Last week, we examined five games that died on the cutting room floor. This week, we look at four games that made it to launch, but died within 18 months.
They’re presented in a countdown, from the game that lasted the longest to the fastest live MMO shut down in history.
Sadly, in recent years, MMO shutdowns have become much more common and the corporate leashes a lot shorter. Older games like Asheron’s Call 2 and Earth and Beyond aren’t on the list. The sad truth is, not everyone gets cancelled as quickly as these four. Earth and Beyond ran for 729 days, while Asheron’s Call 2 survived a whopping 1,134 days.
Now, on with the show:
#4 Auto Assault
Launched: April 11th, 2006
Canceled: August 31st, 2007
The puns come Fast and Furious when this car-based MMORPG comes up. Developed by the folks at NetDevil and published by NCsoft, Auto Assault crashed and burned after only 507 Days of Thunder.
All jokes aside, the team hoped to create a new and innovative MMO experience. Set in a post-apocalyptic world (the year 2030, to be exact), players chose one of the game's three factions: Human, Mutant, or Biomek.
There were two distinct parts of Auto Assault: in-town, where the players walked around in the classic MMO way, and everywhere else in the world, where characters were represented by the car that they drove in a Mad Max-esque free-for-all world. In this game it wasn't people that killed people, it was cars that killed people.
Doing something different is always a risk. There's a reason that a most of the current MMOs follow a familiar formula. Auto Assault attempted to mix car-based games like Grand Theft Auto, or maybe more appropriately Carmageddon, with the MMO genre and it just didn't jive with players. It was new, it was original, but ultimately, it just was just a bit difficult to get into and didn't have enough depth once people did.
Luckily for those involved, its demise wasn't catastrophic for either the game's publisher or its developer. NCsoft is still a global jauggernaught, if a dented one, and NetDevil is currently working on a pair of high profile games: a follow-up to the sci-fi MMO Jumpgate called Jumpgate Evolution and the eagerly anticipated Lego Universe.
Auto Assault just ran out of gas.
#3 Tabula Rasa
Launched: November 2nd, 2007
Canceled: February 1st, 2009
How does a single game go from taking place in a light and mystical fantasy setting full of unicorns and ninja elves to a dark and gritty space war adventure game? That's the shift Tabula Rasa managed to make during its long and controversial development. About two years into the development a decision was made to radically change the design and even concept of the game. It was the space game that tanked, though, so let's concentrate on that.
Tabula Rasa launched in November of 2007 and ran for 484 days before NCsoft finally put this one out of its misery on February 1st, 2009.
Aliens, guns, Richard Garriott, fast paced combat, ethical parables, a new language called Logos that allowed humans to tap into a kind of powerful magic, an innovative cloning system that negated the need to start characters over... This game had a lot of unique features and a lot of going for it on paper. With the Ultima Online icon at the helm, players had high hopes for NCsoft's sci-fi game that promised to combine the pacing, strategy and combat styles of an FPS with RPG elements like mission decisions that altered the course of each character.
The death of Tabula Rasa has been an absurd array of reports, rumors and innuendo. Most of them seem to agree that the game, which had already taken longer than expected due to the complete re-design, was simply pushed out the door too early.
While likely, the problems definitely ran deeper. Simply put, Tabula Rasa tried to be too many things to too many people and never managed to impress any of them.
Yes, the game had the look of a shooter, but in the end it still came down to the same die rolls.
Yes, the game had "ethical parables" that allowed players to make moral decisions that affected the rest of their game, but in the end these parables were too few and far between and mattered a lot less than most expected them to.
Yes, the game had its own brand of puzzles and "magic," but it always seemed a little bit out of place. Who brings a (proverbial) magic wand to a gun fight?
All of this made it hard to connect with Tabula Rasa and when you fail to connect with your audience, it's hard to convince them to pay a monthly subscription fee.
Tabula Rasa lived up to its Latin name and was wiped clean.