What is the future of MMOs?

Happy October 13th 14th!

I will come back to Topic 2, likely next week, but I was posed with an interesting question just the other day pertaining to Topic 1, and I think tonight I’ll give it a shot:

“What do you think is the future of MMOs (Massively Multiplayer Online)?”

So, I’ll be honest…I wouldn’t say MMOs are my thing. I’ve only ever played one, Guild Wars 2, and even that experience was just in the last 2 years, and so I won’t pretend to be an expert on playing MMOs or have some sort of long, intimate history with them. My largest experience in playing with other gamers online was through Blizzard’s Battle.net on games like Warcraft III, Starcraft, and Diablo. (Now, I DO have a long, intimate history with the Diablo franchise, which I will talk about in another post.)

So, I will do my best at analyzing the MMO genre via the one game I have played, Guild Wars 2, by pointing out interesting and note-worthy aspects, as well as reasons to why MMOs aren’t my cup of tea, before trying to determine the fate of games like it. If anyone reading this IS highly experienced in MMO, I would be very interested to hear your insights into the question, too! (And maybe point out something I missed.)

Let’s start with the positive, shall we?

Alright, Guild Wars 2…I began playing it in 2016 and went through a phase where I went a bit crazy with it. I think first experiences in MMOs are always a little like that. I was awestruck by many things: the enormity of the game, first of all. The map, the dungeons, the amount of things to do within the game, which was constantly changing. I mean, one could spend thousands of hours playing around in the game and still discover new things and be excited for holiday themes like Wintersday throughout the year. I was, secondly, spellbound by ArenaNet’s ability to create a game that caters brilliantly to all 4 major gamer types, according Bartle’s taxonomy. (In case you don’t know, in psychological studies of gamers the original 4 gamer types (with variants on the actual labels) are Killers, Explorers, Achievers, and Socialites, who all play games for relatively different reasons. Read more here.) So, I am an Explorer/Achiever (INTJ strategic-conqueror-type, RTS-RPG-sandbox, which probably explains why I like Stellaris so much, a game I will find a way to talk about it another post), leaning more towards exploratory much of the time (meaning I like to break off from the pack and go investigate something on my own), and usually games, unless it’s an open-world RPG, don’t really reward Explorer gamer types all that much except for maybe finding an item or two (whoopee). But in GW2, you get XP and level up your character just by uncovering a new section of the map – now THAT is cool! Every time a player unveils a point of interest or a waypoint or even venturing into unexplored sections, there are visible and tangible rewards, mostly pertaining to the very satisfying *ding ding ding* of XP feeding into your character level. I became obsessed with map completion – which is quite a feat, seeing that the world is so enormous.

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But exploration is only one way a player can level up their character. In fact, there is a way that satisfies every gamer type: For Killers, you can go into various arenas and beat the crap out of another player, and you get XP for victories, if that’s your thing. For competitive and elitist Achievers, the sheer amount of achievements and titles you can get in this game is mind-boggling, and not only do you get XP, but you get special commander tags and titles that float around your character for everyone see. (Achievers like to flaunt their leadership and status.) And, of course, MMOs are a Socialite’s heaven: A huge, open world filled with thousands of players: Trade, form guilds, fight bosses together, gather a group and dive into a dungeon, make friends (or enemies)…and be rewarded for all of that. There are huge perks to being part of a top-notch guild (aka, “being popular”), and some bosses and dungeons are undefeatable without cooperating with other players.

Because of all this, I can’t help but place Guild Wars 2, and I suppose MMOs to a certain extent (if they’re like GW2 in this regard), as a type of genius game. It is extremely difficult to create a game that satisfies every gamer type—the complexity alone to create something like this is staggering.

I can go on to talk about small things I liked or disliked about GW2, but that just about sums it up in a general sense. I thought the story was lacking, and AI characters were meh, and so the story-rich part of my Explorer type was disappointed. But I’m focusing on the larger scope of MMOs as a game type, so I need to outline a few things that I, personally, dislike about MMO as a genre, before I try to wrap up and answer the question of their future.

One thing I disliked: The grind. I can handle a grind (hell, I played Diablo religiously growing up, so…yeah, there’s a bit of grind-attitude in my gamestyle), but I can’t handle a grind that seems meaningless, or a grind that is so intense it requires 100s of hours just for a small victory, which is what I came across in GW2 once I reached level 80. To upgrade gear, gather all the achievements, even make enough gold…it was frustratingly grindy, especially for a gamer type like me who liked to do things on her own. So, I don’t know if other MMOs are like this, but after watching a fellow gamer I know sit at the Synergy Furnace in Final Fantasy XI…I think I can safely say that GW2 is not unique in this.

Another thing I disliked: I am as far from a Socialite as one can get (I am stubbornly independent, and I hate getting caught up in “gamer drama”), and so, for certain achievements or access to certain areas that required guild association or “getting in” with other players (such as Fractals of the Mists, hated those things)…BAH!

However, despite MMOs not being my cup of tea and for all the quarrels I have with some aspects of them, I think MMOs are going to increase in popularity in the future, although I might grant that the evolution of them might be a tad slower than some other genres right now. However, I think the concept of massively multiplayer online, of being able to play globally with tons of other people, live, will evolve into not a genre but just a norm. I bring up Super Mario Odyssey, only because I’ve played it recently: Not too long ago (meaning Super Mario Galaxy and everything before it), Mario’s journey was a solo one, and to an extent it still is…but you (your Switch avatar) has an online status, there are interactions, side quests, and mini-games to play with other players (live), there are areas of the map that go “live” for extra rewards…all of these feel MMO-ish. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing this is happening, but I think more and more we will see that “MMO” is just part of a game rather than a genre of its own.

Hey, cheers everyone!

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