The short answer is no, STO fans shouldn't panic, particularly with all the improvements Cryptic Studios have up their sleeves. STO's days aren't numbered, per se, any more than all MMOs' days are numbered. The MMO market seems to grow more crowded and cutthroat every month, and that saturation maybe isn't such a great thing for the longevity of particular MMOs. I think it certainly cramps the breathing room developers sometimes count on to stabilize their games and to build a dedicated audience.
Science fiction MMOs have traditionally been -- or seemed to be -- in fairly short supply. Anarchy Online got things started. EVE Online and Star Wars Galaxies showed what sci-fi MMOs could do. Tabula Rasa came and went quickly. And Stargate Worlds never even saw the light of day.
STO released with few serious competitors and has benefited from time to grow and mature. Cryptic's newest MMO has encountered some heavy turbulence in its five months of existence, but the developers continue to make good on their promises to offer more content, and quickly.
But E3 is here to remind us that the sci-fi MMO space is about to explode. With a veritable fleet of spacey MMOs on the horizon, I'm sure Cryptic are feeling the pressure. So should we be worried? Let's consider the forthcoming competitors, as well as the content Cryptic have planned for STO, and decide for ourselves whether our favorite Star Trek MMO is in trouble.
Battlestar Galactica Online
Based on the SciFi Channel -- SyFy? Bleh. -- series, Battlestar Galactica Online
is a browser-based, free-to-play title from Bigpoint
. In both the 1978 original and the contemporary retooling, the Battlestar Galactica
is a giant starship on which the remnants of humanity search the universe for the fabled colony of Earth. They're pursued by a race of robot jerks called Cylons
According to Massively's interview
with Bigpoint's head of games (awesome title), Philip Reisberger
, BSG Online
will allow players to choose the human or Cylon faction and then do Battlestar-ish things, such as dogfighting with other ships, and MMO-ish things, such as mining asteroids for resources.
- Release window
Minimal. Battlestar Galactica has its fans
, sure, and the game sounds like fun. But BSG Online
is essentially a free, browser-based version of EVE Online
with a fraction of the depth, and I can't see it taking the sci-fi MMO world by storm. It'll be great fan service and maybe a blast to play, and that's that. Plus, STO
already has a race of evil cyborg jerks.
starfighter MMO is another F2P title. Essentially an action-heavy shooter with spaceships, Black Prophecy
will feature lots of shooting and explosions.
None yet, as far as I know. But the game is in closed beta now
, so it can't be all that terribly distant, right?
Again, minimal. Black Prophecy's E3 trailer
looks gorgeous and the game could be a blast, but I just don't see an F2P dogfighter unseating established MMOs, including STO
. It does look awesome, though.
EVE Online Incarna
So this doesn't qualify as a new MMO or E3 news, but it's worth mentioning here. EVE Online
, that titan of space sims, lacks physical avatars. All gameplay occurs from the perspective of your ship, and your capsuleer character is just a humanoid portrait in the corner. Incarna
is set to change that by introducing a massive expansion featuring playable avatars
, with whom players will be able to explore space stations and do other stuff.
Eventually. CCP Games
first announced work on the feature in 2006
, with a projected release in 2008. Some hints now suggest a Summer 2011 release.
Moderate. EVE Online
is one popular game
, but the lack of playable characters is hard for many to digest. The game also boasts a wicked learning curve
, which can scare off all but the most dedicated spaceship jockeys. Some EVE experts
suspect Incarna might lower the barriers for entry
and entice the previously unwilling to give the game a try. But on the plus side, by the time Incarna
releases, Cryptic will have had plenty of time to add heaps of new content to STO
, which already includes fully realized avatars.
A fan favorite among Massively readers, Jumpgate Evolution
has been mired in development hell for what seems like forever. Originally slated for June 2009, JGE has flirted with our game radars
, sometimes showing progress, sometimes disappearing for months at a time. In early June, developer NetDevil announced sweeping changes
to the game, just in time for E3.
Hard to say, but probably minimal. Massively's E3 hands-on experience
was very positive, but the release date remains a mystery. And whenever JGE
does see the light of day, we expect it to draw far more comparisons to EVE
than to STO
Star Wars: The Old Republic
Now this one's the doozy. Bioware
, current champion of Western RPGs, are hard at work on the wildly, wildly anticipated SW:TOR
. Set more than 3,500 years before the travesty of the prequels, SW:TOR
pits the shining Galactic Republic against a cruel Sith Empire for all the marbles. Players will choose the good guys or the not-so-good guys and adventure through a story-driven Star Wars galaxy
Of all the sci-fi MMOs out there, SW:TOR
worries me the most by far. By all accounts, we can expect that Bioware plus Star Wars equals success. Enough success that Cryptic should sweat?
First of all, many fans of STO
won't be interested in a Star Wars
game, for obvious reasons. Second of all, SW:TOR
right now appears limited to ground combat. Bioware announced personal starships
at E3, and Massively's interview
with Executive Producer Rich Vogel uncovered hints that space combat might be in the works, but that's it. Vogel suggested that starship combat could go either way, at least for launch. And starship combat is STO's
true specialty, so a sci-fi MMO without space combat won't blow STO
out of the sky. But then, many consider ground combat
to be STO's
weak link, so a forceful showing by SW:TOR
is something to worry about.
Honorable Mention -- Warhammer 40K: Dark Millenium Online
With a gorgeous trailer
and some much-anticipated gameplay information, Warhammer 40K
made a helluva splash at E3. Based on the table-top game
, Warhammer 40K
is set in the future and boasts plenty of sci-fi elements, from laser guns to giant robots. And while I think it looks awesome, I don't see it gunning for those in the mood for a space-based MMO, so don't sweat this one. Yet.
What do you think?
The sci-fi genre is about to become very crowded in the next year, so should Cryptic be worried? I know I'll get plenty of "Cryptic sucks space rocks, STO can burn" comments for this one, but it's worth considering. Cryptic has a lot in store for STO
-- the July update alone will be massive
, adding starship interiors and raising the level cap to 51 -- so will it be enough to keep the game growing in the face of mounting competition? I say yes, assuming Cryptic maintain their dedication over the next year. How about you?