Free for All: Five favorite game systems

This week I decided to talk a bit about some of my favorite game systems. Systems are essentially the building blocks of all quality MMORPG matter, allowing for an experience that is unique and worth returning to. Developers have been very creative in designing these systems that, like good technology, are not often noticed by gamers. Good systems blend into your experience but enhance it, and often make the overall game play seem like something more than it would be without them.

Here are some of my favorites, and I would recommend downloading these games and checking them out. Or, if you are already playing these games, take a moment to notice how much thought went into these systems, and also of how much time you spend using them. Their simplicity can sometimes be deceiving, hiding the complicated processes that help your game play be a detailed and varied experience.

1) The Chronicles of Spellborn "Dress to Impress": Normally in an MMORPG, armor and weapons change as fast as levels do. Often a player cannot grow very fond of a certain look until the leveling and looting ends, and for someone like me looking just the way I want is more important than how powerful I am. Spellborn allows players to keep a piece of armor for as long as they want, instead allowing stats to change with the use of unseen gems that are mounted inside armor slots. Once you get that perfect look, or find that beautiful piece of armor, you can keep it and remain proud. For me it helps build even more depth into my character, to give him a look that is always recognizable. Essentially, it helps me tell my characters story.

2) Free Realms Exploration job: It's such a simple idea to allow players to gain experience, levels and loot all just for exploring the world. Yet very few games have a system like this and none have one as fun and fulfilling as the Free Realms Explorer job. Essentially, players run around the landscape and areas of the world looking for "sparklies" or tokens that are gathered by clicking on them. There are simple exploration tokens that are easy to find and more obvious. Then, there are elite exploration tokens and collection items that require much more searching. I spent several hours last night covering a single area, and afterward came out with a cool new backpack! (Pictured above) Some collections even have overlapping items that require other collections to finish, resulting in rare loot to make all other players jealous with. Exploration is a game in itself.

3) Mabinogi's Rebirth System: Nexon needed some way to combat the grind that can often accompany a game with a steep difficulty curve. As with most games, the first levels fly by and are a joy but then it seems like a wall is quickly approaching. So, why not take a step back in time to when levels and ability points came at you with ease? Essentially when you hit age 20 you are faced with a choice to reset your age (or age and level) all the way back to age 10 and level 1, but without any loss of current levels and ability points. Mabinogi is a skill based game, so ability points are key to customizing your experience. So instead of pushing further into high levels (which has its own reward) you can go back to an age and level that makes gaining AP points much much easier. I rebirth almost every time I hit age 20, but soon enough I will give up my childish ways and will push into higher levels.

4) DDO's Hirelings: DDO has given us solo'ers plenty to do, and now plenty of group mates to do it with. For a very small amount of cash you can "rent" a group member that will help you in all of your adventures. You can choose their class and your choice can be the difference between finishing a dungeon or not. I normally choose a healer type, but recently have been enjoying the switch to a barbarian. I might not be healed as much as I've grown used to, but the enemies sure fall faster! The NPC's are able to be commanded to use certain abilities and to take on different stances, much like a pet. Thanks to these rent-a-group members, I no longer game alone! ...well, you get what I mean.

5) Wizard 101's Stitch system: I think you can see from some of my choices that I like to customize not only my game play but how my character looks, and Wizard 101 allows a player to do that in many ways. It couldn't be simpler to take one item with the stats you want and "stitch" them onto another item that has the look that you want. Even if the better looking item is a higher level item that you cannot normally use, you can wear it as long as the stats that are stitched onto it are something you can work with. This type of creativity makes for a happy gamer, and a gamer that looks just like he or she wants to. The price, although paid in real money, is tiny and well worth it.

I will be revisiting some of my favorite systems down the road a bit, but hopefully this article will make you stop and appreciate some of the more subtle game developments that might normally be overlooked. They're small things, not as complicated as downing a huge dragon, but they still add up to joy for the gamer.

Now I know why there are developers that are assigned only to certain systems within MMORPG development teams. If they do their job right, these systems become part of the broader picture and give the game depth. Yet the challenge of making something so complicated seem so simple must be enough to keep someone very busy. I am glad they decided to take their time with these.

This article was originally published on Massively.