MMORPG Sports (Part I)

A while back I mentioned I had been playing a Golf MMORPG called Shot-Online. Since then, I’ve been back for a round here and there and my overall impression of S-O is that it’s an ambitious game that is fun to play and actually has players that are fun to be around. It got me thinking about Sports games as MMORPGs. Or at least MMOGs. Call them what you will, but I’ve seen them mostly referred to as MMOSG (Massively Multiplayer Online Sports Games). I wondered if there were other games out there trying the Massively Multiplayer genre of gaming. I also thought about where this “genre” of games could go. We already have online sports gaming that’s been relatively sucessful but I think there could be more. I don’t think role-players and sports fans are that far removed. They both pore over their players “stats” and play to their strengths while shoring up their weaknesses. The MMO “sphere” is ripe with possibilities.

This is a two-part article. The first part will be what I’ve found while I’ve looked for games that fit the MMOG mold. Part two will be some thoughts I’ve had and where I think this could go.

A Massively Multiplayer Online Sports Game? Why not? Any sport is a competition. Every competition needs at least two people to compete. Then there’s team sports, where many people are competing. Multiplayer, baby!

First, a couple of assumptions. The number of “sports gamers” probably wouldn’t equal the rest of the “gamers” if you were to divide them into two groups but there are a lot of them. There are A LOT of kids out there who own a PS2 for the sole purpose of playing Madden. Sure, those guys play other games like the occasional NBA Live, Tiger Woods, or NCAA game. But these guys can’t be bothered with Ico and Katamari Damacy. There’s Super Bowls to be won! They love their sports teams and they love their sports games.

You could probably break sports gamers into two groups, as well. You’d have the “casual” sports gamer who’s played thousands of Madden games but barely touched the “Superstar Mode” or the Dynasty Mode. The same could be said for the other sports. They like to play the game and can’t be sidetracked with things like drafts and trading. These guys would also be more inclined to play psuedo-sports games like NFL/NBA Street, Hot Shots Golf, etc. The other group of sports gamers are hard core. These are the players that have spreadsheets of statistics plotting the stats of the last ten simulated seasons to see if the video game stats are tracking actual real-life stats. These guys play rotisserie baseball, holding drafts in hotel conference rooms. I’m not saying either side is better than the other. But both expect certain things from their sports games. Some expect fluid animations and knock-out graphics. Others want reasonable simulation results and bases on balls. MMOSGs can accomodate both groups of players. I’ve looked at what’s out there right now and offerings that are on-deck (it’s gonna be hard to resist the sports cliches. There’s so many of them!) and then offer some thoughts about where things can go in Part II.

Baseball
I start with baseball because there is actually a MMO game in beta. Netamin (partnered with ESPN) are working on Ultimate Baseball Online. I have a copy of the beta on my computer but I just haven’t had a chance to install it. UBO offers everything you’d expect from a baseball game, only with other real players. You can read more about UBO here

There is also another baseball offering called “Small Ball” which is a little more “Fantasy Baseball” oriented, but it allows you to create and train your team and then play other teams. From their website:

SmallBall gives you your own team. You train your players and decide what positions they play. Then, when you’re ready, you challenge other teams. You are the coach, manager, and owner…

The strategy of SmallBall is deep. Your players grow and evolve. Over time you get to know each of them, their strengths and weaknesses. As you observe their abilities you will determine how to train them.

This is another game I haven’t tried yet but hope to soon. This type of game has more of a “Fantasy Sports” tilt to it than an actual video game.

Football
Let’s get this out of the way first. I lived in Spain for two years. I know what fútbol is. Barça was my team until Figo left for the enemy. But I play football. Not American football, just football. We might not put our foot to the ball as often as they do in fútbol but this is our sport. Soccer will fall under a different category. Unfortunately, there isn’t much going on out there in the way of a MMO football game. There’s Unreal Football, which “is an online multiplayer browser-based turn-based football strategy game where users assume the role of head coach and compete against each other in virtual football leagues.” Not really what our casual gamers would look for.

I think football has the most potential. Call it the Madden effect. People love to play video game football. Hopefully we’ll see some MMO football in the future.

Golf
Of course Shot-Online is currently the reigning champion of the MMOSG world. Based in Korea, the game is a basic golf game with MMOG options like forming groups to golf, buying and trading new equipment, chatting, and tournaments. The game is pleasing on the eyes and ears (the soundtrack is smooth). Since it is a Korean game, it comes complete with absolutely atrocious English translations. I would offer my translation services free to simply translate their abuse of the golfing vernacular.

The community I’ve interacted within S-O has been pleasant. That’s something I’ve noticed about non-FPS online games – most gamers are actually cool, not 14 year-old potty mouths. This is important because playing with others is important. Why? S-O is an RPG-style golf game, so sinking birdie putts earn you experience points. One interesting thing S-O has done with the community is to reward grouping – the more golfers you play with the more XP you earn. And level differences don’t matter. If you’re a level 10 golfer with a +20 handicap you can still group with a level 45 ringer who sports a -5 handicap. When he birdies a hole you also get XP. You are getting rewarded for his good play. I think that is a great way to not only foster a healthy community but weed out the morons. Shot-Online may not be Tiger Woods Online but it does online golf (an online golf RPG) very well.

Other Sports
I consider football, golf, and baseball to be the heavies (in that order) for sports video gaming. For completeness, however, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some of the other sports that have large followings as well.

Soccer, of course, is much bigger across the globe than it is here in the States. We play it and enjoy it but not with the passion they do across the pond. I was surprised that there isn’t a lot of MMO soccer gaming going on. There is a “fantasy” soccer offering called Hattrick but I just don’t think these will cut it for the majority of sports gamers. It looks like it has promise but it’s appeal has to be pretty limited.

I see a lot of possibilities for basketball. Right now all I could find is a game called Charazy Basketball Manager which again falls into the “fantasy” management genre. Basketball is untapped. Think virtual dunk competitions, a la NBA Jams. “Is it the shoes?”

There is actually a hockey offering at kiekko.tk, a Finnish website offering online Hockey action. I’ve read that it’s actually not all that bad. Hockey’s never been my thing. I haven’t played a hockey game since Blades of Steel.

Racing
While I argue that racing is, in fact, not a sport, others would vehemently argue to the contrary. Who am I to argue with hundreds of thousands of NASCAR Fans? In the MMO realm, Auto Assault has been heralded as the first MMOG that features automobiles as the focal point. While the game includes racing, I don’t think AA would fall under the sport category.

However, if we turn our attention to our Korean gaming brethren again, we’d see that racing fits very nicely into the MMOSG realm. Kart Rider (use IE for this link, it is hosed in Opera) is a simple kart racing game on the surface but is actually becoming quite a cultural phenomenon in Korea. It also appears to be an unabashed Mario Kart rip-off, but whatever. What is amazing about this free MMOG is that people are actually being sponsored by companies to plaster logos all over their Karts. Sorta like that racing thing we were talking about, our friend NASCAR. Sponsoring a gamer to ride his virtual go kart around a virtual track with your virtual logo displayed prominently? Amazing. (That reminds me of a Mitch Hedberg quote: “Man, you must really like Tide”)

So that wraps up my review of the current state of MMO Sports Games. I titled this post “MMORPG Sports” because I envision most MMO games have RPG elements, but that’s not necessarily always going to be the case. I think we’ll see a little bit RPG and a lot of action and fun. If they can make standing in the outfield fun. And that’s what we’ll talk about in Part II, if it’s actually possible to make this fun. I think it is, but we’ll see. In the meantime, I’m going to give UBO some playtime and go play another round of golf in S-O.

Stay tuned for Part II!

Update: Jeffool over at Outside Looking In alerted me to International Online Soccer, a Half-Life mod. It looks promising and has all the makings of a great online soccer game.

Comments

  1. hey wats up i was wondering wat kind of games u play rpg,action,fighting,sports which 1??

  2. Hey nick,

    I pretty much play any type of game. I lean towards sports, shooters, and some RPG on the side. Take a look around here and you’ll see what kind of games I play.

  3. [QUOTE]Not really what our casual gamers would look for.[/QUOTE]

    Just wondering… what is your vision of the ideal MMO football game?

  4. Jul – sorry for the late reply. I posted a few of my thoughts here about what I would like a MMO football to be like, but I’m still fleshing the ideas out in my head. Hopefully I’ll be able to update this will a little more meat in the future. I see you’re from unrealfootball.com. I promise to give your game a chance and see what it’s like.

  5. Ciao.

    On the soccer end of this discussion, I thought you might be interested in taking a look at this game, Powerchallenge.com.

    Its growing quite rapidly, and celebrating its first birthday now in october of 2006,it has almost 1,2 million registred users. The community is bustling and friendly, and spurs complete diversity among the users nationalities.

    /pow

  6. i was also thinking that a MMOSG would be a great idea, thats why i searched and found this article.. but i was thinking a little different, more like most MMORPG games, you create a character (not a team).. and your character has to start at the bottom, maybe in local leagues ( for whatever sport it maybe, hell maybe even one MMOSP for all sports) and through training and practice, you work your way up to bigger leagues, minor leagues, then the bigs. or even more interesting you could start at a varsity highschool level or something. then depending on performance, that would determine how good of college your character would go to. I think a game like this could become extremely popular

  7. Tony, U are missing some major golf mmorpg’s! Since it looks like they are ur favorite sport mmorpg’s i will tell u about them. Golf King, by NHN and Ijji games (ijji.com) is based on a korean golf mmorpg and very popular though it will be ending may 2nd = (. On the other hand, Albatross18, less fantasy more golf, has anime based characters and over a dozen courses (you will have to google this one im not sure of the link). Albatross is quickly approaching 1 million players. It has rooms for up to 4 players, a seperate tournament mode for up to thirty players, and a family mode for playing against someone at home(LAN not required for this feature). You should really check it out.

  8. oh, and something most other golf games do not have, caddies who offer golf advice!

  9. I know this is an old post, but it seems that Sports and MMO’s have been thought about, check out Football Superstars, if what they are suggesting in their website is true, this may be the beggining of proper 1st person sports MMO’s, i’m off to register for the Beta !!!
    Footballsuperstars.com

  10. Hi i just wanted to inform you that there is a game for Basketball its called freestyle basketball you’ll see it if you look it up on google its pretty fun they just released it at gamestop awhile ago its like 3v3 street ball check it out

  11. Check it out

  12. @senchal – I’m not a huge soccer fan, but I’ll give it a looksie. The only football I know is played with helmets and shoulder pads :)

  13. Freestyle Street Basketball is the thing to play now a days guys trust me its awesome

  14. @Patrick – I’ve heard a lot about FSB. There’s another one to try out!

  15. Tom Smith says:

    Well if we’re listing.

    http://www.empireofsports.com

    Due out before the end of the year.
    Sports MMORPG. You take an Avatar, have to train them like a real Athlete to compete in different sports.

    They’ve got:

    Basketball
    Skiing
    Tennis
    Bobsleigh (WTF?!)
    Virtual Gynmasium

    Rumour is they’re doing Soccer now as well.
    I’ve checked it as it looks like it’s got a genuine RPG element rather than just being another Sports MMO.

  16. fdmpro.com

    Create your own football club, name it as you like, choose a logo and customize players form. Use starting 60 000 000$ to hire footballers, build your own stadium and fanclubs. Then start to play matches and join championship, train your team, sell experienced players using transfer and treat crippled one. Issue shares of your club, become stockholder of another one, gain some dividends. And if you’ll be good – you’ll have a chance to win Champions League, UEFA CUP and become the most famous and rich club of FDream world.

  17. @Tom – Empire of Sport looks very promising, thanks for the kink.

    @frenky – ditto

  18. HI, i was having a look at google for “mmosoccer” as i’m trying to posicionize my own site, and i got here.

    You say there are few soccer games to play online.

    Well, my team is working on one now. The initial tittle was just “MMO SOCCER”, but it will probably change.

    The idea is that each human player controls only one player at the field. To avoid the typical “oops, i’m going to have dinner”, it will be 4vs4 or 5vs5, with CPU goalkeapers, and not the 11vs11 the soccer game has.

    You can have a look, just for curiosity, at our website:

    http://darkromo.110mb.com/

    The graphics are the old ones, because we have now POSER modeled players, and better graphics in general. In fact, there is nothing playable at the website right now, but if you are interested i can send you an alpha version.

    Cya!

  19. Dagriggstar says:

    If you’d done alittle more research into soccer/football MMOSG’s you’d have found power soccer…I suggest you take a look at it –
    http://www.powerchallenge.com

  20. Empire of Sport closed beta is a complete shame

    Its dated has ugly graphics and shit gameplay

    Its a big dissapointment so far

    We’ll have to wait untill a true sports mmorpg comes along Empire of Sport isnt it

  21. “There is a “fantasy” soccer offering called Hattrick but I just don’t think these will cut it for the majority of sports gamers. It looks like it has promise but it’s appeal has to be pretty limited.”

    LOLOLOLOL!

  22. Hi this is Rob from the MMRPG Network.
    Found your blog and thought it would be a great place to have a review done for our newest game, jailhouselife.com
    The MMRPG network is pretty big and and can offer you valuable back links in exchange for your review of our game. Please let me know if this is something that would interest you. I am only approaching you because of the high quality of your blog,

    Nice Work!

  23. Goal Line Blitz is the most addictive sports MMORPG that I’ve seen. This game has unlimited potential and it’s still considered in beta stage. You start this game with flex points..and after playing/ developing your players you become enamored by the every other day schedule, purchasing and developing of your own team. These are teams you recruit via free agent aquisitions or players listed on the trading block. The fun in this game becomes endless with the ability to purchase “flex points” at your leizure! If you are looking for a sports MMORPG this will satisfy you!

  24. http://www.trackking.org

    Manage a Stable of Race Horses. Auction horses, breed & train them, enter and race at tracks all over the world competing in Leagues and Cups, bet on races, hire and fire jockeys and stable staff, and best of all, watch the races in real-time animations.

  25. Metroho is a great hockey simulation that lets you have control of a hockey team. You get a draft, sign Unrestricted and restricted free agents. You can coach the game or let it quick sim. You train your players daily and depending on your arena level you get between 10-14 drills (5 more if you purchase VIP) a day. Your team gets credits for home games, depending on capacity that you use to purchase coaches, doctors, trainers or scout young guys for your draft.

  26. HEY GUYS!!! CHEK DIS OUT..I KNOW EVRY1 LOVES FOTBALL(SOCCER THAT IS) AND THERES NO SOCCER MMO ON DA NET LIKE DIS…GO TO http://www.footballsuperstars.com DAMN THATS AWSUM….U CAN PLAY MATCHES, BUY BOOTS,CLOTHES,GIV INTERVIWS… AND IT HAS THE BEST GRAPHICS OF ANY MMO IVE EVER SEEN!!!!!TO PLAY ON THE BEST DETAIL,U NEED A QUAD CORE AND A 3GB RAM……DA REST IS FR U TO FIGR OUT….OH…..AND ITS FREE

Trackbacks

  1. […] Tony of buttonmashing reviewed the current state of MMO sports games in “MMORPG Sports (Part I)”. […]

  2. […] I originally planned on one big article on the convergence of MMORPGs (or MMOGs in general) and sports games. After I finished the first part of the article I realized there is a lot of ground to cover. So this is the second part of my article on MMOSG. This is also submitted to the September edition of the Blogs of the Roundtable (specifically, Topic Choice 1E(xploratory): Pick a genre of games and discuss how it would benefit from adopting some of the game mechanics of another genre. If the merging of the genres would create a new genre, discuss the core gameplay and boundaries of the new genre..) […]

  3. […] With the popularity of sports games, the only surprise is that MMOSports games aren’t already a norm. But, MMOSports games are on the way. (Tony over at Buttonmashing.com has a pretty good roundup of plenty of them last week, too.) Everyone knew they’d happen eventually. It’s a no brainer really. Sports games sell well. MMOs offer continuous income. So MMOSports games should offer a lot of cash. But what are MMOSports games? […]

  4. […] Even though I mentioned that I had downloaded Ultimate Baseball Online months ago, it wasn’t until this weekend that I actually had a chance to play it. I must admit, though, that I haven’t played a video baseball game in a long time. I think I played a little MVP 2003, but that was only for a few minutes. I have no idea what the last baseball game I played — Super Bases Loaded? Needless to say, it’s been a while. But I’ve been anxious to try out a Massively Multiplayer Online Sports Game (MMOSG) other than Shot-Online, so I dusted off the virtual mitt and gave UBO a try. […]

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