Project Titan isn’t the first high profile MMORPG cancellation, and it certainly won’t be the last. I would also argue that it is far from the most impactful our industry has ever seen. Today I look at five major MMO cancellations that have had a much deeper impact on gamers over the years.
It’s always gutting to discover that the proverbial plug has been pulled on a product or project you had anticipated coming to market. When the news broke earlier this week that Blizzard Entertainment’s Project Titan was officially cancelled, I wasn’t really all that shocked. This past year Blizzard has seen great success surrounding Hearthstone and Diablo III’s Ultimate Evil Edition. Heroes of the Storm and Warlords of Draenor are also building up steam, while the timing is right for the third StarCraft II campaign to be unveiled at BlizzCon this fall.
While Project Titan had been in some form of development for roughly seven years, there never was any tangible information as to what type of game it might have been. For most game developers, seven years is indeed a very long stretch, but those rules don’t apply when it comes to a company like Blizzard. You have to remember that Diablo III spent nearly ten years in development.
The impact of major MMO cancellations oftentimes has a rippling effect, and serve as cautionary tales as to why there are so few true innovators in the massively multiplayer online space. However, with so little information surrounding Project Titan, it’s hard to say what kind of impact the cancellation will ultimately have.
So instead of adding more white noise to the discussion, today I’m going to focus on five high profile MMO cancellations that did have a major impact on both the industry and its loyal gaming public. In most cases, these projects were far more of a reality than Titan ever was, having been openly marketed, discussed, or even showcased in playable forms at trade shows.
There are no doubt other MMO project cancellations not on the following list that were among your most anticipated. Once you’ve taken a moment to go over my personal list, be sure to join the discussion with your own picks at the end of the article.
1. The Agency – Sony Online Entertainment
There were a lot of concepts pitched for The Agency that were years ahead of their time. Even before the smartphone revolution, SOE’s now defunct Seattle studio was pitching concepts like having in-game operatives send you text message alerts that major crafting projects had been completed.
The setting, based on a world of espionage and intrigue, would have been very unique in the MMO space considering there are still so few titles based in a modern setting. It was the James Bond answer to The Secret World’s secret societies, and had even made it to the point of being showcased in the SOE booth at E3.
2. Jumpgate Evolution – NetDevil
NetDevil is one of those studios that represented true innovation in MMORPGs. Its impact is still being felt today, whether it is ever directly acknowledged during the development cycles of newer titles. Two things in particular stand out for me when I consider many of the current games in development:
- Auto Assault had a highly destructible world, years before the whole voxel craze began. Most objects could be shattered into bits, picked up, and then used as crafting components. While the world building layer wasn’t present, the destructible world still informed many of the massive online virtual worlds being built today.
- LEGO Universe brought with it a system called Builds and Behaviors. It was an elegant drag and drop system that allowed you to assign behaviors and conditional reactions to objects, and was years ahead of tools like Storybricks which will serve as the backbone for more intelligent AI in EverQuest Next.
Jumpgate Evolution had also reached a state of development where it was being showcased at E3, and I had played the game on numerous occasions. It was a very fluid and intense dogfighting game that would have been much lighter on the wallet than Star Citizen, among other things.
3. World of Darkness - CCP
One of my favorite video game RPG’s of all time is Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines. It has been installed on every PC I’ve owned since its release back in 2004, and is a game that has stood the test of time thanks to a rabid fan base that continues working on various patches, fixes, and improvements to this day.
The cancellation of the World of Darkness MMO project being developed by CCP was perhaps my biggest letdown in recent years. Even more so when you consider that it took such a back seat to a comparatively lackluster offering in DUST 514. And while I’m among those excited at the potential of EVE Valkyrie as a title that showcases what VR can bring to the table, it also serves as a constant reminder that I’d rather be immersed in vampire politics than a virtual cockpit.
4. Project Copernicus – 38 Studios
The story of Copernicus is flat out heartbreaking when you come right down to it. Given the massive talent involved in the project, it instantly grabbed the attention of the entire gaming world.
What’s gutting is the fact that - had Copernicus began development a year or two later – it no doubt would have been among the first major video game success stories on Kickstarter. Crowd funding would have most likely pulled the project out of the fire, but at this point that is, of course, mere speculation.
5. Imperator Online – Mythic Entertainment
One of my favorite authors of all time is Philip K. Dick. Fans of his bizarre and oftentimes paranoid novels will no doubt be familiar with the phrase: The Empire Never Ended.
These simple What If’s can lead to some of the most compelling works of science fiction. That simple notion of what would happen if the Roman Empire never fell was the basis for Imperator Online, and instantly had me hooked. The game was being developed during the height of Dark Age of Camelot’s popularity, but ultimately fell by the wayside to make way for the development of Warhammer Online.
Have your own personal picks for the most impactful MMO cancellations over the years? Drop a note in the comments, or you can also follow me on Twitter. I promise I won’t bite… hard.