Over a year ago I wrote about that 2009 could potentially be the year of SciFi MMOs. Well, that did not quite haappen.
Of more than 10 games mentioned there are only two that has been released this year – Champions Online and Fallen Earth. Personally I do like both games and I am glad that there was something non-fantasy released. But for the rest, maybe there are some hope for next year?
- Stargate Worlds seems to more or less have died, or at leat gone into hibernation. There has been rumors that the developers switched to work on a shooter instead named Stargate:Resistance. Probably not much hope here.
- Jumpgate Evolution is in beta it seems, so there is at least a somewhat high probability that it will show up before the end of 2010.
- Black Prophecy from Reakktor (makers of Neocron) is not yet in beta and seems to aiming for a similar target to Jumpgate Evolution I think. The screenshots look nice.
- Earthrise does look promising to me and may be a future rival to Fallen Earth, both being post-apocalyptic and a bit sandboxy. This one probably has the edge in terms of graphics, ramains to be seen what the gameplay will be.
- Mechscape is no more. Instead Jagex, the makers decided to start with a new/different MMO instead, although still with a SciFi oriented theme – Stellar Dawn. This may just be a matter of changing the name, or perhaps a bit more. Not exactly crystal clear.
- Star Trek Online – this game is currently in closed beta and scheduled for release in February 2010. This is the game that is probably most certain to be released in 2010 of the titles mentioned in this post. I am not a Trekkie or a big Star Trek fan, but I am interested in seeing what Cryptic will come up with, since the time in development has been relatively short compared to many other MMOs.
- Blackstar was a SciFi MMO in development by Space Time Studios, but after NCSoft dropped out as a publisher they struggled. Not sure what state this game is not, but they seem to have a vampire-themed “freemium” MMO in an alpha stage as far as I can tell, Empire of Night. And they seem to have started to do stuff on iPhone as well.
Not mentioned in my 2009 post, but probably worth mentioning here (maybe there will be something in 2010…):
- Global Agenda – shooter/spy action MMO in SciFi setting. This one is in beta now and seem to be progressing well. I liked their No Elves video and the game does look neat, although not quite sure if this will be the game for me.
- Star Wars – The Old Republic. Many people seem to be excited about this one. I think this may still be uncertain for 2010, although they do seem to do a good job marketing wise. I have only briefly played one Bioware game before (Neverwinter Nights), so I do not share the built-in enthusiasm many other seem to have here. But I am curious to see what they do with the Star Wars franschise.
Hopefully most of these that are still worked on will release sometime in 2010…
The Stargate Worlds website has a nice video podcast where they talk about the flamethrower weapon they intend to introduce in the game. Excellent to see that they put some humour into it
Many blog discussions and topics seem to have been centered around some fantasy games and expansions from Mythic Entertainment, Funcom and Blizzard this year. Not that many and not something I share a few others excitement for.
Next year seems to have potential for more interesting prospects though and this in the SciFi area of MMOGs:
- Stargate Worlds seems to be aiming for an early 2009 release. Based on the Stargare SG-1 TV series, one of the things they emphasize is their strong story content. They are taking beta applications, over 150000 has reportedly signed up so far.
- Jumpgate Evolution is space oriented SciFi MMOG, where NetDevil has based it on their old Jumpgate game and then work to make an improved and evolved version of it. Seems much a combat and trade oriented game with player driven economy. They are taking beta applications.
- Black Prophecy seems also to be a space oriented game, from Reakktor – creators of Neocron/Neocron 2. I have not seen much information abouth this game. Screenshots on their site looks spectacular. They are taking beta applications.
- Earthrise is a game with a postapocalyptic theme from Masthead Studios. Character development is purely skill oriented, promises player driven economy and extensive crafting and territorial PvP.
- MechScape is a new MMO from JagEx, creators of RuneScape. It will likely be a browser-based MMORPG like RuneScape
Depending on who you ask, some would also put superhero games like Champions Online and DC Universe Online as SciFi games, both which seem to be aiming for 2009. So far there has only been two games released in this area and these have been siamese twins with each other, so one may argue that they are just one game. SciFi has a broad definition, so it certainly can include these games as well, although it may not be what everyone thinks of when talking about SciFi.
Some other SciFi games being developed have not had any release plans announced yet. Fallen Earth developers says it is ready when it is ready. Cryptic Studios will likely announce a SciFi game in development in a week, which many belive may be Star Trek Online. BlackStar is the game from Space Time Studios which may still be looking for a publisher. These may not be released during 2009 though.
It does show some potentially exciting future in the area of MMORPGs, at least for us who would be very happy to play more SciFi oriented games rather than the fantasy themes that are currently dominating.
I would not be surprised if there are more games than these, but these were those that I could think of right away that I have seen mentioned.
Recently a discussion on the topic of whether MMORPGs should have official forums or not have popped up again, for example at Common Sense Gamer and The Ancient Gaming Noob and triggered by posts related to Stargate Worlds and Warhammer Online.
In my opinion, the question is a bit larger than whether a game forum has some kind of “offocial” tag to it or not. It is about communication and interaction between the players and the game companies and their people involved in creating these MMORPGs (not just developers in my mind). That may include game forums, but does not have to.
There are two primary goals involved in this community communication:
- The game development representatives would ideally like a representative view from the player base about good and bad things in their game, presented in a coherent and to the point manner.
- The players want their concerns, pet peeves, hopes and wished addressed by the game development representatives and also be pleasantly surprised.
Neither is going to happen and co-exist completly. What one may wish and strive for is some approximation of these goals that may give either side at least some sense of benefit.
A problem with forums, regardless of their status, is that it is likely to not be a representative view of the player base. It is a vocal minority. A lot of people will not expose their views and opinions to the scutiny of their gaming peers. A larger, silent minority/majority may read forums to try to get useful information that may help with #2 above. Another big group just play the game, maybe check some web sites related to the game.
In order to achieve an approximation of goal #2 for a lot of players, a reasonably good approximation of goal #1 is needed. Official game forums and web sites have been the closest so far and at least something that has worked in the past. As player demographic and market size and type changes, this may no longer be true.
Tabula Rasa took a step here to try to change this; they do not have any single official forum (but still an official web site). Their development representatives are visible in a number of community-driven forums though, it seems a few of them each have taken on some of the major community forums to some extent at least. And also importantly, they have included other alternate means of communication through feedback forms on their official web site – another way to communicate from players to the game representatives. They also have a weekly Feedback Friday entry on their web site where various items are addressed every week, which is also available as a link in the game launcher.
I think the latter is a good feature and is something that easily can reach pretty much every player of the game. Their feedback forms is also a good idea I think, but would be nicer if it were available in-game also in an easily accessible manner. It would also be good to provide some feedback on how it is used back to the players and perhaps presetn some statistics. All to show that is used and can make a difference – assuming that is the case.
I’d love to see the Tabula Rasa people comment on how their approach have worked out for them. Personally I like the type of info they present and the rate of change and updates they do to the game; have their community communication approach helped or hindrered them? For some people (in particular forum players) it may be worse than what they hoped for, but possibly for a number of other players it may be better.
The fact that a number of to-be-released games are considering alternative options do indicate that there is not just happiness and joyfulness for the current norm and there are concerns if they can do better.
Is taking the lore and story lines from other media and adapting it to the MMOG sphere a successful approach?
There has been a few attempts so far – Star Wars Galaxies, Matrix Online and Lord of the Ring Online comes to mind. The two former mainly coming from the movie business and the latter from fantasy litterature.
The Star Wars and Matrix efforts have probably less than the expected playerbase today. Lord of the Ring Online seem to be do fairly good at least, but I think it is still to early to judge.
There are some more coming up, like Marvel Universe Online, Star Trek Online and Stargate Worlds and probably a few more which I do not know about of have forgotten. Then we have some that might fall somewhere in between, like God & Heroes which is based on perhaps primarilyRoman mythology but likely have used some creative freedom in adjusting the stories to adapt to the gameplay.
Where am I going with this? I must say that I am a bit sceptic when it comes to media cross-overs like this, in particular when there is a strong control factor in favour of the non-MMOG medias. I think this has been the case with Star Wars Galaxies and is a situation that Turbine faces with Lord of the Ring Online as well.
Just as most movie adaptations of books often tend to be a bit of a disappointment for readers, this can probably happen when moving to MMOG space from other media as well. A key here I think is when moving story lines and lore to MMOG space is to continue to develop the lore in that space, together with the previous media. The MMOGs cannot just adapt to fit within the frames of the existing lore from the other media, it must be developed further in MMOG space.
Lucas have a quite strong control element in what happens with the Star Wars brand and I am not quite sure they have been that interested in moving the lore and developing it in the MMOG space. This is by far not the only problem SWG have had, but I think this has been a contributing factor to the troubles the game have had.
For Matrix Online I think there was an effort to develop the lore within the MMOG space as well and that game has still not been doing well. But the lore cross-over factor is just one factor.
I think the longevity of LotrO might potentially be a problem as well. JRR is not around to help develop the story line and while there is much material to work from, Turbine is still restricted in fitting it in the existing litterature. It may last for a while, but I think it may have trouble sticking around for as long as other games with original lore. Ultima Online has been around for 10 years, Anarchy Online for 6 years and Everquest falls in between. All of these games will likely be around for a couple years more. If they are shut down it is not because of the lore, but for other reasons (outdated graphics and game mechanics comes to mind).
Of the later coming games it seems that at least Stargate Worlds and Marvel Universe Online are going in the direction of developing the lore within the MMOG space, which I think is a good thing and that these games may end up successful also in the long run.
Will this be different for different markets also? In the Western hemisphere PvE and lore focused gameplay have had more success, while it is more PvP oriented in the East and possibly also less focus on the lore. Going for existing players/customers, the cross-ver development is probably being more important in the West. But will it be for future potential players/customers as well?
What do you think?