The Daily Grind: Do action-RPGs make for good MMO material?


The second it was announced, Torchlight Frontiers skyrocketed to the top of my interest. I really wasn’t expecting an MMO out of this franchise — and with housing, no less!

After spinning in my chair and making gleeful noises, I came back down to earth when I discovered that not everyone shared my enthusiasm about this project. Some of my friends who are fairly big MMO fans questioned the need and purpose of a Torchlight online game. Apparently there’s some thought that isometric Diablo-clones, also known as action-RPGs, don’t make the best MMO material.

When we take into account titles like Marvel Heroes, Devilian, and Path of Exile, what do you think? Do action-RPGs make for good MMO material, or is the format too unorthodox and fast-paced for massively multiplayer fun?

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 think action-oriented combat in MMORPG do not mix. The problem isn’t the combat itself (which can be fun and innovative) but more so combat over time. MMORPGs are long term games you tend to play for months if not years. After a dozen of so levels it becomes mundane, especially when combat is the lynchpin of the game.

Not to mention action-oriented combat today means to me strafing in a circle blasting skills. Its hard to have a thought provoked battle when you constantly have to monitor and change your position.

But I like the old school form of combat that leans more on unique customization, tab target, and strategic skill use.

Anton Mochalin

I don’t care much about pure MMORPGs but I like ARPGs so yes if going MMO-like enriches ARPGs experience I like that idea very much. Actually the future is games where you can do both solo and co-op switching easily between them and with fast match-making with complete strangers for group content. ARPG looters are very suitable for such model. Look at what Warframe does recently – isometric is technically much easier to make ARPG integrate MMO experience when players want that.


Ever since Diablo2 I have wanted an isometric arpg in a persistant world like a mmo, so obviously I don’t see any problem with that kind of setting.
Of course you can’t just build mmo features into how any arpg is today, and then call it done. You would have to increase complexity of many features and create incentives and systems for co-op play, and a much more vibrant world with background story, lore and so on.

Many mmos are already Action rpg, just in full 3d. Making it Isometric is, if you boil it down, mostly a matter of camera angle and how to make it work visually. Also with screen area massively increased the last 10 years, the problem with the narrower isometric field of view (compared to 3d – 3rd person) has greatly diminished.

Also an isometric arpg-mmo-whatever could open up for including rts elements into the game.. and that could become a very very interesting path to follow.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Why not? Do comic books make good MMO material? How about themes like pirates? Do movies make good MMO material?

Point is, any material made into an MMO is only as good as the MMO, not the source material.

Oleg Chebeneev

There werent many good ones but looking at Lost Ark its clear that isometric Action MMO can be amazing if made by talented team.

Wilhelm Arcturus

I don’t think the mechanics enter into it really. Getting hooked up on clicking or isometric view is to miss the point. It is more a matter of what would a Torchlight MMO get us that Torchlight II didn’t already deliver?

For certain the MMO path is going to kill off some things that Torchlight II offered, like offline play and mods. So long to all that.

The only thing I can come up with that would make cranking out a Torchlight MMO over, say, creating an expansion for an installed base of several million players that own Torchlight II , is a cash shop.

To me, this is the only thing Perfect World can be shooting for with this move.

So a Torchlight MMO is going to introduce all of the maladies so frequently complained about in the comment section here at MOP, cash shop focus, lock boxes, illicit RMT, phishing, account hacking, and all of that. Have you seen how PWE runs their MMOs? And what do we get? Probably some content that would have made a few decent expansions for the long neglected Torchlight II.

So I can totally see why PWE wants this. I am not sure why fans of Torchlight care.

Note the names of those commenting here in favor of a Torchlight MMO. They’ll be back to complain about what it ended up becoming as sure as night follows day.

Basically, not everything needs to become an MMO because everything that does ends up with the exact same business model so many people loathe.


… Isn’t UO an “isometric” Action-RPG MMO?

BTW, the action-RPG genre isn’t restricted to camera-locked top-down perspective games; 3rd person games with the camera behind the character like Darksiders, the 3D Legend of Zelda games, and Witcher 3, as well as 1st person games like the Elder Scrolls and Mass Effect franchises, are classified as action-RPGs too. WoW itself can be considered an action-RPG with tab-targeting.


None of those games are called “ARPG” in the PC space because none of them are Diablo clones. (Much like how Multiplayer Online Battle Arena could mean many things, but in actuality is referring to DOTA clones.) Games that involve furious mouse clicking to dart back and forth, wipe out hordes of enemies in a few shots, showering you with randomly generated loot, and forcing you to spend a lot of time managing inventory and equipment/stats. You see the word “Twitch” bandied about for Tera and the like because the game doesn’t fit that at all. In fact needing good reflexes to dodge things isn’t even a core part of what makes an “ARPG.”

There have been plenty of non-isometric 3D games under that definition, but on the PC side the consensus is that it basically sucked and you need isometric to make the interface work for mouse pointers, which lets you quickly and accurately pinpoint where to target and where to move towards. Something like how 3D fighting games and platformers are an endangered species now, but more extreme.

Every true Zelda fan knows those games aren’t even RPGs, because there aren’t levels, experience, or character stats, and all of your upgrades are item-based unlocks set down in preset locations or shops. Zelda practically created the “action-adventure” genre whichever dimension its in.


I think they would work well as a GW1 style game: MMO Lobby, Multi/Single player adventure world.


I seem to be reading the question differently to everyone else. It’s not that it’s an ARPG or that it’s isometric, I think Torchlight is going to make a rubbish MMO because it has the blandest of bland settings. I played most of the first game and dipped my toe in the second and I can remember literally nothing about it.



One of the biggest things people like about torchlight is the visual style.


This is a loaded question. Why? Sci-fi/fantasy both qualify as action. So yes it is good for MMO material.