Total War: Arena is shutting down in February. Maybe you don’t play it, but that’s OK. This article isn’t about Arena specifically, but about some thoughts I’ve had since the announcement, and how they might apply to how we think about other games.

I’ve seen a few people write about Arena’s shortcomings, and one that I see a fair bit is that it “just didn’t feel” like a Total War game. This comes on the heels of Fallout 76 also getting the label that it doesn’t “feel” like a Fallout game. In another corner of the gaming world, I’ve been playing the new mode put into the baseball sim I enjoy, Out of the Park Baseball 19, called Perfect Team, that (short version) puts you in random leagues against other players. I’ve heard some people say that doesn’t “feel right” either.

These are all anecdotal, perhaps, but what do Total War: Arena, Fallout 76, and OOTP19’s Perfect Team mode all have in common? They’re all based on (largely) single-player games but are multiplayer experiences. Yes, it is possible to do multiplayer Total War and OOTP19, but for the most part, those are considered single-player games.

And what do you do in single-player games? By and large, you win. Whether you’re leading the Roman Empire, the Chicago Cubs, or are just a lone wanderer in the wasteland, you expect to overcome the challenges the AI puts in front of you and succeed. And the game obliges, putting some obstacles in your path, but generally nothing so difficult that you can’t overcome them. If you can’t, just grind some more or turn down the difficulty level until you do.

On the other hand, in multiplayer/PvP, you tend to lose – less if you’re good, more if you’re bad, but on average, you’ll lose about half the time. When you’re used to winning all the time, being thrust into a scenario when you lose, and lose often, can be jarring. Toss in the fact that a human simply acts differently from an AI-controlled entity – jumping around to avoid being shot at, for instance – and it might, as they say, “not feel right.”

A lot of people stick with PvE experiences in MMORPGs and never set foot in the PvP side of things. Clearly, fighting against other actual people is different from taking on a raid boss that will just sit there while you smack it. Some people don’t like PvP, and that’s fine, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say that PvP in an MMO doesn’t “feel right” when compared to PvE. Maybe it’s because, when you set foot in a PvP space, you know it’s going to be different from PvE, but when it’s a wholly different game with the same skin, you expect it to be a continuation of the more user-friendly experience you were used to?

This isn’t to say that Total War: Arena, Fallout 76, and OOTP19 Perfect Team don’t have their flaws, whether it be imbalances, bugs, or other concrete and easily identified issues. But I wonder if the nebulous notion that a game doesn’t “feel right” comes from expecting one thing from the name and getting another, unavoidable, thing from the game. In any case, the next time you want to get into a multiplayer game based on a single-player game you enjoy, you should probably set your expectations accordingly.

City of Heroes Freedom 4

The other point I wanted to address relates to my personal feelings regarding Arena’s closing. I’ve played a good bit of it, around 250 battles. That’s not as many as others have played, and I took a long break over the summer, but I would classify it as something I really enjoyed. It’s probably not a stretch to say it’s one of my top five games of 2018. And now that it’s going away, I … don’t really care that much?

This is because, as I’ve said before, there are just too many games out there that I want to devote my time to. Right now, I’m heavy into the new stuff for Crusader Kings II, I still play Overwatch nearly every day, I hop into MapleStory 2 from time to time, I work in the occasional Hearthstone arena run, there’s that Out of the Park 19 thing, I have a couple of games left over from the Steam Summer Sale I still need to get through, I haven’t played Secret World Legends or World of Warships or Ring of Elysium for a while, there are PS4 games I’d like to try …

So as you can see, losing Arena from my “schedule” doesn’t really bother me. Maybe part of that is because I don’t have a “main” game these days, like when I’d play an MMORPG almost exclusively. Even if that were the case, even if Guild Wars 2 or The Lord of the Rings Online had up and vanished during my prime time with them, I think I would have survived. I actually did unsub from LotRO for a couple of months about a year after it came out, to take a break. The first few days were rough – “It’s 7:00, what the hell do I do with my evening?” – but it soon passed and I found other ways to distract myself.

On a related point, this is why I think people write off games sooner than ever before. If something about Fallout 76 pissed you off in your first hour of play, or even when you saw pre-release coverage, you can just “nope” out. It’s ridiculously easy and convenient to write games off if they annoy you to even the slightest degree, because there are so many other options. Similarly, I’ve stopped playing Path of Exile, not because I’m “angry” with it but because the difficulty ramped up and I wasn’t enjoying myself any more. No problem, I have lots of other ways to entertain myself.

So I’m faced with an odd contradiction: I’m sad to see Total War: Arena go but also relieved that I won’t have to fit it into my day. If anyone else has faced this kind of paradox, I’d love to hear about it.

the author

Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.

5 Readers Commented

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  1. TreadHead on November 30, 2018

    I find the first point amusing since the 3D Fallout games don’t feel like the2D originals (in more than just visuals) but are much more popular and have had great sales.

    For me the take away is that the simplistic linear games that appeal to the masses are the key to success regardless if your making a PvP or PvE game. Just take a look at mobile games.

    Niche games just don’t cut it unless your name is From Software (and even their games have become more streamlined over time).

  2. Time Is Money on November 29, 2018

    If a tree falls on a free2play developer in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does anyone care? F2P games tend to be unplugged when the bean counters determine it isn’t raking in massive amounts of money anymore, leaving the fans with nothing to show for all their time and money spent on it. There is no point in becoming invested in a cynically-made game.

  3. Weilan on November 29, 2018

    Here are some games I played a lot, for thousands of hours and they got closed or simply died:
    —-
    Ghost in the Shell First Assault
    —-
    Alliance of Valiant Arms
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    Blacklight Retribution
    —-

    With GITS:FA the game started out great, I had tons of fun, but later on the issues that were never fixed became annoying and then they released the 2.0 patch that completely changed the game and everyone left, I also didn’t had an urge to play it anymore. When they announced the shut down, I was indifferent, I was even laughing at the failed game. But now a year later, I can’t even look at footage from the game, cause it feels like someone is squeezing my heart. I want the game back, but
    in its 1.0 version. Now I feel bad it’s gone.
    —-
    —-
    AVA was the same – started out fantastic, but later on it got more and more destroyed by the P2W cash shop until I no longer felt any enjoyment from playing it and just quit it. I tried to come back on a few occasions after a few years, but the game didn’t feel like the game I once loved playing and I couldn’t identify with it anymore. Then they announced it shuts down, I wasn’t surprised.
    —-
    But on the bright side they announced like a week after the shut down that the game is relaunching as AVA Dog Tag and it’s an improved version with no P2W paying homage to the good old days of 2010, so I guess there is some justice after all..
    —-
    —-
    For BLR – the situation is the same – great game, but over time the developers lost their way and made stupid decisions, in part one about a patch similar to the 2.0 patch in GITS:FA that was called Parity Patch and it made the game dumbed-down and easy like the PS4 counterpart and people left, because now the game sucked and it was no longer the game they enjoyed. At first I didn’t care, but now seeing the game barely running with 90-100 people daily peaks, it feels bad that it has come to this.
    —-
    —-
    In each of those games (save for AVA since it’s being relaunched) all it takes to “fix” them is to roll back to a previous patch and people will flock back in. In GITS:FA’s case they need to work on optimizing the game more than anything.
    —-
    But after all it’s over for two of those games. I guess people feel apathy in their favorite game’s failure, because by the time the game closes, it’s no longer the same game that brought them enjoyment.

  4. Coolcat on November 28, 2018

    Like some people say early year on youtube the gaming industry is going to burn into the ground real soon .it happen right in between 2014-2018 to this day most of these online game community have become a empty shell of themselves nowadays . The Greed of sin well keep getting big until the bubble burst completely.
    ———————————————————————————-
    (One last word for all you gaming journalists.) The Community is a ghost town and it well never
    recover from the heavy impact from evil developers who pray on the community as a helpless
    sheep to make fast cash buck for their banking account. The End

  5. Curst on November 28, 2018

    I think that to say “the shift to multiplayer is why these games ‘don’t feel right'” is an oversimplification. Don’t know about that baseball game, but for Fallout 76 and TWA there were very specific reasons why they didn’t particularly click with the fans of respective series, and I’m fairly certain that prospect of losing to other players wasn’t one of them at all.
    _
    Neither multiplayer nor difficulty and defeat are foreign concepts for TW players. And in Fallout 76 there can be no more than 24 (12 as of late?) players on a huge map, which barely counts as multiplayer, and PvP isn’t really a thing anyway because it’s optional and pointless (you don’t gain anything and you can only deal damage to other players if they fight back).

    I do agree, however, that abundance of games is one of the main reasons why poor design, management and marketing lead to games closing now more often than 10 or even 5 years ago. It’s also one of the main reasons why players are largely indifferent when that happens.

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