As with any genre, we've our fair share of odd ducks in the world of MMOs. Where other developers try to ape World of Warcraft, the men and women responsible for the creation of these titles have, in many cases, strayed so far off the beaten path one has to wonder if they're even on the trail anymore. While it's admirable that they were striving to be different from their peers, one has to wonder if they may, perhaps, have taken things a bit too far. These absurd examples of MMOs are so niche that even those few who've heard of them consider them strange.
Of course - and this is something of a distressing thought - it's certainly possible that at least a few of the developers featured today never really intended their titles to be unusual. That's simply how they turned out; it's how they felt their game should look. In other words, their creative vision was akin to an ecstasy-addled acid trip.
Before we go any further, it's worth noting that I'm not saying that any of the games on this list are overtly bad. Quite the contrary - strangeness can be an art, if done right. The problem is...most of these titles either failed miserably at pulling that off, or simply weren't really trying to begin with. As a result, they aren't
Tale of Tales: The Endless Forest
The first title on the list actually has me faintly intrigued. The premise is a fairly simple one. You play a deer in a forest. You do deer things. you interact with other deer (players) and occasionally the forest gods. There is no combat, no class or leveling system...simply a beautiful, peaceful forest brimming with mystery and filled with deer-people. It's bizarre, yes, but it's also..strangely relaxing and therapeutic. I'll say now, it's definitely not the strangest game on this list.
It's really a shame Glitch never got off the ground. The browser-based MMORPG actually had some very cool, very creative ideas regarding what to do with the genre. Instead of focusing on combat (as 99.9% of MMOs tend to do), developer Tiny Speck instead placed an emphasis on collaborative crafting and gathering. The world, too, was quite unique, with an emphasis placed on 'imagination.' The game space itself was set in a realm 'imagined' by eleven godlike giants, each of which pertained to a particular aspect of nature. Donating items to the giant's shrines would eventually win a player favor, gaining them an emblem which gave them a number of in-game bonuses. What's more, players could make lasting, persistent changes to their surroundings through quests and the like. Unfortunately, the game failed to garner enough interest, and shut down back in 2012.
There's a small silver lining - the shut-down is still one of the most graceful MMO cancellations in history.
Here's yet one more example of a game that's strange in an amazing way. Created by Eskil Steenberg, there are a few things that make the sandbox MMO LOVE unique - and a bit odd, to boot. There's the graphics, which strongly resembles an 1800-ear oil painting. There's the environment, which is 100% procedurally generated and changes randomly (no small feat for an MMO). There's also the gameplay, a blend of first-person action and co-operative world-building. Players must embark into the wilderness from their settlements in order to seek out tokens which will allow them access to better tools, defenses, and abilities.
The game's fully co-operative: rather than fighting one another, players are pitted against a number of hostile AI tribes and settlements. The best part is that it's entirely free(but feel free to donate).
I would've quite enjoyed being present during developer NetDevil's moment of inspiration; the point at which it decided it'd create Auto Assault. The premise of the title is that basically...you drive cars. Okay, there's a little more to it than that.
The best description I can give is that it's Mad Max meets science fiction as an MMO...though perhaps a better analogy would be World of Warcraft meets Pixar's Cars. Players can choose from one of three races, and each race can choose from one of four 'classes.' Your class doesn't actually change anything about your character, by the way - it changes what your vehicle does and how it functions in combat. The only time you actually see your character is when you're wandering around town. Otherwise, you're on the road, creating carnage wherever you go. Oh, there's also no consequences for dying.
I'm not actually riffing on this game at all, by the way - it was an amazing MMO, and I'm actually quite distressed that it's been permanently shut down and shelved.
Now we're starting to get into the head-scratchers. Dungeon Party is basically what you'd get if you mashed Diablo and Dota together, then vomited a bunch of off-the-wall comedy into the pot. Its strangeness stems from the fact that it doesn't take itself even remotely seriously. It's still a complete oddball of a game, but in a unique way. Kind of like that big fat party animal who always drinks too much for his own good. Sure, he vomits and makes a mess all over the place, but he's so much fun that no one really minds.
You know what? This analogy is awful. Let's move on.
I'm sure I'm going to catch a bit of flak for this, but if you really stop to think about it, Second Life is probably one of the weirdest MMOs even made. At this point, it barely even fits the classification anymore. It's like it's become some sort of educational video game/social media chimera, based almost entirely around wish fulfillment. You can be - and do - whatever and whoever you desire. I'll just let that statement hang in the air for a moment, and mention what usually happens when a bunch of people on the Internet are given absolute freedom - nothing good. Stories abound of skeezy individuals, destroyed lives, and ruined relationships
Still, for all that it's a wretched hive of scum and villainy, it's still not the most messed up MMO on the list. At the same time, though, you've gotta admit...it's a pretty weird concept.
Queen's Blade Online
Now we're starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel. If any of you are familiar with the Queen's Blade anime series, you already know what's coming here. Queen's Blade - Scarlet Blade in North America - features primarily oversexualized, anime'd-up female characters. In this case, the developers have made no secret of what most of their fanbase will be here for. See, Queen's Blade Online is a free to play...and one of the items in the cash shop unlocks the ability to remove your character's lingerie. Basically, it's a game designed to let you ogle nude anime girls.
Deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole we go. The rather short-lived action MMO Pangaea boasted itself as an "adult MMORPG, based on the themes of women, gambling, and war." It featured full nudity, though that in itself doesn't make it terribly unusual. On the surface, it actually seemed like a fairly well-made, if somewhat derivative MMORPG. Then, on digging a little deeper, things get worse. So very, very much worse.
Giant dung heaps as enemies. Opponents that lose their clothing as you deal damage to them. Enemies that attack you with milk. Gratuitous nudity and sexual references. Naked were-cows. The game became worse and worse the more one played it. Nowadays, it's fairly difficult to find much information on Pangaea online. I think most people genuinely just want to forget that it existed, truth be told.
Red Light Utherverse
Ah, Utherverse. I attended a virtual conference here once, on the behalf of one of my clients. I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into. As it turns out, Utherverse - which styles itself as an "adult social network" also serves as the backend for an adult MMO by the name of Red Light Online. Think of it as another version of Second Life, but with more of everything that makes Second Life creepy.
The people running the conference neglected to tell me this. Imagine my shock, then, when I wandered off from the conference halls, only to find myself in a warped, twisted wonderland the likes of which I'd never seen. Desperate, frightened, and alone, I wandered the winding, labyrinthine streets I'll spare you all the details - you likely don't want to hear about it, and I certainly don't want to relive it - but it's one of the strangest experiences I've ever had with an MMORPG.
Oh, and it turns out the conference was a sham anyway. Nobody from Blizzard bothered to show. I wonder why?
So...speaking of Second Life Clones...Socialotron is the quivering abomination born of an unholy union between Runescape and Second Life. This one actually crosses the line from bizarre to...more than a little disturbing. The game takes place in post-apocalyptic London, allows for user-created content, and allows you to upgrade your genitalia and sexually assault other players.
You know what? I think we're done here. I need a goddamn drink.
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