We gathered the Ten Ton Hammer editors to take a look at four once-

promising MMOGs that now seem to be disappearing from gamers' radars. If

you've begun to lose faith in The Agency, The Secret World, Jumpgate:

Evolution and Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning you'll want to

see how the developers of these titles responded (or didn't) to our

challenge to defend their games. Some of the responses are encouraging, and some of the silences less so, but you won't want to miss any of them. Read on!


THE AGENCY

The

Agency is the old-timer on our contender versus pretender
list. Arriving on the shortly before E3 2007, it (rather than DC
Universe Online) was to be SOE’s first href="http://ps3.ign.com/articles/804/804427p1.html">PlayStation
3 showpiece.
Unfortunately, it’s also been the slowest developing title in SOE’s post

EverQuest 2 lineup – so much so that SOE has been forced to href="http://www.vg247.com/2009/09/16/soe-says-cancellation-rumors-for-

the-agency-are-rubbish/">routinely squash rumors of its cancellation.

Several shakeups over the years have brought those rumors
back like a nasty staph infection. The first salvo came when console
game rental company Gamefly sent out notices in November 2008 that The
Agency would be removed from the queue amid rumors of the game’s

cancellation. The rumors turned out to be false, but six months later

another event again stoked the cancellation gossip embers. While Lead

Designer Rory McGuire has staid the course, The Agency has saw a

number of href="http://www.gamespot.com/news/6214601.html">defections
in the summer of
2009. Figurehead
Matt Wilson, John
Smith, and Art Director Corey Dangel left SOE Seattle to form mobile
games-focused Detenator
Games
(on
Independence Day nonetheless, as if their feelings weren’t apparent
enough).

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A mini-game will challenge players of

The Agency to diffuse a bomb. Figuratively speaking, we're challenging

SOEto the same.

In the wake of the executive exodus,
SOE Seattle vowed their
steadfast determination to launch The Agency. But
an implied
2008 release date

slipped to 2010,
and most
recently we were told that href="http://www.cinemablend.com/games/agency-delayed-late-2011-

28650.html">late
2011 is the soonest we’re going to see this spy vs. spy shoot
‘em up. And now
that the game is reportedly href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/agency/interviews/mcguire-aug-

2010">feature
complete, 2011 seems much more tenable.

While launch delays are the expensive
addiction of the MMO
industry in general and SOE in particular (John Smedley recently told href="http://kotaku.com/5707624/is-the-future-of-pc-gaming-massive-and-

online">Kotaku
that DC Universe Online was held back for a year and a half), what
might
relegate The Agency to pretender status is the lack of any

coherent
MMOG
framework we’re left with for the game in nearly four years of
marketing. We don’t
yet see why or how The Agency needs a
persistent world or massively multiplayer concurrency to achieve its
single shooter-centric
ends. Small-scale encounters that had us sneaking and shooting our way
around
casinos, sophisticated cars built by a virtual Q while your offline,
text
messages to alert you when it’s done - these features, while cool,
didn’t
exactly scream: "I need a vibrant online community around me to enjoy
this!”

That’s not to say that The Agency
wouldn’t make for an
awesome single-player shooter with optional co-op elements, a sort-of
love
child between Borderlands, Goldeneye, and Team Fortress 2. At href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/events/e3/2010/agency-interview">E3
2010,
Rory McGuire demoed some of the class choice and visual innovations of
The
Agency – things like the gear you equip always shows up on your
character model,
and then at href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/events/fanfaire2010/agency/la-signora-

video">SOE
Fan Faire 2010 we saw an impressive look at the La Signora
Grande, an
archetypical casino environment being developed for the game.

So, MMOG pretender versus contender? Everything depends on how
The Agency ties together the compartmentalized demo coolness we’ve

seen with some kind of need for other players, other than the obvious need

to have them in your ironsights or, conversely, shooting in the same

direction. McGuire href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/agency/interviews/mcguire-aug-

2010">promised just this sort of info this year, discussing the large-

scale PvE environments, possibly some territory control aspects, and in

general how everything ties together. But as for the here and now, we’re

saying pretender. A pretender, that is, given the information we have in

terms of The Agency being an MMOG shooter – a definite contender

SOE Seattle Responds

"It’s not a secret that the games business is a tough one – it’s a lot

like making an airplane while you are also trying to fly it. For The

Agency we are blending two genres which happen to have the most heated

competition in the industry right now. A massively multiplayer world

combined with the fidelity of a classical first person shooter all wrapped

up in living the life of an elite agent. To really deliver on this promise

puts us on the cutting edge of both genres. If we allow ourselves to get

out of date, lose sight of our target or simply deliver an inferior product

- the game will not last long at all...and that is not what we are shooting

for.

cellpadding="10" width="253">
style="font-size: 20px; line-height: normal;">"If we allow ourselves to

get out of date, lose sight of our target or simply deliver an inferior

product - the game will not last long at all...and that is not what we are

shooting for. "

"We have flown under the radar a bit – but that’s the spy thing to do.

We haven’t shown the player moving across Venice, running along the Grand

Canal, snapping photos of intelligence, or donning an alias and

infiltrating into an enemy area. Our goal for last year’s E3 was to show

the improvements that we had made to the look and feel of the game. Our

next goal is to show the complete scope of what The Agency has to offer as

a playable massively multiplayer game which also happens to be a first

person shooter.

"Earlier today I did a level review with one of the designers in the

office. We grouped up on the Rialto Bridge in Venice and worked out which

roles we were going to play, did the necessary mission setup of acquiring

some intel and then headed off to our location. Part way through the

mission I gained a level, and I needed to acquire some new gear. I left

him to his own devices and went through one of the more hostile spaces

where a few other designers were trying to get through an alias area

together. Since I had already infiltrated the organization in question, I

donned my alias, helped them out for a bit and ran off to my vendor.

"We will be showing these elements resonating off of each other, not

just the shooter aspects, in the very near future. Keep an eye out!"

-Rory McGuire, Lead Designer, The Agency, SOE Seattle

THE SECRET WORLD

There’s much to look forward to with Funcom’s

href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/265">The Secret

World

. The title refers to a world within our world filled with

magic, monsters and mayhem. That aspect alone makes TSW notable – a game

set in modern times in a world replete with things like demons, zombies and

even some Lovecraftian references? Count us in. And The Secret

World will divide players among secret societies, each with their own

base location in the world. Sure, it’s just another take on factions and

starting areas, but the twist makes the game appear fresher than some of

the same ol’ same high fantasy titles rolling down the virtual assembly

line.

Funcom employed some creative and highly effective marketing tactics

early on, unveiling the game’s website under the ominous URL

href="http://darkdaysarecoming.com/">darkdaysarecoming.com

. The slowly

released a series of eye-popping CGI videos (followed by a somewhat

anticlimactic glimpse of gameplay footage). They also played on the idea of

conspiracy theories, slowly revealing more about the game by

href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/92636">providing clues

on blogs

and social network feeds that lead players to sites filled with cryptic

information and hints at lore and game content. Funcom has left finding and

decoding these messages entirely in the community’s hands and the

information rollout has provided a sort of game before the game for TSW

fans.

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SGMZ (Single Green Male Zombie) seeks

SGFZ for long moonlight strolls, fine brain dining and more. Totally

ripped...in more ways than one! Nice teeth for a zombie. Respond to mailbox

#1337.

But new information on The Secret World has dwindled over the

past several months. Based on posts we’re seeing in our own forums and

others we can surmise that players are beginning to lose faith given

Funcom’s apparent loss of momentum. Gamers can feed off hype for quite a

long time, but their allegiances tend to wander when developers fall

silent. Not to mention, earlier last year Funcom began promoting a free-

to-play PVP arena game,

href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/2792">Bloodline

Champions

, which launched January 13, 2011. With things on the

TSW front quiet, the newly launched free-to-play has gamers wondering if

Funcom had lost focus where their mysterious world of demons, zombies and

other mythical creatures was concerned.

If Funcom can rejuvenate its substantial hype machine and then pull off

a game with an intriguing story, fun gameplay mechanics, and visual eye

candy while employing lessons learned from the launch of

href="http://tentonhammer.com/aoc">Age of Conan

(to wit: gamers

will plow through your 20 levels of amazing content to your remaining

levels of mediocre content pretty quickly, so beef up the mid-game pre-

launch) The Secret World could be a winner. Right now, though,

it’s still a little too secret.

- Karen "shayalyn" Hertzberg

Funcom Responds...

"We have only done a few reveals of The Secret World since we

announced the game back in 2007, and many of those reveals have been

intentionally disguised and shrouded in mystery. All of our significant

reveals have been focused around large trade shows such as GamesCom, with

very few actual gameplay reveals outside of those. This has been according

to our plan: we wanted to show the world that we're working on something

amazing, but we haven't really felt ready to show-and-tell. Until now.

cellpadding="10" width="253">
style="font-size: 20px; line-height: normal;">"This has been according to

our plan: we wanted to show the world that we're working on something

amazing, but we haven't really felt ready to show-and-tell. Until now.

 "

"In the coming months gamers can look forward to getting in-depth

reveals of core gameplay mechanics and content. We're lifting the veil,

we're going into a new phase for the project. We're working on several

videos that will go live in the coming months (starting in February), and

we're getting ready to reveal everything from substantial details on our

unique progression system (no levels, no classes!) to all-new PvP

mechanics. We're also preparing a new website to usher in this new phase

for the game. It's very exciting.

"You have probably also heard that we have signed a co-publishing deal

with Electronic Arts, and we're looking forward to working with them as

well on future marketing and other co-publishing activities.

- Erling Ellingsen, Director of Communications, Funcom

JUMPGATE EVOLUTION

Two years ago I penned a short-lived weekly sci-fi feature here on Ten

Ton Hammer titled MMOs, the Final Fontier. At the time, the future was looking

increadibly bright for fans of the genre.

href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/swtor">Star Wars: The Old

Republic

had recently been unveiled, there were still great

expectations for Star Trek

Online, and a number of other promising sci-fi games were

generating quite a buzz such as

href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/806">Earthrise

,

due out next month. Barring the gargantuan hype surrounding The Old

Repubic, one title in particular had MMOG communities buzzing so loud you'd

have thought wearing bee's nests on your head had replaced the more

traditional tinfoil hats in vogue at the time. I'm speaking, of course,

about NetDevil's

href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/306">Jumpgate:

Evolution

.

While I was (and still am) incredibly excited for the pending launch or

J:GE back in January 2009, it wasn't until getting my hands on the game

later that year at PAX

that I felt certain that the game was worthy of every last bit of hype. But

soon after, much like a full solar eclipse at noon in the middle of summer,

things grew eerily dark and silent.

At first, fans were a bit disappointed by he lack of new info from

NetDevil about the game, but most remained optomistic that the silence

would soon give way to the typical pre-launch marketing machine's beeping

and blooping. Then the information blackout persisted for most of the next

year, and optomism soon gave way to skepticism that the game would ever see

the light of day. Had I not played the game myself I might have even begun

to believe there was some truth to the forumite belief that JG:E was

potentially just vaporware.

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Will the once-promising Jumpgate

Evolution ever see the light of day?

As E3 2010 rolled around, I was pleasently surprised to see that not

only was NetDevil attending, but during the presentation and hands-on

session for JGE at the show we were assured that, now that they had brought

the game back out into the public,

href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/jumpgate-

evolution/e310/interviews/steve-garvin">they intended to stay

.

However, that hasn't proven to be the case, as the only signs of life

from NetDevil were the massive promotional pushes for last fall's

href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/170">LEGO

Universe

. While it seems clear that development resources were

naturally prioritized for such a high profile IP and game release, by now

most fans of the game wonder if JGE will ever finally emerge from the

blackness of space. In the meantime, Black Prophecy is inching ever closer

towards launch, and has calimed the lion's share of attention from former

JGE entusiasts.

So is Jumpgate: Evolution slated to become the Duke Nukem

Forever of sci-fi MMOGs? I certainly hope not, but only time will tell.

While the window of opportunity will never fully close for the game, it's

currently in the position of really needing to redefine the space combat

genre in some meaningful ways, or else it will have already faded into

obscurity long before ever getting the chance to taste the success I still

believe the game deserves.

Adding another variable into the mix, last month Codemasters filed suit

against NetDevil for breach of contract. While I find it highly suspect

that Codemasters would have waited nearly two years to take issue with the

game not being released by the February 2009 release date initially

expected, either way this suit could very well have a direct impact on

whether JGE sees a release anytime soon, or whether it ends up being put on

indefinite hold. I certainly hope that doesn't prove to be the case, but in

the meantime this one-time contender slips further towards the pretenders

list of upcoming MMOGs.

- Reuben "Sardu" Waters

NetDevil Responds

"Due to the current situation with Codemasters, we are unable to comment

at this time."

- Keith Mutzman, PR Manager

KINGDOMS OF AMALUR: RECKONING

For several years now, we've been hypnotized by 38 Studios and their

claims of making an incredible online universe for us to enjoy. No other

company has been able to gain such excitement without actually ever

speaking of the game they're making. They've kept

href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/2454">Kingdoms of

Amalur

a well guarded secret, enticing us with statements of

incredible allure. They've drawn many icons of pop culture to the

development of the game and have an all-star team. Best-selling author R.A.

Salvatore and "Spawn" creator Todd McFarlane are just two of the designers

on former Boston Red Sox pitcher, Curt Schilling's team. Not only that, but

dozens of other top designers from

href="http://tentonhammer.com/wow">World of Warcraft

and other

legendary MMO games have dropped their former projects to move to the East

Coast and join the studio.

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It looks cool, sounds even cooler, and

has an all-star development cast but we remain uncertain about the future

of Kingdoms of Amalur.

We know there's talent. We know the Studio has a passion for gaming. We

think they can make some real magic. But... it's time to show the

cards. Keeping the interest of gamers is tough enough. Keeping the interest

of online gamers without talking about an actual game is madness. It simply

can't happen for long. 38 Studios has achieved a commendable accomplishment

in being able to pull it off as long as they have, but even now gamers are

growing restless.

Fortunately, we have heard tales that 38 Studios will be at GDC this

year. What will be shown? It remains to be seen, but it's one of the titles

we're very interested in here at Ten Ton Hammer. It has an original IP, one

hell of a design team and enough indication on the type of game 38 Studios

wants to make that, if achieved, it may very well make a huge splash in the

MMOG market that hasn't been seen in years.

But will we hear and see more of the game, or will there simply be more

gaming theory and design talk? Not that we don't love to talk games, but we

really want to see it now.

- Benjamin de la Durantaye

38 Studios Responds

Unfortunately, 38 Studios' response to our challenge was a lack

thereof--they simply didn't answer within the 7-day window we provided

them. Could this be because they have nothing they're prepared to announce

right now? Or maybe it's because the development process has them heads-

down and unable to respond to our requests? Alas, we just don't know.


Will the developers we've called out, and the titles they're

championing, rise to the challenge to become great games in the future, or

will they continue to keep us waiting? Although we're encouraged by the

responses from some of the developers we spoke to, and perhaps discouraged

by the lack of response from others, for now only time will provide the

answers.


To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our The Secret World Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Karen 1
Karen is H.D.i.C. (Head Druid in Charge) at EQHammer. She likes chocolate chip pancakes, warm hugs, gaming so late that it's early, and rooting things and covering them with bees. Don't read her Ten Ton Hammer column every Tuesday. Or the EQHammer one every Thursday, either.

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