Friday night topic: MMORPGs, and the gerbils who play them

Remember the MMORPG, gerbils? Do you remember massive open worlds filled with hundreds or thousands of other players? Do you recall a time when "gank" and "aggro" were common components of your vernacular, when "voke" was intuitively understood to mean "provoke", and when acronyms like LFG, PST, KOS, and OOM (among myriad others) were ubiquitous?

My score, or the management of the Final Fantasy brand?

Heck, who am I kidding? You're probably still playing one. After all, World of Warcraft Classic is in beta right now, City of Heroes is back, Warframe is still knocking out content updates left and right, and Final Fantasy XIV just got its latest expansion, Shadowbringers. As has become tradition, Square-Enix released a stand-alone benchmark application for the release of Shadowbringers. It's about 2GB; grab it and give it a shot to see what the state-of-the-art in Final Fantasy Online visuals looks like. Here's a spoiler: it's pretty, and definitely worth checking out if you have a beast of a gaming machine. Don't forget to post your specs and settings if you want to be proud of your performance.

Warframe is actually a game about busting sick tricks on hoverboards.

Warframe is looking pretty good these days too, though. If you're not familiar, Warframe is a third-person shooter-brawler hybrid where players take on the role of magical space ninjas in a far-flung science-fiction future after the collapse of stellar civilization. Yeah. Warframe is one of my favorite games of all time, and it just got a major content update that came along with a new game mode, a new playable character, and a total revamp of one of the game's older tilesets. Its fifty million registered players are still getting monthly content updates in the game's sixth year—and oh, did I mention that it's completely free to play? The real question is simply whether Warframe is actually an MMORPG or not.

How many hours did I spend staring at City of Heroes' character creator?

On the topic of City of Heroes, it's perhaps a bit incorrect to say that the game is "back" given that it's still not operating in any official fashion. If you didn't follow the drama a few weeks ago, let me summarize it for you. After the game was shut down in 2012, the server code found its way to a community who promptly set up their own private version of the game that they proceeded to run in secret for some seven years. Once the truth came out, the code found its way into the open, and now there's a whole pile of City of Heroes private servers to play with.

I've been playing it for about two weeks now, and it's almost exactly the same game I remember from nearly 15 years ago. It's been an illuminating experience, because City of Heroes is quite unlike more modern games—such as the other titles mentioned in this post. Given the "rogue" nature of the servers—the game is basically abandonware, but that's not actually a thing in the USA—I won't link directly to any downloads. Setting it up couldn't be easier, though. Just grab the "Creamsoda" launcher, and let it grab the game files. You'll need to make an account on the server of your choice, of course, but you can do that through the launcher, and most of them don't even require an e-mail address. Then, pick your server and click "Play." Personally, I'd recommend the Rebirth server for the purest experience. The Homecoming server has the largest population, but its owners have also made significant modifications to the game. The choice is yours.

When they said "Classic,"they meant it. No, seriously.

Meanwhile, as you may have read in Colton's shortbread, WoW Classic beta testers are reporting authentic game features from WoW 1.12 as bugs. This brought up an interesting discussion around the virtual water cooler here at TR,one that echoed my own thoughts ever since I picked up City of Heroes again: do older MMORPG players who reminisce about the games of yore do so purely out of nostalgia, or is there really something missing from the MMORPGs of today? Alternatively, as posited by one little auxy, is there instead something missing from the MMORPG players of today? Perhaps all three can be true simultaneously. Whether you fool with any of this stuff or not, let us know what you think. Either way, we wish you a happy Memorial Day weekend.

Comments closed
    • Shinare
    • 2 months ago

    I used to play Path of Exile until they sold out to tencent.

    bye bye PoE

      • Pwnstar
      • 1 month ago

      Path is a lot of fun to play. I enjoy it more than D3.

    • Nictron
    • 2 months ago

    Still playing some Lotro (Lord of the Rings Online).

    It is probably the best gaming investment I have ever made. Bought the lifetime subscription which gave your access to the world. Eventually they went free to play and I was upgraded to VIP status for life. Effectively I get the equivalent of $9 in coin every month with which I can spend on the store not to mention additional characters and expansions.

    Been on there for 12 years now of which about 7or8 years were free to play.

    Handed it over to my eldest and she is enjoying it thoroughly as well.

    • Mr Bill
    • 2 months ago

    I remember running back from where I had died and taking time to scout the terrain while I was ghosted and invulnerable. Good times.

    • Ifalna
    • 2 months ago

    I actively (vermy much so πŸ˜€ ) played WoW since early 2007 (Burning Crusade) till the end of WoD. These days I merely check back in once in a while.

    I moved on to Final Fantasy XIV 4? years ago and play that actively. It takes less time to maintain a character compared to WoW with it’s AP/AZ grind.

    Also, Miqo’te :3.

    MMOs are still fun but what is missing most is me being a student with WAY too much time on his hands. So I am kinda glad they streamlined a lot, making char maintenance easier and progress quicker. πŸ˜€

    • Cuhulin
    • 2 months ago

    Still playing WoW, after breaks for FFXIV, GW2, Rift and others. It was better when it was more social and less toxic, and maybe when I was less a senior citizen, but I’ve spent more time in WoW than is some of the places I have lived over the years.

    My opinion about the question in the article is that MMORPGS went from fun social places to toxic sludge pits for a while but slowly are beginning to get back to fun and social as people sort themselves out.

    • DeadOfKnight
    • 2 months ago

    Just when I thought Blizzard successfully cured me of my MMORPG addiction by slowly diluting the MMO and the RPG aspects of the game over its series of expansions, and no other developer stepping up to take the reigns, they had to go ahead and announce WoW Classic. Oh well, who needs to actually finish their backlog of books, movies, TV shows, and video games anyway?

    • Chrispy_
    • 2 months ago

    I enjoyed Wow through the first three expansions but stopped before Mists of Pandaria.

    Towards the end of vanilla and well into Cataclysm, Blizzard managed to make a few years of game that was complex enough to keep the hardcore, unemployed MMO nerds happy, whilst being accessible enough for casuals with other games in their library as well as IRL priorities.

    Towards the end of Cataclysm and from what I saw of Pandaria, the shift away from catering primarily to existing players to chase a wider audience of more fickle casual players actually drove down player numbers quite drastically and WoW has never toughened up and gone back to its roots.

    WoW classic may be authentic but it’s going to sting to lose all of the improvements made to the game and I’m amused by the fact that Blizzard have had to make an official list of “these are not bugs, they are (asinine) game design choices” list.

      • Mr Bill
      • 2 months ago

      +3 Yeah, giving every player his own keep. Blech! So we could grind our stupid keeps instead of being out and about grinding the game.

      • superjawes
      • 2 months ago

      This sounds like the classic [i<]Dark Souls[/i<] fallacy, assuming that the existence of casual content means that hardcore content is diminished or does not exist. Since Cata, WoW has gotten [i<]harder[/i<] difficulty dungeons and raids via Mythic difficulty. Yes, there's a suite of easier content than that, but the challenging content never went away. If anything, the addition of easier tiers is what allowed Blizzard to make the top tier more challenging. Heck, I remember them specifically saying that a set size for the top raid difficulty meant that they could tune for several class-specific abilities (something they couldn't do when designing for 10-man sizes).

    • Kretschmer
    • 2 months ago

    What’s the best PvP MMO experience right now? Preferably with a minimum of grind/time investment and not an Asian/Ca$h shop MMO. I’ve tried the WAR private server recently and it rekindled the itch without scratching it.

      • NovusBogus
      • 2 months ago

      AFAIK the hardcore PvP MMO has been superseded by the battle royale and 15 minute team fight (Wargaming, MWO, etc.) genres. More fighting, less grinding, and while they by design don’t live up to the MMOs’ promise of huge battles the truth of it is those huge battles were too laggy to live up to their reputation.

    • Krogoth
    • 2 months ago

    Pffft, MMORPGs are overrated. Real men crawl in the MUD. πŸ˜‰

      • Redocbew
      • 2 months ago

      You are likely to be eaten by a grue.

        • jihadjoe
        • 2 months ago

        Just like Intel is being eaten by a glue!

    • Rick377
    • 2 months ago

    I’ve been playing [url=https://gold4vanilla.com<]World of Warcraft: Classic[/url<] since Nostalrius Begins (both PvP & PvE). It was sad to see that server go and have people from the Elysium Project and Light's Hope mess with the databases and characters. Can't wait for the retail.

    • ET3D
    • 2 months ago

    Thanks for the post. I haven’t been following the City of Heroes story since that private server was discovered, and it’s interesting to know that things went public. It was my favourite MMO. Still, I don’t have the free time I once was and will likely not try it again. I’ll probably spend my free time with an Oculus Quest or playing Operencia.

    • moose17145
    • 2 months ago

    Not going to lie… i may very well be trying those City of Heroes servers… hopefully they also revive City of Villains

      • RAGEPRO
      • 2 months ago

      There are servers running Issue 24 (the last official game update that was on the beta test servers when the game shut down), and servers running “Issue 25”, which is an unofficial expansion created by the guys who ran the game in secret for seven years. Either way, though, it’s the game as it was post -“Going Rogue”, so it includes Heroes, Villains, Vigilantes, Rogues, and Praetorians.

      All of the game content as of the time the game went down is included in either version, but Issue 25 has a bunch of quality of life upgrades and a tiny bit of extra content in exchange for worse performance, some really questionable balance changes, and slightly more bugginess. I can’t say either one is better than the other; playing on an Issue 24 server is an enormous time commitment given the “pure” nature of the servers, but playing on Issue 25 feels unfulfilling.

    • confusedpenguin
    • 2 months ago

    Still playing Wow. Running at 1440p with all settings cranked to max. My main is a Night Elf Rogue named Stabbymcgee on the Duskwood server.

    • koreytech
    • 2 months ago

    Final Fantasy 11 (XI) Online player here. I’ve had an on and off again relationship with the game since shortly after its NA launch in 2002. I don’t play on the vintage, private servers that have the game in its level 75 capped glory but on the official current servers. The group I played with is long gone so it’s basically single player RPG at this point for me.

      • BigTed
      • 2 months ago

      That makes me sad,

      • RAGEPRO
      • 2 months ago

      Heh, that’s a real shame. I played FFXI for years when it was new. It’s really unlike any other MMORPG to this day, with its rich world-building and heavy emphasis on character-focused stories.

      I played it not too long ago on one of those hardcore private servers, and while it was very nostalgic, I was left reminded of all of the game’s flaws and ultimately quit playing after becoming annoyed with just how dated the game was (and I don’t mean technologically.)

      I really haven’t felt that way after playing CoH lately. I’m not sure what that says about the game.

    • allreadydead
    • 2 months ago

    I’ve been playing Warhammer: Online for about 10 years now. The game took off in September 2008 and I started almost with the launch (bought the game on my birthday. I think I only missed a couple weeks). As it had a sub and the people I was playing with left, i took couple months breaks till the game died on december 2013.
    Now the game continues as Return of Reckoning in a private server and I’m still playing it.
    Besides WAR, i played ultima online, Dark Ages of Camelot, Guild Wars 2, Conan and so on for short periods of time.
    I play MMO because, I like to have LAN Party competitive level amongst friends in a game. We were playing XWing vs TIE Fighter, Counter Strike, very first DoTA and that PvP with friends against friends stuck on me.
    Although I really like old school RPGs, they are all it’s you vs AI and no other humans around. I end up not enjoying them as much as MMORPGs.
    I’m stuck with WAR because the game is built around Realm vs. Realm. PvE and Dungeons exists too; they are many and long thanks to Rich Warhammer lore. Even some of those PvEs can be invaded by other Realm players, so are the Public Quests which are not instanced.

    I keep playing WAR because I’m playing with my virtual buddies against my virtual buddies πŸ˜€

      • Kretschmer
      • 2 months ago

      I played two characters up to the level cap and decently far into PvP rank on the RoR server. It was pretty fun, except that the World PvP seems designed to encourage zerging and non-contact PvP (capping and re-capping objectives over and over without fighting). World PvP is also hamstrung by the ability of the losing side to switch to their characters on the other faction at will, turning every siege into a boring zerg followed by a total collapse. It’s a shame, as the PvP mechanics are among the best I’ve experienced on an MMO.

      • gigafinger
      • 2 months ago

      I really liked Warhammer: Online. I played it for about a year, took some time off, and came back to it being canceled. I might have to find a private server…

    • superjawes
    • 2 months ago

    Only been WoW for me. Late WotLK with long breaks in Pandaria onward, but I keep coming back because it’s just the right way to scratch that itch.

    In general, I feel like WoW has only improved over that time period, adding more options and stuff to do. I would like to see them make better use of their old content rather than just churning out more stuff for players to burn out on, but the game would not have survived 15 years (and counting!) if Blizzard had not continuously worked to improve it.

      • shaq_mobile
      • 2 months ago

      Since they have added so much world scaling, I’d like to see them add scaling to older dungeons. It’d be so cool to hit “looking for dungeons – all” and end up in slightly modified maradon or get geared up in LFR running ulduar.

      Vanilla is a cool idea, but I think it’d be more fun to just make old content somewhat relevant again. Having quest chains to go to scaled versions of nagrand would be so fun. Take the players to see what others did in BC, just touch it up a bit. What a cool way to connect with our old feels. πŸ™‚

    • NovusBogus
    • 2 months ago

    I quit playing MMOs a while back after getting burned out on the whole thing. Massive saturation in the 2000s to the exclusion of most other genres, and the Second Golden Age of RPGs has kept me occupied for years.

    One thing that would probably bring me back is an Eve Online Classic like what WOW is doing. The first few years were amazing, but like most MMOs the developer started pandering to the loudest voices on the forum and things went downhill. But now that they’re owned by the Koreans the whole thing will probably get deleted to save face in a couple of years.

      • Zizy
      • 2 months ago

      Eve classic is not coming ever, the only selling point Eve has are massive battles and you need tons of people on the same server for that. Splitting to Eve ordinary and Eve classic would split userbase. Secondly, the way game was mismanaged makes it extremely hard to get people in the game to get nice userbase again. I don’t think they can fix that, but I haven’t really played for years and I last logged in about a year ago – they could be doing better than a while ago.

        • NovusBogus
        • 2 months ago

        Oldschool Eve circa 2004 had a lot more than that going for it; the economic mechanics and sparse population outside a couple of constellations led to a sense of living in the wilderness of space and swinging for the fences all day everyday. The obsession with large-scale alliance warfare at the expense of everything else came later, as a consequence of said mismanagement. I do agree that they’d most likely never agree to it, though.

    • adampk17
    • 2 months ago

    I’m currently playing WoW, again. Started in May 2005 and I’ve taken a combined total of about 3 years of breaks in between then and now.

    No, it’s not quite as fun as it used to be but it’s where a number of my friends are. I play for that reason more than anything I suppose. These friends are scattered around the country, I don’t have an easy way of seeing them IRL.

    The $15 a month has never bothered me. When you divide that cost over the number of hours I play, even though that’s now reduced from my peak, it’s extremely cheap compared to other entertainment.

      • shaq_mobile
      • 2 months ago

      I’ve always thought of wow as more of a social simulator than a game. If you play with good people, it makes all the difference. Having a so so guild, the game can be such a drag. Some of my best memories in gaming were casual raiding with a guild we organically created from running LFR.

      The subscription is minor but now more than ever the 15 dollars (plus 60 for the expansion) seems petty. With all the new amazing games and payment models, and PR issues of Activision/Blizzard, it’s less tempting than ever to spend money on it.

      For $75 I would get two months of wow or 2-5 brand new indie titles and completely new gaming experiences. I just feel like the subscription model is a bit lazy in today’s era, though I understand why they won’t give it up. πŸ˜‰

        • adampk17
        • 2 months ago

        Which payment models would you prefer they adopt? Please don’t say freemium. Freemium is a plague upon the gaming community.

          • shaq_mobile
          • 2 months ago

          I mean they could just not charge a monthly fee. There are plenty of MMOs that don’t. I know they won’t stop because I’m sure they couldn’t/wouldn’t afford it at this point. I wouldn’t mind a freemium if it was done right (I guess I just don’t think forcing people to pay $15 a month vs letting them opt in is a terrible concept assuming it’s well executed).

          Games like destiny and the division are nice because you never need to worry about that sub. It’s really hard to justify the money and the time to a new player or friend. We all know it’s possible to sustain a large player base without that fee. Fortnite hit 8 million concurrent players, which is 3 million shy of wows subscription record.

          I’m not saying they wouldn’t have to rethink the model, I’m just saying their current one is a hard sell. “Would you like to pay 50+ to play a 15 year old MMO? It will only take you several weeks or a month or two to get to the focus of the game.”

            • adampk17
            • 2 months ago

            …and thus the disease of freemium. People think paying a monthly fee is onerous. I’d rather pay the sub to make sure I’m getting new content every few months.

            • Mr Bill
            • 2 months ago

            +3 Preach it bro.

            • shaq_mobile
            • 2 months ago

            Yeah I mean $180 a year plus $60 every two years for the new game… You better get new content! πŸ˜‰

    • sweatshopking
    • 2 months ago

    I’ve never played an mmo, mostly because I hate video game plots stories, and unskippable dialogue, but also found the combat generally boring.

    I usually play games like the total war series, civ, or metroidvania/rogue lites.

      • Liron
      • 2 months ago

      LOL! I’ve never played an mmo, mostly because I like game plot stories and dialogue. I always found that having non-professional humans being part of the story and dialogue made mmo’s stories and dialogues mediocre, compared with single-player games written by genius writers and developers where they have obsessed over every single line I read or hear, making sure it’s in-character.

      Yet, although we seem to be opposite ends of the spectrum, I can really enjoy total war games too, as long as I can cheat every now and then so it won’t take so long to move the story along.

        • shaq_mobile
        • 2 months ago

        I always had a tough time getting into the lore of MMOs and games in general, because it always felt like the stories were contrived to further gameplay. Not that it’s a bad thing to balance the two, but I’d rather just go read a good book or listen to a short story if I want my story time.

        I mostly play MMOs because friends drag me into it and they are a generally a relaxing way to blow a few hours. Now that time is more valuable, it’s hard to justify running around azeroth, particularly with the price of a new indie game each month.

        It would be cool to check out coh since I missed that by a hair. I heard it was great.

      • NovusBogus
      • 2 months ago

      Even less sure of seriousness than usual, though I have no quarrel with the combat part since it usually *is* a tedious grind.

      • EzioAs
      • 2 months ago

      I think the point of most MMOs is to have some fun with friends/party. Whether you take the game seriously or just casually, it’s a form of ‘hanging out’ so to speak.

    • DragonDaddyBear
    • 2 months ago

    What’s missing? Me being single. No time now.

    That, and WoW lost almost any form of skill needed to play it by the time I left. It wasn’t fun when they made any idiot be a good hunter and not need to time charged shots or movement. Tanking a DK was fun when you could roll Friday and time your cool downs if you did it right you could go for 5 minutes without having some kind of a boost. They ruined that. Now any dweeb with time to grind can advance. (I’m speaking from about 6 years ago, so maybe it’s changed, but my brief stint in Cataclysm said otherwise.)

      • confusedpenguin
      • 2 months ago

      Luckily if you want a challenge they have Mythic dungeons. Battlegrounds can be a pain the the ace at times too.

      • Mr Bill
      • 2 months ago

      This…
      [quote<]What's missing? Me being single. No time now. [/quote<] I played from late WoTLK through Pandaria and I had a lot of fun. My first character was a rogue and he must have died several thousand times while I was leveling him solo. When I started raiding, rolling a DK was the best way to get in to raiding; tank or spank. I rolled a hunter and got it up to 90 with maybe one or two deaths. Blizz made it too stupidly easy. But I have fond memories of all the places I sneaked into with my rogue.

    • f0d
    • 2 months ago

    Maybe not strictly a mmorpg but I’m still playing a mmofps from 2012
    Planetside 2
    I’m hooked and I pretty much don’t like any other games, it’s still going along and nothing else can give you the same experience as it

      • synthtel2
      • 2 months ago

      This. It’s probably been more than half of my gaming over the last couple of years.

      MMORPGs and grindiness seem too thoroughly intertwined. PS2 is still fun after all this time because the gameplay has just got that much depth to it – it isn’t my character’s skill that’s still improving, it’s my skill as a player that’s still improving.

        • f0d
        • 2 months ago

        also unlike most mmorpgs you can jump on for 5 minutes or 5 hours and still have a bunch of fun
        there are loads of different roles to play so if you get bored of one you can just do something else
        usually im a full on magrider driver but lately i have had a bunch of fun in the lightning with viper – it used to pretty “meh” but after the vehicle changes its a bit of a monster now in the right hands

          • synthtel2
          • 2 months ago

          Yeah, the vehicle changes are pretty fun. AP lightning is one of my mains – I haven’t quite got the knack for maneuvering tanks in close quarters, but a skilled viper user is definitely scary.

          VS Connery?

            • f0d
            • 2 months ago

            yep VS connery, i play TR and NC sometimes too but mostly VS – my name is f0dd on connery
            since im aussie id be on later than most though
            [url<]https://www.planetside2.com/players/#!/5428059164951930177[/url<]

            • synthtel2
            • 2 months ago

            [url=https://ps2.fisu.pw/player/?name=jetpacktech<]Fisu is way better.[/url<] πŸ˜› Cool, I think I've seen you around. [EBON] runs pretty late on average too, one of our regulars doesn't get off work until late.

      • NovusBogus
      • 2 months ago

      I’ve tried to get into the Planetside series from time to time, but never been able to. I think a lot of that is due to one my first internet-driven games being Infantry Online, which SOE bought and then promptly let die on the vine, and PS reminds me too much of what Infantry could have been if they’d actually bothered to develop it.

      • RAGEPRO
      • 2 months ago

      I played the original Planetside [i<]ages[/i<] ago and really didn't dig it. I'm not much for PvP. I tried to get into Planetside 2 a couple of times and never even got in-game due to weird technical (first time) / account (second time) issues. I eventually gave up on it, haha.

    • JustAnEngineer
    • 2 months ago

    Guild Wars 2 is still great for casual play. It’s amazing that they’ve managed to keep it fresh with new content for 3 months shy of 7 years now.
    [url<]https://www.guildwars2.com/en/the-game/[/url<]

      • kvndoom
      • 2 months ago

      Yup, and it’s saved me so much money because I don’t buy many games anymore. It’s easy to jump into GW2 for 30 minutes if 30 minutes is all you have. There’s always something to do… perhaps too much to do. πŸ˜›

      • d@mn'd
      • 2 months ago

      Another fan of GW2. I’ve started my son playing (when he was 8), not solo. GW2 has kept the tide of ‘you have to play this’ from his school friends at bay. So win!

    • anotherengineer
    • 2 months ago

    Tried FF11 out for a bit way back in the day, made it to lvl 3 and that was last I played.

    Probably never will, no time for that anymore.

    • nanoflower
    • 2 months ago

    Never got into the MMORPG. Partly because of the monthly fee that most required but mostly because they seemed to require lots of time. I can recall hearing people talk about needing to make raids with large guilds for hours just to kill off a single boss in WOW. I suppose that’s great fun if you are already engaged with a guild but for someone not in the game that has other interests it’s a bit intimidating.

    Closest I came was with Diablo 2 where I spent a lot of hours playing online with others. Though each time I logged in ended up playing with different random players.

    • Topinio
    • 2 months ago

    [quote<]is there really something missing from the MMORPGs of today? is there instead something missing from the MMORPG players of today?[/quote<] Speaking only for WoW, yes. I want to be able to play without needing to spend more than a single 3h a week session, and still be able to compete in PUG's rather than be dismissed as UP. I want to be able to excel again in PVP, without needing to form a small team and PVP in that team (my m8's have left). I want to not need a bazillion add-ons. I want to not have to remember more to play than I do at work...

    • Redocbew
    • 2 months ago

    I still use “aggro” on occasion. Most recently to describe the reaction people had to the addition of a captcha on a submission form.

    I quit playing WoW years ago, and never really went back to playing MMORPGs. I often play with friends, but in small groups within games like Diablo 3, or The Division 2 which you could just as easily play solo.

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