With the holiday season in full swing at this point, so too come the holiday events in MMORPGs. Every year, there are new seasonal updates where developers rehash and recycle thematic events, with new mechanics worked into mini games. In this week’s One Good Roll, I had to look back at some of my favorite mini-games, and I had to think about what my favorite games would have been like without them. Do MMORPG's need mini games? Which activities have actually enriched your time in game? Let's talk about it.
In this week’s column, I decided to think about what some of my favorite MMORPG’s and MOG’s would have been like without the mini-games I enjoyed. For those that aren’t quite familiar with what qualifies as a mini game, I loosely define it as a smaller, gamified activity within a larger game, meant to occupy one’s attention apart from the primary game’s gameplay elements or objectives. That puts something like Vanguard: Saga of Heroes’ crafting system in the mini game category, while something like Star Wars Galaxies Jump to Lightspeed expansion would be more of a full-fledged feature.
With the mention of Vanguard: Saga of Heroes we’re off and running with a few of the mini games that I have deemed not just important, but necessary. There is a lot that could be said for the advanced gameplay systems within Vanguard. Diplomacy was certainly a unique mini game system that many players really sank their teeth into. As a card-based argument between a player and an NPC had many players excited to obtain new cards and find gear that would enhance their Diplomacy skills.
Meanwhile, Vanguard’s crafting system was quite tedious, but it was also one of the most interactive crafting systems that I’ve ever seen. Between the two, I actually took to crafting far more than Diplomacy, and spent hours at the forge, smelting and hammering. Vanguard had plenty of problems, but I think the mini games are one area that I can say with confidence that it made the game worthwhile to play for me.
Another game that has really knocked it out of the park with mini games is, Phantasy Star Online. Whether you played PSO: Blue Burst, Phantasy Star Universe, or Phantasy Star Online 2: Classic, the casino games that SEGA has slipped into each version has given me ample cause to waste several hours of time in these virtual casinos, betting my coins. Unlike Vanguard though, Phantasy Star Online 2’s casino isn’t even remotely worked into the game enough to be considered a necessity.
At best, it’s a diversion from PSO2’s monotonous gameplay treadmill. It still managed to be fun enough that it keeps me within the game world, but with games like Roulette, Slots and Blackjack, anyone could transition to a more conventional casino game and receive a more robust set of features. Because this casino is within PSO2 though, and all of the games are themed within this world SEGA has built, complete with the rewards you can earn, it makes it that much more fun to participate in them.
A fun mini game article just couldn’t be complete without talking about Genshin Impact and their inclusion of a multitude of mini games over the course of a year. Say what you will about the gacha monster in Genshin Impact but miHoYO knows how to make compelling mini games that can keep players attention. One of my favorite mini games is their rhythm-based content from Ballads of Breeze. It’s very rare that unique gameplay options, like music and rhythm activities, are found in MORPGs. I don’t need an entire Rock Band suite to make a rhythm game exciting and enjoyable, just give me a catchy tune and some simplistic keypresses and I’m golden.
Without the mini games Genshin Impact continues to introduce to their players, I’m not sure whether the game’s popularity would hold as well. For example, in the Peculiar Wonderland event for Genshin Impact, players had multiple new mini games to take part in, all of which culminated in ample rewards that actually meant something to players. Plus, the gameplay was so starkly different than what you spend your time doing in Genshin Impact that it broke up the monotony enough to keep me invested for several more weeks than I would have been.
Finally, what would this article be without me looking down on some of the poor mini games that I’ve never been able to enjoy. As much as I’ve loved Guild Wars 2 throughout the years, I’ve loved this game despite the lack of any real, enjoyable mini games. Okay, with the exception of Super Adventure Box, which I’ll always have a place in my heart for, the vast majority of mini games within Guild Wars 2 don’t entice me in the slightest.
Despite trying my hardest, I still can’t bring myself to get any joy out of Southsun Survival or Keg brawl. Some of the seasonal events have been hit or miss, but Wintersday has always fallen flat for me. It’s certainly not for lack of trying as ArenaNet has done their darndest to change the formula a bit each year, with new story elements, and new game mechanics, but despite the changes, I find myself gravitating back towards the more rewarding world events, rather than agonizing over completing the achievements for these bland diversions. I understand the need for seasonal events, but for these mainstay mini games, Guild Wars 2 wouldn’t lose much if they shuttered them for good.
What are your thoughts on mini games? Are there any mini games that you earnestly enjoy in your MMORPGs? Do you think having mini games are important at all? Sled into our comments section and let us know what you think.