Super MNC is dead, and it's got me excited for Blizzard's Overwatch
Many gamers may not realize this, but hackers, cheaters, and trolls can "kill" a game. While servers may keep running, and players loiter about the community, a game can die if the community suffers too many losses. What could start as simple hacks for "fun" or maybe as a way to increase matchmaking rank can quickly destroy a game's community, reducing player counts to abysmal numbers.
It happens as follows:
Hackers and trolls take to a game, making the game a living hell for players. As players get sick of losing to unfair situations or general unpleasantness of the community, they begin to leave the game. Once the number of players dips below a certain point, new subscriptions to a game drop as there aren't enough players to make matchmaking queue wait times a reasonable length. The community then becomes to crumble - thousands of players becomes one or two thousand. Developers abandon their product as a result of the lack of interest in the game, further depleting player numbers as many balances and fixes don't happen.
Even if the servers are still running, the game is now considered "dead" as no new players install the game. Matches become stale as there are no new players to try out new strategies, or at least mix up the rotation of players in matchmaking. Without developer support or newcomers, the dedicated fans of the game are left in the dark to rot.
Some might say that this is an exaggeration, and maybe it is. But it has happened at least once before. In fact, it happened to one of my favorite games: Super Monday Night Combat.
What's Super Monday Night Combat?
Super Monday Night Combat - or SMNC - was developed by Uber Entertainment, and was released in April 2012 as a free-to-play sequel to their hit MOBA shooter Monday Night Combat. The game featured a unique style of gameplay, focussing on a third-person shooter with MOBA elements such as leveling, farming, and so on.
The game took place in a fictional - and blatantly satirical - Superbowl-like setting where team HotShots and IceMan battle out for cash, prizes, and sponsorships.
In SMNC, each "Pro" had their own set of weapons, abilities, and roles. With each level, they could improve their abilities to do increased damage, place more turrets, etc., as one does in popular MOBAs like DotA 2 or League of Legends.
Money earned by last-hitting creeps (in this case robots) provided opportunities to buy more powerful creep waves that will push the lane up in the absence of a Pro in the lane.
Each lane was protected by turrets. Once turrets fell, players could advance further along the map, eventually reaching the enemy's Moneyball. Once that was destroyed, the surviving team won. The game was filled with chaotic fun as Pros pounded other Pros, and bot waves rushed toward the enemy base. Massive "ultimate" attacks helped make the game feel like your average top-down MOBA, but the third-person perspective helped breathe life into a style of gameplay that has been mostly ignored by developers.
Characters were also very colorful. I loved the Pit Girl character since she had this mix of a ditzy and sassy attitude that made me laugh whenever she commented on the game's current situation. Other characters were great too, and each had a likable personality that players could grow fond of as they battled their way to victory.
Except for the Sniper. Nobody likes the MLG-player parody Sniper...
That sounds like a fun game... why did it die?
Hackers, aim-bots to be specific.
If you make a game with a sniper rifle, aim-botters will come to plague your game. This was true for Super Monday Night Combat. Since Uber Entertainment is by no means a Triple-A company, they could not afford to put money towards anti-hacking protocols. In fact, since they used their own client and engine they didn't even have the luxury of using Valve's spotty VAC system. This resulted in waves-after-waves of aim-bot hackers jumping at the chance to play the infamous Sniper Pro.
In this video, the Gunner uses an aimbot to maximize the effectiveness of the minigun's randomly sprayed bullets
Players quickly got tired of being headshot to death by the aim-bot snipers, and out-gunned by flawless Gunners. Uber tried to remedy the situation by making headshots weaker, but it wasn't enough. When a player was able to strike multiple headshots without fail, and mow down opponents without missing a single bullet, the game simply fell apart.
It was not long after Turbocross was released - only a month after the original release date - that I soon found myself waiting almost half an hour to get into another game. After only a few months of intense action, the game started to decay. Around November of that same release year, the "Players Online" counter dwindled at around 1,000-2,000 players at any given time. With the wait times extending to half-hour periods by January 2013, I gave up on my at-the-time favorite online game.
Today, 3 years after its original launch date, Super MNC only has 600 players online. With the last gameplay balance patch released about 3 years ago, I think it's safe to say that this is a "dead game."
Then Blizzard announced Overwatch
Blizzard announced Overwatch in November of 2014. While Overwatch has some common ground with Valve's Team Fortress 2 with payload and capture point game modes, the quirky and outlandish characters that almost mirror the Pros of SMNC - and not just because they share a talking gorilla.
Overwatch makes use of an ability-based system instead of a weapon class system. This means that each character will always do what they do, and will never do what they weren't originally designed to. While this may be "lame" to fans of Team Fortress 2, it's great for players who don't want to guess which watch the enemy Spy is wearing or any other of the various strategies and numerous customizations the enemy has.
By giving each character a certain set of abilities, Blizzard has underhandedly confirmed that the game will be releasing entirely new characters instead of various weapons. This means more characters to get to know and fall in love with since Blizzard has already been known for creating outlandish characters that fans adore.
Fans have already started cosplaying the Reaper and Tracer characters, and I imagine that if the Pixar-inspired cinematic trailer is anything to take seriously we'll have a whole slew of fan-art and cosplays once more characters are released.
With Super Monday Night Combat down for the count, I really hope that Overwatch will add a game mode similar to Turbocross in the future. I would love march down those creep-ridden lanes once more, destroying turrets as we storm the enemy base. If that's nothing more than a pipe dream, then hopefully I'll at least be satisfied knowing that someone has created a new multiplayer ability-based shooter to love.