5 Lamest MMO Races
by Tyler Edwards, February 17 2012
Most massively multiplayer games offer a selection of different playable races. It’s a great way for players to express their personality and to make the game more colorful. But not all races are as exciting as others. The downside of more choices is that some developers will go too far and cross the line from “unique” to “ridiculous.” Sooner or later, everyone sees an option on the race selection screen that just makes them shake their heads. Of course, what constitutes a lame race is all in the eye of the beholder, so we can’t call this a definitive list, but with apologies to their fans, we now present the races that we just can’t see ourselves playing.
5: The Draenei:
World of Warcraft is a game known for its bizarre and colorful races, but even in a universe full of giant bull-men and explosion-happy little green people, Draenei stand out from the pack. And maybe that’s not a good thing.
The Draenei were controversial right from the moment they were announced as a playable race in the Burning Crusade expansion. The Draenei were not a new addition to the Warcraft universe – they date back to the beginning of the franchise, Warcraft 1, over a decade ago. They had long been established as a peaceful, shamanistic race that shared the world of Draenor with the Orcs – up until Demons made the Orcs go crazy and massacre nearly all of the Draenei.
The problem is that those weren’t the Draenei that were made playable. These newly retconned Draenei were good offshoots of the evil Eredar race and champions against the demonic Burning Legion – a massive contradiction, considering that the Eredar had previously been established as the creators of the Legion. They were made into aliens who had only come to Draenor relatively recently.
Add to that their portrayal as super-advanced, science fiction-inspired spacefarers, and you had a lore snafu so massive that Chris Metzen, Warcraft’s lead writer, literally had to post an apology on the game’s official forum.
And then there are other issues with the Draenei, like the way they seem to steal the thunder from every other race on the Alliance faction. They’re more in tune with the Holy Light than humans, they’re friendlier and jollier than Dwarves, they have more advanced technology than the Gnomes, and they’re almost as stealthy and in tune with nature as Night Elves. Or there’s the insane difference in appearance between the two genders – and we won’t even get in to the strange sexual fetishes some fans have developed for their females.
It may seem a bit odd to label humans as lame. After all, MMO players themselves are obviously human, and you’d be hard-pressed to find an MMO where playing as a human wasn’t an option. Humans are easy to identify with, and they’re a race you can jump into and feel comfortable with even if you’re not familiar with a game’s universe and lore.
But most MMOs are set in exotic sci-fi or fantasy settings, and usually feature the options of playing truly fantastic non-human entities. Given that, it seems a little odd to pick the one race that exists in the real world. It’s a bit like going to Italy on vacation and only eating at McDonald’s, or buying Neapolitan ice cream and only eating the vanilla.
As a result, players of humans are often stereotyped as being boring or uncreative. Whether this reputation is deserved is up for debate, but one does have to wonder what the appeal of a plain old human is when one also has the option of being a zombie killing machine, elegant Elf, or mighty alien juggernaut.
But hey, for some people, vanilla is the best ice cream flavor, so who are we to judge?
A common way for game developers to come up with new fantasy races is to base them on real creatures. It’s a good method; it’s grounded in the genre’s mythological roots, and nature is so diverse that there are any number of options. Just think of all the awesome animals that could form the basis of a fantasy race: bears, lions, scorpions, falcons, spiders, crocodiles…
But we’re guessing that frogs didn’t come to mind when you thought of what animals would make a good inspiration for a race. Unless you’re an EverQuest developer, that is. Apparently, they thought frog paladins were an awesome idea, because Frogloks are a playable race in both EverQuest and EverQuest II.
Native to a swampy area of Norrath (of course), Frogloks are a noble and virtuous race and bitter enemies of the Trolls. The fact they appeared in two games in the franchise shows they must enjoy some level of popularity, but it’s hard to understand why.
It’s generally pretty easy to understand why people pick their races in MMOs, even the less than stellar ones. They play Elves because they like their elegance and nobility, or because they find them sexy. They play humans because they’re identifiable. They play Gnomes and Fairies because they like being cute, or because they like the idea of big power in an unassuming package. But unless you’re a herpetology nut or a massive Kermit fan, it’s hard to understand the appeal.
A moment ago, we asked you to imagine the kinds of animals that might make a good basis for a fantasy race. We’re pretty sure frogs wasn’t on that list, and we’re also pretty sure raccoons weren’t, either. But yet, a raccoon race is exactly what we’re getting in the upcoming Asian MMO known as The Exiled Realm of Arborea (or TERA for short).
Actually, the Popori bear a resemblance to a number of creatures, including panda bears, but something about them just makes us think “racoon.” Regardless, they don’t exactly scream “epic adventure.” Their look says something more like, “Saturday morning programming, fun for the whole family!” Which is fine, we suppose, but it kind of contradicts the feeling of peril and epic adventure most MMOs shoot for.
And then there are the differences in design between the Popori genders, a gulf so vast it puts the infamous sexual dimorphism of the Draenei to shame. The male Popori are, as stated above, cuddly, chubby animals resembling pandas, racoons, and other woodland creatures. The females, on the other hand, look exactly like little human girls, but with animal ears. The two genders literally could not be more different.
The Popori males were a little eccentric and difficult to take seriously, but the design of the females just puts our WTF-o-Meter up to ten.
World of Warcraft players face many frightening monsters in their adventures, but there is one race that causes fear like no other. More terrible than the Demon lords of the Burning Legion, more fearsome than the Lich King, more horrible than the Old Gods, these obscene creatures chill the very soul with the mere mention of their name:
Never was there a race as reviled or for as many reasons. One cannot point to a specific thing that makes the Gnomes as hated as they are. It’s a combination of factors.
Part of it is their cutesy, high-pitched voices that are somewhere between a Disney character and fingernails on a chalkboard.
Part of it is their bizarre body shapes, which fly in the face of normal proportions. The males’ heads are nearly as big as the rest of their entire body, and the females amount to little more than a pair of breasts with limbs attached.
Part of it is the fact that they’re little more than a recurring joke and have added little to the universe as a whole. Their one significant contribution was Gnomeregan, an extremely long and confusingly laid-out low level dungeon that seems to exist mostly to aggravate newbies.
All this has led to an entire subculture of Gnome hate in the Warcraft community. And it’s not as if people just sit around and rant about Gnomes. No, there’s a lot of creativity behind this hatred. Do a little searching online, and you can find reams of recipes for cooking a variety of delicious dishes with Gnomes as the main ingredient, not to mention extensive information on the popular sport of Gnome punting.
There are many unpopular races in MMOs, but none have inspired the same level of passionate disdain as Gnomes, and so they have earned the top spot on our list of lame MMO races.