When you write for an MMORPG website that covers literally hundreds of games and could probably add in hundreds more that are extinct, are in operation only overseas, or are so incredibly niche that their creators’ moms don’t even know about them, you start devoting a large portion of your brain to trying to keep details about all of these games straight. This not only results in forgetting two of your kids’ names (after all, space is limited), but it’s nearly an impossible task. There’s just too much out there.
And lately I’ve noticed that the staff and readers alike have started to become incredibly confused regarding all of the indie MMOs that are oozing through the development process in their 72 planned testing stages (the other week I could swear that I saw a game declare itself to be going into “state semi-regionals”). There are too many games, some of which look far too similar, and it’s stressing us out.
Enhance your calm, citizen. Here’s the first part of our quick and dirty guide to many of the indie MMORPGs in development and some of the key points about each. Hint: It’s not asking whether they are a sandbox with open world PvP because of course they are. As a side note, I won’t be covering most of the survival sandbox and mere multiplayer titles, as that would be too great for the scope of this guide. And if you’re interested in these games, then you’ll definitely want to track our Make My MMO and Betawatch columns. Then stay tuned next week for the second half of this list!
A one-man project that is staggering in scope if not graphical prowess. Players can explore 270 billion star systems in their ships, colonize planets, construct space stations, and engage in all sorts of PvE activities. However, open PvP isn’t really part of the equation of this indie title, making it stand out from the rest of the crowd. Technically, the game’s one-man studio officially launched the sandbox on Steam in April 2016, but it’s still under active development. Read our hands-on with the title from back in 2015.
A cross-platform (PC, Mac, iOS, Android) 3-D version of the long-running AdventureQuest series that offers easy transition between platforms and quick friend connections. AQ3D has a colorful, cartoony look, and a small but dedicated community. The title is supposed to launch, more or less, in October 2016 and will feature fairly regular events and updates. Read our latest hands-on experiences with dungeon diving in the game.
Another cross-platform MMO, Albion is also noteworthy for its cartoonish isometric visuals, a unique housing system in which land will be attained via auction, and a fairly extensive PvP approach (including a reputation system) that extends into its dungeons. The sandbox is currently in its final beta phase and will launch as a buy-to-play title.
Basically, Dark Age of Camelot 2.0, with the return of the IP-free setting, Mark Jacobs, and three-way realm vs. realm conflict with tons of classes thanks to a successful ($4M and counting) fundraising campaign. Camelot Unchained is purely PvP , although players do have the option of engaging in the game’s deep crafting system or town building as an alternative to fighting. The company opened up a second studio this past summer. While fans are still waiting on word of a beta date, they can download a standalone building tool to create their own structures. Check out our two-part report from this year’s DragonCon.
One of the two Glitch fan reboot efforts that is using the released art assets, Children of Ur is being made by a nine-person community team and is currently in alpha testing. “We are building the game in open technologies, very much in the spirit of the web. Most of the code so far is written in dartlang, a newer web programming language created by Google.”
A highly ambitious sandbox that made headlines earlier this year as one of the bigger MMO Kickstarter successes in recent memory, raising $1.36 million. Chronicles of Elyria will purportedly feature aging and permadeath with its offspring system, charging players for each new “life.” The team is prepping three prologue games leading up to the MMO’s launch, including a MUD, and alpha testing should commence early next year. Check out our article on Chronicles of Elyria’s planned feature set and fan expectations of its delivery.
Possibly the biggest (or perhaps best-known) of the spiritual successors to the now-defunct City of Heroes, City of Titans has been in development for three years under a community team. Progress has been slow but the passion is still there as the team shows off the character creator, buildings, and missions. It’s $678,000 Kickstarter campaign proved to be a mixed blessing, as the addons diluted the focus and slowed down the project.
Building upon the ashes of Shadowbane, Crowfall is also looking to create a PvP world that is ever in conflict. It has the player interest for it, as the team ran a $1.76M Kickstarter campaign. Crowfall’s focus is on running several time- or objective-limited campaigns in a lush, stylized world, between which players can crash in their custom-built personal kingdoms. Expect lots of combat, sieges, and campaign rule sets. The game is heading into some form of beta testing later this year and has a wide mix of fantasy archetypes, including a minotaur, centaur, and guinea pig. Read our world building interview from earlier this year.
Divergence has made a name for itself so far in two ways: by constantly referring to itself as inspired by (or a spiritual successor to) Star Wars Galaxies and by running several fundraising campaigns for various features. The game’s development has been rocky, with issues raised for using SWG placeholder assets and lots of drama and accusations leading to the game being temporarily removed from Steam. It has been in Steam early access since the start of this year and is also creating a prequel.
When World of Darkness was officially cancelled, Dogma (formerly Project Dogmat) attempted to step in as the dark supernatural MMO on the block. A testing client is still being developed, although the team’s been fairly good about releasing preview videos covering its ugly vampires and club twerking.
Dual Universe is a sci-fi MMO with a clean look that’s being built on three core concepts: a single-shard server, emergent gameplay, and a world in which everything from ships to cities is built by the players, for the players. It’s promising the stars with its feature set and is trying to appeal to the roleplaying, PvP, and PvE crowds. It will also sport a subscription model.
The other Glitch remake, Eleven says that its later development start allowed it to fully utilize Tiny Speck’s assets to hopefully create a final product that’s closer to Glitch than Children of Ur. The alpha has been and continues to be very small. If you’re interested, read our interview with the dev team from 2015.
Following his exile from Red 5 Studios, Mark Kern has turned his attention to creating a Firefall-like game, Ember. There’s a whole saga behind it that will give you a headache if you try to unravel it. The title will pit players in mech suits against aliens who are a little grumpy about the forced terraforming of their worlds. The project keeps launching “serial” crowdfunding campaigns to raise cash for development.
There’s not a lot of direct competition out there for this MMO, which is set in the world of Jane Austen’s works and is more concerned with social interactions and ballroom dancing than combat and looting. A minute dev team has recently pushed this game into open beta testing.
The Exiled (formerly Das Tal)
Isometric. Deserty. Brutal. The Exiled, which until a few months ago was operating under the name of Das Tal, is strongly focused on a hardcore PvP experience with some PvE fights and crafting tossed in as well. The team has been running an aggressive testing and patching schedule over the past year or two.
The brain child of another small dev team with huge ambition, Forsaken Legends has its hooks into several features that will create this procedural open world sandbox. “Players are able to claim plots of land, craft tons of gear and items, create massive bases, collect pets and mounts, explore an endless procedural world with multiple biomes, fight massive world bosses, engage in PvE or PvP battles, and much, much more.” Interested players can purchase a pre-order package to get early access right now.
Low fantasy and gritty medieval life is the name of the game for Gloria Victis. This title, which is currently rolling out pre-alpha patches on a very regular basis, won’t have flashy fireballs or amazing pyrotechnics, but is instead focusing on the creation of a seamless open world with pervasive PvP, eight crafting professions, dynamic events, and a reputation system.