MMORPGs - 2006 in Review - Part 3 of 4, the Living Dead
Dec 08, 2006 12:07:33

This year is drawing to a close and it feels in many ways like a 'between year' for MMORPGs. In this four part series we're examining all that has transpired in the past 12 months. In Part One we (the royal 'we' strikes again!) reviewed the disappointing and uneventful launches of this year. In Part Two we visited the graveyard and ICU of MMORPG gaming. Yes, it has been bleak thus far, but in the final two parts things start to look up. Today the tireless survivors of the fickle MMORPG landscape come into focus.

Surviving against all odds:

  • Ultima Online - Not much changed in UO this year, but its player base remained steady. In fact it remained steady enough to encourage EA to throw some budget at a complete graphic overhaul scheduled for 2007. EA has also put Ultima Online into the experienced hands of Mythic Entertainment, further cementing their on-going support of the great-grandaddy MMO. An aggressive overhaul of the UO engine could be just what the doctor ordered, but the upcoming re-skinning isn't aggressive enough to bring new players into the game and leads me to believe there are no plans for a new UO client built from the ground up. More and more frequently gamers are looking back at the innovations and freedom built into Ultima Online and wondering why so many of those features have vanished from the modern MMO. Would the new generation of MMO players embrace these game-play elements if the graphics engine moved into this century? I think they might.

  • Merridian 59 - Merridian 59, the original graphical MMOG is still kicking. The website sports 1995 design elements and the game's growth and on-going support appears to be stalled, but that hasn't stopped people from playing it. To its credit, M59 seems to be supported by 1.5 people and at that level its threshold for success is very low which means it might remain operational forever. Near Death Studios is a miniscule operation, but its ability to keep M59 on its feet a full decade after its launch demonstrates a lesson in budget management and community strength that larger studios (like Turbine) could learn from.

  • Matrix Online - I had to check and make sure this game was still running. It is. There's never much news for this game, which is odd because an MMO based on the Matrix seems like a perfect fit, and yet everyone seems to be taking the blue pill. This is too bad because the world needs a first rate avatar-based sci-fi MMORPG in a big way. According to SOE this game is indeed still operating and doing just fine. Who knew?

  • Asheron's Call - Subscription numbers are low but, like EverQuest and Ultima Online, the remaining players are stalwart folk. They're not going anywhere, at least not until Turbine gets impatient and pulls the plug in favor of the next big IP they secure.

  • Anarchy Online - This one seems to be expanding and maintaining subscription numbers. This is the little MMO that could. It has survived against all odds and deserves to live. For now.

    Still growing despite the knife in its back:

  • Second Life - Hardly a week goes by without a massive amount of drama occuring in Second Life. If it isn't a price increase, a security scandal, an in game virus, a copy-right vilolation, a grid crashing exploit, or a CEO experiencing a break from reality then there's still regular day-time-TV-drama in abundance. From a business perspective Linden Labs appears to be teetering on the edge of disaster at all times, but they've been teetering there for 3 years now and 2006 nearly pushed them over the edge several times, mostly due to pains related to massive user growth and media overexposure. Second Life contunues to grow at an impressive rate despite being the turd-least-polished among all massive ventures. Several successor's are surely waiting in the wings and learning from the mistakes of the pioneer. All these clandestine ventures need to do is launch and the knife will effectively be twisted leaving Second Life to bleed out as fast as it grew.

    Continue reading 2006 in Review - Part 4 of 4, the Ringleaders

  • Submitted by Brent on Dec 08, 2006 12:07:33 CST (comments: 1)


    'Next Gen SL' by Saylah
    Submitted on 2006-12-08 13:11:57 CST
    I like the idea of SL. It's just a little too sandbox for me however. Plus there's the unfortunate fact that when people have no boundaries, sexually explicit content inevitably appears and that's just not something I want to be bothered with or encounter in a virtual world. It may be a fact of life and reality, but reality is what I'm looking to escape when I go into a virtual world. I'd love to see a SL/Sims like world with some rules, objectives and some policing of players and content

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