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Five More Intriguing MMOs That Didn't Launch

Richard Aihoshi Posted:
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Project Copernicus

There's certainly no shortage of people who think they could make a great MMOG if they just had the chance. Star baseball player Curt Schilling apparently felt this way, and he had the connections as well as access to the kind of funding necessary to try. In 2006, nearing the end of his career (he would ultimately retire after the 2008 season), he took a step toward life after athletics by founding Green Monster Games. This created huge buzz the moment it was announced, mainly due to his celebrity plus that of two others he recruited, fantasy author R.A. Salvatore and comic book writer / artist / toy designer Todd McFarlane.

It was immediately clear that the latter two wouldn't be full-time, hands-on team members. Even so, the thought of their participation in any meaningful creative capacity was enough to grab a lot of interest, even from people like me who had been around long enough not to know that potential is seldom fully realized. A couple of years passed, with only a few small bits information about what the studio was working on. This being normal, it didn't raise significant questions.

However, as more and more months went by with little of substance forthcoming, and especially no announcement of the game, rumblings began and then increased in both frequency and volume. The gist was that not revealing the project must mean it was experiencing significant development issues. Unsurprisingly, rumors circulated that there were also money problems. These became more credible in mid-2010 when 38 Studios moved to Rhode Island where it had obtained a $75 million loan guarantee based on the promise to bring hundreds of jobs to the state.

Less than two years later, the company was out of money. It closed its doors in May 2012 with Project Copernicus still not officially unveiled. By then, according to unconfirmed reports, 38 Studios had burned through more than $110, releasing only a spin-off single-player RPG, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, made by Big Huge Games, which it had acquired in 2009. Even now, the thought of an MMOG world where R.A. Salvatore is responsible for the lore and Todd McFarlane for the art direction holds great appeal. So, it saddens me that I'll probably never get to experience it.

Project Titan

When it launched in 2004, World of Warcraft reshaped the video game market by soaring to levels of popularity that no one had dared to predict. It wasn't long before I began to wonder what Blizzard would do for its second MMOG. After all, given the studio's already well-established propensity for inordinately long development periods, I figured it would be at least five years and probably more before we got to play Diablo Online (the one I wanted), Starcraft Online or whatever else it might turn out to be.

Apparently, the company wasn't prepared to move nearly that quickly. Although concepts must have been discussed earlier, it looks like nothing concrete happened until sometime in 2007. The existence of a development project was confirmed the following year, as was the information that it would use a new IP. Nothing more of note was revealed until 2010 when the working name Titan leaked. After that, there was basically lots of dead air until mid-2013 when we were told the project had been rebooted, and a few months later, that it wouldn't be a subscription MMORPG. In September 2014, the big news dropped when the studio revealed that the still unannounced game had been canceled.

A few reports subsequently surfaced on what Project Titan was intended to be, but as far as I'm aware, they were all based on hearsay. I can't say I know much more than any ordinary gamer, but for what it's worth, I suspect it was an ambitious endeavor in a science fiction setting and with a very substantial social interaction-focused, non-combat element. According to Blizzard head Mike Morhaime, it was canceled because the team couldn't figure out how to make it fun. That said, I spent years intrigued by what it could be, and I may never completely lose the thought of what might have been.

World of Darkness

While I've never been more than a pretty casual player of pen and paper or tabletop games, I became aware of them back in the days of the original D&D. Over the years, I've learned mostly small amounts about many different IPs. The World of Darkness universe first came to my attention at least 20 years ago, well before its publisher, White Wolf, merged with CCP in late 2006. At that time it came out that some initial work was already under way for a WoD MMORPG, although the project wasn't officially announced until autumn 2009.

I also had the good fortune to meet CCP's co-founders at a trade conference well before anyone had ever heard of the company. This afforded me the opportunity for a subsequent interview that helped introduce EVE Online to the world. Grognards may remember it was called EVE: The Second Genesis at the time, and also that it didn't fare very well when it launched in 2003. By 2006, however, it was established well enough so that I had started to wonder what the studio would do next.

The idea of a WoD-based MMOG had crossed my mind a few years earlier, during the development of Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, a single-player RPG that shipped in 2004. Due to all these factors, I was particularly pleased when it was revealed that WoD was in progress at CCP. I was also inordinately discouraged by the news last spring that the project had been canceled after being worked on for at least six to seven years.

Even when it became clear that CCP was having major issues, I continued to hope for the best, largely because I believe the WoD franchise has the potential to give us an exceptional MMORPG. I still wonder if we'll ever have the chance to play one. Sadly, it doesn't seem likely. But a man can dream.

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Richard Aihoshi

Richard Aihoshi / Richard Aihoshi has been writing about the MMOG industry since the mid-1990s, always with a global perspective. He has observed the emergence and growth of the free to play business model from its early days in both hemispheres.