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The Free Zone: My 2015 MMOG Wish List

Columns By Richard Aihoshi on December 29, 2014

My 2015 MMOG Wish List

It has been many years since I last sat on Santa's knee or wrote a letter to make sure he'd know what gifts I wanted him to bring. Although I'm not inclined to do either ever again, I haven't forgotten the seasonal tradition of listing my wishes. This year, as usual, I can enumerate quite a few things I'd like to see within the MMOG category. There are far too many to consider discussing them all, so I decided to limit myself to a manageable selection.

These wishes are based on my personal values and criteria as a player, and naturally, my opinions are subjective. So, I don't expect that anyone else would come up with exactly the same list. Indeed, part of the fun in presenting mine is looking forward to seeing other people's views and how we differ based on our respective individual preferences.

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More opportunities for truly challenging PvE

A few weeks ago, I happened upon a discussion wherein two players talked about the raid they go on almost nightly with their guild mates. What jumped out for me was the seeming disconnect between two things they said. One was that they had successfully completed it many times in a row. The other was that they characterized it as challenging. 

Maybe it's just me, but I simply can't consider any raid I know I can always or almost always defeat as challenging. Note that I'm not saying this means they're easy. It's a not binary situation where something can only be one or the other. They can and do require different amounts of thought and effort. Frankly though, assuming a capable group, I can't think of one that necessitates my complete attention all for more than a few brief periods interspersed within the entire duration.

Don't get me wrong. I certainly don't enjoy failing. On the other hand, it's not particularly rewarding when I succeed at something where the probability of a positive outcome is very high, and even less so when I'm aware of the likely outcome is before I start. How much of a challenge is there in that? For me, not much at all – not enough to feel as if I've accomplished anything.

For all GW2's strengths, its PVE is often too reliant on Zerg tactics.

I've always been more of a PvE player. However, PvP has always had some appeal.  Duels aren't my thing, but there are times when I'm up for group and/or large-scale battles. The main reason is one I'm sure is familiar to any reader of this site. It's more challenging to face opponents who can think and adapt on the fly. Since they're not completely predictable and stand a decent chance of winning and killing me, either / both triumphing and dispatching my share of the enemy feel substantially more rewarding.

It has long disappointed me that PvE very seldom (dare I say never?) offers a similar degree of challenge, and thus doesn't provide comparable feelings of reward. I'd like to experience that some more. I'm not saying that every raid, quest and task should be made harder across the entire MMOG landscape. The increasing overall player population suggests quite strongly that plenty of people are content with the status quo in terms of overall difficulty level.

I have no major issue with most titles being attuned to such players. Indeed, it's not as if I'm always looking for challenges. So, what I'm wishing for isn't a massive sea change where all the content in every game is more difficult. Rather, it's less homogeneity within enough individual releases to present a decent amount or range of available true challenges.

Blizzard to reveal a new MMORPG

While I don't think it's absolutely impossible, I'm pretty hard-pressed to believe Activision Blizzard is content to let World of Warcraft be its sole entry in the category. I'm well aware that the studio has three known and who knows how many unknown projects in development, all requiring resources. Neither have I forgotten that before Titan was canceled, its direction was shifted away from being a subscription MMORPG. However, the sector still represents a huge source of revenue.

Obviously, WoW is still a very important factor in the marketplace, That said, no one can reasonably argue it isn't in decline. So, while it continues to pull in an enormous number of dollars every month, the long-term trend is clearly downward. From a business perspective, it can be argued that even Blizzard has limited resources, and that the goal is to deploy them as productively as possible, like by making a MOBA and a shooter.

That said, what studio is in a better position financially to take on an additional project, up to and including one that would require a huge team? I realize full well that finding capable, experienced developers isn't the easiest thing in the world, even if money isn't particularly tight. And here again, do you think it would be more or less difficult for Blizzard than for other companies?

In addition, let's be frank. Assuming it would launch within a reasonable number of years, a new MMORPG would sell millions of boxes. Then, factor in a moderate retention rate. Unless you deliberately lowball the numbers, you'll find that the opportunity cost of not undertaking my hoped-for project could easily be billions of dollars in foregone revenue even without approaching the degree of market dominance WoW achieved. That's a whole lot to walk away from, especially if, as I suspect, Blizzard can afford an additional team instead of developing the game instead of something else. Since it's my list, I'll even go so far as to wish for a particular title, Diablo Online. 

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Richard Aihoshi has been writing about MMOGs since the mid-1990s, always with a global perspective. As a result, he has observed the emergence and growth of the free to play business model from its early days in both hemispheres.

He is the former Editor of RPG Vault and his column, focusing on free to play MMOs, appears on MMORPG.com every Monday.
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