Perfect Ten: Combat-free MMOs

If there’s one thing that always, always goes with MMOs, it’s combat. I mean, we can’t be a hero without killing something, right? We can’t explore a virtual world of wonder without needing to murder a small chunk of it, no?

And as exciting and replayable and institutional as combat is, sometimes… sometimes I get a little tired of it. Being in games where everything revolves around supporting combat in some way or directly fighting can be mentally exhausting. So the Massively OP team and I sat around one afternoon trying to name MMOs where combat is not just rare but absent entirely.

We thought we could name only a small handful, but we quickly stormed our way past 10, and that’s not even counting sports MMOs, text-based MUSHes, and the iffy status of Puzzle Pirates. So if you’re looking for an online game that isn’t about stabbing, punching, or fireballing goblins to death, here are attempts by the industry to provide alternatives!

1. The Sims Online

An MMO spin-off of the insanely popular Sims franchise wasn’t a bad idea at all; it merely had to be handled right. Unfortunately, the end result was as far apart from what made The Sims fun as you could get. Players were thrust into an aging graphics engine and given little money and few tools with which to build a fully realized world. So instead, people ground skills, played virtual prostitute, and fled to much better sandboxes. It could have been a contender, I always think, but instead we got a game where I watched my character virtually read a book while a skill bar filled in tiny increments.

2. Pumpkin Online

This upcoming “farming dating sim” is eschewing the MMO establishment in favor of delivering a “chill relaxing game.” Sorry for the quotes, but after reading the somewhat silly, somewhat charming website, I kind of want to quote it all. So if you’re looking to romance and marry NPCs and then spend your relationship working in a turnip garden together, here you go!

3. Wander

I can get behind a lush-looking game that’s all about exploration and secrets. I really can. But to play as a slow-moving tree-thing? Um, that might take some selling on the studio’s part. At least give the tree pants! Or a chainmail bikini!

4. A Tale in the Desert

This long-running MMO has forever been the niche of the niche, but it’s been admired even so for a devotion to progression via crafting and socializing instead of combat. Working together in a six-times rebooted Egypt, players strive to complete tests (challenges) that come in a wide variety of formats. Also, there’s a lot of sand. It gets in everything.

5. Myst Online: Uru Live

Could a multiplayer Myst work? It can and it has. Myst Online takes players from our world into the realm of puzzles, mysteries, and Age-hopping. Its art design is one of the game’s biggest strengths, as is the option to solve puzzles solo and with friends. There’s also a suprisingly involved story that is revealed as a player makes progress through the caverns underneath New Mexico.

6. Star Stable

I can’t tell you how creepy it feels to be a middle-aged man visiting this website. But maybe it would make anyone feel creepy, because there is an awful lot of horse admiration and love going on here. “Find your destiny!” this game exclaims. Well, I’m pretty sure that if I’m playing Star Stable, then my destiny will be the same as anyone else: riding ponies and trying hard not to think about how every fantasy MMO out there also lets me go equestrian trotting.

7. Club Penguin

It’s not surprising that a lot of obvious entires for this list are going to be non-violent kids games aimed at assuring parents that Bobby and Belinda won’t be learning the secret art of decapitation. But what are they learning from Club Penguin instead? Apparently wholesome values like cheating and how to get addicted to microtransactions!

Not to mention all of that fowl language. Get it? Get it? Good.

8. Glitch

There are a lot of reasons that Glitch failed to gain a widespread, self-sustaining audience (yanking the game back into beta certainly didn’t help). I think it was an uphill battle to attempt to break players out of the combat-centric mindset and give them this world of whimsy that was more about connecting with others, exploring giants’ brains, and making cool stuff to use. Those who got it really got it, however, and haven’t stopped pointing to this game as an excellent example of how online space doesn’t need to be a non-stop killzone.

9. Seed

While it only lasted less than a year, Seed was an admirable attempt to get past combat and focus on other interactive systems. Players were sent to colonize a far-off planet, only to wake up to a half-malfunctioning station and a hostile world. Through politics and crafting, players could start to make this new world a better place to live. It got extra admiration points from me for its neat cel-shaded graphics.

10. Ever, Jane

OK, I bust Ever, Jane’s chops for its dumb name and dinner party-focused gameplay, but that’s more just lighthearted ribbing than genuine loathing. Actually, I admire the fact that a developer is taking such a far-out concept (a social MMO based on Jane Austen’s works) and running with it. We need more daring like that these days, not less.

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at justin@massivelyop.com with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”
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51 Comments on "Perfect Ten: Combat-free MMOs"

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PantherCool
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PantherCool

This is a great list, star stable! i’m soo addicted to that now (techtorpedo.com)

Pedestrienne
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Pedestrienne

wild_abyss Nacho Biz crawlkill Hurrrrr, yup. Looks like I was from the same Furc era as you guys! I was well chuffed as a wee teen in faraway Australia, getting to talk to cool people in their 20s and hear about life in the big, wide, beautiful world. I genuinely had no idea about furries for at least the first year I was there.

melissamcdon
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melissamcdon

Benjamin Seeberger but-but-but then you’d leave the web site.  :-)

melissamcdon
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melissamcdon

until we see some substance and progress in EverJane we don’t even know if it will ever be published or finished. 
We blast Star Citizen for being “Vaporware” but we seem to give EverJane a pass.   It’s more vap’rous than SC.

Syppi
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Syppi

Defector1980 Seed did run live for about six months.

Celestia
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Celestia

Sims Online beta was the absolute worst.  I don’t know how it avoided being scrapped before live release.

Benjamin Seeberger
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Benjamin Seeberger

I love the spirit of this article, but if you aren’t going to include actual links to these games, what’s the point?

MewmewGirl
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MewmewGirl

“Well, I’m pretty sure that if I’m playing Star Stable, then my destiny will be the same as anyone else: riding ponies and trying hard not to think about how every fantasy MMO out there also lets me go equestrian trotting”

But the other games don’t have realistic riding, they aren’t based around horse racing with your horse having it’s own stats that affect it’s riding performance in many ways, and not some fighting bonus.  This isn’t a game about just riding around on a mount, almost everything is based on the horses and it’s a truly different experience.  You’re comparing an arcade like ride on some beast with unrealistic physics just to boost your speed in getting around to a deep simulation and making out as if it’s the same thing?

If you’re a middle aged man I understand not wanting to play the game, as it’s made for young girls for the most part.  But the horses there, how they move, what you do with them and how to care for them etc, it is nothing like having a mount in a traditional game.  You end up owning your own little stable area, competing in realistic races because real horses don’t instantly go full speed, they take a moment to slow down, and they don’t turn on a dime when running at full gallop like they do in the other games you are thinking about.  These are absolutely nothing like the mounts in fighting games.  That you make as if it’s just about equestrian trotting is pretty ignorant.  While it’s fine to have ignorance about this game, maybe you shouldn’t make assumptions without having actually played it.

This is the difference of a simulation done with a lot of detail, and a quick speedup ride from one place to another.  The horses in Star Stable are absolutely nothing like your typical mount in other games.

agemyth
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agemyth

Ever, Jane is probably the most interestingly named MMO in I don’t know how long. Deal with it, Justin :P

ArtemisiaWS
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ArtemisiaWS

I tried Myst Online, but it seemed very single player (nobody arond or in chat) and I couldn’t get around one of the first puzzles, so I thought “I’d rather play normal Myst games at this point”. Shame because it also has a nice character creation.

EBreezy
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EBreezy

Nacho Biz crawlkill I always thought Furcadia was like a 2D Second Life. I tried it out and couldn’t get it into it. I’m all for social and RP, but I didn’t like like it. Plus dragon avatars are freaking expensive, lol.  I want to see how the new version works out though

EBreezy
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EBreezy

CistaCista LadyTintagel omegajimes breetoplay Have any info on the start of the next tale? I thought it was months ago.

Defector1980
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Defector1980

I was a beta tester for SEED. I loved the idea of a society run by the players. If I recall correctly, it shut down before it was ever released.

Loyheta
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Loyheta

Pumpkin Online… I want to go play Harvest Moon or Rune Factory now >.<

Golden_Girl
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Golden_Girl

“trying hard not to think about how every fantasy MMO out there also lets me go equestrian trotting”
They don’t have as many options though, as they’re not horse focus games :-p

Gylnne
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Gylnne

CistaCista LadyTintagel omegajimes breetoplay Did the team who created it sell it to someone?

Gylnne
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Gylnne

Siphaed Well if you noticed at this point in MMO development more niche games are being made. Why? One reason is it takes so much more money to create a game that caters to everyone. Then on top of that you have to have a lot more ppl to try and keep everyone happy with updates, etc. And in my opinion when a dev tries to be all things to all ppl certain things fall by the wayside and are not developed very well.

I welcome niche MMO’s, we may finally see some quality games which focus on a few things and do them extremely well instead of patching stuff together so many folks will like them.

Gylnne
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Gylnne

ArbiterLibera Very good question. Some how I missed seed back then. I went to the wayback machine to read some of the original site. The dev team had some very interesting ideas. In Runestones fair well letter the CEO had this to say.

“I am still fully convinced that a role play-centric game is not only a good idea: It’s a great idea. It just needs to be better executed. Seed has many of the right qualities for such a game, and I still firmly believe that, given sufficient funding, we could have created a great game. Unfortunately, we will never know.”

I agree and hopefully someone someday will be able to make it work.

mjcbarnes
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mjcbarnes

Star Stable is actually a fun little game. I played it for a while with my daughter. It’s very charming.

karmamule
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karmamule

BryanCo Time to check it out!  :-D   Move over Revival, who needs your grim goth Lovecraftian sex when I can have some hot overalls-wearing farmer action!

crawlkill
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crawlkill

DPandaren Nacho Biz indeed they had a modestly successful Kickstarter a few years back and did a big overhaul. I haven’t really hung out there since I was a teenager. many better venues for the textroleplays.

ArbiterLibera
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ArbiterLibera

I really wonder if SEED would’ve done much better today with this whole social networking thing and whatnot bringing much smaller niche titles into forefront from time to time. Then again, considering how A Tale in the Desert still toils in relative obscurity I guess not.

CistaCista
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CistaCista

LadyTintagel omegajimes breetoplay CistaCista  Just to make it quite clear, there is no 24-hour trial atm. The game is free to play for all for as long as this tale lasts. The mention on the webpage of a subscription is currently incorrect.

DPandaren
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DPandaren

Nacho Biz crawlkill Furcadia is still a thing. And that one designer from Ultima Online is still hammering away at it.

LadyTintagel
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LadyTintagel

CistaCista LiquidElectron breetoplay omegajimes LadyTintagel Oh, good to know!  Thanks!

LadyTintagel
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LadyTintagel

omegajimes LadyTintagel breetoplay CistaCista That has always been the system, a 24 hour trial and then subscription required.  It’s a lovely game and I may go back if/when Tale 7 materializes.

BryanCo
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BryanCo

This caught my eye on the Pumpkin site:
“Same sex marriage is a option in the game to all NPCs depending on how you interact with them”

So all NPCs are bi.  It’s just like Torchwood!

Vexia
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Vexia

dirtyklingon Vexia Yeah, that’s pretty cute. Now I’m wondering what the other actual creepy things about this game are. Am I going to have to get over my deer-with-human-face-phobia and try it? :P

Vexia
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Vexia

dirtyklingon Vexia Really? That’s unfortunate. Admittedly, the weird avatars were enough to keep me away from the game.

breetoplay
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breetoplay

CistaCista LiquidElectron breetoplay omegajimes LadyTintagel Cool, thanks for the clarification. They should put that back on the front page. :D

Vexia
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Vexia

dirtyklingon Vexia I wish it were just a normal deer avatar because that takes what could be an enjoyable little game and makes it way too creepy for my tastes. :P

wild_abyss
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wild_abyss

Nacho Biz crawlkill Oh man, I spent so much time after school at the canal chatting or writing interactive dream instances. It was also the first time I dropped actual cash on a “game” – I needed those wings!

Vexia
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Vexia

dirtyklingon Wait, are you talking about The Endless Forest? That MMO where you play a creepy-looking deer with a human face?

CistaCista
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CistaCista

LiquidElectron breetoplay omegajimes LadyTintagel CistaCista
Yes it IS free atm. It is free because this tale is going to end “soon”, players are waiting for the game to shut down and restart. I am new to the game and I am playing for free for a few weeks now.
Whether the dynamic has changed i dunno, I think it is more correct to say that everything is awaiting the end of the game. being new I don’t even know what the goals that are to be met for that to happen. Some tests.

Sharpxe
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Sharpxe

Not sure of these games, the little synopsis didn’t cover much. Though, I’d like to see non-combat esque MMOs more. A complete sandbox where players must build up cities and economy. I am picturing SWG with it’s combat stripped out type of game. Of course, it doesn’t have to be Star Wars or Sci-Fi; using it as the best example I can think of. But I feel like the non-combat elements in that game were done pretty well. Well enough that a fair amount of people never touched combat and enjoyed the game as much as people who did. But, there may be one that I am completely unaware of.

Nacho Biz
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Nacho Biz

crawlkill Many older gamers who remember the internet back in 1997, remember Furcadia.

It was somewhat novel for its time. Would you believe, that back when it was a new-ish idea, it was filled up with regular people (and not just furries?). I kinda remember it being treated like a Habbo Hotel type place (Habbo hotel wouldn’t even hit the internet for another 4 years) at the time, and not exclusively the furry mecca it is today.  Ahem…

I mean… I’ve never been there. What is this Fur-cayde-ah place you speak of. Gotta run… <_<;

LiquidElectron
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LiquidElectron

breetoplay omegajimes LadyTintagel CistaCista They aren’t charging until the new dev starts the next Tale.

breetoplay
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breetoplay

omegajimes LadyTintagel breetoplay CistaCista Hmm, they made a big deal about going F2P a while back when the management turned over. I guess that was a temporary thing and they are back to the old trial.
(Here’s the old announcement – http://www.engadget.com/2014/03/20/a-tale-in-the-desert-is-under-new-management/ )

Siphaed
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Siphaed

Why do they have to be separate instead of being options within the same game?  Making a game with combat, quests, crafting, fishing, gathering,exploration, and more.   It is niche to only focus on one or a few of these, or just as worse having one rely on another.

crawlkill
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crawlkill

there’s always Furcadia! but that’s less MMO, more visual chatroom, to say nothing of, uh, some of the content. most of the content.

and Pumpkin Online looks very charming

omegajimes
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omegajimes

LadyTintagel breetoplay CistaCista From the front page: “You can http://www.atitd.com/download.html the game client for free. After you’ve played 24 hours, we’ll ask if you’d like to subscribe for $11.95 per month.”

alexjwillis
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alexjwillis

I almost always gravitate to non-combat elements in any MMO, but that doesn’t mean I want one that is exclusively non-combat-related. For instance, crafting (including market work) and exploration are probably two of my favorite activities in an MMO. EVE is a great example of how someone can profit hugely without ever firing a gun themselves. But war and combat DRIVE the profit of those activities. So it’s all in the “life cycle”: you’re furthering the combat without actually participating. I like that synergy.

LadyTintagel
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LadyTintagel

breetoplay CistaCista Whoa, ATITD went free?  I loved my time there but for subscription dollars I wanted something a little more populated.

breetoplay
Guest
breetoplay

CistaCista How is ATITD since it went F2P? I’ve been so curious about whether that changed the dynamic.

breetoplay
Guest
breetoplay

Manic Velocity I get such a Myst vibe from Wander. Really looking forward to it.

doc_miller
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doc_miller

EatCandy Pretty sure HKO has pokemon-esque pet battles.

CistaCista
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CistaCista

I am breeding orchids in A Tale in the Desert. It is so complex it fries my brain.

Megus
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Megus

I like the concept of non combat gaming. Some of these games focus on puzzles and/or story line instead of combat, others are completely stripped of conventional game play elements. Really interesting subject.. Look forward to trying Wander and will probably download Myst Uru live again.

MesaSage
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MesaSage

I don’t want to disrespect the hard work of those who created these games and the players who enjoy them, but this is a pretty sad list for those seeking a non-combat MMO.
There’s a market here, if someone can figure out how to make a good game with wide appeal.  Glitch was close, but the staff must have played too many hours of Farmville when they went back to beta and from that influence created a FrankenGlitch that destroyed the true MMORPG aspects of the game.
Maybe Philip Rosedale will save the segment.

Manic Velocity
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Manic Velocity

I am very much looking forward to Wander.  I’ll have to try the movement first-hand before making up my mind about it.  I actually don’t mind hard limits being put on progression, and in Wander it seems like progression will be directly tied to movement.  So limiting one’s ability to speed through the game for the sake of preserving the intended experience is something I can probably get behind.  But like I said, I’ll have to try it for myself before making any final judgement.

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