All hail the king. And no, I’m not talking about Robert Baratheon or LeBron James. I’m of course referring to World of Warcraft, who rules over the land of MMORPG’s with an epic weapon that can only be written in the annals of history with purple ink. There are few instances in which a single game or franchise has absolutely dominated its genre as well as World of Warcraft has done. Talk to most gamers and they’ll tell you about their WoW phase, and for millions that phase is still very much active. While the king has not been, and most likely will not ever be dethroned, a few MMO’s have done quite well for themselves given the circumstances. Guild Wars 2 was met with critical praise, and re-introduced the refreshing concept of paying only once for the game, then playing forever, instead of the typical subscription model. EVE Online hit half a million subscribers two months ago and due to its expansive universe and in-game economy it earned MMORPG.com’s Game of the Year distinction three years in a row, from 2009 to 2011. But for every MMO that has gained relative success, there are many that didn’t even come close to challenging the Azerothian King. Hell, they couldn’t even find his castle. And with the recent release of Defiance, the MMOFPS with a tie-in show on SyFy, and a game that looks like it’ll join the other corpses floating in the moat underneath WoW’s castle, let’s look at some other MMO’s that fell, and fell hard.
Warhammer 40K Online
If we look at the goal of dethroning World of Warcraft as an MMO itself, this game didn’t even get a chance to get past the character creation screen. In fact, this game lost its log-in info, and then realized the email they used to sign up is one they don’t use anymore. And then it occurred to them that they were trying to sign into a calculator. Okay, enough analogy, let’s talk about how Warhammer 40K Online, crashed and burned while putting the key in the ignition. 40K Online was announced in 2007, but a year later, Warhammer (not 40K) Online: Age of Reckoning came out. Despite across-the-board positive reviews and awards such as “Best MMO” and “Best of E3”, the game has been reduced to only three global servers due to poor subscription numbers. But at least the game is still running and they made some profit, which is more than could be said for a lot of MMO’s, namely its 40K brethren. Vigil Games, the developer of 40K Online, was owned by THQ, who filed for bankruptcy last year. When questioned, THQ vaguely responded with the claim that they had stopped developing 40K Online, but later altered that claim to fit the idea that they had only dropped the MMO aspect from the title. So 40K Online, or Dark Millenium as it is now called, has lost its publisher, its developer, and has dropped its MMO aspect. As long as it’s picked up by a decent developer and remains a simplistic sci-fi RPG, this game has potential. But as an MMO, obviously, it has failed in an incredible fashion.
Every Superhero MMO (Champions Online, City of Heroes, DC Universe, and the soon to fall Marvel Heroes)
Each of the primary superhero MMO’s has faltered in one way or the other. I actually touched upon what’s wrong with Champions Online way back when I started writing for HalfBeard’s HUD with the Best of Steam’s Freebies Pt. 2. You can read it if you want, but essentially, the storyline is atrocious and incredibly inexplicable and unrealistic, even for a super hero game. The graphics look bad even on high settings, and the gameplay doesn’t resemble anything I’ve ever seen in an MMO. Despite better story, combat, and gameplay, there’s not too much that makes DC Universe any better. All of the powers are copied from existing superheroes and villains, and the only way you can advance in the game is to do quests for said heroes and villains. At least Champions and City of Heroes let you be your own hero. Both DC Universe and Champions have resorted to free-to-play models. Ironically, the most critically acclaimed, and the most fun of the superhero MMO’s, City of Heroes/City of Villains, is no longer active. This game had the best character creation of all the games, quests that felt important, exciting PvP, and a devoted fanbase. But Paragon Studios would be shut down by its owner, NCSoft, meaning the end of City of Heroes and City of Villains. The capes were hung up on November 30, 2012. Marvel Heroes is on it’s way though and while we wish it the best of luck, WoW probably won’t even need kryptonite to take down that caped crusader.
All Points Bulletin/CrimeCraft
If the superhero MMO is a recipe for disaster, than the cops and robbers MMO is an entire cookbook for such a thing. The two flagships for this failure of a specific genre are All Points Bulletin and CrimeCraft. APB is a prime example of a game with so much potential ending up so bad. I mean hell, the guy who created the original GTA and Crackdown, David Jones, designed the game! The man behind the best crime game series of all time, and one of the best crimefighting games ever, couldn’t even make an MMO that featured both. The game featured some of the most repetitive and mind-numbing missions I’ve seen in a game, even for MMO’s. You also received little inspiration or motivation for advancing, apart from better gear. There needed to be a story to drive your character, apart from the city descending into chaos, and the urge to either oppose it or participate in it. APB was recently relaunched, as APB: Reloaded, and is F2P from Steam. CrimeCraft didn’t even try to include cops, revolving solely around gang warfare. The problem with CrimeCraft is that its shooter elements aren’t good enough to compete with other online shooters, and its MMO aspects don’t make for a fascinating and engaging multiplayer experience. It tries too hard to be both, and just ended up screwing itself two ways.
(Obligatory But Forced Mention) Star Wars: The Old Republic
So the man upstairs here at HalfBeard’s HUD, well, actually the man up north, but I digress, hinted that Star Wars: The Old Republic should be on this list since it had to abandon its subscription model for a free-to-play system. Yes, it did have to abandon a per-month pay style, but it has not fallen! It has merely stumbled and is now whoring itself out outside of WoW’s impenetrable fortress of solitude. It’s new free-to-play system has actually increased its subscriber numbers. It succeeds in the same way Warhammer 40K: Dark Millenium could succeed, in that it presents itself as just an RPG for those who want to avoid player-to-player interaction, which, surprise surprise, is a lot of gamers. You know what the Old Republic is? It’s KOTOR 3, with an MMO-style combat system, and multiple intriguing storylines, and other MMO aspects if you want to use them. You could ideally play the entire game without interacting with any other player. And no matter how many times SWTOR falls, I will always be there to pick it back up, and create characters whose alignment conflicts with their class. And yes, I do mean Poppop, my Sith Warrior with a heart of gold.