Perfect Ten: The biggest MMO surprises of 2018

    
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That is definitely a thing.

Everyone loves surprises, right? Not always. Even good surprises can be a disruption of our comfortable routines, and bad ones can downright ruin a day. Yet surprises keep life interesting — and keep us tuning in to MMORPG news day in and day out. As I’ve said many times in the MOP office, you never know what this wacky industry is going to throw at us today!

As we continue to wrap up 2018, in this column we will be looking at the biggest MMO surprises that happened this year. While some of these might also be big news stories, the qualifying factor is that each and every one of these stories was largely unexpected and even shocking (despite what hindsight prognosticators in the comments will claim). What made our eyebrows shoot up and our discussion come alive in 2018? Check it out!

hey jude

Final Fantasy XIV announces its first “limited” job, the Blue Mage

While its update cadence is incredibly predictable, FFXIV does know how to surprise its fans every now and then. At the Las Vegas Fan Festival in November, Square Enix revealed that it was indeed bringing the difficult-to-conceptualize Blue Mage to the game — but in a twist, the job was coming in a “limited” format (i.e., it would be to overpowered for group content) and in a straight-up patch rather than an expansion. Delight, dismay, and discussion quickly ensued.

Trion Worlds closes, sells off its MMO library

There are some closures that you could see coming from a mile away, but the rapid collapse and dissolution of Trion Worlds was not one that most fans predicted. The studio had been a fairly strong tentpole within the MMO community, fielding a wide range of games that should have kept the studio afloat due to its diverse portfolio. But the still-unknown saga of financial woes going on behind the scene apparently contributed to a fire sale to Gamigo back in October, sending shockwaves through Trion’s communities.

CCP is sold to… Pearl Abyss?

Yeah, so if you said that you saw this coming, you are a bald-faced liar. What would a Korean studio want with an Icelandic one? But the whole situation did make a strange sort of sense after some analysis, as both Black Desert and EVE Online are in the MMO sandbox business. And while some EVE players predicted the end of the world, it seems to be business as usual ever since.

Studio Wildcard’s Atlas appears out of nowhere

By the end of the year, we’re supposed to know pretty much everything that we’re going to get before December 31st. But nope, Studio Wildcard had a crazy ace up its sleeve — a 40,000-player pirate MMO called Atlas that it was going to push out the door before the holidays hit. Players (and us!) scrambled to come to terms with this out-of-the-blue MMO, but we were not complaining.

World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth sells strong but flounders hard

Without much summer competition, Battle for Azeroth surged to one of World of Warcraft’s strongest-selling expansions ever. Yet despite praise for the new zones and storylines, the playerbase quickly turned on this release, calling it “Legion leftovers” — and worse. A lackluster BlizzCon showing, harried developer responses, and a “more of the same” Patch 8.1 didn’t help matters either.

Diablo Immortal. Just everything about it.

Speaking of missed opportunities, Blizzard drummed up hype and expectations for a massive Diablo reveal at BlizzCon — and then completely misread its core audience by bounding out with a mobile game that PC players clearly did not want. While it might be a smart financial move in the long run, Blizzard walked away from the convention with a black eye and a whole lot of regret. At least we got a couple fun memes out of it.

Lord of the Rings Online opens up not one, but two progression servers

Middle-earth inhabitants craving something new to do were (by and large) delighted when Standing Stone Games announced that it would be opening up a pair of progression servers that would foster a community of players that wanted to go back through the entire game together. While a massive initial success, the servers have since calmed down as players await the next unlock.

Riot Games’ culture of sexism is cracked open

I don’t think anyone was really shocked to hear that Riot’s inner culture was rife with sexism, harassment, elitism, and preferrential treatment, but it was pretty stunning to see how an investigative essay managed to force the wider gaming community to take notice of how gross the studio was being. Since August, Riot’s made noise about reforms, but further investigations and lawsuits still show that this scandal isn’t anywhere near to being addressed.

World of Warcraft burns a big tree and everyone gets bothered by it

Let’s return to World of Warcraft one last time, because it’s easy to forget just how up in arms the entire community got when Blizzard handled the very expected burning of Teldrassil in a very non-expected way. The over-the-top villainy of Sylvanas, the ham-handed fashion that Blizzard tried to reintroduce conflict between the factions, and about a billion other lore concerns created equal measures of shock and awe.

Bethesda shows how presentations and reveals are done at E3

Who would have thought that this year’s best and most surprising presentation would have been Bethesda? But that’s indeed what happened with the studio took to the stage at E3 with a seemingly unending string of “just one more!” reveals. From Elder Scrolls Online DLC to the announcement of Fallout 76 to the reveal of a mobile Elder Scrolls game to hints of major future games in the works, the livestream had all of us glued to the screen and bouncing in our seats.

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at justin@massivelyop.com or eliot@massivelyop.com with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”
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Siphaed

Seems most surprise announcements were junk or resulted in junk.

Fallout 76 was nowhere near ready for 2018 and has left a permanent scar on the Studio’s reputation.

Atlas was nothing more than an ARK expansion made independent from the game in order to…I’m thinking they just wanted to say “Hey, we have a new game! With pirates! And it’s not ARK! Ark-like, but not Ark!” It brought them attention. Some have the insinuation that the Season Pass would have required OCEANS to be inclusive with it and thus the separation and name change. However, they’re required no more than the three currently included in the Season Pass and could have sold OCEANS separately as a non-included DLC for ARK. It doesn’t say all future content, just those expansions of that “season”. However the whole different studio, different game, not at all ARK (but totally is) seems super shady and is just bothersome to a degree.

Trion closing sucks. Less competition and innovative ideas among the MMO-verse.

CCP…not really a surprise. How much money did they waste on DUST 514? Or their other ideas? The VR version? Ya. Oh, and can’t forget the vampire game cancelled. All they’ve stuck with ever is EVE, while everything else trying to branch has broken. Their tree stands tall, but thin and wilting. Aging has not done it well and they sold it just before the rotting begins.

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rafael12104

Hmm. Ok. I like this top 10 list. A few notes and some honorable mentions.

-I’m not really surprised about Trion, but the timing was weird. Right before the holidays? Hmm. Must be tied to 4th quarter earnings don’t you think? As in, get it done before EoY/EoQ so the value of the company isn’t at jack shit.

-Atlas! Heh. We’ve talked a good bit about that reskin of Ark. I didn’t think that Grapeshit, aka Wildcard, was brazen enough to try to pull off this type of cash grab. I was wrong.

Honorable mentions: Battlefield V (EA) and Destiny 2 (Activision). These two games have been unmitigated disasters and both EA and Activision suffered huge devaluations in stock in the 4th quarter. The surprise isn’t really the failure of these games, but rather in the reaction in by markets which is usually just a slap on the hand. Not this time, boys!

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bobfish

I find it interesting that BFV and D2 aren’t performing well, when something like Atlas is. Destiny 2 is complete hit or miss for me, I enjoy the gun play and story content (to an extent), but the main attractions of the game (pvp and raiding) are just plain awful compared to either a proper shooter or a proper MMO.

Battlefield 5 is actually something I’m enjoying a lot, the gameplay is tight and well tuned, with half decent maps. But it feels like half a game when compared to ALL of the previous entries. Eight maps, a handful of weapons and equipment for each class, very limited number of vehicles and a weak progression system. Mind you, I thought BF1 was a bit rubbish too, so I guess it is hard to follow on from the wealth of content and options they had in BF3 and BF4.

Atlas though… I mean there is a certain sense of fun, gathering the resources, crafting a raft, then fitting it out with necessary items for a trip (bed, fire, storage). Then setting sail off to a distant island in search of somewhere to settle. Trouble is, once you get out there into the wider world, the game just becomes a griefer haven its nearly impossible to do anything.

Grapeshot, Wildcard and Snail Games are not small companies. They make hundreds of millions of dollars every year as a group. Yet they continue to throw out unfinished, broken games. Ark, Dark & Light and now Atlas.

One day someone will make a game like this with some actual quality control and they’ll lose every player.

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rafael12104

Yup. I looked at Battlefield 5 carefully as I was a huge fan of BF2. And basically, they launched with 3/4 of a game with a promise that other modes, weapons, and maps would be unlocked later. But there was no hiding the fact that the game was incomplete.

And, as you stated, essentially old BF players saw that and didn’t see anything appreciably new. The results are horrible sales that shocked their investors.

Wildcard or Grapeshot, whatever they want to call themselves, are just following their old business model which is cash grabs no matter the consequences of poor quality. I wonder of Snail Games even understands what they are doing. Maybe they don’t’ care as long as the money tumbles in, but this is certainly nothing new for Wildcard.

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PanagiotisLial1

The answer to this regarding Snail Games USA is simple:

Notice Age of Wushu(launched) as Wulin in europe for a while life circle

It was a game with great promise and very unique in sandbox market with a lot of successful concepts no other game done, nor does today. You can easily find info on the net about it.

And what did they do? Started making less and less updates, not delivering good enough servers, hiding instead promoting the game on their lists, letting hackers rampart all while slowly monetising every aspect of the game to milk remaining players. Last time I visited you couldnt even level gathering skills anymore unless you subscribed – that was the last straw for me

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Bryan Correll

Was the Riot crap really a surprise to anyone?

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Utakata

Same with BfA’s success ‘n flail. I don’t think that should of been a surprise to anyone. >.<

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Bruno Brito

It shouldn’t be. But it was, considering that Riot was considered to be a pretty progressive company ( Or it was just something that we all wanted it to be, when you think about their responses for Taliyah being ugly ).

Never again.

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Anton Mochalin

I don’t get why Riot’s corporate culture is an issue for gamers. It’s an issue for law enforcement, for corporate lawyers, for shareholders, but as a gamer I don’t care about that, the only thing that matters is if LoL a good game or not.

bereman99
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bereman99

For some gamers, knowing what kind of culture/company is being supported by the money spent on the products from that company are important.

Or did you really think all of us should fall in the “is game good or not, don’t care about the rest” category?

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Mr Ish

Was this typed on an iPhone, or Chinese equivalent by chance? All of whom are stand-up businesses …🤔

#JustSaying

bereman99
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bereman99

Nope.

Might want to confirm your point has legs before you get all preachy.

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Mr Ish

Oh ok, sure 😉.

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Kickstarter Donor
Ken from Chicago

If a toxic culture is tolerated or even promoted within the game company, how likely will they root said toxic culture from the game and players in the game–if not actively encouraged in the game?

Random MMO fan
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Random MMO fan

I actually agree – yea it sucks for employees to be abused BUT they can always deal with it in multiple ways (leave company, sue them, etc.) but as a gamer all it matters to me is whether the game is still fun to play or not. And if the game stops being fun – there are many other choices.

Bree Royce
Staff
Bree Royce

Even if you don’t care about the devs personally, you should at least care that really good developers are being chased out of gaming and into other fields because gaming’s corporate culture is dated and gross. The developer bleed and churn is significant. Ultimately, it means shittier games.

Random MMO fan
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Random MMO fan

Ultimately, it means shittier games

This is a very… strange assumption ;-)

I have greatly enjoyed many recent games by developers like Guerilla Games (which are doing well, quietly working on other projects) and their excellent Horizon:Zero Dawn, or Atlus (another non-controversial company known for their quality work) and their Persona games or PlatinumGames (which is another non-controversial company that is still active) and their Nier:Automata, SquareEnix (everyone knows them and what they actually did when initial FFXIV failed) and CD Project Red (who are also doing well, regardless of VERY few employees who had minor issues with them) and I am 100% sure that all of those will continue to focus on delivering high-quality games (instead of creating any kind of controversies around them) and providing plenty of working opportunities to other talented people.

And even if one of those will go through various controversies and will eventually disappear – I am sure some other newer company will take up their space (in terms of making “non-shittier” games and providing non-controversial working environment). So I don’t think I will ever have to suffer through bad games with no other options available by any other company.

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Bruno Brito

This is a very… strange assumption ;-)

It isn’t. Less developers means less talents. Less developers means more overworked developers.

Also, gamers with no conscience means that the industry will be way more predatory. This hurts developers, hurts culture and ultimately hurts gamers.

Bree Royce
Staff
Bree Royce

This, plus it’s not an assumption – it’s a serious problem confronting an industry where people are staying a few years and leaving right when they have the expertise to advance the medium. We’re already suffering from shittier games than we ought to have right now, thanks to the way video game companies are run.

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Bruno Brito

It’s actually a staple on MOP. Several posters were members or had contact with the games industry as developers, and went to other fields of work because the gaming industry is just shitty overall for them.

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PanagiotisLial1

I think part of why we see more boring and soul-less products is devs arent having fun making them anymore. There is a lot of toxicity in the industry itself(for all reasons you mentioned) and on the gamers who are generally pessimistic nowadays. Add to that their level of creativity is hindered often by some board of investors that helped fund their product(because games are simply too expensive to make nowadays)

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Bruno Brito

Pretty much. I’m nota dev worshipper because i don’t think anyone is above guilt in this case. We’re all to blame. Some more than others ( those who own the biggest sums of money can force the spin of said industry, but we DO finance that ).

Makes sense they’re not having fun making them anymore, since it’s top down just business now, You deliver a product for box sales and minimal support.

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Sean Napolitano

Honestly, I was blown away by the progress on Shroud of the avatar. I know it isnt for everyone, but its so deep, and you have to figure things out. They gave a large qty of entertaining challenging material to give me hope for the future. Its also one of the best community experiences i have ever had.

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PanagiotisLial1

Same here, I sometimes wonder if other people who are too negative talk on same game but sandbox games in general, especially those that use keyword dialogue arent for everyone

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Sean Napolitano

that damn red cloth quest in soltown.

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PanagiotisLial1

Didnt find that quest too hard due to talking to about all, fell into the “suspect” and it gave me some choices on how I want to act – I dont want to spoil it though

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eris19xx

2018 was a failure as it was 2017 and so on … the shame of any softwarehouse that is not able to produce something that could find the name of mmorpg. The only mmorpg was Archeage but it was ruined due to Trion’s inability. to handle a mmorpg

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PanagiotisLial1

There are many mmos that tend to the RPG part of MMORPG but usually are smaller productions, like Project Gorgon/Shroud of the Avatar and older game. For Archeage I tried it a long time ago, I absolutely hated the limit to gather/craft that reminded browser games

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Oleg Chebeneev

Lost Ark alone is enough to not call 2018 a failure.

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Sorenthaz

Blizzard at Blizzcon this year basically did the exact opposite of what Bethesda did at E3. Bethesda did an expert job at juggling their highs and lows, and ended it off with a reveal that got the crowd cheering even if ES6 is potentially years away from releasing. Blizzard meanwhile didn’t juggle at all. They threw out their biggest reveals early and ended on the worst announcement. All they needed to do to end it on a positive note was to put Diablo Immortal near the middle and have Warcraft 3: Reforged be the last announcement if they were still afraid of committing to a Diablo 4 teaser.

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Oleg Chebeneev

Good read. Atlas was the biggest surprise for me. Really came out of nowhere.
Btw what limited job in FF14 means? Will it be available for some time and then character vanishes or how does it work?

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Bruno Brito

Apparently, the limited jobs aren’t allowed in some instances of content. What i gathered from this article is: Blue Mages cannot enter instances because they would be overpowered.

This seems like a excuse to not just work on spell numbers.

bereman99
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bereman99

I don’t think it’s the spell numbers that are the issue – it’s the balancing around the possible combinations that come when you have 49 abilities (at the jobs launch – they have 129 designed and waiting for when the job’s level is increased, as per a recent interview) and can choose 24 of those at any given time.

Taking all the feasible combinations there and making sure they are both not overpowered and not underpowered sounds like a real chore.

I’m also not sure it would actually be that much fun to play a job that is mostly broken/OP in the open world and in non-synced/pre-made party content, but is then nerfed into a constricted range (possibly even removing abilities I normally would use from any and all levels – its annoying enough with level sync, but at least past a certain point I have access to everything) when doing certain other types of content.

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Bruno Brito

I’m also not sure it would actually be that much fun to play a job that is mostly broken/OP in the open world and in non-synced/pre-made party content, but is then nerfed into a constricted range (possibly even removing abilities I normally would use from any and all levels – its annoying enough with level sync, but at least past a certain point I have access to everything) when doing certain other types of content.

Don’t think that’s really an issue. But i don’t know why give 49 spells to a class.

You could just make some of these be overlaps of other classes, and make said class choose rotations.

bereman99
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bereman99

I take it you are not familiar with Blue Mage.

In most of its incarnations, its been about being a job where you around collect abilities from enemies, then use those abilities.

The reason they have access to 49 (they aren’t given them, they have to go and fight the various enemies to learn and collect) should then be self-evident. The job is about collecting a wide variety of abilities, then using various combinations in combat. The more abilities you have to choose from when selecting a set of 24, the more variations that are possible, and by extension the greater number of challenges they can design in the Masked Carnivale (or any follow-up similar content) that make use of mixing and matching.

Also, having it just copy other classes rotations would be the laziest option they could have chosen AND not matched with what a BLU is supposed to be about. We can already switch between the rotations of various jobs by actually being those jobs easily on a single character – BLU would bring nothing new to the table by doing it that way.

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Loopy

It’s limited in the sense that it will not be used like all other classes, in group content like dungeons and raids. Due to its class design (stealing spells and abilities from mobs) it would be hard to tune and balance it.

bereman99
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bereman99

The major restriction is that it is limited in how it accesses dungeon content/trials/raids.

It can go in with a pre-formed party for content that allows that (minus the Palace of the Dead/Heaven on High leveling dungeon, but that may have more to do with how levels and abilities are handled there, which is different than in other places) approach to entering, up to that jobs level cap at the time.

Anything that uses just the Duty Roulette system, or accessing dungeons/trials through the Duty Roulette system (the system that matches players together) is also something they are limited from using.

Instead of level-cap dungeons and such, they get their own solo duty that includes time trials, challenge objectives (like finishing without taking damage, etc)., that will received updates over time, along with the job itself as it has its level increased (outside of the very level increase coming with the first patch after 5.0, we don’t know the cadence for this increase).

Grimalkin
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Grimalkin

Who the hell is praising the BfA storylines? I’m genuinely curious.

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Ironwu

Head over to the Best Expansion post and you will find Oleg and James singing the praises of BfA.

Nothing wrong with having fun in BfA, of course. It is just that in my opinion it is a substandard expansion and probably the worst in the history of WoW. Not the biggest mistake, that goes to Cataclysm. BfA is just so much nothing really new at all.

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Oleg Chebeneev

Funny how opinions vary since Cataclysm was in my opinion the best expansion in WoW history followed by MoP

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Ironwu

MoP is one of my favorites as well. I always get a good feeling when an alt makes it to there. :)

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Bruno Brito

WoD is the biggest mistake in WoW. Cata was ok-ish until the nerfs. And the revamp was too streamlined. Also, the art style was too cavernous, flaming and boring.

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PanagiotisLial1

I liked Cataclysm too but I liked WotLK more to be honest

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Oleg Chebeneev

Probably over a million people

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Ironwu

I would swap out LotRO (because there is really nothing to see there), and swap in the closure of Carbine studio and the sunsetting of Wildstar.

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Dave Ward

I wouldn’t. The servers were unexpected and many (obviously not you) enjoy them. The sunsetting of Wildstar, while sad, was only surprising in that it took longer then most thought it would.

Cadaver
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Loyal Patron
Cadaver

Do you genuinely think that the long expected sunsetting of Wildstar was more of a surprise than the popularity of Lotro’s legendary servers? Because the latter certainly blindsided me!

I really was not expecting those crazy login queues at launch nor would I ever have imagined that there would be sufficient demand to require a second server. If you all saw that coming then I should salute your superior powers of prediction. But again, to be surprised by Wildstar’s sunset?