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!

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