A new year brings new chances to impress gamers. A slew of new games are set to launch this year, and for all intents and purposes I can't think of one that's looking like it will wind up a disappointment... so long as you know what it is the developers are promising to deliver. There's no denying that 2010 was not exactly a stellar year, but for my own part I think I'm really starting to get jazzed about 2011. E3, PAX, and the rest were actually great showcases for some of the talent that's coming out in (hopefully) the next twelve months. DCUO launches in a few days, Earthrise launches in a month, and now Rift is set for a March 1st release itself... that's three games in three months I have a genuine interest in. When was the last time I could that about the MMO industry? I'm fairly certain it's an anomaly. I'm sure, as always happens, someone will call me out for being "paid" by the companies who make the below mentioned games. I promise, I don't have any hookers, blow, or wadded up cash from any developer stockpiled and tainted by my written excitement. I got all of that stuff on my own. The following is merely my honest opinion as a gamer.
Earthrise is looking to be yet another Indie gem releasing in the near future (alongside the underappreciated Perpetuum) that focuses on the Science Fiction theme. Like Perpetuum and the ever-popular EVE Online, Earthrise is looking to be a sandbox exploration of a highly volatile future where different factions vie for control of Earth's resources. Online and offline progression, a deep and varied skill-system, hardcore PvP (with safe zones for the faint of heart), and purportedly very involved crafting system round out some of the more important features. In all, it sounds like a Sandbox player's dream for 2011. I'm definitely interested in seeing how it shakes out, since Tabula Rasa didn't exactly fare as well as I'd hoped. Ahem.
Then of course there's Rift dropping on March 1st. Like any other game nearing launch, Trion's baby is seeing its fair share of back and forth banter on our boards. The fact remains that in my eyes, Rift is poised to be a very serviceable and layered Theme Park experience. The Rifts themselves are proving to be more and more interesting with each Beta event, and the class system offers a lot of room for experimentation and variation across the player-base (so long as you don't adhere to the Flavor of the Month club that will undoubtedly arise). Has the whole fantasy MMORPG with quest-hubs thing been done before? Of course. But rarely has it been done with such polish, and the places where it does deviate from the norm are enough to entice anyone who's looking for something familiar with a twist.
Then of course there's DC Universe Online. This game's not going to be for everyone. SOE knows it. We know it. The American people know it. But for those who do take a shine to it (myself included) it will be really hard to pull ourselves away from our monitors come January 11th. It's not perfect, but I've not had as much fun playing an MMO in years, and it's safe to say at this point that I'll likely be playing this one for a long while. And even though I fully enjoy my time with the title, I'm not blind to its faults, which I'll absolutely point out in my review down the road. But for my money, there's little debate as to what I'll be playing next Tuesday.
And really, we just can't stop there. It's looking likely, but not 100% confirmed that The Old Republic, Guild Wars 2, and TERA are all going to drop in 2011 (or early 2012 at the latest). Each one of these offers yet more ways to play in the MMORPG genre. We've got a traditional Fantasy MMO, a sci-fi sandbox, a superhero action-MMO, an Eastern PVP MMO from the makers of Lineage II, and of course the hyped juggernaut that is Guild Wars 2. If they all release in the next twelve months I just might explode from the sheer amount of gaming joy we'll be awash in. Even if only half of them hit their mark, and even if they all disappoint on some level... there's something here for everyone and each one seems to be learning lessons from past failures as well.
It's the year of anticipation folks. I know the general consensus is to be worried first, and be pleasantly surprised later when it comes to these games. Many of us have been burned too many times in the past. And 2010 was certainly not helpful to our outlook. But 2011 really is shaping up to be something different. It's really shaping up to reinvigorate the industry in a way that hasn't happened in years. And now, more than in any previous year, there really seems to be an MMO for everyone. New methods of playing, paying, and enjoying virtual worlds are all on the horizon. Sure we can sit and grumble about how things aren't moving fast enough, and sure we can sit and bicker at each other over why this game or that game sucks despite the fact that we know it's only our opinion.
But wouldn't it be fun if for once we all just let ourselves get excited?