The MMOFPS – Doomed To Fail?
Compared to it’s MMORPG cousin, the MMOFPS hasn’t exactly set the world on fire with huge success, partly because there actually haven’t been that many of them. First person shooter games with online capabilities are available in abundance but usually the lack of both RGP-like character development and persistent large scale worlds excludes from being labelled with the MMO prefix. Wikipedia suggests that an online FPS needs to surpass 64 players in an instance to be considered “massively” multiplayer although I would reckon it’s even more than that (but then there isn’t exactly a rulebook available to consult on such matters).
So, that pretty much leaves us with only PlanetSide and Tabula Rasa (even that technically only being a MMO-shooter but heck, I’m going to include it anyway) as being the only MMOFPS games we’ve seen so far. Others like World War II Online, which I’ve not played, apparently being debatable as to whether or not they’re really MMOs – either way, there haven’t been many. PlanetSide was fun and I just loved the whole parachuting out of spaceships into enemy territory bit but, although it’s still running, it’s never achieved the popularity or critical and financial success that a lot of MMORPGs do. And Tabula Rasa is dead.
Still, I’ve always had high hopes for the MMOFPS genre and have been looking forward to games like Global Agenda. Unfortunately GA doesn’t seem to be getting glowing recommendations from reliable beta-testers like Keen and Graev and br3ntbr0 over at I’m Talkin’ Games. Apparently it’s “meh” at best, something which just isn’t going to cut it in today’s day and age.
I can’t say for sure why the MMOFPS isn’t more popular but I do have an idea. To me, it seems like MMOFPS’ are neither one thing nor the other – they aren’t your standard FPS which is free to play online or your accepted longterm and heavily involving MMORPG. They come across as ‘enhanced’ FPS games that require a monthly subscription fee but don’t offer any of the large scale worlds, content or deep character progression that we’d expect from a traditional MMOG.
In short, if I want to have a quick blast in a FPS, I’d load up Unreal Tournament 3 or Quake Live and if I wanted to have a more immersive and involved gaming session, I’d play World of Warcraft or EVE Online. The current MMOFPS games don’t seem to fit the bill for either, failing to offer me either the short term, commitment free pleasure of a FPS or the long term progression and entertainment of a RPG.
Thus the burning question: are MMOFPS games doomed to fail? I personally don’t think so and I haven’t given up hope on them yet. However, they certainly need to change the direction in which their going and move away from either just being enhanced online FPS’ with subscription fees or poor implementations of shooter MMORPGs if they want to be more successful.
I still have hope that we’ll see an excellent MMORPG/FPS hybrid, one that combines all of the best elements from a MMORPG with the fast-paced, twitch based combat of a FPS. Some may argue that those two concepts are mutually exclusive but I think the appeal would certainly be broader than just a FPS with a subscription fee.