You’ve seen it all before. Whether it’s a theme park or sandbox game, a sword and sorcery fantasy game or an epic sci-fantasy space explorer, there have been more MMORPG’s over the past two decades than you could shake a bag of sticks you collected for a fetch quest. With so many MMORPG’s to choose from, and players consistently growing tiresome of the same formula getting rehashed for a cash-grab title, should developers stop thinking about trying to reinvent the wheel, and instead just update the games that players have loved for years?
When I hear that a unique idea for an MMORPG has been floated by a developer, and that IP is a brand new IP, I get a shock of worry and excitement through me as though someone has cast a lightning bolt spell on me. How many times have we been met with the Bless Online and Vanguard: Saga of Heroes and Tabula Rasa only to be left with a lot of hard work that was flushed down the drain along with their meager following. Despite that, huge publishers alongside indie studios have strained themselves to make new IP’s palatable for today’s gamer. The problem is, the execution of so many of these games fall too far into line with the games we’ve seen, that slapping a new IP on an old, tired gameplay scheme isn’t cutting the mustard. The few games that still manage to garner our attention, like World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XIV, Guild Wars 2, and the several others that manage to break through, seem to have built themselves on the backs of existing, popular franchises.
Sometimes I think, “Wouldn’t it be nice to see a new breakthrough IP, that introduces new gameplay mechanics, or provides some key components to building a polished, unique and fresh online world,” but so often we see the expectations fall far short of what gets delivered. Honestly, though, developers really don’t need to reinvent the wheel to keep players invested. We have games like EverQuest and RuneScape that have been around for more than two decades, and while both of those games have had sequels, the original games still have a robust following. MMORPGs are meant to stand the test of time and be a perpetual world filled with new adventures and memories of adventures’ past. These games are also visually unappealing by today’s standards, and the engines and gameplay could probably use an update, which may be the primary factor in why people move on.
The hope for something new to enthrall us is ever present. Yet something old, made new again, like opening a classic server of your favorite game, has proven to be successful for a lot of publishers. Refreshing the worlds we’ve come to know and love is definitely a big draw for those of us who have spent years of our lives delving into these dungeons and battling their beasties. It would only stand to reason that overhauling some of these older games, building sequels to expand existing worlds, or finding a way to migrate some of our existing personal connections we have in a game, to an updated version, would undoubtedly be a major draw for players.
We have seen some developers attempt to bridge the gap between what has come before, and what is available now. Quite possibly one of the most prevalent examples would be the inclusion of Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis as a separate, yet connected, expansion of Phantasy Star Online 2. Players have been able to transition their original character from the classic version back and forth, and even go so far as to utilize the cosmetics they’ve acquired as well. While a lot could be said about how the overhauled version of New Genesis performs, the cohesion between the two versions is palpable and has created a universe where your previous experiences have not been forgotten and have even been celebrated.
With a wealth of MMORPGs out there to choose from currently, the costs associated with creating them, and the very few games that really do manage to break through to a crowd large enough to spur development forward, I think it makes a lot of sense for publishers to drink from the well of games that have already proven to be popular, and maybe bring them into the current decade. On the other hand, without new ideas, new IP’s, and new styles of gameplay, perhaps the genre would just feel far too stagnant. Either way, it doesn’t seem like we’re going to be losing any of our popular franchises anytime soon, and with so many small studios attempting to break into this MMORPG genre with new properties, itching to find a following, win or lose it seems there’s a cornucopia of options headed our way in the future. Do you believe that MMORPG’s should just rebuild the popular franchises of the past with updated visuals and overhauled gameplay, or do you think that MMORPGs should blaze new trails with new worlds and new experiences? Dive into our comments, and let us know what you think.