Massively Overthinking: Why aren’t you playing the MMO most like your favorite sunsetted game?

They're not attractive spaceships.

This week’s Massively Overthinking question comes to us from reader Smuggler-in-a-YT.

Star Wars Galaxies had its problems, but the sense of community, purpose, and story (through its Star Wars IP) created this amazing space. If SWTOR ain’t it, what MMO is closest in spirit and/or function to the SWG that was? And why aren’t more people playing it? I’m interested in this answer because over the past 18 months I’ve gone through just about every AAA MMO and been disappointed. And yet, games like SWG just keep people coming back.”

Not all of our writers played SWG, so I think we should open this question up to be a bit more broad. Lots of fan-favorite games have closed down over the years, from City of Heroes and Vanguard to Marvel Heroes and Tabula Rasa. Most of those players probably went on to something else, but I suspect few of them ever found something similar enough to feel that hole’s been filled. So today’s question is two-fold: What MMO is most like your favorite sunsetted MMO, and why aren’t you in it?

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): No surprise, Asheron’s Call stole my heart – 1 and 2. While I know 1 has an emulator, I haven’t gone back because I play games to meet new people, and these days, I prefer to meet people in person. Now, that doesn’t mean I avoid traditional MMOs, but I do gravitate towards games people can talk about, and a game that’s fallen out of the public eye is hard to discuss with potential new friends.

That doesn’t mean the games or communities are completely irrelevant. I still bring up some of AC’s events, dungeons that interact with each other, and my experience with a very forgetful guy who alternated between helping me “home” and asking me why I was following him, and people can appreciate that. I just feel I got everything I can from the game’s and need to play someplace new to make new memories.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): This question would’ve had a pretty different answer from me had it been posed a year ago; prior to last summer, I’d have simply said there wasn’t really anything out there even close to Star Wars Galaxies, so there’s nothing to play to recapture it all in one game. I had to play several games to get the same feel in pieces and slices and bits, and mostly I had given up. But the emulators have come such a staggeringly long way, and now I’m contenting myself over there. Modern studios don’t want my money? Well, OK then!

The City of Heroes emulator, however, isn’t quite in the same position, striving as it does to avoid legal wrath, and my answer here might be more helpful. There’s nothing like City of Heroes for me because City of Heroes wasn’t first and foremost a superhero game to me. Superheroes aren’t really a thing I fangirl over to begin with; my attraction to the game was more for its extreme customization and gameplay freedom rather than for the specific setting. The existing superhero MMOs are fine games but not really at all like CoH; I’d actually argue classic Guild Wars is most like CoH than any other game, which is no surprise given its pedigree and timeline, but I’ve played that to death as well, and it’s in maintenance mode.

I do think that on some level I’ve felt content to just wait for the Next Right Game to come along sometimes than keep chasing second- or third-best and feeling repeatedly disappointed. The fact that SWGL has obsessed me so much (seven months in and I can hardly pull myself away from it!) is comforting in a way because it proved to me I’m not over MMORPGs and that it wasn’t just about nostalgia.

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): Whew, am I glad this question didn’t narrow its focus to SWG because I missed that boat completely and am only now starting to find some enjoyment in the sandbox MMO. On point: My chosen sunsetted game is City of Heroes, and boy howdy are there a few games that miss the mark so hard they may as well be set in Tolkien fantasy. The first two that immediately spring to mind are Champions Online and DC Universe Online. At the brass tacks level, yea, they’re MMOs set in a superheroic world where you can create your own comic book character, but there’s just something lost in translation when stacked up against CoX. DCUO just feels like it leans on the strength of its IP too hard to really create any sort of interesting world, and Champions Online just feels like a smash-and-grab rush job instead of a passion project.

What’s missing the most from those games when compared to CoX, however, is the community. The sense that the people in the game are really engaged and want you to join them. There’s still lots of people who would rather boot up a graphical chatbox of the old City of Heroes instead of play your fully featured superhero MMO. That’s sayin’ something. There are other issues with DCUO and CO, too, but those are the most immediately apparent to me.

Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): I may be the iconoclast or the odd one out, but the reality is that I’m not looking for something to fill the spot left by sunsetted game that mattered to me. Obviously I didn’t play Star Wars Galaxies (and still have no interest in it), but I did play City of Heroes. And it’s really easy to point to games that are like it in various ways, but the thing is that I’m not looking for a game to fill the niche it left behind. I’m not looking for a game at all. I’m looking to enjoy myself and feel like my time is being rewarded. So, for example: Champions Online. Similar? Yes, very much so! It has a number of things that are similar to CoH. But I’m not playing it because the systems aren’t what made CoH fun for me alone. No, a lot of it was the atmosphere, the people, and the time in my life when I played it.

And that’s a key thing, I think; so long as you’re looking for the closest match to what you had, you’re going to be kind of disappointed because you’re looking for something to fill a hole where things were lost. My personal preference is to let that loss be where it is and put effort into building something new, to finding new loves and moving forward. I couldn’t tell you what game is most like City of Heroes and what serves as the “best” home to replace it, not just because we all have different things that made the game appeal to us, but because I don’t want to replace it in the first place. That’s gone, and I miss it, but it’s still a part of my history, and now I can search for new things.

It's clear now.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): The most obvious and instant answer that comes to mind is Champions Online, as it seems like the perfect grounds to immigrate from the now-defunct City of Heroes. You had the same studio create both games, both of which covered the same genre. Yet as much as I really do miss the solid superhero gameplay of City of Heroes, Champs failed to be sticky for me. While I really love the visuals, character creation options, and freedom in character customization, the combat system and gameplay never felt right to me. Too spammy, too floaty, and not quite as on-the-dot as CoH was. Plus, with Champs receiving so little developer attention, there’s no great incentive to stick around in a has-been game when there are will-be titles on the horizon.

MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): Um, that’s the whole darn problem! No game even comes close to the spirit or function of SWG, hence no one can possibly be playing it! Nothing is even tangentially an approximation. Trust me, I have tried, I have been in just about everything. I used to have hopes at one point, but now I know that just like the awesomeness of ’80s music, the magic that was SWG just cannot be recaptured. Vanguard was making a decent attempt, and look where that got it. This is a hole that I am convinced will never be filled. And that being much sadness. If I am someday proven wrong, I’ll be glad of that. Until then, I challenge games to aspire to use as many of those amazing features as possible in something else, and maybe — just maybe — magic can happen one more time.

Your turn!

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