From cliche designs and systems, to over hashed and reused narrative devices, we’ve seen it all. The genre today is full of tropes that developers feel must be added to their game to match or meet a certain standard. I don’t know why this is the norm, but especially for MMORPGs, there is a heavy reliance in looking to the past. Just because it worked wonders some ten years ago, that must mean it will be used for the next ten. So what exactly are these over-used tropes in modern MMOs? Here are four.
#1 Good Vs Evil
It’s plain, simple and sometimes boring storytelling when there’s a clear good guy and bad guy in your MMORPG. All MMORPGs are guilty of this. I have played a lot of them, and in their main story arcs, that’s the one constant – you’re the good guy and you fight the bad guy. Why can’t we get a setting, story and characters that blurs the line and in someway be a little more realistic?
A few MMORPG tend to offer this “complex” neutrality by having different factions or alliances that your race represents. So in modes like PvP or Realm Vs Realm, players of the opposing side are baddies. That works, but that wears out really fast. I would love to see games explore a complex narrative in PvE that doesn’t spoon feed players the same boring narrative of good against evil.
#2 Meaningless Kill & Fetch Quests
These were epic adventures in the beginning of the genre, and then it became a staple requirement, and now it’s becoming a parody – almost like a running joke. Questing becomes absolutely fun and engaging when there’s a real purpose and sense of progression your character is working towards. Not just in terms of gear, experience and level. But in the setting, narrative and story as well. Majority of MMORPGs offer the slowest, boring starts imaginable to mankind. Helping a farmer kill 10 rats on his farm to save his crops to feed his family is getting old guys.
The same can be said about fetch quests. Most usually involve traveling between areas or NPCs to deliver or receive messages or other landscape and map quest progression. Again, I bring it back to the word meaning. Make it mean something, make it worth my while, explain to me why exactly it needed to be me who does this, even if I am the hero of this game. Most games don’t bother doing that (except maybe The Elder Scrolls Online).
#3 Political & SJW Narratives
Look, we get it. Game developers and creators are human beings too. They have their own opinions, beliefs and ideologies just like the rest of us do. What happens and affects us players happens to them as well. One of the main reasons why our species plays video games is because it’s an excellent form of escapism. We enter fantasy and fictional worlds to escape the crap we deal with in real life. Some of it, includes what’s happening in today’s landscape.
Thus, the last thing we need to is to re-experience that nonsense in the very games and worlds we escape to get rid of that in the first place. Mind you, not many games do this – inserting subtle references that reflects our world today. In fact, more often than not, you won’t find it in most MMORPG. The same however cannot be said about single player games and TV shows. So let’s hope our genre stays clear of real world happenings, and continue to make sagas and stories that our avatar can freely enjoy with ignorant bliss in contrast to our real lives.
#4 RNG Lootboxes
Surprise! You probably saw this coming, but it needs to be said. Online gaming in general has been severely impacted by microtransactions and lootboxes being in the spotlight this year. It’s cancerous to some, while others see it as a form of supporting the game and its developers. Regardless of which side of the fence you’re on, you have to admit – it’s a polarizing monetization system that often brings more bad press than anything else. Games of the future need to learn a lesson from this, and find a new way to monetize their F2P MMORPGs. Will that ever happen? Unlikely, but one can hope.