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Community Spotlight: Fantasy MMOs Getting Old?

Posted by MikeB Saturday October 15 2011 at 5:58PM
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This week's Community Spotlight focuses on the thread "Are Fantasy mmo's Becoming Old?" by Razeekster. Like many of our Spotlights, this one's pretty straightforward, Razeekster simply feels fantasy MMOs are getting tired and stale:

Don't get me wrong I love me some dragon's, but they all seem to be the same thing.

'You're the hero of a world infested with the evil overlord Magorth, who killed the king and the whole royal family, letting out loose a thosand years of war. Magorth summoned thousands of demons and the people trembled as he rode on his dragon Gorgath, wasting the land in hellish fires. Finally, a brave knight defeated Magorth and sealed him in the demons worlds.... A thousand years later Magorth has escaped his imprisonment and seeks vengance on the world that exiled him to the demon world. You alone, hero, are the only hope for a dying world. Fight to save us. Fight for glory. Fight for peace. Fight for mankind.'

Keeping in mind I just made up everything above, either,

1)Means I'm a really great writer!

2)The fantasy mmorpg theme has been used so much that people can just guess how the 'newest and most awesomest mmorpg' is going to turn out to be like.

I think I'll pick option two (if you say option one though, I'd be flattered).

Nothing really new is happening, and it's as  if developers of mmorpg's are afraid of trying anything new and have sadly become stagnant.

It's become so bad for me that I actually find myself ashamed as I type into Google 'mmorpgs with flying mounts,' because otherwise I won't play them.

The reason being is because if I'm going to to play an mmorpg that has the same theme as 100's of other mmorpgs out there, why not play it flying on a kickass mount?

Yes, my shame knows no bounds.

Does the community agree? Let's find out!

Arglebargle feels that the story and/or setting of these MMOs is actually at the root of the issue:

Far too many Fantasy backgrounds are written with little depth and consistancy.    If it's a dumb story, or a poorly thought out setting, I know I am much less inclined to invest in the game/book/movie.   Sadly, most games don't put enough consideration into the writing of the  set and setting.

Also, everyone and their uncle thinks they are a good writer.  So every programmer, marketeer, gofer, etc, in the business feels free to write up their 'masterpiece'.    Since this problem exists even at the pro level, it is sure to happen in the companies that make games.

If you continually run in to  re-used old tropes, without proper world building, it's going to suffer.  As will many of us.

TheCrow2k feels its simply a matter of an oversaturated market:

I personally am over the fantasy genre for both MMO and CRPG's generally. This is the main reason I have no interest in playing GW2 despite the games actual design and systems being of interest.

I think its over saturation in the market on both accounts, I am really looking forward to some sci-fi. I know the 40k MMO is coming (and with only 2 factions and being a WoW clone it will most likely fail hard) but I am surprised no one has done a 40k CRPG game yet. They could do an inquisition game which would give a lot of scope for building a party of characters of various races and a story that could encompass a number of planets & encounters with xeno races.

VoIgore clearly hearts the fantasy sub-genre:

Absoluteley no.

Out of every setting i can think of (there aren't that many to start with), baseline fantasy is the one i can connect with the easiest. Sci-Fi not so much (getting too stale for me after a while) and whatever asian setting not at all.

Fantasy (elves, orcs, trolls, dawrfs..) never gets old for me. I've got a TON of audiobooks set in medieval fantasy, both high and low. Many times i thought what an awesome mmorpg this or that book could make.

So for me fantasy is not getting old, but it has to be presented the right way. It's not the setting getting old, but games fail to represent it in an interesting way.

Like TheCrow2k, I feel it's simply a matter of over-saturation. Similar to the massive amount of WWII FPS games that came out after Saving Private Ryan, the MMO genre has been saturated with fantasy stuff of varying quality for many, many years now. The reason this is pretty simple, and goes back to what VoIgore was saying: fantasy is easy to connect to for many people. Heck, Star Wars is my favorite IP and it is honestly more 'space fantasy' than it is science fiction.

I don't think fantasy is getting 'old' per se, I just think developers will be much harder pressed to stand out with their new MMOs if they decide to go with the fantasy genre. You reallly need to be doing something interesting with your theme/setting in order to stand out in today's crop. Guild Wars 2 is a perfect example of an upcoming fantasy MMO that has gamers extremely excited and that's in part due to the fact the Guild Wars IP is extremely rich and detailed with a unique art direction to boot.

If you're banking on just going with the typical elves, dwarves, and humans set against a generic high-fantasy backdrop, yeah, you're going to run into some issues. That sort of stuff is definitely a bit old to me. :)

shantideva writes:

nice gw2 plug at the end there Mike=)

Sat Oct 15 2011 7:22PM Report
MikeB writes:

Wasn't a 'plug'. Just my opinion.

Sat Oct 15 2011 7:48PM Report
jasconine writes:

I still think that there is room in the market for an extensible fantasy MMORPG framework that allows the players some freedom in how the world is made and operates. The best example I can think of in this mould is NWN - the first one by Bioware which gave the players all the tools they needed to do whatever they wanted. The new playneverwinter might be heading in that direction, but many of the points raised above are spot on the money - big companies are too scared to RISK anything that isn't big budget on any idea that doesn't have 100/100 boxes ticked to make some ROI. Just give us what we want (open extensible MMORPG framework) and we can make our own fun with mods, persistent worlds, custom assets, rule sets, ideas and roleplay.

While this is an over-simplification on why NWN was and still is so popular, it certainly throws a dart in the right direction of the bullseye - frameworks just WORK and you shift a lot of on-going maintenance and creativity on to the community who praise the good guys and weed out the bad. Community was the other big winner for NWN, it is/was so huge and so helpful that it encouraged more people to come in and share the love.

On day we might see NWN on an updated and more impressive scale than ever before... one day

Sat Oct 15 2011 8:18PM Report
Jerek_ writes:

I know R.A. Salvatore is invloved with a MMO project that I think is  going to be fantasy based, so I don't see why developers don't use this aproach more often, maybe get more talented writers involved with ther projects.

If i was a MMO developer looking for a new project, I'd try and get Brandon Sanderson involved.  Books like the Mistborn, Way of Kings, and Warbreaker prove that fresh Ideas in fantasy are out there, and they have a lot of potential.

Sat Oct 15 2011 9:37PM Report
someforumguy writes:

Im just getting bored with the cartoony representation of so called high fantasy. Elves, orcs etc. They make orcs and goblins always look aesthetically pleasing or just clownesk. While they should be dirty, ugly (looks and character), evilminded monsters instead. Its as if every MMO creates this teenager emo tv series version of high fantasy.

If a game just has fantasy races that are different, or has a medieval look, that can still be interesting for me.

Sun Oct 16 2011 1:23AM Report
Arawnite writes:

I still like the fantasy genre, and I probably always will.


The only thing I really want to see change is the structure of the game, away from the linear theme park with the grind for fluff and towards more of a rts/rpg hybrid where we can build up a city, control npc guards and harvesters, and wage war against each other over control of territory.

Sun Oct 16 2011 2:15AM Report
Jenelea writes:

If you all are tired of the same ol same ol, you should really check out 


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Sun Oct 16 2011 3:10AM Report
Jenelea writes:

Sun Oct 16 2011 3:11AM Report
MurlockDance writes:

I think it's not so wise to bash all of fantasy as a genre. There is a lot of variation in fantasy. Just look at the variety once offered by TSR in Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. There were the more typical high fantasy settings such as Forgotten Realms, Greyhawke, and Dragonlance. Each one of them had some big differences between them. Then there were the different scenarios such as Spelljammer, Dark Sun, Planescape, and Ravenloft.

The problem is that MMO companies tend not to vary enough. DAoC was slightly different from the other fantasy games because it originally was based on Celtic, early Christian and Norse folklore. It also adopted some myths from ancient Greece and Egypt later on. EQ/EQ2 is straight from the MUDs that were heavily influenced by AD&D FR and Greyhawke, and of course Tolkein.

The problem is that since then, there hasn't been much change. Sure, WoW added a little bit of steampunk to the fantasy genre, something which has sort of been taken a little by Rift as well, but that's about the extent of it.

It would be nice to see games like Ravenloft, Planescape, or Dark Sun serve to influence some new fantasy games.

I would love to see a gothic horror or truly steam punk game come out.

Sun Oct 16 2011 5:19AM Report
Morgaren writes:

yeah, some plot devices are a little overused


Sun Oct 16 2011 11:47AM Report
Gravarg writes:

Just something I've noticed over the years.  Players that primarily play Fantasy MMOs are very story driven and like PvE.  The only exception to the rule I can think of is DAoC.  Sci-fi players tend to like action and PvP more than PvE.

Sun Oct 16 2011 11:59AM Report
maplestone writes:

Every genre has dragons, even if they are called by a different name and dressed in a different skin.

Sun Oct 16 2011 4:39PM Report
gaeanprayer writes:

The 'fantasy' genre is a lot bigger than people give it credit for. The only thing that sets fantasy, sci-fi, cyberbunk, etc., apart is aesthetics. That's is it.


Any story told in one genre can be repainted and told in another. It's not genre people grow tired of, it's storyline and setting. People are probably tired of fighting spiders in the woods with their elves, does that mean an MMO with magic and swords can't still be exciting? No, it just means storytellers need to start thinking outside of the box and try to do something different. For once.

Sun Oct 16 2011 9:01PM Report
TheCrow2k writes:

Jerek_ what you are thinking of is the D&D Neverwinter game that now belongs to perfect world entertainment but i being worked on by Cryptic (Craptic ?).


I am actually kinda excited abou the announcement of an actual shadowrun MMORPG, even if it is only a browser MMORPG. Because they are going back to the roots of what the P&P game did and adapting it to the MMORPG space & even have the games original creator involved.

Sun Oct 16 2011 9:57PM Report
TheCrow2k writes:

A D&D MMO In the Darksun Setting (World of Athas) would be amazing and is different enough that I could get interested and likely hooked in that.

Sun Oct 16 2011 9:59PM Report
DarkPony writes:

Agree on GW2 having an original art-direction but Sylvari are still elves, Charr are still tauren / beastmen / minotaurs, Asura are still gnomes and Norn are still Swedes and Norwegians.

Also dragons are dragons, only a bit bigger this time around.

Personally I am tired of fantasy clichés too. Except for elderscrolls games in that they offer so much sandboxy realism (but I don't care much for their "You are the chosen one" storylines either).




Mon Oct 17 2011 3:48AM Report
Maquiame writes:

Its not fantasy that is getting old its the strict adherence to Euro fantasy. I don't understand why MMO devs don't make theire worlds more multicultural with more influences in the worlds, and its people. GW did it right with the environments being different in Cantha and Elona with monsters relevant to those areas. Imagine a world where there is a middle eastern area with Jinn and other middle eastern monsters, then an asian area with asian styled dragons and asian styled demons, then an african area with Mamlambo river beasts in the rivers of that area.

I mean even if you wish to stick to Euro influences, when was the last time you saw monsters from German or Nordic or even Russian myth?  There are alot of very cool monsters from mythology out there, hell we don't even see enough Greek monsters for Chrissakes, the problem is not that fantasy is over done, the problem is that England based fantasy is, and your world should feel like a mix of cultures and mythologies instead of just feeling like "england world". And the same goes for its people (especially the humans). Everquest was cool because it had mutluple human types, same goes for Vanguard and Elder Scrolls. If devs would stop being so lazy with their approach to fantasy and make their game a FANTASY game not a ENGLAND fantasy game, things would be alot better.

Fri Oct 21 2011 8:10PM Report writes:
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