Ever since its original debut in Epic Games’ Gears of War 2, the concept behind the popular “Horde Mode” gametype has gone on to become one of the core pillars of co-op multiplayer gameplay.
While predominantly featured in shooters such as Halo (Firefight), Mass Effect (Galaxy at War), and even Saints Row (“Whored” Mode), lately it has started showing up in other, non-shooter multiplayer environments such as the recent console MOBA Guardians of Middle Earth (Survival Mode) and even action hack-and-slash games like God of War: Ascension (Trial of the Gods). However, there’s one genre in which Horde Mode seems strangely absent given its emphasis on social and often cooperative gameplay: massively multiplayer online games.
With new innovations such as instanced dungeons and quest areas, group-oriented events and activities, and even popular features such as World of Warcraft’s “LFD” (Looking for Dungeon) and “LFR” (Looking For Raid) tools or Lord of the Rings Online’s Skirmish system, I find it very odd that a concept as simple to understand yet fun to play as Horde Mode has eluded the MMO landscape for so long, especially considering how many new MMO’s are released annually.
Perhaps my exposure to MMO’s isn’t as robust as some other players’, but in my twelve or so years of playing them (my first ever MMO was the original Everquest) I’ve never seen a feature or activity in any MMO I’ve played that had the same sort of purist formula which makes Horde Mode so appealing. Granted I can recall certain dungeons or quests or other activities that borrowed certain elements of Horde Mode, but, for me at least, the standard Horde Mode encompasses these traits:
· A team of players, usually 4-6, against waves of increasingly difficult A.I. enemies
· Players must either defend a certain object or location from the A.I. enemies or simply survive for as long as they can
· In-between waves, players can somehow give themselves temporary bonuses such as items or fortifications to help them defend against the next wave
· Experience points are granted for each enemy killed and an experience bonus is granted for reaching certain wave checkpoints or for surviving all of the waves
· The mode is repeatable and replayable, giving players an alternate means of advancement
As I said before, some MMO’s have come close, but I have yet to play an MMO that offered a pure, repeatable mode in which the only objective was to survive as long as I could against a horde of A.I. opponents. I feel such a mode could easily work within most traditional MMO’s for several reasons. First, it would give more co-op-minded players (like yours truly) an alternate route of advancement in addition to questing and dungeon grinding. Second, it could provide a new endgame activity for those who weren’t interested in raiding or PvP. Third, the rewards earned from Horde Mode could be unique and could even benefit other MMO activities such as crafting.
I’ll admit there are times when I want to play an MMO but I really don’t feel like waiting around for a dungeon group, especially in MMO’s that don’t have a built-in dungeon-finder tool (such as Guild Wars 2) or grinding through a bunch of quests or getting my butt kicked in PvP (as I often do). A Horde type of mode would be a simple, easy to understand, and, if done right, incredibly fun alternative that also wouldn’t be a very big time commitment. If you end up spending a half hour or so making it through the entire game, great! If you only managed to make it to wave five or ten or whatever, hey, at least you still got a bunch of experience points and maybe other rewards to show for your efforts.
To me, an MMO Horde Mode seems like a win-win situation. It draws players in with its simple yet fun format and it probably wouldn’t be too terribly taxing on developers to implement. What do you think? Would you want to see a Horde Mode gametype in your favorite MMO?
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