By now, most of us have tried at least one MMO. The entire genre has grown dramatically over the last two decades, and now rests as one of the most important and one of the more popular genres on PC. That doesn’t mean all MMOs are good, however, because let’s face it: most suck. Still, MMOs are typically very different from one another, with each trying its own unique approach and adding its own spins and innovations. Often, you find yourself falling in love with particular parts of a bad or failing MMO. Often, these beloved mechanics and features get lost as time goes on, left behind because their reputations are tied to dying or bad titles. Today’s discussion is a dedication to those features: my favorite MMO feature that hasn’t been touched upon since its inception.
Given the sheer amount of MMOs I have managed to play over the years, there are a lot of possible choices. I could pick Warhammer Online’s noble attempt to have melee and ranged classes all tied to a single resource system for ability use. Perhaps I should pick Everquest’s usage of experience penalties for specific races and for hybrid classes. No, in the end, there is only one feature I want to discuss today: Ultima Online’s Faction system.
Let me preface you before continuing that at the time that Factions was finally patched into Ultima Online, I wasn’t a serious PvPer. Even after, I wasn’t a serious PvPer, but Factions created a certain allure to me that I have never forgotten. There was just something dynamic, interesting, and cool about being in a Faction and working your way up through the ranks, despite the system being really rather simple.
The basics are as follows: Ultima Online had four separate Factions, each with its own unique secret base and, to some degree, unique Faction theme. Factions were free to join for everyone and even free to leave, though leaving would mean you would have to sit out of the fighting for at least a week. As you killed enemy Faction members, you worked your way up the ranks of your faction and earned a special currency to purchase unique faction equipment and mounts. At the higher ranks, you could be elected to lead the Faction – a position that came with unique powers.
What powers you ask? Well, the overall objective for the Factions were control over the major cities of Ultima Online’s completely open PvP map. Controlling a city meant keeping and protecting its city sigil, which had to be taken from the city it belonged to and placed deep in your own faction base. It also meant that you could tax the city to generate revenue for extra city guards. It was more or less a glorified game of capture the flag, but one that had multiple flags available at one time, multiple teams vying for them, and a map that spanned an entire world.
Even now, UO’s Faction system sounds innovative, creative, and completely unique. Most MMOs since have opted for dedicated factions of two and sometimes of three, which your character was born in. I understand why, but I always liked the added intrigue and politics of a more open system. I also liked that it allowed for a neutral group of people who either had to risk murdering faction members in cold blood or could avoid much of the combat while still maintaining some level of trade and discourse. It was also pretty awesome that faction battles occurred inside cities rather specially walled off areas okay for combat. Simple skirmishes could break out anywhere.
There are a lot of great ideas that MMOs in the past have wasted either through pure implementation or by not garnering the right audience and support. That doesn’t mean these ideas should be ignored and forgotten.
What are some of your favorite things that MMOs have done that you want to see again? Drop a comment below and keep the discussion going.