Posted Thu, Dec 31, 2009 by Ethec
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Out with the old as we enter the two-thousand-teens tonight, and in the spirt of auld lang syne, today's Loading... has a list of the Ugliest MMO Cancellations of the '00s. Happy new year!
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Today is the very last day of the 00's - or the aughts, as your great grandfather might have said, and I won't attempt to bring an end to the decade with this article. Wise men from across the Internet are frantically debating when exactly the second decade of the second millenia actually begins. Rather than continuing the argument that was all the rage in y2k, I want to look at some of the MMOGs we're leaving behind as we enter 2010. Are there any common threads?
Motor City Online (cancelled 2003) - One of the few MMORPG racing games that achieved launch, EA's Motor City Online was a game before it's time. On the market at a time when many in its core demographic were still on 56k modems, lag and a lack of predictive lag behavior was a serious problem, leading to cars behaving erratically during high latency. Still, Need for Speed: World Online might pick up where MCO left off in 2010.
Earth and Beyond (2004) - Perhaps the first MMO to shift perspective between ship / vehicle and character control (a sub-genre inhabited by the likes of Auto Assault, Pirates of the Burning Sea and Star Trek Online), Earth and Beyond was a beauty, especially for its day. Likely another victim of EA's particularly inflated MMORPG expectations at the time, Earth and Beyond was cancelled due to falling subscription rates in September 2004.
Imperator Online (2005) - Envisioned as a universe where the Roman Republic survived into hyper-modernity, Imperator Online was a sci-fi game with a classical twist. If that fails to resonate with you, you're in accord with Mythic Entertainment, who hefted this Dark Age of Camelot followup while it was still in its infancy.
Wish (2005) - Promising plenty of live events, a class-less skill system, and click-driven combat (no auto-attack) before games like DDO and Age of Conan made it cool, Wish was an MMO that never came true, cancelled mid-way through closed beta. Now defunct Halifax-based Mutable Realms never came clean on what caused the cancellation aside from negative beta feedback, but ex-employees noted a lack of funding and local talent to support its small but dedicated team.
Gods and Heroes: Rome Rising (2007) - For those of us that have read and re-read Bulfinch like teenage girls read the Twilight series, Gods and Heroes promised a setting steeped in interesting and edu-taining mythology as well as a minion system that was years ahead of its time. The game actually received best-of-show awards at E3 2006, including one from Ten Ton Hammer. Perpetual Entertainment, however, succoumbed to the Herculean task of producing two MMORPGs at once (the other - Star Trek Online - is now in Cryptic Studios' hands and will see the light of day next February) and suspended Gods and Heroes development before being forced into liquidation in 2008.
Auto Assault (2007) - A game that fell prey to its human side, the most persistent criticism of Auto Assault was wooden character animations and stodgy jumping. Out-of-vehicle interaction was largely ornamental, replacing a menuing system for trading, customizing the vehicle, etc. We wonder what kind of response we would have seen had NetDevil stuck to its core strength - a pretty awesome (yet hard to group in) Matchbox cars of doomsday concept. NCSoft killed the project in 2007 and - despite NetDevil's efforts to purchase the IP - retains the rights to develop and publish Auto Assault as of this printing.
Mythos (2008) - One of the few top-tier isometric perspective MMOGs this category's ever seen, Flagship drew a small and loving beta community with this novel fantasy project. When the amorphous Hellgate: London fell on hard times, Mythos development was suspended and ultimately cancelled. Fortunately for fans, Mythos may yet live at Redbana, who owns the property and has recently begun talking. Even more fortunately, much of the original team survives at Runic Games, where the Torchlight MMORPG is under development and may, it's rumored, fully realize the original vision for Mythos.
Tabula Rasa (2009) - Despite criticisms about the lack of an auction system and tradeskill complexity, Tabula Rasa was a fast paced combat MMO reminiscent of a single player shooter (albeit a long, drawn-out one), and as such wasn't terribly friendly to grouped play. Perhaps that's the chief reason for lower than expected population number which resulted in its cancellation. NCSoft ended this one with class, however, making the last few months free-to-play, offering rewards in other NCSoft games for remaining players, and holding a last days event that tied up the storyline.
The Matrix Online (2009) - The Matrix Online was a highly innovative MMORPG at its 2005 release, with novel character development and combat and the unique chance to see the Matrix storyline unfold. Unfortunately, it was released almost two years after the final Matrix film earned its lackluster reviews, and depended on an unfamiliar mix of live events for endgame appeal. After making a slight attempt to rehab the game after purchasing it sfrom Warner Bros. and SEGA, SOE closed the game last June.
Have any more titles to add to the list? See any common threads between these titles that might hint at where MMOs have systematically gone wrong? Join the discussion in our Loading... forum.
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- Jeff "Ethec" Woleslagle and the Ten Ton Hammer team