The Upcomming MMOs
With E3 wrapped up, there seems to be a lot of talk on the MMO community regarding some of the upcoming MMOs that we may have a chance at seeing over the next year. My guild has been easing up on Darkfall waiting for the NA release so we can have our fresh start, so I figure I'd take a break writing about it for this entry to weigh in on 4 of these upcoming MMOs that have some of the members of my guild talking.
This is one that seems to spur the most discussion for my guys at the moment, probably because it seems to be marketing itself as Darkfall's competition. This game seems to be the fallback game for those people who have decided to opt out of Darkfall, although at present time, my guild still loves it.
The game sounds pretty decent on paper or powerpoint, and I sincerely hope it does well. I am a big fan of anyone who tries to go the sandbox route and give players freedom and open worlds, which is one of the driving forces behind our interest in Darkfall. So in this regard, I am happy to see some other companies trying to steer the genre in a direction that doesn't offer linear themepark gameplay.
At this stage, I think I have 2 major concerns regarding Mortal Online.
The first concern is whether or not the graphical engine will be able to handle a fair amount of people on the screen at once without bringing systems to their knees. Darkfall takes a lot of flack from parts of the MMO community over the games graphics not being modern enough, but at the same time it has shown to handle more people fighting in close proximity better than many zoned and instance based games that are seen as being prettier. Hopefully Mortal will not succumb to Age of Conan syndrome where good graphics become a detriment in certain aspects of the game.
The second concern I have at this stage is the recent announcement to start selling preorders for beta access even though the game will probably not see the light of day for another 6 months, or possibly more. I don't mind preorders if they are within 4-6 weeks of release, but we are talking about a game that could be delayed until 2010 before all is said and done, and there is not enough footage (in my opinion) at this stage to justify jumping in this far out. I wonder if the usual forum crusaders and armchair forum accountants will practice what they preached on previous titles or if they will give these guys a free pass on this. I suppose if there is an option to cancel the preorder, then it might help a bit. Still it looks like this is one to watch depending on your playstyle.
This is another game that seems to be talked about a lot lately with their recent North American beta. I think the one obvious thing about this game that makes it jump out at people are the graphics. Clearly from a graphic standpoint, Aion seems to be one of the more visually impressive MMOs to come around in a long time. One of the other good things this one seems to have going for it is the fact that it has already been live overseas for quite some time, so one has to imagine that by the time it releases here that NA players will have the benefit of a game that has already undergone balancing and tweaking from patches.
My main concern with Aion is whether or not it brings anything really new to the table, or will it turn out to be nothing more than "WoW with wings". The novelty of the graphics will diminish over time, and the game will need to have solid gameplay to back it up. A lot of attention is given to the fact that you can fly in this game, but a lot of people who haven't been following it may not know that flight time is limited to very short spurts. I am not sure if there is enough innovation here to peak my interest, but it no doubt might be a threat to WAR and AoC as they share the same target audience.
The other major problem that I think could derail this game's success in North America is the infestation of bots the game has seen overseas. Much like Lineage 2, Aion seems to have a bot epidemic going on. Depending on the severity of this, I am not sure if North American players will be as tolerant towards this in a new game. Hopefully the people behind Aion will find a way to stomp this problem out before the game reaches North American shores, otherwise it may not see the same success it has enjoyed in their home market.
Final Fantasy XIV
I'll be the first to admit that I love FFXI. This is one of those MMO's that a lot of my guild members have gone back to time and time again. I think FFXI is probably the best PvE MMO on the market. The game is relatively inexpensive and gives you an absolutely staggering amount of content for your buck. Naturally when we heard about another online Final Fantasy game, some of my guildies ears perked up.
FFXI to us is like a spicy food that burns when you bite it, yet it's that burn that brings you back for more. I think the game's challenge is one of the driving forces behind the game's success. The sense of accomplishment for doing some of the hard content in this game does feel rewarding. I think for a pure PvE game to succeed as long as FFXI has, it needs to be difficult to have longevity.
The possible kiss of death to me in the recent announcement was when I read in an interview with some Square-Enix people that FFXIV was going to be geared towards casuals. To me, that translates into an easy game that will most likely have people breezing through content and possibly bored within 60 days (I hope I am wrong). They have long stated that this next MMO would not be like FFXI, so I can't say I am surprised. It also doesn't make sense for a company to release 2 MMOs that would compete against each other (see Mythic). I just hope that they don't make this game cater to the lowest common denominator and end up giving us another WoW style theme park with Final Fantasy written on the box. I'm sure the name alone will make it sell a lot, especially for some console players who are not used to MMOs. Hopefully after all these years SE will come up with a better User Interface than FFXI's.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
Everybody loves Star Wars, so it is no surprise that an MMO based on this universe is getting a lot of hype and attention from many corners of the MMO community. If there is one franchise that deserves to have a good game made after it, this is it. The current incarnation of Star Wars Galaxies seems to not be doing Star Wars any justice, and with a company with Bioware's track record behind it, it could have promise. I'll give them credit for being smart enough to set the game in an era where Jedi are everywhere. Let's be honest for a minute, when most people want to play a game in this universe, do you think they will chose to play a wookie like Chewbacca or a lightning shooting Sith Lord with a lightsaber? Bioware seems to get it in this regard so despite the other classes, this game looks like it might be on a better track than SWG went down.
The concern I have with the game at this point is the hype. I watched their trailer of a CGI cutscene of some massive Jedi brawl, but where is the gameplay footage? They are starting this hype campaign a bit too early in my opinion and are going to end up with a customer base that has unrealistically high expectations. FFXIV was guilty of this as well, showing no footage of the real gameplay. Even the biggest steaming pile of crap can have a wicked CGI intro, but that doesn't tell you anything about the real game. Show me something tangible to get excited about please because I want to be excited about a game like this. I am buying a video game, not a movie, so show me the money!
They seem to have a strong story element going in this game which is a good sign. There are not that many MMO's out there I have played outside of FFXI that really had a story with cutscenes, and not little kill quest journal crap not worth reading. I'd like to hear about any PvP elements this game might have, I am assuming there must be one with all of the Sith and Jedi running around everywhere. They are definitely running the risk of over-hyping this though given how far away the release date is if they continue to show more CGI cutscenes instead of real gameplay.
It looks like the over the next year or so, there will be a nice variety of MMOs coming out. No matter what game you are playing now, chances are there is one coming down the pipe in the next year that threatens to steal your interest from whatever you are playing now (if any). We also need to make sure to not over-hype these games based on power points or CGI presentations. Hopefully the companies behind these games will start to show us real and extensive gameplay footage so that we the MMO community can decide whether or not these games will actually stack up in reality like they do on paper.
Co-Leader of Inquisition