Top 6 MMO Minigames
by Tyler Edwards, March 29, 2013
Despite the best efforts of developers, players will inevitably get bored with their favorite MMOs. Even if there's a steady stream of new content, you can only raid and PvP so much before you start to get a little bored. This is where minigames come in. Minigames allow players to take a break from their favorite MMO without ever leaving it. In stark contrast to the advancement driven content that usually makes up MMOs, minigames are self-contained and generally serve no purpose but fun. This list will cover some of the most entertaining and addictive minigames to have appeared in the world of MMOs.
6: Tag, Lord of the Rings Online:
You probably have fond memories of playing tag with your friends when you were a kid. And if you don't, you're probably a robot. The folks at Lord of the Rings Online decided to capitalize on this nostalgia by implementing an in game version at the fairgrounds near Bree.
There's something delightfully simple about playing tag in an MMO. It has no objectives beyond the obvious. You're not getting any gear or other rewards. It's there purely for fun, and things that are simply fun, with no other purpose, are sadly neglected by the majority of game designers these days. While some might deride it as "fluff," it's little touches like these that give a game personality.
For those who want something a bit more advanced, Lord of the Rings Online also offers freeze tag. This being a fantasy game, those who are tagged are literally frozen in place, but they can be unfrozen with assistance from their fellow players - assuming they wish to put themselves at risk of being caught.
If plain old tag - or even freeze tag - is a little too simple for you, you can always find creative ways to make it interesting. There's no rule against mounted tag...
5: Diplomacy, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes:
Vanguard is a game with a troubled history, but it does boast some very clever features that have earned praise from its shaky launch up to its current period of rebuilding. Diplomacy is one such feature.
In theory, diplomacy is a way to make conversations a significant part of gameplay. In practice, it functions a lot like a trading card game, requiring you to play different cards to make arguments and statements that will win NPCs to your side. It's a method of progression entirely divorced from combat, which is something quite rare in most MMOs.
Although considered a minigame, there's very little that's "mini" about diplomacy. It is an entire progression path unto itself. It has its own gear, its own rewards, and its own content. It's almost a full game inside the greater game that is Vanguard.
When you think about it, it's a shame that Vanguard hasn't been more successful. Imagine how much diplomacy could have grown and evolved if it had existed in a game with the success - and thus the resources - of, say, Guild Wars 2 or World of Warcraft. It could have developed into something truly special.
Sony Online Entertainment is working to rebuild and improve Vanguard, so perhaps there's hope yet.
4: Keg brawl, Guild Wars 2:
The Norn of Guild Wars 2 are a boisterous bunch. Always out to prove their physical prowess, they love their sports - but human sports? Bah, beneath them. Who wants to chase a ball when you can chase a great big keg of ale? And why bother with some wimpy no contact sport when you can bash, punch, and bludgeon your opponents into submission?
This is the logic that led to the creation of the keg brawl, a traditional Norn sport Guild Wars 2 players can participate in while visiting Hoelbrak, the Norn capitol.
The game consists of two teams of five players competing over a series of ale kegs that are hurled into the play area. For the duration of the match, players' abilities are replaced with a specific set of brawling skills, such as "punch" and "stomp." The player currently carrying the keg also gets a special set of abilities, such as passing throws.
The object is simple: get the kegs back to your team's brewer by any means necessary. Whichever team gets the most kegs wins - and is well equipped to celebrate their victory.
3: Music, Lord of the Rings Online:
Lord of the Rings Online is a game with a lot of minigames and other fun little features. By far the most impressive of these, though, is its music system. We've mentioned it in a previous article - it's a unique and little publicized feature with no equivalent elsewhere in the MMO world.
In LotRO, your character can become a musician. We're not talking about a bard class - though they have one of those: the minstrel. Any class can simply pick up an instrument and start playing music. You can either control the music manually or input pre-designed commands to play full musical pieces.
Instrument choices are limited based on class, much like weapon choices traditionally are, but the minstrel can use any instrument. You can play alone, or you could form a band with your friends and tour Middle Earth, rocking out for the entertainment of your adoring fans and Elvish groupies. Or maybe just bored roleplayers.
2: Aether races, EverQuest II:
The aether races of EverQuest II are an interesting study in the differences between games and the real world. If someone in real life came up to you and asked if you'd like to test pilot a small, rickety flying ring with no safety equipment whatsoever while evading swarms of insects, tornadoes, and other threats, you'd run for the hills.
But if that same offer is made from within the safety of an MMO, the average gamer's reaction is likely to be more along the lines of, "Hells to the yes!"
One of the more inventive minigames you'll see in an MMO, the aether races allow players to pilot totally safe (we are assured) contraptions around various tracks corresponding to the major cities of Norrath, as well as some tracks introduced as part of world events.
Aether races function using roughly the same mechanics and controls as flying mounts. Tracks are defined by a series of rings that most be flown through in order, and many tracks have unique hazards, such as clouds of insects that will obscure your vision if you don't avoid them. The goal is to complete each track as fast as you possibly can, with special titles being awarded for the best times.
1: Pet battles, World of Warcraft:
Non-combat pets were always a popular feature in World of Warcraft, with hundreds of cute companions for players to collect. But this wasn't addictive enough to satisfy the high standards of WoW's developers, so they designed an entirely new minigame for the Mists of Pandaria expansion that made these pets not so non-combat.
Players can now match teams of their little friends against each other in friendly, turn based matches. A lot of players have accused Blizzard Entertainment of ripping off Pokémon with their pet battle system - even going so far as to coin the term "PokéWoW - but...
Okay, yeah, it pretty much is just Pokémon. Gotta catch ‘em all.
Still, considering Pokémon is one of the most popular anime/video game franchises in history, it's not a bad choice to copy if you're going to copy something. Combining two of the most famously addictive games in history can't be doing any harm to Blizzard.
The impressive thing about WoW's pet battle system is how extensive it is. There are hundreds of potential pets, and new ones are being added all the time. Though a fairly simple system in theory, pet battles have a great deal of depth and strategy to them, with numerous different pet types arranged in a "rock, paper, scissors" balance system. Pet battles are such a complete and polished system that Blizzard probably could have successfully marketed them as a separate game.
Plenty of MMOs have fun minigames, but nothing quite equals the depth or breadth of WoW's pet battles, so they earn the top spot on our list.