Sometimes the easiest way to inject a feeling of new and exciting gameplay into MMOs is to fuse aspects of different game genres. When I’m not spending my time with MMORPGs I like to delve into the world of Roguelite games, and I’ve been wondering, could an MMORPG Roguelite actually work?
If you’ve played games like Slay the Spire or the popular dungeon crawler Hades then you are probably pretty familiar with Roguelike games. While many of these games are well known for their punishing gameplay elements like permadeath, and therefore you’re required to rebuild your character from the ground up and start at the beginning, Roguelike and more specifically Roguelite games have still allowed for unique overall progression points like unlocking new items, characters and some even allow you to start with a boost. The reason why these games are so popular is that the ability to replay these games over and over and have a completely different experience each time is not only fun, but addictive.
MMORPGs on the other hand really dig their heels into progression. There have been games in the past that had extremely punishing death penalties, like losing all your items in games like Mortal Online 2, but most games prefer to err on the side of player experience and push away penalties that would be deemed too harsh. These are the very same principles that Roguelike games stray from, and they instead embrace the cruel reality that your mistakes, or just your rotten luck, will be met with a swift and decisive failure. There will be situations where you’re guaranteed to lose a battle, but those just happen to be the cards you’re dealt.
We’ve seen MMOs branch out into many different subgenres. We’ve seen MMOFPS games like Planetside 2, and MMO Sports games like Riders Republic. We’ve seen more survival MMOs and MOGs than you could shake a crafted wooden dowel at. Last year, we actually did see an MMO Roguelite hit the scene, with a game called Mythic. It might also interest some of you to learn that this isn’t the first MMORPG Roguelite to be attempted either, with the very successful development studio Digital Extremes having created a retro Roguelite MMO that shut down back in 2019, called Survived By.
Judging by Mythic’s concurrent players on Steam, and the failure of Survived By, it is clear that the MMO Roguelike/lite genre hasn’t exactly exploded. You could look at these retro 16-bit attempts at MMORPGs and dismiss these games as half-assed, but most Roguelike games aren’t exactly known for their graphics anyway. Realistically though, figuring out how to make a Roguelite game that works on a massively multiplayer scale is a tall order. The nearly random nature of everything you encounter in a Roguetype game would definitely lend itself well to keeping an MMORPG fresh and exciting, but it would also unleash the possibility for unprecedented power disparities between players that just happen to get lucky.
However, wouldn’t getting lucky on a random power, armor or stat drop for completing a dungeon, and potentially losing that drop, be far more preferrable than time gating dungeons, and hiding content behind daily and weekly events? Especially if there were still a way to progress even if you fail and lose some of your most coveted assets? You might ask, how is this any different than a full loot game, or any general survival MOG. Roguetypes thrive on the idea that challenging PvE are aspects to overcome through unique decisions that you make every time. In a full loot game, most of the time, you’re dying to another player, for resources or gear that is largely arbitrary. In survival games, once you know how to build yourself up from scratch, there is no mystery left in how to become strong. Roguetypes provide unique opportunities at every turn, and while it hasn’t been successful yet on the scale of an MMO, I certainly hope there’s a developer out there that can figure it out.
Are there genres of games that you would like to see as an MMO? Are you a fan of Roguetype games and you’ve got some ideas how you would envision a Roguelike MMO? Slip into the comments section and let us know your thoughts.