MMOs Off My Radar

radarScreen-719485It’s fair to say that I have a pretty narrow focus when it comes to MMOs that I’m ever interested in at a certain point in time.  Two to three seems to be my natural limit — these are the ones I devote my main attention concerning news and development and even play (right now it’s DDO, Champions and TOR).  Then there’s an outer ring of my attention span that briefly touches on other MMOs that I keep tabs on from time to time (currently WoW, WAR, LOTRO and Star Trek Online).  Finally, there is the void, the abyss, the dark nothing in which many, many upcoming MMOs float, unable to gain a purchase on my mind.

The problem with talking on most of these “other” MMOs is that I’m fairly ignorant, uninformed and neutral of them as a whole.  In over a decade of writing movie reviews, I’ve long since learned that the best reviews are ones of movies you feel strongly about in some way, whether it be love, hate, interest or whatnot.  But when it’s a film that’s so middle-of-the-road bland to be neither good nor bad, and definitely not noteworthy, reviews and discussion of such are like pulling teeth to conjure.  I don’t really want to start flinging opinions around of these other MMOs from this standpoint, because I’m tabula rasa in regards to them, and that’s not fair to people who actually care about these titles and feel offended when they’re mishandled by folks who don’t know any better.

Yet since folks ask me about some of those latter titles, I thought it’d be interesting to briefly call them in from the void, do a bit of research on them, and see what there is to see… and if I should bother in the future.

Fallen Earth

On paper, Fallen Earth seems right up my alley — post-apocalyptic RPG, a la Wasteland/Fallout.  Yes.  That’s awesome.  And what’s more is that it is rocketing toward launch in about a month, which is a good sign that this indie developer is confident that it can take on the triple-A threats of Champions and Aion, and hold its own.

However — the reason I say “on paper” Fallen Earth looks great is that it’s one of those titles that doesn’t seem like it has enough going for it to really make it, and I don’t want to get any hopes up at all.  Not withstanding the competition (and far less press coverage it will receive), FE doesn’t give off that high-polish smell.  Screenshots are somewhat crude, especially in light of what MMOs have been releasing over the past few years.  It’s also a pseudo-FPS game, which as you’ll find out from this article, is almost always a mark against it in my book.  And finally, FE is selling for $50 for the game and $15/month — meaning that it’s priced at the same competitive level of the Big Boys, but will almost certainly offer less than them in terms of content, quality and polish.  The best I can see happening for this title is what I say about almost all indie MMO games — that it releases without falling over its own feet, builds up a small but solid core into a game deserving of its own merits instead of its non-existent advertising budget.

Global Agenda

Okay, Global Agenda does get points for its snarky “No Elves” video, although the elf got capped by what looks like a typical 1337 sniper, which puts me in the position of wishing them both dead.  Other than that, I knew nothing about the game, so I perused their website and a few related articles.  Turns out that GA is a FPS/RPG — sort of a blended child of Anarchy Online, Planetside, Tribes and Team Fortress.  Although the scifi setting and smooth look of it all is appealing, the “FPS” part is a right turn-off.  Companies are experimenting with new ways to take MMORPGs, and that’s all well and good, but I’ve played FPS’s, and I’m pretty much done with them.  If it’s a game that pits me against other players who can headshot me across the field while I’m frantically spamming my “1” button… nah, I’m good, thanks.  It also doesn’t seem like it has the kind of buzz that would make me take a second look at this point.

So what could win me over to GA?  Frankly, it’s got to release and have incredible word of mouth — the kind that’s “You HAVE to try this NOW!” — from sources I trust.  I’m not saying that it’s going to be crap otherwise, just probably not for me.

DC Universe Online

Hm.  I’ll be up front about this — I’m biased against DCUO for two reasons.  One, I’m a Marvel man, and apart from Batman, I’ve never really cared about any of the franchises in DC.  And two, I’m pulling for Champions and like the ideas that they’re doing more than DCUO.  Whether the gameplay will BE better, or whether those ideas will solidify into a compelling MMO remains to be seen.

DCUO’s main selling point that everyone includes to give it an edge over Champions is the inclusion of villain classes.  Okay, I’ll admit, that’s great.  Personally, I don’t really want to play a villain in a superhero MMO, so it’s irrelevant for me, but I’m not blind that it’s an important factor for many others.  It’s also a SOE product, and I’ve always been a bit leery of Sony, especially since they’ve never sold me on any of their other products to this point.

So I guess my distaste for DCUO is both irrational and premature, but I’m here to be honest about it.

Jumpgate Evolution

All I previously knew about Jumpgate Evolution (JE) is that it was the sequel/remake to a fairly small 2001 MMO, that it had been delayed a bit, and that it was set in space with you in the role of a ship’s captain.  The open beta is apparently going gangbusters right now, good for it.

Although I think there’s a real void — and potential opportunity — for scifi space-bound combat for people not into the spreadsheet experience that is EVE Online, the fact that it’s being promoted as a “twitch based shooter” is not a big selling point with me.  As internet speeds increase, twitch-based MMO gaming might well be on the rise, but I wince at thinking of how little strategy twitch takes in comparison to the more traditional MMO setup.  Still, I’d love to see a lot more focus on spaceship MMOs, because I’d rather play a good one of those than a fantasy title any day of the week.  Where’s our Tie Fighter vs. X-Wing MMO (and don’t give me that Star Wars Galaxy crap)?

The Agency

Yet another RPG/FPS title — sensing a trend in these developing MMOs yet?  It’s a spy-themed shooter, which is fairly unique for the MMO genre, and will probably have great appeal to those who idolize James Bond/Jason Bourne/Alias/Splinter Cell and the like.  It’ll probably do very well for itself, too.  Well, as long as their staff stops fleeing the ship (including the studio head!).

But they’re not putting out anything that appeals to my taste in games, no “ooh that’s cool!” hooks that grab my interest.  The only thing that I want to know is how it might work on the PS3 as well as Windows — one of many proposed, but not realised, multi-platform MMORPGs (AoC, Champions, etc.).

APB

APB’s hook is basically, “If you like Grand Theft Auto, you’ll like APB!”  Do I like GTA?  Revoke my gamer card, but nope.  So this game of cops ‘n robbers will have to go on without me.  Probably for the best, since a lot of the articles I’ve read about it have developers gushing about how awesome the characters’ tattoo options will be versus any actual gameplay.  Coming out in spring 2010.

Guild Wars 2

This interests me, mostly in an academic, detached way, because I found a lot to admire about the original Guild Wars and want to see it where they take it next.  The concept of “collecting” skills and forming limited builds with them encourages player creativity and experimentation, and the genre sorely needs that.

Unfortunately, new info on the game has been scarce to none, making me fear this might end up as vaporware someday.

19 thoughts on “MMOs Off My Radar

  1. Great list, I agree with most everything you got up there. I would have probably thrown Crimecraft on the list though too. Everything I’ve heard/seen about it so far has left me with an extreme case of apathy towards the game.

  2. I actually had an arguement with my friend over DCUO and Champions. Im pulling for Champions and he is DCUO. I cant put my finger on why I cant get excited about this game, in my opinion it looks more like a streets of Rage/tekken kind of gameplay from any of the released footage and much the same as you I dont hold any love for DC bar Superman, Batman and Lobo.

    My friend doesnt like the graphics for Champions Online and said it is the main reason he wont try it…. its a bit baffling for me as he is a massive comic book geek and I think the graphics actually place you inside a graphic novel/comic.

    None of the other MMOs mentioned above float my boat however Jumpgate Ev has the potential to be very interesting.

  3. Just checked their FAQ again… and boy, there’s a lot that’s changed.

    There’s pricing, and then there’s the fact that they aren’t selling it outside of the US in a box, which means I’d have to content with my connection again if I want to play it.

    Guess I’ll stick with LOTRO for now or something and then wait for Borderlands, which is a FPSRPG. 😀

  4. Gotta say I agree with you on most of the games. I feel exactly the opposite as you on the FPS level though. You lose the strategic hotbar skill choices to gain more tactical, twitch skill choices. You go from hitting number 1 followed by number 4, then back to number 2 on your hotbar to jumping behind a crate, ducking and firing off a few rounds around the corner… quickly running to the next corner to do the same. My biggest problem with FPS MMOs are that they’re all mostly instanced. It’s great to have instances.. but what’s the point of an MMO if it’s not one big open world, where you can unintentionally run into other players? Back to the games..

    Crimecraft should be added. Pretty fun FPS combat, but the rest of the game simply doesn’t exist… it’s like it were in pre-alpha development… but it’s in open beta! There’s just nothing there beyond some simple FPS instances.
    Jumpgate Evolution tries to compare itself to the X-Wing v.s. Tie Fighter game in MMO form. I don’t know what more you can expect from this game. There is supposed to be a lot of customization options and different types of play. It appears to be the old space combat sims brought into the online world.

    I thought I wanted to buy CO until I realized how sluggish it would run on my PC. The repetitive energy-building skill smashing just doesn’t work.. WAR tried it and changed it because it didn’t work. These two key issues are what prevent me from playing. It’s also kind of lame that it’s an action game that requires click to target. It looks like more of the same old stuff with VERY good artistic graphics and animation. If they got rid of the single-skill energy builder and made it run better on my PC or brought it to PS3, I’d be all over this game.

    DCUO is less impressive to look at IMHO, but I’ll be able to play it without it being sluggish (on my PS3… I dont have an Xbox, sorry CO). I like the soft-targeting and the hero vs villain pvp… I love the DC Universe mostly because of Batman (although the only reason I like Marvel is X-Men). I’m disappointed with the limited travel powers and the limited areas of gameplay (the two cities), but it may make up for it. Either way, the game’s worth a shot.

    Perhaps I should make my own blog rather than writing my own wall of text on yours – sorry!

  5. You can turn those graphics off so you might want to show your friend the game with the stylised bits off.

    Does APB even count as an MMO? Its like 100 people “districts” (mini servers) and that is it. Wait until the 256 player PS3 title comes out and we can call that an MMO too. It would have more players on one side than APB has in an entire match.

    Looking forward to GA but not enough to think it will actually get far without a console release as well. All the rest are kinda eh mostly for lack of info.

  6. That is a pretty great write up of everything sitting out there now.

    I, like you, do not like semi-FPS MMOs. It goes back to my argument of “don’t try to be everything to everyone.” I feel like FPS MMOs are basically poorly done shooters with an MMO under it. The whole thing comes out awkward and weak.

  7. Add to this list Champions Online (more of the same and the beta is still not showing me why anyone should waste time in it) and for the most part Aion, which, while good, is just a grind fest the likes of which we have seen 1000000000 quadrillion times

  8. you just dont like FPS games so you dislike GA, its looking very promising. like devs have petty clear picture of what they want us to play and the picture is good.
    i also like CO more then DCUO for 2 reasons – graphics (CO comics style is actually good) and SOE. i dont like SOE.

  9. Great point about DCUO — kids who grew up reading Marvel books aren’t going to have the same attachment to the franchise, and might even have some outright scorn for it.

    Agreed with almost all your choices, save for GW2. I think it could be huge, if it actually happens. The big problem i see coming down the pike for GW2 is that the Guild Wars playstyle of heavily instanced content with a few crossover areas seems to be the model of choice for SW:ToR, which looks to be releasing before GW2.

  10. A minor quibble: Jumpgate Evolution has hit record signups for beta, and is not in an open beta stage yet.

    I correct you solely because you got me all excited only to have my hopes crushed 😛

  11. Well, when DCUO gets closer to release and/or you begin to get disillusioned with Champions, I wholeheartedly invite you to take a look at dcuosource.com and see if your opinion changes at all.

  12. @Ninetytwo: GW2 is actually not using the fully-instanced approach that GW1 does. They’re actually making GW2 a real MMO (though it will have instanced content especially for the story missions) with a real open world. But I agree that TOR will most likely be similar to GW1 in order to pull off their storytelling. Not that I mind necessarily since I’m a huge GW fan. My concern about GW2 stems from the very little info they have released which makes it sound more and more like they’re losing what made GW something special and turning it into Yet Another DikuMMO, but with no monthly fee and A.net’s brilliant art.

    I’m sorta-kinda interested in Jumpgate Evolution but I can’t help but wonder how much pull it will have. Is there stuff to do to keep me interested? Most importantly, is this going to be another circle-jerk space combat game where all the dogfights degenerate into a little furball where everyone is just flying in as tight a circle as they can until someone manages to blow up the other guy? That didn’t fly for me (pun intended) 15 years ago and now that I’m a pilot by trade I cannot suspend believability that far anymore.

  13. @ Crimson – Oh, I’m very much hoping GW2 isn’t, but the fact is that we’ve heard next to nothing about this title that’s supposed to have been in development for quite some time now. That gives me a whiff of uneasiness.

  14. @Syp
    I like to think of it as a new marketing strategy that reduces hype but not enthusiasm. We all know the folks at A.net have the goods, its just a matter of time before we see it. From a design perspective, I think GW is the best MMORPG available. If GW2 delivers on everything GW did and then some, it won’t need hype to make sales.

    Also, A.net may be holding back on details because they don’t wont the competition to know…

    I like to think so anyway 😉

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