Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve had some tantalizing rumors and teases that both Riot Games and Blizzard are building something new: Riot’s dangled some questions about maybe making an MMORPG – might it be a League of Legends MMO? – and Blizzard’s outright said it’s returning to the Diablo franchise for multiple projects (one of which is the Switch port announced this morning). Can we hope for an MMO from one of the big studios again – and should we?
That’s what we’re pondering in this week’s Massively Overthinking. Do you think either of these companies is actually working on a new MMORPG using an old IP, what might it look like if so, what are they working on if not, and what do you actually want to see happen?
Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): On the Diablo side of things, I’m kind of lost. Not just because the franchise does nothing for me, but I can’t imagine multiple games coming from the IP unless Blizzard is going the ARG route for a mobile title and tying it to an pc/console game somehow. Yes, I dare to dream, even outside my own fandoms. That being said, I can’t see them doing another proper MMO.
But for Riot? Maybe they’re prototyping one, or something MMO-ish. They’ve attracted the competitive PvP MMO crowd from the start, as well as other gamers. They’ve branched out into comics, cinematics, and a board game. Maybe more that I can’t think of. They also have an international player base and name recognition, similar to old school Blizzard…. But with only one game.
On the one hand, there’s enough pieces there to assemble something. On the other, it might not be solid enough. That may be why they’re gauging reactions and possibly tinkering with something in the background, just in case.
If they went the MMO route, I’d wager it’d be like what Rift was, a kind of natural progression of the genre. Probably still theme park, but as Riot made a PvP game and has done some “win to vote for your side” mechanics (which even Nintendo is using in Splatoon), I’d think (or hope) player actions would guide the story much more than most MMOs.
The character creator probably would be more robust, like a superhero MMO, just because LoL’s world is also diverse enough to support any genre. While it could make use of current heroes in the MOBA, I’d think they’d keep them as NPCs, though maybe let you imitate them a bit through abilities and costumes, possibly through cross-game promotions.
Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): Ug, why did I ask everyone so many questions? Now I gotta answer them, and it’s harder than I thought. Let me do Riot first. I have zero emotional investment in League of Legends whatsoever, and I’ve never thought much of the character design, so I’m totally neutral on it from that standpoint. It would be a huge coup for a company as huge as Riot to invest heavily into virtual worlds, but Riot specifically has a lot of baggage that, frankly, would serve it (and us) poorly in the MMORPG space. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it’s working on something MMO adjacent like an OARPG, certainly, but whether I’d play it would depend on the specifics. I’d be more likely to play a Diablo clone from Riot than, say, an Overwatch or PUBG clone in the LoL universe, and I’d be incredibly nervous about a WoW clone.
From Blizzard, on the other hand… I trust Blizzard much more in the MMORPG space (even when it screws up), and Diablo specifically is one of my favorite franchises. I think it would be extremely well-suited to a truly persistent MMO, if not a full-blown MMORPG, and I’d love to see it fleshed out to be much more than the Diablo III legacy. I’d pretty much play anything with Diablo stamped on it. Apparently a lot of folks aren’t convinced Diablo IV will ever be a thing (I just had a conversation with a guildie who believes D3 will be milked forever instead), but I’m pretty confident it’s happening eventually and that it’ll be much more MMOish than what we’ve seen from the franchise to date.
Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): I think we can definitely hope for a new MMO from anyone. The thing about hope is that it’s not really based on anything; it’s about what you’d want, and so long as you accept that you might not get it, hoping is part of what narrows your focus in on the things you actually want. And here’s the bottom line: Despite all of the issues I have with both Riot and Blizzard, I would love to see both studios working on new MMOs. Whether or not I think they are is almost less fun than thinking about what they would look like.
A Diablo MMO would have some of the advantage that Blizzard now has people who know how MMOs work, but they’d also have the advantage of the Diablo team not actually focusing as much on that. It’d wind up in a middle place where you have imports from WoW always trying to change the game, and the native team that’s been stagnant for a long while. You’d also have a team much more concerned with developing a game that feels like Diablo, focused on the individual progression and adventure over the hardcore group content. Instead of developing EverQuest But Better, it’d be more like Diablo Borrowing From World of Warcraft. There’s lots of meaty design space there!
As for Riot? I’ve never liked League of Legends, but the studio has some celebrated developers from some of WoW’s best periods in there, and more to the point this is a company that knows how to keep people engaged with minimal actual content. Anything that they model is probably going to have a similar bias, with the goal being to give players and the contest between them center stage. Now, that’s not to say I think this would be a PvP game; they already have that, it’s LoL. But it would be a foundation to start on the idea of characters with lots of playstyle options and changing the meta, almost like something approaching the fabled Pokemon RPG. Imagine it; a collection of little heroes all contributing to your overall ability pool…
This isn’t to say these things are actually in the works; I give them fifty-fifty odds, and odds are good Blizzard’s working on another Diablo expansion (or installment) and Riot isn’t developing much more. But boy, the idea is welcome!
Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): While some old time studios probably will swear off MMOs forever due to the complexity, cost, and reputation, not all will. And yes, I believe that some will come back around to making new MMOs, perhaps out of the passion for them but also because it’s where games are heading these days.
Shedding the “MMO” label for a minute, we see so many elements of MMOs pervading the games industry. Online connectivity and long-distance play between large groups of players is becoming a commonplace feature of titles. Also are things like world persistence, character growth, achievements, guilds, and whatnot.
Yes, we might have despaired that games started cutting up MMOs to use their parts, but these parts may end up coming back together organically for future games that will be true MMORPGs — whether or not they call themselves as such.