The dearth of MMOs with puzzles

I’m slightly worried that the Secret World may have spoiled my long-term enjoyment of many MMORPGs. The game is a pretty unique one in the genre not only because it’s a rare modern-day/horror game amid a sea of Orcs & Elves fantasy but also because of the truly varied content types.

Missions in Secret World are divided into various types but the general categories are combat (called ‘action’), stealth (‘sabotage’) and puzzle (‘investigation’). Other more recent MMOs have had jumping ‘puzzles’ but they’re a very different type of puzzle than what I’m looking for, puzzles in Secret World actually give your brain a workout not just your reflexes.


Now Secret World isn’t actually my ideal MMO; I’m loving playing it but it’s not the perfect match for my personal tastes. For one thing horror/Cthulhu isn’t my genre, I never watch horror films and I’d much prefer the Orcs & Elves vanilla fantasy truth be told. Looking over at my partner playing World of Warcraft again ahead of Warlords of Draenor’s release I can’t help thinking I’ll never return to Azeroth -Blizzard’s idea of PVE content just looks so lazy and derivative in comparison to the breadth of missions in Secret World. Why shouldn’t all MMORPGs not have puzzles to test players? Dungeons & Dragons (and similar RPG) adventures certainly featured their fair share of riddles, puzzles and traps; there may have been a lot of combat but it wasn’t always just fighting.

Early on in Wildstar’s development I did wonder if this SciFi MMO, with the paths like Explorer and Scientist, would actually be the game for me but during the beta I found Scientist to be pretty boring and grindy. From the very little I experienced, and from what I’ve read on forums since it doesn’t actually involve much puzzling or mental exercise – it seems to be mostly ticking off lists of things to scan.

So why has the online gaming equivalent of tabletop RPGs chosen such an overwhelming focus on combat? Is it that puzzles are too hard and time-consuming to code or do the majority of players actually not want that type of content? The Secret World didn’t exactly win prizes for subscriber numbers – it was one of several recent MMOs that had to switch monetization model to survive. I guess I’m just probably in a minority in that I want to actually have to think a bit in between slaying pixel-monsters…

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6 Responses to The dearth of MMOs with puzzles

  1. Meznir says:

    Neverwinter – especially in the foundries – has the potential to do puzzles; though saying that, the Foundry missions I created (Enigma’s Estate), trying to put puzzles and non-linear choices in, took a heck of a lot of fudging to get to work. I mean, the only way to add an OR logic to your quest line is to have hidden mobs the player can’t see; and to create a timer you have to drop a mob from a great height!

    If Neverwinter added some simple logic (Neverwinter Nights had SO much more power in their mission creation tool) then the creators could do so much more. There are several foundry missions that have good puzzles – but it takes A LOT of hunting around to find them!

    SW:TOR edges towards puzzles on occasion, but it’s more just a choice or finding something hidden.

    I wish we’d tried the Myst Online game. That was supposed to be a sort-of MMO game which was all about puzzles. I wonder if that’s still running…

  2. Sylow says:

    I very much fear that the very last line you wrote is the answer: “I guess I’m just probably in a minority in that I want to actually have to think a bit in between slaying pixel-monsters…”

    It seems like the majority of the online community does not want to invest brainpower into their gaming. In my eyes this is not limited to complex riddles, i also see a good number of other examples:
    – Why do so many players (throughout all MMOs) use the very same setup, which they pull froma forum or help page? One premium example for that for me is Rift, where you in theory can build such a variety of setups, but there is a very small number of actually different setups in use, which are taken from their forums.
    – Why do people in solo play gravitate towards “can do everything” setups with average performance? Often things could be done faster, more efficiently and often even easier with an appropriate setup and many games i play (e.g. TSW, Rift) provide the tools to switch setups. Despite all of this, many people just pick one “kinda does it all” setup from a forum and call it a day.
    – Why do people usually enter dungeons after having read a guide and having watched a tutorial on youtube? Why are they not ready to figure out the fights for themselves but rather want the complete instructions at hand before even going there?

    For all of these questions, the only answer which comes to my mind is “lazyness”. If somebody knows any other answer, please let me know.

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