One of the fun things about this hobby is that certain tropes repeat themselves constantly. And they’re usually weirdly specific tropes, too. Poop quests, for example. So many MMOs have one quest or another that make you dealing with poop. Someone has a fixation that is probably not entirely healthy, and that someone keeps getting hired to design quests.
But sometimes you try to come up with a trope that’s so specific that it has to be unique. Or at least rare. “MMOs that feature a zone full of floating islands requiring flight to travel around.” At least one zone, and it is traveled around via flight. That cannot be common, that has to be…
Wait. How did I not only get a full list but actually have to decline some entries? How the heck did this happen? There are this many MMOs using this astonishingly specific trope? How did this happen and why?
Short of taking a blow to the head, there’s very little I can suggest in the way of experiencing a familiar MMORPG for the first time again. That new car smell eventually fades away, that initial head-over-heels enthusiasm settles into routine, and a vast world full of mysteries gradually gives way to familiar knowledge over time. It’s not a terrible thing, mind you; relationships change and develop with games as they do in real life.
But I find that every so often I come to a point when I don’t want to give up a game that I’ve greatly enjoyed, yet I’m also a bit burned out and feeling like I am hemmed in by a daily routine and the same-old, same-old. That’s when I start to employ a series of tactics and approaches to inject fresh experiences and perspectives.
So if you’ve been playing an MMO for too long and need to change things up to keep from getting stale and restless, what can you do? Here are 10 suggestions that I found quite helpful in my own gaming career.
And so it was as I traveled across the many spheres and realms of MMOs, I came to realize one simple truth: War is hell. But it is a hell of many sorts, and as MMOs almost always include some form of combat, it can be said that little forms of this hell approach as you descend through levels. Combat becomes difficult to follow, unclear, perhaps even oblique. The game stops caring what you’re doing.
So it became clear to me that these different circles of combat hell should be documented. For while there are games where fighting things may be taken as a joy (and this will vary for each person, yes), there are also many games where combat is a tedious chore you have to get through, not because the combat is difficult or not to your taste because it actually doesn’t work. And so you may use this guide to determine which circle you are trapped within rather than just saying combat is “bad.”
Everyone has those sacred video game cows that are dearly special to them, carry personal meaning, and trigger fear and anxiety when messed with. In the realm of MMORPGs, one of my own cows (moo!) is definitely The Secret World
, which has been one of my favorite online games since its launch a half-decade ago.
I won’t lie: The reboot of the game into Secret World Legends made me intensely nervous. I got the feeling that the game itself was on the verge of disappearing forever and that if the team didn’t get it right, this was it for Kingsmouth, Anima, Orochi, and the rest of the gang. I was — and still am — pretty critical of how Funcom’s been handling the relaunch and the need for it in the first place.
That hasn’t stopped me from playing, however. In fact, I’m logging more daily hours into Secret World Legends than I was in the past few years with The Secret World, partially due to the excitement and partially thanks to the changes that the team wrought. Now that we’re a month into all of this, I thought it was time to offer up some personal observations on how the relaunch is going, what’s working well, what needs improvement, and how I feel about the future.
A reader recently sent in a letter asking Justin to explain why he (Justin) had never really connected with Final Fantasy XIV despite giving the game the ol’ college try. I can’t answer that question, obviously; I’m not Justin and don’t presume to know how his mind works, and given his pathological hatred of elves, I’m not sure I’d want to. But I can point out some of the little things that make me fall in love with the game all over again on a regular basis, something that’s hitting me hard as Stormblood ups the bar significantly from the level established in the game so far.
I make no secret of the fact that I’m a fan of the game, and I have been for years. But there are a lot of reasons for that, and some of them are just reasons like these. Every time I duck back into the game (on a daily basis, yes), I notice something I missed before, and half of the time it makes me smile. So let’s look at the little things that make me adore this game.
When Daybreak announced last year that it was cancelling the highly anticipated EverQuest Next project, the series’ forward momentum lurched to a halt. This wasn’t helped by other EverQuest entities that have been retired over the past few years, leaving only the two aging flagship MMOs to carry on the legacy of the franchise.
For franchise it is. It might be fuzzy in people’s memories (or simply absent from them), but there was an era where EverQuest was the MMORPG at the top of everything, and Sony Online Entertainment wasted no time in capitalizing on its popularity. Spin-offs, sequels, and alternative versions spawned into being, creating a library of EverQuest games.
In fact, there are more than enough to fill up a full list of 10 titles — and then some! So today let’s look at some of the lesser-known entries in EverQuest’s ever-expanding franchise and muse about what might come to this series in the future.
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.
Massively OP’s Perfect Ten column, helmed since the days of Old Massively by Justin and now by both Justin and Eliot, is one of my favorites on the site. Sure, it’s a listicle, but there’s something about that format that forces the writer to really trim down and focus and clarify his points. Plus, both Eliot and Justin take the opportunity to use the platform to crack me up.
So in honor of those of you stuck at family gatherings today where you’re super bored, I’ve picked out 10 of my favorite Perfect Tens (OK, it’s really 14 because I had a hard time choosing!) and rounded them up for you below so you don’t even have to hunt for something fun to read. These should entertain ya! Perfect Tenception!
Let’s be frank: Not every MMO zone can be a masterpiece of art, design, quest flow, and navigability. I mean, they totally should be, but that’s not how it shakes out in actual games. Sometimes regions get rushed, or the developers get a little too crazy with level design, or someone with a doomsday device in the office threatens to set it off unless an area made up of nothing but jumping puzzles is included.
The end result? “Those” zones we love to hate. We all have them. They’re the ones we seem to relish whining and complaining about to anyone who will listen, often instigating an echo chamber of like-minded grudges. We’ve been there, done that, and felt that our psyche took a hit as a result.
Today I want to look back at 10 MMOs I’ve played over the years to pick out a zone from each that, honestly, I really, really disliked. Perhaps the fact that I still remember them so vividly means that they were more important memories than the well-done zones that escape me at the moment, but I’m not going to think on that too much. Let the gripe session begin!
It’s time for a new expansion in Final Fantasy XIV, and that means for me that a lot of people are going to not know how to get through content. Heck, I don’t know how to get through all of the content; it’s new to me too. I’m still figuring it out, and while there are a few people who are progressing even faster than I am and know how to clear everything, they are in the decided minority. I mean, the expansion, counting early access, has only been out for five freaking days.
So that means I get to enjoy the old standby of offering advice when clearing group content. And some people are… let’s be polite and say that they’re better at it than others. An entire guide about how to give advice which will actually have a positive impact is a bit beyond the scope of this article, of course, but we can at least look at the advice that never, ever works. Or if it does, it is entirely by coincidence, not design.
Ever since becoming an MMORPG player and especially since covering these games professionally, I’ve realized one of my greatest pet peeves is the attitude the broader video games media maintain toward our genre. I don’t want to accuse with too broad of a brush or construct a strawman here, but too often I’ve read articles covering MMOs as if the author were either worried about contracting some sort of horrible disease by even mentioning the game or suffering from a superiority complex about how much better other types of games were.
Somehow worse are the sites that employ a “token” MMO player as a writer, as if to foist this terrible genre on some lunkhead so that the rest of the staff can cover the latest groundbreaking edition of Call of Duty, Madden, or Battlefield.
See, I don’t claim that MMOs are better or worse than other video games, yet they do have something special that seems to elude journalists who sneer at grinds or roll their eyes at players foolish enough to care about these games. Sometimes it feels like nerds dumping on other nerds so that the first group can feel superior in some aspect of their life. I don’t know.
Today I’m going to attack my pet peeve head-on by listing 10 things the mainstream games media doesn’t get about why MMORPGs are special, beloved, and captivating.
Your favorite game is going to die. I wrote about that. Some games are never even going to get to launching in the first place, unfortunately. But then there are these titles: games that went the distance when it came to development, marketing, promotion, testing… but somehow didn’t quite manage to stick the landing past that. These are the games that, in Transformers terms, are the hi-then-die cast of the MMO space.
That doesn’t always mean the games are bad, mind you. Some of these games were great fun. But through a combination of business model issues, publisher issues, player population, and just general weirdness, these titles couldn’t make it to a year and a half in the wild. Heck, some of them couldn’t even make it to a year and a quarter. And if you want to peruse this list and wonder why all of these titles are gone but Alganon is somehow still operating… well, we’re just as confused as you are.
It’s hard to look at an MMORPG and imagine them without dungeons. For some people, these instances are the core of their game experience, offering challenging (well, hopefully) and rewarding group experiences that can be repeated for fun, profit, and optimal performance.
Dungeons and I have a strange history in MMOs. For me, it all depends on the game in question. There are MMOs that don’t really feature compelling or rewarding dungeons (Guild Wars 2), or make grouping up and getting into them difficult, or what have you. Yet in other games, I’ve run dungeons so many times that I could probably pathfind through each one blind. If done right, they can be really fun and offer me a chance to show off my stuff and feel like I’m part of a team.
For today’s list, I want to share with you my favorite MMO dungeons. I’m going to limit myself to one per MMO for diversity’s sake, which might make it a little challenging, but there you go!