The Daily Grind: Are OARPGs the future of the MMORPG genre?


Toward the end of 2014, genre academics popularized the idea that the MMORPG genre was becoming “unbundled” — that MMORPGs were splintering, “with sociality, story, multi-player combat, and economy splitting off into different directions and platforms instead of staying unified in MMOs.” At the time, it was hard to argue; it seemed to us that MOBAs, online FPS titles, survival sandboxes, and so forth were taking bits and pieces of the MMORPG genre and running off with them.

The current trend might be the the online action RPG, the multiplayer roguelike — the Diablo clone, essentially. We may never get a pure raiding game, but the OARPG is surely the closest thing to a pure dungeoning experience, and we’ve been seeing them crop up on Kickstarter and Steam early access more and more frequently (in contrast with the decline of new MOBAs).

I’m not horribly sad about it, as I find roguelikes’ multiplayer combat far more interesting than modern MMORPG dungeoning, but I’m certainly not a big fan of the fracturing of the genre, if that is indeed what we’re witnessing. What do you think? Are OARPGs the next big thing for the MMORPG industry?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!

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I really hope they’re not the future, because they bore me a lot.  I’m still waiting for the next gen style of MMO for people like me – those who want to play online as a group while exploring a world with strong lore and story.


ManastuUtakata  I missed that one I guess!


Hmmm…That doesn’t seem to be the next big anything. It seems to be a
response to the huge waste of money in making a huge static world that becomes
obsolete immediately after players blow through it and trying to keep up with a
ridiculous schedule of making more RNG grinds in additional static areas to get
multicolored loot. It’s not even enough to say “sandbox” as if that’s some
magic word to repair this problem because many of these upcoming sandboxes that
are being made seem to be lacking on how to make gameplay that allows freedom.

Saying that action RPGs maybe the future, points to this. Developers seem to
be concentrating on things like combat to the exclusion of almost everything
else. This can’t make anything but a themepark, or lobby game in the end if
that’s the main thrust of what’s going to bring in players. There’s no cheap
way to get out of this. It’s just like how I can find tons of stuff
to do in other single player sandboxes like Red
Dead Redemption, Saint’s Row, the
Just Cause series, Fallout 4,and Skyrim. They still have good combat, but I can find myself messing
with a lot of other aspects of those titles for hours before going back to the
combat itself. 

The doing of this thing I define as “stuff”: It’s that thing that the
earliest builds of Ultima Online, and
Star Wars Galaxies nailed. There were
mechanics that didn’t necessarily have specific purpose but they were still
there. Like being able to chop apart corpses in UO or having a dancer class in
SWG. There weren’t just a few of these supposedly frivolous things. There were
several and they could be brought into gameplay due to player creativity; not a
set system designed by the developer. 
The ability to make an MMO like that has seemingly died. This themepark
design of everything needing to be rigidly encased in some kind of rewards
system to make another Skinner box to nowhere seems to infect every design
that’s thought up. I look at Black Desert
and I see how developers are totally missing the boat. That game has so many
systems… but in the end they don’t use them for much at all and much of the
game is just based around grinding mobs, busting heads in PvP, or grinding to
get ready to do one or the other. 
It’s called a grind because you’re doing the task to get over a predefined
wall in the progression gameplay that’s long since stopped being engaging. The
cash shop mantra of making every system drawn out so players have to spend is
part of the cause for this. The will to actually spend development on just
making a world where you can do many things that don’t directly reward you is

Combat is not the answer to anything, and any developer who concentrates on
that is doing their whole game a disservice. It’s an important part, but what
people would really throw money at these days is a world. That requires
making design that doesn’t necessarily reward the player for everything they
do. Action RPGs are not the future, they will be a signaling of the void of
knowledge in the developers of this genre to craft something that can become
truly engaging.


Azzura ManastuUtakata 
I dunno…probably. It was something Justin made up back in massively-that-was. :)


ManastuUtakata Naption Combat….is that where you play in your sleep? :)


I realize the definition is arbitrary, but I think core fans of the genre want MMORPG to mean the kind of full, virtual world where we can be a valiant warrior, a skilled crafter, a comfortable homesteader, an ambitious entrepreneur, a clever explorer, a social butterfly, or a factioned skirmisher. We want the complete package because even if we don’t participate in every activity the world is greater for having that much more diversity in it. If you remove any part, the overall package is lessened for it. It is less of a coherent world. Those who love the genre love being immersed in the vastness of the world and finding their part in it. It feels vividly real when you’re part of something large like that.

Focused products serve a different purpose. They’re games first and foremost. They can be some of the best games you’ll find in their genres for certain. They almost certainly have better content than the comparable portions of an MMORPG, but to me that’s an argument FOR a different sort of bundling, not against it. Imagine if Riot Games made the PVP, Arena Net did the leveling experience, Bioware did the story, Square did the visuals, etc. I realize this isn’t realistic, but there’s nothing keeping the best of the best from bundling their experiences together to product something that could easily surpass the best games out there.

I was really excited to see Dust 514 plug in with Eve for instance. Imagine if large companies pushed that? The future is bright. People shouldn’t be afraid of where the genre is going, a paradigm shift is certainly coming.


“Are OARPGs the future of the MMORPG genre?”
I hope not.


““with sociality, story, multi-player combat, and economy splitting off into different directions ”  Please point me to the economy genre and I can leave you esports and raiders alone.


captainzor  But instead of 1-2 weeks, what % of MMO players move on after 3,4,5 weeks?


PurpleCopper There is theoretical threshold for a game to be considered an MMO. Persistence, open world, economy, always online, massive(usually 1000’s of players), social functions, and probably a few more. Take one or two of these components away and you might still be classified as an MMO. Take more away then you are an online game, and RPG, an ARPG etc. 
I personally consider Warframe and vindictus MMO’s but they are on the line between MMO and online games.