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The List: Eight Games Fit For Resurrection

Columns By William Murphy on February 24, 2010

Eight Games Fit For Resurrection

While writing up a recent article on the history of Science Fiction MMOs, it occurred to me how many games we've seen shut down in recent years. It also occurred to me how many games we've seen vanish before even seeing the light of day. For players of now defunct offerings, or fans of games that never were, the disappointment felt is not at all unlike actually paying to see either of the Matrix sequels. Then, with the recent announcement that Gods & Heroes would be seeing the light of day after being put on hiatus over two years ago I thought about games that I'd like to see get a similar treatment.

Here, then are the eight games that were cancelled either in infancy or in development that I think might be fit for a Gods & Heroes-like resurrection. Keep in mind this is all wishful thinking, and there are probably a dozen more games to add to the list, especially considering how many titles never make it out of development limbo. Still, these are the ones that stand out in my mind.

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#8 Auto Assault

A personal favorite of my own, NetDevil's follow-up to the original Jumpgate was like Twisted Metal: The MMO. I loved the setting, the lore, the action, and the physics. Even if the game was buggy, light on content, and had a very out of place player-avatar mode it was a heck of a lot of fun to play and died too swift a death. There have been numerous post-mortems by the development staff chronicling what they think went wrong, but the simple truth is that the plug was pulled too early. We've seen plenty of games stick through tough launches to become better products and ultimately flourish, and Auto Assault was never really given enough chance to that. It's highly doubtful now that NCsoft would resurrect the title, and it hurts a little bit to see how struggling games can be made successes through a change in marketing tactics a la Dungeons and Dragons Online. I still cry at night because I miss my Engineer, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

#7 Earth & Beyond

Earth and Beyond was (pardon the pun) light-years ahead of its time as a space exploration and domination game. But it never quite struck a chord with the Everquest obsessed masses of its time, and before it really had time to mature as a certain other spaceflight game has, Electronic Arts pulled the plug, as they would do to their own The Sims Online (which also deserves special mention here). Doubly painful? Not only was the game axed, but the fabled Westwood Studios behind it crumbled thereafter as well. Would it have become something of a sleeper hit like EVE? The world will never know, but the former players of E&B will tell you how they miss their ties to Infinit Corp. if you care to listen.

#6 Imperator

Imperator was Mark Jacobs' original follow-up to Dark Age of Camelot. Set in a future where Rome had never fallen, this is one of those titles that never even made it out of the conceptual stages. Perhaps the vision was too broad, or the goals too lofty, but for whatever reason Jacobs and the rest of Mythic canned the game and instead began work on Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. Maybe it's something to do with MMOs about the Roman Empire? Whatever the case, the world will never know what Mark Jacobs and company had up their sleeves for this title, unless of course MJ comes out of hiatus to announce he's gone back to drawing board on this one. A guy can hope, anyway.

#5 Wish

Wish is a weird case. Like Gods and Heroes, Mutable Realms' now defunct game was rolling along in beta, and was receiving praise from the community at the time of cancellation. Maybe someone who was in the beta could explain why a game so close to launch would be canned, because I'm just not getting it. Did the developer just decide that there wasn't enough interest to gain traction and turn a profit in the crowded industry, or was it something deeper? It was intended to hearken back to the days of Ultima Online's glory, with in-game "Dungeon Masters" leading live events on their single-server setup, and a robust classless system that allowed players to develop characters in whatever way they pleased. Aren't these the trappings of a game players seem to be begging for lately?

#4 Shadowbane

Shadowbane divided players like no other game on this list. You either loved every second of it, or hated it for being so unpolished and with such merciless PvP. Similar to the recent Aventurine release Darkfall, Shadowbane was designed around a player-driven world where guilds and alliances raised buildings and cities and fought one another for dominance. But the game, for any number of reasons someone who had more experience with it can tell you, never quite gained the attention it needed to survive. After going free-to-play in 2006, the game limped along with a core of supporters until it was finally shut down in 2009.

#3 Tabula Rasa

Tabula Rasa was supposed to be big, people. It was the second MMO from the fabled luminary Richard Garriott. It had spent nearly a decade in development after being reworked from the ground up midway through its creation. And more importantly, it was something new and unique to an MMO scene that was crowded with games that looked too similar. And yet it was canned. What went wrong with TR then? Perhaps it was rushed out the door too soon after being overhauled, or perhaps it simply cost too much money to ever realistically turn a profit for NCsoft, or perhaps rabid monkeys raided the offices and Destination Games suffered an outbreak of Dustin Hoffmanian proportions. All I know is that Tabula Rasa was really getting to be a lot of fun right when it was cancelled, and is yet another title I wish would have tried the F2P model before pulling the plug. But such decisions are never up to the player.

#2 Asheron's Call 2

AC2 was actually my first real love in the MMORPG genre. I joined up when the title was on life-support with scant knowledge of how radically different it was from its predecessor, or how close it was to being closed down due to lack of player-interest. Still, I don't think I'm alone in saying that AC2 had a lot going for it, even if it shouldn't have been called Asheron's Call. Primary fingers of blame are being pointed at Turbine for making the title too drastically different from the original, which led to AC1 being still in operation while the sequel is little more than a footnote in history.

#1 Ultima Online 2

Ultima Online 2 was going to be the big leap of Ultima into 3-D, and the successor to one of the forefathers of modern MMOs. Maybe the folks at Destination Games just didn't have good luck. About one third of the team from UO developer Origin Systems that was working on UO2 when the title was shelved left to join Richard Garriott on the now defunct Tabula Rasa. Maybe it's an indication of the times that MMO gaming's great visionaries have seemingly failed to have a big second act in their careers. Was Ultima Online Worlds: Origin going to be good? Or was it going to be a dumbed down version of one of the industry's most revered titles. What may be even more painful for fans of Ultima Online is knowing that UO2 was merely one of two titles shelved by EA that should have been continuations of the series. Ultima X: Oddyssey was also pitched in the middle of development. Maybe there will never be a successor to the legendary pioneer that is Ultima Online. And maybe there shouldn't be. That doesn't mean I can't sit and wonder "what if" though.

William Murphy / Bill is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, and lover of all things gaming. He''s been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002. Be sure to follow him on Twitter for all of his pointless rambling.