Whenever I read an article on Trove or Marvel Heroes I always think “man, that game is fun.” That’s pretty much it. I don’t have any guilt when I leave one or the other for extended periods of time, no reservations when I return, no concerns as to how playing either of them “on the side” will affect whichever MMO I’m currently focused on. I think that’s intentional; neither game is directly trying to compete with the traditional MMO paradigm. Marvel Heroes has been categorized as an OARPG while Trove in a recent interview with Massively OP was christened by Trion as an MMOG, which I’m assuming is meant to be a removal of the “Role Playing” aspect of MMORPGs and not a misspelled apocalyptic reference (I’m not ruling that out as a possibility). And yet while neither game is intending to overthrow the rule of World of Warcraft, Guild Wars 2, Star Wars: The Old Republic, or any other traditional MMO gameplay they are both quietly imbedding themselves into the community while simultaneously breaking barriers between MMOs and other gaming genres. What is it about these two titles that is so compelling? I’ve got three reasons why I think both games are having success within the MMO community and will continue to grow in popularity over the next year. Individually these traits may not be that compelling, but wrapped up in one neatly styled package, they provide something that has often been lacking in my traditional MMO sessions: fun.
Free-to-Play Business Model
This is a no brainer, both Trove and Marvel Heroes have such a low barrier to entry there’s little reason not to try them out, especially when word of mouth on these two games is spreading so quickly. You read an article on Massively OP or a post by a favorite blogger and you think, “sure I’ll give that a shot.” Next thing you know, your elbows deep in chocolate fudge fighting a cupcake on the back of a unicorn wearing a moustache. You’re wearing the moustache, not the unicorn. Don’t be ridiculous.
There are negative elements to this business model as it is presented in both games, Marvel Heroes more than Trove. Whenever you log in you are conveniently reminded of current promotions and newly released content for sale. Both games can technically be played for free but both hamstring gameplay just enough with limited inventory slots (amongst other quality of life improvements) to make it very tempting to spend at least five bucks here and there. Trove is far more generous in my opinion, as the speed with which you can gain in-game currency for purchasing new classes is weeks faster than what it would take to earn another hero in MH2015 however the promotions offered in the latter are quite generous, often giving away heroes for free so perhaps it balances out over time.
Familiar Concepts, Bite-Sized Conception
This is perhaps the number one reason I return to both Trove and Marvel Heroes. After years of playing massive time sinks like World of Warcraft, I revel in the opportunity to jump in, make progress, and jump out— easy peasy, lemon squeezy. I don’t always have two to three hours to devote to a raid or running several dungeons, let alone the weeks and months it can take to level a new character to end game in most MMOs. As such I appreciate being able to log in for 30-45 minutes for a couple of days in a row, drop the game for a week or two, then come back without fear of feeling behind the curve or uncomfortably unfamiliar with how the game plays. Both games still feature levels, gearing, dungeons (sort of) mobs, and crafting—all concepts familiar to every MMO player—and yet the games do not feel as demanding on your time. I get the gameplay I want for a reduced cost, at least when time is the currency I’m most concerned about.
The Leveling Game is the End Game is the Leveling Game
This didn’t even dawn on me until I sat down to write this post, but one of the other reasons I find Marvel Heroes and Trove so care free and relaxing is that I’m never in a rush to get to the end. Well, almost never. If anything, the pressure I feel to get to end game comes from the conditioning I’ve received from traditional MMOs, not these particular pseudo-incarnations of the genre. When I finally reached 60 for the first time in Marvel Heroes it was quickly apparent that most of what I would be doing at level cap was the same as I had been doing while leveling, just at higher levels of difficulty with better rewards. Trove appears to be much the same.
Both games offer group content of a higher difficulty level at end game but neither seems to be rushing the player to it. However both encourage you to level additional classes or heroes, and whether you do that or spend your time with a max level character you’ll largely be playing the same game. Compare this to the raiding culture in Warlords of Draenor. The end game model almost exclusively funnels players into raiding, yet prior to that point there is no content of a similar nature to experience along the way. WoW isn’t the only game performing the old bait and switch; this is a common complaint amongst players of vertically progressing, theme park MMOs. Of all the features offered in Trove and Marvel Heroes, this is the one I would like to see carried over into traditional MMOs, a common thread of activity between leveling and end game such that you do not feel pressured to rush through the former in order to reach the latter.
Fun, What a Novel Idea…
Neither of these two games could ever become my main stay, I’m still married to the features and gameplay of traditional MMOs. Nevertheless, I doubt I will completely leave either of these games in the near future. Trove and Marvel Heroes aren’t asking me for my exclusivity yet they are wining me over by being what all games should be: fun. I may prefer more persistent worlds and customizable characters, but there is a lot for the traditional MMO studios to learn from these two titles. With no barrier to entry, activities with lower demands on my time, and continuity throughout the leveling and end game content it’s no wonder these titles are doing so well. If you’ve never tried one or both of these titles give them both a try, especially Trove. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how fun they both can be.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have about thirty minutes before my kids go to bed and there’s a cupcake in candy land about to get a beat down. Cover your eyes kids, this ain’t gonna be pretty.