There was a time when MMORPGs were all based on existing storied single-player RPG franchises, and that time was when Ultima Online launched and coined the term MMORPG and few direct rivals existed whatsoever. It didn’t last long, is the point. But old video games are still a frequent source of inspiration, especially since the other usual sources of inspiration are old media franchises or whatever you can cobble together from assets you made for what would have been a killer MMORPG 20 years ago. I guess you could have an original idea, but down that road lies WildStar, so that’s a non-starter.
But just because some classic video games should absolutely be turned into MMORPGs (it’s worked out well a few times) doesn’t mean every single one should. In fact, there are several video games that are undeniable classics and also would make awful MMORPGs, including several video games that I do in fact love. So instead of just spreading the love, let’s look at some very bad ideas.
Look, if you have a dollar for every single game I have professionally reviewed in hopes that it will hit that Metroid urge, you would have… actually I don’t feel like counting, but several dollars. In the double digits, even. (I did not review Metroid Dread, but I liked it. Play 9 Years of Shadows.) But these games rely a lot on atmosphere, and having a whole bunch of bounty hunters running around would ruin that atmosphere even if they found a way to make the gameplay feel appropriate. Not to mention that “undressing a female character” is often the first thing a lot of people do in MMORPGs, not something you get after clearing a level quickly.
Plus, can you imagine what happens when someone else triggers the self-destruct on a planet while you’re doing something else? Hella annoying.
2. Sonic the Hedgehog
Oh, like what we really need in this world is a way to generate more Sonic OCs. (Do not steal.)
There’s definitely room to build a gothic monster-fighting MMORPG with diverse classes in this franchise and to form a whole party, something the Netflix anime has in everyone’s mind after the third game did that. It doesn’t just have to be a dude with a whip. The problem is just that, again, the whole premise is that Dracula is a singular, overwhelming evil. However much you can extrapolate and however many Belmonts you can generate, it feels very different when there are literally a hundred would-be hunters looking to kick Drac and Friends around the block. What a terrible night to just hang out in your castle.
The problem with Ys is that the series almost exclusively follows one protagonist down a fixed continuity. It’s not a problem for the series as a whole, obviously, the games are generally fun even if the US audience has long had a sort of hipster-ish “oh, I play Ys, you’ve never heard of it” attitude around themselves. But it does make any MMORPG feel weird because… like… what do you do about that? If you aren’t playing a sidekick, you’re just in a fantasy world where Adol isn’t present or mentioned, then… what are you doing? Why are you here?
5. Might & Magic
All right, funny story, we actually almost got this one converted into an MMORPG! No, not based on the Heroes of Might & Magic spinoff, the core series! It was even around the same time as UO! Alas, it was decided that the return on the investment just wasn’t good enough, and for that I say… probably for the best because if there’s one thing Might & Magic shouldn’t be doing, it’s copying Ultima. If there’s a second thing, it’s probably “getting sold to Ubisoft,” but the ship sailed on that one.
6. Silent Hill
Look, not all of your daughters, wives, husbands, sons, and favorite bartenders got lost in Silent Hill. And when anyone cared about this series (please let the new games be good, they never are but please let them be good now) it was all about personal horror. The move away from that, the shift from “James Sunderland is seeing monsters based on his personal guilt” to “welcome to a foggy New England town full of murder nurses and dudes with knife-hands along with a big dude who chases you,” is when we really had a bad time. You can’t do personal horror for everyone.
Yes, I know that the first game was Harry Mason. Harry was dealing with his adoptive daughter’s mental trauma, not his own. That’s why the nurses were there originally. The joke isn’t as easy to deliver that way. Why are you like this, hypothetical pedantic reader? I’m pedantic enough for all of us. Chill.
I know that some people are going to be like “wait, I totally want this, that’s why Temtem got its attention by offering Legally Distinct Pokemon!” And to that I say… how’s stuff going for Temtem these days? That felt mean, I know, and I’m sorry to both the studio and the fans, but I think that speaks to a larger problem.
The thing about Pokemon is that as much fun as it sounds to roam an open world with other people… well, most Pokemon combat is against other people. NPCs or human players. And human players are usually going to whip out some nonsense with five Legendaries and something else that farts acidic death as part of its passive abilities. So you either get your clock cleaned by someone with that lineup because you just choose the ones that you like, you clean the clock of someone who just chooses the ones he likes, or you match against someone of equivalent skill once in a blue moon. There’s not a lot to gain from loads of player interaction, basically.
8. Street Fighter
So, full disclosure: an MMORPG full of martial arts, psychic powers, magic, and other weirdness set in the modern world? I would be all over that. That sounds awesome. But that’s also basically just City of Heroes. I would like that game! I did, in fact, like that game! Still do! But the world of Street Fighter when not explored through the medium of people just fighting each other in fighting games turns into a superhero story, and… at that point, why are you focusing on Ryu?
Actually why are you focusing on Ryu anyway? Ryu is boring. If you need someone, just upgrade Sakura.
This is another one of those things where I feel like it’s “we want a gothic monster smacking game.” And again, I get it; Bloodborne and every Soulslike game From has made is more fun with friends. Shame that they keep forcing PvP into having friends around, since that’s less fun, but if they weren’t making unforced errors, it wouldn’t be necessary. But again, the atmosphere is a big issue. Having two or three friends adventuring in a setting like this? Utterly entrancing. Having a hundred people chilling at a hub? Suddenly the night is very populated indeed.
I’m glad this franchise found its groove again, but do we really need armies of people kitted up with heavy weaponry marching in to trade fire with demonic forces? Yes. Yes we do. That sounds like it would rule.
But then you realize that was the premise of Hellgate: London and you’re all, “on second thought, never mind.”