The RPG Scrollbars: EverQuest Next Killed The MMORPG

Light a candle for the genre, it’s basically done. Oh, it’ll keep ticking along, of course. This month we’ve seen Black Desert Online, there’s others on the way, and there’ll always be some audience for both the mostly Korean-born clickers and the occasional new idea. Personally I’m hoping for City of Titans to scratch that superhero itch that Champions Online sure as heck can’t, and for Shroud of the Avatar to bring back some of that Ultima magic. (Take a shot.) But as a genre to actively watch for cool stuff? Stick a fork in it. Sony- sorry, Daybreak was pretty much the last great hope of breathing life into it in any form remotely close to how Everquest did it back in the day, never mind giving it back the cultural clout from World of Warcraft’s heyday.

In case you missed the hype, Everquest Next was due to be a crazy leap forward in many ways. A world built of voxels that could be blown up by spells, carved through to find secrets, torn up by epic battles. Rallying Calls, in which cities would need to be constructed by players, face threat by invasion, and then defended by vigilante players long after construction. Monsters driven by global AI instead of simple hand-placement, making it possible to defend the roads from settlement to settlement, but also have their cultures encroach upon civilisation if left unchecked. Worlds that players would not only live in, but construct, with Everquest Next intended as both a demonstration of how much freedom there would be, and as a place where buildings and other key bits of architecture would be directly sourced. Not since Richard Garriott’s infamous dragon story has a world sounded so reactive, right down to nomadic orcs relocating if their settlements ended up repeatedly raided.

So what went wrong?

Daybreak’s reason is, bluntly, that the game wasn’t shaping up to be any fun and so the plug was pulled. There’s honour in that if true, though it has to be said that only Planetside 2 hinted at the company being able to pull off something as impressive as Everquest Next intended to be, with the word “Sony” not hurting when looking at its intended scale. Looking at the rap sheet, H1Z1 has pretty much troddled along without incident or excitement of late, supposed pathfinder Everquest Landmark has shown about as much progress as the continental drift of its own landmasses, and of Next there’s been basically nothing, except for word that the development team had been moved across from Landmark to give it priority, and now presumably are back again, to punch in everything from an economy to updated tools to worthwhile PvP in time for the newly announced Spring launch and $9.99 entry fee. Which, while pretty appropriate for the amount of content on offer right now, isn’t exactly a confidence builder for its longevity.

Who knows, maybe it’ll be great. It’s not really the environment that you can imagine the next big thing in MMORPGs emerging from though.

The problem is, where else could be the source of an MMO with that same level of potential oomph? All the major players now have tried and failed and moved on. CCP could have merged the trust it places in players in Eve Online with a more personable setting with World of Darkness. Nope, gone. Blizzard’s Project Titan? Gone, with some pieces going to Overwatch, and Hearthstone probably more profitable than it would ever have been. Funcom? Hahaha, no. NCSoft perhaps could, but past attempts like Tabula Rasa and more recently Wildstar have left it licking burned fingers.

Elsewhere, the writing is on the wall – it’s more personal, focused, short-form but long-engagement games that are working right now, such as Destiny, The Division, and MOBA derived stuff. With the exception of Evolve of course, whose player remains confident it’ll take off any time now. (Keep the faith, Brian!)

I’ve talked about the problems facing MMOs before, but it’s probably worth repeating one of the biggest – the magic factor. By that, I mean that when the genre first hit, its fundamental sell felt magical – that we could enter amazing worlds with millions of other people, and every moment of doing so felt special. Now, not only is it no big deal, but we’ve come to realise that much like the real world, what matters isn’t how many people you’re surrounded by, but how many people you’re actually with.

The modern multiplayer world is geared more towards social groups that exist in reality – four or five friends playing Dota together, or teaming up with a friend in the evening to go and score some Destiny loot in an experience that’s a mix of chat, work and play. I’m speaking hypothetically of course, I have no friends. But that’s how it’s configured. MMOs have stepped back from the problem by increasingly making group content an optional extra, or something that can be purely farmed as necessary, with only Final Fantasy XIV – a game that gets better and better with every update, incidentally – really having the courage to say “No, you will learn boss battles by fighting an Ifrit who can party-wipe you, and you will queue up for dungeons when we say.”

It feels like an exception to the rule though, which gets away with it as much for the fact that it can offer chocobos and a Final Fantasy world as a carrot to go along with what to most players increasingly seem to consider the stick. It probably doesn’t hurt that if you’re a long-term fan of Final Fantasy (and yes, I’ve played them for many years myself) you’ve largely proven your willingness to tolerate a fair amount of bullshit to get to the stuff that you like. That didn’t work out so well for anything from The Old Republic to DC Universe Online – though both of them are currently ticking along and still getting quite a few updates rather than sitting in MMO stasis.

New MMOs meanwhile have largely given up on taking over the mainstream and becoming the next World of Warcraft, simply because there’s far more money to be had targeting the existing player who just wants a change of scenery, the casual F2P player who might be sucked in but at least adds a bit of screen-meat to the empty worlds, or the guilds that inevitably have a bee in their bonnets about something in whatever they’re playing and tend to move en masse between games before settling down again for the long-haul, and most of all, markets like Russia and Korea where there’s a hunger for what in the West often gets summarily dismissed. Starforge being described as “From the makers of Allods Online” for instance is something of a warning siren over here, carrying with it the stench of pay-to-win and similar mechanics, but not so much in its native Russia.

Either way, these are games to watch to see tweaks on formulas and ever-prettier graphics, but not so much reinvention and startling new ideas. Future MMOs to watch will instead be the ones that break entirely away from Everquest and World of Warcraft and their origins and do something that again feels like magic. Everquest Next was the last one in development that could have done so, and even then, it’s arguable whether players would have wanted to devote that much time and effort to building Sony/Daybreak’s world when they can do so much more in their own Minecraft worlds. It’s not like most crafting MMOs have been huge successes, from A Tale In The Desert to Wurm Online, before or after. It’s only when they again shrank down and became more personal, in the form of games like Rust, that the idea really took off – another case of an MMO only working in the absence of that additional pesky M.

Will games of those scale ever have what it takes again? Never say never. Assuming all goes well, entering Star Citizen’s living universe could be that moment for many of us. Certainly, give me a space-ship… and I’m sorry to say, a slightly more interesting universe than Elite Dangerous… and I can imagine getting sucked in. Maybe with VR, Second Life and its cohorts will find, well, a second life, where the crowds again become part of the experience instead of simply part of the scenery. As soon as they faded that far though, the writing was on the wall for the MMO versus smaller experiences.

Still, while the MMO’s last chance at full-on reinvention just got snuffed out, at least the quests will continue – hell, Everquest has enough players that it still gets new expansions, and Ultima Online just congratulated one of its guilds on 20 years in Britannia. Without what it did, we also wouldn’t have its successors, from survival and rogue games, to Minecraft itself. As a genre, they changed the world, and whatever comes next will almost certainly build on the templates they laid down much as they borrowed from what came before. The legacy of the MMORPG will be of the genre that changed gaming, and let us all enter a new world. The next worlds that change ours will be different, but something of them will live on forever – just as long as it’s more interesting than f***ing crafting.

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97 Comments

  1. Background Character-kun says:

    Good, MMORPGs are trash

    • deadlybydsgn says:

      Generally speaking, I’d agree.

      On the other hand, I think most gamers need to experience MMO burnout before they realize the issue. Thankfully, my experience was late in high school with Asheron’s Call. My memories of it are wonderful, but there’s no way I’d want to burn so many hours in an online world again.

      15 years later, I really don’t see the point. Like I said, though, it’s something a gamer has to realize for themselves, and we all reach it at a different point.

    • ToozdaysChild says:

      MMOs as they currently exist are trash.

      The genre has a lot more potential beyond what’s currently on offer, though. EQN was going to be a step in the right direction, with a focus on player agency and persistent consequences to their actions.

      That’s what an MMO was always really supposed to be, in the end: a living world that the players could shape, fight over, and manage, rather than the tired Theme Parks they’ve become.

      • Flopdong says:

        I agree. I love the premise of MMOs, but every one I play consistently disappoints. To me, the entire appeal of an MMO is that your actions and decisions affect the world around you, and those repercussions are felt by other players.
        My immersion is completely destroyed when I get a quest to clear an area of wolves for some farmers, and by the time I’ve killed the last wolves, the first ones have already respawned. Instead of saving the world or whatever, Im following a pilgrimage of players all following the same boring questline because there is armor of +5 stabbing at the end of it. Nothing matters because none of your actions change anything.
        I want more dynamic questlines and events, for example one player is playing as a thief and another is a bounty hunter. The thief could rob an NPC’s house for loot, then the NPC puts up a bounty on that player that all bounty hunters can pursue. Dynamic missions that involve some aspect of PvP or other player/player interaction.

        • ZeroWaitState says:

          This. Of course, part of the problem is that 99.9% of MMORPG’s aren’t about role-playing. The main reason for this is that dev’s don’t trust players. You can’t when you have thousands of people sharing the same online space; there’s always a handful of idiots that ruin it for everyone. So you tighten the screws and limit the options until it becomes a themepark ride, because it’s easier than policing a nation full of 12-year olds.

          Richard Garriott tried all that stuff. What he learned is that when you create an online world with thousands of players and give people complete freedom, it very quickly becomes like the real world you’re trying to escape from, except with magical swords and furniture barricades. Depending upon the age range and demographic of the players, the sort of community that evolves resembles your local high school, the state prison, a hippie colony, or Lord of the Flies.

          When you have a small group of players, and those players can choose who to play with and who to avoid, you end up with more freedom being possible because you aren’t dealing with the lowest common denominator anymore.

        • malkav11 says:

          MMOs seem like exactly the wrong genre to go to for having your actions affect the world around you. Even the tiny handful of sandbox MMOs only offer that feeling to people with a whole lot of other people lined up behind them and even then it’s basically meaningless. Sure, the drama is temporarily great but you’re not changing anything fundamental about the systems, setting or any other bedrock element of the game. You’re just pushing around the political lines and supply chains and they’ll move off in some other direction the moment people get bored and move on.

        • Napalm Sushi says:

          The worst thing is when you have to physically queue with other players at the wolf spawner to fill your wolf quota. I can’t take any of a game’s heroic conceit seriously when my noble quest plays out like I’m grabbing bog roll from Tesco.

    • Massacher says:

      So EverQuest Next is no longer in development? So what happens to the people that paid for the founders pack? Do we get a refund?

      • malkav11 says:

        As far as I know there hasn’t been any way to put money down on EQNext. The founder’s pack you mention was for Landmark, which is a separate (if originally theoretically linked) game (for certain values of game) that will still be releasing and no, they’re not refunding people who bought it.

  2. Michael Anson says:

    I am amused by the denouement mentioning crafting, when part of what is making Black Desert Online so interesting is the heavy focus on crafting being a long, involved process… and one which you can hire NPCs to do most of.

    • Doganpc says:

      Except you can recruit NPC’s to do a portion of the grunt work, so that you’re not wasting away every moment fetching minute`

  3. ramirezfm says:

    I stopped bothering with MMOs because they all needed lots of time investment and as I have a full time job and like to play many games, and I actually need to spend some time with my better half, I just have no time to invest. The same reason why I don’t play multiplayer games in general. I would need to invest time not to suck and to get some enjoyment and I just don’t have that time. Said that, literally last weekend I decided to try some MMOs. Guild Wars 2, Blade and Soul and Black Desert Online. And damn it was fun. Zero human interaction, just some missions, some grinding and some excellent visuals. It was engaging, I wasn’t rushed to anything, I didn’t need any cookie cutter build, I had fun. I see myself playing either one of these games now and then. Hell, I will probably pay some outrageous amount of monies just so my in-game person can look pretty. MMOs are again fine for me, as long as the multiplayer part is optional.

  4. Premium User Badge

    Ross Turner says:

    I’m still cautiously optimistic about Crowfall, though the price and range of “backer pledges” is worrying.

  5. chase4926 says:

    RPS seems to get more sensationalist every day.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      Doooooooom! DoooOOOOOoooom! Doom to the MMO genre is sure to come!

      Yeah, this was quite overblown. Do try not to do that, RPS. It does not suit you.

      • Chillicothe says:

        It’s less “sensationalist” than “for everyone late to the party”.

        Now, saying this stuff like I was years back got e-gank squads on you real quick.

        Kindness killed the MMO genre, and Mobas and the Survival Genre picked its carcass clean.

        • sosolidshoe says:

          Yuh-huh, sure. Like how space games are dead. And 4x games are dead. And RTS games are dead. And arena shooters are dead. And how PC is a dead platform.

          Like all those things, MMOs are experiencing a temporary decline in popularity driven by a combination of burnout on the part of the players and lack of ambition on the part of the industry(we got bored playing the same game with a different skin, and they were too risk-averse to make anything else). Like all the other “dead” genres in a few years time some dev will make an MMO that leverages some new mechanic or IP or cultural trope, and five minutes after that becomes a thing “oldschool-style” MMOs will ride the nostalgia tide back to relevance.

          But I suppose without being able to chuck around “killed” and “dead” and snark about devs the author isn’t personally fond of, all you’d be left with was reporting the facts and measured analysis, and who on earth wants that, amirite? o_0

          • vodkarom55 says:

            in a way it is dead. MMORPG means massively multiplayer Online Role Playing Game. that being said why are they all so focused making their game accessible to people who want to play single player games. for instance final fantasy XIV can almost completely be played alone. at least they force you to team up for a couple of boss fights but there is really no reason to team up with anyone for the bulk of the game. now if you go back to final fantasy XI (last best MMO in my opinion) that game FORCED you to team up after level 9 or 10 it was literally impossible to continue the game without help from other people AND IT WAS AMAZING. the areas were actually scary because you NEEDED the help from your companions and every one was in the same boat so it wasn’t like you were the only one that needed help. so many lessons can be learned from final fantasy XI. like a player built economy? that was cool. build a client base of people who want to buy food or potions from you cause youre not charging and arm or a leg for it like the NPC peddler. ugh some one just make an MMO that is actually a massively MULTIplayer online rpg instead of a massively SINGLEplayer rpg.

    • Traipse says:

      Is this really sensationalist, though? Seems pretty straightforward to me. To say that the MMO genre hasn’t seen any significant innovation in ages, that it’s been largely usurped by less massive and more personal multiplayer experiences in recent years… that all looks pretty clear-cut.

      The only thing sensationalist about it is the title, “Everquest Next Killed the MMORPG”. The genre isn’t dead, per se, just stagnant. Reminds me of Frank Zappa’s famous quote: “Jazz isn’t dead, it just smells funny.”

      • Schnallinsky says:

        “The genre isn’t dead, per se, just stagnant.” i don’t understand that bit. the classic, huge MMORPGs (eq, wow) are probably dying, but – as has been stated – the genre is actually just changing and evolving – and maybe specializing. the new generation may not be as massive, but there are more of them, each with its focus on a different dynamic, style and mechanic.

        so the headline is mostly misleading and/or confusing:

        * MMORPGs aren’t dead, the new ones just aren’t that massive anymore.
        * everquest next hasn’t killed the genre, it was just another stillbirth.
        * the genre isn’t stagnant; new ones emerge all the time, they just don’t resemble “the classics” that much.

        • fdel says:

          HUuuh if its not massive.. Its not MMORPG its MORPG.
          Semantics semantics. But the coma matters.
          Well many things killed MMORPG until it get reborn like aparently Xcom, or space game.
          Mass of tards playing PK
          Averse risk making it more stagnant than a dead pool
          And more and the same with diferent pixels.

          Going for too much time did exactly what the article says.
          Why have to suffer a tard that ruin half dozen friend experience, when you can go half a dozen friend experience without a tard.

          Also the mass got older and have less time to play on the same timeline, kids, job, lack of money, death….especially this last one complicate things.
          So they got more selective…and ultimately…and for many playing alone is better than to constantly get frustrated by IRL emergency calls that cancels the gathering.

    • Kamahlk says:

      I don’t really think of this as sensationalist at all. In fact I think it’s rather spot on. As a WoW player almost 10 years, the magic truly is gone. I’ve tried so many other MMOs and that “magic” just isn’t there. No sense of wonder or sense of being lost in a big world. Black Desert Online is honestly the only MMO I’ve tried in years that even comes close to feeling refreshing and new. Although I did rather enjoy Wildstar at first, but that is just another themepark mmo as well.

    • BooleanBob says:

      I kind of get that vibe sometimes, but from this article? No way. Cobbett has just given you 1500 words of substantive, nuanced carefully-considered opinion. Yes, he leads with the lede and his conclusion is eye-catching, but he backs up it up with a fistful of arguments and he’s clearly put in the necessary hours. The comments the piece has attracted are not the outrage of a bunch of people who’ve had their chains jerked by clickbait, but are reasoned and thoughtful in kind.

      This is the sort of stuff I want to see more of on RPS, to balance out the shrillness and sarcasm I’m getting exhausted by elsewhere.

  6. Theboredfish says:

    Crowfall might be the last chance for an MMO to really capture an audience large enough to give the genre a bit of a ‘pick-me-up’. However, the PvP centric nature of it will more than likely make it too niche to ever capture a huge following. I imagine we’ll be reading EVE Online style news articles where potential customers admire from afar but never pull the trigger.

  7. pringles says:

    For a perpetual loner such as myself, the opposite of what matters isn’t how many people you’re surrounded by, but how many people you’re actually with is true. It’s not so much about playing with a tightly knit group of people that I know personally, but seeing and feeling the world be populated by lots of people who are getting on with doing their own things that helps with immersion.

    Regardless of the above, there’s one thing that gives me hope on the MMORPG front.

    Camelot. Unchained.

  8. darkmorgado says:

    If a publisher had the guts to really support development, a renewed Warhammer 40k MMO would probably gather quite a lot of players. Dark Millennium Online was looking rather tasty before it was cancelled :(

  9. Bodylotion says:

    Apparently there’s still quite a big group of people still loving the traditional MMO’s. Personally, I’ve enjoyed my share of Star Wars Galaxies and World Of Warcraft but I couldn’t really get into other MMO’s.
    I would say MMO’s have lost their magic but I would argue that the same counts for most genre’s out there.
    Perhaps it’s just me but rarely do I still get surprised by a game even though I know it’s a great game.

    After years of gaming you’ve pretty much seen it all. Rarely do I get really excited of games anymore. I was excited about Fallout 4 since it’s my favourite franchise but after playing for a while I came to realise the feeling is simply not the same. Perhaps I should just quit gaming for a while.

    • jcvandan says:

      I have this problem also. I enjoy games on an intellectual level more these days, as in I appreciate what’s interesting about a game and analyzing game design choices etc, I very, very rarely get totally lost in a world like I used to when I was a teenager (30 now). In fact the only game in the last 10 years that I think gave me that totally obsessed 100% absorbed feeling was Dark Souls. XCOM EU was another I truly enjoyed, but nothing much really cuts it for me anymore.

      • Bodylotion says:

        Yes I’m also 30 so I know what you are talking about.
        The overall dumbing down of games… it’s like developers don’t even seem to try or duplicate other games….

        The last game I really enjoyed would be ‘The Last Of Us’ and I think before that ‘To The Moon’ because of it’s story.

        The worst part is, I keep buying games, hoping for a game that will bring me the same feeling like before but they rarely do.

    • fdel says:

      Yeah Sellers and botters… they still love the game by thousands as there s real money to be earned one way or another.
      But gamers…unless you are on a play a lot to play for free stuff…the article is spot on.

  10. hooby says:

    The Repopulation seems mighty interesting to me. Trying to bring back some of the SWG-pre-NGE sandbox magic + some added new ideas.

    But since you hate crafting so much, it will probably not be for you, dear Richard.

    Yes, you are right, “Heroes don’t craft”. But I think trying to make everyone *the* hero is a big part of the problem. In games like Repop (or EvE) you simply aren’t going to be The Hero(r). You aren’t going to save the world from absolute evil either. And no pre-rendered cut-scene is going to celebrate your heroic victory (which by co-incidence is exactly the same what everyone else did…)

    Instead you are just an inhabitant of a foreign, living world – with it’s own player-driven virtual society, and player-driven virtual economy. You could be a bartender, or a bar-dancer, or a mercenary, or a crafter, or an influential guild-leader, or an infamous rogue and PKer. But you are NOT going to be *the* hero.

    For me personally – that’s exactly where the real MMO magic is at. Because being the hero, completing the story-line and saving the world from evil is something which works way better in single-player – I don’t need an MMO for that.

    But that player-driven virtual society… that’s something only an MMO can do. And imho that’s the magic which got lost – while trying to make each and every player independently the world-saving hero of a solo-play oriented, canned content story-line.

    • Scifibookguy says:

      It’s going to be a while for The Repopulation, though, with the demise of the Hero engine, and recoding for the Unreal engine.

      • hooby says:

        Sadly, yes.

        2 years at least. That’s a lot of looking forward to ;)

  11. TheWhippetLord says:

    Calling the next big thing now: Scarlet Blade 2.
    Admittedly that game has its knockers.

    • pepperfez says:

      I’m curious, what makes it stand out from the MMO crowd? I was always under the impression it was a pretty generic Korean entry, but I’ll admit I haven’t really stayed abreast of the latest developments.

  12. bairloch says:

    It’s kinda funny. I don’t think I could say this before, but I think I disagree with every single point in your article.
    No more cool stuff to watch for? Elyria, Crowfall, Star Citizen, etc.
    Every game you listed as the way of the future (Destiny, Division,mobas etc.) have no interest for me and I will never buy or play. They’re too small.
    Final Fantasy’s forced queueing for boss raids just so you can continue the story? The whole reason I quit.
    Oh, wait, there is one point. The next big MMO will have the courage to do something different. Right. Good. but it will still have to be an MMO.
    And your final paragraph shoots the whole rest of the article in the foot. There is a reason people are still playing those games. We still want that experience. We want big, empty worlds that don’t need us. That don’t care about us. That will keep on going without us. We don’t want the world to feel like it was waiting for us to show up.
    Your Destiny and Division and all that crap just strokes your frail egos. We don’t need that. We can take a little emptiness. A little loneliness. A little solitude. Hell, that’s part of the reason we signed up for these games in the beginning. To get AWAY.
    So play your little games and write about the death knell of MMOs. We’ll keep playing, keep having fun. Our worlds are better without you.

    • hooby says:

      Exactly what I said above, about being the hero and such ;)

      Couldn’t agree more!

    • takamore says:

      even if hope is fading, an Asheron’s Call III would be so wonderful to see !!!

    • Premium User Badge

      DrFunfrock says:

      Star Citizen certainly feels like the most notable omission here. I think that’s largely because most people have sort of assumed it’s just a prettier / “more expensive” version of Elite: Dangerous, because CIG have been kind of cagey about using the words “MMO” to describe it, and Elite: Dangerous isn’t really an MMO. It’s closer to the Dark Souls experience of a single player game that other players occasionally interact with.

      But when you look at what’s actually going on behind the scenes of Star Citizen’s design, with a single unified server (that is to say, thousands of virtual servers – care of Google Compute – operating in a distributed network to create multiple nested instances allowing players to flow from one element of the world to the next with no visible loading screens) allowing, theoretically, millions of players to interact in the same world, we’re definitely talking about an MMO here…

      And a hell of an ambitious one at that. I mean, that’s exactly what seems to bug people about it, right? That it’s too ambitious. OK, fair enough. It’s reasonable to have your doubts about the viability of the project. It was reasonable to have doubts about EQN, but that didn’t stop people getting excited about it. Certainly, in this particular context, in asking what’s next for the MMO genre, and what new avenues are there to be explored, Star Citizen is easily the most ambitious project on the horizon, and the one that strays the furthest from what we’ve always understood an MMO to be, whilst still incorporating many of the elements we expect. I think that core conceit, of creating an open world that the player experiences in an immersive first person context, of stripping out the numbers and the XP and the levels and the loot rolls, and instead trying to create something more akin to a vast simulated space that responds intuitively to your actions, is something that maybe points the way forward. A game where the point is less about who wins a space battle, and more about the feeling of your cockpit shaking around you as alarms wail and fires break out across your ship, where the experience of losing a fight could actually be more exciting than the experience of winning it.

      It’s a title I’m personally invested in (yes, financially, so assume whatever bias you like), but I made that investment because there’s something genuinely exciting about that idea. I’d like to see Star Citizen succeed, not just because I think it’s going to be awesome, but because I honestly think it could open up new ideas for the entire medium. I’d like to see that happen.

      • hooby says:

        A noteable omission indeed.

        Except, of course, that it’s not omitted at all:
        “Will games of those scale ever have what it takes again? Never say never. Assuming all goes well, entering Star Citizen’s living universe could be that moment for many of us. Certainly, give me a space-ship… and I’m sorry to say, a slightly more interesting universe than Elite Dangerous… and I can imagine getting sucked in.”

  13. wulfy says:

    I’m holding out hopes for Pantheon, Brad McQuaid of classic Everquests game in development. They did a Twitch stream of Pantheon early alpha the day EQN was cancelled, and looks far more like a new incarnation of the old Everquest than anything I’ve seen. link to twitch.tv

    I mean, it won’t be a WoW killer, but I think it has the potential to take the genre to some interesting places.

    • Scifibookguy says:

      Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen will prove whether or not people who say they just want Everquest with improved graphics are enough to support a game. However, the dynamic spawn system could also draw people to the game. I look forward to seeing Pantheon progress, but it’s going to be a couple years until it’s finished, I think.

  14. aliasi says:

    Some good points, with a lot of nonsense inbetween. Yes, we desperately need some new stuff in the MMO space. No, the “you need to gather 24 of your closest friends in order to have any fun tonight” aspect of MMOs is not what drew many people to the style. A world that goes on without you, on the other hand, does.

    One problem with MMOs is they’re quite expensive to make, with PvE focused ones having a horrible ‘time spent making content’ to ‘time content remains interesting to players’ ratio. Think about all the dead zones in the original Everquest, or World of Warcraft, that you never visited once you hit the level cap. Think about how shitty it was to log on as not a tank, not a healer, and have to spend 4 hours in order to be allowed to have any fun or progression that night.

    Solo activity in an MMO is a must, because the ‘massively multiplayer’ part of it does not necessitate ‘everything must be done in a group’, and people have lives to live. If anything, I think Landmark is more interesting than EQ Next on its own was shaping up to be, and there’s not even really any GAME in Landmark. I suspect we’re likely to see some game stuff backported into the already-somewhat-successful product with EQNext shuttered.

    Hell, I think MOBAs are exploiting a hole the hidebound ‘MMO means multiplayer, get out of here solo players’ mindset left open, only partially fixed by dungeon/raid finder features in MMOs. I can log onto Smite, or DOTA2, or LoL, any time of day or night and be fairly certain of getting some kind of game before too long. I may not get my preferred role, but since you can choose which character to play as the game starts you can switch to whatever’s needed. Nonetheless, these games definitely require a large, perhaps we might even call ‘massively multiplayer’, pool of players to function even if any individual game only needs ten of them. Most of them have a form of progession through a player level or rankings. And yet even there there’s a giant ‘must be like like DotA, including the shitty control scheme’ blind spot to go along with ‘must be just like WoW’ blind spot MMOs have had.

    One not-actually-that-anticipated game with some new, and yes, rather interesting features shuttering does not kill a style of game.

  15. MadTinkerer says:

    You would think that an industry seemingly so obsessed with cinema would have paid attention to lessons learned by cinema and decided to stop making games with a cast of thousands sooner.

    It’s not that spectacle is necessarily bad. It’s that doing things the expensive way (e.g. hiring lots of skilled people to work in a factory-like environment and focusing on people who can afford to pay subs or micro-transactions as your main audience) will consistently screw with profit margins. So you need to make movies/games that focus on the craft rather than spectacle. It needs to be done. If you don’t, well…

    That, in a nutshell, is why everyone* hates Mass Effect 3 and loves Undertale.

    *More or less.

    • pepperfez says:

      But they’re really only obsessed with the spectacle, so that lesson is a hard one to learn.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      Maybe they’re thinking of the lesson of the Boeing 747 instead. It may be hard and expensive to make and get it right, but if you can get on top of that market, you can dominate it for decades.

  16. Xerophyte says:

    I still like world of warcraft-style MMOs. “Get 4-24 of your best friends and coordinate your diverse skillsets to break into the homes of unnaturally large people and repeatedly murder them” is probably the most inherently fun standard video game activity for me. I understand they’re not fun for everyone which is fair enough, but the bile that the very existence of that particular gameplay loop stirs up in some people has always been weird to me — themeparks are fun, dammit, sandboxes are coarse and rough and irritating.

    The general popularity of dungeon running as an MMO standard, makes me continually surprised that there isn’t a game that does just that, though. Group up in a generic lobby, do dungeons, get loot (and some low-key plot). Toss the useless and by now almost vestigial first M. About the closest we’ve gotten is Diablo, Vermintide or Dark Souls (arguably Monster Hunter on consoles), none of which are all that close to the same sort of gameplay. It seems like such an obvious game that someone would’ve made by now for me, but I guess I’m biased.

    • malkav11 says:

      Not sure it’s all that obvious. The thing about the dungeons and raids in traditional MMOs is that nobody can keep up with the demand for that content. Not even close. So on the one hand, it may seem like stripping away all the other gameplay loops would free up more time to develop the dungeon/raid type content…but it wouldn’t be enough to keep up, even so. And I tend to guess that it’s easier and quicker to provide questing and crafting and rep grinds and PvP and so on, while the burn rate on that content is not as fast. (Though, certainly, the quests run out long before they add more, in my experience.)

  17. Thrashdog says:

    “The modern multiplayer world is geared more towards social groups that exist in reality – four or five friends playing Dota together, or teaming up with a friend in the evening to go and score some Destiny loot in an experience that’s a mix of chat, work and play.”

    And that’s a shame, really. I just got back from the wedding of two former WoW guildmates who’d met while playing the game, and the reception was practically a guild reunion. I met people in person for the first time who I’d spent hours (days more likely) in Karazhan with years ago. WoW forged a group a friends for us that we wouldn’t have ever been able to put together in real life — for instance, the groom at the wedding was the scion of a family that had made it big two generations ago in the aviation business, while the bride had grown up in Compton. Because of the way that MMOs force you to cooperate with large groups of people that you (almost by necessity) haven’t met In Real Life, these two people got to know each other as people. If they’d met in the real world first, they likely wouldn’t have been able to see past the class differences between them to forma relationship.

    I can understand how tastes have evolved past that level of forced social cooperation, but I can’t help but feel that something that was truly magical is being lost in the process.

    • ScubaMonster says:

      Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen is trying to bring that back. Hopefully they will succeed.

  18. SanguineAngel says:

    All I can think after reading this article is that the poor woman in the screenshots appears to have been provided coat many sizes too small and instead of asserting her customer rights: demanding a replacement or refund, she has simply tried to stretch and patch it into shape.

  19. ScubaMonster says:

    You have to look to smaller dev teams for any real innovation or return to roots. Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen is seeking to fill that old school EQ niche. Camelot Unchained is trying to bring back DAoC RvR to its glory days. Will any of these small time MMO’s pan out? Who knows. But if you want to see any sort of innovation you aren’t going to find it with most large commercial publishers.

    • ScubaMonster says:

      Well, maybe innovation is the wrong word here, as it’s mostly just trying to bring back the glory days. But we have so many modern MMOs it’s nice to see some at least trying to bring back something we lost along the way.

  20. int says:

    Blah. I tried to sing the title like “Video Killed the Radio Star” but it won’t flow right.

  21. TheWhippetLord says:

    I think the best way for the genre to go would be the ORPG, ie cut out all interaction with the worst part of any online game, the other players. Still have them visible to one another but don’t even bother with a chat interface, never mind grouping. That way you get the ‘hanging around with other people’ feeling of social gaming without actually getting the opportunity to be griefed or to experience your fellow players’ eccentric views on politics, religion and race. Big mention to games like Star Trek Online for giving players the tools to set this situation up.

    Disclaimer, I am a grumpy old cynic, your milage may vary.

  22. darkmorgado says:

    Can you imagine if they made a Disgaea MMO?

    I think my life would end.

  23. Voqar says:

    Well, IMO, capitalist greed (and somewhat blizzard) killed MMORPGs.

    The genre was excellent in its early days when it was a niche genre of games that featured group play, challenge, and danger, even with rough around the edges games and excessively punishing gameplay.

    Blizzard succeeded at making an MMORPG mainstream with casual/solo idiot mode and that is what really ruined the genre, since that became what every dev copied – not to make a good game – but to make money and chase big numbers of players.

    While I enjoyed WoW for years I never enjoyed the solo idiot mode hub based questing and/or speed leveling – that stuff is for casuals and people (soloists) who shouldn’t even be playing MMORPGs.

    Side note, there’s nothing wrong with being a casual – I’m casual about many games and things – but the best MMORPGs and core MMORPG gameplay is anything but casual and attempting to make it so is what ruined the genre.

    The real meat and potatoes of MMORPGs is grouping and tackling tougher content with other people, and IMO, the games were far better when the WHOLE game was about grouping. The games were more social and you had greater attachment to the games and the other players. This is why it was a niche genre – some people don’t want that at all, and that’s ok – just don’t play – there’s no lack of things for solo gamers to do out there.

    These days it’s all speed mode everything, instant gratification and rewards for doing nothing, and wham bam thank your ADD mam. You can even queue for groups and never speak/type a word to other players (unless someone screws up, then it’s nerd/troll rage).

    Is it any wonder people get bored with and tired of modern MMORPGs when they are designed to be over with in a week or two of monotonous and boring solo gameplay?

    The genre didn’t need EverQuest Next. EQ is the godfather of GOOD MMORPGs and Next was just going to be more solo-based F2P trash that had nothing in common with EQ except tarnishing it’s name. It had a few good ideas (not destructable content but AI and emergent stories) that would’ve been great in a REAL EQ sequel.

    Take the gameplay of the early MMORPGs, like EQ or DAoC, spruce it up with modern UI and trappings, and accept that it’s a niche type genre which can succeed these days as there are so many more people online and you don’t need a billion players to be a success, and then you might make an MMORPG worth playing, but nobody needs more ADD/casua/solo nonsense and we definitely don’t need more F2P sewage (F2P is great for something like MOBA where there’s zero pay 2 win but F2P is horrific for MMORPGs – unless you’re someone who just want to solo thru it for a few weeks and move on).

    Yeah, MMORPG genre is dead – because the games we have to endure are no longer MMORPGs, they are just poorly designed single player games that happen to be online. Unless you absolutely love low quality public chat with trolls, why would you play any MMORPG for any length of time when the quality of single player games that are – derp – actually single player games like Witcher 3, FO4, and tons more, is vastly superior to the least common denominator mindless trope you find in modern MMORPGs.

    The only thing that was ever remarkable about MMORPGs was the group focus and that barely exists in MMORPGs these days (PvP is not group content, btw, and PvP was never why MMORPGs were great).

    • tiltaghe says:

      You had me at “danger”
      but the write-up following it was not bad either

    • malkav11 says:

      These days? No reason, really, aside from the world and in some cases nostalgia. There’s a ton of great singleplayer RPGs that have come out in the last couple years and more on the way. But you have to remember that for most of the 00s and into the 10s, the genre was virtually dead. Almost anyone in the AAA or even AA space that bothered to put time and money into anything resembling an RPG was making an MMO. There were a couple of solid exceptions (Bioware, Obsidian, Bethesda, Troika for a little while, CD Projekt with two Witcher games), and a few indie stalwarts holding out (Spiderweb Software, say), but even as meaty as those games tend to be, there was still space in the schedule. And even though even the most solo-friendly MMO has never been up to the standards of a proper singleplayer game, there also hasn’t been a singleplayer Warcraft RPG, a singleplayer urban fantasy RPG with the imagination and writing quality of The Secret World (though Bloodlines is an honorable mention for sure – but it’s practically the only urban fantasy RPG that even exists in the singleplayer space), a singleplayer Star Wars RPG where you play Sith, etc.

      And that’s too bad. Maybe that will change now that the money’s fleeing MMOs.

      • Stinkfinger75 says:

        I just started in on The Secret World a few days ago. What a game! I’m not sure if it’s a dwindling population or if players are being segregated into less populated servers, but the fact that there aren’t 500 people running around Kingsmouth really makes it feel alive. Less is more in this case and it’s filling a space I’ve wanted to see filled for a while, the mMORPG (or moderately Multiplayer Online RPG).

    • uugo says:

      You describe what Pantheon is trying. Hopefully that pans out.

    • chris1479 says:

      Extremely well said. As someone who played EQ for many years and eventually searched fruitlessly for a more up to date equivalent (I wasn’t so tired of the fundamentals of the genre, but rather the tired engine and sheer age of the game) you are right on the money.

      The problem of MMORPGs as a genre is that they suffered an identity crisis that I would pin as beginning around the period after the release of World of Warcraft. Every single MMO that has been released after this point has suffered from exactly the same problem: They are utterly paralysed in being unable to decide whether they want to be an actual MMO with true grouping and multiplayer, or just a solo RPG with an always-on internet connection.

      It absolutely kills me to have tried so many MMOs over the years and see them all stumbling over the same problem.

      I think a big part of it is that with the mass appeal whose advent was heralded with the popularity of WoW, there was a sizable chunk of gamers who didn’t meaningfully comprehend exactly what an MMO was supposed to be, and began a relentless clamouring after solo content. Even EQ itself was infected by this extremely noisy lobby of people, and it was in fact “instancing” that really devastated the game and many games that came after it. The seamless (except for the occasional loading screen) and huge worlds that MMOs of the early 2000’s were hacked to itty bitty pieces, shattered into literal shards, and what were contiguous and absorbing worlds became meaningless isolated lonely busywork.

      Who do I blame? I think to be honest I blame the players. I blame the players for not understanding what MMOs were, and developers for pandering to an audience that, the more you gave them, the less satisfied they were. I remember everyone screaming blue murder over things like corpse runs in the original EQ, but did that stand as a barrier to entry? In fact, in a sense, it did. But the function that some seemingly arbitrary barriers served was fundamental to the integrity of the game: I guess, even though maybe the answer is a cliché, MMOs became casual. They were played by casuals, the developers were casuals, they saw $$$ in casuals.

      And so MMO after MMO has tried to pander to people who don’t even understand what the genre is, and who will drop the game the moment a new Battlefield or CoD arrive, whilst keeping ‘actual’ MMO players satisfied.

      And they have failed. They have tried to be an amphibious car and ended up with a a car that looks like shit and a boat that no one would use in anything larger than a duck pond.

      Still, people got what they asked for didn’t they.

    • Gilmer9999 says:

      Everquest was the end all. I didn’t think I’d like it so I put it off for about a year. Really? A game where you were never finished? Where’s the fun in that. I played off and on for about 12 years and still play it to a certain extent on the EMU server which Daybreak supposedly knows about.

      I picked it up sometime in 2001 and for about 8 years played it very exclusively, then for about 4 years off an on.

      The very difficulty of the game created a group of people who were almost proud to have gone through things such as hell levels – levels where the mis-coding made getting through that level twice as long or so more than the level before and after, and deaths where you had to go run and get it completely naked with no gear on and man, if you didn’t have friends, it was a PITA. 2 day 12 hours each day raids into some places. 72 man raids that pretty much required 72 people like Planes of Power raids.

      On my server and I am sure most were like this, the community was so close that we had something called a “shit list”, because you spent so much time making your character the best you could, you wanted to call attention to people who screwed it up by “ninja-looting, training, etc.” which meant basically being a screw-up, but more often than not people who went out of their way to be a screwup.

      All of that led to a tight knit group of people who years later still remember some of those guildmates and the fun we had. There was no guild hopping like you see now. You signed up and you stayed with them until the guild died. I saw 3-4 guilds basically die off. WoW killed one of them in 2004. So many went over to try Wow, by the time they came back, the guild was decimated.

      I remember once reading a story of one of the first people who logged in to Everquest and they were in a human town called Qeynos. There was a character named Aradune there and he asked, so what do you think of my world? He was one of the creators of the game, not sure of his real name. I thought that was a pretty cool story.

      I don’t know if they will ever get that magic back. I don;t know the whole ownership story, but it seems like it was developed by a company named Verant? And they sold it to Sony EQ, and of course Sony pretty much ruined it.

  24. TheAngriestHobo says:

    I upgraded my internet a few months ago after a couple of years of strictly playing singleplayer and local co-op games. I had a blast with Rocket League for a while, but I found myself longing for a game with the staying power and permanence of an MMO. FFXIV kept dropping my connection every thirty seconds, so I settled on GW2, and I’ve been enjoying the innovations it brought to the MMO genre in the time I’ve been away.

    That said, I’m finding that the “theme park” aspect of traditional MMOs (of which GW2 is one, despite its many interesting improvements to the formula) bothers me much more now than it used to. I’m eyeing some of the hybrid MMO/crafting games, like Life is Feudal, but my experience tends to be that the more agency is given to the players and permanence to their creation, the more a game tends to be dominated by mobs of griefers who’d rather tear things down than build them up (much as in life). That’s just not a virtual world I want to virtually live in.

    I miss Haven and Hearth. Sure, the combat system was impenetrable and the game was filled with armies of Russian griefers, but my walls kept all the bad things out and I could run my tea farm in peace, trading with the village down the river. That’s all I want.

    • Thrashdog says:

      Oh, Haven and Hearth… my brother was responsible for the hacked clients that the Goons used in that game, and told me all about how hilariously exploitable it was. Beyond that, I know nothing about it.

      • SyCo_Venom says:

        I think that is where the big split is. Basically you want a Minecraft like world you can build and trade and be at peace which is more of a persistent world than most mmos. The combat has to be fun for me and there has to be some kind of progression in the combat pve or pvp. But different strokes i guess. I always rolled on the pvp worlds and while i dont care to grief ppl the expectation that shit could go wrong at any moment is enjoyable but it can get overkill. And sometimes ppl deserve to be griefed.

        • TheAngriestHobo says:

          Hey hey hey now, no one said that PVP should be scrapped entirely! My issue is that I’m the guy who would always choose the RP-PVP server in MMOs if one was available, and we seem to be a very small niche group.

          I think that the reason that Haven and Hearth worked for people like me was because even the most basic defenses were nigh-impenetrable without a dedicated effort by a large group of players. That’s really key in this genre – your safe places should be, well, reasonably safe. If the enemy can tear down your walls in a manner of minutes, then you have no incentive to build more than the bare necessities. And without a place to call home, you have very little emotional engagement in the conflicts you fight beyond rage at the jerk attacking you. I don’t know about you, but I want more than that.

  25. DoomBroom says:

    I got my hopes for VR breathing new life into the MMORPG genre. But it need to get past the initial early adopter phase first. With enough people spending money on VR games the big budget games will eventually show up.

    I want my Sword Art Online MMORPG in VR dammit!

    Valve/HTCs Vive VR goggles is looking promising I have to say. All those youtubers and people with an early version of it look like they’re having a really good time with it.

  26. Parrilla says:

    The MMORPG as we have known it, and as popularised by WoW; levelling up with questing, endgame at max level, raids etc. probably is dead. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. WoW has done most things that can be done within that paradigm and it’s been too big an influence – every other MMORPG coming to market is just tweaking that basic formula.

    One day we will see another MMO with the same impact WoW had, if not more, especially with the rise of virtual reality. But it won’t involve any of the current MMORPG tropes of raiding, questing and so on.

    • Gilmer9999 says:

      If you ask me, EQ brought more to the game than WoW did. Wow brought popular acceptance, but Everquest brought so much more.

  27. SyCo_Venom says:

    The problem for me was WOW was my first MMO. I was late to the game. I had started playing online with quake and pretty much only played fps(action quake quake2 HL and CS). It wasnt until playing Neverwinter Nights online in the modded persistent worlds that I really enjoyed rpgs online. Hell Marrowind and NWN were the first to rpgs i ever played.

    I never really made online friends in those games like i had in fps and quake and quake2 really only took off for me because of services like mplayer and heat.

    I had never played a blizz game till the WOW beta and out luck of the roll of the dice i meet some ppl in the beta that i really enjoyed playing with. If it wouldnt have been for the people I meet in the beta Im not sure i would have gotten wow let a lone played for a few years. I mainly contiuned to play because of the relationships i made. Hell I drove 12 hours to be in a guild members wedding. So me and that group have contiuned playing games together. So i feel like a lot of ppl are trying to capture that social aspect and WOW just had a low bar of entry. Everyone has moved on from MMOs in that group we still play some mobas here and there and a few other online games but Ive still tried other MMOs and maybe Im just to old now to try to make friends or dont have the patience too. The gaming scene used to be a lot friendlier and Now just get off my lawn.

    I think pvp has a lot to offer but it cant be the sole purpose of an MMO that is expected to last. The think that made WOW really hard was trying to get 40 ppl online who wasnt dumb enough to stand in the fire… we had a core of 15-20 ppl and was the first on our server to do all of Molten core and BWL. Then they started adding gates to progress and the content wasnt hard anymore it was just do you have the gear and everything was to easy and we lost intrest after the 3rd xp. So we tried other mmo’s and they had almost no end game at all and pvp will hold u only so long.

    Ive start playing Black Desert online by myself and its okay. The problem is i dont know if i can ever enjoy an MMO like i did wow, not because of the quality but because it was the first and i just happen to be lucky and meet some ppl i enjoyed. I feel like once you enjoy and invest a ton of time in one game its hard to do that again espically if you have to start from square one and start over again.

  28. neofit says:

    Shame about EQN. Indeed, lately we’ve only been getting either FA PvP or paedomanga crap, none of which I find even remotely bareable. Nevermind, still 90+ games in my Steam wishlist.

  29. SaintAn says:

    The MMO genera has been dead for a while, or more accurately it’s undead since the only MMO’s worth playing these days are private servers for dead MMO’s, like SWG EMU, Vanilla/bc/Wrath WoW private servers, Warhammer Online: Return of Reckoning, and some others.

    Really a shame since MMO’s had such a huge potential, but the casuals came in and ruined everything for the gamers as usual then went and started supporting the F2P/B2P scam MMO’s giving devs no reason to make actual non-scam MMO’s anymore.

    EQN never would have been much of an MMO with the F2P scam model, so it never would have revived MMO’s either.

    Star Citizen is not an MMO and is certainly a scam, so there is no way that will revive MMO’s.

    Camelot Unchained won’t either, but it may give the MMO gamers something to play.

  30. manio22 says:

    Visual Novels MMOS would make more sense than whatever they are experiment with right now.

  31. uugo says:

    Vanguard as it was, buggy and all, was the last real social MMO. Sony killed it. Hopefully VR can survive.

  32. eyelu says:

    Otherwise some good points on the possible importance of everquest next, but do you even PLAY FFXIV? Like really? Its an MMO that has only gotten worse, easier and is pandering casuals and non-communication more and more with each patch. Most people who played the first year stopped playing because it keeps ruining the whole thing for the veterans with each new patch. Patches come out slow and they always include betrayal to the vets in them. That game can go to hell, its the ultimate “casual chatting simulator” at this point.

  33. specialsymbol says:

    Gosh, I still hope Star Citizen will not be that classic MMO. It was said to be Privateer that you can play with friends. I sure don’t want to meet the entire world in there.

    I hate MMOs because it’s like riding the bus just after dusk.

  34. April March says:

    Sorry, but what is “Richard Garriott’s infamous dragon story”?

  35. daimyo21 says:

    Everyone should check out this article of how some devs from EQNext are making their own MMO with some of the core features of EQNext, such as Emergent AI.

    link to intrinsicalgorithm.com