Massively Overthinking: Disassembling MMORPGs for parts


This week’s Massively Overthinking comes to us from Xijit — and I think you’ll agree it’s quite timely.

“In light of The Secret World getting reworked into more of a single-player or online-but-not-actually-an-MMO title, what other MMOs would you like to see downgraded from the full MMO format and turned into a single-player-focused or limited multiplayer title?”

I’d like to say I can speak for everyone and say NONE ZERO NEVER STOPPIT. But I bet our staff — and you — can probably think of a few MMOs that might be better suited for a different format. Let’s dive in to this pool full of poop jello and fight it out.

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): If Turbine/WB won’t do anything Massive with the Asheron’s Call series, I’d love to see something smaller. They’ve got David Bowman at TellTale and Chris L’Etoile has done Bioware RPGs (and among other things), so a story driven not-a-Massive-MO would be awesome. There was a lot of good lore in the series and it’s such a waste to just leave it there. Jason Booth can’t be the only AC dev still trying to make use of the series’ uniqueness.

It’s not an MMO, but I feel like League of Legends could make a great single player game because, again, there’s lots of good lore that gets lost on the field of battle but I’d like to explore it in more than just out of game media. I could say the same thing about Overwatch too, but their last PvE push has me hoping that Blizzard is finally finding a way to incorporate good lore into games rather than shoving it into out of game cinematics and comics.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): Truthfully, I find the whole ordeal macabre. The “unbundling” of the MMORPG genre is not a new thing; I think we’ve mostly come to terms with the idea that MOBAs and survival sandboxes and ARPGs are being spun off from the MMORPG genre instead of coming together to build up virtual worlds. And I’m cool with seeing brand-new roguelikes and shooters set in the same world as other supported MMORPGs. But I’m not OK with this new trend (Project Titan, The RepopulationThe Secret World, Marvel Heroes, presumably EverQuest Next and Landmark) where the actual specific MMORPGs are being literally disassembled for parts on other games for a totally different audience, at the expense of the audience that supported the original game. That’s not an unbundling I can get behind. So my answer is absolutely none of them. Make new games and quit screwing over the MMO audience.

Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): Y’know, the fact that this question peripherally bumps up against the baffling existences of Secret World Legends really tempts me to just make this reply all about Funcom going down a route to solve several problems that don’t exist. Of all the problems The Secret World has had over the years, “being an online game” was never among them. But in this case we’re talking about games that actually could be improved with less online functionality, which unfortunately means that we’re also talking about games that aren’t very good.

Look, if your online game is a good online game, that means the whole online component is baked into its very core. There’s a lot of stuff you can do in Final Fantasy XI right now solo, but that’s different from doing it offline. The game wouldn’t work if it were offline. You’d have to make it a much weaker experience to make that work.

I do think Marvel Heroes being less online works, overall, since it’s already in that odd Diablo-esque space where online components are important but not the heart of the game. (Yes, I realize that it has a lot of strong multiplayer elements to it that make it indisputably an MMO; I’m not arguing that.) I’d also point out that Star Trek Online would be a good basis to start from for a single-player Star Trek game, although I feel the need to stress that it’s a place to start rather than a good single-player game as it stands now. So that’s a mixed bag, too. I’d definitely prefer Overwatch a bit more if it wasn’t just an online arena shooter, although that comes with its own baggage and connected issues.

Really, the one game I can think of which would be better off without any sort of multiplayer components, just ported over to single-player format without any changes other than the lack of other players? Champions Online. And even then, that’s more so you could have a compressed experience than the fact that it doesn’t work as a multiplayer game. I’d just like to see it get some sort of development.

None of these are things I want to see happen, either. (All right, I would like to see a single-player Trek game based on STO, but I don’t want to lose STO in the process.) They’re not making the game any better, universally. Removing the multiplayer aspects of a title only make a game better if multiplayer actively drags the game down… and when it comes to an MMO, if the multiplayer portion is what makes the game worse, then the game itself isn’t that great to begin with.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): What’s this now? No, I don’t want to see these games take a step back in massively multiplayer support — that’s one of the key reasons I love MMORPGs and have played them for so long and prefer them above single-player and limited-multiplayer titles. I can’t really think of any MMO that would benefit from being scaled down in access, to tell the truth.

Larry Everett (@Shaddoe, blog): I think it goes without saying that Star Wars: The Old Republic in a lot of respects actually is a single-player game disguised as an MMORPG. And perhaps if BioWare had embraced that early on then it would have been received better. Gamers would have Knights of the Old Republic 3, which I know many people were actually hoping for, and maybe we would still have the doctors in charge of BioWare.

There could have still been online or even multiplayer elements to it. In fact, you could still have all those class stories, but instead of selling them all as one package, you could have had different packages being sold at different times. There could have been a Light-Side KOTOR3 where you play the Republic-class stories, then a year later, there could have been the Dark-Side KOTOR3 where you play the Imperial-class stories, which — just like the existing SWTOR stories — coincide with the stories of the opposite faction. You could still have PvP, raids, many of the other things that exist in the game today.

However, then I would be missing one of my favorite MMOs of all time, so in the end, I really wouldn’t want that.

Patron Archebius: The Elder Scrolls Online. When I think about the MMOs I’ve enjoyed – Guild Wars and EVE leap to mind – I think about the world they built. EVE feels like a galaxy, largely uncivilized and empty. Guild Wars feels like a world you can be alone in – you can walk out into an instanced zone, kill a monster, and it won’t respawn until you leave the zone. You can explore corners of the map with no quests, tar pits bubbling for no one but you. As odd as it sounds, the ability to be alone makes me feel more a part of a world than any number of concurrent users. Forming up with players to tackle missions and explore wormholes and build corporations is important, but so is that sense of scale – the world is not filled with heroes. Sometimes, it’s just you.

Skyrim’s strength was in the width and depth of the world they created. For most of my games, I wouldn’t even use fast travel. I would just walk from town to town, frequently get sidetracked, wind up in an entirely different place, stumble across a random quest for a Daedra lord, admire the view, and then try to figure out how to get back to the town I was looking for in the first place. You could be alone; the world felt like a real place, and you were just part of it.

ESO started out being a straight-up MMO, and they’ve been walking back on that choice ever since. They introduced thieving and murder; they took off the blinders that kept you on the straight and narrow hero’s path and let you explore the world as you saw fit. They’ve slowly been moving towards what everyone was shouting about at launch – they wanted Skyrim with multiplayer, not WoW with Khajit. While ESO is absolutely improved by having people in it, streamlining it to feel like a lonelier world could make it what I’ve wanted from that universe all along: a world where the threats are many and ancient, the lands are wide and unknown, and the heroes, while few, stand ready when needed.

Your turn!

newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
Nathaniel Downes

Wildstar, keeping it an MMO, keeping all the mechanics as/is, but using a more realistic style. The cartoon graphics are at odds with the rest of the game, throwing me for a loop as I play it.

Kickstarter Donor

Someone else here — I can’t remember who, I’m sorry — pointed out that Star Wars: The Old Republic might be better off if it released somewhat like The Witcher games or Destiny, and I tend to agree.

Rather than an ongoing MMORPG, with those spirit-crushing empty lulls with little interesting to do between story-content drops, SWTOR could be released as a series of discrete games with DLCs and add-ons. (Destiny has proven that it’s possible to have optional multiplayer within such games).

This way, each game in the series could be released full of content, and there would be no pretense of having more things to do once completed … until the next game in the series dropped.

Of course, this new business plan would probably require the EA suits to abandon the “ongoing cash shop with gamble packs” concept, and the stockholders would no doubt cry loudly about the loss of a steady profit stream … :-(

Honestly, sometimes it feels like the SWTOR cash shop is EA’s only real priority for the game. Grumble. Grumble. Grumble.


I think most theme park MMO’s could be switched to a single player experience and not loose too much besides its raiding scene.

SWTOR immediately comes to mind, especially when I found out I had to do an instance to continue the plot but I accidentally got too high level to LFG it. I ended up soloing it, and I have to say, it was both more difficult and much more epic than when I did it at the proper level.

FFXIV and WoW could also be converted into half decent single player games, but these games are designed for extending play time for the purpose of milking subscriptions, so I doubt it would be a profitable switch for their respective companies.

Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Kickstarter Donor
Paragon Lost

Bree’s remarks in the article sum up my opinion actually better than I could sum it up. So I’ll just point up and say “what she said”.


SW:TOR – it’s not really an MMO and never embraced multiplayer, so I’d love to see it shutdown / downgraded to a single player (kotor3) or standard multiplayer game. Not because I think it would improve it, it wouldn’t, but it would at least open up the way for us getting a proper star wars MMO. With all the movies currently coming out, it would be awesome to launch a proper MMO set in the time period just after Ep 9.

Beyond that, no, I’d rather games kept going as MMOs rather than getting disassembled.


I see the MMO genre evolving into the Online Role Playing game genre. Same concept only no Raid treadmill and you and up to ten of your friends can do anything you can do in a MMO, only no Toxic douchebags ruining your fun. I think it’s why ESO is moving closer to it’s TES audience and SWTOR will most likely be refitted as well.

Melissa McDonald

I’d love for someone to buy Landmark as it finally existed and pick up the work from there. Completely start over on the avatars, give us the classic dozen races from EQ lore, then do the traditional themepark work to add quests and cities and points of interest. Maybe it would be more EQ3 than EQN, but that’s alright with me.

The construct they made is wonderful and the 64bit voxel game engine is powerful and beautiful. the biomes they made are lovely. If you simply reserved areas for building judiciously you can handle the tendency of people to make non-medieval structures (one of the reasons I think it folded – they believed the ‘make anything’ powers created a world they couldn’t control, and ended up being too ‘non-canonical’ for the lore of Norrath).
But no chance in hell of that happening now unless I win the lottery. Or Georgeson and Smedley team up with some former SOE devs and show real determination to finish the world. Hell YES I would contribute to that crowdfund.

odin valhalla

So the question asked wasnt worded well IMHO. “Downgraded” might not be the best choice of words but its not that important. As an example, TSW “downgrade” is going to get my foot in the door with the game. Now had they kept it as is and made it F2P I likely wouldnt have tried it because of the narratives out there on the combat.

Often these “downgrades” are a rework of key systems that have attained a negative reputation within the gaming community. At this point Im interested in playing good games, MMO’s are great I have been playing them for years but most games now are a true meld. As an example, ESO can be played as a SP RPG, more so when it released. Same with LOTRO. I like both formats, they have SP aspects via the PVE storyline, there is group content for raids and there is PVP.

Despite my personal opinions on ESO business model. Objectively this game right now has the right blend, well had, meaning I feel strongly Craglorn not only should have been kept as a group play zone but it should have gotten revamped, retooled and rereleased. unique rewards, titles etc but the point is its a group play zone.

Gaming has changed a lot since the late 90’s. Now the more toxic you are the more successful you are as a streamer, you tuber, forum goer. Gaming forums are a cesspool mostly and in the end it appears games and their culture evolve to this unhappy place that no matter what the game becomes its a negative, but players still play. Its like watching a guy at a cafe stuff his face with a meal and while chewing bitch about the chef and complain the cafe is a crook for charging this money.

I just want games with good content, BALANCE BETWEEN CLASSES (really the holy grail of mmos now) and the ability to do group and solo content in one title. For the most part Im getting that with this generations MMOS

Zen Dadaist

I’m with Bree. I’m usually in the ‘remaining players’ pile so I’m one of those that gets to watch the game I liked be pulled apart, rejiggered, repackaged and sold to a different audience. I’m usually one of the ‘old discarded playerbase’ being traded in for a potential newer one. I’m sick of it. Abso-effing-lutely sick of it. I realise that am no longer anyone’s target audience because I despise nickely and diming, lockboxes and racing to end game and finishing everything in 1 month before moving to the next game. But it’d be nice if maybe, just maybe, some originality could be employed in the creation of an entirely new product to chase this entierly new playerbase, instead of taking away our stuff in order to make the new thing.


There’s no game I’d like to see downgraded(in terms of player count) but I’d like to see Lotro’s expansive world recycled for a sandboxy single player game(in the vein of the Elder Scroll games, but without the icon-farming fest à la Ubisoft) with a more realistically populated world(in terms of npc’s and mobs) and, of course, a fetching story behind it all.

Done right I wouldn’t even mind the dated graphics. Turbine’s realization of the landscapes of Middle-Earth is really a treasure amongst MMORPG’s.