In our second round of “What Happened To...” I’ll be digging deeply
into the hit-and-miss world of sci fi MMOGs. What is it about this
futuristic genre that causes projects to drag an anchor labeled “DOUBT”
behind them wherever they go? Are we really so wrapped up in
Tolkein-esque imagery that we can’t bear to part with it? Or are we
just too cynical about our own futures to buy into fantastic scenarios
of robot uprisings, alternative timelines and laser-spewing fighter
jets?



That’s probably a question best left to another article. For now, let
us look back at the victims of these tendencies, and mourn their loss
of these technology-imbued landscapes from days gone by.


style="width: 640px; height: 269px;" alt="smiths"
src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/90365">



Matrix Online



When talking about forgotten titles that failed to live up to their
potential, there is perhaps no better example than Monolith
Entertainment’s The
Matrix Online
. Even before its 2005 launch, the game
suffered from development speed bumps, including href="http://www.gamespot.com/pc/rpg/matrixonline/news.html?sid=6090026"
target="_top">Ubisoft backing out of a co-publishing deal
in 2004. This setback, coupled with a launch that was delayed by almost
6 months, cast many doubts about the future of MxO before it was
available on retail shelves.



This project was truly epic in scope, having the official backing and
support of Warner Bros. Studios, voiceovers from the movies’ cast, as
well as storylines written and/or approved by the Wachowski brothers
themselves. MxO was intended to be a true living sequel to the movie
trilogy, and would endeavor to live up to the epic nature of the
franchise by incorporating live events hosted by staff members at
Monolith, dubbed the href="http://www.mxoarchive.net/archives/dn1/thematrixonline.warnerbros.com/web/live/community/community_news_display7bdb.html?id=042105_aethernetuplink"
target="_top">Live Event Special Interest Group
(aka LESIG).



The end-of-beta event was the first large-scale example of this event
system, bringing in thousands of players to do battle against more than
100 developers and volunteers playing as The Agents in all-out battle
royale. This could have been the beginning of a landmark in MMOG
experience.



alt="mxo box art"
src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/90361">So, what
went wrong?



Launch day came and went, with the usual hiccups that were common in
the MMOG industry of the time - server outages, lag, etc. It’s unlikely
that these directly impacted MxO’s success (or lack thereof) more than
they do any MMOG. However, retail sales were impacted by a saturated
market (EverQuest 2,
Guild Wars
and World of Warcraft
all released less than 6 months prior to MxO), and subscription rates
after the first month continued to show a trend that failed to meet
Monolith and Warner Bros.’ expectations. Though no official reasons
were given, these lackluster sales are frequently referenced as the
primary motivation behind the sale of the game to Sony Online
Entertainment just four months after its official release.



Shortly after taking over management of the title, SOE made the
decision to replace the paid LESIG team with a volunteer force that
would lead future events. They also chose to begin focusing development
on a complete overhaul of the existing combat system, rather than
fixing many of the smaller glitches and inconsistencies already present
in the game. Both of these decisions were unpopular with players, and
resulted in a continued decline in subscriptions.



And that is more or less where this tale of woe concludes. MxO actually
managed to eke out an existence for more than 4 years before being shut
down by SOE in 2009 due to low subscription rates. Even including MxO
in SOE’s “Station Pass” subscription plan did not afford it enough
support to allow continued operation.



Players still actively participating in the world of MxO were further
insulted when, as part of a poorly planned shutdown event, several
area-effect graphical abilities caused more than half of the players
present at the event to crash out of the game. Those who managed to
stay online suffered single-digit frame rates for the final hours of
the event until the server itself crashed several hours prior to the
scheduled termination time and never came back online.





Imperator



alt="imperator logo"
src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/90362">Few doubt
the role that the mighty Roman Empire had in shaping our modern world.
From art and architecture, to literature and philosophy, their
influence has spread to every facet of humanity even thousands of years
after their downfall. But what if Rome had never fallen? That is the
question that Mythic Entertainment’s Mark Jacobs wanted to ask in his
scifi alternative reality MMOG, Imperator.



Announced in 2002, Imperator
never actually made it into a public beta phase.



In 2005, Mythic picked up the license to produce style="font-style: italic;">Warhammer Online
based on the popular franchise from Games Workshop. Shortly after this,
Mark Jacobs came forward to href="http://pc.ign.com/articles/633/633227p1.html"
target="_top"> announce the cancellation of style="font-style: italic;">Imperator
stating that, “our tremendous success with style="font-style: italic;"> Dark Age of Camelot
set the standard for Mythic of releasing nothing less than triple-A
games, and Imperator
was simply not meeting that standard." Following the announcement, all
staff members on the Imperator
project were moved to either WAR, or began working on the DAoC
expansion “Darkness Rising”



Given the href="http://www.mmorpg.com/discussion2.cfm/thread/291614/page/1"
target="_top">many href="http://www.brighthub.com/video-games/mmo/articles/44427.aspx"
target="_top">issues that href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/war" target="_top">WAR
has faced since its launch in 2008, there are those who question
whether or not Mythic made the right choice as to which IP to favor.






Jumpgate: Evolution




alt="jge logo"
src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/90364">While not
a failure just yet, strictly speaking, this game continues to make us
nervous in regard to whether or not we will ever see it on retail
shelves, and what it will be like if that day ever comes.



Jumpgate: Evolution
is a gutsy and unique venture - an MMOG set in space, using dogfighting
game play mechanics and open territorial PvP battles in a seamless
universe. The developers caught in interviews like to throw around the
term “epic” as not just a descriptor, but as a goal for the game’s
ultimate feel.



And that sounds great, when we get to hear it. The game’s development
house, NetDevil, has an unfortunate tendency to go completely under the
radar and radio-silent for months at a time, punctuated by occasionally
unsettling announcements, the first of which was the bad news that
launch of the game, href="http://www.codemasters.nl/corporate/press/article.php?id=12071"
target="_top">originally slated for June of 2009,
was being href="http://community.codemasters.com/forum/jumpgate-development-chat-1081/356250-jumpgate-evolution-development-update.html"
target="_top">delayed indefinitely due to feedback
received during their “friends & family” beta stages. The next
disturbing announcement occurred in href="http://mmorgue.com/2010/06/08/jumpgate-evolution-evolving-again/"
target="_top">June of this year, which included
Executive Producer Lance Robertson saying, “That is when the team made
the crucial decision to completely
overhaul JGE’s game systems
, while also refocusing
specifically on the game play experience we wanted to make: space
warfare on a massive scale…”


style="width: 640px; height: 360px;" alt="epic space battle"
src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/90363">

In a word: EPIC



A playable demo of JGE was available at 2010 E3, gaining the title a
lot of hype and building anticipation. The reception was good, and our
hopes were once again raised. And then NetDevil went silent again--a
screenshot here, a dev journal there, but no new game play trailers or
beta announcements. Even their href="http://www.facebook.com/jumpgateevolution" target="_top">Facebook
page shows an average of only one or two updates per month.



alt="Auto Assault"
src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/90360">To get to
the core of my fears over the game, we have to jump back to 2007 and
look at another failed MMOG, Auto
Assault
, also developed by NetDevil, and also a futuristic
sandbox type of game that featured innovative mechanics and an entirely
different way to play an MMO. And, most would agree, it was an
unmitigated disaster. NetDevil has a reputation to overcome, and going
silent every-other month is not the way to do so. Especially when we
already know the game is having a bit of an identity crisis.



... and more
to come!




As you can see, it's not just the games of our past that face hardships
and doubt on a daily basis. Even titles that are not yet released
deserve to be questioned when handled questionably. Otherwise they may
find themselves added to the ever-growing pile of could-have-beens and
didn't-quites. But, even if these games didn't manage to be titles
worth playing, maybe they least reflect lessons worth learning.



Got a favorite long-lost
title that you'd like to see dusted off and given a retrospective?
 Leave a comment below!


To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Auto Assault Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

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A longtime fan of competitive gaming, Jeremy got his first chance to work in the field as a writer for eSportsMax. Now eSports Editor for TenTonHammer, he looks to keep readers aware of all of the biggest events and happenings in the eSports world, while also welcoming new fans who aren't yet sure where to go to get the most relevant information. Jeremy always looks to provide content for new fans and veterans alike, believing that helping as many people as possible enjoy all the scene has to offer is key to its growth.

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