MMO Burnout: Why I want an Assassin’s Creed MMO

    
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I play a fair amount of single-player stuff when I’m not playing MMOs, and at the risk of outing myself as one of those infernal dudebros, I love the Assassin’s Creed franchise. And I do mean love. I’ve got an Altair poster in my office and an Ezio action figure on my desk. I even own all of the series’ portable and mobile games, the latter of which is firmly against my religion.

I know that Unity had more than its share of technical issues, and I know that Ubisoft is no one’s favorite thanks to annualization and its Uplay DRM. But I can’t help it. Assassin’s Creed kicks holy ass and I want an Assassin’s Creed MMO.

mapI won’t spend a lot of time delving into the series’ gameplay here except to say that it’s an incredibly addictive mixture of platforming, parkour, swordfighting, and collection minigames, with the later installments adding everything from grenades to sailing ships as the historical timeline moves forward.

Visceral combat in the vein of Assassin’s Creed isn’t exactly the MMORPG genre’s forte, but games like TERA and even Age of Conan have proven that stylized action can be done on a massive scale. Parkour might be another matter because thus far few MMOs have attempted it, certainly none to the degree that Assassin’s Creed typically employs. Blade & Soul’s movement system shares some similarities, though, and Black Desert’s purportedly does too, so I wouldn’t assume that it’s impossible.

notredameAn Assassin’s Creed MMO might run into trouble when it comes to world size, particularly if the designers are keen to make an open-world game that supports thousands of simultaneous users as opposed to something heavily instanced. And let’s face it, the world and its absurd level of detail — as well as the fact that basically every inch of it can be explored — is a large part of this franchise’s charm. Sure, there’s a story, and it’s got some interesting bits about secret societies, historical figures, and the like, but to use Unity as an example, I’ve already spent over 20 hours in the game since buying it on Steam last week, and I couldn’t tell you the first thing about its narrative other than that my character’s name is Arno.

ropeI spend most of my time prowling the streets of revolution-era Paris, which Ubisoft has apparently recreated with startling accuracy. I kill bad guys, collect cockades and treasure chests, and climb everything from the lowliest shack to the likes of Notre Dame. The sheer size of the city and all of its explorable area is mind-boggling, even though the devs have necessarily downsized from its real-life counterpart (with the exception of the aforementioned Notre Dame and other famous landmarks, which are reproduced in 1:1 scale).

I can only imagine how much fun it would be to explore this place — or the Jerusalem, Venice, Rome, and colonial America of the franchise’s earlier entries — with a group of friends in pursuit of various MMO quest completions and boss kills. Unity offers a bit of a tease in this general direction with its co-op missions, which basically load you and two to four players into instanced sections of the city to complete various assassination or extraction objectives.

duoThe matchmaking is incredibly and tediously broken, at least on my PC version, but the few times that it worked properly did provide me with a good bit of fun and managed to convince me that a full-fledged MMO is something I’d pay a lot of money to experience.

shadowUnity introduced another new franchise wrinkle that got me thinking about an Assassin’s Creed MMO, and that wrinkle is progression. Initially I couldn’t stand it, and I did an expletive-laced double-take when the tutorial popups and early-game missions started talking about character and NPC levels and upgrading my weapons and armor.

I mean, really, Ubi? I play Assassin’s Creed and other action games because they’re action games! I just want to run up walls and sneak up behind people with my hidden blade, thank you very much. When I want to hop on a Progress Quest treadmill and do math, I’ve got 20 million MMO grindparks to choose from. But, this being 2015 and game developers being primarily concerned with developing new ways to separate free-to-play consumers from their money, Assassin’s Creed’s adding a progression grind (and a cash shop to bypass it) was sadly inevitable.

Oddly though, I’m kind of enjoying Unity’s progression, and I typically loathe skinner box stuff because of the way that it sucks up precious hours of my life and rewards me with nothing worth mentioning in return. Here, though, the sizable stable of badass outfit pieces tickles my digital dress-up fancy, and unlike in most MMOs, I can simply grind the money required to buy the pieces by doing what assassins do instead of grinding RNG mob drops and hoping to get what I want. This is the sort of progression I can get behind, especially when taken in measured and mostly optional doses and bookended with the series’ traditional gameplay that I mentioned above.

Finally, I’d like to see an Assassin’s Creed MMO because of the setting — or should I say settings plural. If you’ve never played the series, what follows is something of a mild spoiler, but Assassin’s Creed doesn’t actually take place during the French or American Revolutions or the Crusades or in the upcoming Syndicate’s Victorian England. That stuff all happens in an advanced simulation built in the modern world for the purposes of exploiting genetic memory to discover various secrets about the Assassin order, its Templar enemies, and a vast multigenerational conspiracy of cosmic import.

diveIt’s ultimately a bit of a Matrix/The Secret World mashup, and it’s fertile ground both for those of you who like dev-driven MMO narrative and players like yours truly who prefer to make their own in the context of an immersive world with a thick backstory. If you’re into roleplaying, imagine a canvas that allows you to plausibly interact with 21st century hackers, Age of Sail pirates, or Revolutionary Native Americans, just to name a few. And if you’re not into roleplaying, imagine seeing those eras brought to vivid visual life in a triple-A MMORPG. I’d buy the hell out of that.

Wouldn’t you?

Are you burned out on MMOs? It happens. But there are plenty of other titles out there with open worlds, progression, RPG mechanics, and other MMO stalwarts. Massively OP’s MMO Burnout turns a critical eye toward everything from AAA blockbusters to obscure indie gems.
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BringDaAmblamps
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BringDaAmblamps

poordevil It has peaked.  You entered on one side of the mountain.  It is currently down the other now.

poordevil
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poordevil

I played the first Assassin’s Creed years ago,  but didn’t like it. I had just come off months of Ninja Gaiden on Xbox and AC came off as totally lame. But I am sure things have improved since then. Which is the best AC out currently? I may give it a go if it is on PS4.

CastagereShaikura
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CastagereShaikura

wjowski Why do people always want an mmo for everything? Playing online today with strangers sucks most of the time. Playing coop with your friends should be enough.

wjowski
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wjowski

I want to see another single player game franchise end up as an MMO zombie #54775 about as much as I want to be punched in the dick.

DugFromTheEarth
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DugFromTheEarth

The parkour is the only thing Id ever want from AC in any mmorpg. The setting(s) i dont think are specifically linked to the AC games. Prince of persia is a good example. I WOULD like an mmorpg to have a HUGE city much like that of GTA or AC however. One of my biggest gripes about many mmorpgs is that the world doesnt feel realistically lived in, due to tiny cities, not enough homes, etc etc. (ie: rift… where does everyone actually live? The only signs of civilization are small little forward camps and outposts, and a capital city that at best can house maybe 200 people.)

However, the lore, setting and character concepts of AC just would totally ruin any immersion and sense of fun for me. Imagine hundreds of hooded characters running around assassinating people. Nah… no thanks.  It would just reach a level of silliness.

blackcat7k
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blackcat7k

Cosmic Cleric blackcat7k 
True, it’s those things that separate many of these MMO from each other. However, a major chunk will still rely on the WoW/EQ formula for the rest of the game. In some ways its that design that gets in the way of their story telling a lot of the time because it was apparent from the beginning what SWTOR’s design focus was really on.
 The way SWTOR recently announced how they’re going back to concentrate on the single player experience made me wonder why they made an MMO in the first place.Fun story system, but then they had to figure out what to do with all of this WOW design that was dangling on the end of it.

People would have literally thrown money at them if they’d just made Knights of the Old Republic 3 with a multiplayer option to play with friends. Now they have a game with multiplayer aspects for MMOs that aren’t being used very well combined with some of the best multiplayer story design seen in a game.

Bullwraith
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Bullwraith

“I can only imagine how much fun it would be to explore this place — or the Jerusalem, Venice, Rome, and colonial America of the franchise’s earlier entries — with a group of friends in pursuit of various MMO quest completions and boss kills.”

And we saw how well received that transition from single game to MMO, with similar expectations, went with ESO. I don’t think it would matter who/ what studio created it, the expectations of most of the AC player base could never be met.

Cosmic Cleric
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Cosmic Cleric

blackcat7k “After seeing the titles that have been coming out that rip design
elements based on WoW instead of realizing that they can’t use that as
crutch. If anyone mentions MMO and “insert popular franchise here” then
that’s a major redflag. Developers haven’t figured out how to do MMOs
yet, they’ve figure out how to ape the frontrunner. Until  then Hype
Train, Early Access, Pre-Order, Cash Shop, and then a slow death spiral
while the faithful rail on about how well the game is doing with useless
metrics that tell anything and everything other than how many people
are actually playing and what they’re spending.”
Wow, heavy post.  Made me almost feel depressed in a MMO sort of way.
You’re right though, there is no innovation in MMO design, just copying of WoW’s.  Unfortunately.
Though to me, SWTOR at least has story lines, which is something more than what WoW has/had.

Kageokami, oTQ
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Kageokami, oTQ

I have to agree Mr. Reahard, Assasins Creed would be an awesome MMORPG property.  While I am not a console gamer, I have watched family and friends play and really like the Mythos.  It would be interesting to see how the AC property would be treated as an MMORPG.  Lots of phasing/time travel potential.

blackcat7k
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blackcat7k

A few things:
Having a company that has never done an MMO make one is pretty much a recipe for disaster. See Knights of the Old Republic, Destiny 

Seeing how Ubisoft is really phoning in their releases these past few years you should probably expect an MMO to take the length of time it took Bioware to get their act together once such an MMO releases. (Being the fact that the majority of MMO developers don’t learn from their colleague’s failures, and ape them almost verbatim.)

A game called “Assassin’s Creed”? Do you not think that hundreds of special snowflakes all running around thinking their Altair will end in anything other than flamewars, massive nerfs month after month, and general rage at this title’s PvP bent. It doesn’t even matter if they have a PvE element, the game will most likely cater to the PvP exclusively in its advertisements.

In making a title like this, Ubisoft would have to know a damned lot about MMOs. However, if you want them to make a World of Warcraft skinned AC that’s nothing at all like the game itself and does more to put the final knife in this franchise and then twist… I could see that happening. 

After seeing the titles that have been coming out that rip design elements based on WoW instead of realizing that they can’t use that as crutch. If anyone mentions MMO and “insert popular franchise here” then that’s a major redflag. Developers haven’t figured out how to do MMOs yet, they’ve figure out how to ape the frontrunner. Until  then Hype Train, Early Access, Pre-Order, Cash Shop, and then a slow death spiral while the faithful rail on about how well the game is doing with useless metrics that tell anything and everything other than how many people are actually playing and what they’re spending.