Are MMORPG's a dying genre?
For as long as I can remember, MMORPG's have been my favorite game genre to play. From the then browser-based games such as Pokemon Crater and Runescape, to the downloadable games such as Endless Ages, Maplestory, Silkroad Online, and the recent ones World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XIV, Guild Wars 2, New World, etc.
MMORPG's have been the main focus of my gaming life, and it has been a genre of games that I have loved dearly.
That is... until recently.
The Genre is Stagnant
For awhile now, MMORPG's have felt like there hasn't been any innovation. The main players of the MMO space are just themepark MMORPG's. These games include Final Fantasy XIV and World of Warcraft. As much as I love FFXIV, the game itself has been getting stale.
The game that I fell in love with back in 2013 is no longer around. Each expansion of FFXIV has made the game easier. From reworking classes, to making higher level equipment that was once a multi-week grind, into something that you can get in a day, the game has slowly become something that I no longer find joy in playing.
Even now, when I try to play the game, I only do so when there is new story available. Once the story is done, when I try to do any of the new content, the game just feels boring. When I attempt older content, it is a lot more fun, but not enough to keep me around long term.
Thus, FFXIV has been downgraded to a game I was planning on playing forever (or until it shut down), into a game that I will likely only resubscribe too when there is a decent amount of story to play.
And that is the same for many other MMORPG's today. Yes, there are a few games that have held on to their uniqueness, and their difficulty (Old School Runescape being one of them), but the vast majority of games want to cater towards the largest audience they can, thus they over simplify everything, and create game mechanisms to try and force people to keep playing the game, otherwise they will "miss out" on certain things.
To make matters worse, new MMORPG's that have been coming out follow this same formula. They are extremely easy, potentially introduce auto-play mechanics, and they are predatory with their mechanics to force you to stick around (if it is a sub-based game), or get you to spend a lot of money on gacha-based mechanics.
Understandably, MMORPG's are among the most expensive games to create, and they need to make money back somehow. But sometimes, I feel like the suits at the companies that are creating these games are just trying to milk every last penny out of the game, without giving it enough creative room to grow.
What I Miss
Recently, a friend and I were discussing about the current state of MMORPG's. After a bit of talking, we discussed about the games that were really fun, and those were the games that were what we called "Party Grinders".
These games had quests that you could do, a potential story to follow that wasn't necessarily required, and a ton of monsters that you could kill solo or with a party.
Some games that come to mind when thinking of this are Silkroad Online, Maplestory (Before Big Bang), Ragnarok Online, and others in that genre.
Yes, the games may be fairly simple, and potentially mind numbing, but they gave you the creative freedom to play the game the way you want to play it. If you want to do some quests? Just go and take some quests. Want to just grind monsters all day long? Yep, that was an option as well.
Those were also the games that had some of the best communities.
Nowadays, most games force you to follow a quest-line, or force you to a certain method of leveling, as the other methods give rather low experience rates.
Gaming in Anime
In fact, while we were discussing about this, I brought up that most popular Anime that take place in game worlds, such as Sword Art Online, and Log Horizon, are all based on fictional games that describe themselves as "Party Grinders". Yes, Sword Art Online and Log Horizon included dungeons, but the vast majority of the content was fighting monsters and working together in a party to level and complete content.
MMORPG's Need Innovation
The sad truth is, World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV probably killed the MMORPG genre. They are massively popular MMORPG's that follow the same "Themepark" formula.
Other game companies look at all the MMORPG's available, and see that those two are the most successful, so they try to copy the same formula, leading to even more boring MMORPG's that are pretty much exactly the same, with different graphics.
MMORPG's need to try something new, but honestly, I don't see that happening any time soon.
Established game companies do not want to risk spending hundreds of millions on a game that may only have a niche fan base. They want to spend hundreds of millions on a game they know will have millions of players.
Maybe a new game studio will be able to create something interesting, such as Ashes of Creation? However, I am already starting to see the signs of the game slowly becoming a themepark MMORPG, and that is saddening as AoC actually looks decent...
Oh well... Just wanted to rant about something for a little bit. I hope everyone is having a good day!