Reader's Choice Awards: In 2006, MMORPG.com readers took part in two rounds of voting. The first, open round determined the nominees. The second and final round included only those games that acquired 10% or more of the nominating vote.
The runners up in the category for 2006 were: Lord of the Rings Online (9%), Pirates of the Burning Sea (10%), Age of Conan (14%), Star Trek Online (15%), and Vanguard (23%). Taking home the prize with an impressive 27% of the final vote was the EA Mythic's Warhammer Online.
It is interesting to note that of the top six games nominated in this category, only two games carried an original IP.
Launched on September 18th of 2008, Warhammer Online was Mythic Entertainment's second kick at the Realm vs. Realm can, this time based in the robust and popular Games Workshop Warhammer universe. Sporting innovative features like the Tome of Knowledge and public quest system, Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (with the clever acronym WAR) hit store shelves with a bang.
Warhammer Online got out of the gate fast, boasting 500,000 registered players in its first week. By the end of its first month, that number had swollen to 750,000.
Unfortunately, players were quickly frustrated with a number of the game's elements including but not limited to: over-use of scenarios, poor performance at endgame, and empty open RvR areas.
By February of 2009, that number had dropped to 300,000 according to a financial statement from Mythic's parent company, Electronic Arts. While this is by no means a number that would indicate catastrophic failure, it is a significant drop that has resulted in numerous rounds of server merges.
The Mythic developers haven't sat idly by and let player issues with their game stand. The development team has made a number of significant changes and improvements to the game including: the reintroduction of four careers that were dropped from the game prior to launch, improved Open RvR gameplay, tiered difficulty public quests, numerous balance improvements, improvements to the endgame, content updates and more.
Editorial Awards: 2006 marked the only year that MMORPG.com editorial staff and readers agreed on their choice as the Editorial Most Anticipated award also went to Mythic's Warhammer Online.
A number of games that were either nominated for, or given an honourable mention for, one of these awards have yet to see the light of day, either because they were cancelled or because they are still in development. Here are a couple:
Hero's Journey was given an honourable mention by the Editorial staff back in 2005. The game, under development by Simutronics, was held back by that company's development of the game's engine for outside sale. Recently, developers confirmed that the game was still in active development.
Gods & Heroes was also given an honorable mention by the staff at MMORPG.com. In 2006, editors expressed their excitement about the game's setting, premise and overall look. Gods & Heroes was cancelled on October 9th, 2007 while in beta testing.
In 2007, the MMORPG.com staff merged the Editorial Awards and the Reader's Choice Awards into a single prize. In doing so, the editorial staff chose the nominees in each category while the final vote rested with the community. The nominees in the category who did not take home there award were: Warhammer Online, Star Trek Online, Stargate Worlds, Pirates of the Burning Sea, Aion, The Chronicles of Spellborn and Jumpgate Evolution.
In the end, it was Funcom's Age of Conan that took home the prize, finishing neck and neck with Mythic's Warhammer Online. This result, with those two games in the lead, proved to be quite true as fans of each game fought tooth and nail until each game's eventual release. Conan, of course, had previously won an Editorial award in 2005.
When it finally launched in 2008, Age of Conan initially received reviews that cited the well put together and engaging level 1-20 experience. The island of Tortage provided players with a solo adventure as well as the ability to interact with others. Quests were plentiful and every piece of dialogue was voice acted. As players began to venture outside of Tortage, however, complaints began to mount due to a general lack of content, bugs and class imbalance.
Since launch, Funcom has been working hard to improve their game and has made a great deal of headway with numerous updates including but not limited to: new content, PvP changes, Siege improvements, performance improvements, a free trial, and more.
Nonetheless, the early problems have hurt the game, which is nowhere near the smashing success readers would have thought when they handed it the hardware in 2007. Some have even speculated that it would meet an early demise, but Funcom has shown a great historical resiliency - Anarchy Online also overcame a troubled launch - and continues to grow and improve Age of Conan.
The most recent MMORPG.com awards functioned in the same way as they had in 2007. MMORPG.com nominated games, while the community as a whole chose the winner.
The nominees for the 2008 Most Anticipated Game were: Runes of Magic, Aion, Champions Online, The Chronicles of Spellborn, Darkfall, Earthrise, Jumpagte Evolution and Stargate Worlds.
The winner has gone on to be one of the most controversial MMORPGs released in years. Readers either love or hate this game. There has been little discussion of anything in between. Its eventual release early in 2009 is proof positive that even a game that has been in development for nearly a decade can eventually be released. We are, of course, speaking of Aventurine's Darkfall Online.
Everything about this game has sparked controversy, from a release that has phased in new players, to controversial reviews and the developer reactions to them, to the nature of the game itself. It is far too soon to tell what the future holds for Darkfall, but its development and release has captured the attention, both positive and negative, of many MMO fans.