It’s not quite over yet, but 2011 was not a banner year for the MMOG genre. There was no massive success, no breakaway hit. Players did receive their handful of expansions and new content patches, but with the exception of the just-released Star Wars: The Old Republic – a title which may become that massive success – most events were a blip on the radar.
Perhaps 2011 will be remembered not for its lack of breathtaking releases in the genre. No, no, the Year of the Rabbit may go down in history for a paradigm shift in the genre itself. Yeah, you guessed it, a continued aggressive shift to the free-to-play model.
What started with a last-ditch effort by Turbine Entertainment to save Dungeons & Dragons Online has continued to spread through the industry like wildfire. From dieing titles to titles that would have surely been paid-to-play years ago to upcoming AAA games, escapisms from every subgenre, every part of the world and catering to every type of game were released, entered beta or teased during the year. It’s getting to the point that drawing the line between what is an MMOG and what isn’t is becoming increasingly difficult.
Below you’ll find the titles that have us here at LoreHound.com the most excited. There’s a little bit of everything, AAA to F2P, MMORTS to MMORPG, casual to hardcore. An exhaustive list of expansions, content patches and releases? No, but the post is choke full of excitement, previews and information.
We’ll kick it off with the prediction for Star Wars: The Old Republic‘s seemingly bright future. More after the cut.
Star Wars: The Old Republic: BioWare has definitely set themselves on the right track with this game, going full blown into production. They have stated that they have a years worth of content already in back log before launch, giving them a year’s head start worth of content as they still work on more to come. Add to the fire the fact they’ve watched every MMO that was released in 2011, and took notes, along with everything the head megabeast, World of Warcraft, has done for the last 5 years. The game is only just over a week old (officially), and besides the hiccups with a launch of any new game, the game is going pretty solid with 1 million subscriptions already created on December 22nd (before people who got it for Christmas could subscribe).
Is the game perfect right now? No. Give it a few months, and all the kinks will be found and ironed out, with some new content. Yes, yes, that statement could be recycled for almost every MMOG release in modern history. That doesn’t make it any less true. The fully voiced story gives a very cinematic feel. Check out the Lore Cast Episode 5 in the coming days to hear how Mordil, Beararms, and perhaps a few others are feeling about the game.
Blacklight: Retribution: Hamstrung by its release on Xbox Live, Blacklight: Tango Down (iTZKooPA was so young back then!) didn’t live up to its creator’s expectations. With a new target platform, the patch-friendly PC, a new publisher, F2P powerhouse Perfect World Entertainment, and a new business model behind it, F2P, the graphically-stunning first-person shooter has a lot in its corner. Currently in beta, the gameplay is tight, tactical options are aplenty and the graphical prowess is breathtaking. Two secondary aspects are currently holding Blacklight: Retribution back. Zombie Studios needs to finish fine-tuning and adding additional game modes, not to mention organizing the shopping/upgrade process in a more user friendly fashion.
Dragon Nest: Nexon’s latest F2P MMORPG isn’t the typical art style that gets a lot of press in this hemisphere, but behind all the spikey hair, improbable body types and large eyes is a fast-paced action-based title. Referenced by LoreHound in the past as a TERA-light, Dragon Nest offers complex and rewarding combat that will keep any min-maxing group striving to continue at their peak performance as they battle mob after mob in search of shiny loots.
End of Nations: This one has been in development under Trion Worlds’ watch for years. Producer Chris Lena continues to refuse to date End of Nations, meanwhile the title has inched closer and closer to release as developer Petroglyph Games continues to search out just how to produce, develop and market the first successful MMORTS. Many have tried, but no company has pulled it off.
Mists of Pandaria: The fourth expansion for World of Warcraft could very well be the franchise’s make-it or break-it moment. With post-Cataclysm showcasing WoW’s first dramatic reduction in its subscriberbase, the former elephant in the room is either showing its age or Blizzard is beginning to lose its base to more recent and innovative titles. Pandas may mark the beginning of the end, or usher in a new wave of players as the previously side-tracked faction war reignites in new lands.
Guilds Wars 2: Ambitious is one way to describe the MMORPG. ArenaNet returned to the drawing board for the “sequel” to its freshman entry. “Why the quotes?” you ask. Simple, the game is so unique, such a step up from its predecessor – seemingly any MMORPG of that era – that the term doesn’t do the innovations in game design justice. Deep character growth and choices, progressive questing, vindictive NPC factions, mobile game connectivity, new battle experiences, and tweaks to the Holy Trinity, such as every class being able to resurrect, are just some of the major shakes up Guild Wars 2 is attempting.
The impressive list continues. Truly, it does. If you need more on Guild Wars 2, check out our in-depth coverage from the convention season.
Smite: Hi-Rez Studios’ latest ambition wasn’t even on anyone’s radar until PAX Prime 2011. Announced leading up to the convention, few understood the need for another MOBA to enter the new-yet-crowded genre. “What would it do differently?” was the common reaction.
Smite blew up at the show thanks to its early alpha polish and a key mechanic that truly set it apart from League of Legends et. al. In Smite, players command their avatar from the third-person perspective, not the typical isometric view. This camera tweak allows for true sneak attacks, now the weed-based ganks. Mythological lore and ever-expanding character rosters keep us intrigued, while the little-known cash shop options leave us wondering. Smite will be entering beta shortly.
TERA: To this point, TERA has become somewhat of a Editor’s Choice among us at LoreHound, and for good reason. TERA hosts large scale combat that is fast paced and fun, that pits players against terrifying creatures designed to make the player feel like an epic hero all the time. Players can select from several unique classes to take on these massive creatures, or BAM – big ass monsters – as the developer calls them.
On the topic of frightening things, TERA has a frighteningly good story with visuals that are just as scarily awesome. New-upgrades-to-your-computer awesome. TERA has a deep and engaging storyline with some of the best animations and visuals we’ve seen in any MMOG to date. Not due for a little while,the title has already hit the ground running in other parts of the world, drawing in a large group of eager fans. Japanese players are even paying for the privilege to beta the game! We’re expecting a grand entrance for TERA and expect the east-meets-west developed title to quickly climb its way to the top to take its place among other high ranking MMO titles.
The Secret World: The Secret World may just save Funcom. The content and outlook is almost as mysterious as the theme the developer created with the mysticism, religion, and lore surrounding Templars, the Dragon, and Illuminati. Set in the modern world, you take upon yourself the mantle of one of the said groups and fight various darknesses that threaten the world at large – while trying to solve some long overdue issues of values and ideals between the three ideologies. It’s heavy stuff. Funcom has spent a fair amount of time putting in the emphasis of how real the world feels, by sending artists to live locations to draw, model, and reference for most – if not all – the locations in The Secret World.
Tribes: Ascend: With many other great Tribes games before it, Tribes: Ascend is Hi-Rez Studios’ addition to the popular series. Tribes: Ascend is a faced-paced first person shooter that gives players high-flying action usually involving jet packing long distances and swiftly sliding around avoiding enemy gunfire. When we say Tribes is fast-paced, there is no exaggeration. The franchise prides itself in this pure freedom of movement where players can utilize their jetpack and skis to quickly traverse the environment.
Tribes: Ascend contains quite a few game modes and maps where players can engage in a classic game of Capture the Flag or try and hold on to the flag the longest in a game of Rabbit. Not enough? Players can choose from a amazing set of different classes that have different weapon and perk load outs with a range of different armor types. Tribes is pulls its weight in the graphics department. The game possesses smooth texturing even when moving at high speeds. Tribes is barreling through its beta testing and is getting even closer to becoming live to the public. Let’s not forget, it’s another free-to-play title.
World of Warplanes: Sister title World of Tanks exploded onto the F2P scene thanks to perfect timing and market research by WarGaming.net. The developer saw an incredible void in the world’s offerings to a tactical/strategic true-to-life war game and rolled in with enough tanks to make any military historian have to change his pants. The company hopes it can strike gold twice with World of Warplanes (WoWp?).
One major reservation is the replay factor. WoT stands the test of time due to its implementation of dynamic maps, terrain and buildings. This demands that players constantly evaluate their surrounding and decide how to best use them to their advantage. How this can be replicated in the air, or how clouds can even feel new time and again is a design decision yet to be addressed. Perhaps WarGaming.net will make heavy use of weather and its impact on dogfighting to shake up the combat.
And because we’re all such fans of BlizzCon, here’s a little bonus.
Diablo III: Blizzard’s hell-based franchise is not unanimously loved by all the staff. There’s plenty of interest, but the hack-and-slash franchise doesn’t ring true with each member. Naturally, that won’t stop many of the pen smiths from at least dabbling in the franchise that’s been absent for 10 years. It does have a lot going for it, you know, being free with the WoW Annual Pass, amazing animations and graphics, new and interesting playable characters and a slue of decision that have set the Internet on fire. Real-money auction house anyone?
StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm: It’s hard to ignore the StarCraft franchise. What was once the national sport of South Korea is finally gaining a massive public following in North America. The first expansion to the title will showcase the Zerg in all its pointy, slimy glory, opening the story further and unleashing new units to agonize over in multiplayer matches. Better get those fingers ready.