(Edit) Just putting a note here: this was written in 2008, when I was kind of stupid. So there are stupid things here and there, but in a very general sense I still agree with it. (/edit)
just writing due to boredom. also writing in case i forget about these thoughts. and maybe somebody will read, who knows.
my theory is that multiplayer games need two things to be great for gamers like myself:
1. good, solid gameplay
keep it simple at the core, add effects and vehicles and other fun features but be careful not to hurt the core solidity or else the player doesn't feel in control.
2. make the player want to win
let's say you join a counter-strike server from a list of hundreds and you find twenty players in there who've been playing a while. everybody's going for the high KDR. the bomb holder is camping spawn with a sniper. where's the team spirit? where's the excitement? it just isn't there.
so to get the competitive environment, where a team win is the most important thing, you can join a clan, do scrims, etc, etc. but then you have to play at certain times, maybe "be active on the clan forums," and you start wondering why the hell you're doing it. it's as if you're working another job.
I think that a great multiplayer game will create that team spirit and competitive environment for you. in other words, you won't need to set up special matches or clans or anything to find yourself in a match where players communicate and assist each other rather than check their personal score every minute.
I think most of us can relate to that team vs team feeling. you can find it in sports, board game matches, and video games. the setup determines whether you get that feeling or not. we've all competed in matches where we didn't care about the outcome, and competed in other matches where we want to try our best as a team, maybe not necessarily playing to win, but thriving on the competitive air. it's just a good feeling. it's fun as hell.
i loved halo 2 because it created that feeling. many say that one of the reasons for that is because it was simply the only thing like it at the time. i say it's still the only thing like it. the first time i played Halo 3 online it felt half dead already. aside from the crappy xbox360 guide and worsened voice quality, and the sluggish gameplay, the team feeling just wasn't there. halo 2 did it with the levels. in its prime, everyone worked towards higher levels, resulting in highly competitive matches and lots of excitement. i'm not exactly sure why that feeling diminished with halo 3. maybe there was just too much. too many playlists and options, and forge, and campaign co-op, i'm not sure. online multiplayer games are far too complex for even their own developers to fully comprehend. anyways, halo 3 definitely didn't have enough of the feeling to be great. it's only been a little over a year now since release and look how much it's died down (not that it every felt very alive).
about charm - the special feeling some games give (not teamwork feeling, more like an immersive feeling)
charm in games is confusing. i'm not sure how you can make it. i'm not sure if devs who have created games with charm understood how they made it. i think a game's charm level is dependant on all aspects of the game. i think that charm was probably more charming ten years ago when games weren't so mainstream. but anyways, charm contributes to the fun you have playing a game, so while i don't think its essential that a multiplayer game have it, it definitely could help. look at Counter Strike as an example of a game lacking charm: most of the good maps are like arenas with straight walls, the gameplay is simple; it doesn't have much of an other-worldly feeling.