Perfect Ten: MMOs in limbo

The one thing that I thought we could all count on forever was that the MMO life cycle was pretty easy to understand. A game is launched, then it runs for a certain amount of time, then it shuts down. That last part kind of sucks, but the point is that you know when it’s time to move on. The life cycle is clearly one of creation, then life, then death, like a potted ficus or a cheap desk chair you get at Target.

But then sometimes you have a cheap desk chair that breaks in a crucial way, but you manage to screw the right sort of braces together so you can keep using it for another year after it should have been thrown out. And sometimes an MMO is born, and then it lives, and then it… doesn’t live, but it’s not actually shut down or in maintenance. Or it isn’t clear what’s going on with it, due to what seems to be total abandonment. Or it updates more than games which are supposedly live.

That’s what this column is all about. MMOs in a weird sort of limbo, where some facts are clear, but the results or the overall trajectory make no sense. Sometimes it’s not even clear if the game has actually launched or not. It’s weird.

Still always on forever.

1. Final Fantasy XI

One can understand Final Fantasy XI going into maintenance mode. The game had a good run. What’s a little less comprehensible – to the point where I have stopped making jokes about it because it’s just the same joke over and over – is the fact that the game is still receiving updates. Regular updates. Once per month, new stuff comes out. And sure, some months are lighter than others and focused more on regular monthly content rotation and bug fixes, but there are new and active events, new quests, new stuff to see, and generally far more stuff than you would expect from a game in maintenance mode.

Heck, there have even been statements from the development team implying that everyone would be happy to make another expansion for the game if demand was there. Between the obvious dedication and the fact that the game has made buckets of positive changes over the past several years, I know I’d be first in line to get that expansion. Square-Enix seems to have a very different definition of maintenance mode than the rest of us, but I’m not complaining, because the results are awesome.

If you have to die, you could just do it.

2. Firefall

Is Firefall dead? Is it still running? Who knows. It’s a fun game of the servers being on, then off, then on again, with no explanation or communication whatsoever. Fans speculated at one point that the game’s shutdown notice will just be the servers turning off unexpectedly and not turning back on, and all things considered that’s hard to argue against.

One may want to consider the state of Firefall before giving money to any of Mark Kern’s subsequent projects, obviously, but I assume our readers are smart enough to have already considered that fact. Consider this a statement for posterity, then.

Grand-ish opening-like.

3. Shroud of the Avatar

There have been no wipes for Shroud of the Avatar for, like, a year now. The game has been happy to let you pay money to play it for even longer. And yet the game still is not launched. It won’t be launched when the story is mostly finished in July. All of which begs the question of when the game will actually be considered “launched” by these standards. When the story is actually complete? When people have been playing for more than a year in that complete state? When the angels descend from on high to announce the creation of Archangel British? I don’t know, and I suspect no one else does either.

This isn’t necessarily a mark of quality on the game; I haven’t played it yet, and I admire the communication and the amount of work that has been put into the game during its lengthy early access period. But now it feels like a game where the launch trigger should either have been pulled or should be getting pulled soon, and it just keeps not happening.

Come back, bear.

4. Anarchy Online/Age of Conan

Neither Anarchy Online nor Age of Conan are officially in maintenance mode. We’ve never been told they are. But a financial report seemed to indicate they would be, and certainly neither game received any updates for a long time. Until suddenly there was an update for Anarchy Online, and we all stated to wish that there was an official statement about what’s going on with these titles rather than treating it like an elaborate game of jinx. Mention Age of Conan to Funcom and you get a punch in the arm while owing the developers a Coke.

Unfortunately, the situation with The Secret World seems fairly cut-and-dry. Sad, but still clear.

Also, why is it we can't get some of the cosmetics from this game in games I might actually play? Or, for that matter, why we can't get PC controller support.

5. Diablo III

There is obviously still development going on for Diablo III. We just got that new Necromancer pack, after all, and there are new areas in the most recent patch. Except there’s also the more salient question of whether or not there is ever going to be a second expansion for the game. The development team seems to be giving players lots of reasons to just run through the same content over and over until the end of time, but there’s nothing new on the horizon, and even the Necromancer is just a new set of abilities to use in the same game. Play the game you’ve already beaten, only this time with corpse explosions and bone minions!

Personally, I think part of the problem here is that Blizzard has no idea how to handle single-player games at this point; the idea of a team finishing a game and just moving on seems alien to the company. Of course, at some point that’s going to need to change. Either development is happening or it isn’t, and if it is, someone needs to make something actually happen. Otherwise it’s just… well, in limbo.

So, like, are you going to need us today?

6. Champions Online

Unlike poor Firefall, I don’t see the servers for Champions Online just not firing off again. The game is owned by a company and a studio capable of keeping it running for a good long while. But the game seems to be functionally dead… except for the fact that it then flares to life with some minor update or another, only to go quiet again a little while later. There was supposed to be a team dedicated to updating it, and that team vanished into the ether without anything actually happening.

This is a case where really, just being told the game is in maintenance mode would be kind of nice. We all know it already, we’re all just waiting to hear it. The fact that we haven’t is kind of obnoxious.

Should I blame Smedley for this? Maybe not. Will I? Absolutely yes, a thousand times.

7. H1Z1

I freely admit I’m predisposed to not be fond of H1Z1 to begin with. But I also would hasten to point out that the game being split into two halves, only one of which supports the actual premise that was supposed to inform the whole game, is not indicative of a game with a clear direction. At this point, the game seems to basically have turned into an arena shooter no one seems to like all that much, but it keeps getting played based chiefly on momentum. I don’t even know any more.

Then again, considering that I don’t really understand how or why Daybreak does anything at this point, maybe this is less of a specific limbo and more of just a general company-wide trip to Limbo Land.

so bye

8. Fallen Earth

I find Fallen Earth to have a heartbreaking story from start to finish, and it’s not a game I actually enjoyed that much when I played it. But it was unique, it was a breath of fresh air, and now it appears to be stuck in a case of eternal maintenance mode without every saying “we are in maintenance mode now.” The game is functionally inert, and I really wish we could just either get the trigger pulled or get some development moving again.

There, hovering like some vast, predatory bird...

9. WildStar

This one seems like the most controversial pick on the list, because on one level there’s no real ambiguity about what’s going on with WildStar. The game has tried a lot of things to attract players, it seems to keep financially floundering, and so it seems like there’s an obvious point when it will be shuttered and dispelled. That part isn’t in question. What is in question is when that’s actually going to happen, and as a result it feels like a game with the sword of Damocles hovering over your keyboard every time you log in.

I mean, there’s no expectation at this point among most actual players that the game is going to pull things together and suddenly become successful. But somehow it just keeps going, and thus we all sit and wonder about when it’s going to finally enter that final spiral. Not a fun place to be in.

This is something less than fine.

10. Defiance

While Defiance was never a runaway success, it at least could justify its existence while it had a TV series that tied into it. That’s gone now. Whatever your feelings are about that series (the first season and the first bits of the second season were pretty good, at the very least), the two were tied together, and now the game is living on after the show but without the sense of having a whole lot of direction.

Of course, we also have no indication that the game is actually shuttering soon, nor have developers gone silent. By all indications, life continues on as before for the Trion Worlds team behind the title. But there’s still that sense of “what happens next” that swirls around the game, and it isn’t diminished by how long it’s been since the title first had to stand on its own.

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 or eliot@massivelyop.com with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”
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28 Comments on "Perfect Ten: MMOs in limbo"

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squidgod2000

I liked Defiance for what it was (a rare shooter MMO), but they made some terrible decisions along the way, had some misplaced priorities and didn’t use an engine that could actually support MMO levels or players.

I’d love for Trion (ugh) to get the sole rights and build Defiance 2.0, but I now they won’t.

FVerret
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FVerret

Bad timing for SotA. The podcast interview MO did just days ago pretty much clarifies the launch status.

Mewmew
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Mewmew

Mark Kern was actually fired some time before Firefall started to go into it’s weird partial life state. They blamed him for the earlier misdirection and issues, and there were too many people backing that statement up for it to have no base, but they still had a chance after he left that they blew. It’s too bad as the game really does have a lot of interesting features, it’s like a great base that just needed a big story line and more land area but I doubt that will ever happen. They did some pretty horrible decisions in trying to make it better that only made things worse after Mark was gone too. Mark Kern is giving us credit on his new game based on Founder Packs bought, and because of that I basically get their highest tier pack free in the new game and so will be trying it despite my hesitation and reluctance. And hey who knows, he’ll get to try to prove if it was more his fault or theirs in this he said she said situation of Firefall. Although he also may have learned from his mistakes and will do better even if it was his fault, it’s hard to say but we’ll see eventually :D

H1Z1 and Daybreak, do we really have any hopes there? Daybreak is cancer.

Defiance is an odd one. It has had a lot of updates over time and continues to get updates, though most of the stuff are copies and slight alterations of old content. They recently released this new hoverbike that uses so much copy and paste content from their ATVs that you hear tires squeaking and see tire marks on the ground (even though it doesn’t have tires) – though it does have more new design than most of their new content these days. I really enjoyed Defiance once upon a time. It’s still one of the few operating full MMORPG shooters with a big open PvE world. Most others are either PvP games or hub and level based with a bring a few friends if you want for a mission. It was an interesting game at one time I just am holding out for a new full MMORPG shooter like this to come along with mass PvE co-op content and a world everybody is in together all the time. Until then I still will visit Defiance once and a while. Lock boxes seem to be one of the few things keeping the game going.

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Bruno Brito

About Kern: Takes not much to see how one toxic apple can undermine the whole tree, and that’s what happened. The issue was that Firefall was placed in limbo because of him, and everyone had to attempt taking it off limbo. But when your mindset is completely misguided by that toxic presence, it’s not something so easily done.

I don’t think Red5 isn’t responsible. They are. For sure. But Kern is the whole culprit of this shitshow, and the only stuff he should be developing are poems for his cellmate.

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Legend Of Vinny T

Red5 was caught in a catch-22. Kern’s leadership dug the hole, but they needed a leader like Kern to climb back out of it again. Unfortunately, there seemed to be a bit of resistance to using Kern’s ideas, as though they didn’t want to admit he was right, that crept into their decision making. (Along with the usual When In Doubt, Copy WoW fallbacks, which were mostly detrimental to Firefall in particular.)

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Bhima Jenkins

Diablo III’s continued success baffles me in today’s market. I was a huge D2 player back in the day… happy to replay the same content over and over again with different characters and builds, etc. But by the time D3 arrived, the online gaming genre had already moved well beyond this type of play, and as a player, I expect quite a bit more from my online games because the market has already shown us they can give us a good game with decent content updates.

But D3 was literally the safest video game I think Blizzard has ever created: It modernized almost nothing from D2 except the graphics and a few QoL things. In a world where we could play WoW, GW2, a whole host of other great online games/MMOs, I couldn’t play D3 for longer than one storyline campaign run because I had already played it before 10 years ago as D2… and Blizzard took nothing that was great about current online gaming at all, they just rode on their IP.

I actually DO hope D3 is dead and they don’t make an expansion. I want to see them go back to the drawing board, and reinvent this genre. I’d actually like them to take cues from games like Neverwinter. Its not a great game, but in many ways, it feels like an actual successor to D2 in my mind. It checks the same initial boxes as D2 did: kill a ton of monsters fast, gear is a big deal, explore different builds but it also adds some of what is expected in today’s online gaming world: Guilds, monthly events, lots of dungeons to crawl through with new ones coming out in less than a few months.

These are the things I was hoping for D3, but instead, they just retread D2. Probably the most disappointing Blizzard game, and there was so much potential.

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Thomas

I was interested in seeing Wildstar on your list. I just started playing this game a while ago and find it pretty entertaining. What’s missing (imo) from Wildstar is any sense of real connection to the IP or the overarching story(ies). It’s light and mindless fun; the game feels like a comfortable blend of GW2 and WoW. (It does have one of the worst crafting systems I’ve ever seen, though.)

The game, however, does not feel like it’s any more “in limbo” than, say, WoW does in terms of the numbers of players I see.

The only other games on this list that I’ve played are Fallen Earth and Diablo III.

Fallen Earth had a great concept but was — frankly — zero fun to play. I spent about 30 minutes to an hour in it and then deleted the game altogether and never looked back. As for Diablo III, if Blizzard would beef up, add to, or further develop the companion characters and make them a little more functional and usable (think heroes), I’d keep playing it. It reminded me faintly (and in a good way) of GW1 and Dungeon Siege, but Diablo III is poorly supported.

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Veldan

I keep forgetting that Defiance even exists. Judging by how I never see it mentioned in MMO chats / forums, I’m a little suprised it’s still alive.

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Daniel Miller

If they brought ffxi to xbox and ps4 or even package sub with ffxiv it have a comeback.

Unlike all other games on yoyr list ffxi is a pay to play sub game. No cash shop. So its not in same league as other games mentioned.

Personaily I waiting for a mmo to take ffxi blue mage and hunt mobs for spells to create job you wish to play. Unlike typucail berserker., mage, priest, pld standard games.

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Jeff

I would love a package sub with FF 14. No idea how big it would be as FF14 and FF11 fans are not necessarily the same people but I would like to easily be able to bounce in and out of each game without having to decide if I want to cancel one to switch to the other.

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kanbe

As someone who has always wanted to try XI but never has I would love this.

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Paul

The state of FE makes me sad :( I was in beta, loved the game, its atmosphere especially, and had some great times in there after launch, looking forward to the huge number of cool things the devs could do from there…. Then after the sale to Gamers First (that’s a laugh – more like Gamers Last) – terrible dev team who clearly didn’t understand the game, so many bad decisions and time wasted: the huge disappointment that was Alpha County, destruction of sector 1 towns, never creating any decent end game content, dumbing down the skill system…. (the list goes on). I miss the game we played at launch, shame the game now in obvious maintenance mode isn’t that game anymore.

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cista2bpo

Interesting list! Loved Fallen Earth.

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Melissa McDonald

Is development Limbo also a thing here? My perception (right or wrong) is the various City of Heroes tribute games/clones are in such a limbo.

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mistressbrazen

doesn’t seem so. At least two of them post updates.

amadahy
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amadahy

That last part kind of sucks, but the point is that you know when it’s time to move on.

I guess I kinda reject the concept behind this. It’s the same seeing posts in a game’s General forum, asking whether the game is dead or not, because they were considering playing, but they don’t want to play if it’s dead.

Anything beyond being able to physically connect to the servers, make new or have access to existing avatars, and then enter the game world and play the game, is entirely subjective.

It’s time to move on when I’m not enjoying myself, or I’m still enjoying myself, but I’m encountering significant road blocks to participating in content I’d like to participate in because of a very real absence of other humans.

On the other hand, I kinda also get that the article is more than just that. And for those parts, each game’s sorta unique situation, it’s an interesting read (like the whole Defiance thing, and that FFXI still gets regular updates and new things even though it was declared in ‘maintenance’ mode).

I’m seeing comments below, and I’m sure more will appear above, that are throwing in ‘well what about X!’, and those seem to be more about the subjective feelings.

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Legend Of Vinny T

On the one hand, between brief outbursts of CO content, there has been plenty of power set revision/balance work and bug fixing, although the bugs are more of the nuisance/QoL variety, not quest-breakers like nemesis clues dropping for the wrong players.

On the other hand, all of this balance/QoL/endgame gap-filling feels like preparation for the Actual Maintenance Mode announcement at a later date, probably to be determined by Magic: The Gathering’s development schedule. PWE hates to shutter a game that can still pay for its own upkeep, but Cryptic is long past ready to move on from CO.

(My theory is that CO was supposed to go into Actual Maintenance Mode when Neverwinter launched, but CoH’s sudden closure ruined the plan because it would have been a PR disaster for Cryptic to bail on CO just a few months later. It’s the best reason I can suss out of Cryptic’s behavior since NW launched.)

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Sray

I was with you on the Neverwinter/Champions theory up to the point of “PR disaster”: a much more likely theory is simply there was a relatively sizeable bump in revenue for doing nothing, because a fair number of City of Heroes vets made their way to Champions, at least temporarily, after that game closed.

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Legend Of Vinny T

You can’t possibly emphasize “doing nothing ” enough. They issued a press release.

They also stuck to the original plan of keeping all of the developers they stole from CO on NW and STO. (Legacy of Romulus launched just a month before NW.) And don’t forget that all of the ex-Paragon Studios staff that (re-)joined Cryptic were assigned to NW and STO. If SOE hadn’t internalized Pirates of the Burning Sea development, a bunch of its former devs wouldn’t have been available to form Cryptic North and CO might have gone MM anyway. Everything about Cryptic’s behavior between August 31st 2012 and June 2013 screams “Oh, crap, we gotta keep CO running!”

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Tridus

Pathfinder Online was in this state of undeath seemingly forever, with a “buyer” always right on the horizon but never quite materializing. Then Paizo just decided to finish it themselves, so now it’s back, in a limited development low budget kind of way. If it ends up doing well in the next year, maybe it gets to grow out of that. Or not. Who knows.

Sometimes, this is just a wild, zany niche of games.

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Ville Uusitalo

you forgot 99% of NCsoft games… 1% being Wildstar… Aion/Lineage 2 have turned to complete p2w moneygrabs; Lineage Eternal Being rebuilt; GW2 losing Johansson and alot of important stuff too; NCsoft losing their major feminizer-graphical-genious Kim in 2014; Blade&Soul MxM not hitting through hard (looks at Black Desert).

NCsoft even went after Mobile business Netmarble after Nexon was aggressively trying to hijack NCsoft.

Nevertheless: even though future major finances of NC are coming from Mobile – since Netmarble hit through hard-time – I hope that atleast some of the money goes into rebuilding/developing mmorpg’s they already had. Aion/lineage2 are beyond repair – but Wildstar, Blade&Soul, MxM and Lineage Eternal still have (atleast a small) chance of being functional games.

but thats me – what do I know…

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Kelley

Defiance is still so much fun and would make an AMAZING survival game! They have moved the office to Austin and seeing more updates now. I’m curious if this means there will be new direction now they aren’t tied to the show – that would be great!

Bree Royce
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Bree Royce

I’d wondered about the uptick in dev posts and events for it too. Would be nice to see it getting love. I always felt like it was a pretty daring hybrid game that really chucked a lot of grind out the window.

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Targeter

They should try to bring it to Xbox One or PS4 to get some more visibility … Defiance was a lot of fun to play and the show wasn’t half bad. I just don’t know if they have the resources for a switch to Xbone … one can hope, though!

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Ian Wells

According to Wikipedia, the head developers have noted they plan to start development for ports to those systems once they gain a large enough player base. Fun fact: Less than 20% of people whole will eventually buy a given system buy that system in the first 12 months following release.

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Targeter

I guess I’m the outlier … Day One Xbox One buyer, and I’ll probably be an idiot again and be a Day One Xbox One X buyer too. Glutton for punishment or just thick-headed … you decide!

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Ian Wells

Defiance is an odd little game that is fun to pick up from time to time. I am a big fan of the sniping mechanics, and the varied sniping options (different gun mechanics, different scopes, energy weapon vs normal weapon, ect). Bursts of lag resulting in mobs rubber banding all over the place in large ark falls is definitely a bummer, but that’s when I break out my armor piercing assault rifle and learn to love the lag.

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Ville Uusitalo

no sorry.. its not FunCom game… they would do it 100% sure though lol

wpDiscuz