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!
There is no way we can list all of the great updates in a given year. It’s not possible. We are always going to have a bunch of personal bias creeping into things; it’s inevitable, and there are updates that get missed or otherwise lose out in the court of opinion.
I mean, let’s be honest, how many people actually knew what was going on with Final Fantasy XI? Other than me, I mean.
The important thing is that this was a year of updates, a year of changes, and a year of new stuff being added to games. So today I want to highlight what I consider the best of the back for 2015. They might not all be the most popular, and they might be things that you’ve heard from me before, but I’m still giving them the nod over everyone else.
For as long as Massively Overpowered exists, this will be one of the most memorable years in our site’s history. It was the year that, after seven year of operation, old Massively got abruptly shuttered by AOL along with Joystiq and WoW Insider. It was also the year that the community rallied around us and Kickstarted the hell out of a new site, giving us the chance to create MOP as an independent MMO entity.
2015 will no doubt be remembered for a lot of other things too, of course. I don’t think anyone could have predicted all of the craziness and unexpected turns that happened in our genre over the past 12 months. Let’s take a walk back through the year-that-was to cover the biggest, strangest, and most exciting stories that we covered.
You know one of the reasons I like writing this column? Because one of these days I’m going to be able to make a list of the best characters from Transformers and Bree isn’t going to stop me. But I also like the fact that we all know the column is completely subjective, so that when people read this they do not think that this is a carefully researched piece wherein I can prove that a given game is the best free-to-play title on the market using, like, numbers.
I hope that’s true, anyhow.
But moving along, it’s the holiday season, so you probably want a new game to play, but you both need to avoid buying games (someone might have bought one for you) and you don’t have much money (because you bought everyone some random thing already, let’s just say Combiner Wars Ultra Magnus). So here are the 10 MMOs that I think make for the best free-to-play options on the market right now based on completely subjective reasoning.
We’ll assume since you’re a savvy gamer reading Massively OP that you’re already well aware of the world’s best MMO podcast. But what do you do with your other 167 hours after you’re heard the new episodes? Communicate with other people like a chump? Perish the thought!
On a recent episode of the Massively OP Podcast, we received a listener email asking for other podcast recommendations. While we gave a few on the air, the truth is that there are plenty out there to hear, although you might not be quite as aware of them. To help you fill the audio void in your life, here are several other podcasts that tackle our favorite hobby.
It’s been a while since I wrote a column that comes out on Thursdays, which means that it’s also been a while since I’ve had the opportunity to do my usual holiday nonsense on Thanksgiving. Time was, of course, that I would wish everyone a happy St. Patrick’s Day and call it good, but when I suggested listing several holidays that aren’t being celebrated today, Bree fired back a confused look and a reminder that we are an MMO site, not a place for me to just leave bizarre lists.
This is also why you’re not getting a list of my favorite Transformers, so it might be a mercy.
I could just go with a list of games that I’m thankful for, but I don’t really want to just be doing that every year all over again when it’s really just one list with the names changing. What do I mean? Well, there’s a lot of different actual titles, but the fact is that I think there’s a pretty consistent list of games to be thankful for in terms of reasons.
No MMO can be in the spotlight eternally. Even some of the biggest names out there — your World of Warcrafts, your Guild Wars 2s, your Star Stables — wax and wane in the amount of press and attention they get depending on what they’re doing and how well their PR department is functioning.
It doesn’t take much for a title to fall off of practically everyone’s radar. In some cases it’s merely a matter of passing time and slipping popularity, but in others it’s just that the game or its marketing team hasn’t done anything of note in a long, long time. So that’s when you get MMOs that, when mentioned, cause the listener to cock an eyebrow and say, “Huh. That’s still around?”
Today we’re going to look at 10 such titles — not to demean them or laugh at some misfortune but to call attention to MMOs that are still humming along even though they’re not headlining news or ripping up Steam charts.
I like to think that I’m a better person now than I was when I first loaded up Final Fantasy XI. That’s how long I’ve been playing MMOs: I loaded up that game on the day it launched, started playing, and have looked back many times since. It’s nearly a third of my life, and I’ve gone from being just some guy to being… still just some guy, but some guy who has a career analyzing and writing about these games. And in the process, I think and hope I’ve become a better person.
Do I credit all of that to online games? Of course not. That’d be ridiculous. But I do think that playing MMOs can make you a better person. Not should, and not necessarily will, but I think that with time and experience, the possibility is there that they can. And I think that when taken in the right spirit, these lessons can help you be a better person in your day-to-day life. No, not by trying to get stronger by wandering out and smacking random wildlife with a sharp bit of metal but by applying lessons elsewhere.
The western has been limping along for decades now, occasionally rearing its head to produce a well-loved movie or game smash hit before disappearing once more. It’s certainly one of the most-cited genres when it comes to speculating about largely unexplored spaces for MMOs, but how feasible is doing an online western RPG really?
We’ve seen some titles tap into the western feel without being a true period game, such as WildStar and Fallen Earth, but no major attempt has been made to create an MMO in the wild, wild west of legend. Still, you look at how gamers flocked to Red Dead Redemption and you have to wonder if there’s potential there for something more persistent and massively multiplayer.
Today I’m going to mull over the finer points as to why making a western MMO would be an incredibly challenging feat — and why it would be totally worth it if done right. Giddyup, cowpokes!