Upcoming MMOs and How They Can Succeed: Part II

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Welcome to Part 2 of "Pwyff's Most Anticipated MMOs and How They Can Succeed!" With BlizzCon and GamesCom coming up very soon, I'm sure all MMO gamers, myself included, will be on pins and needles wondering if Blizzard will release any information about their upcoming MMORPG. Personally speaking, one of the biggest reasons why I believe that the next few years will really change the face of the MMO industry is that Blizzard will finally be entering the ring to defend their title as uncontested champions of MMORPG development.

While this is obviously old news, I just find it fascinating that a significant portion of our upcoming mega-hyped MMOs are, for the most part, built on pre-existing IPs. Final Fantasy XIV, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Guild Wars 2 and Star Trek Online are all tapping in to their millions of fans worldwide, while Blizzard has chosen to compete with just their company image. The only other companies that I can think of that have done this successfully in the past few years have been SOE's Free Realms and NCsoft's Aion. There have been a number of fresh MMORPGs developed but, aside from Free Realms and Aion, I don't believe there have been many games that can boast about having millions of users across the world.

Note that I've bolded "in the past few years," because about 5-10 years ago, the MMO industry was still quite fresh and new IPs were being developed and pushed steadily into the market. If you consider it, Ultima Online, Guild Wars, Asheron's Call, Everquest, Lineage, EVE Online and Dark Age of Camelot (sort of) were all developed based on unique IPs that had little no to pre-existing fan bases. These days, of course, the MMO industry is much more competitive than before and, just like the movie industry, multi-million dollar development companies tend to get a little bit antsy when you're trying to generate a fan base from nothing at all. Either way, let's move forward to look at Part II of my most anticipated MMORPGs for the next few years!

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Many users expressed concern that I didn't touch on this MMO in my first article, and it's mainly because I'm trying to space out my most anticipated MMOs across all three pieces. Either way, the fact that many of you were shocked that SW:TOR wasn't on my first list is a testament to the amount of hype that BioWare has generated for this MMORPG. To be honest, I would probably say that SW:TOR has the most potential to be the best MMO on the market (and no, I'm not talking purely about subscription numbers) just because of the players and the forces involved. If you think about it, what we have is one of the most well developed IPs known to humankind, and it's been placed into the hands of BioWare, a company that doesn't seem to be capable of failing (see Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, Mass Effect, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic). Not only that, but since BioWare is a subsidiary of Electronic Arts, one of the biggest names in video game development, we can expect SW:TOR to have some of the best national and international support of any MMORPG. Finally, as if these elements weren't enough to ensure their success, BioWare will be building on the pre-existing Star Wars: Galaxies fan base. In this way, not only will they be able to fully analyze a Star Wars MMORPG that's already been released, but they'll also be able to tap into this ageing MMO's player base - especially the thousands of users who abandoned the game after the gaffes that were the New Game Enhancements and Combat Upgrade changes.

Of course, when we talk about the game itself, BioWare has been dropping some very tantalizing hints. Not only will SW:TOR be the first fully voiced MMO ever, but they've also indicated that a key focus of the game would be upon developing players as individuals in the SW:TOR universe by offering real choices that have a lasting impact upon progression (à la Knights of the Old Republic). Personally speaking, I do hope that BioWare doesn't take the World of Warcraft way out by slowly reducing the consequences that a game offers. I understand that players will be angry if they learn that by killing this captain and robbing his ship, they may have forfeited the bigger prize offered for his safe return, but BioWare needs to stick to their guns if they want to really let players feel the weight behind their decisions.

What they need to do to succeed: Make sure they remember the massively multiplayer part of MMORPG. If there's one thing that BioWare is untested in, it's definitely in making that transition from Offline RPG to a full-blown MMORPG. While I have absolute confidence in the fact that BioWare is capable of creating an incredible Star Wars game, what worries me is how they're going to allow players to experience such a brilliant storyline while still feeling like they're interacting with a universe of other players. The fact is, if BioWare is working on a game that's chock-full of storyline advancement, they have to be careful that they're not just creating a massively scripted online role playing game. If there are 3 Sith players for every 1 Republic player in the SW:TOR universe, will the story evolve to accommodate this imbalance in numbers, or will players simply march forward on a mechanical storyline that unravels of its own accord?

In a way, I guess BioWare has to be careful that they're not too good with their story pillar. While I'm certainly very excited for this game (I'm having an incredibly tough time deciding between this, FFXIV and Aion, as they appeal to three different sides of me), I think that Jerry Holkins of Penny Arcade says it best:

"What they're [BioWare] positing is not a multiplayer game, but a single player game that multiple people can play. Will people subscribe to a game of that kind?"

Remember, we'll be at GamesCom this week to report on BioWare's first public live demo for Star Wars: The Old Republic!

Fans might be wondering why I haven't also mentioned Diablo III, and that's because D3 isn't quite an MMORPG - it's actually missing that 'massively' part to it. I will say that I'm very much looking forward to D3, but I'm definitely not expecting some kind of incredible diversity in game play; I'm guessing Blizzard will continue to abuse the awesome concept of getting loot and exploding things, and, personally speaking, that's what I will buy Diablo III for.

Either way, with BlizzCon set to erupt this week for fans of all ages, the biggest piece of news and, in reality, the only significant one, will probably be if Blizzard announces their newest MMORPG. If you think about it, Starcraft II really can't get even more hyped than it already is, unless they announce that it'll be released soon, and unless they reveal a new class for Diablo III, I'm not quite sure where they can go next. The only other point of juicy news that Blizzard can release is if they want to discuss their next expansion with World of Warcraft: Cataclysm. If you didn't know, MMO-Champion has an impressive array of 'compiled information gathered from reliable sources' concerning this new expansion - most notable being the fact that WoW's next expansion ('Cataclysm') will see a small 5 level increase on the level cap, two new races introduced to the game, and the rumour that Blizzard will be going back to 'revamp' the old continent instead of introducing a brand new one. But World of Warcraft isn't an 'up and coming' MMORPG, so I'll just talk about Blizzard's new IP instead.

With Blizzard's newest MMORPG, I mentioned earlier in this article that this would be a very important milestone for the MMO industry. The reason I say this is that this will also be the first time that Blizzard has 're-entered' the MMO industry since World of Warcraft's easy entry into the market in 2004. Not only this, but Blizzard will be trying to create a brand new IP for their MMO, so they've basically chosen the hardest path in developing a budding new MMORPG. In this way, if Blizzard succeeds, then you can definitely expect to see a new wave of MMOs that imitate their style. If, on the other hand, Blizzard's newest MMO fails to capture the public's attention, then industry competitors may just take it as a sign to aggressively pursue the Blizzard half of the MMO pie. Either way, it will definitely be interesting to see what Blizzard will do with their newest MMO; we'll be able to see if World of Warcraft was just some very lucky timing, or if Blizzard truly deserves the title as the 'best' MMO developer in the world.

What they need to do to succeed: Make a game that's just as polished as World of Warcraft, but make sure that it's not World of Warcraft.

Does that make sense?
In all of my years of playing MMORPGs, I'll definitely have to admit that nothing even comes close to the polish that World of Warcraft has. Users who will be buying in to Blizzard's newest IP will have come to expect this kind of quality from these prolific developers, and if Blizzard fails to deliver with a high level of polish, you can definitely expect fans to be ready to skewer any company that cannot deliver - even if it is Blizzard! As a personal preference of my own, I'd be very interested if Blizzard were to look into making a Steampunk type of MMO with some 'serious' graphics; not that cartoony WoW style. Steampunk is an unappreciated genre!

And that will be all for today! The final part of this three part series will come next week, as this week we will be covering both GamesCom and BlizzCon, where you can definitely expect to hear some big news about most of the MMOs I've covered, and have yet to cover, in my "most anticipated MMOs of the future and how they can succeed." Next week I'll cover the sci-fi spaceship MMOs-Star Trek, Black Prophecy, Jumpgate Evolution, some free-to-play MMORPGs and maybe talk about the future of FPSMMOs.

By Christopher "Pwyff" Tom

Source: http://www.zam.com/

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