Back around 2007, I was in the beta for a little game called Mythos. Flagship — yes, that Flagship — originally created it to test some tech for Hellgate London and then liked it so much that it decided to spin it off as its own game. Unfortunately, the whole Hellgate/Flagshipped saga sunk any hopes of Mythos ever getting released, which was a shame because it was a fun little game (and this was before Hanbit got ahold of it and made it into a reanimated corpse of what it once was).
I was truly excited about it at the time because Mythos took the Diablo-style gameplay (action RPGs or “clickfests”) and put it in more of an MMO-style persistent world. Dungeon Runners was doing something like that as well and fared about the same in the end. I thought the combination of Diablo and MMO could be a hit, and it was disappointing that both games failed to get the audience and studio they deserved.
Today, however, I feel like we’re on the cusp of seeing MMOs move in some exciting new directions. Smaller indie projects that are taking risks once more. Flirting with virtual reality. And strong growth and popularity in the OARPG sector.
Diablo III, Path of Exile, and Marvel Heroes have all shown that not only is there a market for these kinds of (semi-)persistent games, there’s a huge market for them. These aren’t traditional MMOs, with an over-the-shoulder view, slower combat, and more skills than you could fit on four hotbars. Instead, it’s isometric country with frantic clicking, a handful of skills, highly repeatable content, and fast kills. Some players prefer it. Some, like myself, like it as an alternative for other MMOs.
We’ve got more on the way, too. Last year Trion took a stab at getting a slice of the market with Devilian, which is probably the most MMOish of them all, even if its classes and world are pretty generic. John Smedley’s Hero’s Song, Lineage Eternal, Lost Ark, Tree of Savior, Dragon of Legends, and the much-rumored Torchlight MMO are all on the way or being discussed.
Of course, OARPGs aren’t universally liked. They might lack the sticky factor that some need to really plant roots in online games. The isometric viewpoint can be a dealbreaker (not for me, though). But they are a different option for those that feel frustrated with theme park, action, and sandbox MMOs.
MOP’s Bree and I have been talking about OARPGs a lot on the podcast lately, as these games represent a segment of the industry that seems to be (1) on the rise, (2) incorporating MMO elements such as housing and raids fairly well, and (3) very accessible for gamers at any point along the hardcore-casual spectrum. We don’t have a lot of big AAA-budget games being developed at this point, but there is a nice little wave of these OARPGs on the way, and that’s cause for cautious celebration.
Diablo clones, so to speak, won’t be the only future of MMOs, but they could be quietly and surely growing into an important part of the coming years of online massively multiplayer gaming. I hope we see more emerge.