While 2016 in MMOs was a bit of a let down to me, 2017 is shaping up to be a far more interesting year with a variety of MMOs planned to release or show off experiences diverging from the usual MMO model. We are seeing a design focus around different combat styles, gameplay elements, PVP experiences, and a greater focus on player cultivated content. It’s exciting and has renewed my enthusiasm for the genre once more.
So let’s take a look at a few of the trends for MMOs in 2017 that are likely to resurface, or be reborn to create new, interesting MMO experiences.
The MMO ARPG Awakening
Diablo 3 was an absolute behemoth the previous couple of years with its release and post content update schedule, and it’s no surprise that others would try to emulate this. We’ve had a couple of ARPGs (Action RPG) that have included MMO mechanics and play, like Devilian, but they’ve remained pretty niche.
Next year I think this will be a different story, coming on the heels of two big releases, and one slightly smaller one. The most obvious release of the New Year is going to be MU Legend, which is aiming for a global release and currently sits in a closed beta testing state. Complex skill building for characters and a large selection of dungeons already to choose from, it seems like a reasonably basic ARPG and MMO in its current state but one that hopefully blends the gameplay with more social MMO aspects.
Lineage Eternal should be sharing more information this year with a Korean Beta coming a little later on, and while asking for a western release in 2017 is a stretch, we can dream. A more old-school style ARPG in terms of system and feel but with an incredible amount of polish around its graphics and animations. An interesting point of Lineage Eternal is the dynamic dungeon system that offers randomized dungeons and experiences with a race against the clock to the top the experience off. This reminds me of the Rifts in D3 so it should offer a lot of replayability. There is also mobile compatibility for those with devices powerful enough to run a minor space station.
And lastly is the longshot that we are all hoping for in 2017 that is unlikely to release in the west just yet, Lost Ark. The MMOARPG that is promising everything to everyone, including the kitchen sink. It is the full MMO experience, with an epic story to follow, dungeons and raids, a massive interconnected world to explore, in-depth character customization, as well as crafting, fishing, and other life skills. It is an incredibly ambitious project that blew me away with the initial reveal, and one I hope to play in the near future.
There are sure to be many more ARPGs in the new year, with indie and triple AAA companies trying for what looks like the new gaming trend to emulate. Hopefully it leads to some amazing experiences.
Next Generation of Realm vs Realm
We’ve seen some decent RvR experiences in recent years, from World vs World in Guild Wars 2, to The Elder Scrolls Online and its Alliance War – but each have failed to really grasp the intricacies of the formulae and give it the attention, time, and resources it needs to be great.
Luckily, we are seeing a resurgence in MMOs offering player-vs-player focus with their gameplay and design. A complete and full experience to satiate the murder-lust we feel, but with more structure and strategy behind it then we get from the throwaway modes of theme parks. Of all the titles offering this experience in the new year (and there seems to be a fair few) Crowfall and Camelot Unchained stand well atop with a game and design that seems more nuanced and polished than the average gankbox.
They are going to kick-off the next generation of Realm vs Realm style combat, a sanctuary for the horde of refugees lost and wandering the MMO landscape after abandoning Dark Age of Camelot, Shadowbane, and the like. Maybe even enticing more people into the PvP-orientated experience as those older experiences were able to do, integrating carebears and psychopaths into a glorious gaming harmony once more.
Each of these games are also improving and refining on the realm vs realm formulae in certain ways to provide a different experience. Crowfall seems to be providing a more packaged experience, with campaigns that finish after a certain time frame providing a reasonable end and more defined progression points. A colorful world and characters with an evolving world – it’s an interesting concept.
Camelot Unchained, on the other hand, is trying to build that large, overarching political game between 3 factions. Dark Age of Camelot refined and reborn – the nostalgia is strong with this one. But what’s more interesting is the focus on server architecture for large-scale warfare that has shown impressive results so far, and is a great change from the usually seen failed design in large-scale MMO battles. This should improve the feel and flow of combat.
Both are also influenced by sandbox design with a planned interdependence of players, a deep crafting and gathering system, and player run economy. And then there are the varying levels of progression each hold for the individual, groups, and the realm. They are both holding the hopes of a new generation of PvP, but there is still a worry about how well they can each deliver while being supported by crowdfunding. It has also been a long development road for both of them so far and while I don’t think either will release this year, we will at least get some more complete Beta modes to indulge in.
Player Cultivated Experiences
As the MMO industry grows and progresses, we have seen a resurgence in player created content, and while this has been rather narrow in recent MMOs, those coming up have more developed systems and mechanics that allow the player to completely customize and create their own experience.
Shroud of Avatar is one such MMO, fronted by Richard Garriott, and brings about an idea of creating interesting deep worlds where players fulfill every last aspect, including the development and creation of the stories around them. It is a rich world with episodic stories to tell, a player-driven economy to engage with, and a world to live in with an incredible housing system.
Then there is the smaller, but equally as ambitious, Shards Online, who are aiming to provide player created, and run, worlds that are able to connect together to create a larger play-space. Each having the ability to mold the world, characters, enemies and the rules of the world. I’ve never really seen much like that before and while the current game is incomplete, it is an idea that holds promise.
And lastly is the innovative ideas behind ECO, an MMO space that explains itself as a global survival game revolving around the ecology of a world, with every player action affecting the environment in some way. Players and the server progress together, creating buildings, houses, machines, and items. There is a science style progression as well that unlocks various new aspects of gameplay from building options, politics, and social. But everything affects the world around it; over hunt and the animal population disappears, dig and cause erosion, craft and cause pollution. It’s a game that exemplifies cause and effect and has wonderful teaching potential.
Then there is the social element of collaborating with players to progress your world while fighting the negatives. Player created laws that guide how players should act around certain facets as well as a criminal justice system. It is a collaborative experience and I’m excited to see what emergent stories this brings.
Improvements and Expansions
It is aiming up to be a big year for the more established MMOs too, with many of them talking about, or alluding to, some larger additions to their MMO interior in the year to come.
The new Stormblood expansion for Final Fantasy XIV will be released during the year, adding a new job with the Red Mage as well as dungeons, raids, and underwater *shudder* content.
The Lord of the Rings Online may even see some larger updates due to its new acquisition by Daybreak. New player models are already planned and we’ve seen how they’ve focused on expansions with EverQuest and EverQuest 2, so it is possible that is their plan here as well. Why buy a new IP just to let it gather dust, after all.
Then there is Funcom with The Secret World and a large update that was hinted at in the Q3 financial report for the first half of 2017. A larger expansion seems to be exactly what TSW needs right about now as it’s faced a bit of a content drought lately, not to mention their report of having scripted a large chunk of the story already, so it seems like a solid guess.
And of course, there are a lot of wild card experiences coming in the new year, each offering a different experience for people to enjoy. Albion Online with its PvP focused territory control sandbox. Life is Feudal for a hardcore grind experience. Worlds Adrift and Sea of Thieves offering smaller exploration focused worlds. Project Gorgon and the insane amount of options, and Conan Exiles – Funcom’s favorite franchise reborn again.
It’s going to be an interesting year for MMOs and one that may just reveal the date of these many niche MMOs and their viability. Each have a unique vision and experience of what MMOs can be that diverges from the usual formulae and should expand what is both available and possible within the genre. Regardless of what happens, this will improve MMOs for years to come.Related: 2017, ARPG, Article, Camelot Unchained, Crowfall, ECO, Expansion, F2P, Final Fantasy XIV, Lineage Eternal, Lord of The Rings Online, Lost Ark, MMO, MMORPG, MU Legend, PvP, Shards Online, Shroud of the Avatar, The Elder Scrolls Online, The Secret World