My initial foray into MMORPGs was, to put it nicely, quite ungraceful. I wasn't even aware that they were a thing until about the year 2000, when I started to notice EverQuest and Asheron's Call boxes on the shelves. But stories about addiction from friends and the seeming obtuse nature of these games kept me from trying... until fall 2001, that was.
That's when I saw a sci-fi title lumped together in this unknown category, and I had liked Funcom's The Longest Journey so much that I thought I'd take a chance on this odd online game. My subsequent experiences in Anarchy Online were fragmented, ignominious, and confusing as all get out. It was so weird, in fact, that I needed a "redo" of City of Heroes several years later to properly get onto the MMO bandwagon (and I haven't fallen off since!).
So what was it like being a total Anarchy Online -- and MMO -- noob back in the day, feeling out this game from a position of complete ignorance? Glad you asked, friend, because I'm going to tell you all about it.
I have long been of the opinion that there are few more terrifying animals on this planet than bears. Sure, there are sharks, the mighty kraken, and that little fish that may or may not swim up your urethra and summer home there, but as I live primarily on the land, I think that the odds are greater that a rampaging bear might ruin my day.
True story: When I lived in Colorado Springs, one morning I left home to drive to work and there was a black bear sitting in the middle of the road. I looked at it, nonplussed, and then sloooooowly backed up into my driveway and called in a sick day. Bear days should totally be a thing, however.
I have also been of the opinion that bears are consistently underestimated in MMORPGs. They're low level trash mobs or pets that finger players as complete noobs for not picking something more exotic. More exotic? Son, if you have a bear on your side, you have won the game. Period. One swipe of its paw and any raid boss' head should pop right off.
There is a plague of bears in MMOs. Today, let us delve into the ursine horror that curses our genre.
I have played a lot of MMOs. It's inevitable, given enough years in this job and hobby. And the sad thing is that I wind up seeing the same things over and over again. There's always a class called the Warrior, for example, and if your game doesn't have classes, you still have a "recommended path" that makes you a dude with a big two-handed weapon that smacks things. There's always an opening questgiver. You always need to collect animal parts.
Yes, even in games where there's no wildlife. Don't ask me what street thugs in Champions Online are doing with bear hearts; I just need the experience.
Of course, there are always bears. In fact, there are always pretty predictable enemies roaming around. Every MMO has at least some of the same things from the same bestiary, so it'd be nice if we could just accept these features of the omnipresent lineup and term them as such.
Sometimes even the most die-hard MMORPG player finds him or herself a little tired of constantly looking at the back of a head and a running butt. We yearn to slip the surly bonds of the world to explore the cosmos in our very own rocket ship to see what is out there. E.T., are you taking house calls? Can we hang for a little while? I brought Reese's Pieces!
Getting this experience isn't quite as easy as, say, finding an MMO that caters to the dragon-slaying crowd. It's well-known that sci-fi MMORPGs are in the minority, and only a fraction of those center around or contain some element of space flight and combat. However, over the years we've seen online games here and there allow us to live out our fantasies of being a space jockey, whether in the form of a trader, a fighter pilot, or an explorer.
Today, let's look at 10 MMOs, past and present, that helped us get our spaceship on!
MMOs, like any other hobby, have their own terminology. We have the term "newb" for new players, "noob" for players who aren't actually new but still make new player mistakes, and "n00b" if you want to sound like an insufferable weirdo from the aughts. But we also have a lot of terminology that just plain doesn't work any more for a variety of reasons, like "pay-to-win" and "hardcore" and so forth.
That does not, however, mean that we do not need our specialized terminology. Indeed, while some of our older vocabulary is not up to the tasks of modern games, I think a great deal could be accomplished just by adding some new words to our lexicon. So let's create some brand-new terms (or codify existing ones) so that we can, in fact, have shared words to describe scenarios that we encounter on a regular basis.
It's an objectively known fact that Warhammer Online's squigs were the peak of MMORPG pet design and functionality. Giant balls of attitude and appetite with a mouth to match, squigs made me proud to be a gamer. Before and since, there have been no better combat pets in existence, which is why it is a tragedy that they went down with that particular sinking ship.
Yet as an MMO pet expert and the best-selling author of "For the fiftieth time, turn off your pet's taunt, Kevin!" I am here to share my wisdom about the rest of the companions that may trot, fly, or slither alongside your character in games. Which are best? Which are worst? Why are you picking on Kevin? These are the questions that I will answer today as I rank common MMO combat pets from best to worst.
The lives of NPCs are unpleasant within MMOs. Imagine coming into existence knowing that you are forever doomed to perform one singular function, one thing that you have to do until the end of time. Bad enough in and of itself, but then you realize that you're going to always perform that same function until the servers finally shut off. No one will care if you do well at it or not, they only care that you continue to do it, over and over, forever.
If they have a religion, it's probably bleak.
Of course, some NPCs have it worse than others. Some of them just have an existence which is bleak; others have existences which are actively a parade of suffering. So here, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, are the lives of MMO NPCs from best to worst. You probably won't change how you behave around some of these poor souls after understanding their plights, but you can at least respect what they're going through.
In third grade, my teacher sent home a report card with the note that "Justin is wonderfully strange." Ever since then, I never found the terms "strange" or "weird" to be pejorative but rather a signpost pointing the way to interesting paths less traveled.
To be weird is to deviate from the safe and predictable and instead venture into the wild and woolly lands of the imagination. When it comes to MMORPGs, I feel that more devs would love for their games to be more strange while the risk-averse studios (and their publishers) pull hard to keep traditional tropes in play.
Still, every once in a while a game comes out that walk on the weird side. These MMOs don't usually boast universal appeal, large numbers, or even great respect, but they do offer vivid imagination, hidden qualities, and a certain uniqueness that is rarely found elsewhere. Today, we will celebrate the wonderfully strange in online gaming with these 10 titles.
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.