I think a lot about MMOs, and, inevitably, when doing the occasional non-MMO things (which I do sometimes, believe it or not), I start to dream about how awesome they would be as an MMO. Other franchises have MMOs that just don’t live up to their potential. Here are the five that I keep coming back to:
Avatar: The Last Airbender
There were two things that I couldn’t stop thinking about when watching the Avatar series. First, it’s incredibly well done, especially for a Nickelodeon kid’s show. Second, how is this not an MMO yet? The class archetypes are so obvious:
- Water Bender: Healer
- Earth Bender: Tank
- Fire Bender: DPS
- Air Bender: Support
And each of those has at least two fairly obvious specializations within it:
- Water: Spirit Water: Healing focus, but could also use something along like those spirit layzorz we saw in the last season of Korra
- Water: Ice: A paladin-style heavy healer, focusing on group buffs and heals
- Earth: Stone: A short-range tank
- Earth: Metal: Heavy with a mid-range DPS focus
- Fire: Flame: DoT-based DPS
- Fire: Lightning: AoE and Burst DPS
- Air: Glider Staff: Buffs and AoE DPS
- Air: Cyclones: Debuffs and Crowd Control
The air classes are admittedly a little questionable, since there’s comparatively little airbending done in the show (for reasons made obvious by the show’s title), but I think it could work. You could also come up with a few other classes like lava bending and combustion bending (does that have an official name?) if you wanted to. Maybe even some non-bending, martial arts only classes as well. Sadly, given the quality of, I don’t know, every TV-to-game adaptation ever, I imagine it wouldn’t be as awesome in practice as it is my head. I guess I’ll just have to stick to my Guild Wars 2 Elementalist for my Avatar MMO fix. Seriously, some of the ele’s attacks are so similar to ones used in the show, I find it hard to imagine that the creators of Avatar never played Guild Wars, and/or vice versa.
I know, I know, people have been asking for this one since about 2005. I’m going to talk about it again, because it’s my blog, dangit. For better or for worse, World of Warcraft was and continues to be an unparalleled, industry-dominating, runaway success. And yet, with the Blizz turning their vaporware MMO Titan into the class-based shooter Overwatch (which, admittedly, as a person who generally hates shooters, actually looks strangely appealing… not as appealing as if it were an MMO, but appealing nonetheless), it seems they’ve lost faith in the MMO industry. This is especially sad since I think StarCraft would have made the MMO transition as well as or better than Warcraft. Anyone want to try a three faction MMO? If anyone could pull that off, it would be Blizzard, but more likely the factions would either follow the recent single faction trend or have Protoss and Terrans be playable fighting Zerg. I’d love to wander around the various planets of the Koprulu Sector as a Dark Templar stealth DPS or a Terran Marine tank, running dungeons centered around taking out Cerebrates and Zerg-infested Terran colonies. I’ve always thought sci-fi was a much better setting for an MMO than fantasy anyways; it’s easy to explain varied environments as different planets, it’s more difficult to make them all seem like they exist on one continuous plane, especially when it comes to adding new zones.
There exists a very impressive mod of StarCraft II that basically turns it into an MMO (maybe I should move this to the “deserves better” section below). To be honest, I’ve never played it (it’s been on my todo list forever), but, regardless of how good it is, it’s a free, fan-made mod; it’s never going to be as good as a full-blown MMO developed by the monolithic Blizzard Entertainment.
It’s no secret that Nintendo hasn’t made it in the black for the last couple of years. Hopefully that’s changing (now that there are finally some actually good titles available and in the works for the Wii U), but if they really want to move software and its associated hardware, look no further than a Pokemon MMO. Who wouldn’t want to run around in a Pokemon world populated, not with NPC trainers, but real people? Trades and battles would be only a click away. X/Y’s Internet connectivity was ok, but it doesn’t beat actually seeing other players and talking to them while you trudge around in the tall grass for wild Pokemon. There have been a couple of fan projects to do something like this, either from scratch or by hacking multiplayer into the originals, but, to my knowledge, none of them have made it far enough to be viable, and generally get sued before they make it very far. I’d settle for a shameless ripoff of the Pokemon formula if someone would just do it well.
Games that have an MMO, but deserve better:
This is a franchise that I’ve only recently delved into. I picked up the excellent Shadowrun Returns on sale recently. It’s a reimagining of a popular tabletop RPG as a tactical strategy RPG. I love tactical RPGs, and the high-quality, hand-painted graphics, and tabletop-style descriptive narrative really immerses you in the cyberpunk sci-fantasy world. Naturally, I started poking around to learn more about the series, and came across Shadowrun Online. Granted, I haven’t played it, but from what I’ve read in various reviews, it’s basically a lackluster cash-in on Shadowrun Returns’s success, with minimal multiplayer elements. While the game is still in early access, the reviews on Steam are almost universally negative, the positive ones being more along the lines of “well, it’s getting better” than actual praise. Combine that with the fact that the game costs as much as Shadowrun Returns and its expansion, Dragonfall, combined and I think I’ll be giving this one a miss. Still, as I play through Shadowrun Returns, I can’t help but feel that this would make a great traditional MMO. It has a loyal following and a ton of lore built up, and I think it would lend itself to shooter-style action combat perfectly. The classes and spells are already spelled out for you, all you have to do is make those work in an MMO and you’re golden. Besides, the world needs more sci-fi MMOs.
Seriously, how has Lego not made their own version of Minecraft yet? How cool would it be to walk around in a world made of Lego bricks that you could pick up and move around at will? It wouldn’t have to be an MMO, but games like Landmark and Trove are proving that there’s a market for Massively Multiplayer voxel builders and the formula does work. It would be easy to incorporate elements from the pantheon of Lego franchises as NPCs and mobs.
There’s a free-to-play Lego MMO out there called Lego Minifigures Online, but it’s basically a Diablo clone for kids. And when I say for kids, I don’t mean in the way that the Traveler’s Tales games (Lego Star Wars, Batman, Marvel, etc.) are, that is, simplistic, charming, and more fun than you thought possible. I mean it’s really watered down and downright boring. It’s basically a plot to sell physical minifigures with a code so you can use them as characters in the game, a la Skylanders. I suppose I would have had fun with it when I was under ten (it’s like that’s their target audience or something), but isn’t Lego all about being fun for people of all ages? Minecraft-like games fit that bill exactly.
I’m sure I could go on with many more franchises that would be the perfect fit for an MMO. Sadly, licensed MMOs are a risky venture, and, while titles like Lord of the Rings Online and Marvel Heroes prove it’s possible, I don’t really expect to see any of these things any time soon. Anyone else have any theoretical franchise MMOs they’d like to see?