MMO games have been made in many settings. Fantasy, Sci-Fi, or even Superhero they have all been launched and made money. It is a huge shame that the Horror genre of game has never seen a solid MMO on the market. For years, CCP held the rights to World of Darkness and it looked like we’d get a vast game of werewolves, mages, and most of all vampires. However, that project ended and now we are left with next to nothing in terms of horror for MMOs.
This past week we saw the announcement of Code Vein from Namco Bandai. This vampire RPG has promise and looks to bring in the horror genre to the role playing world. Other games like Dead by Daylight have shown the popularity of horror and how it works on the PC along with a huge livestream audience. Not to mention the countless horror and zombie games that continue to make money with every sequel, the market is alive and well, no pun intended.
If a company were to build a horror MMO that would have to find the right fit. WoD offered up a solid template for MMO characters and races based on the older style. Now games have morphed and continue to change in terms of structure. You can still have old school MMO classes, but they have to make sense within the world. Not everyone can play a serial killer, unless you want Purge the game.
There is a lot of room for creativity in this area. Games with ghosts or spirits who haunt NPCs would be something to watch, combined with the classic horror monsters. It just seems like this style of game has given way and MMOs have moved into such an independent area it would be difficult to build it out. However, the potential is all there.
Horror is not just monsters. Adding in mechanics to scare players or even trend their behavior can also be fun. I remember being terrified playing DayZ the first time. The relentless zombies, not to mention the ruthless other players, made for weeks of frustration and fear. If that dish can be served up in a simple game like DayZ then there is plenty of room for growth.
The other game which does a good job of adding horror to the mix is The Secret World. Funcom delivered on a solid action game which has loads of horror elements. It's getting new life too with Secret World Legends later this Spring. Still, there's plenty of room for creative takes on horror in an MMO.
Maybe it is just how we look at MMOs and try to fit the horror genre into them, when we should be reversing the effect and see how a horror game would work online. With livestreaming there are millions of opportunities to scare players and view the game as an audience member. Watching games online is now so popular and seeing people get scared is half the fun. How to include all of this into an online world is what would make a horror game truly stand out.
One other bright spot on the horizon is Amazon's New World. It is said to be a "massively multiplayer, open-ended sandbox MMO set in a cursed and supernatural version of Northern America in the 17th century. Players can be anything they want from farmers to soldiers to lone wolves, as what you do, and whom you work with or against is entirely up to you. The land of New World will be evolving one that changes with the seasons, weather, and time of day." We know next to nothing about it other than this brief deescription and some working art from the game's announcement - but we're hopeful. It also touches on the livestreaming and community aspects discussed above.
In the end, I think this is still a huge missed opportunity. A horror MMO is something the market needed that we never really got to see. The Secret World is the closest we game, and as awesome as it is I can't help but wish we got that World of Darkness MMORPG. It is a shame that so many games have risen up around the Fantasy setting with huge success, but the true gothic MMO has never seen the dark of night. For now we will just have to wait and see. It is a matter of how well the online market continues and which companies are willing to begin development on this type of experience. For now, all hope lies in a reboot of Funcom's Secret World and Amazon's New World.