Friday, 2 March 2012

A Look At The Competition Redux

Over a year and a half ago I wrote a blog post titled "A Look At The Competition", taking a look at a number of MMOs other than The Old Republic and what they were planning to do. Since then I've tried to do a redux a few times, but time never seemed right. Now, with The Old Republic having released, it seems like there will never be a better time than this.

I'll divide the list into four rough categories: "Past Releases" for MMOs that have been released since the previous blog post, "Near Future Releases" with those MMOs I expect to launch sometime in 2012 (though note that only about half the MMOs I expected to launch in 2011 actually did), "Distant Future Releases" for MMOs I expect to launch much later (2013 and on) and "Off the Radar" for MMOs I haven't heard anything about since my previous post (and might never be released) or which seem to be canceled. And just as before this isn't meant to be an exhaustive list (though I do think I've got most of the more important ones). And the information too won't be exhaustive as it's pretty much tied to my interest in a title; sometimes a title might have a fair bit of information out on it but since I've got little interest in it I haven't much to say about it.

Even so it took a good while to put this all together. I started writing well before The Old Republic was even released and thus had to regularly update the text with new information and changes. Hopefully everything is now as accurate as I can make it and hopefully you'll find the post informative. Read on after the break for the list.


Past Releases

In my previous Look At The Competition I noted that I thought a number of already released games might have some surprises in store. It seems that I was being close to prophetic. A surprising number of already released MMOs changed to a free-to-play model where at the time only Dungeons & Dragons Online had made that switch. So many of them did, in fact, that as far as MMOs goes 2010 could be considered the year of free-to-play (in part because there were very few new releases). And this trend continued in 2011 to the point that I'm having a hard time thinking of any MMOs (beyond World of Warcraft) that still ask a subscription fee.

But there have been a number of new releases as well since then and I thought it might be interesting to have a brief look at those I mentioned in my previous post and how they're faring.

Final Fantasy XIV (homepage)

Final Fantasy XIV launched in the summer of 2010 and it was disastrous. Final Fantasy XIV's launch is probably considered one of the great MMO debacles. Things were bad enough for Square-Enix to waive the subscription fee for over a year (I think that they only just started charging people again) while they worked on fixing their game. Now they've laid out a detailed plan for the coming year (which pretty much ends with the game being completely rebooted), but it might be too late for the game to salvage its reputation. And one has to wonder at the wisdom of starting to charge again right around the time that The Old Republic launches, when most MMO players will likely be looking to spend their money there instead.

And it's such a pity too as the game had such promise. It's definitely one of the most beautiful MMOs released so far (though in that too lie problems as it made the system requirements fairly steep) and with Square-Enix's penchant for telling stories in games it could have been something special. But the developers purposely failed to learn the lessons of MMOs released since Final Fantasy XI, believing that they could carve their own path. I'm all for carving your own path, but do so with full understanding of the lessons that can be learned from others. But though I question the wisdom of it from a business perspective, I do have to give props to the perseverance of the developers, continuing to try their best to salvage the game where others might have long since dropped it. And who knows, maybe the PS3 release that's sure to come can help as not only do console players have far less choice between MMOs, their tastes are far less likely to be soured by a failure on PC.

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DC Universe Online (homepage)

In my previous post I didn't spend a whole lot of attention on DC Universe Online and that seems to have been the general reaction of the MMO community towards its release. Released in early 2011 there was a brief amount of interest, but that soon dropped away. With people being used to the extensive character customization in other superhero MMOs City of Heroes and Champions Online the choice of SOE to spread the available customization out left many feeling it was inadequate. The gameplay also didn't seem to be particularly compelling and the general consensus around release seemed to be that after the free month you'd have seen about everything the game had to offer. I also personally still believe that the game is completely missing the point of the popularity of the DC universe as now players will always feel that they're playing second-fiddle to the famous superheroes; players don't want to fight next to Batman, they want to be Batman.

With the game not doing as well as the developers might've hoped it is perhaps not that surprising that it has gone free-to-play already, less than a year after release. Something I feel it probably should have done from the start, but it had the misfortune of being released pretty much right in the middle of a major shift from subscription-based gaming to free-to-play. In its defense though it should also be noted that it is, as far as I'm aware, the first and so far only MMO to release on the PlayStation 3 and, as such, probably does quite reasonably.

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Rift: Planes of Telara (homepage)

Rift is probably the biggest success story of 2011 as far as MMOs goes (outside of SWTOR). While at first largely lukewarm, interest quickly increased late 2010 and early 2011 as Rift started holding a number of beta events. Cleverly they limited access to the beta to only a few days, meaning that players didn't have the chance to burn out on the game yet and keep them wanting more. And by the time the game released the interest was quite massive. Though it has since died down a lot and I'm not convinced that Rift is maintaining the retention it would've liked. I've heard a fair amount of discontent with the game later in and I get the impression that a lot of players left the game again fairly quickly. It still seems to do reasonably well for itself.

The gameplay itself is quite traditional, very similar to games like World of Warcraft, with skill bars and quests and standard crafting and such. Its most unique feature lies in its Rifts, which are dynamic monster spawns where players have to work together to fight waves of monsters before stopping the tide. Personally I found this mechanic to become tiresome after having done a couple of them, but I know a number of players were enjoying grouping together, going all across the map closing rifts and stopping invasions. Another unique feature lies in its skill system where players can basically select three skill trees in which to spend points, thus able to create their own classes from the smaller parts. And it offered a number of other, smaller, innovations which will likely become standard in future MMOs of its kind, like the area looting (looting multiple dead mobs in an area at once) which was a blessing.

Overall Rift seemed to be a decent and solid MMO that has managed, and probably still does manage, to entertain a fair number of players. Though I do have to wonder how long it will take for Rift to switch to a free-to-play model as well.

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Clone Wars Adventures (homepage)

Announced around the time I wrote my previous post, SOE's free-to-play Clone Wars Adventures has since been released. A Star Wars game set during the Clone Wars (and taking after the recent Clone Wars cartoon series) it sees players playing a variety of mini-games from tunnel shooters to tower defense to lightsaber combat (to shooting Jar Jar Binks through the air, trying to hit as many obstacles and explosives as possible). From what I've experienced of it some of the mini-games can be quite fun (I quite enjoyed both the tunnel shooter and the tower defense games), but it also feels like you quickly hit the wall of "pay to continue to play" with only the first few levels per mini game unlocked and the rest requiring payment to play. And though I'm all for developers making money, for me the mini games simply weren't enjoyable enough to pay for. In general, because of all these mini-games, the game felt like it lacked a cohesive whole (which something like Free Realms delivers much better).

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Battlestar Galactica Online (homepage)

I think that this game has released, though it could also officially still be in beta. Either way my interest in it is very low and the (very brief) time I've had with it didn't do anything to change it. The browser-based game has you fly in space as either human or cylon, shooting (computer controlled) enemies from the other faction. To me it feels like it's trying to cash-in on the popularity of the newer Battlestar Galactica series.

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2012 Releases

At the start of last year I thought that 2011 would be the year of the MMOs considering how many of them would launch that year. But in the end only very few were with the rest pushed into 2012 (and TOR launching so late in the year that it might as well have launched in 2012). So most of those games have now moved into the "near future" list. At the moment I expect all of the following MMOs to launch in 2012, but considering my track record with guessing launch dates it wouldn't surprise me if a number of them slipped into 2013. Even so, we have TOR to play, The Secret World will also likely make a 2012 release (they've announced a June 2012 release date) and Guild Wars 2 is said to release in 2012 as well. And considering that that's pretty much the top three expected MMOs 2012 is going to be an awesome year for MMO players.

Guild Wars 2 (homepage)

Last post I said that I was almost as excited for Guild Wars 2 as I was for The Old Republic. That has changed. Guild Wars 2 has been my most anticipated MMO for about a year-and-a-half now. Previously we had a few articles, some screenshots and one revealed profession. Since then we've had all the other professions, all five races extensively detailed (including a complete visual redesign for the sylvari), a manifesto video, lots of very impressive hands-on gameplay at shows, lots of videos, lots more articles, PvP demonstrations, underwater combat, crafting, etc. From the moment of the first playable demo during GamesCom 2010 up until the recent press beta Guild Wars 2 has been blowing everyone away. And on absolutely nothing have they been disappointing so far; everything looks absolutely fantastic.

And I'm not the only one who feels that way. Guild Wars 2 is pretty much constantly at the top of's most anticipated games list, people constantly bring up the game, and people continue to be blown away whenever ArenaNet shows the game anywhere. In addition well over a year ago ArenaNet released their Hall of Monuments calculator giving details of what Guild Wars 2 goodies people can unlock by playing Guild Wars 1 thus driving people back to play the older game in droves. Not only does this help keep their older game and community alive, it's also a brilliant way to give people something to do while waiting for the new game, thus also keeping interest high.

But even without that it's quite understandable that people are excited. It truly promises, and shows itself capable of offering, something different from the current flock of MMOs while still being familiar. It promises to fix a lot of what many perceive to be wrong with current MMOs. The boring, static and often hollow quest grind replaced with Dynamic Event that keep the world in flux, giving players a lot of freedom in what content to go through. The often uninteresting skill-bar based combat system refined to be more active and dynamic. Removal of obstructions to playing with others by removing trinity-based classes and ensuring that players always benefit from working together instead of competing over content. Absolutely stunningly beautiful graphics, but (supposedly) without insanely high system requirements. A flattening of the leveling curve and use of 'side-kicking' type systems to ensure that people can play together regardless of level. A wide variety of different types of activities to do (dynamic events, personal story, dungeons, competitive PvP, world PvP, crafting, mini-games, etc). Very deep character customization. I could keep going. But most of all, they're certainly not shy about letting players experience this themselves so that players can see that ArenaNet can deliver what they're promising. That alone helps to massively boost player confidence in the game.

Of course with all of that I can't help but fear that the game might disappoint. Get your hopes up too high and a game will never be able to meet them. And where with TOR I've managed these last couple of years to keep my excitement in check I find myself continually failing to do the same with Guild Wars 2. It doesn't help that when I got a chance to play the game myself for 40 minutes (during Eurogamer Expo) it was every bit as good as I expected it to be. Who knows, this game might actually be able to deliver on all its promises. Guild Wars 2 is slated for release in 2012 with (more) beta events in March and April.

  • [link] to Guild Wars 2 homepage.
  • [link] to ArenaNet blog.
  • [link] to manifesto video at YouTube.
  • [link] to Gamescom 2011 Trailer at YouTube.
  • [link] to Hall of Monuments calculator.
  • [link] to Guild Wars 2 Facebook page.
  • [link] Guild Wars 2 Guru fan community.
  • [link] to Guild Wars Insider news site.
  • [link] to Guild Wars 2 Wiki.
  • [link] to "why the developers love it" video at YouTube.
  • [link] to gameplay videos at YouTube.
  • [link] to press beta articles and videos at Guild Wars Insider.

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The Secret World (homepage)

Funcom has somewhat of a shaky track-record with MMOs. They've launched and continue to run two big MMOs: Anarchy Online and Age of Conan. But both were marred with problems on release. Though I can't speak for AO as I've little experience with it beyond a free trial here and there Age of Conan is one of the MMOs I've played most and thus are quite familiar with. But I think that it didn't do nearly as well as was hoped; after having a lot of pre-launch hype the ultimate game, and the many bugs still there on launch, disappointed many players.

Despite that interest is quite high for its next MMO, reportedly being released June this year, The Secret World. Set in a contemporary world where every conspiracy theory is true, every legend based on fact and every secret real it offers a breath of fresh air as far as MMO settings go. Conspiracy theory and secrets have always played to people's imaginations. And using the same engine as Age of Conan the game is at least set to look about as beautiful.

All that we already knew last time, but since then they've revealed more gameplay details and showed more gameplay in action. Though the combat seems fairly traditional MMO fare, they're using a fairly unique skills system where players could potentially learn every single skill in the game... but they can only have a couple equipped at a time (the closest system I know is that used by Guild Wars 1). And the game is going for a heavy story focus only allowing players to have three active quests at a time, but breaking long quest chains up in lots of little steps so that players can easily switch to another chain if desired. Most unique perhaps however is their choice to continue with the ARG-type gameplay they used to announce the game by having content that will require players to look for answers on the Internet (the game will have a built-in web browser). You might find a container number in the game, but will then have to search through real information online to get to a code used to unlock a chest hidden in the container. Some of these, they promise, might take the collective community a long time to break.

It remains to be seen how well this will work. It is pretty much a guarantee that the solutions will be available on various wikis and websites within hours of them being cracked, meaning that most players only have to check one site for the answers. It might give something to players wanting to be first to unlock it, but I question how much it really adds for the average player. But at least it's a unique idea.

Overall it looks like the game will be pretty good and might end up being better received than Age of Conan was, particularly if they can actually deliver a largely stable product at launch. But just as Age of Conan went free-to-play last year it's likely that The Secret World will too before too long (I give it two years) meaning that that might be a better time to check it out. Maybe I'm just saying that because I have a hard time getting really enthusiastic for the game, but maybe that's because it feels as if people are having too high expectations for the game. It wouldn't surprise me if the game ends up feeling far more traditional than people are really expecting right now. The Secret World is currently slated for a June 19, 2012 release.

  • [link] to The Secret World homepage.
  • [link] to The Secret World forums.
  • [link] to The Secret World Wiki.
  • [link] to The Secret World Facebook page.
  • [link] to cinematic trailer 4 at YouTube.
  • [link] to gameplay walkthrough at YouTube.
  • [link] to release date announcement at MMORPG.

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TERA: The Exiled Realm of Arborea (homepage)

Who comes up with these names? Anyway, Tera is one of those Korean Aion-look-alikes with very scantily clad, over-sexualized female characters and a vague anime aesthetic. Depending on your taste the graphics can be considered quite beautiful. But its main differentiating claim is their combat system going for real-time combat with hitboxes instead of tab-targeting and skill bars (I think Tera has a skill bar too for different kinds of attacks and spells, but they're all real-time). For the rest it looks to be a fairly standard MMO with picking up quests and beating up monsters.

That's what we knew last time, and really it seems as if not that much more has been revealed. Sure, they've released more gameplay videos and lore snippets, but to my feeling really nothing that sets it apart. The only exception to this is the extensive political system that it's said to include. Most important here is that the system is entirely player driven where players can become the leaders of the various provinces in the game. They can do this either socially by winning the votes of other players, or through PvP. Once in power the player gets complete control over the province, setting taxes, opening shops, turning PvP on/off, imprisoning other players, etc. Of course then it becomes a question of how well the player can stay in power.

The political system sounds interesting, but also something that's way out of my league and those like me. It sounds very much like a system for the select few instead of the general players. It might still influence how the game feels for the general players of course and is one of those longer-term systems that can keep a game interesting for longer (something which I feel TOR kind of lacks at the moment), a bit of sandbox in an otherwise very theme-park game.

Perhaps I'm being somewhat unfair. There has been a lot of information releases for the game. But I just personally have a very hard time scrounging up much interest for it. I might give it a try, but I suspect that I'll give it a pass. Either way the game has been announced for a May 1st release. That is, if the impending court action by NCSoft (accusing the developers of having stolen ideas and code while they worked for them on Lineage 3) doesn't throw a wrench into things. At least En Masse Entertainment doesn't seem to think it will (link currently not working).

  • [link] to TERA homepage (EU).
  • [link] to TERA homepage (US).
  • [link] to political system at Massively.
  • [link] to MMO-FO video at YouTube.
  • [link] to release date announcement at MMORPG.
  • [link] to legal issues news at Rock, Paper, Shotgun.

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Otherland (homepage)

When I first heard of Otherland it sounded interestingly strange to me. Based on Tad Williams' Otherland novels (which I still haven't read) the game promised to offer a virtual world within a virtual world where players manipulated code to change and advance their avatars and would be able to visit a myriad of diverse locales reaching from fantasy to sci-fi. The visuals seen can almost be described as psychedelic. But after the first announcements the game pretty much went dark and started to sound like nothing but vaporware.

But summer last year new details emerged in the form of a trailer, a behind-the-scenes video, a new website and a release date of "early 2012". And suddenly it is looking like this game might actually release. Though the details are still scarce it seems like an interesting game to keep an eye on. It is said to be a free-to-play game as I understand so it can't hurt to check it out. I'm personally quite curious how "MyLand" works where people can supposedly craft their own little virtual worlds. There's a lot of potential in the premise of the game, but I've got very much a wait-and-see attitude. For one, it might just simply be too weird for most people.

Then again, a movie might change that. The game is currently slated for a "2012" release.

  • [link] to Otherland homepage.
  • [link] to Tad Williams homepage.
  • [link] to trailer video at YouTube.
  • [link] to behind the scenes video 1 at YouTube.
  • [link] to behind the scenes video 2 at YouTube.
  • [link] to gameplay trailer video at YouTube.
  • [link] to movie news at Kotaku.

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Neverwinter (homepage)

In the previous post I talked briefly about a rumored Neverwinter Nights MMO supposedly being developed by Cryptic Studios (makers of Champions Online and Star Trek Online). Seeing as they were acquired by Atari who held the license this seemed a plausible rumor. And indeed the rumor proved to be true as a few months later Cryptic announced their game Neverwinter. Originally this was planned to be a cooperative online multiplayer game with a single city hub and various quest zones that players could group up to visit, something that didn't sound that dissimilar from the way Guild Wars 1 is set up. It would use the 4th edition rules of Dungeons & Dragons and would be set in the new Forgotten Realms (that's after the Spellplague for those familiar with the setting). And the intention was to provide players with tools, dubbed The Foundry, which would allow them to make their own adventures (which would hook into the main city hub) similar to how the custom content tools in Star Trek Online work.

I'm speaking in the past tense there because Neverwinter has had a troubled road. Atari decided to sell off Cryptic again after the lackluster performances of its two other titles. Cryptic was bought by Perfect World Entertainment who are best known for their free-to-play titles such as Rusty Hearts and War of the Immortals. With the acquisition the game was delayed to develop it as a fully-fledged free-to-play MMO. Additionally the gameplay would shift towards being more action-oriented (making the game sound a lot like Vindictus). As I understand The Foundry is still planned to be part of it. But I can't help but shake the feeling that the game is drifting further and further away from its roots.

Still, while the story trailer released since fails to really excite me it does provoke memories (at least the tavern bits in the very beginning) even if it doesn't feel like an adventure the way a D&D game should. And since it's looking likely that I might soon remove my blacklisting of WotC (I've had confirmation that a new rulebook released this summer will bring back Eilistraee) and with the game being free-to-play I might try it out after all. I'm just not expecting much. Neverwinter is currently slated for release Q4 2012.

  • [link] to Neverwinter homepage.
  • [link] to teaser trailer at YouTube.
  • [link] to story trailer at YouTube.
  • [link] to Perfect World buys Cryptic news at IGN.
  • [link] to delay and changes news at IGN.
  • [link] to story trailer at YouTube.

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End of Nations (homepage)

I didn't say much on this game last time and I won't say that much again now. That's mostly because this simply doesn't seem like my kind of game and as such I haven't been following the news around this game much at all. It's a unique premise at least, a Massive Multiplayer Online game, but a real-time strategy one instead of a roleplaying one. I'm not entirely sure that really works, but Trion is brave for trying at least. And it's going to be free-to-play so again no harm in giving it a try. Though personally I think I'll pass on this one.

  • [link] to End of Nations homepage.
  • [link] to trailer at YouTube.
  • [link] to presentation video at YouTube.
  • [link] to Cynical Brit coverage video at YouTube.
  • [link] to preview article at Massively.

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Salem (homepage)

Salem is what could be called an indie MMO, or at the least a very niche one. Announced last year and said to be released this year it's set in a "fantastical New England". It seems to be a sandbox-type game with a heavy focus on crafting. And despite its somewhat cutesy style features open PvP and permanent death, making it a quite hardcore game. But it is exactly those things (particularly being an MMO daring to include permanent death) that have drawn attention to it. As such it'll probably draw its audience and do well enough with it, but it'll take a particular kind of player to play it.

  • [link] to Salem homepage.
  • [link] to teaser trailer video at YouTube.
  • [link] to Witch trailer at YouTube.
  • [link] to Cynical Brit coverage video at YouTube.
  • [link] to permadeath news at Massively.
  • [link] to interview at MMORPG.

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Wizardry Online (homepage)

The original Wizardry games can be considered among the grandparents of modern computer roleplaying games. Having found particular popularity in Japan the series is being brought back in MMO form by a Japanese developer. Called Wizardry Online the game has been released in Japan already and it should release in Europe and North America in 2012. It is a free-to-play game with microtransactions.

The game seems a bit of a strange mix to me, with anime-style characters, Gothic European environments and what sounds like very hardcore rules. For example, if you die you have a chance to resurrect your body, but if you fail then you'll be permanently dead losing all your items (including any items you paid for with real money). And death will come easy due to the dangerous environments and the full PvP (with player corpse looting). Maps sound like they will work more like real-world maps, not showing your location or objectives.

I'm certain that the game will appeal to a very niche group of players, but for me their approach to death deeply turns me off. I reject the notion that permanent death in a game makes it more realistic; it just makes it more frustrating. At least if it comes as easily as it sounds like it will in Wizardry Online.

  • [link] to Wizardry Online homepage.
  • [link] to trailer vidoe at YouTube.
  • [link] to (Japanese) beta gameplay video at YouTube.
  • [link] to first look article at Massively.
  • [link] to (badly written) review of the Japanese version at MMOSite.

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Transformers Universe (homepage)

Transformers Universe is a browser-based, free-to-play MMO using the Transformers franchise. You can make your own transformer and play in PvE and PvP. For the rest not much more is known, but it can't possibly be a worse representation of the Transformers universe than the Michael Bay movies.

  • [link] to Transformers Universe homepage.
  • [link] to trailer at YouTube.
  • [link] to first look at YouTube.
  • [link] to announcement article at Destructoid.
  • [link] to sneak-peak article at MMORPG.

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Future Releases

The above shows a list of MMOs which are likely to launch in 2012 (though things can always get delayed). There are a lot more MMOs in development however. So this section shows MMOs that are in development for release after 2012. Of course as with all these lists this isn't an exhaustive list (regardless of how long it is), but a list of what seem to me the 'main' or most interesting ones.

"Torchlight MMO" (developer homepage)

The first Torchlight was a pretty good Diablo clone (one of the best in fact) that combined colorful graphics with fun gameplay. The main ingredient it lacked was multiplayer. The intention was that after the release of Torchlight developer Runic Games would focus on an MMO version. But plans change and now instead Runic Games is working on Torchlight 2 which looks to be to Torchlight 1 what Diablo 2 was to Diablo 1, getting out of the dungeon and into the open world. And most importantly it's said to include cooperative multiplayer. Torchlight 2 is looking like it'll be just as much fun as the first game.

The MMO version is still on the books as well, but with the focus on Torchlight 2 is being pushed back. Reportedly it's set to launch around the same time as Neverwinter (i.e. Q4 2012/early 2013), but with Torchlight 2 delayed into 2012 (it was first supposed to release by the end of 2011) I suspect that the MMO will be pushed back a bit as well. A year between the two games doesn't seem like a lot of time, even if you have two teams working on the two products.

The Torchlight MMO is said to not have a subscription fee. For the rest not much more is known as most of the focus has been on Torchlight 2. Usually there's little more than a "yes, we're still working on the MMO". The thumbnail image used above is a screenshot from Torchlight 2.

  • [link] to Runic Games homepage.
  • [link] to target release window at VideoGamer.
  • [link] to no subscriptions at Massively.
  • [link] to Max Schaefer interview at Massively.

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"Project Copernicus" (developer homepage)

Another one of the "we'll launch a single-player game for it first" MMOs is 38 Studios' MMO, currently still codenamed "Project Copernicus". The developers have just released the single-player roleplaying game Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning acting as a prelude to the MMO. And the game has had decent, though not stellar, reviews with people mostly lauding its combat system. The two games are said to be set in the same world, with the single player game setting the stage for events in the MMO (for one, I think it explains how players can keep coming back from the dead).

Reckoning currently also has a demo out (on Steam and Origin). The game has an art style that brings to mind Lionhead Studios' Fable games, a very action-oriented combat system not unlike console games such as God of War and a flexible class system. From my short experiences with the demo it feels a bit claustrophobic (the main character is way too prominent on screen for my tastes) and the controls are very console-y. I can't help but think that the game feels a bit older; it certainly doesn't seem as slick as a BioWare rpg or such. But even so I've enjoyed my time with it and will probably pick the game up at some point (in a Steam sale or such). It will also be interesting to see how the gameplay translates to an MMO.

At least it seems that the cooperation of an American Baseball player, a well known fantasy writer, a famous comic book artist and a successful computer RPG designer do at least manage to put together something decent, if not quite good. The thumbnail used above is a screenshot from Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning.

  • [link] to 38 Studios homepage.
  • [link] to Reckoning website.
  • [link] to Reckoning page at Steam.
  • [link] to expanded lore news at Massively.

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World of Darkness (developer homepage)

In the previous post the idea of a World of Darkness game was only a vaguely confirmed rumor. We knew that CCP, developer of EVE Online, was making it but that was it. But during The Grand Masquerade (White Wolf's fan convention) the MMO was officially announced, though outside the convention only a shakey-cam video recorded by one of the fans was available (and to this day CCP/White Wolf haven't released a better version). Details were very scarce though, both during this convention and the convention a year later. In part probably because the design is still very much in flux.

It's said to be based on Vampire: The Masquerade (instead of the newer Vampire: The Requiem) which is also what the two computer games have been based on and thus will be a a far more familiar setting to most players. It will be vampire-only to start (though you can apparently also play a mortal). It focuses on player politics and social interaction, said to mix "sandbox", "themepark" and "coffee shop" (think chatroom) playstyles. It will probably be a one-server world and have a strong focus on PvP. It will include "Final Death" (i.e. permanent death). It will use a Humanity stat to discourage griefing. And the seven basic clans (Toreadore, Ventrue, Tremere, Nosferate, Malkavian, Gangrel and Brujah) will be the only ones available to start. There are a few more details, but that's it in broad strokes.

On the development side it has been a turbulent year for CCP. After many years they finally started releasing bit of their "Incarna" expansion for EVE Online, allowing users to get out of their ships and walk around (technology important to World of Darkness as it is to use the same tech). They started with massively enhancing EVE's character creation and months later released a patch allowing players to walk around in their Captain's Quarters. But things didn't go well and due to this, microtransaction items introduced into EVE by CCP and a leaked internal newsletter (also containing World of Darkness 'info') things erupted in chaos. This had far-reaching consequences, causing the company to re-adjust its focus resulting in it firing roughly 20% of its workforce and delaying World of Darkness (continuing development with a smaller team) so that they can focus better on developing EVE Online.

That is somewhat disheartening news because it means that it'll take even longer before World of Darkness is going to be released. World of Darkness sounds very intriguing, there is a lot of hope that it will be a true roleplaying game. But there are also things that worry me about the game (such as PvP and permanent death; it really, really depends on how CCP implements those). Add to that the development troubles to the point that people are worried that it's just vaporware and it seems best not to put too many hopes on it yet. All hope is not lost, CCP have been talking about it since very recently, but we'll have to hear more first.

  • [link] to CCP Games homepage.
  • [link] to announcement shakey-cam video at YouTube.
  • [link] to Grand Masquerade 2010 info at RPG.
  • [link] to Grand Masquerade 2011 info at WoDNews.
  • [link] to beta EVE character creation demo at YouTube.
  • [link] to EVE Captain's Quarters demo at YouTube.
  • [link] to EVE microtransaction controversy at Massively.
  • [link] to leaked newsletter news at Massively.
  • [link] to EVE protests news at Massively.
  • [link] layoffs news at EVE Online.
  • [link] to video interview at GameSpy.

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Defiance (homepage)

Mentioned briefly in my previous post as "Syfy Action MMO", Defiance's claim to fame is that it's supposed to combine what happens in the MMO with what happens in a new SyFy channel TV series; the series will affect the MMO and what the players do in the MMO affects what happens in the series. And beyond that it's being developed by Trion Worlds, it's multi-platform and has "the intense action of a console third-person shooter" not much else is known at this point. Oh, and Grant Bowler plays the starring role in the TV series.

It sounds like a very ambitious venture. Combining an MMO with a TV series is ambitious enough, releasing it on three platforms is even more so (not a single MMO has released on PC, Xbox360 and PS3). Overall MMO developers tend to back away from releasing on console before release (only SOE has managed to release one on PS3 and I don't think any has on the Xbox360 yet). And shooter-type combat certainly would be no mean feat either. As such, I'm somewhat skeptical of this project and I suspect that some parts might fall away from it before launch. Or the interconnection with TV just isn't all that much and it turns to be just two different entertainment products that happen to be set in the same setting. But we'll see.

The last I heard it had a target date of "sometime in 2011", which obviously didn't happen. And I doubt that it'll be out in 2012 considering how little has been revealed so far.

  • [link] to Defiance homepage.
  • [link] to developer website.
  • [link] to star actor news at Massively.
  • [link] to E3 2011 details at MMORPG.
  • [link] to release target news at MMOSite.

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Warhammer 40K: Dark Millennium Online (homepage)

To be honest, I don't know much about Dark Millennium Online. I've never really been that interested in the 40K universe (except for a brief period of playing Necromunda) as it all just seemed big, burly, space marines. As such I've been pretty much ignoring most of the news about this game (and thus will keep this section short). I know that a number of people are quite excited about it (40K is fairly popular, probably more so than Warhammer's fantasy setting) and I'm certainly not averse to trying it (at least let me play an Eldar if not a Dark Eldar, not sure if those are included as player races). Though last I heard they're also going with the two-faction approach (which makes PvP much harder to balance as I understand).

Also there was some rumors that the game had been shelved, but THQ has denied this so far, but it has said that it needs financial help to finish the game. This I think is definitely one of those titles where there is more information out there, I just didn't have the interest to seek it out. The game currently has a suspiciously specific launch date of March 31st 2013 (though I can't currently find that date where Massively said they found it).

  • [link] to Dark Millennium Online homepage.
  • [link] to trailer at YouTube.
  • [link] to not shelved news at VG247.
  • [link] to financial help needed news at Gamasutra.
  • [link] to launch date at Massively.

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ArcheAge (homepage)

ArcheAge is another Korean MMO which has drawn some interest because it promised to offer more sandbox-type features than most current games. Though I think that it calls itself more of a hybrid sandbox/themepark game players are hungry enough for a high-quality sandbox game to take what they can get. The game also uses the CryEngine 3 graphics engine and boasts some absolutely stunning visuals.

It's set in a fantasy world with the usual fantasy races and boasts an extensive crafting system, including the ability to build houses and ships. Those ships in turn can engage in naval warfare. And there's siege warfare as well. Overall I get the impression that this game promises the kind of gameplay that people were expecting Age of Conan would deliver, but failed to. As far as I'm aware the game currently hasn't been announced for the Western markets yet and most publicity over here comes purely from fans following the Korean news and betas.

  • [link] to ArcheAge homepage.
  • [link] to ArcheAge Online fansite.
  • [link] to (unofficial) ArcheAge wiki.
  • [link] to beta preview video at YouTube.
  • [link] to You Shape the World article at MMOSite.

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WildStar (homepage)

WildStar was a surprise announcement last Gamescom. Developed by Carbine studio it drew attention due to the pixar-quality graphics of its cinematic trailer. Using a sci-fi setting with an almost fantasy feel to it they even showed off gameplay during Gamescom, allowing people to give it a try themselves.

So far they've revealed three races to play: humans, Aurin (with the bunny ears) and Granok (the big guy). And they've announced three classes: Warrior (using a blade), Spellslinger (using magic and guns) and Espers (using psychic abilities). But on top of race and class players also pick a "path": Explorer, Soldier, Scientist or Settler. These roughly map to the Bartle Types (Explorer, Killer, Achiever and Socializer respectively) and give abilities that aid the associated kind of gameplay; soldiers can trigger waves of monsters to fight and explorers can find hidden paths for example. And WildStar uses momentum mechanics to allow players to set their own pace, giving better rewards for pushing yourself further successfully.

Overall though WildStar so far comes across as a very traditional MMO (much as TOR did but without the license or storytelling to back it up). Though the paths and momentum sound nice they also sound like mere tweaks to the system and not really something to change how the game plays. And I'm personally worried that trying to fit players into the strict Bartle types doesn't really work. I might be an explorer one day and a socializer the next and I'd rather not tie myself down to one. As far as I'm aware WildStar currently doesn't have an announced release date (though I doubt it'll launch in 2012).

  • [link] to WildStar homepage.
  • [link] to cinematic trailer at YouTube.
  • [link] to gameplay video at YouTube.
  • [link] to preview article at Eurogamer.
  • [link] to paths information at WildStar Central.
  • [link] to momentum article at WildStar Central.

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PlanetSide 2 (homepage)

I can be fairly brief about Planetside 2 as well since I again don't know that much about it. Developed by SOE it is a sequel to their first MMOFPS, mixing first-person shooter gameplay with an MMO world. The game is said to have three factions (I think players can join any of those three as three-way PvP is easier to balance) and it will have vehicle combat. And the game will be free-to-play. And that's really about all I know. As far as I'm aware no release date has been announced yet.

  • [link] to PlanetSide 2 homepage.
  • [link] to trailer at YouTube.
  • [link] to free-to-play post at PlanetSide Universe.
  • [link] to vehicles webcast at YouTube.

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Lineage Eternal: Twilight Resistance (developer homepage)

Lineage Eternal, also known as Lineage 3, is NCSoft's sequel to Lineage 2. Next to the usual better graphics it boasts large-scale battles, making heavy use of the environment and a kind of system to draw spells with your mouse. It'll use a isometric viewpoint during battles (much like the Diablo games) making it a fair departure from Lineage 2 and closer to Lineage 1.

Things haven't been going well though. Apparently several former developers sold the source code to a competitor with NCSoft claiming damages over a billion dollars. From the looks of it this competitor is Bluehole, developers of Tera, and the battle rages on. Still, considering that they announced the game last year, years after the theft, one can only assume that development is still continuing. As far as I'm aware no release date has been announced (nor has release been confirmed for the west).

  • [link] to NCSoft homepage.
  • [link] to announcement news at World of Warkraft.
  • [link] to (gameplay) trailer at YouTube.
  • [link] to preview article at IGN.
  • [link] to source stolen news at Kotaku.

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Blade & Soul (homepage)

Blade & Soul is another Korean MMO, focusing on martial arts. Featuring four humanoid races and eight classes and the usual somewhat overly-sexy models. So far that I've seen though the most unique feature seems to be the travel abilities that at least some of the classes have, allowing gliding and such to cover larger distances more quickly. I think that the game has been released in Korea by now and I saw a target release date of Q4 2012 for the west, but not sure how accurate or up-to-date that is.

  • [link] to Blade & Soul homepage.
  • [link] to trailer at YouTube.
  • [link] to preview at IGN.

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Age of Wushu (homepage)

In my previous post I briefly mentioned "Project E:st", mentioning that I liked the atmosphere and music of the teaser trailer. Since then the project has been renamed to "Age of Wulin" or "Age of Wushu" depending on where you live ("Wulin" being used in Europe and China). I must say that that not knowing much about either it looks very similar to Blade & Soul in style, gameplay and theme to me, right down to having similar martial-arts inspired travel abilities. Put them next to each other and I'm not sure I'd be able to keep them apart. A lot of the atmosphere I loved so much in the teaser trailer I can't really find anymore in the later footage. Which is a pity.

  • [link] to Age of Wushu US homepage.
  • [link] to Age of Wulin EU homepage.
  • [link] to teaser trailer at YouTube.
  • [link] to trailer at YouTube.
  • [link] to cities tour video at GameSpot.
  • [link] to Chinese closed beta started news at Massively.

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Unveiled: The Supernatural (developer homepage)

Another game that, I think, fairly little is known about right now. It's mostly been compared to the delayed World of Darkness, mainly because of having a similar present-day horror theme with vampires I guess. Next to Vampire the other three races players can play are Hunter, Witch and Werewolf and the game has PvE and PvP. There are no classes, but there are skill trees for things like using magic and weapons. It's a Korean game, but seems to be far more western in style than what we're used to seeing out of Korean games. Might be interesting to fill the void before World of Darkness, but somehow I doubt that it'll offer what makes WoD interesting to me (hint: vampires aren't what make WoD sound interesting).

  • [link] to Maverick Studios homepage.
  • [link] to trailer at YouTube.
  • [link] to announcement at MMO Culture.

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"Project Hendrix" (developer homepage)

It's been rumored for a while that Turbine is working on a console MMO, apparently with the help of Twisted Pixel. Then there are rumors of an MMO said to be codenamed "Project Hendrix" for PS3, Xbox360 and PC. Trying to put the pieces together it looks like Twisted Pixel helped with a console-exclusive MMO, but the MMO was canceled before it was announced and now they're either working on something new (which might or might not be an MMO) or picked development up again (likely with a lot of changes and also bringing it to PC). Who knows. But at least it seems that something new might be cooking in Turbine's kitchens.

  • [link] to Turbine Games homepage.
  • [link] to Twisted Pixel rumor at Massively.
  • [link] to Project Hendrix rumor at Gamespot.

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"Titan" (developer homepage)

Rumors of a new MMO in development by Blizzard have been flying for a while as well (ever since 2007), something that isn't a clone of World of Warcraft. After a leaked product slate the codename "Titan" became known and ever since used to refer to Blizzard's unannounced MMO. It's said to be something fresh, have a broader appeal (than WoW) and have ingame advertising. Blizzard themselves have been tight-lipped, which is understandable. They've been focusing on Starcraft and Diablo 3 and obviously don't want to draw too much attention away from World of Warcraft yet either. But with Diablo 3 set to release this year perhaps more information, or an official announcement at least, will be forthcoming next BlizzCon. Which it sounds like will not be until 2013.

  • [link] to Blizzard Entertainment homepage.
  • [link] to MMO development news at 1UP.
  • [link] to leaked product slate at Curse.
  • [link] to something fresh news at Ars Technica.
  • [link]to broader appeal news at Gamespot.
  • [link] to ingame advertising news at GameFront.

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"EverQuest Next" (developer homepage)

Where Blizzard chooses to go with a new IP, SOE firmly stays with its existing one for its next fantasy MMO. Currently named EverQuest Next the MMO is said to be a re-imagining of the franchise (instead of a sequel or prequel). Next to this and it using the same engine as Planetside 2 (giving it some particularly concept-art looking ingame graphics) nothing much is known about it yet. Considering that EverQuest was once pretty much the biggest MMO one has to wonder if EverQuest Next can recapture some of that old glory.

  • [link] to Sony Online Entertainment homepage.
  • [link] to announcement news at Gamespot.
  • [link] to ingame art at Massively.
  • [link] to Force Light Engine news at EverQuest Next fansite.

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Marvel Heroes (homepage)

Originally there was a Marvel Universe in development by Cryptic Studios. But things fell through and Cryptic changed the game into Champions Online. Then Marvel developed Super Hero Squad Online which is more of a kids game, looking as if there wouldn't be a Marvel MMO for adult players. But then they announced Marvel Universe Online, which later got renamed to Marvel Heroes.

Now, in the bit above on DC Universe Online I've said that I feel that the developers didn't really get the appeal of their franchise, that people are drawn to the DC universe for its superheroes and not for being next to the famous superheroes. Sure, people like creating their own superheroes too, but there are already games for that and the setting doesn't offer anything specific above that. Marvel Heroes, on the other hand, does seem to get it as they've announced that you'll be playing as the Marvel superheroes (like Spiderman, Ironman, Thor, Wolverine, etc). How that's going to work in an MMO setting with every player playing one of these remains to be seen; they haven't announced how they're doing that yet. But they have said that the game will have more Marvel heroes than any game before.

The game will also be free-to-play, making it the first western MMO built from the ground up as a free-to-play game. And the game will be using the Unreal 3 engine. Beyond that, and the reveal that Doctor Doom will be the major villain, nothing much else is known. Not even a target release date. But it will be interesting to see what kind of game this becomes. Now it's just a question of which superheroine I would want to play.

  • [link] to Marvel Heroes homepage.
  • [link] to Marvel Massively Multiplayer Society homepage.
  • [link] to first details at Marvel.
  • [link] to renaming news at ComicsAlliance.
  • [link] to Gazillion interview at YouTube.
  • [link] to Unreal engine news at Massively.

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Shadowrun Online (developer homepage)

The cyberpunk fantasy setting of Shadowrun is generally much beloved, but not all that well known. Now Cliffhanger Productions, developers of Jagged Alliance Online, have the rights to the setting and are developing an MMO with it. At least I think it's an MMO as I couldn't find clear confirmation. Either way it focuses on tactical gameplay (probably with turn-based combat and real-time otherwise) involving stealth, hacking, magic and gunfights. It will be browser based and run on microtransactions. It seems that outside of the missions one won't walk around in the world but instead deal with a world map where players can prepare for missions. And they've assembled a group of former Shadowrun writers and other Shadowrun alumni to help make sure that it stays true to Shadowrun.

It actually looks quite interesting, though as said I'm not entirely certain if it qualifies as an MMO. I get the impression that it seems closer to Guild Wars 1 in setup, just without the outposts. And it seems that you control a squad of characters at once. But it might be a lot of fun. The current target release date is "between January and March 2013".

  • [link] to Cliffhanger Productions homepage.
  • [link] to announcement newsletter at Cliffhanger Productions.
  • [link] to Q&A at Cliffhanger Productions.
  • [link] to (German) video interview with gameplay footage at Buffed.

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Deadlands Online (developer homepage)

I actually noticed this game as I was doing some research for Shadowrun Online above. It seems those developers are also working on Deadlands Online (and Jagged Alliance Online, which maybe I should've listed as well). There is pretty much no information on it (the only thing I could find was a video interview in German and my German isn't good enough to understand it), but the video does show brief glimpses of the game and it looks similar to their other two games as far as gameplay goes. It will likely be a tactical, browser based, action RPG. Deadlands itself is a fairly little known roleplaying game (though I do have one of the source books for it) combining a weird Western setting with horror and some steampunk. Could be a fun game as well, though just as their other two games I'm not entirely sure it classifies as what people generally consider an MMO.

  • [link] to Cliffhanger Productions homepage.
  • [link] to (German) video interview (with very brief gameplay teases) at YouTube.

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Pathfinder Online (developer homepage)

Last year a surprise announcement came when it was let known that newly formed studio Goblinworks would be creating a Pathfinder MMO. Pathfinder is Paizo's pen-and-paper roleplaying game system based on D&D 3.5E including some major changes (it's often referred to as 3.75E). Originally Paizo published the "Dragon" and "Dungeon" magazines for Wizards of the Coast, until the latter decided not to renew the license (probably because they were planning to roll them into their D&D Insider program). Paizo launched Pathfinder after that. Right around that time Wizards of the Coast published D&D 4E, but many old-time fans were very unhappy with the changes wrought by the new rules and chose to move to Pathfinder instead. Rumor has it that Pathfinder is currently actually outselling D&D, but that's unsubstantiated.

As for the MMO, currently I'm strongly getting a vibe of "fantasy EVE" from it. They're making a number of controversial decisions with it (which can be read in detail on their blog). On launch they're planning to greatly limit how many people can play (they've said only 4500 players), increasing it by that amount on a monthly basis. It seems that they'll be happy with about 100,000 players eventually. They're going to make a sandbox-style game with some themepark-style adventures. Instead of creating a large part of the world by creating some key locales and then having travel between them (as most MMOs do) they focus on a relatively very small part of the Pathfinder world and create more of a one-to-one representation. A lot of this landscape is to be filled in by the players. They're also not following the class-based approach of the Pathfinder (and D&D) rules but are instead using a skill-based approach (inspired by EVE) and have 'development paths' (which correspond to the classes) in them. And perhaps most controversial of all they're including player corpse runs and corpse looting by which players could lose their entire (unequipped) inventory. They're also using an extensive bounty system to allow people to take revenge against player killers.

Even so, with all that, the game sounds like it could be really interesting. The amount of sandbox games have been few and far between (and the number of quality ones even more so). So it's welcome to see another one. But as so many other sandbox games it also sounds like it will be a very hardcore, cutthroat environment where only the most dedicated players will be able to survive and thrive. It depends on how the gameplay is implemented and how widespread the PvP is (the wording suggest most places don't have unrestricted PvP). At the very least it's an interesting game to keep an eye on.

  • [link] to Goblinworks homepage.
  • [link] to Pathfinder Online blog.
  • [link] to Pathfidner Online FAQ.

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Game of Thrones (homepage)

Announced quite recently, it seems Bigpoint (makers of the Battlestar Galactica MMO) aren't done with milking popular franchises by making MMOs for them. Because now they're apparently working on a free-to-play browser-based MMO using George R.R. Martin's popular fantasy setting.

As you can probably tell from my tone I'm not expecting much from this one. Maybe it's the term "browser based" which invokes feelings of a sub-par product that needs to appeal to the masses. Or maybe it's that the developers seem to have a thing for taking popular tv series and turning them into MMOs (yes, I know Game of Thrones was a book first, but this seems timed way too close to the popular tv series to be a coincidence). Or maybe I'm just cynical. Either way, expect more details during GDC.

  • [link] to Game of Thrones homepage.
  • [link] to announcement at USA Today.
  • [link] to GDC debut news at Massively.
  • [link] to news at Rock, Paper, Shotgun.

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Off the Radar

The above list shows a lot of exciting MMOs coming up, a number of which were quite a surprise when announced. But unfortunately not all surprises were good. What follows is a list of MMOs which either have been canceled or which I haven't heard from for so long that I'm not sure they're still in development. Of course for all of them it is quite possible that they might see a release yet. Canceled MMOs could be picked up again and maybe some of the others have just been flying very under the radar. But right now I'm not expecting to see any of the following anytime soon.

I won't be providing a list of links with these; any relevant links (i.e. ones showing that the MMO was canceled and such) will be in the text.

"Wheel of Time MMO" (developer homepage)

I made quite an excited post when a Wheel of Time MMO was announced. I quite enjoyed the books and was much looking forward to playing an Aes Sedai. But beyond that original news and the news that they'd partnered with EA nothing more was heard. And with the developer's website not having been updated in nearly three years I think it's safe to say that this one isn't going to happen. Which is a pity. But then again, considering the developers being such an unknown factor I wasn't expecting much to begin with.

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Fallout Online (developer homepage)

Unlike the previous game, which hasn't been heard from in years, Fallout Online was in the news a lot. And unfortunately most of it wasn't good. Originally the owner of the Fallout IP Interplay sold most of the rights to Bethesda before finally selling all of it. But they kept the right to make a Fallout MMO provided that they met certain stipulations (starting development by a certain date, getting funding by a certain date, releasing by a certain date, etc). And when Bethesda blew life back into the franchise with Fallout 3, being much more successful than probably anyone expected, Interplay had what many considered a golden ticket in their hands.

But things didn't go well with Interplay and Bethesda sued them over breach of contract when it looked like they might've missed their first date. What followed was a long a protracted legal back-and-forth between the two publishers lasting many years. It was clear that Bethesda wanted the full rights to Fallout back while Interplay wasn't willing to give up what little they held on to. While all this was going on development on the MMO seemed to continue to the point that they even launched a website (which now seems defunct) inviting people to sign up for a coming beta and showing art from the game, giving hope to gamers wishing to explore more of the Wastelands everywhere.

Alas, it was not to be. Early this year it was revealed that the two parties had finally reached a settlement. The full rights of the game were to revert back to Bethesda and Interplay got a few million for their trouble. And that's it. The end.

Well, maybe not. Though all of the following is purely speculation on my part. To me it seems a waste of development to just throw everything away. So perhaps Interplay can bring back the MMO that they were working on in another form. It might not be Fallout, but that doesn't mean that there can't be other post-apocalyptic MMOs. Maybe they'll look to get the license to the Wasteland IP or such (which Fallout was based on to begin with). Who knows, but as we've seen with Cryptic's Champions Online (once Marvel Universe) losing a license doesn't have to mean the end of the MMO. Interplay's page at least still shows a "Project: V13", which was generally believed to be the Fallout MMO. It's also possible that Bethesda (or rather ZeniMax Online) will develop their own Fallout MMO now that they've got the license back. In either case though, it'll likely be years before we hear anything.

Perhaps it's for the best in the end. All these strict deadlines, the restrictions and all that money needed to fight the legal battles, can't have been good for the game. It really felt a bit as if Interplay was just trying to hurriedly put something together in the hopes of cashing in a bit on the Fallout name, and that's just not going to lead to a good game. Now perhaps, if a Fallout MMO is still in the cards, it can be given the attention that it deserves.

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"Elder Scrolls MMO" (developer homepage)

We're staying with Bethesda for a bit. Originally there was speculation that Bethesda (or rather ZeniMax Online which is the MMO developer in the group of companies that Bethesda belongs to) was working on an Elder Scrolls MMO. There seemed to be various things pointing in that direction, though some of those probably referred to The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, which wasn't know of at the time but has since been released. And now that the Fallout IP reverted back to Bethesda it's anyone's guess what ZeniMax Online is working on. It could be Fallout, it could be Elder Scrolls, it could be something completely different. I still expect to hear from them one of these days, but considering that we haven't even had any rumors for an Elders Scrolls MMO in years I'll wait until I hear something more before speculating further.

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The Agency (developer homepage)

In a move that seemed very odd to me SOE announced that they were canceling The Agency. The Agency was a spy-themed MMO and based on that alone quite unique. But it was also to use first-person shooter gameplay (which not many MMOs use) and supposedly communicate with the players outside of the game by sending emails and twitter messages and such. But what makes it really odd was that supposedly the game was weeks away from release. It seems to me that if you already put that much money into developing it, then at least give it a chance and get some return on your investment. But no, instead SOE chose to devote more resources to PlanetSide 2 and EverQuest Next. Now, granted, I wasn't all that interested in The Agency. But those two other MMOs interest me even less. At least The Agency sounded like something fresh and new and instead they chose to focus on rehashing older games (that are also much further away from making them some money back). Weird.

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Hero's Journey (developer homepage)

I originally heard about Hero's Journey because it was the MMO being made by the developer (Simutronics) also developing the engine used by BioWare's The Old Republic. But even at the time nothing had been heard from the MMO in years and that hasn't changed since then. In fact, the original page on the developer's homepage for the MMO seems to have disappeared, so it's probably safe to assume that the MMO isn't happening anymore. According to Wikipedia development has stopped.

What might've happened is that the developers were developing the engine and the MMO pretty much at the same time, and when BioWare decided to license the engine they shifted focus to developing that (I expect that the move on BioWare's part created a lot of interest in the technology, in fact that seems to be exactly what happened; Simutronics might not have been fully aware of what they had before). But with the development shifted to the engine work on the MMO stalled and eventually evaporated.

Of course that's just speculation on my part. But it's probably not that far off the mark. Either way, I didn't know enough about the MMO to be sad for its passing and in fact think that the engine technology will likely help in only bringing us more good MMOs.

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"Buffy the Vampire Slayer MMO" & "Firefly MMO" (developer homepage)

I'm picking these two together because they were both in development by Multiverse (though I think that they were focusing most efforts on the Buffy one). And last year the news came that Multiverse shut down, ceasing development on both games. The same day as that news broke news came that the newly formed Multiverse Foundation acquired the source code and would (probably) continue development on the Firefly MMO.

The problem is of course that they're a group of volunteers, working in their spare time, and that they don't actually have the rights to use the IP. There is another project like that also working on an MMO (at least presumably they still are). But for both it seems incredibly unlikely that they will actually see the light of day. At least as a Firefly game. And even then probably not to the AAA quality (which they simply don't have the budget for) that would best do the franchise justice.

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My, that's a lot of MMOs. And I'm sure that's not all (I purposely left out a lot of korean MMOs like Bless since my comments on them would all be pretty much the same). A lot of them are said to be released this year too. I'm also sure that there's still a number of MMOs being worked on that we don't know anything about (for instance ZeniMax Online has to be working on something). Of course as the list above also shows nothing is guaranteed. Even if an MMO is only weeks away from release it can still get canceled. Legal issues and such can keep an MMO from seeing the light of day. And some might just quietly fade into the background never to be heard form again.

Overall though the list offers a lot of variety. There's subscription-based MMOs, free-to-play MMOs, browser-based MMOs, etc. There's numerous genres and playstyles, going so far as branching out into first-person shooters and real-time strategy. There are MMOs that seem more suitable for casual players and MMOs that seem better suited for hardcore players. In short, there should be something there for everyone. And that's not even counting the many, many MMOs currently already available which all also continue to expand.

For me, the most exciting game in the list at the moment is Guild Wars 2, to the point that everything else seems to pale somewhat in comparison. A lot of the other MMOs sound interesting to me as well though, particularly World of Darkness though that's based more on my imagination of what could be as opposed to what we know about the game. And similarly there are of course a number of MMOs that don't interest me much at all. That doesn't mean that they're bad at all, just that they don't appeal to my personal tastes. I feel that discussions of which MMO is 'better' are always rather silly because it depends so much on each individual's personal preferences.

I think that's important to keep in mind. Each game appeals to different sensibilities and we play them for different reasons. Personally I'm looking forward to Guild Wars 2 mostly because it appeals to me on a couple of different levels. It appeals to me on artistic grounds, it appeals to me on the ground of its fluid cooperation with others, it appeals to me as an explorer and it appeals to my wallet. But that doesn't mean that I don't find appeal in other games too; World of Darkness primarily appeals to me for its roleplaying potential. Neverwinter appeals to me for its settings (which I have a history with) and the potential of its user generated content. Otherland appeals to be because of its, well, weirdness. And so on.

In that sense I also feel that The Old Republic offers something to people. Despite games like The Secret World and Guild Wars 2 also doing story telling, The Old Republic I feel offers it in a way that's appealing on its own merits. One might even argue that it does it 'better', but that too depends on how you prefer your stories to be told. Despite the amount of competition on the horizon, despite the competition already there, I do think that The Old Republic will be able to hold its own. Sure, people likely will leave when they find another MMO that appeals to them more; maybe some players prefer Tera's approach to combat over TOR's for example. And some people might leave TOR when they feel it has scratched their particular itch enough; I expect to leave TOR myself once I feel that the stories are done. But that choice, I think, is good for players as long as we can see it as a personal preference and not as a declaration of one game being better than the other.

Either way it seems to me that this is a golden time for those who enjoy playing MMOs and if the list above is any indication then it's looking like things will only get better.

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