Lifetap - Daily MMO Column by Reuben Waters aka Sardu

Don't Fence Me In - 5 Open World Games That Should Be MMOs

By Reuben Waters -
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Lifetap Volume 1, Issue 31 – Don’t Fence Me In

Featuring 5 Open World Video Game Settings That Would Make Great MMOs

In this special edition of Lifetap, we take a look at five video game franchises featuring open world gameplay that would make excellent MMOs. Whether it would ever happen for any of them is an entirely different story…


Academic types and industry analysts have a severe case of needing to lump gamers into different demographic groupings. We regularly see reports broken down into market segments such as “casual” versus “core” gamers. The underlying conceit here is that some humans spend more money or time playing video games than others. And as we’ve seen countless times over, people like to target those with the highest potential disposable income paired with the desire to spend it on video games for things like marketing campaigns.

If you were going to lump me into any specific demographic in terms of game preferences, the obvious choice would be “core MMO” or “core online multiplayer”. However, that really doesn’t account for nor factor in numerous shades of gray that help tint my biomechanical optical implants when viewing video games for potential purchase.

By extension, you could extrapolate two other key bits of information about me as a gamer based on being a core MMO gamer. The first is that I tend to enjoy role-playing games, even though most modern industry reports that come across our newsroom desk have split MMO and MMORPG into separate categories. Of the two, I still lean far more towards the latter, and think it’s a shame that the industry continues to trend away from its RPG roots.

The reasons for this are numerous, of course, most of them factoring in one or more dreaded “buzz words” that may or may not make your skin crawl at their mere mention. Accessibility is a big one. Content-focused MMOs are too expensive to create is also on the rise as justification for removing RPG from the MMORPG equation.

The other dominant category of games I have a natural preference for is anything featuring proper open world gameplay. There have been so many solid games and concepts that have simply not lived up to their potential thanks to linear level design, or the natural tendency to funnel players towards objectives as though we’re not capable of discovering or seeking them out on our own. Lichdom, for example, features one of the best spell crafting systems in video games, but is so stubbornly linear that it gives me violent flashbacks to Final Fantasy XIII. And we all know how fan and critical reception went over for that game.

Now that I’ve gotten my trademark lengthy introduction out of the way, I’m going to do a quick rundown of five game franchises featuring open world gameplay that I feel would make for excellent MMOs. In no particular order, these include:

Saints Row

I have spent an embarrassing amount of time playing the Saints Row franchise ever since the release of the second title in the series. The first Saints Row was decent, but it was the second game that cemented Saints Row as an open world force to be reckoned with.

The series has plenty of things to draw from for an MMO. Factional territory control, an absurd and seemingly never ending wealth of weaponry and vehicles, and even the addition of super powers. The whole simulation thing from Saints Row IV could neatly help provide a backbone and basis for servers with varying world states, etc.

It also doesn’t hurt that the Saints Row games score insanely high on the entertainment value Richter scale.

InFAMOUS

I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the first inFAMOUS game, but by the time I got my hands on Second Son I became a true believer in the franchise. A misstep I think we’ve seen with most super hero MMOs to date is that they’re attempting to be far too true to the golden age of comic books, and largely ignore the potential for a proper real world setting. Given the overwhelming popularity of the Avenger’s film franchise and the fact that it attempts to remain grounded in reality, I think the world is ready for an MMO based on the inFAMOUS franchise.

State of Decay

Yes, this one is kind of cheating since we’re fairly certain a State of Decay MMO will be gracing our PCs sooner or later. It deserves mention here, however, because it’s another primarily single player franchise that shows tons of potential for compelling MMO gameplay. Proper companion systems are still woefully underrepresented in MMOs, and a State of Decay MMO could change that for the better. Only think more Guild Wars than SWTOR, though it would be kind of funny to be pursuing romantic interludes with companion characters in the midst of a full on zombie horror survival scenario.

Watch_Dogs

If there is any recent game that I feel could take the APB: Reloaded formula to the next level, it would have to be Watch_Dogs. While the game certainly shines as a single player experience, some of my fondest memories while playing were those moments of panic as I attempted to pinpoint the location of an enemy player. The rest of the game left me feeling largely in control, so it’s refreshing when that rug is pulled out from under you in interesting ways.

Of course, an entire city – even one as massive as Chicago – full of hackers running around screwing with traffic signals at the press of a button could get messy very quickly. Then again, after so many rigidly controlled unapologetically static MMO worlds, a little chaos could be a very welcome change.

Goat Simulator

How do you top the most absurd and lovable game of 2014? Make a massively multiplayer version of course. If you think Watch_Dogs has the potential for fueling massive amounts of chaos, imagine what would happen when entire guilds full of goats were unleashed on an unsuspecting town.


There you have it: my top 5 picks for open world video games that would make great MMOs. Have any personal picks that didn’t make the list? Toss a note in the comments if you feel so inclined. In the meantime, I’ll close this issue of Lifetap with the mighty Roy Rogers singing the classic Don’t Fence Me In from “Hollywood Canteen”. Enjoy, have an excellent day folks!

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About The Author

Reuben "Sardu" Waters
Reuben "Sardu" Waters has been writing professionally about the MMOG industry for eight years, and is the current Editor-in-Chief of Ten Ton Hammer. Sardu also finds it infinitely amusing to write author bios in third-person.

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