Awaiting a New Generation of MMOs

I’m not sure if it’s just because I’ve once again become more plugged into things now that I’m working for Massively OP or if things are genuinely turning around, but for the first time in quite a while I find there’s not one but several upcoming new MMOs that I’m genuinely interested to check out once they launch. I’m always very leery of pre-launch hype, so none of these are “must plays” for me (yet), but they are games that I want to check out sooner rather than later, and not just out of intellectual curiosity.

A promotional screenshot from Amazon's upcoming MMO New World.New World

Of course this game is the talk of the proverbial town right now. Its reported PvP focus turned me off out of the gate, but some of what’s been trickling out since they announced the release date has me changing my mind a bit.

It now seems that PvP will be optional (though still a big part of the game), and that has me ready to give it a closer look. The setting does look intriguingly unique, and the environments look beautiful. New World also seems to be hitting a lot of other notes that appeal to me, like skill-based combat and classless progression.

There’s still a lot we don’t know, like how truly optional the “optional” PvP is. It might be a situation where you need to opt in for any meaningful progression. I’m also wondering how much story will be in the game. It’s a sandbox, so probably not much. Will I be able to maintain my interest without a constant plot leading me forward? Usually the answer is no, but for the right game maybe that could change.

Torchlight: Frontiers

I’m not the biggest Torchlight fan in the world — I’ve only recently been playing through the older games in preparation for Frontiers — but I like ARPGs, and a big new MMOARPG is definitely going to grab my attention, especially now that I’m heading up the Not So Massively column.

I’m also impressed by how clever and different the classes seem to be, though I do hope that it won’t just be the three we know about now.

A promotional shot for upcoming action MMO Torchlight: Frontiers.Lost Ark

To be honest, I don’t know much about this, but again, new ARPGs have my attention, and the buzz seems pretty strong. Pretty screenshots, too.


This has just been announced, and I have a lot of questions about it, but the magitech art style is intriguing, and it seems to have a pretty impressive feature list. A little worried they may be spreading themselves too thin, but we’ll see.

Book of Travels

I have a very low opinion of MMO crowdfunding, but if this actually launches in our lifetime, it looks like it could be a game to watch. I’m not sure if I’ll enjoy it or not — the emphasis on peaceful exploration could be a delightful change of pace or deeply tedious, depending on execution — but I strongly admire that they’re trying to do something genuinely different. The genre needs more games willing to take chances like that.

Ascent: Infinite Realm

This sounds like the most traditional MMO on the list, which isn’t necessarily a compliment coming from me, and being made by the same people as TERA isn’t exactly a sterling pedigree, either. On the other hand, the steampunk stylings look damn cool, and the emphasis on aerial gameplay could be really fun.

Amazon’s Lord of the Rings MMO

The Fellowship of the RingThis is the one we know the least about — we know that it exists, and pretty much nothing else — but it’s the one I most want to hear more about. As a longtime Tolkien fanatic, the lack of a truly good Middle-Earth MMO has always stung. I know Lord of the Rings Online has many fans, but at the end of the day it’s just a low budget WoW clone. The setting deserves far better.

Whether Amazon can do better remains to be seen, but they certainly have the resources to pull it off. Just depends on if they make the right design choices.

Making Memories

Recently I read an interesting post by Bhagpuss of Inventory Full. He starts out talking about WvW in Guild Wars 2 and ends up veering hard into the realm of existentialism (and if that doesn’t convince you to give his blog a try, I don’t know what would).

My avatar silhouetted against the moon in the dearly departed LandmarkIt touches on a topic that comes up often in gaming circles. It gets phrased different ways, but fundamentally, the question is, “Are we wasting our lives by playing video games?”

Bhagpuss’ answer to that appears to be a hard no. Many feel similarly — that if you enjoy yourself, it’s not time wasted, no matter how impermanent and abstract video games may be.

As someone who has spent what is by almost any standard an unhealthy amount of my life playing video games (and engaging in other pastimes), I have a more complex view of things. I don’t regret all of the time I’ve spent gaming, but I do regret some of it, and I’m trying to get better at focusing on games that I’m not likely to regret playing.

These days my criteria for whether a game is worth my time is, “Will this make a good memory?”

A large part of the reason I stopped playing Heroes of the Storm regularly is that I realized I’d been playing it almost daily for about two years, and had almost no memories of the game. It’s not that I wasn’t having fun. Most of the time I was.

But that game never really made me feel anything. It didn’t make me think. I didn’t meet any friends in-game, and I didn’t learn anything valuable. All those matches just faded into a blur of bad Raynors and dropping Blizzards on team fights. It meant nothing.

Playing as Alexstrasza the Dragon-Queen in Heroes of the StormI don’t necessarily regret ever playing Heroes in the first place, but I regret that I wasted so much of my life on it.

By comparison, I sunk hundreds of hours into The Secret World, and I’m overflowing with positive memories of that game. There was the time I spent an afternoon translating Caesar ciphers, there was spending Christmas Eve with Moiren, there was Joelzilla, there was soloing The Girl Who Kicked the Vampire’s Nest for the first time, there was wandering the streets of Kingsmouth and listening to the seagulls…

I could go on and on. Almost every moment spent in TSW, I was stimulated intellectually and emotionally. I treasure all of the memories I made in that game, and I don’t regret a single second I spent playing it.

And really I think this philosophy is something you can apply to any aspect of life. “Will this make a good memory?”

A few weeks ago, I went to a Chvrches concert. It was a fantastic show, and I had a great time, but what really makes it worthwhile for me is the way I’ll be able to revisit that night in my memory for years to come. Any time I listen to Forever now, if I close my eyes, I’m back in my seat at the Danforth Music Hall, seeing Lauren dance across the stage.

It even applies to life goals. Lately I’ve been going through a lot of changes in my life and thinking hard about what I want for myself and my future — what success means to me, and what I really want to do with my life.

Celebrating Christmas Eve with Moiren and friends in The Secret WorldI think a lot of it can be boiled down to the idea that I want to make happy memories for people. That’s why I write: I want to tell stories that uplift and inspire people, that will linger with them in a positive way the same way Lord of the Rings is still inspiring me after twenty years.

I’ve also been making it a goal lately to try to be more helpful and supportive to the people who mean the most to me. Again, I want to leave people with positive memories. I want to make an impact for the better.

I think that, really, is the closest thing to immortality any of us can ever hope to achieve. When our days come to an end, the only thing we really leave behind is the memories we’ve made with other people, and the lives we’ve touched.

Returning to the original topic, I think something can still be a waste of time even if you enjoy it. But if it leaves you with a happy memory that you can continue to enjoy for years to come, then that time is never wasted, no matter how frivolous or ephemeral an activity might seem to the outsider observer.