Perfect Ten: Ten MMOs I was very wrong about

    
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Perfect Ten: Ten MMOs I was very wrong about

Here’s a not-actually-very-secret bit of honesty about the industry that I have been working in for about a decade now: I am not actually right all of the time.

I say it’s not actually secret because, well, I talk about this a lot. I make my guesses and understandings clear, I play my cards on the table, and I figure I’m right about 65% of the time or so. That’s good! That’s better than a coin flip, but it also represents the immense pile of uncertainty that goes along with, well, basically everything. You do the best you can.

This also means that there are a heap of games that I am, in various ways, very wrong about. And so today I want to talk about those because it’s easy fodder for a full list article and sometimes that’s what you need. Also, because admitting when we’re wrong is part of the pathway to being credible when you are right.

Who's laughing now?

1. The Elder Scrolls Online

At launch, I didn’t see a whole lot of point to The Elder Scrolls Online. I mean, I’ve never seen much point to the series in the first place, but the actual game I played was lackluster at best and it seemed to mostly be there to be exactly what the name on the tin indicated. I figured that the developers would lose interest once the franchise fans left.

Turns out that not only was that not the case: The developers worked hard to deliver a better and more compelling game over time that doubled down on what worked while moving on from the stuff that didn’t. Seriously, I wouldn’t pretend the game is flawless, but when I played it for Choose My Adventure ages ago, I was genuinely impressed. It got turned around! It did a big glow-up.

Whoops.

2. Astellia Online

This one doesn’t exactly sting, but the game honestly seemed like it had the potential to advance into a solid mid-tier offering. However… at this point it also feels like it’s one bad month away from shuttering, because it never really connected with an audience and has struggled to find its footing in any market. It’s not exactly major potential lost, but I thought that the game would at least make good on its promise to un-genderlock stuff.

Cool drinks.

3. Black Desert

Black Desert has nothing but gender locks. It has also never promised to remove them, which is not actually commendable. And frankly, leading into launch it looked like the game had pretty graphics but not much meat on its bones to actually facilitate the fun. I really didn’t think this one had legs, especially after ArcheAge.

If you’re wondering why I made that comparison, well, that’s an illustration of my being wrong! Turns out that this one managed to get that blend of open PvP danger and other things to do right in a way that the latter title stumbled on. Good for Pearl Abyss, really! It wasn’t my cuppa, but I was wrong about its prospects.

All I remember is that he was African-American.

4. Final Fantasy XIV

I genuinely thought that the relaunch of this title was going to be a moderate success at best, not a huge hit that is not only held up as a sign of how to do a subscription game right but one that has an army of fans and a plethora of people coming in to try the game reliably. And I am so happy to be wrong.

Oh boy oh boy.

5. Chronicles of Elyria

I genuinely thought that this one was going to be a failure. And it was, but I was genuinely expecting a failure at launch with a game that was ambitious but barely functional and not very fun. I was not expecting the whole thing to collapse into a kleptocratic turd pile that’s ending in litigation.

Only 90s kids

6. Marvel Heroes

Has it finally happened? Have I decided that Marvel Heroes was actually good? Well… not exactly. I still think Marvel Heroes was, essentially, a Marvel skin on what was a basic Diablo riff. In my eyes, that was a case of “who is going to want to play that?”

The answer was a lot of people, as it turned out! I might have not been wrong about what this was, but I was wrong as heck about how many people were here for that, and the genuine sense of loss and trauma about the game’s shutdown (even apart from the supremely garbage way it was announced) is notable. I was very wrong about the game’s impact.

We are all alone.

7. No Man’s Sky

If it weren’t clear, a lot of these are things I was happy to be wrong about. I wasn’t wrong about expecting that No Man’s Sky was writing checks that no game would be able to cash. The bright side is that once that launch happened… updates happened. Refinement happened. It was just last week I talked about how the game is the real success story for iterative development, and I’ll stand by that.

This, uh. This was a thing.

8. Star Wars: The Old Republic

Here’s the funny thing. If you traveled back in time to talk with me in, say, November of 2011, I would happily say that there is definitely a market for a story-based MMO that gives you a variety of interesting character options and lets you play out a largely linear storyline. Sure, it’s a game that’ll need to add more things in, like housing and more character choices and more story, but the foundational ideas there can definitely sustain a hit. And we did, in fact, get that… with the FFXIV reboot.

Star Wars: The Old Republic unfortunately didn’t hit that mark, and it feels odd because it really should have. I’ve talked a lot about where the game has stumbled over the years, and it hurts every time; this is a game I wanted to love so much. But as for how it delivered on its promise over time… well, the best analogy I can make is that when the game shut down its roleplaying servers and thus ensured I was never going back, ever, for any reason? It felt more like relief than anything. Like “at least I won’t be tempted again.”

Pity. There was a time I was really hoping to get a job at SWTOR Insider.

dang

9. WildStar

There are layers to this joke. Like onions. Or wholly avoidable tragedies wrought by people in charge making bad decisions.

Pshew.

10. AdventureQuest 3D

I really felt like AdventureQuest 3D was going to make a way bigger impact than it did. I thought this thing had the potential to light stuff on fire. And it didn’t, sadly. But you know… that’s all right. No, really, it’s fine because even though it didn’t become the Next Big Thing, it did actually do fine for itself. It keeps getting updates and new content, it makes its fans happy, it clearly has a nonstop array of concerts going on within it.

Hey, it’s possible to be wrong, but for the result of wrong to not be doom and gloom or insane success. Sometimes you just get things wrong, you know?

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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Schmidt.Capela

I still think Marvel Heroes was, essentially, a Marvel skin on what was a basic Diablo riff.

Which is exactly what was so great about it. A game that implemented some of the best things Diablo did, plus some features Diablo never implemented despite players truly craving for — such as mounts — with characters that are actually relatable and enjoyable in a game world that isn’t depressing.

To be quite frank, and having played every Diablo game and their respective expansions, I had more fun with Marvel Heroes Online than I ever had with anything from the Diablo franchise.

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T

I still don’t get how BDO was a success. I played it and HATED it. Seriously, between the gender locks, the constant hard sell and upsell tactics and absurdly grindy nature of everything… and that god-awful story. BDO is a weird example of a game that’s popular while still doing everything wrong, and I genuinely don’t understand how. Every other mention on this list I get, but BDO? Ugh… never again.

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Morgan

Massively OP’s greatest credit is the sheer honesty of its writers.

I remember reading an article that I think was throwing shade at New World and it was so phenomenally knowledgeable, wanting to better the industry, and stacked with integrity that I was just blown away.

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Utakata

From a Gnome’s perspective who hasn’t played it yet, it appears that BDO did mostly everything right accept for the gender locks…

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Bryan Turner

I felt the same way about SWTOR, it should have been right up their in S Tier with WoW, ESO, and FF14 but EA was too focused on the short term and failed to realize MMO success is organic and a long term project.

If EA had any brains, which it doesn’t they would redo SWTOR from the ground up like ESO did with One Tamriel or FF14 Reborn, then start following the ESO Blueprint for Content Releases.

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Kero Kero

We all knew black desert was going to be a hit. its pretty, the combat is good, and there’s a bunch of chores…which people seem to love..

Astellia was cute but had no substance. it was a definite flop.

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Anstalt

As always, im a bit annoyed that you included a few non-MMOs in a list about MMOs (no mans sky and swtor), but whatever, par for the course these days.

Beyond that, good article.

I also have a feeling that more of your predictions would have been accurate had the mmo market been more healthy. Games like FFXIV and ESO would not have been successes if AAA games kept releasing. ESO simply wouldn’t have had the chance to keep investing on itself if there were strong competitors around, the players would all have jumped ship shortly after launch. The fact that there have been no AAA releases since ESO is the only reason it has had the success it had.

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Kero Kero

swotr is an mmo????

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Rahayan_Darkleaf

First off, SWTOR is an MMO, and No Man’s Sky too, for that matter.

Second, the argument that you make about ESO simply stands for other games too. WoW for example. It had a popular franchise behind it (like ESO), and for the people that wanted a more laid back MMO that wasn’t brutally punishing its players, WoW simply had no competitors.

ESO doubled down on the Elder Scrolls feeling, the world itself, its rich history and lore, and freedom of choice, something the Elder Scrolls series is known for.

Same goes for FFXIV. It still had the Final Fantasy brand, a very well known and popular franchise around the world.

WoW, FFXIV and ESO have one thing in common: the strong branding. So people are more willing to stick it out.

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Anstalt

SWTOR has a player cap of 75 (or at least it did when I played it). 75 people is not enough to make it massively multiplayer.

In not sure what the player cap is on NMS, but a quick google tells me the player cap is 16 people. Are you telling me that a game that only allows 16 people to play together is massively multiplayer?!?!? Thats less than Call of Duty, and that sure as hell isn’t an MMO!

I will agree that the strong branding is what helps ESO and FFXIV, but I stand by my lack of competition argument. ESO took quite a while to build up the community it has today and I’m just not convinced that they’d have been able to hang onto as many people as they did if there had been stiff competition at the time. If other big-brand MMOs released after ESO did, then I think we’d have seen ESO go the same route as LotRO and Age of Conan: a dedicated, loyal fanbase, but nowhere near the size it currently enjoys.

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Schmidt.Capela

SWTOR has a player cap of 75 (or at least it did when I played it). 75 people is not enough to make it massively multiplayer.

Any game with a mega-server architecture — and, thus, that can spin new zone instances at will to spread players between them — is going to have this kind of cap. The devs figure how many players in the same place make for the most enjoyable experience and set the servers to spin new instances every time you have more than that number of players.

This also includes games that merely implemented the on-demand instancing/layering part of the Mega-Servers tech, such as WoW and LotRO, BTW.

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Minimalistway

Still upset about Marvel Heroes, what a waste! i’m hoping someone will revive the game, or even turn it into single-player game.

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overbyte

I need a rerelease as a local coop console game so I can keep playing with my youngest. I’d drop 30 quid on that with everything unlocked

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Robert Mann

Agreed in most cases.

ESO… did things that pleased many, but which personally drove me away. There are multiple reasons why, and none of them seem to be lessons they have learned. In fact, one of the things I felt was most interesting was that world content actually required some thought and planning. It wasn’t just run and gun. There were some places that needed tuned down… but for most of the content it was an MMO that finally had a little strategy to combat, even if other aspects of the combat were pretty bad (and remain pretty bad). Then, they listened to those who want to overwhelm everything outside instanced combat, and the game was never nearly as much fun. Suddenly I was back to seeing how many instances I could solo for any challenge whatsoever. The answer was almost all of them, including some raid bosses. Results? Given that on top of other issues, I left and never looked back.

Astellia: They focused too much on a mixture of grind and content rushers. If you didn’t play enough to get the good gear and drops early on, you were behind by months, unless somebody took pity on you and ran you through content. The rest of things beyond the combat and summon systems were pretty bland too, excepting perhaps the completion system for different things. Too bad that too got locked behind insane levels of grind at the end, with a very low rng result required to finish that cost enough that the first zone was still out of reach by max level. It’s a tale of a game that pushed grind and punished not playing 24/7 at the start far too hard, losing much of what audience they had.

CoE: Yeah, there were positives and negatives there, but was something that had ambitions to hit areas that are left on the cutting table too often. Something with those aspects would have been interesting, but from beginning to end everything they did was a buggy mess. I believed it would launch in a very poor and buggy state as well, but was hoping to see at least a few interesting things that might spur further thought across the genre.

NMS: The problem with NMS was that it was in the dictionary under ‘over-hyped’. The work done after is deserving of recognition, although the limited multiplayer counts are somewhat of an issue still. It would be very interesting to get smaller areas on some servers that can handle more people, but it seems unlikely from the current situation.

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styopa

#9 /win So much, I’d probably have made that your closer.
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