipment...but even then, aesthetically, there are hundreds of options that do not affect gameplay, so everyone still looks different.

The result is that it fosters the 'talk to random people' environment because the player never feels like they're in a world of clones. In the years that I've played the game, I have not once seen any clones of myself and have always been able to recognize my friends on sight. I would say that is quite important to me, in any mmo.
can't make a bad game if you don't finish any games
Vanity equipment on top of stat sticks is always a nice feature.

Phantasy Star Online 2 had a great battle system and really fancy duds, but being unable to explore anything but randomly-generated dungeons made me despise the lack of adventure.

Which version did you play? JP?
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
Having been a MUD developer for a good ten years now, you'd think I'd have an answer to this.

I don't though. There are a ton of similarities between MMOs and MUDs, but the things that people look for in them are extremely different. MUD players primarily value nostalgia for old-fashioned game design, and riddles and secrets that they can discover, and direct communication with the developers, and enforced roleplaying, and the ability to prove that they're the best player in the world in some aspect of the game. MMO players simply can't have those things, by virtue of the medium. The much larger playerbase of MMOs prevents those things from being reasonable to achieve.

But the larger playerbase also means that MMOs have to do a lot more other things to attract a wide variety of different players. MMORPGs attract some of the most diverse playerbases of any games out there. You've got the elite PVP sniper, and the guy who just logs on every day to do his routine of daily quests, and the raider who wants to beat the game's greatest challenges, and the story nerd who reads all the dialogue, and the romantic who's exploring a giant fantasy world, and the sim player who wants every piece of furniture and every outfit. More importantly, you've got the huge number of people who evolve from one type of player to another over time, or who discover a second part of the game they really enjoy - and in a game with so many different parts, they can do so while still playing the same game. And the amount of time they've already invested into the game makes them very likely to do so. This is where older MMOs have an enormously unfair advantage over newer ones - the quality of the game is certainly important, but the size and breadth of it matters a lot more.
You know what would make a cool MUD?
A proper battle system.
Also being able to do actions with single key presses rather than having to enter a word and then press enter.

Which version did you play? JP?

Are there other versions?
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
Mine totally has those things!

Well, more or less. The second thing you can get very close to with our command alias system. You can make "2" be an alias for "use blackmagic firaga". Or make any words you want be aliases for any other words you want.

The inherent problem with good MUD battle systems, though, is that if you make them decently fast-paced, it gets harder and harder to read the text quickly enough. We decided that wasn't nearly as bad as being boring though. People can learn to skim the battle text for the important bits, and set the parts they care about to different colors, and possibly hide text that they really don't want to see at all (like enemies failing to inflict status effects, maybe). We tried pretty hard to make the gameplay really engaging, and it ended up kind of like a cross between MMORPG combat and FF Tactics, but... without the movement? I think it's something that sets us apart from other MUDs (though being squaresoft based would likely be enough on its own)
I made a bunch of non-online text-based RPGs where I tried to implement really cool battle systems. I didn't really find the text being too much of a problem. I just auto-scrolled through the text with one line per second and it seemed to work fine for me. I guess it depends on the player, though. Because I always use my imagination to imagine the actual battle taking place while the text occurs so it doesn't bother me much having to wait a bunch of seconds between entering commands.
Even newspapers have those nowadays.
I've always was fan of class-less environments. All characters have access to all skills and weapons if they want to learn/use those (adding skills as character levels up won't work because of sheer amount of skills so "skill teachers" would be needed). This way you could build mage who wears strong armor and can use a battleaxe. So characters won't end up the same assuming there isn't any balance issues that will make one build stronger than others.

That being said, I'm still standing by my first post.
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
If everyone can do exactly the same things, I'm pretty sure it would make characters more similar, not less similar, unless the game is designed by someone way, way better at balancing RPG combat than anyone who's ever designed a commercial RPG to date. It's vastly easier to balance twenty sets of skills so they're all equally good than to balance three hundred individual skills so they're all equally good. It's much easier to balance a game when the downside of one skill can be that the player can't have it at the same time as a different skill, or when you can predict that a player who has high offense will have low defense to compensate.

That really has nothing to do with MMOs at all though. It's an issue in every RPG, online or not.
The 524 is for 524 Stone Crabs
So I'm not the only one who's disillusioned with the genre.

I guess I just don't get it. Why does almost every MMORPG have to have loads and loads of grinding? Grinding in itself is an extremely repetitive process that stalls any progression through the game itself for a reason that just feels so arbitrary to me as a player. Like, I can only get the cool stuff and actually move forward through the game by spending countless hours standing in some pool of generic monsters, and whenever I do move forward, I constantly find myself doing the same thing over again.

It's just not fun or rewarding enough for me personally, and I feel like the standard formula could change somehow, but I don't have any ideas.
I like canaan online, because it basically forces you to grind thru sidequests, for instance Kill 20 Cerberus and I'll give you 2 gold, (their currency is
gold-silver-copper based so thats basically 20000 money total. you can log into multiple accounts and form your own party, i had a mage, priest, archer and warrior lol.
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