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The List: The Five Best Cancelled MMOs

Column By William Murphy on June 27, 2011

In honor of our fallen (falling?) comrade, Star Wars Galaxies, this week’s List is going to be all about the dead and dying MMOs.  It’s no secret that when an MMORPG launches and people begin to make it their home, they start to grow attached to the world, it’s characters, and the people they inhabit it with.  Ergo it’s always painful when one of these games has to be shut down.  Whether a game is a success or not, we’re talking about thousands of hours in development being switched off, never to be played again.  We’re also talking about potentially millions of hours spent by players’ suddenly rendered little more than wasted time.  Sure, it’s all wasted time… I get that.  But when an MMO closes, the point is really driven home hard.  Now keep in mind that this List is only about games that saw the light of day.  With a somber tone now, let’s review five of the best “Dead” MMOs there ever were.

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5.) The Chronicles of Spellborn

Though its ambitions were likely far larger than the team ever could have realized, there was no denying that Spellborn had a distinct flair and charm all its own.  The world was beautifully rendered, the character creation system unique, and the combat was fantastic blend of the twitch and strategic.  Cancelled at the end of August last year, it was rumored for a time that someone would pick up Spellborn and run with it as a F2P game.  That rumor seems to have never materialized as we make our way into the back-end of 2011 and not a word has been muttered.  Let’s have a moment of silence for all the Ancestral Quests never to be completed.

4.) Auto Assault

Near and dear to my heart, Auto Assault was a nice blend of Mad Max meets Twisted Metal in an online world.  Gosh how I used to love running about the Wasteland in this game as my Engineer, watching scavs turn to mush beneath my massive van’s wheels.  I still maintain that this idea could have worked, but as NetDevil went on to talk about in the months after Auto Assault’s closure the team tried to shoehorn in too many MMO facets that just couldn’t work with cars.  Healing, tanking, and all of that just didn’t have a place.  Perhaps if AA had been built around a F2P model and focused more on the PVP from the get-go, it’d still be around.  We’ll never know now though… god rest ye Merry Mutants.

3.) Tabula Rasa

Likely to be remembered more for its quirky promotional tactics (DNA in space anyone?), Tabual Rasa was not a bad game in the slightest.  It had some truly engaging mechanics, a great story, and some pretty spiffy visuals to boot.  But it also tried to be a shooter where players locked on their targets, thereby doing away with the entire point of shooter mechanics at all.  Additionally, though it was technically in development for seven years, the TR we all played was actually only thrown together in a few years after a complete design overhaul from the initial drawing board ideas.  TR merely goes to show that no matter what name is attached to a game, and no matter how good the premise is… if your product is subpar, the players will notice.

2.) Earth & Beyond

I can’t believe it’s been almost seven years since E&B was cancelled, but it has.  One of the first games to give us an MMORPG in space, complete with avatar-based play as well (though quite limited), E&B was one of those games that you either loved or hated from moment the first.  With some of the (then) best visuals on the market, and truly fantastic space combat, Earth & Beyond earned a spot among many a player’s favorite games.  But the MMO was just beginning to take center stage when it launched, and perhaps impatient Electronic Arts shut the game down just over two years after release.  Who knows though… maybe its exodus helped EVE (launched in 2003) gain a stronger foothold.

1.) Asheron’s Call 2

Asheron’s Call 2 was nothing like its famous predecessor.  It was also a buggy and incomplete game at launch.  That didn’t stop many from loving it, me included.  But alas, as Microsoft is prone to do, the game was closed in 2005; roughly a year after World of Warcraft came out and stole the game’s remaining followers.  It’s not all bad though.  Turbine went on to create Lord of the Rings Online and see much success in the conversion to a Freemium business model they’ve now made famous.  Still, nothing will give me back AC2, and don’t try to tell me that Asheron’s Call itself is still up and running.  It’s not the same… it’s just not the same.  In the end, who knows about all of these titles and franchises?  If Hellgate: London can see a resurrection, the same could happen with any title on this List.

Thanks for reading and feel free to pay your respects in the comments below before helping yourself to the customary funeral service pizza and soda.

William Murphy / Bill is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He''s been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.

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