After talking with Mark Jacobs the other week about the difficulty of balancing Camelot Unchained’s 30 classes, it got my mind thinking of MMOs that don’t merely stop with a half-dozen or so classes in their roster. It seems like having a wide array of class choices used to be in vogue early on in the industry but has since been abandoned for a smaller field of archetypes that are easier to manage.
Me? I love choices, particularly with classes. My interest in a game gets a shot in the arm if I have a lot of prospects for alts — the more, the better. So I started drawing up a list of MMOs with large class rosters and decided to make it into a full-blown column.
For the purpose of today’s list, I’m not counting skill-based MMOs (which could be considered as hosting infinite classes). Also, for games that allow a measure of mix-and-matching between classes, I’m counting only the actual classes or powersets available, not the total number of permutations that could be created by their merging. So which MMO has enough classes to satisfy your appetite?
It used to be that hunting for a console MMORPG was one of the most fruitless endeavors known to gamers. The PC was where it was at, dating all the way back to the birth of MUDs back in the 1980s. For decades, console gamers could only look on in envy as their PC comrades enjoyed persistent worlds, massive multiplayer, and online events.
The scene, of course, has radically changed, particularly over the past five years. Now studios are downright eager to tap into the console market with their online titles, and in some cases these MMOs have proven to be much more successful on those platforms than their PC version counterparts.
While a full list of every console MMO to date would far exceed a top 10 list, I thought it was worthy of drawing out the most notable titles that have existed to date on video game consoles. Some of these are long extinguished, some are famous disappintments, while others are flourishing even today. What would you pick for this list? Let us know in the comments!
Last Friday’s WildStar news made me sad. I’m sad because there are two games at war within that title. One of them is a charmingly flexible sandpark; the other one is what I think our dear editor is thinking of when she calls the game World of Warcraft But They’re In Space, since it launched with all of the worst parts of WoW‘s endgame from its original launch without much to improve upon the formula. I really like the former part of the game.
Whenever we wind up with a title in that state, of course, people ask a simple question: Why doesn’t the studio just do a reboot? It worked really well for Final Fantasy XIV, which went from an industry punchline to a success story that’s still building momentum. So why don’t more studios just reboot MMOs that aren’t working?
The answer is that it’s not that easy. And it can conveniently be broken down into several bullet points for this particular column. So let’s get to it.
In real life, we can’t (usually) pick our race; we kind of get assigned one at birth, thanks to our parents, and we go on from there. So there’s a special kind appeal to the character creation screen in MMOs that grants us the ability to do what we never could for ourselves: choose a racial background.
Some MMOs narrow racial picks down to a whopping one while others seem to add new races every time a developer sneezes all over a lead artist’s drawing board and says, “There, make that happen… call it a Sluggie or something.” I’m always fascinated by the options available and why people choose what they do. I think it says a lot about who we are and what we’re trying to present to the larger game community.
The next time you pause during that character creation screen to contemplate your pick, consider what that choice will say about you. Gross generalizations: They’re fun! Check out my theories below.
Class-based systems are one of those holdovers from tabletop RPGs that work surprisingly well in MMOs. I basically put up with class systems in exactly one tabletop game simply because Dungeons & Dragons is likely to abandon classes around the same time that the Earth crashes into the sun and Fifth Edition is pretty good, and the debate over whether MMOs work better with classes and levels or freeform character development systems will still be raging even then.
Even though I’m wholly on board with classes, a surprising number of games wind up trotting out the same basic groups time and again. Here’s the warrior with a two-hander and a big weapon, here’s the caster flinging fireballs, there’s the stealthy guy with paired weapons who stabs things. A lot of those can be really fun to play, too. But my affection always goes toward the odd, the unusual, the classes that you can’t find in many games. Like these classes, basically.
Swords, spears, axes, maces, and bows for fighters. Wands and fancy-looking staves for mages. Wolverine-style claws and double daggers for thieves. Some useless trinket for healers.
Let’s face it: MMOs (particularly fantasy ones) aren’t often tripping over themselves in an effort to present our characters with weapons outside of the genre norm. If you’ve played one MMO, you’ve probably seen about 90% of the weapon types that you’ll encounter in all of the rest. And while there’s certainly nothing wrong with offering these tried-and-true selections to players, I do wish that devs would broaden their horizons once in a while with a pen-and-paper RPG weapons manual.
Credit where it is due, of course. Sometimes MMOs do bust out interesting weapon types that haven’t gotten a lot of play elsewhere, which is both encouraging to discover and discouraging when you move on to another game that pretends it hasn’t even heard of such items. Today we’re going to go through 10 (well, a few more than that) weapons that really should be in more MMOs.
I cut my teeth on MMOs with the launch of Final Fantasy XI in America. My roommate in college was interested in the game, so I went with my girlfriend at the time, headed to the mall, bought two copies of the game, and spent most of the night downloading patches and getting the whole thing set up. For years I thought things like the archaic half-functionality of things like PlayOnline constituted a feature rather than a drawback solely because of that title.
There are a lot of older games out there, older even than FFXI in chronology and in design. There are games that launched later that feel older. And after a discussion about exactly that, I found myself thinking about the things you may not realize if you go back to play an older game. If you cut your teeth on more modern games, stuff designed and launched in a more recent environment… there are elements to consider before you download the client and start playing.
The weird thing about our perception of time is that we don’t always realize just how much things are changing around us unless we take the effort to notice or have one of those jarring experiences in which we’re faced with the past. What always astonishes me is how we get used to gradual progress in technology without realizing how dependent we’ve gotten on such things.
Take video games, for example, because this is an MMO site and we talk about them quite a lot. A game that you enjoyed 10 or 20 years ago might be absolutely horrid to you now because it lacks a lot of features that have become commonplace in the meantime (personally, I’m always irked that my console JRPG characters don’t regen health after battles). Then again, these games might hold up well and pass the test of time.
As much as we whine and moan about the seeming lack of progress in MMOs, the truth is that in many ways, we used to have it so much worse back in the earlier days of the industry. Oh, there was a lot to admire about the first couple of waves of MMOs, but they were still figuring things out and contained quite a few irritating features as a result. Today, let’s look at 10 MMO problems that we don’t really have these days thanks to newer features and a desire to make games more casual friendly.
One of the most frequent questions I’m ever asked here at Massively OP or on my own blog is, “How do you do it? How do you play all these games while handling a job and family?” Obviously the solution is experimental military-grade medication that’s kept me from sleeping since 2011. Another popular theory is that I’m one of a batch of clones that time-share my life.
The truth is that I don’t have any more time than anyone else and have had to organize my life and game smartly. It’s not like back when I was a bachelor and could play games for three days straight; now I have a wife, four kids, and way too many things that are always vying for my attention.
But I love to play MMOs, and along with writing, I see it as my hobby. So I’ve figured out little ways to make gaming work on a limited time budget, and if you’re in a similar situation and feel torn between wanting to play MMOs and feeling like you don’t have the time to do it, I wanted to share what I’ve learned with you.
All right, we’ve had just about a month of 2016 now, and I’m writing this on my birthday. Odds are good that I’m going to be writing about MMOs for at least a little while longer now, probably through next week at least. So it would be really wonderful if all of the stuff I’m about to list could make like a tree and go away forever, erasing itself from the face of the Earth.
That will not happen, of course, because we’re about a month into the year and all of this has already happened. Again.
The odds of this year marking an improvement in the listed fields are basically nil. Nonetheless, I’m writing this list just the same, so that you all can hopefully nod in agreement, and perhaps next year we can be rid of all this nonsense. In all likelihood little to nothing is actually going to change in 2017, too, but at least if something does change, I can be happy I stood vaguely near something sort of shifting.
I’ve seen a lot of desperate requests in my day in which players are asking for games outside of the normal sphere of popularity and MMO mainstream (such as it is). We all know what the big games are, the ones that get the lion’s share of the publicity, press, and popularity. But all of that attention can easily blind us to those titles that are quite good if not as well-known, and I believe it’s those MMOs that many players are seeking when looking for an alternative to the games they’ve been playing for years.
So today we’re going to explore a list my top 10 recommendations for “obscure” MMOs. These are games that might not be on the tips of everyone’s tongues but have earned a solid reputation in some way and might offer a different experience than the same-old that you’re used to seeing. For this list I’m mostly sticking with released or playable titles that have good word-of-mouth behind them, are still in operation, and have generally run under the radar for most of their lifespan.
The first year of Massively Overpowered had its ups and downs, like anything does, but I think we had some pretty great content in there. Like, really great content. And now it’s my job to tell you several of the best pieces which you may or may not remember, and that’s hard for me to do because I work with a lot of talented people on this site.
My goal with this list, then, is to look back at stuff that wasn’t just good when it was written but still has plenty of bite right now, stuff that you can read several months on with all of the impact it had at the time. That meant that there was some really good stuff that wound up being just a bit too time-focused for the list. I also left myself off of the list as much as possible, before you ask. So what are some of the best pieces of last year?
A long time ago on another website far, far away, I held a tradition of kicking off the new year by listing the top 10 MMOs that deserved attention and were likely to launch that year. These days, however, the industry has changed quite a bit, most notably with early access, open development, soft launches, and crowdfunding blurring the lines of testing and play.
Therefore, I felt that a slight change was needed with 2016’s list. Instead of rattling off 10 titles that I think are going to release in the following 12 months, I’m going to mention games that strongly bear watching in the new year. Some of them will undoubtedly release, while the rest remain in alpha or beta testing, but all could have an impact on the industry and in our online communities.
Because I’m limiting the list to just 10 entries, some up-and-coming games won’t be mentioned. I have my reasons (secret, dusky reasons), but if you disagree about these or the exclusion of any title, pipe up in the comments!