Names and titles fascinate me. While sometimes they have no deeper meaning than to sound pleasant and be memorable, a label can indicate purpose, history, and connection. MMORPG names are, of course, as varied as the stars in the sky, with many of them slapping “online” or “age of” somewhere in there to designate their category. But every so often, we witness a game that changes its name as part of its development and business evolution.
Today I wanted to run down 10 MMOs (well, nine MMOs and one expansion) that received notable name changes over the years. I’m not going to talk about games that created a weird rebrand for a business model shift but mostly stuck with the original title afterward (such as DDO Unlimited or WildStar Reloaded), but instead games that had vastly different names than what they ended up using.
If you were hoping that another title would pick up the idea of a voxel world and run with it, you’re getting your wish. I met with Jean-Christophe Baillie, the president and founder of NovaQuark, at PAX West. He showed off the pre-alpha build of his company’s voxel sandbox, Dual Universe. After zooming across the planet, building a ship, terraforming, and then blasting off to the moon to do it all again, I believe this subscription-based game (which begins its pre-alpha for backers on September 30th) may very well be the home that players who’ve been wishing for a voxel-based world have waited for.
Baillie defines Dual Universe: “We give more creativity freedom to the players: They can build the ships they want, the environment they want, the houses they want. It’s about freedon to create anything you like.”
Every MMO tells a story through the run of its life. A lot of those stories are pretty happy, too. Ultima Online may not be the most happening place in the world right now, but its story is about launching a genre and then running for two solid decades. That’s a pretty great story. However much it’s become a tale of mismanaged expectations, World of Warcraft kind of became the most popular thing for a long while and brought in tons of new people to the hobby. Even titles with sad endings often have bright stories; the end bit for City of Heroes sucks, but everything leading up to that was a gas.
And then you have these 10 titles. These are titles where the whole story is a tragedy, start to finish, and in many cases the tragedy isn’t necessarily over, but the story is still just plain sad. There are reasons, of course, maybe even good ones, but the result is that the narrative for these titles is pretty sad all the way through.
On Tuesday, Daybreak formally announced that the neglected PvE half of H1Z1, Just Survive, would be shedding its H1Z1 branding once and for all. The reveal couldn’t help but remind me of the way Daybreak did the same thing for Landmark, deleting the “EverQuest Next” and then the EverQuest IP altogether from the title and marketing before ultimately scrapping the entire game not long after launch.
I don’t think Just Survive is necessarily doomed without the branding, however. In fact, I can think of several MMOs that I wish could have dumped their IPs or changed their names to rid themselves of the proverbial albatross ’round their necks. Star Wars Galaxies leaps immediately to mind.
What MMO would you like to see dump its branding or IP?
Ever pause during your day and find yourself wondering, “What ever happened to that game?” With hundreds upon hundreds of online titles these days, it’s surprisingly easy for MMOs to fall through the cracks and become buried as more aggressive or active games take the spotlight.
Well, every so often we here at Massively Overpowered find ourselves curious what has transpired with certain MMOs that we haven’t heard from in quite a while. Have we missed the action and notices? Has the game gone into stealth maintenance mode? What’s the deal? What has it been up to lately?
That’s when we put on our detective hats and go sleuthing. Today we look at whatever happened to PlanetSide 2, A Tale in the Desert, and Istaria (witness protection program name: Horizons).
When Daybreak announced last year that it was cancelling the highly anticipated EverQuest Next project, the series’ forward momentum lurched to a halt. This wasn’t helped by other EverQuest entities that have been retired over the past few years, leaving only the two aging flagship MMOs to carry on the legacy of the franchise.
For franchise it is. It might be fuzzy in people’s memories (or simply absent from them), but there was an era where EverQuest was the MMORPG at the top of everything, and Sony Online Entertainment wasted no time in capitalizing on its popularity. Spin-offs, sequels, and alternative versions spawned into being, creating a library of EverQuest games.
In fact, there are more than enough to fill up a full list of 10 titles — and then some! So today let’s look at some of the lesser-known entries in EverQuest’s ever-expanding franchise and muse about what might come to this series in the future.
From Zulika Mi-Nam’s Adventures in Tale of Toast:
- Log into a game to do some play testing.
- “Hey, look at these cutsie graphics and those childlike animations!”
- Kill some level 1 and level 2 bunnies rabbits and some loot drops right on the ground from time to time.
- Find a treasure chest with a level 5 baddie guarding it.
- Make that baddie chase me around a tree and out run him back to that chest and loot it and get away: “Haha this is easy and I got a badass level 5 sword… gonna save that for later.”
- Go to town sell my trash loot and head back out.
- Take on a level 3 mushroom: “Pfft no problem.”
- Gonna go for this level 4 bat: “Woah this could go either way… depends on who lands the next hit….yah! Loot sound! Wait, he is bouncing away… I’m dead… then what was that loot?”
- Respawns and looks at inventory: “That… that was the sword I was saving, and it is just laying out there on the ground now.”
- Do the walk of shame to retrieve my sword and turn to shake my childlike fist at that bat. “I’ll be back! You… you fooled me with your cutsieness.”
Over the last couple of weeks, the monetization of unreleased games has become a pervasive and uncomfortable theme for the MMO genre. Just in brief:
The frustrating bit is I could go on, and this is just for games that aren’t even formally launched yet. So for this week’s Massively Overthinking, I want to take the temperature of alarm regarding these types of business models for unlaunched games. Is this all par for the course, in line with what we expect from the new MMO market? Have they gone too far yet? If not, what’s too far? How do we feel about this type of pre-launch monetization run amok?
Your favorite game is going to die. I wrote about that. Some games are never even going to get to launching in the first place, unfortunately. But then there are these titles: games that went the distance when it came to development, marketing, promotion, testing… but somehow didn’t quite manage to stick the landing past that. These are the games that, in Transformers terms, are the hi-then-die cast of the MMO space.
That doesn’t always mean the games are bad, mind you. Some of these games were great fun. But through a combination of business model issues, publisher issues, player population, and just general weirdness, these titles couldn’t make it to a year and a half in the wild. Heck, some of them couldn’t even make it to a year and a quarter. And if you want to peruse this list and wonder why all of these titles are gone but Alganon is somehow still operating… well, we’re just as confused as you are.
If you’ve had an interest in Shards Online but wanted something bigger and more MMO-y, we’ve got someone we’d like you to meet. Well, a something really. MMO fan, meet Legends of Aria. What is the game all about? Let’s take a look, shall we? Massively OP’s MJ is jumping in to discover just that, and she’s inviting you along. Join us live at 6:00 p.m. for a first look inside the closed beta, as well as your chance to win access for yourself! (And don’t forget you can also enter our raffle for a key, which ends tonight!)
What: Legends of Aria
Who: MJ Guthrie
When: 6:00 p.m. EDT on Saturday, May 27th, 2017
Legends of Aria’s alpha launched yesterday, setting loose the new and more MMORPG-like vision for the game formerly known as Shards Online. While normally the only way into the game in its current stage is to buy a founder pack, Citadel has granted Massively OP a slew of keys to get our readers in for a trial of the game right now. Better still, there are no regional restrictions on the keys. Read on to enter to win!
Back at PAX East, MMO players were startled but pleased at the revelation that Shards Online was getting a massive revamp as well as a new name: Legends of Aria. The key to the switcheroo is the shift from being “just” small-scale player-run shards to a full-scale MMORPG with a heavily expanded map hosted by the studio as well.
Today, after a few minor delays this spring and a combat overhaul, the game’s alpha is officially live.
“The land mass of the game has been increased by 10-fold, mounts have been added, combat reworked, the UI overhauled, archery has made it in the game, and so much more. 2 of the 8 new regions have been unveiled, with more to come as Alpha and Beta progress this summer. […] Basically, this gives fans of Shards Online what they’ve been asking for – a bigger, bolder, truly MMORPG version of the game.”
Citadel Studios has an interactive world map as well as a PvP killboard online if you just want to gawk, but you can actually play right now too with the purchase of a $40 founder pack.
As we all well know, MMORPGs are a Serious Business indeed. We must treat them reverently and with our utmost due diligence as we perform tasks vital to saving the world. No frivolity and mirth-making is allowed within these virtual worlds; we toil, we strive, we forge the future in sharp lines of progress.
Oh what am I kidding: We’re totally goofballs. If you can’t cut loose in an MMO and have fun with your friends, what’s the point? I feel that Kenji Takeda has it right with this week’s headlining picture from Final Fantasy XIV, as you can sense the high spirits and laughter that were driving this moment.
Next week, we’ll get totally serious again. Probably. Maybe. Possibly. Well, there’s an outside chance, you never know.