Today, trapped in a sadistic bout of nostalgia, we take a look at what we consider to be the Top 5 of these games. Highly anticipated by their fans and yet left squarely on the design room floors:
#5 - Perpetual Entertainment's Star Trek Online
This would-have-been game in development takes the fifth spot on our top five list, not because it wasn't highly anticipated, or because it flew low on the radars of MMO fans, but because the property itself was picked up after the game's cancellation. Regardless of Perpetual's decision, Star Trek Online is likely to see store shelves... it just won't be the game that its original designers at Perpetual Entertainment envisioned.
The news hit back in September of 2004 that the San Francisco-based development studio had landed the license to what is without a doubt one of the two biggest and best known science fiction franchises of all time.
As development on the game moved on, troubles with the development company behind the game began to mount and speculation began to grow about the future of the Trek MMO, or lack thereof.
The first sign were the numerous reports of layoffs at the company. Second came the cancellation of the company's other MMO, an original IP game called Gods & Heroes, reportedly to focus on the Trek game was announced on October 9th of 2007. Next, we had the rather quiet transfer of ownership from Perpetual Entertainment to a company called P2. Throw in a lawsuit filed against the company by its own PR company, and we're given a glimpse behind the reasons that on January 14th of 2008, the announcement came down that development had ceased on the project. This news was followed closely by reports that another Bay Area developer (later revealed to be Cryptic Studios) had acquired the license.
People didn't stop heavily criticizing Perpetual's game after Executive Producer Daron Stinnett told MMORPG.com that he wasn't making a game for Trekkers, but making a great MMO. Taken out of context, this sounded like the company was planning to just throw a think Star Trek skin on a WoW clone. Personally, I think he just meant they were trying to make a good MMO, but what do I know? In the end, STo is probably better of where it is than where it was.
WISH, a game in development from the now defunct Mutable Realms, promised big things to the MMO community and was suddenly cancelled in January of 2005.
It billed itself as the first UMMORPG (Ultra Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game), meaning that it was supposed to be a single server, single zone, fantasy-based MMORPG.
Game mechanics-wise, WISH had a lot of concepts moving in its favor:
Open world, single server, single shard: WISH was supposed to be the fantasy game that did away with multiple servers and zones in a game. The world was supposed to be seamless and for everyone.
Skill-based advancement system: No levels and rigid class structure here. Instead, the game's advancement was base don doing. You want to improve your sword skill? Go swing the sucker around for a bit. Want to learn to cast magic? Practice makes perfect.
A great pathing system: many people who actually had a chance to play WISH applauded its impressive pathing system.
Live Content: The idea behind this feature was to have developers act as GMs, providing unique and interactive experiences for the game's players on a regular basis. While this didn't replace your standard array of quests, it was meant to supplement them and give the story the feeling of being alive, interactive and changeable through player actions.
It wasn't all roses and sunshine though, the main complaint that people had with this game was that it was based on a point and click navigation system. Despite numerous and repeated complaints from fans the developers insisted that the point and click system was crucial to the game's single shard, single world technology.
Then, without warning or a great deal of explanation, the game's official website announced that the project, and all of its lofty goals, would be shut down permanently.
Live Content... What a great concept; have a bunch of developers live, in the world, giving players individual attention and providing interactive stories 24 / 7. Great in concept, difficult to actually implement. In fact, a lot of this game's core concepts would have played well with today's MMO audience that wants sandbox skill based games.
#3 Gods & Heroes
Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your subscriptions! Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising was the original IP MMO that the folks at the ill-fated Perpetual Entertainment were working on. Announced on March 9th, 2005, the game was supposed to have been the company's flagship, followed then by the massive IP MMO Star Trek Online. Unfortunately, like the empire that the game was built to replicate, it crumbled.
The premise was certainly both interesting and unique. While the game was set in Ancient Rome, theirs was a Rome where mythology was fact.Your character? The long lost son or daughter of the gods, set about to claim your destiny and your birthright.
The game's classes were pulled straight from the history books: Soldier, Gladiator, Mystic, Priest, Scout and Nomad. The game's real selling point though was its minion system.
Minions, we were told, would give your character more versatility. They were supposed to be an entourage of NPCs that could travel with your character. Playing a Soldier and need some healing support? Get a Priest minion. Players would have had some control of the minions in much the same way that pet classes control their pets in most MMOs.
Unfortunately Gods & Heroes, already in its beta testing phase, was the first casualty of Perpetual Entertainment's descent. On October 9th 2007, the company announced that it was putting the game on "indefinite hold" in favour of spending its resources on Star Trek Online.
The cancellation of any game isn't fun for the fans or the developers, but the cancellation of a game in beta can be downright devastating. Gods & Heroes was a near-complete game (obviously with its share of problems). I will, however, remember the time that I played a hands-on with the game and watched as a titan-like giant picked my character up, threw him to the ground and stomped him like a cigarette.