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The List: Some New MMO Settings

Columns By William Murphy on August 09, 2010

Some New MMO Settings

We’ve seen a lot of space-themed MMOs, and of course there have been plenty of fantasy settings to go around since the inception of the graphical MMORPG, but what about the rest of the locales that are currently going under-appreciated or completely unused in the online gaming scene? I’m aware that some of what I’m about to list is probably covered by some MUD or another out there, but I’m not going to include them in my frame of reference for the simple fact that they’re not graphical representations of the settings that they represent.


As the MMO audience continues to grow, it makes sense that there should be more diversity among the games we have at our playing disposal. In a highly competitive sector of the gaming industry, you’d think that someone out there would want to ditch convention and try to bring us some new worlds to play in. I’m not the type to believe that gamers only want fantasy or space in their MMOs. If a game is designed well, even with a niche setting, it has a chance to succeed. We’ve had a few post-apocalyptic games in recent years. And in the somewhat near future we’ll see a zombie apocalypse MMO on consoles, and two macabre settings in The Secret World and World of Darkness. In the interest of furthering this trend towards the untried, here are a few settings that we here at would like to see given a chance (even if they’ve been tried before and failed).

Feel free to add your own in the comments below!


There are a few free MMOs that are based on the Mafia era that was prominent during the middle of the 1900s in the US, but nothing that’s quite AAA in its execution. I for one would love to see a 1940s era MMO that has players taking part in a large scale battle for the control of the Burroughs. It doesn’t even have to be set in New York (although that would be ideal). Expansions could stretch out later into Miami, Chicago, San Francisco. Of course it stands to reason that some folks wouldn’t really be intrigued by the notion of playing “gangster” for the entirety of an MMO. It’s not like mowing down opposing crooks through a storefront window is exactly heroic, but that’s the point. A Gangland MMO wouldn’t be about heroics. It would be about picking your family and helping them amass as much power and control as possible over a given location.


Sure it might not sound like a game that would give players a lot of options in terms of attire or weaponry, but the thought of a game based on tribe vying for survival amongst the harshest of elements presents some pretty unique gameplay opportunities. If any of the games on this list gives the chance for a sandbox style experience, I think this would be it. Players would need to clothe each other, hunt for food supplies for the entire tribe, as well as ward off the wildlife and opposing tribes. Plus, who wouldn’t want a chance to hurl a spear at something that’s now extinct in the present day? I know that our ancestors weren’t exactly living with dinosaurs, but in a pre-historic MMO, I think the former rulers of the Earth would need to be present… you know, for raids (joke).

Alternate Reality

Modern day MMOs might not seem that attractive to some. I mean part of the reason we play these games is for the escapism, so why would anyone really want to walk around a typical suburban town doing quests that involved picking up eggs and milk from the grocery store? But I’d like to see someone with far greater imagination than I tackle the idea of an alternate reality where something in our world is drastically changed. The go-to of course could be what would our world be like if Hitler had won the war? Or how about the Naomi Novik novels’ notion that dragons and humans co-exist and the former were used in military pursuits during the Napoleonic era? The possibilities are endless. All someone would have to do is pick an era in time and add in a compelling twist to history. I for one would love to take the skies on the back of a Chinese Celestial.

Wild West

If you’re anything like me (and millions of others), you’ve spent a lot of time this summer with Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption. And if you’re even more like me, the game’s online mode has you salivating and hoping that someone steps up to the plate and knocks a true wild west MMO out of the park. The potential for so much interesting gameplay is there: bank and train robberies, wanted posters, lawmen and outlaws, epic gunfights in the middle of a dusty town, hunting and farming, and so on and so forth. Players could settle their own towns, form their own gangs, elect their own sheriffs. This specific era in American history is ripe for massive online gameplay.


This might be one of the number one hoped-for themes among my circle of friends. There are some free and casual MMOs out there that claim to have a steampunk influence. But when I think of this sub-genre of science fiction, I think of the novel The Difference Engine. I suppose it’s almost like an alternate reality as well, but more deserving of its own mention here on this list. Anyone who’s played and loved Troika’s Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura can tell you just how marvelously fantasy themes can meld with those of Steampunk, and I’m still clinging to hope that one day someone will craft a sequel or spiritual successor to that title. And if they’re going to do it, it might as well be an MMO, right?

William Murphy / Bill is the Managing Editor of, and lover of all things gaming. He''s been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002. Be sure to follow him on Twitter for all of his pointless rambling.