Massively's end-of-the-year awards come to a close today with our 12th and final award, this one the biggun (and usually the most contentious): our MMO of the Year. To be eligible for this award, MMOs must have launched in 2014, full stop. (If you want to know what would win the staff's best-MMO-ever vote, it's Star Wars Galaxies, and now I've saved us all that discussion, and you're welcome.) 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 of 2014 is...
@ceruleangrey: My vote goes to WildStar, which I played and greatly enjoyed even though I stepped back from it. I'm sure I'm not the only one waiting to see where Carbine goes with future development, but for a game with so many humorous elements, there's a great deal of effort put into the lore and worldbuilding. I liked the combat, I loved how freely I could move around the game world, and I warmed up to quite a few of the major NPCs very quickly.
@nyphur: Nothing. 2014's launches haven't been all that spectacular, so nothing gets my vote this year. The Elder Scrolls Online didn't make the splash expected of an Elder Scrolls game, WildStar neglected 99% of its players to cater to hardcore raiders, ArcheAge has had more controversial news than EVE Online, and Destiny turned out to be yet another standard multiplayer shooter with MMO-style progression shoehorned in. Elite: Dangerous has just arrived, but it doesn't look like a full-blown MMO, and none of the other big titles released this year is even close to being an MMO. This seemed more like the year of good expansions and updates than big launches, and I'm OK with that.
@nbrianna/blog: Reluctantly, I cast my vote for nothing. I don't think any of the major MMOs launched this year truly deserves a GOTY tag. WildStar, ArcheAge, Elder Scrolls Online, and Elite: Dangerous each launched with serious issues that make me deeply uncomfortable holding any one of them up as the best we can do. This should have been the best year for MMOs in a decade; it should have made for lively debate over the merits of AAA sandboxes vs themeparks in 2014. Instead, it was a disappointment to me as a consumer and a critic, and most of us are scrambling to pick something with some sort of silver lining, something slightly less bad than everything else. That's a miserable position to be in, and please don't think our saying so costs us nothing; when we don't name a GOTY, we don't get our award banners plastered on grateful game websites.
I only wish we could honor with this award those pre-2014 games that have worked so hard this year to make the genre rich and vibrant and will no doubt continue to do so in 2015. This genre isn't dead, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise -- but we need to challenge it to do better. Shoving games out the door long before they're ready and trying to play catch-up later has never been healthy for the genre, and 2014 shows why it needs to stop.
@Eliot_Lefebvre/blog: Nothing. I'll let YouTube answer this one for me. I mean, really, the major options are between a painfully bland trawl that couldn't even rely on a well-known IP to make people care, a game that shortchanged its potential in favor of bringing back a model of endgame that even World of Warcraft has never entertained bringing back, and a sandbox import that can't go half an hour without another story about exploits or server failures. Oh, I suppose I could vote for that console shooter where people mostly just wanted to shoot blindly into a cave to get loot. So, no. Nobody gets a cookie for this category this year. There was every reason to expect something great to come around this year, and all of the candidates fell far short.
@jefreahard: The Elder Scrolls Online. It took me a while to get over the fact that ZeniMax wasn't making a sandbox. Once I did and was able to approach the game on its own terms, I found a very solid AAA themepark with gorgeous production design and one of the larger and more immersive game worlds that I've experienced in recent years. The IP helps since I'm a huge fan, but there are also some neat systems in ESO, with more on the way like that spiffy PvP-guards-vs.-thieves thing.
ESO also had one of the more stable MMO launches I've seen (which is basically all of them dating back to 2001). Yeah, there was that one day during the pre-order headstart when the servers went kaput for 12 hours, but apart from that, the downtime was minimal, and the game was playable from the get-go.
@Sypster/blog: ArcheAge. This category tore me to pieces, and I'm sure that a few of you who know me will be surprised by my answer here. I wanted with every fiber of my being to put WildStar as the answer, and I do believe that (hoopla and bad business decisions aside) WS is a great game that I enjoyed for six months now. However, ArcheAge gets my nod because it showed that sandbox (or sandpark) MMOs are desperately desired and that a good one will get the reception that it deserves. It needs a lot of work, especially from the business angle, but way to shake up the norm and get people genuinely enthusiastic about MMO possibilities.
@MikedotFoster/blog: Gross. Looking over the list of games that officially launched in 2014, I'd be hard-pressed to name a decent MMO, much less one that deserves a "best-of" title. We've got WildStar, a mess of raid-centric content that even the game's fans seem to hate; Firefall, which has been rebuilt so many times it's astounding it's still called Firefall; and Elder Scrolls Online, which... oh yeah, that game exists. Plus ArcheAge, which I'm pretty sure has evolved into Forum Rage Simulator 2014.
If I absolutely had to give something this award, I'd give it to Elite: Dangerous for being the only new title I played this year that made me want to keep playing.
@MJ_Guthrie/blog: I wanted so much to say ArcheAge. In fact, for the features it brought to the table I still say it is the best that came along. But best is not synonymous with great! While the features are there to eclipse the other offerings this year, so many other problems have plagued the title that just putting it in the same sentence with "best" almost seem sacrilege.
With Elite: Dangerous barely squeaking in the launch window, it will probably take the cake. Two words: Oculus Rift. The immersion, the exploration, the trading -- this game has it in spades, and it hooked me in even though the game is not in my favored genre.
Let's have your vote!%Poll-90414%
Thanks to everyone who participated in our discussion threads about this year's triumphs and tragedies. Here's the staff's final tally; stay tuned for a recap of the player voting next week: