That said, I've lost some hair and two pounds sweating out this list, and I feel sleeker for it. Today's Perfect Ten is all about the long-shots, the titles that may not have the huge budget, big name studios, or anything solid to show for it, but could still become contenders in their own right if everything is played just right.
Deep breath -- let's give it a go!
While Undead Labs' MMO project, codenamed Class4, is still in the murky realms of development, we do know that it'll have zombies, it'll allow you to impact the game world, and, oh yeah, it's console only. Currently the team is working on a single-player title codenamed Class3, but attention is expected to shift to the MMO following that game's release.
Why is this my first choice for this list? Because Undead Labs has been forged out of the talents of many previous ArenaNet employees, including ArenaNet co-founder Jeff Strain. Considering the level of innovation, skill, and genre-busting moves that ArenaNet's put forth with Guild Wars, I think it's extremely hard to dismiss what may come from this offshoot of talent. Plus, zombies are cool.
This recently announced title caught my attention by the throat and savaged my nasal cavities somewhat. Pathfinder, a pen-and-paper RPG born of fan dissatisfaction with the direction that Dungeons & Dragons was heading, is a throwback to earlier editions of D&D. Oh, and it's become a monster hit in the gaming community (including the Penny Arcade fellows).
The MMO version -- a blend of both sandbox and themepark elements -- is in the very early stages of development but certainly looks promising. The team is planning to adopt CCP's attitude by launching small, building up steam, and gradually growing over time, which is definitely a smart way to go for this type of game.
I'm not overly familiar with the Tad Williams novels that Otherland comes from, but I must admit that I find the concept of an MMO-within-an-MMO intriguing. Instead of merely being confining players to one world in one genre, Otherland promises that we'll be traveling between virtual worlds as we explore, collect "eDNA," modify our characters, and ultimately create our own world. The look to me is "meh," but the concept is "wowzers!"
Some days it seems like CCP fans are in their own separate MMO universe -- and it is a very fanatical one. It's not surprising that word of an adult-themed vampire MMO, World of Darkness, was instantly embraced by the community, since EVE Online has cultivated not only a rabid fanbase but probably one of the more mature (in terms of content) playerbases in MMOs.
Two months ago, I would've put World of Darkness on the "contender" list, but following a nasty round of layoffs that hit the WoD team hard and forced it to scale back on development, the game's future is looking more shady. However, down is not necessarily out, and I have faith that this will be surprising us in the future.
Defiance is such a weird concept that it's going to either work (and I give it, say, a 20% chance of doing so) or is going to fall flat, crash-'n'-burn, insert bomb noises, etc. An MMO first-person shooter is a solid start, as is having it come out on multiple platforms. But to have it tie into an ongoing television series so that these two entertainment mediums are interacting -- somehow -- raises so many questions that I don't even know where to begin.
So I'll just say this: Defiance gets a mention because it's from Trion Worlds, and I respect the heck out of that studio after seeing what it did with RIFT this year (especially with its quick and timely update schedule). Syfy as a channel is kind of a joke these days, but who knows? This may be a pioneering title in more ways than one.
I'm certain that I'm not alone in feeling immense waves of frustration aimed at both Bethesda and Interplay for this seemingly neverending legal battle over the rights to make Fallout Online. Seriously, one of you two goons take the high road and just quit it already so we can get our game!
Probably the longest shot on this list, Fallout Online needs to be mentioned nevertheless because there is such a huge fanbase out there for the Fallout series (and post-apocalyptic fiction in general). A Fallout MMO could totally rock in so many ways -- but right now all we have to hang our hopes on are daydreams and sweaty lawyers.
Giant robots duking it out. 'Nuff said.
The Artist Formerly Known as Prime: Battle for Dominus is vying for the PvP vote in a hard way. I'm very borderline about this title's actual chances, but as Massively's Jef said, PvPers have a crush on three-faction MMOs like nothing else. From what little we've seen, Dominus does look slick and the promise of GM-driven content is certainly alluring.
Say what you will about Cryptic -- and knowing the comments section, I'm sure you will -- but Neverwinter does actually look promising. Consider: It's not only D&D but D&D in the incredibly popular Forgotten Realms setting, made free-to-play, and sent back for more work by Cryptic's new overlords who perhaps smell a mint in the making.
I've got a hunch that there's still a large crowd out there interested in a D&D MMO, but just one in a different setting or perhaps not as complex as DDO. Could this fill that niche?
The Wizardry franchise might not have established itself as strongly in the West as it is in Japan, where it's a national heritage or something. I assure you, however, it's quite a Big Deal. So a Wizardry MMO is noteworthy not just for its legacy but for the fact that it's going to be quite hardcore.
You know those MMO players who are always whining about games being too soft with carebears, too coddling, too namby-pamby? Wizardry Online has permadeath, steep difficulty, friendly fire, PKing, the whole shebang. It's time for those complainers to either put up or shut up with this game (and to be honest, I like that someone's got the gumption to tackle permadeath in a major MMO). We'll certainly have to wait to see whether this can draw a crowd or not, but it should provide some interesting data on whether there's a market for this type of game.
Justin "Syp" Olivetti enjoys counting up to ten, a feat that he considers the apex of his career. If you'd like to learn how to count as well, check out The Perfect Ten. You can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.