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Redefining MMOs: The Shooter Invasion

James Egan

The MMO industry is always changing, and if we're going to stay ahead of the curve, we need to re-evaluate some of our views and ingrained notions from time to time. The Redefining MMOs series at Massively is our look at the state of massively multiplayer online games as it is today, and where we see it going. This week we're going to look at how shooters have invaded the MMO space, give you a run-down of some promising MMO shooters on the horizon, and finally tackle the question of whether or not they should be covered here at Massively.

Something we're seeing more and more is a blurring of the lines between formerly distinct game genres -- this is especially true of shooters and MMOs. There are a number of shooters on the horizon that fit the bill as MMOs (although not RPGs), but such games are a radical departure from the DikuMUD pedigree shared by most MMORPG titles we cover at Massively. These shooter-MMO hybrids may have quests, levels, and classes, but they cast few illusions about being true RPGs. They're shooters through and through, but have persistent settings or are massively multiplayer -- traits which catch our attention.

We've had discussions among the editors here about whether our definition of what is and what is not covered at Massively is too strict... or conversely not strict enough. Shooters entering the MMO space is clearly a contentious issue, particularly among our readers who seem divided over our coverage of MMOFPS games.

("MMOFPS" being yet another unwieldy industry acronym used to describe third-person and first-person shooters alike).

What it boils down to, from our perspective, are two simple questions: Does this new breed of shooter MMOs represent a significant shift in the industry? Do these games fall under the banner of what we should cover at Massively?

The questions are straightforward enough, but the answers aren't all that simple.

This is compounded by the fact that there's quite literally a flood of new games entering the market that bill themselves as MMOs. It's the buzzword marketing people slap on to every multiplayer Flash and Facebook game under the sun. In many cases where companies market their games as being "MMO"... it's a real stretch (zero persistence, no 'massively' in the multiplayer). In other cases, it's outright deception.

The situation is just as prevalent when discussing online shooters, some of which are, quite honestly, little more than sub par FPS titles with cash shops grafted onto them. Titles like that don't interest us very much; we've gathered they don't interest you all that much either. We instead look to the games that aim to go beyond the 'shooter with a cash shop' approach and will integrate persistence into the FPS experience; games built upon some of the core game mechanics of a typical MMO.

While a number of us at Massively are avid FPS players and are excited about what the coming years will bring in terms of our shooters going massively multiplayer, the fact is that shooters in the MMO space isn't a new idea. Despite all the talk about upcoming games like All Points Bulletin and Global Agenda, they're really just building upon the foundations established by the shooter MMOs already on the market. Whether discussing older titles like PlanetSide or something newer like Huxley, all of these games represent an evolutionary offshoot of first-person shooters into something different... something not easily classifiable or encompassed with an acronym.

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