Massively's end-of-the-year awards continue today with our award for the Best MMO Trend of the year. We're not talking about a single article or game here; we are looking for trends, memes, and ideas that have seen a rise to prominence and have the potential to influence our genre for the better. All of our writers were invited to cast a vote, but not all of them chose to do so for this category. Don't forget to cast your own vote in the just-for-fun reader poll at the very end.
The Massively staff pick for Best MMO Trend of 2014 is...
@ceruleangrey: I like the swing toward more social gameplay and the dawning realization that lots of players don't pick up MMOs for the sole purpose of gathering in groups to kill things. For a while there, non-combat gameplay and goals were devalued to the point that many games stripped them of prestige or complexity under the idea that nobody should be "forced" to slog through crafting, gathering, fishing or roleplaying activities in order to get stuff; now it seems to be more widely understood that there are lots of players who do enjoy those things and it's okay for us to have our own goals and rewards.
@nyphur: I think this might be the year that big studios and publishers finally realised they can't be the next World of Warcraft. If even a game with the Elder Scrolls license and a highly polished hardcore raiding MMO like WildStar can't beat WoW while it's on a downward trend, hopefully publishers will get the message that they can't necessarily aim for millions of subs. We've also seen a lot of solid expansions and updates to existing games this year, and even WoW gained subs only due to releasing an expansion. My only worry is that we may be a year or two away from a huge influx of space sandbox games hopelessly chasing that ludicrous Star Citizen money.
@nbrianna/blog: Sandboxes didn't own the year, but sandbox gameplay sure did. In its scramble to reassert itself in a field of newly online games claiming the MMO moniker, the core MMO genre has been plucking sandbox gameplay from its past and plastering it on top of themeparks. Never mind sandparks like ArcheAge; even raidgrinders like WildStar and WoW jumped on this bandwagon. I can only hope it continues and that we see even more emphasis on the hundreds of other possible activities besides combat that a great MMORPG needs to have.
@Eliot_Lefebvre/blog: Outside of this year's big launch titles and the much-delayed feature-thin launch of Warlords of Draenor, it's been a good year to stick with your preferred title. We've seen a bunch of big, solid updates for existing games, and even the most troubled of those updates (like Star Trek Online: Delta Rising) can't be faulted for being unambitious. I've been cruising along on Final Fantasy XIV's massive patches for most of the year, and I feel quite satisfied.
@jefreahard: Player housing. Maybe it's me, but it seems like devs are finally starting to realize that combat-only isn't going to cut it if you call your game an MMORPG. WildStar and ArcheAge both launched with housing, SWTOR and Final Fantasy XIV added it (though the former is slathered with a huge helping of cash shop slime while the latter caught some flack for its in-game expensiveness). ESO devs even gave it some lip service by saying that it was on their plate for an unannounced future update.
@Sypster/blog: Open development. I'm not sure if this is a good trend or not, but it's certainly been illuminating to see devs from studios of all sizes develop MMOs openly, transparently, and with constant community input.
@MikedotFoster/blog: I don't know if it's just my friends and I, but it seems to me like people are shifting from playing one game all the time to dipping into multiple games a few times a month. I think that opens up a lot of room for quirky, innovative titles, and it's also a great way to prevent burnout on the player side. A world where we all play two or three MMOs instead of one is probably more fun and interesting.
@MJ_Guthrie/blog: While it may not have necessarily have its initial roots in this year, by far the best trend that we've seen gain significant traction in 2014 is the upswing in playable games with sandbox features! And I do mean playable; I'm not talking about intended or planned features but actual playable ones available now. Both in established games adding in features and new development, there is a larger focus on alternative activities to combat. Just check out the explosion in housing and the increase in fishing, the emphasis on trade and crafting. This is a refreshing and much needed trend that I hope continues well into the following years.
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Our awards so far...