Perfect Ten: 10 enemies we need to fight more in MMORPGs

    
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It's a fooler.

When I wrote up the contents of every MMORPG bestiary, I stuck mostly with concepts rather than specifics, aside from dragons and slimes. There are always dragons and slimes. I don’t care how far removed your setting might seem from dragons and slimes; someone is going to come up with a reason why you’re fighting dragons and slimes. But there are other enemies that seem to crop up time and again just the same, like cultists, or bears, or zombies.

Or zombie bear cultists, probably.

This is all fine. There are a lot of these stock enemy types that are satisfying to fight and familiarity doesn’t breed contempt. But there are also some fun groups out there that we could also be fighting, types of enemies that only show up occasionally but are always satisfying to beat the stuffing out of when they appear. Thus, we humbly suggest that before we get another round of zombies, you consider the possibility of these antagonists.

Everybody having a very good time

1. Evil clowns

It should be noted here that “evil clowns” refers to the larger “evil circus performer” ecosystem and basically includes a whole lot of stuff that requires less grease paint but still falls under the larger umbrella. You all know the sort because at this point finding a clown in some form of media that isn’t evil is the real challenge. Admit it, if you see even the most innocuous clown imaginable in a movie, your brain immediately suspects that he’s an antagonist.

Some people might say that at this point this is played out, and they’d be largely right, but why not lean in a bit? City of Heroes is the last game I can think of that really let you beat the snot out of evil clowns and clown-related enemies. Let’s just go ham on some people in circus getups. Because they’re evil, preferably, otherwise we’re just beating up clowns for no reason.

2. “Corruption” that isn’t icky goo and tentacles

Guild Wars 2 has a number of different Elder Dragons that corrupt people, and aside from vines around Mordremoth, none of them comes down to things sprouting tentacles or being covered in some weird odd-colored goo. There aren’t even any extra eyes popping up. This is a good thing. Corruption and body horror and changes should be something that doesn’t happen every time with the exact same aesthetic. Seriously, let’s get some more creative corruption.

They exist.

3. Pangolins

So actual pangolins are not remotely threatening. They’re cute armored friends who deserve kisses on the head (but you can’t really do that because they’re wild animals). I like pangolins a lot. But between that armor and their claws, they look really threatening.

What’s to be done? Well, the obvious answer is to just ignore reality and make pangolins these scary claw-monsters that have the advantage of actually existing in real life. Plus this would have the benefit of potentially allowing certain player classes to tame pangolins as pets, at which point they take their rightful place as cuddle friends. I really think pangolins are cute, and I want more of them in the world, darn it.

4. Creepy dolls

Oh, the time-honored creepy doll! Limbs moving in odd ways! Unblinking eyes moving in unusual fashions! Are they possessed? Are they just evil? Are they mechanical? Who knows, and more importantly, why does it matter? There’s a reason my least favorite boss in Final Fantasy XIV is a huge little girl doll that’s utterly terrible and should be taken apart and burned to make sure it can never come back.

Seriously, creepy dolls are great and also free of any ethical debates about what you do to them. You can go back and forth about things like CoH characters supposedly “arresting” muggers by unleashing fire powers that are more likely to leave the unfortunate thugs with third-degree burns than anything. But creepy dolls? They’re dolls. Purge them with fire.

It feels faintly telling, yes.

5. Paladins

There are a lot of MMOs wherein you get to play the bad guy and you know it. There’s no real debate over whether the Sith in Star Wars: The Old Republic are evil. Similarly, there are a lot of games wherein connotations can certainly paint one faction or the other as more malicious, giving the impression that, say, the KDF in Star Trek Online are more aggressive and dangerous amidst all the coding of the Federation as noble and selfless. None of that is what I am talking about here.

No, what I’m talking about here is the simple fun of fighting powerful holy knights that bear all the signifiers of purity and goodness even as you have to beat the crap out of them. One of the fun things about fighting the Heaven’s Ward in FFXIV was that you were getting to face off against what was apparently a group of heroes who were indisputably in the wrong. That’s a good aesthetic, and it should get used more often.

6. Antlions

We fight a lot of giant bugs in MMOs, but most of the time those bugs are drawn from a pretty limited pool. Giant hornets/bees/wasps, giant ants, giant beetles, probably some giant spiders (I know, they’re not technically bugs, but “giant arthropods” doesn’t have the same ring to it) and maybe a gigantic mantis. But why don’t we stretch things out a little bit more? Antlions look vicious as heck, but normally they have the advantage of being tiny and not all that dangerous to people. If you’re already sizing up bugs without regard for the square-cube law, why not try something more novel than another spider?

hisss

7. Snakes

I just think snakes are neat. For some reason it feels like we have a paucity of snakes, and I’d like to see more of them. It feels like we’re more likely to see snake people than actual snakes, and that’s just not quite right. Yes, despite the fact that actual snakes are friend noodles.

(“Are there any animals you don’t see as friends?” Yes. Cows. Cows are food.)

8. Genre-bending enemy groups

This is really a careful line to toe. A single group of robot enemies in what is otherwise a fantasy MMO can be really cool. One group of heavily armored and medieval-inspired villains it a superhero setting is neat and memorable. But too much of it and it’s easy to lose track of what your game’s genre actually is. These genre-bending out-of-left-field groups have to remain the exception rather than the rule, and there’s a fine line between a fun weird cameo and just making everything robots now.

Wait, why am I complaining? Never mind. Make everything robots now.

Like, imagine that thing in the back could eat you.

9. Entire ambulatory houses

One of the enemies in Final Fantasy VII is a house. Just… a whole house that attacks you and that you have to beat up. This is actually a whole thing. It’s weird and silly and it would have been easy to get rid of it for the game’s remake, but instead the designers wisely doubled down and gave it a whole elaborate boss battle. And it’s awesome because you’re fighting a house.

Seriously, housing can be difficult, I think some players would like to be able to beat up a house. Just… you know, maybe offer housing in your game first. Otherwise players might try to move in to the house monster.

10. Nazis

Downsides: Makes your game more difficult to adapt for German localization. A certain portion of the internet will get upset because you’re calling them Nazis just because they act like Nazis.

Upsides: It’s always morally correct to beat up Nazis. They’re not rare in video games, but it’s still always morally right.

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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Dean Greenhoe

Lawyers, tax collectors and politicians. Held with contempt universally.

And of course those, Paladins..

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Hikari Kenzaki

Honestly, snakes and clowns play into phobias almost as cheaply as spiders and zombies, so meh on those two.

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Victor Barreiro Jr.

I want to fight capitalism!

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Fenrir Wolf

Here I am with the weird answer. I understand why it might seem like it’s for the sake of it, but I sincerely feel this way.

  • The abstract concept of parasitism.

The setting would be made up of an extremely diverse society where mutualism is the shared goal. It would be an incredibly imaginative place with cities pulling on all of the diverse cultures involved, with beings of all sorts, shapes, and sizes as allowed for by the use of 3D modelling. It’d probably be on the lower end of the fidelity scale in order to achieve said diversity and it’d use a much more advanced version of the skeletal system from Spore to allow for lots of extremely unique body types.

There wouldn’t be much in the way of loot, though there would be means to customise and diversify your character. In this unusual video game, loot wouldn’t have much of a place as the goal would be to try and find ways to solve problems through means other than violence. Diplomacy, fixing, healing, solving, building, what have you.

Karl Popper’s Paradox of Tolerance would be in play. The only foes would be those—and they would be equally as diverse—that are parasitic in nature, who refuse mutualism, who prey on others and opt to cause suffering rather than finding any other means. Such an enemy would be delineated by intent and nothing else. Certainly never by theme, vocation, tribalist bigotry, primitivist taboo, or species.

In such a setting, even necromancy would be acceptable so long as no harm was derived from it and consent was sought; A necromancer may get on good terms with certain spectres and ghouls, and summon them as aides. Such necromancy could be used to communicate with other dead, to solve problems through—again—non-violent means.

There are lots of ways one could go about diplomacy, I recall that Vanguard: Saga of Heroes had a particularly fun one, but that’s only one option. There are so many modes of play that could be incorporated into a game to offer options other than the combat that humanity, as a species, seems to be quite so entertaine by and even obsessed with. It would be an interesting challenge. I think so, anyway.

A “fight” with a hostile force that absolutely cannot be reasoned with, bargained with, or healed (with their consent, which might in and of itself have to be discovered through a gameplay feature) would need to be sent to a different plane, one that’s entirely hospitable but devoid of other life for them to prey on; Meaning that if a parasite wishes to prey on others without their consent, tgeb they’ll just have to prey on other parasites. Where necessary, synthesised food and amenable luxuries would be provided to them.

So, combat would be a matter of distracting them, holding their attention, and locking them in temporary prisons until the means to transport them to their destination prison realm is acheived.

For those that wish to do so, further gameplay could be found by trying to rehabilitate those within the prison realm who wish to leave their parasitism behind, with the goal of preserving as much of the person and species as possible whilst eking out the parasitic roots.

It’s a bit of a high-concept thing but everyone’s going to have this thing in their head that they want to kill and I just… I wanted to offer a different perspective, that’s all.

Edit: Being an investigator in such a reality could be fun, too. Figuring out what happened where, what, to who, how, and why? There are all sorts of oddities that could be fodder for investigation in a society that’s trying really hard to be post-parasitism. I mean, even cases of willing consent to be prey might be a viable one as parasites would need to be especially sneaky and it would be necessary to discover whether consent was extricated via some form of manipulation or not.

There’d be lots of bureaucracy for all sorts of things! I do imagine though that consent would be an important factor as that’s one of the delineating features between mutualism and parasitism. So it wouldn’t only be the who, what, how, and why, but also whether it was permitted or not.

The bases of investigations would need to be mired in such a setting, however. I mean, there wouldn’t need to be these thorough investigations regarding thievery as there wouldn’t be much of a sense of property to begin with. If anyone wants something, magically replicate it. It’s always been odd to me that worlds with magic, where a mage can summon food from the aether, have such scarcity to begin with. They really shouldn’t unless someone is being a greedy little bugger.

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r00ch

You want creepy dolls? Resident Evil: Village has you covered. I didn’t think the game was too scary until the Angie and Donna boss fight. Holy. Shit. If you haven’t played it, google that boss fight and watch it late at night with the lights turned off. Is that what you’re looking for, Eliot?

I’d love to see creepy stuff like that in my MMOs (depends on the MMO, of course). Secret World 2, maybe?

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Schmidt.Capela

You just reminded me of my favorite instance of creepy doll.

In So I’m a Spider, So What? there’s a kind of creepy doll that, beyond the usual creepy doll attributes like joints that don’t have human limits and inhuman movements, also have some spider characteristics like weaving webs, wall-crawling, and having eight limbs each.

Some time into the series the protagonist gets a hold of a few of those, so what does she do? She reforms the exterior of the dolls to look like pretty young girls, undistinguishable from real living ones — apart from still having spider and creepy doll attributes. For me, at least, a pretty young girl can be creepier than a doll when she has six arms, can turn her head 360 degrees, and sometimes crawls over walls.

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Box

Disappointed at the lack of mimics or other creatures like mimics. Something about an innocent object that’s cursed or possessed really messes me up lmao.

agemyth 😩
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agemyth 😩

Protect the pangolins!

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Schmidt.Capela

City of Heroes is the last game I can think of that really let you beat the snot out of evil clowns and clown-related enemies.

DCUO has the Joker as a boss, you know. What’s more, you can play as the Joker himself in one of the game’s PvP modes.

3. Pangolins

If the animal transmission theory is correct, Pangolins might have been the animals who infected humans with SARS-COV-2. Though that only happened because of humans killing and eating them.

It feels like we’re more likely to see snake people than actual snakes, and that’s just not quite right.

Their relative rarity likely has to do with how hard it’s to animate them properly. A snake-man can share rigs and animations with other humanoid characters; snakes need those recreated from scratch.

It’s similar to why whips are so rare as weapons in games, they are a pain to animate properly.

One of the enemies in Final Fantasy VII is a house.

I still like the train from Final Fantasy VI better. It was a train. An undead train. Which you could suplex into submission.
(Or you could cheese it by using Phoenix Down on it; as with other undead, using a resurrection item on it would kill it instead.)

Jaymes Buckman
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Jaymes Buckman

And wait. It’s Heaven’s Ward? Not “Heavensward” like the direction of the heavens? Or is it layered like that?

Jaymes Buckman
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Jaymes Buckman

Were there really now clowns in TSW?

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Bryan Correll

Well, there was some clownish flavor to the theme park. And there were Orochi operatives, but they were only figurative clowns.