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MMOWTF - A Look Ahead at 2008

MMOWTF columnist Dan Fortier brings his own brand of cynicism and sarcasm to a look at what MMORPG fans can expect from the industry in the coming year.
A Look Ahead at 2008

Editor's Note: This is an edition of a weekly column by Staff Writer Dan Fortier. The column is called "MMOWTF" and will look at some of the stranger or more frustrating events in MMOs as seen by Mr. Fotier. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of MMORPG.com, its staff or management.

Now that we’ve cleansed ourselves of 2007, it’s time to look ahead to what the New Year might hold for us MMORPG addicts. Many of the games that are scheduled to be released in 2007 were pushed back to this year. While I might poke fun at companies that take forever to produce a title, it is nice to see that a couple of the major companies did the smart thing and decided to avoid the mistakes of the past and not release a game in Beta. For those of you who made a New Year’s Resolution to stop reading my weekly crap...you’d best stop reading now as I gaze into the future and predict the rise and fall of MMO kings and nations.

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There are only a few titles that have openly announced release dates within 2008, but what they lack in numbers, they more than make up for in popularity. EA Mythic’s vision of the Warhammer universe was delayed into the second quarter of this year in order to finish the game properly. While it boasts several new and interesting features like Public Quests, I’m more than a little disturbed that they have decided to leave out stealth entirely in order to try and make PvP more balanced. No one is less surprised than me that they have stuck with the “game over world” mentality by making WAR more of a giant persistent multi-layered carnival than a freeform adventure. At my core though, I’m still a big Warhammer fan so I’m hoping that WAR will succeed in finally driving ‘teh grind’ from the field of battle.

Age of Conan is another monster wading into the thick MMO free-for-all this year. Funcom finally appears to have set a final release date in March that they plan on sticking to. I’ve already said my sarcastic piece many times about AoC’s ‘mature’ elements, although I am glad that someone is finally really sticking their neck out on the M-rated MMO chopping block. Many of the complex elements of the game have been revised in order to make it easy for the all-thumbs MMO crowd, but hopefully some element of player skill will still remain by the time the game is ready for release (sans goofy particle effects too). Now that someone is on the verge of making a game since Asheron’s Call that doesn’t put me to sleep, I hope it does well. If anything, they should sell a handful of subs to people who want to log in and play ‘dress-up’ with the female avatars.

Other notables who look like they might actually have their game ready to play this year include:

  • Chronicles of Spellborn: If I have to hear the word ‘innovative’ once more about an MMO I’m going to strangle myself. Thankfully, Spellborn doesn’t seem to be trying to reinvent the wheel while still throwing an interesting twist into character advancement. This is another game that is promoting a more active combat system and I say the more the merrier. It seems that they appear to be taking their time to build a game without trying to throw in every possible feature. We could use more of these guys.
  • Aion : NCsoft licensed out the Crysis engine in order to make a top notch visual MMO. Word is that they are not trying to make Linage 3 with the massive time sinks and level disparity, but as far as I’m concerned it’s just a pretty face on another item-centric hobby. Huge and immersive world, stunning graphics, level dependant. Hmm...Seems like someone just made a game like this a while back that is just now getting fixed. Can’t remember the name for the life of me though. Could it be the master of grind has gone soft? Good luck NCsoft cutting yourself a piece of the hardcore pie.
  • targate Worlds: Very little hard info has been confirmed about this title based on one of the most successful Sci-fi franchises ever. The idea of playing a Goa’uld and sending my horde of hapless Jaffa minions to die does make me smile though.
  • Pirates of the Burning Sea: Yarr! We be sailing to a retail store near you Matey...Ok that was lame. These guys have a plan, which is better than a Vision and a fresh MMO concept so what could go wrong? Ask NetDevil. The Open Beta events were interesting enough that I didn’t nod off right away so that has to count for something. All in all, I see this as a title that could have a long shelf life if they make the game easy enough for a six year old to play.
  • 2 Moons - A really violent conversion of a Korean game called Dekaron. It’s free and bloody. Sorry David, that’s all I got

Some of the existing titles are moving in new directions as we start 2008:

Eve Online is supposed to be releasing some kind of Faction Warfare that they have been promising since the first Revelations expansion. In the meantime, we’ll just have to keep griefing new player corps or moaning about the latest round of nerfs...Yay!

We all eagerly await the official announcement of Bioware’s top secret MMO project. Will former SWG players finally have a reason to turn those frowns upside down? Just their luck it would be Forgotten Realms Online and they would have to endure another year of pouting. Keep your chins up guys...I still love you.

Moving away from games into trends, it’s not often I get to say something positive about the direction the industry is going, but I’m really pleased that at least two big game companies have finally got the message that a failed launch is fatal for a MMO. Taking your time to polish a game is great as long as there is funding to back it up. If anything it proves that MMO projects aren’t a get rich quick scheme and that gamers demand a working product if they are paying a monthly fee.

I’m going out on a limb here and say that 2008 will see a major title fall flat on its face, while an underdog manages to get the small things right and get the attention it deserves. Actually that is more like clinging to the trunk, but what else did you expect? With all the flabbergasting strangeness that went on last year anything could happen.

I didn’t have time to cover every angle so you get to point out the stories you think are important for the upcoming year. In the meantime I’ll be cooking up another whinefest for next week. Keep it real till then.