The Perfect MMORPG in 2022
“The Perfect MMO” is a label we’ve given to only the most sacred of MMO. That one single game that has had such a large, cultural impact on the greater genre overall. That has redefined what it means to be a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game.
And I’m not talking visiting the Goldshire Inn or playing on the Balmung server in Final Fantasy XIV.
While I’d love to talk about that MMO.. unfortunately it doesn’t exist in a physical form yet. There is in fact no “perfect MMO.” On the contrary, there are many good MMOs. There are many great aspects of various MMOs. There are many fantastic ideas present in MMOs.
Yet there is no singular MMO currently that has cemented itself so firmly within the genre that it is unequivocally regarded as the the very benchmark – providing an experience that is incomparable to anything else.
But just because there doesn’t exist one currently, doesn’t mean there aren’t some that don’t come close. Or, more than that, that there won’t be one in the future. Blue Protocol, Ashes of Creation, ArcheAge 2, Throne and Liberty, Riot’s League MMO.
I’ve been playing MMOs since I was a teenager. For context, I’m turning 33 this year. And before you make fun of me for being an old man – laugh all you want. You’ll be here soon yourself.
The very first MMORPG I played was Tales of Pirates. It was a PvPvE MMO. The base world – with Shaitan, Argent and Icicle cities were all completely safe. While leveling you never had to fear other players would gank you.
Yet every single dungeon and raid was PvPvE. Meaning that there could be hundreds of players occupying public dungeons all vying for supremacy over one another, and ultimately the bosses and subsequently their drops.
This meant being in a guild was important. There was no “dungeon finder,” there was no queueing solo for a group. No. You were required to be social, you were required to be active in your guild helping out. Participating in group content, group activities. Because if you weren’t, nobody would help you and you would not be able to progress in any form.
The reason I mention this specific aspect of Tales of Pirates is because – while there is plenty of PvP, group PvP, heck, server-wide PvP in the form of territory wars or server wars. One thing I have noticed in every new MMO is a severe departure from group content.
It’s almost like these new developers – even existing developers like Square are so concerned with catering to casuals – that they are punishing players that are here for the “massively multiplayer” component of the MMO.
You can see Final Fantasy XIV doing this in recent expansions – the game feels mostly like a single-player JRPG with group dungeons and raids. I know some people enjoy the Trust system – being able to take NPCs into dungeons with you instead of other players, but that is at the expense of the remainder of the community.
At what point did we decide it was a good idea to fracture the playerbase, inhibiting players by imposing even longer queues on them? Forcing them to, in turn, run with NPC parties if they don’t want to wait.
Look at the leveling in new MMOs. The story. Everything is so disconnected from other players. We’ve seen survival games like Valheim and V-Rising providing more cooperative opportunities for players than MMOs and it’s heartbreaking to see.
If this isn’t remedied soon, the term MMO will likely need to be retired because it just won’t be accurate anymore.
Recently, I took the time to impose a simple question to my viewers: “What do you think would make the perfect MMO?” Responses were often fairly similar.
“Gameplay needs to be exceptional,” viewers would proceed to list what game they thought had the best combat. Black Desert, The Elder Scrolls Online, Guild Wars 2.
“Narrative is important,” to the surprise of nobody, the vast majority of viewers noted Final Fantasy XIV. Even despite Star Wars The Old Republic, Guild Wars 2 and The Secret World all being fantastic alternatives.
“It needs to look next-gen,” at least as good if not better than Black Desert many of them stated.
If an MMO could release that fulfilled those 3 criteria, many of my viewers would classify it the perfect MMORPG. But – while I think all 3 of those aspects are definitely important to an overall successful title, I noticed there were several additional aspects absent from what I perceived to make a perfect MMO.
Community – Having a friendly, welcoming, helpful community is always integral to a healthy community – outside of competitive games, anyway. Communities are the core of an MMO. Toxic ones will deter new players from joining and staying.
Content – MMOs created in the last decade all share one thing: Leveling, which can takes days, even weeks at times, are so boring, so barren, and so void of engaging, competitive, challenging content.
MMOs – and even beyond MMOs, RPGs, Adventure games. They’re all about the journey. They’re not supposed to be about what you do once you’ve completed your journey – at least not exclusively.
Creating a leveling experience that enthralls you, captivates you and makes you want to take your time, immersing yourself in every facet of the world – where did this attention to detail go?
I remember how much personality NPCs and zones had back in WoW. Visiting recurring NPCs like Fiona and her caravan. Finding references to popular TV series and movies scattered around every area.
Beyond that, content needs to be regular. Frequent. Not a few new bosses that you can grind for the next 3 to 6 months, no. Meaningful content that you unlock, that you grind for and that you can pursue over a period of time. I’m not saying disregard boss fights – they’re integral to the raiding scene.
I’m saying provide more than a couple boss fights. More diversity – content to do weekly out in the world that isn’t a chore. That you need to group with other players to complete. And that releases every 4 to 6 weeks. Player retention is a difficult thing to balance, but more regular content – and more things to do is the way to do it.
If Gacha games are somehow managing to implement this, I don’t see why MMOs can’t.
Class identity – Class depth is important. Being able to select your own abilities. To build your own character in a way that only you can. Back in Perfect World International, I played on the Sanctuary server and I was the first Constitution Blademaster to tank Twilight Temple in place of a Barbarian.
I was unkillable machine during open-world PvP and Territory Wars. Nobody had the build I did. And nobody would ever beat me 1 v 1.
Sure, after they introduced OP pay to win gear that changed as I was mostly a free player, but being given the opportunity to build your own character – to customize them extensively is something I find to be sorely missing in today’s games.
Being told “This is a Paladin. They have 10 buttons. This is an AoE, this is a stun, this is a heal. This is the rotation you use and this is the gear you’ll be given” is such a boring take on what could be a much more engaging system.
I dunno. I’ve just seen so many people claiming they want to “find the perfect MMO,” but they have no real idea of what the perfect MMO looks like. And while I don’t have a full, complete understanding of what I want either – I have a vague idea. I know what I like – I know what I need for a game to retain my attention.
I might never find the perfect MMO. I love WoW, Final Fantasy XIV.. yet neither game has been able to hold my attention longer than – maybe 6 weeks in the last 2 years? Then I go back to console games and working. It’s depressing, I know. Don’t judge me.