Earlier this week I wrote about my return to World of Warcraft. Many of you provided a variety of reasons as to why you stopped playing, and why you would or wouldn’t return. What I found particularly interesting, besides the general consensus that the gear grind was fairly monotonous, was the fact no one spoke about what it is they actually want in an MMO.

I regularly hear about all the flaws in the current crop of massively multiplayer games, and I’m often first in the queue when it comes to complaining about this or that. However, as the rise of the Battleground genre continues to dominate ‘most played’ lists, and publishers and developers flock to create their own variants, inevitably there’s a question of how valid even is the MMO?

Eve Online is one of the few MMOs that truly lets players chart their own course.

The likes of WoW, Guild Wars 2, Elder Scrolls Online, EVE Online and Final Fantasy continue to plod along at their own pace, and yet none of these titles truly canabalizes the other. If anything, they’re all likely attempting to stave off player loses from Battleground and MOBA competition, while monetizing their existing bases.

For the most part all of these games have a bright future ahead of them, and yet without growth their potential is neutered and the future of the genre - certainly in a publishers eyes - is limited. Fundamentally, if a publisher cannot see continually rising profits, their interest in investing in new MMOs will wain. The lack of upcoming MMOs is largely indicative of that, and has pushed developers to crowd fund their future hopes for the genre: Crowfall, Camelot Unchained and Ashes of Creation are testament to that.

Despite the success of these Kickstarter projects, is what they’re offering enough to not only appeal to the masses, but them away from the games they’re currently playing?

From a personal perspective, I’ve always felt that the current crop of MMOs have failed to reach the dizzying heights of World of Warcrafts earlier years not just because they’ve chased what WoW did, but failed to provide autonomy to players. Instead, developers pursued theme park content in order to satiate the insatiable; the end result being a playerbase that grew bored quickly and complained loudly.

If developers simply provided a world for players to play in, complete with mechanics that allowed for a true sense of freedom and control, the continued need for immediate content would fade. Instead, players would find and create their own adventures. Whether it was trade, piracy, war, zone control, social or world bosses, it would be entirely down to them. This level of freedom is sorely lacking in most MMO’s, and with the exception of Eve Online, has been overlooked for so long.

Black Desert Online classifies itself as "sandbox" and yet it remains a theme park MMO pretending to offer freedom. 

The likes of Black Desert Online, perhaps the newest MMO to appear “sandbox”, only feigns it. It’s still a theme park MMO warped with the impression of being sandbox. It’s an MMO that also happens to be burdened with horrendously convoluted systems that require an eye-watering level of grind, with visuals that offer the worst pop-up I’ve ever seen in a video game.

While I’ve no visual or stylistic preference when it comes to the future MMO I want to play, the least I ask for is the freedom to do as I please. In some ways Crowfall and Camelot Unchained are attempting to do this, but perhaps less than I’d hope. At the very least however, they’ve defined what they want to do and they’re allowing players the scope to go out and do it. That appeals to me, and I’m sure it does to many others. Is it going to be exactly what I’m looking for? Possibly not. That said, they’re likely to have far greater longevity than the likes of Guild Wars 2 or World of Warcraft. When content is player lead, there’s something undeniably moreish about it: that’s all I ask from a future MMO.

What do you want in a future MMO?

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Last Updated: Jan 13, 2018

About The Author

Lewis currently splits his time between Heroes of the Storm, Battlerite, and Artifact, having covered MOBAs, MMOs and TCG for many years.