MMOWTF: Happy Newb Year

by Dan Fortier,MMORPG.COM

A look ahead to 2007
Dan Fortier returns this week to look ahead at what should prove to be a most interesting year for MMOs.

Editor's Note: This is an edition of a weekly column by Staff Writer Dan Fortier. The column is called "MMOWTF" and will look at some of the stranger or more frustrating events in MMOs as seen by Mr. Fotier. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of, its staff or management.

It seems that getting a Monday column has worked out perfectly so far. I got Christmas Day and now New Years Day all to myself. I am taking this opportunity to throw out any sort of creative writing I might have planned in order to bring you a very special MMOWTF preview of the year to come. Just ignore the boring parades and turn off whatever Bowl game you're watching and read on because your monthly subscription money might depend on it.

Many of you are glad to see that those festering pile of crap titles that got foisted on us last year, are now clearly in the rear view mirror. This New Year brings no less than five big MMOs with release dates in the first half of the year so let's start by taking a closer look at them:

Vanguard: Saga of Heroes: The self proclaimed 'Third Generation' title from Sigil is still in Beta. Reading about the game you get the sense that they are trying to make it appeal to everyone and trying to include just about every feature from games past. The devs are going to a lot of trouble to make the game seem to have universal appeal. There are lots of interesting features including a seamless world with no loading and the ability to sail ships and fly around on mounts at higher levels. However, I still see a High Fantasy, level-based grind that rely on high end items and content. While it's definitely going to launch and probably do well, it doesn't really doesn't deserve a 'Next Gen' moniker in my eyes. If you're looking for the next giant faceless wonder, l33t dewds, need to look no further.

Gods and Heroes: A lot about this game reminds me of that PS2 game called Gladius. The game features an intriguing Squad based combat system where everyone can use a group of henchmen to aid them if they choose. It also has a Node lock combat system that keeps the combat organized and as Mr Garrison from South Park says "It locks you into place" so that the combat looks more realistic. The setting is historical and the henchmen system adds to the dynamic by turning every player into a group. This should be an interesting title for the combat freaks out there. The instancing and lack of crafting make me think that is their target audience as well. For those of you who have ever wanted to be Bellerophon or Theseus, but fainted at the sight of a real sword wielded in anger, this could be the game for you.

The Chronicles of Spellborn: Making use of the Unreal engine, TCoS looks to offer a more active combat system that is faster paced and based upon skill 'decks' that players can use to customize their combat abilities. The idea of playing a twitch combat system that doesn't involve strafing around like Robotron sounds great, but I'm concerned about crafting being dumped into NPC hands, the lack of a real death penalty and the fact there are only two races. On the bright side, they are producing the game themselves so if they screw up we can blame them directly rather than shaking our collective fists at the evil company behind the scenes.

Lord of the Rings Online: I'm beginning to get sick of this franchise and this time I can't fault the creator. Ever since the first movie came out developers from all platforms have been shoveling us a healthy diet of craptasic games stamped with the LotR logo. I'm not to sure what they were thinking, but turning Middle earth into a PvE art book game was just about the worst thing they could have done. Not allowing an IP with such a huge back story of war to be played out by players on both sides is just lame. The lack of PvP won't doom this game obviously though, so I leave that task in Turbine's capable hands.

Age of Conan: Decapitation and partial nudity are mere sideshows to the other features that make AoC a good contender in 2007. Funcom has their plate full with pleasing the Conan fans of all ages and delivering all the content they have promised so far. From drunken brawls to player made cities and sieges they appear to have a solid direction for the game and the only question remains is 'Will it be fun?". If I'm able to drive my enemies before me and hear the lamentations of the women I'll be a happy Cimmerian.

Pirates of the Burning Sea: Is it just me or does this game seem to have been in development for a long time? I like being salty and robbing people as much as the next guy, so here's hoping they can really capture the savagery of sea combat and being a pirate without forcing me to eat citrus. Ever since that accident on the offshore drilling rig I can't even bear to look at screen shots with water in them so I'm not to sure how this game is coming along. I guess I'll fall back on the ole standby phrase: "Point me towards the Open Beta." Let's just hope after it's released these 'patches' they are talking about aren't of the eye variety.

Warhammer Online (or WAR as Mark Jacobs keeps reminding me): is set to release later on in the year, but even given the resources of EA and Mythic's experience in the genre, I don't think we will see it before 2008 so I'll reserve my opinion until later on. Hopefully we'll get to see more of this title as the year progresses as I'm eager to see more details about all the races and classes. Blood for the Blood God.

Now that I've angered the fanboys, it's time to look into my cracked crystal ball and dish out a few predictions for this year:
- Atriarch will announce an Open Beta date of Feb 2010 followed three months later by another ten second video of one their avatars dancing. No one can claim they aren't making progress right?
- Development of Darkfall is moved to another European country to 'speed up the development process'. Months later, several former Razorwax employees are arrested for smuggling enriched uranium in order to fund their project.
- Dark and Light, Auto Assault, Roma Victor and Archlord all get cancelled and no one notices. If a game is cancelled and no one is playing it, does it make a sound?
- EVE Online announces the follow up expansion in the works. Following the trend of naming their major expansions after books of the bible, it is called Lamentations. It provides an in game method for canceling your subscription instead of crying about people being able to 'warp to 0 km.'
- World of Warcraft's Burning Crusade expansion is launched. Blizzard executives are seen panhandling on the streets of Irvine to make up for the lost revenue of a post holiday season release.
- Bioware finally gives the details of their much debated MMORPG project. Unfortunately, since the press release is only available to current subscribers of Star Wars Galaxies, we may never know what it says.

Now that you're in the know about the next biggest things to hit the MMO fan in the next twelve months so you can amaze your friends and industry insiders. Hopefully we can look forward to year that brings more choices and hours of entertainment than the last. Fortune telling is exhausting so I'm off to take a nap. Make sure to visit the link below and fill the rest of us in with your predictions.

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