Massively Overthinking: The MMOs we intentionally avoid

Take care.

A few weeks back, I read a Twitter thread about people who avoid specific games and types of games, and the folks chiming in were all over the map. Some people avoid games that trigger their various addictions; others avoid games that take up too much time, or require too much mousing, or demand voice input, or feature content or player groups they simply can’t stand.

I wanted to put this question to our team this week for Massively Overthinking in the context of MMORPGs specifically. Are there MMOs you intentionally avoid? MMORPGs you refuse to play or refuse to go back to? What’s your motivation?

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): I know I avoid any game that seems like it’s pay to win or asks for huge investments (especially with real money economies), like Entropia and to an extent, EVE. Star Citizen is kind of feeling like that too from an outside perspective.

Games that have me managing a bunch of timers also tend to be out. A few, like the crafting in SWTOR, is one thing, but if even 25% of the game feels like it’s me waiting for timers, I’m out.

Then there’s rehashes. Games that simply aren’t innovating enough. It’s one thing when the genre is still young or I’m new to it (hence my coverage of MMOARGs), but as both a consumer and a paid blogger, anything that stands out as more of the same goes into my mental trash bin. Even some of the new up and comers (sorry Amazon).

I do tend to avoid any MMO that also seems incredibly niche these days, as our genre is already fairly specific, so talking to non-gamers about it is often pretty hard when trying to meet new people. That’s probably a big reason why anything that’s more unique or innovative catches my attention. As much as I loved Asheron’s Call 1, its stories are basically in the past now. If it suddenly became an online detective game where people around the world were pooling information to track down Asheron as if he were Carmen Sandiego, that would probably make for good conversation. Actually, maybe that should be a game pitch. Hmm…

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): First, I know I have a tendency to avoid games that will suck me personally in when I don’t really have time to be sucked in. So sometimes I avoid MMOs I know I will like, not just ones I know aren’t for me.

But I do also avoid MMOs that have developers I know are shady (not just to players, but also to journalists and their own workers), MMOs that make you a ship or vehicle instead of a characters, MMOs whose mechanics have been proven non-starters for 23 years, MMOs with notoriously toxic communities, and MMOs whose sole focus is murderhoboing.

Carlo Lacsina (@UltraMudkipEX), YouTube): Unless there’s a main story quest or my Free Company is doing some community building, I avoid FFXIV these days. There’s something about that community and me that just doesn’t mesh. They’re a nice bunch of folks, but when people start getting passive aggressive or start giving off bad vibes in easy content, it’s when I start feeling a little irked. They’re not a particularly chatty bunch either, and a chatterbox like me just can’t seem to get any interesting discussions out of /shout chat unless it has something to do about anime, video games, and FFXIV. So I get bored easily when I’m in town.

As much as I love grindy Asian MMOs, I also avoid them too. I tend to check out a whole lot of MMOs, and some stick while others dont. Being able to stick with Black Desert Online as long as I have is an achievement in its own right for me. And any other grinder will take time away from that game. Unless I know it’s the next big leap for grindy MMOs, whether it be better tech or just a better way to grind, I stay away from it. With that being said, Elyon’s got me interested… I’ll be walking down the street with BDO, and this sexy new MMO passes by us, locks eyes with me, bites their lip as if to say “come at me big boy” and here I am sweating because I just got back with BDO after our 4th or 5th breakup and I’m ready to run off with this new one.

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): EVE Online. And I really keep trying, genuinely I do, but just… I can’t, man. I just can’t. I want to enjoy a space sandbox, but this one just feels so disconnected from the sensation of exploration and flight, and the community it has is so deeply entrenched to the point that it feels like everyone has done everything and there’s no point to one trying to join in. Also it just controls miserably.

Colin Henry (@ChaosConstant): I tend to avoid subscription-only MMOs. There are too many MMOs and other games that I want to play, and when I start or come back to an MMO, I’m never sure how long I’m going to stick around. I want to be able to jump in and test the waters before I commit to a month of playing. If your game has an optional sub that’s actually worthwhile, I’ll consider it, but if a subscription is the only way in the door, I will probably pass on your game.

I also tend to avoid games that I know force me into a certain type of content at a certain point. If the path from level one to the level cap is all PvE, then the game suddenly becomes a PvP free-for-all, I’m out. I’m similarly turned off by games that force me to run group content to progress the otherwise solo story. It just seems like the game is trying bait-and-switch me into doing a different type of content than what I’ve been enjoying. It’s not that I refuse to do PvP or dungeons or raids, but I want to do these things on my terms, not when the game tells me it’s time to do them.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): While I try to be somewhat open to new MMOs and experiences, I do have a filtering process that weeds some possibilities out. I won’t play a pure PvP anything; there at least has to be the option for PvE or safeguards against unwarranted ganking. I don’t want to spend my gaming time stressed out that some jerk is going to ruin my day. A sub-only model for a title I’ve never played is usually a deal breaker, so a game’s going to need a trial or F2P option to get me in the door. And I have very little interest in most eastern MMO designs. I won’t outright ban them, but I’m incredibly reluctant to play them. That’s more of a gut feeling which can be overcome by positive word-of-mouth and a good track record.

Mia DeSanzo (@neschria): I like to say that I will give anything a chance, but there are some kinds of games that I tend to skirt around unless I hear that they are amazing from sources I trust. Isometric games are on that list. I also tend to avoid fast action 3-D games that are set within enclosed spaces because I am prone to getting motion sickness from games, and those are the worst in that regard. A few games have been short-lived for me for triggering migraines as well, but that’s usually something that I avoid after the fact.

I don’t like most you-are-a-ship space games. I do realize that you’re supposed to be piloting the ship, but if you don’t have an avatar that walks around, I just can’t relate. That might be part of the reason that No Man’s Sky has stuck with me while games like EVE did not. I mainly want to run around on the ground. There have been exceptions though. ( Where are my Trade Wars 2002 people? Yeah. I am that old.)

If the controls of a game don’t click pretty fast for me, I’m out for good. That’s what happened with me and Final Fantasy XI, back in the day. I think I could handle playing it with keyboard and mouse now, but it felt like a game built for controllers (that I didn’t and don’t have).

There are some companies (Daybreak) that I don’t especially like or trust (Daybreak), so I very rarely touch their games. And I am usually disappointed when I do, for one reason or another. (…Daybreak.)

I can’t say that I won’t make a hypocrite of myself on all these points. I will probably end up playing an isometric spaceship game with insanely bad controls published by Daybreak someday. It’s inevitable now that this will be out there in public.

Sam Kash (@thesamkash): Finally an easy one! You can get subscription-only games right the hell out of here. There are simply too many games, too little time, and no where near enough value for me to drop a cent into a sub only game. Let me buy the game and offer me good cosmetics and I’m on board.

Also the game has to have some PvP. I don’t say that just because of my column either. If there isn’t a good way for me to cross swords with other players, then I’m just not going to play. I simply love battling other players. To amend that slightly though, it also needs to have some way of maintaining a level playing field. That might be a max level that isn’t too unobtainable, or an arena mode where stats are normalized.

I don’t think that’s too much to ask for! Two features and giddy up!

Tyler Edwards (blog): I try very hard to keep an open mind where games are concerned, so as much as possible I try to avoid writing off games or genres entirely. Even a game that isn’t appealing today could make changes tomorrow that make it more enjoyable for me. There are some things that make it very unlikely I’ll play a game — like being in early access or having a mandatory subscription — but there can be exceptions if it’s a very special game, or a developer I really trust or something.

There is only a very small selection of games that are hard nos from me. Anything with non-consensual PvP, for one. I’ve also decided that I want nothing to do with Crowfall on account of the arrogant and elitist attitude displayed by the development team in a lot of their communication, especially early on. They’ve made it clear they don’t want someone like me in their game anyway.

Every week, join the Massively OP staff for Massively Overthinking column, a multi-writer roundtable in which we discuss the MMO industry topics du jour – and then invite you to join the fray in the comments. Overthinking it is literally the whole point. Your turn!

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I see a lot of people discuss not like or wanting to avoid games that are pay to win… then go ahead and describe games that could be considered pay to win as ones they want to play. While I also don’t want to play games that feel pay to win, it seems to vary from person to person what that even means. So… perhaps we need some more detailed definitions of pay to win and it’s sub-aspects.

Rodrigo Dias Costa

I’m with the same opinion of Colin, Justin, and Sam. I need to see if the game is worth before committing to a sub. That’s why I mostly play f2p MMOs (Not because I like the monetization, but because most non-f2p ones don’t have any kind of trial or demo, and those who have, mostly don’t show enough of them for me even considering the sub).

Another thing that mostly puts me off is First Person Perspective. That’s why I hate most FPSes. And also I don’t share the hate that most people have with isometric view. It’s actually my preferred camera perspective in gaming (maybe because management and tycoon games are my favorites), but I understand people who doesn’t like it, I just don’t see it as immersion breaking.


So, I had a wake-up call in early 2013: I realised that I’d just spent over a year playing a game that was really crap – SWTOR. I was playing 4-6 nights a week, running my guild, but the game itself wasn’t providing me with any enjoyment. I was basically only playing for my guild.

It made me take a step back and analyse what it was that I wanted from an MMO, why I was playing. Instead of coming up with a list of things that I didn’t like, I came up with a short list of required features. I then told myself I wouldn’t play (or at least pay) any MMO unless it contained all of these four features:

  1. Deep Combat Mechanics – my favourite activity is combat, especially group combat, so I need the combat mechanics to have sufficient depth to keep it interesting for months or years. Sadly, depth has all but disappeared from MMO combat mechanics, replaced with the shallow-but-flashy action combat
  2. Horizontal Progression – after a lot of analysis, I realised that loads of problems in MMOs could be fixed by switching to horizontal progression. Vertical progression segregates the community, makes all content obsolete and often removes the need for player skill, replacing it with stats. What a dumb design!
  3. Objective-based Open World PvP – by open world I mean that it happens in the game world and is not instanced (has no player caps). I love PvP, and I love fighting over keeps and other objectives. This is often the only massively multiplayer feature in an MMORPG. However, I want it to be consensual, not FFA.
  4. An IP that I love – if I’m going to be spending the next few years playing your game, I have to want to spend time in the virtual world. I get put off by very dark / grim themes (like RIFT), as well as by a lot of asian themes (love the monsters and worlds, hate the playable characters). I also get put off by very generic themes (like a lot of the indies in dev)

Sadly, this list does mean that I haven’t found an MMO to play since Feb 2013 when I quit SWTOR. I keep trying out the new ones but keep running up against the same problems. Action combat alone has meant that the majority of new MMOs are an immediate write-off, they’re just so shallow!

Luckily for me, Camelot Unchained meets all four of my criteria. I mean, the IP is a little bit generic for my tastes, but being English I can appreciate the Arthurian background.

Bruno Brito

Try SWG. Maybe you’ll like it and it can be a good middle-ground. Combat is godawful tho.


I do log into SWGEmu every now and again and still enjoy it. Like you say, the combat isnt great. The depth and complexity of the meta-game for templates and gear nearly makes up for it, but not quite.

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Brazen Bondar

Factors which produce an absolute no…won’t even try it for me are:
(1) Nonconsensual PvP – this is an absolute deal breaker for me. I don’t care if others PvP, I just don’t want to be affected by it in any way;
(2) Isometric games – my eyes just don’t like those. Makes it not fun to play them;
(3) Any game where I have to be a ship – because…why would I want to be?
(4) Any game where I either cannot make a Black character or if I do the character has to be a slave or descendant of a slave –looking at you EVE
(5) Any game made by Funcom or Daybreak. Daybreak because …well Daybreak. Need more be said? Funcom because imo the company engaged in unethical practices with the conversion of TSW in SWL. The company does not value customers who supported it financially for years, etc. And as much as I love the DUNE stories, my stomach turns over every time I think of what Funcom is going to turn out for that IP.

Art of Raw Gaming

Hmm.. moving forward, anything made by CCP. As there CEO somehow managed to fit mobile 12 times into one sentence :P

Bryan Correll

Bruno Brito


– Full loot forced PvP.

– Extremely heavyhanded monetization ( Allods is the best example. It takes you YEARS to be come average enough that you can start being useful in raids ).

Honorable Mentions: Genderlock, racelock, generic asian imports, “action”-combat altho it’s passable for me, crowdfunded games with shady practices, games that lack casual features and think that the only endgame is either PvP or Raiding.


PVP. If that isn’t *completely* optional, I’m not even going to look into it farther. Warframe and STO *do* have PVP… locked away in a box, far from the main story and not connected to anything. The people who just MUST have it can go murder each other. Way over there.

Obviously any games that are 100% about killing other players are nothing I’d ever touch. Overwatch gets special mention here. I like the character designs and the story cinematics, but the fact that it’s 100% PVP and the complete lack of actual *in-game* storytelling means that I’d never touch it even if I was still willing to play Activision games.

For survival type games, there needs to be an offline singleplayer mode. Yes, that immediately cancels out any “MMO-ness” the game might have had. Which for me is entirely the point. If I’m going to invest a hundred hours in taming pets and constructing buildings, I want to do it at my own pace and without the worry that my stuff will get wiped, deleted or stolen if I end up having other things to do for two weeks. One thing I do really like about Ark is that I can just stop playing it for a month for whatever reason and when I do have the time/interest to start again all my stuff is still there, and none of my pets have starved to death.

Lethia Myune

I have no interest in PvP so if a game focuses on that or intertwines it with the PvE too much i’m not even bothering. Think Albion Online. I’m also not too worried about the well-being of the game without me or without many of the good massively ppl that voiced their anti full-out pvp options down below lol; it has a ridiculously high number of concurrent players on Steam for a game like that so there’s a special place for everybody in the gaming world lol.

I’m also not particularly avoiding but…sort of lol the big market hits like ESO, GW2, FFXIV etc. I feel i played each and everyone of those a great lot in the past…1k hours for all and i think i kind of got disconnected with them in one point of another in their development for reasons very objective for me (GW2= The unfun content in Heart of Thorns, FFXIV=not feeling the story at all, ESO=ugh dat combat and lootbox galore) so those i discretely avoid too when people recommend them to me.

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I 100% avoid any game with unavoidable PvP.

I’m fine with folks who enjoy PvP. They can enjoy it in segregated PvP servers, separate battleground zones or even five feet away from me while I’m picking flowers, petting zombie bunnies or murdering gnolls.
But I want the option to opt. out 100%. There is zero aspects about PvP gameplay in any game that I enjoy (even in non-mmo’s & board games), but there is likely other things in the game/setting that I would enjoy if they’d allow me to live in their world immune to ganking.
I like to choose and set my own pace. I can do that with PvE content. PvP takes that choice away from me and hands it over to other players.

I figure this stems from two things; I’m not a competitive person by nature and I played Ultima Online at launch and have suffered gank-PTSD ever since.

Deadly Habit

Devs or games who flip flop on their design decisions trying to have mass appeal rather than maintain a niche dedicated audience. You can’t just turn a game built around say FFA PvP full loot into a PvE game and vice versa on a whim.