On September 25th, the MMO industry turned 12 years old. In 1997, Origin launched Ultima Online and while it wasn’t the first multi-player RPG (MUDs) or even the first one with graphics (Meridian 59), it was the first commercially visible game to hit the market and set off a chain of events that led to more half assed, poorly translated imported MMOs than anyone can possibly imagine.
So, at 12 years old, the MMO is now fully potty trained (bad launches are no longer tolerated, let alone expected), developed its own unique personality (namely fantasy, level-based MMOs) and, through a stroke of great luck, become financially independent (World of Warcraft).
Along the way, hundreds of games have come and gone, but the sequel (as we explored last week) has always been frowned upon. No one wants to mow through their own audience like an escaped circus cannibal.
But make no mistake. MMO years are not like human years. A 12 year old game is collecting social security checks. So what happens when a game that was once glorious no longer has an audience to cannibalize? Do you make a sequel? Do you update the graphics? Or, do you just let it die?
Here at MMORPG.com, we vote remakes. It’s time for a modern, fully featured reimagining of the games that got us all started.
So far, we’ve gotten a few attempts. NetDevil is working on Jumpgate: Evolution and NCsoft has Guild Wars 2 on the way. They also gave us Lineage II and Square Enix is about to kick in Final Fantasy XIV. Of course, SOE became the poster child for audience cannibals with EverQuest II and there was also the debacle Turbine’s Asheron’s Call 2, but generally, sequels/remakes should be a bankable proposition.
So, in today’s MMORPG.com List, we count down the five MMO remakes we don’t just want, we demand.
#5 – Asheron’s Call
Yes, they already made a sequel and yes, it bombed worse than an Eddie Murphy movie, but Turbine has learned a lot since they sullied the legacy of one of the grandfathers of the MMO genre.
Launched in November of 1999, Asheron’s Call has already lived years beyond its sequel. There was a time, believe it or not, when for all intents and purposes the “MMO industry” consisted of three starkly different games: Ultima Online, EverQuest and, of course, Asheron’s Call. It was always the weaker sibling, but that’s kind of like being the least talented Staal brother (Canadians will get this joke).
Why It Was Awesome
AC employed a kind of hybrid advancement system. Players earned experience points and could spend them on what they want. It was a very smart hybrid between the “you are what you do” of UO and the “you are who you pick” of EQ. What’s more, while AC has levels, they are not the be-all and end-all as they are in pretty much every other game these days. It’s just a way to quantify how far you’ve progressed and what skills are available to you.
The game also had a legendary stance towards PvP. Darktide anyone? AC’s PvP server is easily the most hardcore and legendary ever put into action. Darktide players could routinely gnaw on the bones of even the most grizzled Darkfall fans.
The land of Dereth was also awesome. It was an open world, refreshingly populated by original ideas. MMOs are not only pigeonholed in Fantasy, they’re pigeonholed by bastardized Tolkien fantasy (or, as Turbine would later discover, actual Tolkien fantasy). AC is a unique world, with unique races, unique history and a truck load of originality. It’s something worth expanding upon.
Story is also the number one reason Asheron’s Call was awesome: Live events! No one does them well anymore. They’re too corporate, too planned, and too stuffy. With a truly unique MMO IP like Asheron’s Call and the help of modern technology, this could be the perfect commercially viable vehicle to truly tell stories in a virtual world.
Why The Old Game Isn’t Good Enough Anymore
See the screenshots? I’m sorry to people who play it, but it’s just been too long.
A simple graphics overhaul is always a bad idea. It pisses off those guys still shelling out money for the old game and really just polishes a turd for the rest of us. No one wants to dive into a game that old, that ingrained. We want a new experience and as we approach the game’s 10th birthday, I don’t think it’s too much to ask that someone give it a try.
Some Ideas To Make The Remake Shine
Obviously, they need to capture the essence of what made Asheron’s Call awesome, but there has to be some new ideas too. There are things that could make AC’s remake a hit.
The first is the use of modern server technology to create the first non-space, single-world MMO. The biggest hindrance to MMO storytelling is that everyone plays on different servers. With one big world, AC could get around it. The technology is out there, someone just needs a reason to use it. AC is that reason.
The second idea is to finally deliver on the promise of the game’s magic system. It isn’t like other games. It’s complicated, it’s cool and with modern UI and graphics, it could actually be done. The original idea was to have a complex system where users created their spells. It was dangerous, and has more in common with the idea of spell weaving – think the Aes Sedai in Wheel of Time – than “click to cast” as MMO magic has become. They never made it happen in the original AC, but it doesn’t mean it cannot be done.
A story driven fantasy MMO in a single world with a unique character advancement system, a totally new take on MMO magic, and some of the most hardcore PvP areas online… Turbine, you’ve got some work to do.
#4 – Anarchy Online
Let’s go back to the summer of 2001. Funcom, now better known for Age of Conan, launched the first real science fiction MMO. The initial slate of MMOs were fantasy themed, and say what you will about its launch, at least someone had the balls to try a new genre.
As far as terrestrial science-fiction MMOs go, there still isn’t all that much out there. Star Wars Galaxies has a well documented history, and Tabula Rasa is the Waterworld of MMOs.
Yet, along comes Funcom’s Anarchy Online. The quirky Norwegians have continued to develop and expand this game over its eight years of commercial operation. And while they have their hands full with Conan and the upcoming Secret World, maybe they should go back to the game that got it all started?
Why It Was Awesome
Anarchy Online took all the cool bits of the MMO genre and wrapped it in a snazzy, futuristic reality controlled by a shady corporation.
Players choose from a variety of really exciting classes: Adventurer, Agent, Bureaucrat, Doctor, Enforcer, Engineer, Keeper, Martial Artist, Meta-Physicist, Nano Technician, Shade, Soldier, and Trader. While most of these have some kind of fantasy MMO equivalent, their names alone were enough to get me drooling back in 2001.
This is also the game that invented instancing, love it or hate it. They have dynamic missions tailored to the characters involved, which are a popular part of the game.
Why The Old Game Isn’t Good Enough Anymore
The problem I always had with Anarchy Online is that while it promised so much, it never really delivered for me. I wanted the experience of being a Bureaucrat and when I read that, I thought I’d be embroiled in cut-throat sci-fi politics. Turns out I was actually some kind of weird combat class.