2011 was an interesting year for MMOs. Some of the most anticipated games were launched, one of the strongest MMO communities was left in the cold, and a seemingly untouchable indie developer quickly realized that it needs to listen to its players more than anything else.
As is often tradition this time of the year, we, the Massively staff, have compiled our top picks in nine different categories to celebrate what 2011 was for us. Every MMO on this list was either launched, re-launched (as free-to-play), or had some game-changing event affect it in 2011. Read along after the cut for our choices and feel free to let us know in the comments what you'd have picked for each category.
Best Launch of 2011: RIFT
By the end of each year, we often forget what happened 10+ months prior. This is especially the case in such a tumultuous year as 2011, but we can't help remember Trion Worlds' RIFT when it launched on March 1, 2011. Sure there were insanely long queues, but Trion did a wonderful job of opening up new servers to accommodate player demand almost immediately. Lag and crashes were almost non-existent, and *gasp* people were having fun.
Best News Story of 2011: EVE MonocleGate
So CCP decided to try out a bit o' the cosmetic RMT to go along with its amazingly gorgeous paperdolls in a spaceship game. Seemed like a good idea on paper, but the execution, price point, and subsequent leaked backlash was probably the worst collection of ideas to happen to the indie developer since it started. Luckily, the studio learned its lesson and continues to provide extremely serious internet spaceship gameplay like no one else can.
Biggest Surprise of 2011: The closing of Star Wars Galaxies
Hey, there's this new Star Wars game coming out, do you guys think it will affect the existing Star Wars game at all? Nah, it couldn't! LucasArts wouldn't... WHAT? Yes, it did. And it even killed the game on the same day that the pre-order headstart access began on the new Star Wars game. Talk about efficient(ly cruel).
Dearly Departed: Star Wars Galaxies
We actually had a handful of games close this year, but none will sting as badly as the closing of Star Wars Galaxies. Released in the summer of 2003, SWG had its highs and lows, but no one can deny that its features are currently unmatched in any other MMO.
Best Bang for the Buck: EverQuest II
This one was very close as Fallen Earth's turn to free-to-play made most of our staff happy, but in the end, you just can't beat EverQuest II's seven years of content for the low, low price of free.
Best Expansion of 2011: Lord of the Rings Online: Rise of Isengard
This category was probably the most varied among the staff members, but majority rules, and the majority picked LotRO's Rise of Isengard expansion. As Justin Olivetti says, "It was a much more significant expansion than Siege of Mirkwood and finally got us moving south toward the lands and events of Tolkien's The Two Towers."
Game of the Year: Star Wars: The Old Republic
OMG this game just launched! How can we possibly rate this the game of the year! We must be paid off! Adhgdjhgdudbjh! The fact is, this was a hard one. RIFT launched as a staff favorite in March, but it's both the freshness of SWTOR's launch and the fact that MMO fans have been going nuts over this game for years that combine to make this our Game of the Year. Plus, ya know, it's kinda fun.
Most Anticipated for 2012: Guild Wars 2
Since 2007 when Guild Wars 2 was first announced, fans of the Tyrian world have been dreaming of playing a class other than human, selling their wares on an auction house, and jumping. Yes, you can jump in Guild Wars 2, but that's only one of the hundreds of reasons we are pulling our hair out in anticipation for this game's launch.
Most Anticipated Beyond 2012: WildStar
When you take an announcement trailer and compare it to the style of Firefly, you're almost guaranteed some sort of it's-not-real-but-i-love-it-more-than-my-dog enthusiasm. As Bree Royce says, "I want this game so badly right now. It seems like it has just the right balance of candy-colored graphics and space-western appeal. The fact that it's a relatively blank slate for us to see whatever we want in it doesn't hurt either." Will it live up to the hype? I guess we'll have to frakkin' wait and see.