The Times they are a-Changin’. Quo vadis, MMORPG?

It’s been a while; life has partly been an exhausting job-hunt but also there’s a strange mood I’m going through after a decade of MMO playing, hyping, dissecting and criticizing. This is not another post about how someone’s jaded with his hobby or how gamification zomg-ruined the MMORPG genre – but then, the scene has changed a great deal and I’ve never felt it more than right now.

Last week, in a rather head-over-heels act of fatalism, my videogame “home forum” of over ten years has closed down the doors of its Online/MMO Games sub-section and merged a great many of the other sub-genre forums into one big fat gaming board. And it’s not the fact that I used to be admin there but rather the underlying meaning of another chapter come to an end, that stings me. Many years ago we’ve already passed a similar cross-road: at the time we ran a very lively and geeky RPG forum – that was the era of the big JRPGs and console pearls. That was the time of Squaresoft, Konami and Capcom.

Then, 64-bit consoles happened and Microsoft joined the scene with the XBOX. From there, the classic RPG niche went rapidly downhill. Less and less titles of quality were produced; mainstream games were on the move and even staple companies started focusing their design efforts elsewhere. Technological progress soon became a selling point over long-winded storytelling, setting and immersion. And so, the RPG forum had to go. Not much sense in keeping a sub-forum where five people keep discussing the same three games. The RPG forum got replaced by an Online/MMO forum.

Only few years later, we’re in a similar position. “Almost all games are online now” and “there’s no need for a sub-forum about the same three MMOs” were the main arguments. Can’t really argue with that; the only active MMO topics for this year were GW2 and WoW, with a bit of Tera and TSW in the mix. If we keep it strictly MMO and exclude games like Diablo III or League of Legends, 2012 is a year of two major games and one of them is an expansion. Meanwhile, the market is flooded with “solo online RPGs”, coop games or half-baked MMOs that some marketing goon in a overpriced suit came up with over night, because “that TV show would make a good MMO, let’s make one!”.

………….

I don’t even know what to think about the future. What will we be excited about in 2013 and beyond? Smaller niche titles à la Pathfinder? Or will we move on to the online coop mode altogether? Is Blizzard’s Titan going to be the last big attempt at this genre – and will we actually be happy to play in a non-fantasy world plastered with product placement?

Quo vadis, MMORPG?

Well, I don’t know about you, but this weekend at least I’m going back to the Guild Wars 2 beta and I’m quite looking forward to a smoother playtime experience. ArenaNet have addressed a great deal of issues, I was especially happy to hear about the fixes for the overflow mechanics. More on that next week.

Other than that, I’ve had some fun playing Team Fortress 2 with my comrades – who’d have thought that mowing down enemy lines with a Heavy could be that much fun?! Also, my indie-spree continues and I can only recommend Steam’s delicious Humble Indie Bundle, ain’t no bigger bang for your buck! A word of caution about Amnesia though: nerves of steel are advised! I didn’t make it past the second hallway, but then I am a sissy. Happy weekend everybody and enjoy your MMOs while you still can!

11 comments

  1. Welcome back, Syl! I’m sorry to hear about your forum being merged, but I agree that it’s really just another sign of the times. The secret basement hobbies we all used to relish in have become more and more mainstream, and in the process of doing so have become more and more… mainstreamed. The flavor of the genre, the subtle essences of story, character, tactics, and cooperation that added up to fun have been more and more watered down in the name of making games for everyone (to turn a larger profit) that we’re left with a lot of titles that seem about the same.

    I’d heard about Amnesia from a friend of mine who’d watched the entire game via youtube (he’s that kind of person). He recounted jocular tales of the person playing it jumping and screaming as things happened in the game, like a fat cockroach crawling right across “your screen” and the like. It’s not for me, either, and I like horror – but that doesn’t seem like horror. That seems like terror and discomfort. They’re far from the same.

    At any rate, it’s good to see you, and here’s to a future of better games!

    1. Thanks very much, Stubborn! :) I know times change and it’s partly a good thing, but then a part of me also thinks that it’s one more reason why the old should be remembered and kept alive in a small corner. I like variety, I don’t understand why the new always needs to completely kill the old. oh well. in the end trends come and go, at some point the classic RPG and MMO might see a revival. one can always hope!

      Amnesia seems to aim at scaring the living daylights out of people, hehe…quite literally. when the intro screen tells you to turn off the light in your room, that’s usually a good indication! I’m no horror fan, but I expected it to be more subtle since it’s not about zombie slaying but in fact avoidance. still, the tension and atmosphere is so unsettling that I probably won’t go back to it.

  2. I would buy a new Chrono game. I have played every Kingdom Hearts game but the most recent, and I’ll pick up the newest ones when I can. I still have a half dozen RPGs to play, none of them online.

    …but yeah, I’m an outlier, and I’m highly annoyed at the D3 direction where games want to be online all the time, and they are deeply infected with “social” design. Oh, and I’m still pissed that we didn’t get proper KOTOR sequels, and got this silly SWTOR thing instead.

    Bleh.

    Oh, and speaking of (not too annoying) product placement, I can live with it as long as I’m not paying a %&*% subscription. If I’m “paying” for the game by seeing advertisements, that’s a bargain I might be willing to make.

    1. It’s odd how Blizzard especially doesn’t get how counter-productive forcefully engineered social gaming is…it’s baffling.
      as for the potential ads in Titan, to me it’s a big turn-off. I would definitely expect it to be FTP, but that’s small consolation. I’d much rather pay for a game without ads than play a free one with ads. I can think of little less immersion-breaking than real world brands in an MMO. but then the main theme seems to be post-apocalypse anyway, so what do I care? :D

      And I’d do a lot of things, including some pretty bad stuff, just to play a new Chrono game, hehe.

  3. Hi Syl! Sorry you’re feeling down about MMOs, but I really think they’re going to be fine. :) Yes, the market is contracting somewhat after the peak of WoW, and yes, dumping 100 million into an MMO probably isn’t a good idea anymore but be gone wretched industry excess! (My money says the same thing will happen to the FPS market in the next 3 years. The game industry can’t avoid the economy forever.)

    I had a lot of fun in my peak WoW days, don’t get me wrong, but man I am having a lot of fun now. I play a different game every night! A few hours of crafting in EQ2, some PvP in RIFT, run around with friends in D3, play something from the Humble Bundle — I seriously have not enjoyed my gaming this much in years.

    In my humble opinion your forum managers are too quick on the trigger. How can you get rid of an RPG forum when in the past year we’ve had Skyrim, Mass Effect 3, Final Fantasy XIII-2, Kingdoms of Amalur and action RPG Diablo 3. (And Persona 5 next year eeee!) As for MMOs, this year Guild Wars 2 and The Secret World are launching and SWTOR and Tera did launch. WoW, RIFT, LotRO, DDO, and EvE got or are getting expansions. And I haven’t even touched on the free to play or indie things out there!

    Things are changing, but nothing is dying. Are there shit games out there? Sure! Are there great games out there? Yes! The MMO and Game industries are settling down after a huge boom in dollars and public consciousness, but not being on a meteoric rise is not the same as dying.

    1. You know what, I agree with you. part of my chagrin is how swiftly the forum was dumped without much feedback from anybody; I don’t understand why you can’t allow niches in an internet forum. but then, it’s always been more of a mainstream forum with frankly quite a lot of obnoxious ignorants – which is why one small corner was still dear to me. now it’s probably just time to look for a new home.

      I think I just miss that initial “wow feeling” we all feel so nostalgic about…there are still some great games out there, but I cannot quite find it anymore. maybe it’s just me or rather the fact that I’m not 22 anymore with ample amount of spare time.
      in any case you’re quite right – there are many delicious games out at the moment, smaller ones but with lots of variety. I am still having fun with Skyrim, Journey was awesome (finally got to play it) and I’m playing more different games than ever. thanks for reminding me of that :)

  4. I think I empathize with you Syl and Liore on this. On the one hand, change is coming, but that doesn’t mean there should be no spaces for the things we’ve made spaces for. In the case of merging/closing forums, there aren’t 10 active users posting in it, I don’t see why it should close. Let those communities have their space, as they always have. It doesn’t cost forum mods/owners anything, time or otherwise, if those communities are merely being merged and not removed. I think it’s hasty to see forum communities phase out older game forums. It’s like trying to phase out that segment of the community. I say, let them continue to have their space if there’s even a small gathering of active posters.

    As to new game horizons …I don’t know how you could manage to play a new game everynight, Liore but I do appreciate the sentiment :)

    1. I’m glad to see commenting seems to work for you again!
      I totally agree with what you said about variety and honoring niches. I think it’s time I found a new place.

  5. “If we keep it strictly MMO and exclude games like Diablo III or League of Legends, 2012 is a year of two major games and one of them is an expansion”

    I assume you mean GW2 and Mists of Pandalings but unless it was an oversight, I think you do The Secret World a bit of a disservice mate. I like the premise that this is an entirely different MMO – classes are no more, levelling is no more, and it’s modern. I still firmly believe that if they deliver, TSW can be a major player – it already has a massive following. Some of the pre-launch riddles and mysteries have been really engaging and cryptic is not the word!!

    1. I am still very interested to see how TSW does. it does feel like more of an under-the-radar MMO at the moment though, maybe also because it went very quiet news-wise for a while. it does definitely have its own following though and brings some fresh stuff to the table, even if not necessarily my kinda stuff. I can see TSW establish its own solid player base. we’ll see what happens – I expect your report! ;)

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