Non combat MMO?

Bhagpuss wrote (and again) about a non-combat *thing*. I used that term, because even he is uncertain if the *thing* can be called a game. But the post still made me think.

First thing first: what is a non-combat game? Sure, having a pixel gun and killing mobs is combat. But is Magic the gathering a combat game? How about chess? Football? Boxing? I would use the following definition: in a combat game you are winning or getting closer to winning by removing enemy game pieces while the opposing player attempts to remove yours. So WoW is combat game because you are removing mobs from the world who are trying to send you to the spirit healer. Heartstone is a combat game, because you are removing enemy cards while the other player tries to remove yours. Boxing is a combat game because your are attempting to knock out the opposing boxer while he wants to knock you out. On the other hand tennis and football are not combat games, despite being fiercely competitive.

There are few non-combat video games: racing simulators, economy simulators, minecraft (zombies are combat, but they are a flavor). Subnautica (there are hostile mobs, but they are so weak that you can ignore them). Detective story games.

Can these games be turned into productive MMOs (even using the term loosely, including games like League of Legends and PUBG where you play together and against a large group of players)? Hard to say and I haven’t seen big successes on this field. While FPS-es often has massive multiplayer (matchmaker, lots of players, living scene), I don’t know about such in car racing simulators, mostly because you are racing against the clock and not the other players.

It is possible to make a huge economy simulator game where players compete for profit without ability to actively hurt each other (combat), but unaware of its existence besides as a niche side game inside EVE Online. So no great revelation in this post, but I recommend the idea of non-combat MMOs to linger in the back of our minds.


PS: probable last thought: “we have the lowbie cornered and outnumbered”:

I just “love” the random matchmaker. I mean I like to carry, but this is ridiculous:

Author: Gevlon

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11 thoughts on “Non combat MMO?”

  1. Why is it that economy sims are not ‘combat games’ by your definition? The Player(s)/AIs are competing for each other’s money and market share, which is (in games) a finite resource. Economic warfare is still warfare.


  2. @Tithian: you aren’t actively destroying anyone’s game pieces. If you offer a better deal to an NPC or player and he no longer trades with your competitor, he’ll still have his (unsold) wares.


  3. A Tale in the Desert was one attempt at a non-combat MMO. It was an interesting experience, but never very successful. Another possibility is The Sims Online. I never played that, so I have no idea how it did, but it did end up being shuttered after five or so years.

    Would you class survival-ish games where you have to hunt for food and avoid predators as “combat” games? On one hand, there’s literally combat. On the other hand, it’s pretty natural, and nature/predators isn’t really like an opposing faction. In some ways it fits into the “economic game” genre.


  4. @Rohan: yes, I consider hunting and being hunted combat if the game skill revolves around it. So big game hunter is a combat game. But a management game where you send your NPCs to hunt and they always come back with food is not.


  5. People seem to like farming/trucking/train simulators, so you could tie on or more of those together to create a MMO. Add in a fake economy and a ladder/scoreboard and people could play it forever.
    Survival or construction games like Minecraft & Factorio have more of an issue with the game reaching an endstate where either everything has been build, or you run into server scaling issues.
    Never been interested in Fantasy Football Leagues, but I guess those qualify as MMOs as well. And as professional sports are always played in seasons it would be natural for the game to have seasons/resets too to keep the player experience fresh.


  6. Apart from “A Tale in the Desert” which is already mentioned, another interesting “non-combat” MMORPG that is not entirely trivial is “One Hour One Life”. It is a “civilization emulator”, where you are born randomly in an existing colony of a huge persistent world, grow up while trying to survive from hunger and contribute to the existing village/colony/city, all in one hour. It is not a “game” by your definition, and you have nothing to show after this one hour or less (dependong on whether you die of age or hunger) but it is not trivial on the collective “meta” level, where, if players do not cooperate well, the colony just dies (and most colonies do actually die), whereas if they do, the colony thrives, grows and advances up the tech tree.


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