The Daily Grind: Would you be interested in a retro-styled MMORPG?

As it’s been about a year now, I know that pretty much nobody remembers John Smedley’s ill-fated Hero’s Song. For a while there, we were cheering it on pretty hard, even though it wasn’t a full-blown MMORPG. The retro stylings and promised agile development blossomed some excitement, especially for those of us who wouldn’t mind a modern MMO with a 16-bit aesthetic.

There certainly aren’t a lot of these types of MMOs out there, and those that do exist are pretty niche. Guild Wars 2 has its goofy Super Adventure Box sub-game, Realm of the Mad God makes the most of its permadeath world, and the upcoming Dragon of Legends has had my interest for a while now.

Would you be interested in a retro-styled MMORPG, one that would use pixel art, be presumably in 2-D, and yet have most of the features of modern games?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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55 Comments on "The Daily Grind: Would you be interested in a retro-styled MMORPG?"

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socontrariwise

Considering that most of my time is spent in Creativerse and prior to its sunset was spent in Skysaga plus I’ve done quite a bit of Minecraft (but I prefer the Creativerse peaceful mode where it has all the mobs but they simply don’t attack without being prompted to …) – I care very little about graphics and much more about gameplay depth and features.
I’m a big UO fan too, just don’t like how it is impossible to gain a foothold on the official servers if you are a latecomer – ghost towns and utterly cluttered areas full of very aesthetically questionable player constructs.

I love that more companies are now looking and open for more diverse and more abstract or simplistic looks to keep costs down and enable more computing power to go to features. Look at the Czech YLand, that is very interesting for example in my opinion!

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mistressbrazen

I would do 2D if the art work was good. As @Thithega below mentioned, Glitch was really fun and beautiful, but that pixelated stuff, no.. I don’t want that.

Cadaver
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Cadaver

Potentially, yes, depending on the aesthetic. I’d be up for something like a Legend of Dungeon MMO, but not something that was more visually inspired by classic jrpgs.

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Paul

Nope

semugh
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semugh

Tibia is online, no need to cry lol…

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Jake Boller

Definitely. If the gameplay is there, and it has a nice retro style, I would be totally in.

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Fisty

If it had an open world, great systems for crafting and non-combat stuff and other modern MMO trappings I would definitely give it a shot. It would need some decent pixel graphics. Hell, I’d play UO if it didn’t hurt my eyes to look at it.

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starbuck1771

So in other words SWG :P

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Alex Malone

Nope.

Why would you voluntarily go for worse graphics? I generally don’t care about graphics, I don’t have a top-end PC and it’s not a factor for me. But, I always try to aim for the best graphics that my computer can handle because….well, why wouldn’t you?

So, the only reason I would be interested is if the game does something that cannot be found elsewhere. Its why I bought a Wii U – games and gameplay you can’t get elsewhere. So, in the MMO world, I would assume the reason for going with shitty pixel art is because you want a massive scale – 1000s of players visible and interacting, fully destructible environments etc. You know, stuff that wouldn’t be possible with modern graphics because there would be too much going on.

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Rolan Storm

Not really. 2.5D modern engine similar to Baldur’s Gate or Fallout will be fine if the game is good. But those pixel games… Why? Just – why?

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rafael12104

Hmm. Modern game mechanics with pixel art?

The only way to sell a pixel art game is for it to be unique and fun. Incorporate the best of the old with the best of the new and stir it up with innovation and good writing. Put that in the microwave and hope for Stardew Valley and not Hero’s Song.

But, pixel art is not an attraction. IMO, pixel art games like Stardew Valley are successful in spite of their outdated graphics and not because of them.

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Anthony Clark

Nope

Jesus Christ
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Jesus Christ

If the art style was done right, I’d try it out.

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Alex Willis

No.

Retro-themed art/aesthetics are the kind of stylistic choices that seem cynical to me. When the retro element becomes such a pronounced part of the design, it is too much of a fourth-wall-breaker. I’m not saying naturalized aesthetics (such as we see in games like BDO) are better, but fetishizing one particular mode that flourished in the childhood of the developers (like myself, probably born in the 70s) is just too “clever” for my tastes. I like the Super Adventure Box wink at the player, but a whole game built like that? Not for me. Glad others enjoy it, but no.

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Tithegha

Yes, that’s why I played Glitch.

Something about 2D games just really works for me. Awesomenauts is a fun 2D moba, Steamworld Heist is a great 2D tactics game. Just because it’s flat doesn’t mean it’s inferior.

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Armsbend

If it did something to offset the simply artwork – like a deep combat, loot or crafting system then sure why not?

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Serrenity

When it comes to my MMOs, I have trouble getting immersed in 2-D (like Maple Story) or even 3rd Person Iso. The over-the-shoulder or first person is what I really like. I don’t mind particular aesthetics — I don’t need photo-realism so pixelated art would be fine (hence my repeated obsession with Minecraft), but I want to feel like I’m *in* the world, and 2-D or Iso just don’t do that for me.

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squidgod2000

If the gameplay is there, I don’t mind it. Hell, I’m playing UO right now.

Minimalistway
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Minimalistway

I love the idea of 2D MMO or 2.5D, complexity and depth does not need realistic 3D graphics, not saying a 3D game can’t be deep, it can, so a 2D game can too.

I wish to see Hero’s Song again, as a single-player game.

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Utakata

Err…please, no. :(

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starbuck1771

Utakata gone Ghetto :P

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Veldan

Nope, never. I don’t understand how people like pixel art or other “styles” of purposefully lowered graphical quality. I’m the last person to call for hyper realism and I really don’t mind if a game’s graphics are a few years behind, but to implement graphics that are 2 decades behind and then call it “pixel art” or “retro style” seems very dumb to me.

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Schmidt.Capela

Cartoons, and other kinds of heavily stylized art that doesn’t even try for realism, age really well, assuming they were well-made in the first place.

Take movies, for example, “realistic” CG from the 90s; even CG regarded as excellent and cutting edge at the time is now hilariously bad by modern standards. Meanwhile plenty of cartoons far older than that are still as enticing to watch as when they were first released.

Besides, heavily stylized art can use style to convey function in ways that realistic graphics can’t. Mirror’s edge, for example, use unrealistic colors (or selective lack of color) to better guide the player across its sprawling levels. The same is usually true in any game with well-made pixel graphics, where you can often gauge the importance of everything on screen at a glance.

Lastly, there’s always personal preference and nostalgia.

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Veldan

Well yeah, what I wrote wasn’t aimed at cartoons. Though cartoons are kind of a 2D thing and that style would not work in 3D video games. I mean, I get that people call WoW cartoon-ish, but it looks nothing like an actual cartoon. (Also, as someone who never played it, to me WoW’s graphics look ridiculous and outdated, they definitely don’t age well like actual cartoons)

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Schmidt.Capela

Though cartoons are kind of a 2D thing and that style would not work in 3D video games.

You were saying?

(Hint: look for “cell shaded”)

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Minimalistway
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Minimalistway

Wind Waker! i loved it, played it so many times, this style is still fresh today, Nintedo made it better with HD, and i’m hoping they make another game like that for Switch … just to give some people something to complain about :-)

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Schmidt.Capela

There was a truly huge number of fans complaining loudly about the graphics style when Wind Waker was released.

Nowadays it’s seen as one of the best Zelda games, ever. Personally it’s my second favorite Zelda game, behind A Link to the Past but above Breath of the Wild.

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Utakata

Cell shading can work very well when done right. It’s the 32 bit stuff I am more concerned about. /pixilicious :(

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MesaSage

No, but I would be up for something along the lines of Animal Crossing. A 3D Glitch.

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nobleeinherjar

Very much so, yes. I’ve often dreamed of an MMO with an aesthetic like the early Dragon Quest games or something like Golden Sun or Alundra.

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Melissa McDonald

Can’t go backwards in graphics. I’ve tried… I can’t.

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Loopy

Agreed, at least as it relates to fidelity. It’s one thing to have a retro “style” – i can work with that and often enjoy such games, but it’s a totally different thing to look like somebody’s school project.

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Arktouros

Nope.

Never been a fan of the “old school” or “8-bit” style in games and it’s a huge reason why I could never get into Minecraft. I mean I don’t need to see beads of sweat rolling down your cheek while you fight level graphics but when I see the word “retro” I don’t see a style choice but rather a budget choice.

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Hirku

Not retro-style pixel art, but I’d love an MMO-sized game using modern 2D art like in Darkest Dungeon or Sunless Sea.

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Kiyoko Gustav

My boyfriend is madly in love with the Super Adventure Box in GW2. We always play it together when it is available. He was heartbroken when we finally “beat” it last year and found out the GW2 developers never built it out beyond the two major sections despite having doors for 4.

We both always wished there was a full game just like that in existence (3D, Nostalgic, Jumping Puzzle and simple combat) that we could enjoy together but there isn’t.

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Bryan Turner

Not for me personally or my taste, but if there’s an audience then make it so.

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Thomas Zervogiannis

If the game has good game play to back it up, lower fidelity graphics might even be the best choice. One advantage that such games have is that they free up development resources to invest in game play. If the game play does not justify this choice and is not significantly better than the competition, then retro graphics are meaningless.

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Robert Mann

Graphics… don’t need to be the super-stellar stuff. I’ll take 10 year old graphics from other games, in an MMO, any day. On the other hand, if the idea of ‘Retro’ means pixelated or blocky… count me out. No thank you. Similarly if it means top down without the option to really see well what is going on at greater distances.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t mind first person focused with everyone locked to that, although I know some people would. I would just consider that more realistic/immersive as the character in question. On the other hand, millions of pervy voices would cry out about the inability to watch ELF BUTTS in front of their face as they played. *Shout out to the meme!*

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Schmidt.Capela

I, particularly, tend to avoid games where you are locked in 1st person view. It causes too many issues, limits the game in too many ways, and I don’t really care about the supposed positive aspects of 1st person PoV.

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Thomas Zervogiannis

First-person-locked camera would grab my interest as well for the same reason. However, there are also some game play related concerns attached to that. For example, the game has to be way less “flashy” than today’s average MMO. The issue that MMO’s have (and that FPS that use this mode do not) is that melee is more common. Having fireballs, flashes etc constantly covering your whole screen can be exhausting. I could not play on GW2’s first-person camera exactly for this reason, even in open world, where the content is easier and you do not really handicap yourself for playing this way.

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Modrain

No, there are things that I enjoy in MMOs such as character customization and appearance that simply can’t be done to the same degree with 16 bits graphics styles.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

the art style is not what makes me mock hero’s song in a not nice way. that’s the least of it’s qualities and only the most skin deep of what made it what it was. if that’s what defines it for people i would suggest that they let rock star dev names on the box or ultra vage and meaningless buzzwords blind them to the legitimate subtstance of what the game was and why it was such a piss poor product.

i’ve seen plenty of”retro” graphics games produced by coding/design newbies that had a lot of ubstance and clever design and innovation to them. hero’s song was not one. and i’d say the graphical style of it was it’s least defining aspect in terms of what made it a game or why it failed at every stage of it’s attempts at gaining revenue.

it’s also just the icing on the cake why amazon hiring smed and co amongst others is a major red flag for their game development efforts in my eyes.

would i play a less graphically intense mmo or retro pixel art graphics mmo? sure, i mean albion is not exactly retro art but i had enough enjoyment of that. derping on the names of them as they’ve changed but other low budget in the art dept games have appealed to me watch them closer to launch/beta. another game i am derping on the name of that does alot of old school stuff and had at least at one point pretty old school style graphics is potentially interesting in teh future.

i definitely like when a game is aesthetically pleasing. but wether that means the most cutting edge and hardware exploiting graphics tech or stylized and even retro or classic style art styles without mych technical eye candy can go either way.

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Oleg Chebeneev

I really enjoyed Starbound and would love to see MMORPG similar to it with survival mechanics and hardcore PvP

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Wanda Clamshuckr

While I agree somewhat with what Wratts said below, it really depends on how they pull it off. There is definitely a resurgence in 2D pixel art games. From what I have seen on Steam, they are quite popular and very well received.

Would a MMO in that style get WoW numbers? Of course not. Would it be a cool niche experience that would attract a sustainable crowd? I’d say yes.

I don’t feel a game needs to have cutting edge graphics to be fun. While I am not denying the allure of shinies, there is a lot to be said about intentional stylization. You either like it, or you don’t, but going that route has worked. Look at WoW. People have complained for years that it looks cartoony, but it is still maintaining ridiculous numbers and Blizzard makes a killing off it.

But, 2D pixelization is another beast altogether. As I started with, if they can pull off a deep, engaging game with interesting mechanics, “A Tesla in the body of a station wagon”, people are going to check it out. Would I? Sure, why not.

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BalsBigBrother

I wouldn’t dismiss it just based on it looks.

I play rogue likes such as Tales of Maj’Eyal and Ancient Domain of Mystery neither of which have cutting edge graphics or even 90’s graphics. What they do have is deep and involved systems that suck you into the game regardless of how the world or your character is portrayed.

If an mmo could pull off the same trick I would give it a shot once it launches.

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Pandalulz

Nooope. I’m burnt out and over the retro style (doubly so if it says “rogue” somewhere in the description). I love me some 2D sprite art but take a look at something like the new Shantae instead for what it could be. I really liked the way Tree of Savior looked, just couldn’t necessarily get into the way it played.

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Knox Harrington

If I wanted to play a retro MMORPG, I’d go play EQ

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wratts

No, and frankly I don’t understand the fascination with retro art. It wasn’t done because it was considered ‘good’, it was done because that was the capability of mass computing at the time. Even if I have fond memories of trips in 1970’s era wood-paneled station wagons, that doesn’t mean I want a station wagon with a Tesla engine

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squidgod2000

It wasn’t done because it was considered ‘good’, it was done because that was the capability of mass computing at the time.

That’s like saying there’s no reason to paint because we have digital photography now.

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Schmidt.Capela

I wouldn’t want a Station Wagon with a Tesla engine.

On the other hand, a VW Bug, with the interior modified so I can actually fit inside one… I legitimately find those old cars far more aesthetically pleasing than just about any car made in the last decade or so.

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Modrain

It’s called liking something, not a “fascination”. I’m not sure why you’re trying to make logic out of something people simply like, but you don’t have to understand it. That it doesn’t match with your taste doesn’t make it weird. You like something, they like something else. It’s all there is to it.

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wratts

Mostly agree. The DG question was would I be interested, and the answer is “no, I don’t get it”. There are things other people like that I don’t that I at least understand why they like it, pixel art just isn’t on that list. It seems objectively limited and not any expression of artistry, just accommodation with the limits of technology from 30 years ago

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Knox Harrington

It seems to mainly appeal to hipsters

pepperzine
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pepperzine

No, actually the opposite. I would be interested in a game with modern graphics and retro-esk game systems harking back to UO and EQ. I would not be interested in any title with 2d graphics at this point, especially when they look like they are running on the freeware eclipse engine.

Tizmah
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Tizmah

Yes, but only if enough other people are too.

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