In the waning weeks of December, we've already started turning our eyes towards the new year. 2008 is already showing a great deal of promise for the MMO community, with the impending release of Pirates of the Burning Sea, Wrath of the Lich King, Age of Conan, and Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. Though most of these titles are still a good ways away from hitting retailer shelves, we've already got a pretty good idea of what's in store, not just in terms of assets and information that's already been released, but also from hands-on impressions and beta testing. In other words, as excited as we are, there probably won't be terribly many surprises as it concerns these titles. They're practically a given.
As luck would have it, those aren't the only titles we'll be drooling over next year – this much we know. There are a number of games in development out there that have shown up on our collective radar screens over the past few months, but only as tiny blips. For the most part, they still represent riddles wrapped up in mysteries with a side of question mark. We've assembled a list of the top 10 MIA MMOs - those mysterious games that represent the future of the MMO... if only we knew what they were.
In the first part of this feature, we'll take a look at the first half of the list.
10. Fallout - Interplay
While some had taken to questioning whether the mystery MMO being developed by Bethesda's online cousin was in fact the long-anticipated massively multiplayer Fallout, Interplay surprised us all by reaffirming their ownership of the online rights to the Fallout franchise, and renewing their ambition to get a Fallout MMO out the door in this century. Though most of the titles on this list are only in the early stages of pre-production, Fallout is perhaps the only one that exists merely as an idea in its current state. Interplay is still shopping around for funding to kick-start the development process, and given that they haven't found any takers, despite the fact that the MMO genre is considered a gold mine on Wall Street, seems to indicate that there are some structural uncertainties within the struggling company. Still, the Fallout MMO makes the list by the weight of the series' history alone.
9. All Points Bulletin - Real Time Worlds
Truthfully, outside of a single post we made when we discovered the game existed shortly after Massively's launch, I haven't seen nor heard a sniffle about All Points Bulletin. Developed by the folks who brought us Crackdown for the Xbox 360, APB promises to be a more action-oriented affair, putting players in the opposing roles of cops and criminals in a torn metropolis, probably not unlike the one depicted in Crackdown. According to the APB website, progression is going to based more on player skill than the amount of time put into the game, and the PvP is going to play a central role. We've heard that line before, so we're not ready to drink the kool-aid just yet. If anything, the fact that APB is concurrently in development for "next-generation" consoles, it may well be that this is just another online action game that adorns the MMO label to try and spurn sales. Of course, we'd love Real Time Worlds to prove otherwise.
8. Marvel Universe Online - Cryptic Studios
While rumors that Marvel Universe Online was on the chopping block have abounded over the past few months, neither Microsoft nor Cryptic have conceded that anything has changed in the game's development. Designer Geoff Tuffli has even gone so far as to comment in the abstract regarding the philosophy underlying various kinds of PvP, so it stands to reason that the game is still in development for the time being. Still, it's been well over a year since the game was originally announced, and all we've got to go on, both in terms of information and assets, is a teaser video. And while Cryptic Studios has put out work that have we absolutely fallen in love with, it's not clear to what extent the face of the development team has changed since a respectable chunk of their team moved over to NCsoft to keep working on City of Heroes.
7. Warhammer 40K – Vigil Games
While many people work themselves into a lather pontificating on the WoW-killer potential of Warhammer Online, most have forgotten that Games Workshop has also shopped out the online rights to their popular Warhammer 40K franchise to THQ as part of their on-going partnership spawned by the success of the Warhammer 40K RTS, Dawn of War. Way back in March, THQ announced that they were having Vigil Games develop an MMO-based on the reacquired 40k license, but we've heard next to nothing about the game since then. The only blip this game has made on our radar recently is through a number of job listings for Vigil Games' Austin Studio, looking for an art director and QA lead. Even though the game was announced as far back as March, the fact that they don't have an art director yet seems to indicate that the game is still in the early stages of pre-production. It's an interesting juxtaposition to Warhammer Online which, while it features the less popular of Games Workshop's intellectual properties, has the benefit of a highly-respected MMO development house. We expect to hear more about this game next year - but probably not within three or four months of the release of WAR -- lest they steal that game's thunder.
6. Firefly - Multiverse
The production of the MMO based on the highly-lauded Firefly license is one of the more confusing tales to unravel. Multiverse acquired the rights to make a Firefly MMO at about this time last year, as part of their efforts to promote their MMO middleware. They never planned to actually develop a game based on the the Fox sci-fi property themselves, suggesting that they were looking to shop the license out to a third party to develop using their software suite. We've heard precious little about the game since, and while rumors of a lucky developer snagging the rights abound, it's still a project that is largely up in the air. While Multiverse originally stated that they would rather the license not be used as merely window dressing on some sort of EVE Online or Star Wars Galaxies clone, one wonders how exactly they plan to translating the television series' dry wit and Western sensibilities into a space-faring adventure. One thing is certain: no matter who develops the game, or how good it ends up being, it's sure to be embraced by the strong community of Brown Coats who have continued to support the IP long after it's premature demise.
Check back in the next few days, when we'll round out our Top 10 MIA MMOs of 2007 with most anticipated games we know next to nothing about.
Go to part 2 >>