Perfect Ten: Ten MMORPGs you’ve already forgotten about

    
31
Service service

Not every MMORPG can remain in the spotlight forever. Time has a nasty habit of making us forget titles that used to rile up our excitement and get us talking about on a daily basis. Games that used to draw crowds and top headlines are now trundled off to virtual nursing homes, where only the most faithful visit now and then.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like forgetting things that used to fascinate me — and I don’t want MMOs past their heyday to completely vanish from our consciousness. So for today’s list, we’ll be looking at 10 MMOs that used to be a whole lot more popular (or at least talked about) before slipping into relative obscurity. As a guideline, I’m only going with launched titles that are currently operating as of 2021.

MERRY ANYTHING

Champions Online

Champs, as we like to call it in the MOP office, is that far-distant third title in Cryptic’s original MMO trifecta that nobody seems to pay much attention to these days — including the studio itself. But if you cast your memory back to 2008 and 2009, there was a huge hype wave for this game as a superhero follow-up to City of Heroes. This peaked shortly after launch and began a sharp decline, but I was there. The interest in this game was very real and very pronounced for a good year or so.

Runes of Magic

Prior to the free-to-play movement sweeping through the entire genre in 2009, Runes of Magic enjoyed special status as one of the early F2P forerunners. Players appreciated that it was World of Warcraft-ish without a subscription attached, and that combination alone earned it a nice following for a while there. Fun fact: Massively-That-Was even had a regular column devoted to the game called Lost Pages of Taborea.

Darky dark dark dark.

Aion

Please note that just because a title is on this list doesn’t mean it’s unknown or nobody plays it, only that it appears to have slipped out of vogue in our discussions and attention. Because of this, I think Aion fits the bill really well here. NCsoft’s fantasy title enjoyed a lot of popularity and success for many years and still brings home the bills today. But it’s hard to argue against the decline of its appeal among the wider MMO community. Even the release of Aion Classic earlier this year was met with a collective shrug from most — and that’s a shame.

Revelation Online

When you write news for MOP, you do tend to track a whole lot more games than the average player might. As such, I’ve always been pretty aware of Revelation Online since it came out in 2017 over here. Despite having a full package of MMO features (including housing!), Revelation Online couldn’t keep attention on it past the shiny newness of its launch. We still cover the game, to be sure, but it’s one of those imports that nobody’s going to remember unless you put it right in their face.

Age of Conan

One of 2008’s biggest and most promising MMOs is almost a footnote today. Really, if Funcom had not acquired the Conan the Barbarian license, I think Age of Conan might’ve been shut down by this point. Like the rest of Funcom’s MMOs, Conan has been quietly shuttled off to Maintenanceville, where only the occasional holiday event, special server gimmick or pity patch is tossed its way. And as with the rest of Funcom’s MMOs, this absolutely burns the heart of the game’s loyal fans who wish that the studio hadn’t given up on it.

RIFT

Man, it pains me to put this one on the list, but forthrightness compels me to do so. What was once a strong contender in the field with several expansions under its belt and a vibrant community has withered to the point of near-non-existence. The culprit? Trion Worlds’ collapse and this title being handed off to Gamigo, which has done precisely squat for it over the past few years. A lack of development and a fear of closing down have affected players’ interest in returning or sticking around.

The (original) Secret World

I guess I’m in the mood to intentionally hurt myself because I’m going to include another perennial favorite of mine. And yes, while Funcom has completely neglected its rebooted Secret World Legends, let’s not forget that the original (and in my opinion, superior) version of The Secret World is still running. But it’s not being officially supported or updated any longer by Funcom, so that’s a kick in the pants right there.

Tree of Savior

This may seem like an odd choice, but I feel that Tree of Savior did enjoy a spurt of popularity during the lead-up to launch and shortly thereafter. We often praised this ARPGMMO for its art style, hoping that it might be a sleeper hit of a sort. And while some have happily enjoyed its wares, it certainly hasn’t been enough to keep this in the limelight.

Pirates of the Burning Sea

It kind of feels like ye olde naval MMOs are often destined to quicker audience depreciation than other titles, and I’m not fully sure why. Perhaps it’s too niche of a field or perhaps pirates are played out. In any case, Pirates of the Burning Sea came onto the scene with cannons blazing as people hailed it “EVE Online on the open sea.” It’s certainly endured over the years, even surpassing its initial development studio to be handled by a volunteer team, but it’s hard to argue that this title hasn’t sailed into the sunset (at least in part).

Vindictus

Mabinogi’s more mature sibling was quite the rage for alternative playstyles back in the day. The focus on more action, blood, and grit certainly had appeal in some quarters, and this MMO received a lot of attention whenever it would put out news. That has died off considerably in recent years, although the game is still hacking and slashing along.

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.”
Advertisement

No posts to display

31
LEAVE A COMMENT

Please Login to comment
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
Raap
Reader
Raap

To this day I still cannot believe Gamigo said no to a very good offer from someone wanting to buy RIFT, as they at the time claimed to have “ambitious plans for publishing the game”.

Gamigo of course, has one sole ambition; To destroy games at record speed, and send any and all revenue to the shareholders, while none of it ever goes back into the games.

Reader
Does not check email

The article should have been called “how to mismanage 10 MMO’s”

Reader
Castagere Shaikura

Man, I remember Champions Online popular days. There used to be podcasts and fan sites everywhere for it. Any time of day you logged in and the game was packed and not just the city zones. Killing those giant world bosses was like a raid.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Kickstarter Donor
Paragon Lost

Age of Conan and The Secret World, the reasons why I’ll never have anything to do with Funcom again. Both had soo much potential and were fun. Funcom sucks. They can’t invest and truly build lasting mmorpgs.

Reader
Hirku Two

Yeah, it’s really depressing that they own the Conan IP now.

Reader
Fenrir Wolf

You’d be so wrong about Champions Online…

I think about that game often. I mean, it was one of the greatest examples of the executives running the game being completely out of touch with the people playing it. No matter who was running it, they failed to understand their audience or what would best monetise the game for them.

The day one patch after beta was the first misstep. So many told them that it wasn’t to grind that people played their game, it was to create alts and have fun with new builds, aappearances, and stories. It was a game where we all loved roleplaying our characters more than in any other. Fo rme, I’ve always loved superhero MMOs as a concept as I’m dedicatedly weary of being put in the shoes of one genocidal, psychopathic warlord after another. Those monsters aren’t “heroes” to me.

In Champions Online, a prison break where characters I’d defeated prior turning up again was a revelation. It was such a lovely confirmation that we were being heroes, we were just arresting these ne’erdowells. It was heartening. It was nice, for once, to actually be the good guy.

I’ve spoken about how in Guild Wars 2, Jormag felt like an abuse victim who tried to help, ended the charr war, saved the people at Lake Doric, tried to run from their abuser (into the Mists, where they did no harm, only to be pulled back), and at the end of the day they were victim-blamed and murdered. I know it’s the kind of story that MMO players enjoy, but I’m just left feeling incredibly sad. Well, and wounded as I was an abuse-survivor myself and I know a thing or two about victim-blaming.

The point is, although the execs made me feel like shit with their poor decisions, the game never did. It was so welcoming. I didn’t feel like a psychopath. I wasn’t doing a genocide. I wasn’t torturing an abuse victim or doing some equally shitty thing that “heroes” in MMOs regularly do. I was a hero. I felt like a hero.

Champions Online was really good at that.

I and so many others told them that they should just sell character slots, they should sell power sets, and they should sell new appearances. They should focus on that and not on hardcore PvP balance, or grinding. Every time they chose to focus on them, large swathes of their playerbase left. The problem is is that parasitic executives tend to be stubborn, they don’t like admitting they were wrong. I mean, the same thing happened to Battleborn, to Free Realms, and so many other online games. “Hmpf! Filthy peons. Daring to ever tell me what they want. I tell them what they want!”

I remember that at one point there was an object that allowed characters to super-size. There were five people I personally knew who loved that thing, and many more who I knew of that adored it too. They took it out. They kept listening to the locust swarm, the hardcore MMO players who were never going to stick around. We stuck around until we couldn’t take it anymore, we roleplayed our characters, we just gritted our teeth out of our love of the game until we couldn’t enjoy it anymore. They wrung every last bit of joy out of it.

I’m hoping one day to see a Champions Online server emulator that returns to the pre-grind era. That’s actually something I long for as that was one game where I felt truly welcome. I could envision these wonderfully odd characters and they were appreciated for how creative and well-written they were. It’s definitely in the top two of online games I miss the most.

The most jarring thing was that the people who were running the shop had the sales data to know I was right. Every single time I suggested something for the shop—every damn time—it got made. Sometimes even with trailers! I was the idea man for their bloody cash shop. It was ludicrous. And despite how the people running their cash shop knew this, that I was a person who understood what the players funding their game wanted, I was ignored by the balance team and the execs. As was every other paying customer. They stuck to their MMO hardcore balancing habits and that’s what ruined them.

It didn’t matter if you could quickly get to the end of the game and rock all the content in Champions Online, no one played the game to grind slowly through the content. What I couldn’t get those unaffable, stuff, suit-encrusted, simple-minded dinosaurs to realise was that they’d created something that was entirely new, and so different. It didn’t need to be a skinner-box. It was a creative playground, in a way I suppose more akin to Gary’s Mod. And the stuffy execs coupled with the locusts (who swarm from game to game, never planning on sticking around) ruined that game for…. everyone who truly loved it.

Its like will never exist again. I miss my silly characters in that cheesy ’60s Universe, snooping on criminal paramilitary groups talking about how Area 51 needed purple drapes to liven up the place, before biffing them with mind powers. I do miss it. It’s funny too because I remember the locusts also hated the cheese but we loved it.

The intro mission with the qularr and how one must shut down ALL the beacons is now legendary.

Ah, I do miss you Champions Online.

Footnote: Thinking on it, I just… I remember how much it caused the aforementioned execs to double-down. It was like being right about knowing what made a “good” MMO was more important than having a profitable, sustainable MMO. Every time they lost swathes of people, and the fans remaining pointed out just how much their server population and number of paying customers dropped with the latest “balance” patch, they doubled-down on it and made it worse.

If they’d just left it easy to play for anyone, and thus accessible, it would have been better. It’s funny, I brought a middle-manager from a big name antivirus company in. He rarely played games, but he loved superhero comics and anthro animal characters. He marvelled at how unusual it was for a game, and how it was one of the few games he actually found fun to play. I brought many others into it after that who didn’t really play a lot of games, and they loved it too as they could faff around in the character creator and actually end up with something genuinely fun for them that they could play.

The ease of the game was what kept people around, that it wasn’t a very challenging game was part of the magic, that they could just continue to dive in with new characters, running around and biffing VIPER dorks was the joy of it. It was one of the most easily accessible MMOs that had ever existed… At least, for a time. If they’d doubled-down on that, they’d still be going strong today.

Reader
Fenrir Wolf

One other thing I wanted to add that I forgot that was that CO had a truly amazing environmental designer. Tumerboy, I think? He ws a real champ and he understood us. I remember when the Moonbase had to be fixed so that we could no longer glitch out onto the moon, he actually pushed back the invisible walls, collisioned stuff, and allowed the moonbase doors to open.

Everyone loved him for that because all we wanted was to have moon hangouts. Damn if I didn’t love my Mod-style moonbase on the moon. Tumerboy was the best.

Reader
Hikari Kenzaki

TL:DR: Jack had his “Vision” and no players actually playing the game were going to change that. Second verse, same as the first.

Reader
Vanquesse V

Tree of Savior has been severely mishandled in terms of how much they took away from free players to help combat botting and RMT (didn’t work, big surprise). Somewhere after the halfway point in the game it apparently goes from friendly to full on p2w though I’ve not stuck with it for long enough to witness that.
Vindictus is fine, but if something ever goes wrong with your account you can expect to start over. Some of the worst support in the genre.

Reader
Bruno Brito

And conceptually, ToS just isn’t a good “spiritual successor” to Ragnarok.

Reader
rk70534

I haven’t forgotten any of these. I played every one of them, but have moved on. Age of Conan – if Funcom would have spent one more year on it…

Reader
Adam Kelsall

Runes Of Magic annoyed me, they claimed to have a totally unique class system and several other mechanics that were “new” or “unique”, but in reality the entire game’s system was a near-exact copy of “dream of mirror online”, an MMO released around 5-6 years prior, same class system (with more classes), same housing system, similar quests/exploration/etc. Only the art style was different. (DoMO was cell-shaded, RoM was more polygon-y, cartoon-y but tried at being realistic)

RIFT went for a long time before it started to “die” even though it vanished from the public eye.

Tree of Savior was incredibly popular at launch due to its links with ragnarok online developers, it died incredibly quickly afterwards though.

The secret world was similar, did really well at launch but died very quickly.

Reader
Hikari Kenzaki

The problem wasn’t that TSW itself died shortly after launch. It was that Funcom overreached and nearly killed itself as a company. The community stuck around, but by the time Funcom managed to save itself, it was too late for TSW.

Reader
Ray O'Brien

Champs would have had a shot if they didn’t fuck it over with the Day 1 patch, and actually invested in some of the original ideas instead of pretty much abandoning it for STO. Damn shame really.

Reader
Hikari Kenzaki

So many nerfs in that first two weeks. Was a totally different game from Beta by day 13.

Reader
Hikari Kenzaki

Champions Online was just never good enough. It had a lot of pain points right out the gate, its free to play model is the most clunky of all the Cryptic games, it doesn’t have a well-known IP (Cryptic does well enough with those), the characters are downright creepy looking, even after spending hours in creation, it had almost no high-level content at launch and so you just stopped before even getting to 40.

I tried to go back as a CoH refugee in 2012, but it just wasn’t good enough and TSW was so much better. At this point, I’d rather play SWL, TSW, DCUO, Homecoming, or any of a dozen other games before opening up CO.