I guess I want to preface today’s post by saying that I will never advocate that every game in the world needs to become an MMORPG. I’m totally fine with studios setting a vision for what they want to make with whatever features and then going for it. If that’s single-player, multiplayer, co-op, or MMO, so be it. But it’s started to irk me when studios start to make MMORPGs and then along the way downgrade them into something less, perhaps to appease the virulent anti-MMO crowd out there.
Beware: There may be virtual strawmen in this article.
We’re in a weird era for MMOs right now. There are some titles enjoying extremely long and profitable lives and plenty of crowdfunded and investor-funded MMOs on the way. Emulators are becoming more common, volunteer-staffed projects are dotting the landscape, and development is skewing away from WoW clones while heading in exciting new directions. But there are also fewer full-fledged MMORPGs in development, and out of those, only a handful boast a reasonably big budget and studio muscle behind them.
What prompted this post was that recently, Cryptic/PWE had two titles under its umbrellas that were described as MMORPGs — Magic Legends and Torchlight Frontiers. As a big fan of Star Trek Online and Neverwinter, I was understandably excited about seeing what other MMOs would come from this company. But then Magic Legends revealed that it wasn’t really an MMO, and about a week or two later, Torchlight Legends rebranded as Torchlight III while dropping its massively multiplayer scope. Both became, more or less, Diablo clones with some multiplayer and persistent characters but far less than what I’d hoped for.
Seeing MMOs downgrade into something less is really disheartening to me. I may be tolerant and supportive of all types of video games, but MMORPGs are where my heart is at. This is what excites me the most and gets the most of my gaming time, and by gum, I want to see more of them made and successfully launched!
Magic and Torchlight aren’t the first time we’ve seen this sort of thing happen. Remember H1Z1? SOE’s weird successor to Star Wars Galaxies (for some reason) that was supposed to be an MMO? And then it became a battle royale title and the MMO was dropped for good. It’s what a lot of folks are fearing about Ashes of Creation or any other developing MMO that abruptly announces a side project.
And then there are studios that were formerly all about the MMOs taking definitive steps backwards. Funcom? It was all about MMOs, and then it was about survival sandboxes and weird solo spin-offs. Seems like this is what’s happening with PWE right now too.
I get it — making MMORPGs is hard, and they’re no longer going to succeed just on the novelty of what they are. But I’m growing weary of studios flinching at the challenge and then reducing their scope until the games they churn out are small and forgettable.
Swing for the fences, people. We love to cheer on a home run, not a bunt.