Perfect Ten: Combat-free MMOs

    
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If there’s one thing that always, always goes with MMOs, it’s combat. I mean, we can’t be a hero without killing something, right? We can’t explore a virtual world of wonder without needing to murder a small chunk of it, no?

And as exciting and replayable and institutional as combat is, sometimes… sometimes I get a little tired of it. Being in games where everything revolves around supporting combat in some way or directly fighting can be mentally exhausting. So the Massively OP team and I sat around one afternoon trying to name MMOs where combat is not just rare but absent entirely.

We thought we could name only a small handful, but we quickly stormed our way past 10, and that’s not even counting sports MMOs, text-based MUSHes, and the iffy status of Puzzle Pirates. So if you’re looking for an online game that isn’t about stabbing, punching, or fireballing goblins to death, here are attempts by the industry to provide alternatives!

1. The Sims Online

An MMO spin-off of the insanely popular Sims franchise wasn’t a bad idea at all; it merely had to be handled right. Unfortunately, the end result was as far apart from what made The Sims fun as you could get. Players were thrust into an aging graphics engine and given little money and few tools with which to build a fully realized world. So instead, people ground skills, played virtual prostitute, and fled to much better sandboxes. It could have been a contender, I always think, but instead we got a game where I watched my character virtually read a book while a skill bar filled in tiny increments.

2. Pumpkin Online

This upcoming “farming dating sim” is eschewing the MMO establishment in favor of delivering a “chill relaxing game.” Sorry for the quotes, but after reading the somewhat silly, somewhat charming website, I kind of want to quote it all. So if you’re looking to romance and marry NPCs and then spend your relationship working in a turnip garden together, here you go!

3. Wander

I can get behind a lush-looking game that’s all about exploration and secrets. I really can. But to play as a slow-moving tree-thing? Um, that might take some selling on the studio’s part. At least give the tree pants! Or a chainmail bikini!

4. A Tale in the Desert

This long-running MMO has forever been the niche of the niche, but it’s been admired even so for a devotion to progression via crafting and socializing instead of combat. Working together in a six-times rebooted Egypt, players strive to complete tests (challenges) that come in a wide variety of formats. Also, there’s a lot of sand. It gets in everything.

5. Myst Online: Uru Live

Could a multiplayer Myst work? It can and it has. Myst Online takes players from our world into the realm of puzzles, mysteries, and Age-hopping. Its art design is one of the game’s biggest strengths, as is the option to solve puzzles solo and with friends. There’s also a suprisingly involved story that is revealed as a player makes progress through the caverns underneath New Mexico.

6. Star Stable

I can’t tell you how creepy it feels to be a middle-aged man visiting this website. But maybe it would make anyone feel creepy, because there is an awful lot of horse admiration and love going on here. “Find your destiny!” this game exclaims. Well, I’m pretty sure that if I’m playing Star Stable, then my destiny will be the same as anyone else: riding ponies and trying hard not to think about how every fantasy MMO out there also lets me go equestrian trotting.

7. Club Penguin

It’s not surprising that a lot of obvious entires for this list are going to be non-violent kids games aimed at assuring parents that Bobby and Belinda won’t be learning the secret art of decapitation. But what are they learning from Club Penguin instead? Apparently wholesome values like cheating and how to get addicted to microtransactions!

Not to mention all of that fowl language. Get it? Get it? Good.

8. Glitch

There are a lot of reasons that Glitch failed to gain a widespread, self-sustaining audience (yanking the game back into beta certainly didn’t help). I think it was an uphill battle to attempt to break players out of the combat-centric mindset and give them this world of whimsy that was more about connecting with others, exploring giants’ brains, and making cool stuff to use. Those who got it really got it, however, and haven’t stopped pointing to this game as an excellent example of how online space doesn’t need to be a non-stop killzone.

9. Seed

While it only lasted less than a year, Seed was an admirable attempt to get past combat and focus on other interactive systems. Players were sent to colonize a far-off planet, only to wake up to a half-malfunctioning station and a hostile world. Through politics and crafting, players could start to make this new world a better place to live. It got extra admiration points from me for its neat cel-shaded graphics.

10. Ever, Jane

OK, I bust Ever, Jane’s chops for its dumb name and dinner party-focused gameplay, but that’s more just lighthearted ribbing than genuine loathing. Actually, I admire the fact that a developer is taking such a far-out concept (a social MMO based on Jane Austen’s works) and running with it. We need more daring like that these days, not less.

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at justin@massivelyop.com with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”
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PantherCool
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PantherCool

This is a great list, star stable! i’m soo addicted to that now (techtorpedo.com)

Pedestrienne
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Pedestrienne

wild_abyss Nacho Biz crawlkill Hurrrrr, yup. Looks like I was from the same Furc era as you guys! I was well chuffed as a wee teen in faraway Australia, getting to talk to cool people in their 20s and hear about life in the big, wide, beautiful world. I genuinely had no idea about furries for at least the first year I was there.

melissamcdon
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melissamcdon

Benjamin Seeberger but-but-but then you’d leave the web site.  :-)

melissamcdon
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melissamcdon

until we see some substance and progress in EverJane we don’t even know if it will ever be published or finished. 
We blast Star Citizen for being “Vaporware” but we seem to give EverJane a pass.   It’s more vap’rous than SC.

Syppi
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Syppi

Defector1980 Seed did run live for about six months.

Celestia
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Celestia

Sims Online beta was the absolute worst.  I don’t know how it avoided being scrapped before live release.

Benjamin Seeberger
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Benjamin Seeberger

I love the spirit of this article, but if you aren’t going to include actual links to these games, what’s the point?

MewmewGirl
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MewmewGirl

“Well, I’m pretty sure that if I’m playing Star Stable, then my destiny will be the same as anyone else: riding ponies and trying hard not to think about how every fantasy MMO out there also lets me go equestrian trotting”

But the other games don’t have realistic riding, they aren’t based around horse racing with your horse having it’s own stats that affect it’s riding performance in many ways, and not some fighting bonus.  This isn’t a game about just riding around on a mount, almost everything is based on the horses and it’s a truly different experience.  You’re comparing an arcade like ride on some beast with unrealistic physics just to boost your speed in getting around to a deep simulation and making out as if it’s the same thing?

If you’re a middle aged man I understand not wanting to play the game, as it’s made for young girls for the most part.  But the horses there, how they move, what you do with them and how to care for them etc, it is nothing like having a mount in a traditional game.  You end up owning your own little stable area, competing in realistic races because real horses don’t instantly go full speed, they take a moment to slow down, and they don’t turn on a dime when running at full gallop like they do in the other games you are thinking about.  These are absolutely nothing like the mounts in fighting games.  That you make as if it’s just about equestrian trotting is pretty ignorant.  While it’s fine to have ignorance about this game, maybe you shouldn’t make assumptions without having actually played it.

This is the difference of a simulation done with a lot of detail, and a quick speedup ride from one place to another.  The horses in Star Stable are absolutely nothing like your typical mount in other games.

agemyth
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agemyth

Ever, Jane is probably the most interestingly named MMO in I don’t know how long. Deal with it, Justin :P

ArtemisiaWS
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ArtemisiaWS

I tried Myst Online, but it seemed very single player (nobody arond or in chat) and I couldn’t get around one of the first puzzles, so I thought “I’d rather play normal Myst games at this point”. Shame because it also has a nice character creation.