The Perfect MMORPG in 2021
The perfect MMORPG is an elusive thing. We’re all searching for it. Longing for it. That game that allows us to invest hundreds, thousands of hours into it. That keeps us coming back for more.
But what does the “perfect MMORPG” look like? What SHOULD the “perfect MMORPG” look like? That’s what we’re going to discuss today.
To me? The perfect MMORPG is something that I can play every day. Or, that I can opt to play every other day if I don’t have the time. A game that doesn’t necessarily force you to play without ceasing.
Something that really bothers me about MMOs is that if you miss a day, or miss a week, you fall behind. If you fall behind, you can’t catch up. And if you can’t catch up, people will be less inclined to invite you to participate in content. Meaning you fall even further behind.
Speaking of, the whole “falling behind” aspect of the genre is a concern I know a lot of people find issue with. That’s largely to do with both daily content and RNG.
Earning a type of currency by running daily content rewards players for playing every single day, and punishes you for wanting to do something else.
RNG drops, RNG stats on gear… that is one of the worst features in modern MMOs. I know not everyone will agree with me, but I hate playing DPS, seeing that piece of armor I’ve been grinding for drop and realizing, after celebrating, that instead of +crit or +damage, it comes with a +dodge percentage increase.
Instead of that piece of gear being best in slot for me, it turns in to trash. It’s useless in competitive play. And if there’s no re-roll function in-game, you’re stuck continuing your grind.
I know games like Final Fantasy XIV don’t necessarily have RNG stats on gear, but they do have RNG drops. And if you’re as unlucky as I am, you’ll be required to grind significantly longer and purchase the gear via whatever in-game currency is available at the time.
I feel like RNG gives you a very specific “rush,” a level of satisfaction when you obtain the item you’ve been grinding for. But the opposite is also true.
Grinding is a part of every game. Almost every activity requires a level of grinding. You grind XP to level your character. You grind reputation to positively impact your relationship with various different factions. You grind dungeons or raids for gear. You grind other players for.. well, satisfaction, typically.
And don’t take that outta context! By “satisfaction,” I mean the satisfaction you get from beating them of-up. Against them. By defeating them in player vs player combat. When you engage another player and come out on.. top? Okay, no matter how I attempt to phrase this it just feels wrong.
Now a game definitely shouldn’t be all -about- the grind. But I feel like as the genre has continued to evolve, player mentality has changed. And not for the better.
These days, players are obsessed with “instant gratification.” That’s why MOBAs and Battle Royale’s are as popular as they are. They allow for you to jump directly into a game at the same point as every other player present.
You’re not put days, you’re not put weeks behind. However, I feel like the journey through the game is such an enthralling aspect that is now often.. overlooked. This is evident by looking at the recent surge in World of Warcraft refugees migrating over to Final Fantasy XIV.
Players, streamers, content creators. While a large sum of players have played the game in its traditional format, you cannot deny the number of players purchasing level boosts and subsequently complaining they either don’t understand the game or how to play it.
MMOs these days – or rather, MMO developers these days don’t care about establishing a world filled with rich lore, filled with content. The world of Azeroth, its characters, its setting. They kept me playing through every patch. Not the new raid wings or raid tiers. Not the new dungeons, not the new classes or races.
Today, in December 2021, the reason I’m not enjoying WoW isn’t because its raids aren’t fun. It isn’t because its dungeons aren’t fun. It isn’t due to a lack of new classes or races. The developers have just become so disconnected with what their players want that the game is a hollow shell of what it once was.
A new player beginning WoW in 2021 has absolutely no idea what’s going on in the world, being thrown from expansion to expansion, with leaders changing every expansion, new world-ending threats beginning and then suddenly ending as fast as you were made aware of them. It’s a mess.
Again, the journey is what drew me to WoW. It’s what I feel is necessary to keep me invested in an MMO long-term. It’s why I’ve never played Black Desert longer than a couple weeks at a time. It’s why when new MMOs release, I grow bored. The worlds are uninspired. They’re linear.
Sure, they’re large and open. But there’s nothing in them. Astellia, Bless Unleashed, Elyon, Swords of Legends, PSO2 New Genesis. All of these games suffer from this. And admittedly, suffer from the next point as well: Content.
One thing a lot of players don’t seem to realize, is that when an MMO launches… it launches with very limited content. It doesn’t have hundreds of hours worth of content to play through, with regular monthly updates scheduled immediately after the launch.
When starting a new MMO, you’ll find one of the most common complaints is “there’s nothing to do.” Sure, that’s partly poor planning on the developers. They should, theoretically take the time to create enough content for players to consume at a moderate rate, especially after hitting endgame.
And by that same logic, they should, once again, theoretically, have a roadmap – whether public or internal, with content scheduled to release periodically in the short-term to keep players playing.
There’s nothing worse than enjoying aspects of a game: Combat, graphics, story, then immediately upon hitting endgame, coming to the realization that there’s just.. nothing to do. So, naturally, you grow bored, and you move onto something else.
Endgame content is important. It’s by far one of the most important parts of the entire game. The leveling process can be slow and arduous. The aesthetic look and feel might be underwhelming. The combat might be basic. But endgame can make suffering through all of that worth it.
I know to a lot of people, the way the world is formatted is important. And by that I mean whether the game is instanced, like PSO2 or SoulWorker, if it’s open-world but utilizes segregated zones like Final Fantasy XIV or Guild Wars 2, or is completely sandbox like Black Desert Online or EVE Online.
I’m personally happy with any and all of the above. On the one hand, SoulWorker is one of my favorite games. I can’t pinpoint why that is. But I also enjoy PSO2, Vindictus. Hub-MMOs like that work for me.
Now they don’t give me the same enjoyment as a game like Final Fantasy XIV, Guild Wars 2, The Elder Scrolls Online. Where you can see players out and about in the same areas you’re in, participating in whatever open-world content they’ve set out to do.
Seeing other players, engaging with other players, and furthermore grouping with other players you find out in the sprawling open world you’re inhabiting currently is a key element of the MMO genre. It’s what the “massive” is in reference to.
So while I can find immense enjoyment out of playing every type of MMO, I prefer to be able to have large areas outside of towns or cities where hundreds of players can all participate in content together.
Which also brings me to my next point: PvP. PvP is… hit and miss for me. On the one hand, I’m a huge PvPer. I love PvP. I spent years doing Demonic World, Chaos Argent and various other open-PvP maps in Tales of Pirates. I played on a PvP server in Perfect World and World of Warcraft.
I loved the challenge. I loved the danger. And while I’ve definitely grown out of that as I’ve continued to age – I’m 31 now, by the way, which is crazy as I still get carded for drinks and people leave comments telling me I look 14 unshaven.
But back on topic, at my age, the type of PvP I enjoy is what’s found in World of Warcraft right now with their Warmode feature.
Players can opt to either turn Warmode on, or off. They’re only togglable in a main city, meaning if you turn it on, then begin questing out in the open-world, you’re asking for fights with the opposite faction.
This means that on days I feel up for heavy faction PvP, I can leave it toggled on. And on others, I can simply turn it off and go out into the world and quest at my own leisure. This is especially helpful when you have things to do and don’t want to be forced into altercations you otherwise want to avoid.
But on the other hand, I haven’t found myself ever really wanting to PvP in Final Fantasy XIV, so maybe it’s just not as appealing of a feature to me anymore. It’s difficult to say. Regardless, I feel as though the feature should be present. Not the ability to just toggle on and off at will – anywhere at any time.
That makes it too easy to grief and then hide without repercussion. Rather, you have to weigh the pros and cons of toggling it with Warmode, as the only way to turn it off is to make it back to one of the few core main cities.
I’ve never been of the opinion that gameplay is a requirement to a good game. It’s a crutch, at best. It benefits, it enhances what is already there.
A bad MMO is going to continue to be bad even if it has fun combat. And likewise, a good MMO is still going to be a good MMO with bad combat. It’ll just be.. less good?
I’m fond of every type of combat as well. Full action, tab-target, even combat styles that have abilities set to your WASD keys like Lost Ark. I’m not picky. To me, the perfect MMO has any type of combat that is done well. That isn’t slow and cluttered. That doesn’t have you spamming 400 abilities, or on the other side of the spectrum, 4.
Although speaking of limited abilities, class identity and class customization is important. Cookie-cutter builds are always going to be present in MMOs. There’s no getting around that. The highest level of customization could be presented to players, and players will always mix-max by following guides other people make.
That small percent difference in damage or heals might make all the difference between being in the top tier of raiders or not.
However at the same time, I recall WoW’s old Talent trees. Where you had a lot of control over how your class was built, and would subsequently play. They eventually gutted the customization in favor of the current Talent system, which still isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, but I love class depth.
I love being able to adjust a build to better suit me. My playstyle. Just because something works for someone, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to work for me. I want to be given the opportunity to build my character into a creation that best fits me.
Whether it’s superior or inferior is up for debate. Back in Perfect World, I pumped a high constitution and strength build for damage and durability. It allowed for me to, on my Blademaster, tank dungeons that normal Blademaster’s couldn’t.
In Tales of Pirates, instead of pumping excess agility like most Crusader’s for the increased attack speed, I pumped constitution. Which made it impossible for other Crusader’s to ever 1-shot me due to my excessively large HP pool.
This is something I miss. This is something that I think needs to come back into play. Stats. Skill trees. Give me back the freedom that was taken away to make room for basic, casualized classes.
I know people are sitting there thinking “community is important as well, Stix!” And I do agree. Having played a lot of Final Fantasy XIV and Guild Wars 2, I’ve learned how much more fun less toxic communities are.
Sure, at the highest tier of competitive content you’re going to run into a substantial amount of toxicity, of elitism. But for someone who no longer pushes competitive content – me – a fun, laid back, casual community is where it’s at.
One that doesn’t take things too seriously. One where most the players are helpful. One where people genuinely care about one another as opposed to the cesspool that is competitive PvP games like Fortnite, League or Overwatch.
And finally, story. A narrative. I know I touched on the world being important. How the characters found within the game, its setting were all important.
But for me to become fully invested in an MMO, it needs to grip me. It needs to make me care about it. Enough where I don’t spend most the game skipping through all the text in a mad rush to endgame.
Telling a good story is difficult. Yet there are games out there that do it exceptionally well.
To me, the perfect MMORPG is a game that doesn’t punish you for having a life, and not having the ability to play every single day.
It’s a game that doesn’t leave you unsatisfied due to unlucky drop rates for your specific piece of gear.
You have a world that actually takes time to explore and complete. That is gripping. Enthralling. That grabs ahold of you and keeps you on the edge of your seat as you continue to progress towards endgame.
There’s enough content to warrant playing up until endgame, and then long after reaching it. There are updates released frequently enough for you to never fully drop the game.
It’s a game that allows me to see hundreds of other players out in the world. Engaging with it, and each other.
Where you can choose to have an entire PvP experience if that’s something you’re into, but you’re never forced into it against your will.
It’s a game with great combat – of any type, really. Where you can play your class however you like, without feeling like you’re an exact replica of every other player.
Where the community is kind, helpful, and you can form relationships with other people.
It’s a game that doesn’t exist right now, but maybe will one day. Until then, we have games like Final Fantasy XIV, Guild Wars 2, The Elder Scrolls Online, Black Desert, Star Wars The Old Republic and so many more to fill the void until that day inevitably comes. Or doesn’t, and the genre disappears into obscurity.