It occurs to me that it is very difficult to find MMOs that I have literally never played before in some capacity. There are titles on the list, of course, but it’s a short list. Which amuses me, since anyone who listens to me on a regular basis knows that I have a small number of games that I consider “my” games, and usually there are just two that are fairly consistently on that list. But it’s part of the job; back when I first got this job in the time when dinosaurs roamed the Earth (the late aughts), my lifetime game count was at four. Maybe four and a half, if you want to count the Champions Online beta that talked me out of playing it at launch.
Of course, that’s one of the interesting elements not just of this job but about MMOs in general. You react differently depending on how many MMOs you’ve played, and considering that these games are big, long-term time commitments, that can produce some interesting dynamics. So let’s go ahead and take a look at what your personal lifetime count says about you and your understanding of the genre.
We’ve all been there. We’re playing our favorite MMORPG and then self-appointed professors of game history start arguing in world chat about firsts — usually, which MMO was considered to be the “first.”
As much as we all like to feel and be right about something, the truth is that history is messy and often ill-defined, even history as recent as that of video games. If you go looking for clear-cut facts and definitions, you might end up with an assortment of maybes, possiblys, and who knowses.
So when it comes to “firsts” in MMOs, there’s a lot of debate over, well, pretty much everything. One thing that I have noticed while covering The Game Archaeologist for many years now is that studios do love claiming to be first in various aspects. Whether or not these firsts are legitimate or can be challenged is debatable, but I thought it would be interesting to compile these claims into a list for your enjoyment and future world chat arguments.
Video games have always been a remarkably insular field; that’s the nature of development. Someone produces Super Mario Bros, and a few years later Sonic the Hedgehog sounds like a really good idea for some reason. But then you have games like The Great Giana Sisters, games that don’t try to just copy parts of what made the inspiration good but just copy the whole thing with one or two changes.
For normal video games, this can work out decently; a game that just doesn’t get much traction still sells some copies, hopefully. Just because Croc wasn’t Spyro didn’t mean that no one bought the former. But for online games, these trend-chasing games are almost always dramatic failures that litter the landscape. Why is that? Well, there are pretty good reasons, and today seems like a good time to talk about that.
A while back, you may recall that I posted some of my conversations with anthropomorphized concepts of MMO studios. If you don’t remember this, you will not be eligible for this year’s Remembering Championship, but considering the fact that said championship is mostly determined by who remembers to show up, odds of that were always low. It’s a memory championship, after all. You can’t judge that like, say, curling.
What were we talking about? Oh, right, MMO studios. Despite that single column, I have continued to have other conversations with various studios, most of which have gone about as well as the first batch. So if you’ve long awaited to know more about the concepts I speak with, your wishes have come true.
If you wish to know about my conversations with my neighbor, I cannot help you.
Over the past couple of weeks, I have been enjoying the journey through RIFT Prime, the game’s first progression server. Trion Worlds surprised and delighted many of us when it announced that it would be creating a slightly more difficult, vastly more cash shop-free shard that would take players through the entirety of the RIFT experience from vanilla through the latest expansion.
As I’ve reset the clock on my RIFT adventures, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the benefits of progression servers. With a lot of World of Warcraft fans wondering if Classic will eventually morph into a progression shard (which I certainly hope it does), and with games like EverQuest and EverQuest II repeatedly embracing the alternative ruleset, I think we could be moving into an era where older MMOs experience new life with this relatively simple move.
So why are MMO progression servers a brilliant idea? Here are 10 thoughts on the matter.
Around the time I started working at Massively-that-was, there was an article that I quite liked talking about how four high-profile MMO failures were not necessary. It was a product of its time, but the point was made that these games didn’t have to wind up in the state they were in. The mistakes that were made were not unexpected problems, but entirely predictable ones that anyone could have seen. Heck, some people did see them and pointed them out, but nothing was changed.
I think about that a lot when I think about other MMOs and online games because there are a lot of titles that, even if not entirely failed, are in states they never needed to be in. These stories are, at the very least, stories of some failures where the failure was not an inevitable end state, nor are they messes that had to be made. The writing was on the wall, the warnings were given, and someone just kept on keeping on and ignored all of the signs. And here we are.
With the insane success — both in terms of popularity and finances — that Dota and League of Legends spawned, you can easily understand why game studios latched onto the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) as a relatively quick cash grab. After all, with players providing the ongoing content (through PvP matches), developers were freed up to focus on balance tweaks and churning out new skins and characters to sell.
In a relatively short span of time, the market became flooded with many imitators that sought to grab that slice of the profitable pie. And while some, such as Hi-Rez’s SMITE, have endured, many games discovered the one key danger with this approach: If you could not generate and sustain a large, active playerbase, you were as good as dead. A critical mass was needed, and when it was not achieved, games started folding up left and right.
In today’s Perfect Ten, we’re going to look at a dozen MOBAs that tried and failed to make it. Perhaps they serve as cautionary lessons to other studios seeking to mimic League of Legends’ format, but we somehow doubt that the era of the MOBA is over just yet.
When I look back at last year, the most surprising turn in my MMO gaming career was staging a successful return to Dungeons and Dragons Online
. Initially I had only planned to revisit this old flame for a couple of runs and a quick blog post, but before I knew it, I had been sucked back in to this unique and flavorful MMO.
Over the past four months I’ve been slowly progressing through the early and mid game, taking my scrappy Gnome Artificer up to level 10 and through more odd stories than I ever recall being a part of the game (to be fair, the last time I had played regularly was 2010).
Now that I’ve had time to experience and reflect upon playing Dungeons and Dragons Online in this day and age, I wanted to share with you 10 observations that I’ve gleaned from this fantasy roleplaying game.
I remember my first time. Unlike many hunters, I didn’t stalk her. In fact, she bumped into me. I was just strolling down the beach, collecting some bugs and BAM! There she was. Larger than life. I was a little scared, and I admit I tried to hide in a bush. She saw right through it. She chased me a bit since, well, I was hiding in a bush, but admittedly, she was also a predator. She wanted me, badly, and I kind of wanted her. We moved from the beach to the forest and even went on a bit of a mountain hike where I was finally able to mount her. I gave a few quick stabs before pulling out my big sword, deeply penetrating her and finally cutting off her tail. Tail cutting is kind of what I’m into…
…eh? I’m talking about my experience in Monster Hunter World, of course. Although, come to think of it, some of the monsters are kind of sexy if you really think about it. You do want to think about it? Well, considering the season, I guess I can we can try a top ten of the sexiest monsters of Monster Hunter World. I’ve already consulted with one of our sexperts and veteran hunters, Matt Daniel. We had some deep(ly uncomfortable) conversations about criteria and decided to rely on our… um, “gut” instinct. I’ll be going beyond looks and dip into monster personality plus kink factors. There won’t be any discrimination between newcomers or old veterans, and all genders are welcome here. Just, um, no rotting flesh, no matter how great your personality is. Sorry, Odogaron.
One of the advantages to computer RPGs, I’ve always thought, is that you don’t need a friend who you can alternately sucker or bribe into taking on 80% of the work that’s involved in making a tabletop RPG fun. You just turn on the game and it goes. The downside, of course, is that you also don’t have the advantages of having a GM in charge of the game, so you don’t get that personal connection and that sense of familiarity.
Except that’s not entirely accurate, is it? Yes, these games do not have a person eagerly perched behind a screen explaining how your characters have screwed everything up forever, but you still do get the same sense of a specific GM guiding the game over time. Because there are certain quirks, certain constants, and over time a feel to the game that informs what sort of GM you’ve got running the game. So let’s talk about the GMs running some games.
I warn you that if you’ve never played any sort of tabletop game, this column may not make a whole lot of sense. But if you’ve never played any tabletop RPGs I don’t understand how you live and thus cannot promise to target you reliably. Sorry.
Maybe it will be short-lived, but it is exciting to see attention and excitement return to the sphere of RIFT
following the announcement of the upcoming Prime server ruleset
. I’ve gone from not thinking much of this title in my absence to somewhat missing it to absolutely craving it within the span of a week, and I’m sure that’s only going to get worse.
Seeing friends and commenters talk about RIFT has reminded me of just how many incredible features and qualities this MMO has. Sure, it’s made a lot of missteps and just about nobody really loves the business model, but there is a genuinely good game here that has a feature set that most MMOs could only dream about having on the back of the box.
So whether you’re thinking about returning to RIFT this spring or perhaps taking it up for the first time, here are 10 features from the game that I feel deserve public kudos.
Sometimes, you write a column more or less as a mental exercise, and then World of Warcraft drops an expansion pre-purchase that makes it all feel highly relevant.
The world of Azeroth is a world of astonishing variety. On Earth, we have exactly one form of intelligent bipedal life, but when it comes to species native to Azeroth that are gifted with speech and cognition, the plethora of playable races available barely even scratches the surface. And that’s without even getting into the various races available on Draenor and Argus, although at least the latter seems to be mostly limited to various flavors of demons and more subraces of Draenei.
The point is that even with a grand total of 19 different playable races, it’s easy to come up with other playable races that would be a fun time. And now that we’ve got allied races on the docket, that’s pretty viable as an option. So let’s look at a sampling (based on personal preference) of the races we can’t yet play but would still be pretty fun. Blizzard, take notice.
Now that we’re almost 1/12th of the way through 2018, it’s probably about time to stop anticipating the year and start experiencing it. We have already looked at MMOs coming this year, multiplayer titles on the way, the current healthiest MMOs, MMO predictions, and the best value games on the market. So what’s left?
Expansions. Expansions and major content updates are what’s left. It might seem a little presumptuous to try to outline what’s coming this year, since many studios still have their long-range plans under wraps, but when we sat down in the MOP office to talk about it, we ended up with a much larger list than anticipated.
So here’s a look at the major MMO expansions and content updates we are expecting and anticipating over the course of this year. After this? You’re on your own, kid.