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Top 10 Tightlipped MMO Projects

Jon Wood Posted:
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At any given time, there are a shocking number of MMOs in various stages of development. Today, as I write this, we have over one hundred games on our Game List in either the “In Development” or “Beta Testing” categories. Some of those games will make a splash, others will slip quietly into the released category and a few will die before they see the light of day.

Part of the development process of a modern MMO involves the dissemination of information from developers to their potential player base, sometimes through the press and sometimes not, sometimes all at once and sometimes in drips and drabs. Every company has their own approach.

Below, you will find a list of ten games that, while we know they are being developed, haven’t given either their fans or the press much information to work with:

Cast of Buffy

#10 Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Multiverse

Who wouldn’t want to jump into an MMO world full of broody vampires and kick-ass chicks? Who wouldn’t want to jump into a world created by one of nerddom’s biggest heroes in Joss Whedon? Back in September of last year, we learned that 20th Century Fox was partnering with Multiverse to make it happen.

Now, for those with short memories, this wasn’t the first time that Multiverse announced that it had obtained the rights to develop an MMO based on Whedon’s works. But shortly after they acquired the rights to Firefly, the game was shelved for unknown reasons.

So, with that in mind, I thought it might be time to bring this announcement back into the light of day and see what details might emerge. In an interview given to the folks at Massively shortly after the announcement, we learned that the Buffy MMO would be based in a 2D flash world to start off with, and that the game would eventually migrate to 3D. The interview also mentioned that the developers hoped to see the game in beta by the end of that year.

If any further movement has been made on this game, it’s been slow and it’s been quiet. This one could actually be dead for all I know.

Carbine Studios

#9 Unnamed MMO - Carbine Studios

At this year’s Game Developer’s Conference, I had an interesting meeting with the guys from a studio that I had never heard of before. Carbine Studios is the name of the company and they’re working on a project with the good people at NCsoft. My guess is that you’re going to start hearing bits and pieces out of this studio after the launch of Aion, and once Guild Wars 2 PR starts rolling downhill and gaining momentum.

Talking to Jeremy Gaffney, the Executive Producer of the project, I was able to glean the fact that they are working on a sci-fi MMO, but beyond that, the details have thus far escaped me. So, what do we know then? We know for fact that Carbine has been picking up folks from almost all of the recent crop of MMOs. In the interview, for example, he mentions that they have at least two MMO innovators on their team. Specifically mentioned were the diplomacy system designer from Vanguard and one of the guys behind the public quest system in WAR.

In the rare case that Producers mention the games that their staff members have worked on in the past, it can actually be an indicator of what kind of game might come out the other side. For Carbine those games include: EQ2, Warhammer Online, Vanguard, Gods and Heroes, Pirates of the Burning Sea, City of Heroes, while management (or at least the guys that founded the place) is made up of ex World of Warcraft developers. Oh, did I mention that Fallout Producer and Designer Tim Cain is also on board?

I hope I’m not the only person looking forward to hearing more from this team.

Red 5 Studios

#8 Untitled MMO - Red 5

Red 5 was founded back in 2005 when a number of World of Warcraft developers left Blizzard to form their own company headed by CEO Mark Kern. In 2006, the company announced that it would be partnering with publisher Webzen to get their as-yet-unrevealed MMO to players. In 2008, Kern stepped down as CEO, moving instead to CCO and Board Chairman while Michael Weingartner took over as President and CEO.

More recently, at the beginning of this year, Eurogamer.net published an article that revealed a few more details. The developers, it seems, have focused on a world players themselves can alter, which is one of those Holy Grail features for many MMO fans. In the article, the developers go so far as to say in response to a question about whether they were worried about the troubles that plagued Warhammer Online, Age of Conan and Tabula Rasa on launch: "We always think there is a market for a strong, triple-A title," Michael Weingartner. "I don't think that any of the titles you just listed really fall into where we're going, where our interests are. So, that said, I don't think the current trend... worries us too much."

Say what you want about their decision to fly under the radar on details, but you have to at least admire that level of confidence.

Wheel of Time Book One

#7 Wheel of Time - Red Eagle Games

In November of 2008, Red Eagle Entertainment announced a massive drive to translate the stories of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series of novels into other media. The announcement included a feature length film and games galore; single player games for the consoles, PC, handheld and most importantly for the sake of this list, an MMORPG. To do this, Red Eagle Entertainment created Red Eagle Games.

Since the news first came out, nothing much more has seen the light of day, which is not uncommon. The only recent announcement concerning this title was the hiring of Chris Morgan, a screenwriter known for his work on Cellular, Wanted, The Fast and the Furious and other. While it is fun to theorize on what hiring a screenwriter for an MMO might mean for the content of the game, it is simply too soon to tell.

Note: In doing a little bit of research for this piece, I visited the Red Eagle Entertainment website. I don’t normally slag a company’s website, but in this case I’ll make an exception. Not only does the site consist only of a press release and a contact email, but they also make use of a bloody loud eagle call that blares out at you, presumably for daring to try to get some more info about the company… Not cool Red Eagle, not cool.

Oblivion screenshot

#6 Unnamed ZeniMax Online MMO

In August of 2007, ZeniMax media announced the creation of ZeniMax Online Studios, a new studio dedicated to MMO development. The new studio is headed by Matt Firor, who previously served as Executive Producer at Mythic Entertainment.

A few rumors have circulated about what exactly they’re working, but it wasn’t until recently that there was a crack in the case. We've known since 2007 that ZeniMax had registered elderscrollsonline.com, although, presumably, that could just as easily have been to cover their bases against possible squatters.

Now, as much as our little hearts might like to believe it, that’s far from hard evidence that ZeniMax Online’s project is indeed Elder Scrolls Online. In fact, in a Q&A with fans, Bethesda’s Executive Director said that there were no plans for an Elder Scrolls Five. Although, I suppose that technically speaking, an Elder Scrolls MMO might not be the fifth in the series.

It’s been two years ZeniMax, time to spill the beans and give the clamoring hoards a title!

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Jon Wood