Massively Overthinking: Hopes and fears for MMOs in 2021

    
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Welcome to 2021, folks. It’s not even going to have to try all that hard to be better than 2020!

For our first official Massively Overthinking of the year, I’ve polled the Massively OP staff on all of our hopes and fears for the genre in the new year. Our predictions were what we think will happen, and our resolutions were about what we’d like to try to make happen. This round is all about what we’d like to see happen to our genre – and what we most definitely don’t.

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): MMO Hopes: More events/mechanics that consider social ramifications. Less raiding, more Ahn’Qiraj War effort type content.

MMO fears: Some of the bonuses we’ve had on and off throughout COVID have spoiled us, or worse, actually fixed the game but the devs don’t want to live in a world with those changes and strip them, alienating players.

Semi-MMO-related: That people in general have changed. I already knew quite a few shut-ins who had trouble keeping a social face, and I had struggled a bit when I first came back. I’ve noticed it on the faces of the few gamers I’ve tried online dating with while doing video chat, and it reminded me of a former coworker who had that issue. For those of us who played it safe, did social distancing, and wore a mask while talking to others, I’m worried that our facial reactions might be a bit off, and for you parents, I’m worried for your babies/very young children who have grown up during this. It’s such a weird time.

But on the flipside, I also hope that it means the general public “gets” online gaming better and can empathize with people who don’t get out as much. So many people who complained to me about work from home situations were ones I could tell didn’t take me seriously when I’d said the best part of my most recent job was working outside my home. I know some people love it, but it’s a nightmare for some of us, and sadly some people only understand things they’ve experienced first hand. 2021 would be significantly better if more people come out of this with a new appreciation for people who didn’t have to change many of our habits during the pandemic.

Andy McAdams: One fear that jumps to mind is that WoW backtracks the positive trend toward a game made for more than the raid-or-die and Mythic-or-die elites. I mentioned in office chat the other day that at the moment, Shadowlands kind of feels like that party that Ion and friends begrudging invited me and all my friends to — not because they want us around but because they know they need us to make the party a success. I’m worried that Ion will “Ion” it all up and move back towards a glorified lobby for a raiding game.

I’m worried that Camelot Unchained will have the stormy future we predicted, or that Crowfall, New World, and others won’t cross the line to release or release a steaming pile and that we’ll have to languish yet-another-year without a proper next-gen sandbox title.

My hopes are basically the other side of the coin for my fears. I hope WoW continues its trend away from being a glorified raiding lobby game. I hope that that 2021 is the year the WoW finally bloody surprises us with player and guild housing because the game is less without it. I hope that Jacobs proves us wrong and that Camelot Unchained finally releases to critical acclaim and a wonderful reception. The same for Crowfall and New World. We need some new MMO-blood that’s not just an imported grindfest. I’m not mad games like Black Desert exist, I just dislike that they are really the only new games we are seeing lately.

I hope that we continue to see more movement on the regulation of gambling mechanics in video games. I hope that we continue to see the increase in player choice of how we play and pay for our games, even if those currently championing that charge (*cough* Epic) are only paying lip service to players.

I hope Daybreak can finally get their shit together enough to put out EverQuest III or rebirth EverQuest Next or… something. Anything really on the EverQuest front.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): I want all the games! No, seriously, this is shaping up to be a big year for online games, with so many major expansions on deck and several games planning releases. It’s likely to be the biggest single year for MMO releases we’ve seen since 2015. My big hope is that they’re all decent and populated and that none of them winds up in the failboat bin come December. And that goes for the games I want to play and the ones I don’t. I want all winners. I want all of you to be happy in whatever MMOs you play, and I mean that.

I mean, a little drama on the side wouldn’t be all bad either, but can we keep it to the mild entertaining drama and not the giant trash fires maybe? Wouldn’t it be great if the “biggest disappointment” poll were petty complaints about class nerfs and the “biggest surprise” poll were early releases and extra QOL patches?

Oh yeah: And can we please get NCsoft to finish up the City of Heroes negotiations and make that all official so we can stream as a team again? I got some video game banks to rob. If I could have one indulgent thing in 2021, that’d be it.

Carlo Lacsina (@UltraMudkipEX, YouTube): I cannot think of any MMO-related fears to be honest. I’m so confident that we’ll be seeing a very strong year. I do have a bunch of hopes though:

  • That I get access an early build of that League of Legends MMO. Riot pls.
  • I make or buy at least 1 PEN item in BDO.
  • Bring positivity to the larger MMO community through streaming MMOs
  • Get a chance to play Crimson Desert!
  • Convince the MOP staff to help me start a 100-person conga line in an MMO. How hard can the logistics be!?
  • Black Desert Online making GOTY 2021.

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): I fear for crowdfunding this year. There feel like so few true success stories and the big projects have poisoned the well for so many that I worry other titles won’t get their honest, deserved shot.

Meanwhile, I hope that cross-platform play continues to expand. Not just because I want to play more games with my husband and his friend, but because this past year has shown how unnecessarily arbitrary such restrictions are. And MMOs are so much more fun when more people get to experience them together.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): Generally, I would love for this to be a year of solid releases and growth in MMOs. A lot of stuff got pushed off until this year, and so I’m looking forward to a lot of releases, which I hope will be well-received and -constructed. Specifically, I want more communication from SSG and Daybreak about their games, at least one huge hit of a launch (expansion or new title), a few pleasant surprises, a resurrection of WildStar (a boy can dream, can’t he?), some engaging post-launch patches for Shadowlands, a legendary item revamp for Lord of the Rings Online, and an expansion announcement for Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Mia DeSanzo (@neschria): I fear that companies will continue running away from the MMORPG label and game structure in favor of smaller multiplayer and hub-based games. I fear that the new releases will be bland and uninspiring. The genre really needs a new hit, something to shine up its reputation in the eyes of the gaming public.

I hope this will be the year of break-out games. I want New World to succeed to help push the boundaries of game settings. I want to see games that get people excited. It would be cool to have a new game with both a compelling story and robust mechanics that allow players to develop their own approaches to solving problems, e.g. multiple ways to win hard fights, multiple possible solutions to puzzles. I know all that takes time and time is money, but if they are going to make a multi-million dollar game, they might as well make something good.

But I would settle for stellar writing in just one game in 2021.

Tyler Edwards (blog): I’m fairly hyped for both Magic: Legends and New World, so mostly I just really want those to be good. Not just good in terms of game mechanics (because I’m reasonably confident both will do well on that front) but also in terms of being game worlds that I want to set down roots in. I hope ML does justice to the depth of the MtG universe and isn’t just a mindless ARPG grinder, and I hope New World isn’t just an aimless sandbox whose only structured content is meaningless kill ten rats quests.

I have similar hopes that Overwatch 2 can finally do justice to the world Blizzard created with Overwatch. I hope it backs off on the forced grouping and lets us play the campaign alone and/or with bots, so I’m not constantly being spammed by impatient man-children telling me to skip all the cutscenes.

I hope Wolcen continues the positive moment it’s built with Bloodtrail, and I hope Iron Harvest continues its strong post-launch support and evolves into a real force in the RTS field.

I hope Anthem’s reboot breathes new life into the game, and that the community gives it an honest chance.

My main fears are twofold. That the continued popularity of PvP and sandboxes further incentivizes developers to give up on artistry and story-telling in online games, leading to a field choked with soulless murder arenas, and that the cynicism of the community continues to tear down any game that stumbles before it has a chance to recover and prosper.

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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Anstalt

Hope: That some of the crowdfunded MMORPGs will cross the line and launch (and actually be massively multiplayer). Whilst I don’t expect much from the games themselves, each one has a few interesting ideas and it is my hope that those ideas inspire the big studios to return to the genre, to take those ideas and polish them up.

Fear: That the decline and stagnation of the genre will continue and it will be another year with no mmorpgs worth my time. MMORPG is my favourite genre, it has soooooo much potential, but the last 5+ years have been awful for my tastes, that potential has gone completely untapped.

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Lethia Myune

My hopes: SWTOR to launch something…anything to give me a reason to stick around for more than a week for a little story :( (maybe a proper expansion with more systems and some horizontal progression)
WoW to give a better reason for Torghast to exist, because now it’s a lot of development for the very bare minimum
New World to be actually the high quality NEW game we all deserve

Fears: that more crowdfunded mmos will remain in the permanent unplayable stage they are now. That Ashes of Creation still won’t launch this year. That, except for New World we won’t have any new mmo to enjoy because nothing worthy of our time will launch.

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kjempff

Hope AoC will show as interesting for pve players. Fearing it will be a gankbox.
Hoping as usual that EqNext will be continued. Fearing it will be but with a completely different concept.
Hoping we get a EQ TLP this year that is worth playing (fast progression, no truebox bullsh but instead with actual banning of bots, redguide/macaroni and similar cheats).
Fearing Daybreak will announce some form of mobile EQ project.
Hoping that WoW BC classic server will come soon.
Hoping Pantheon will give us some hands on so we can see what it actually is. Fearing that it (Pantheon) will not be rewind&reinvent, also fearing it will be story driven (hidden behind the perception system), instead of open ended.

Hoping the usual stuff, a virtual world (no pvp) project from a big studio to fill the demand that no one else is (since EqNext died). Or just any pve game that is not the usual cr.p. Hoping f2p shops will die and never return.

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Bruno Brito

Hoping as usual that EqNext will be continued. Fearing it will be but with a completely different concept.

??

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Sleepy

Gosh, that’s actually a greater than zero possibility now, isn’t it? Fingers crossed.

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kjempff

That it will not be a concept of dynamic changing virtual world, but instead a themepark.

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Jon Wax

My hope: less swords

My fear: more swords

Some indies will go belly up. A big studio will get bought by a bigger studio. There will be a half assed movie based mmo. Someone will find a new way to say something mean and it’ll upend the gaming community…really it’ll just be a bunch of comments based pearl clutching.
Some country will make a new law because a game has half their population all bent outta shape at the other half.
Someone will spend an ungodly amount of money on SC.
We still won’t get a long term tactical team based competitive game with big ass persistent open world maps.

Rust will come out on ps4. The community will hate it.

Karac_Avalron
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Karac_Avalron

Hope = That New World is good. A new big budget successful MMORPG is most needed as the big boys currently (WoW, ESO,FFXVI,BDO) are not aging well IMHO.

Fear = Lack of accountability continues. From bethesda’s disaster of Fallout76, kickstarters, pre alpha releases it seems gamers have been taken for granted. Im hopeful that those who take money and produce crap are held accountable by consumers, but I fear more of the same in 2021.

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Utakata

Does anyone find this pandemic stifling and oppressive, despite giving us more access time to our MMO’s? I know it does with me even as a reclusive introvert…to the point that I feel I am unable to breath properly figuratively. Not to mention, it creates real health issues for many of those who get it. So it’s my only hope and wish it will disappear this year for all our sake’s.

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Sleepy

Oh, big time. I’m way over on the introvert side of the scale too, but I miss being introverted outdoors :D

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TheDarthStomper

As a depressive introvert, I immediately identified the advice to turn 330 million of my countrymen into me as “beyond wrong”. Parts of this “cure” will be worse than the disease, sadly.

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Rndomuser

My personal hope for next year is to see some developer to finally start trying to make a game which would fit preferences of most players, from people who like to mindlessly grind dumb AI enemies in endless dungeons and sit in zones without forced PvP to people who like large scale PvP in huge areas with vehicles, meaningful territory control and permanently destructible buildings and permanently destructible gear/modules/vehicles (of any rarity) to people who just want to socialize with each other in virtual bars using VR gear with full support for body motion tracking (which in turn will encourage VR gear manufacturers to create newer VR hardware with more accurate body tracking and more features like full body haptic feedback). With equal importance given to every aspect of the game and ability for single person to solo all PvE content (each and every dungeon/raid/open world encounter) if anyone desires to do so. I know it’s highly unlikely, but hey, one can still dream about it.

My fear is that the year will be filled with announcements of yet another round of “me too” games with limited focus on specific type of gameplay.

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Kickstarter Donor
flying_dutchman

I hope at least 1 of the Kickstart MMO’s doesn’t actually suck.

I don’t care if it’s Crowfall, CU, SC, AoC… Any of them really… I just want 1 game that doesn’t suck or is launched as a buggy half-finished mess.

Seriously…. Just 1.

Sixuality
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Sixuality

My Hope is for New World to be a huge hit, and for every other major game publisher to be so filled with envy at the sight of AGS raking in All The Money that they all rush to fund the next generation of MMOs. Kickstarter isn’t delivering for this genre.

My Fear is that New World will bomb spectacularly and be a ghost town a month after it releases, scaring the big money away from MMOs for another half decade or more.

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Rndomuser

scaring the big money away from MMOs for another half decade or more.

That’s an irrational thing to be fearful about. Just because one company created the game that is awful (like it always did before, regardless of the genre this company tried) does not mean the other game developers will not be trying to create the better one in same genre.

MMORPG genre was always wanted by huge amount of people, and it always will be and game developers with plenty of money will always continue pouring huge amount of those money into developing games of this genre, many of them will fail but some will always succeed in creating a popular ones.

Sixuality
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Sixuality

The urge to play Follow The Leader and chase after whatever happens to be the new hotness has always been strong in the games industry. That’s why we saw so many MOBAs after League of Legends and so many Battle Royales after Fortnite.

There hasn’t been a major MMORPG release by a western developer since Elder Scrolls Online, and that was almost seven years ago. Right now the indusrry sees other genres as offering a far better return on their investment, and that’s not going to change until something – whether it’s New World or another – makes it big.

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NeoWolf

Hmm lets see…

I guess my Hope would be that an MMO (or hopefully multiple) comes out or is announced that genuinely gives me butterflies in my stomach through anticipation or promised features… It’s seeming like so long since an announced MMO did that for me at this point i’m starting to feel like the genre is in a lull creatively.

As for my fears, well apart from the aforementioned not happening I guess my greatest fears would be that we see more shifts in the design trends of MMO’s in directions I don’t enjoy like 2020’s shift toward action MMO’s rather than traditional tab targeters etc.. Any more unfavourable shifts would make me finding an appealing game even harder.

Overall though I just hope the industry gets back to making and innovating great games again and that other RL BS and other non-relevant controversies and stuff like cancel culture etc.. don’t just keep ruining everything for us all continually. Lets put the fun back into gaming and let it continue to be a distraction from the real world rather than something that is continually dragged into the real world in ridiculous and non-relevant ways that just ruin it for us all.