A little while back, I took a look at the healthiest games in the MMO space at this time. That was a nice, uplifting list, wasn't it? And all of those titles continue to do just fine, even if one or two might have had a few bits of shocking news along the way.
Unfortunately, this is not an industry in which health is assured. Games can be high-quality and beloved, but they can still be shut down by outside forces. And that's not counting games that just come out in the wrong time period or launch in an unrecoverable state.
That may sound grim, but we're already staring at the first two shutdowns of 2017 in the near future, and both of the titles being killed are surprises. One of them might have wound up on this list if it weren't being shut down, but at this point, it is. So let's look at the MMOs with the most unclear futures and start hoping for the best.
This past year, we couldn't seem to go a week without bumping into news of some new mobile MMO or a tablet spin-off of some existing franchise. It seems as though the mobile market is still blowing up, and MMORPG developers are looking for a way to take advantage of the popularity and market penetration that these devices offer.
What does this mean? It means that in 2017, we have a whole lot of games heading our way. With any luck, some of them might unseat the low-quality half-breeds that seem to make up a bulk of the existing mobile MMO library and set a higher standard for fun and engagement.
Let's take a look at about two dozen mobile MMOs we could be getting in 2017 -- and which ones might be the new contenders for our undivided attention. Unless we mention otherwise, these titles will be coming out for both iOS and Android platforms.
Sometimes you have to exclude something from a list. I could, for example, praise World of Warcraft: Legion for being a really good expansion yet again... but I already did that. Heck, we already did that. It won an award and everything. And it deserves that award, but let's be real, we did not suffer at all from a paucity of updates over the past year. So it's time to honor some of the other updates that were great this past year that haven't gotten enough recognition.
Of course, this is my own curated list, so if you're looking for objectivity combined with a subjective rating like "best," you may be looking for love in all of the wrong places. Let's take one last look through 2016 at all of the really cool game updates that made the onslaught of deaths and tragedy at least slightly more pleasant.
Back at the beginning of December, I posted a list of what I considered to be the biggest MMORPG stories of 2016. However, there were notable exceptions in that list of news that fans thought should be included. Unbeknownst to them but knownst to me, I had a second list in the works: the biggest MMO surprises of 2016.
That's right! Today we're going to revisit all of the big news that pretty much nobody saw coming (and if they say they did, they're lying, but let them have it - it's what they live for in this internet age). Being surprised by this genre is one of the reasons why I love writing for Massively OP -- you never quite know what will pop up on any given day.
Sure, some surprises are sour and unwelcome, but others can be delightful and exciting. We've got both on this list, so let's wrap up this year by seeing what stories gave us double-takes and were the buzz on everyone's lips!
About a year ago, I listed off the best free-to-play titles on the market. To the surprise of no one, including me, that turned out to be a contentious topic. And I can understand why because there are games on that list that are great games, even spectacular games, that might fail your personal criteria. There's more to a game's value than just "how good is the game" when it comes to MMOs; you also have to ask what games are giving you the best value for your money.
Value is, of course, a nebulous concept as well. But in loose terms, value is all about the bang for your buck. How much do you get for dropping money on the game? How much is there to spend money on? If the game is free-to-play, how long will it be before it asks you for money? If it's buy-to-play or subscription-based, how much are you getting for that purchase?
But it's still a more diverse and solid metric than just the vagueness of "best free-to-play." So here are the games with the best value at the end of 2016.
Right now we are in a strange place in MMORPG history. Following the backlash of WoW clones and several high-profile titles that underperformed, major studios are becoming extremely risk-averse to creating big-budget titles the way that we saw not five years ago. Many former MMO teams are diversifying with shooters, MOBAs, and other safer and trendier titles.
Yet all is not lost! MMO features continue to ripple out into all types of game genres and new titles continue to be produced -- just not from the usual suspects. Instead, most of what is on our immediate horizon comes from either crowdfunded indie teams or eastern giants. The good news is that 2017 should see the culmination of many of these long-brewing projects and adaptations, hopefully resulting in a bumper crop of interesting online RPGs for us to play.
So let's run down the list of games that either are or possibly could be coming to you in 2017. We will provide an overview of each title, why you should care about it, and our best guess at the odds of its officially launching during the calendar year. If an upcoming MMO is not on the list, then it is our opinion that while we'll see it eventually, a 2017 release isn't happening.
About a year and a half ago, my colleague, co-worker, and friend to man and beast alike Justin compiled a list of the healthiest live MMOs at the time. Since then, every single one of those games has shut down, except for... you know, all of them. They're all still doing just fine. So as we wrap up 2016, it seems prudent to look at which games are looking hale and healthy before we head into 2017 and beyond.
As before, this is based on a combination of several factors including news trends, news stories, Steam charts, Reddit, and our own experience in the news room. It should not be taken as an ironclad promise, but it does mean that if any of these games were banished to the land of wind and ghosts, we would be quite surprised. So if you're looking to see what games seem to be doing well and are worth counting on still running in another year? Yeah, here's the way to bet.
As we start to come to grips with the fact that we will be turning over the calendar into 2017 in one short month, it might just be for the best. In the real world, 2016 was a rocky, unpredictable year, and even among our collective favorite hobby, it featured some highs and lows that very few saw coming.
This will go down as the year that Daybreak broke our hearts, a mobile game erupted into a global phenomenon, drama over an illegal emulator sparked multiple stories, and some of the biggest MMORPG launches came from eastern imports.
So while there might be a few more huge stories left in 2016, let's spend some time revisiting the major headlines to get a better feel for the shape of the year that we are about to leave behind.
It's the holiday once again, and somehow I've wound up on Thanksgiving Day here in the US. You may not be reading this on the day, instead enjoying a feast of turkey and bread that had been stuffed in that turkey. Food is weird when you think about it too much.
Last year, I took a look at the MMOs we should be thankful for by type. Sure, I could just reprint that here; I'm proud of it. But the fact of the matter is that there are lots of different ways to be thankful for MMOs, many different things that we have as shared experiences.
So today, I'm looking at those experiences because we all have moments in our online history that we kind of feel a momentary rush of thanks for, but not necessarily ones we think about a whole lot at the time. Today, we're thinking about them.
When we engage in the collective fantasy of playing MMORPGs, we accept certain structures and tropes that have been in place since the early days of pen-and-paper RPGs. There are elements of MMOs -- such as hit points, gear that somehow makes us smarter or stronger, and world-destroying bosses that are prefectly content to stay in their lairs -- that we don't even think about because they've been around for so long.
It works and I understand why developers go down these well-traveled design roads, because if you deviate too much you risk alienating players who won't be patient enough to understand a radically different template. That doesn't mean that MMORPGs make sense when you really think about them, and when I've turned my eagle-eye attention on what we are doing and how everything functions, I can't help but think that sometimes these games are straight messed-up in the head.
Today let's stop mindlessly accepting MMO tropes and call them to task!
Patches should, in all honesty, be the easiest thing in the world for online games to handle. You have a word that means patch, so you either just go with "patch" or a synonym, like "update." Heck, you can even use seasons or issues if it's appropriate for your game. Then, you put a number after that. You can even put multiple numbers. If I log into World of Warcraft and see that I'm playing patch 7.1.5, I know that I'm on the seventh expansion, first major patch, partway through the minor patches before the next big patch.
So why are so many games so bad at this?
Like I said, I don't mind that, say, Star Trek Online has the patches labeled "Season 11.5," because that's just as easy to unpack. I'm talking about games where it's completely unclear how patches are supposed to be ordered. Case in point... well, the entirety of this list, really. Just let me show you.
As I am fond of saying, there is no MMO that I've ever played that has the capability of being so frustrating and downright mean toward me as The Secret World. If it wasn't for the fact that the game is so engrossing and downright brilliant at times, I wouldn't put up with the abuse. As it is, I keep coming back and asking for more.
Part of this brilliance is how Funcom takes quest design to a level heretofore unseen in the MMORPG industry. While The Secret World certainly has its fair share of kill and escort quests, most missions have a great deal of thought put into them and require the use of your brain as much as your leet combat skills. In fact, the game is often lauded for its investigation missions -- lengthy, hands-off quests that pit your intelligence against the developers as you perform all manner of bizarre tasks. Some of these even break into the real world and take you out of the game to win the game.
It's awesome. And today I want to share 10 of the craziest things that The Secret World has asked me to do in its quests. There will be some spoilers in terms of quest mechanics, although I will keep story spoilers to a bare minimum.
I've mentioned many times that my first MMO was Final Fantasy XI. It released in North America 13 years ago as of tomorrow. I remember that very well, as I had two copies pre-ordered, one for myself and one for my college roommate at the time. I hadn't even been planning on buying it at first, but my girlfriend convinced me to, and I figured it could be a fun thing for my roommate and me to do together.
That was most definitely not what happened, but 13 years later I can say that my girlfriend was right on the money about buying it being a good idea.
In the intervening decade-and-change, of course, my tastes have changed, by opinions have developed, and my experiences have been shaped by Final Fantasy XI as well as more or less every other MMO I've played. As an older man, I am no longer as fascinated by the same things that once hooked me in for FFXI. Here, then, are my demands to MMOs, new and old, now that I've been playing in this genre for 13 years. Yes, it's sentimental;, I always get sentimental around this time.