Perfect Ten: MMOs that set themselves up as spiritual successors

    
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As with the larger video game market, sequels aren’t unknown in the MMO space. We’ve seen studios take a stab at following up successful earlier efforts with follow-ups (such as Asheron’s Call 2 or EverQuest II), and the modern trend of MMO-lites have produced sequels as well (just see The Division 2 or Destiny 2).

But sometimes it is simply not feasible to create a sequel even when the desire and original team wants to do it, due to licensing and IP ownership. So what do you do when you want to make a follow-up but you legally can’t? You create a “spiritual successor” that is a sequel in all but name.

We have certainly seen many of these emerge over the years, especially in the Kickstarter era when well-known devs capitalize on their popularity to engage in a game that is eerily like what they had done in the past. In today’s list, we’re going to be looking at 10 spiritual successors that attempted (or are attempting) to piggyback on an earlier title’s reputation.

DikuMUD and EverQuest

Despite what some believe, EverQuest did not spring into being out of pure nothing. The 3-D fantasy MMO adapted (some say “stole”) the format and structure of DikuMUD, a popular text-based MMO engine that enjoyed a strong run throughout the 1990s. The combat-centric design of DikuMUD carried over into EverQuest, which skewed far more toward this style of play than was seen a couple of years earlier in Ultima Online. The DNA that was imparted to EverQuest was so significant that such combat theme parks have been referred to as “Dikus” since then.

Dark Age of Camelot Unchained

In 2001, Mark Jacobs and his team at Mythic released a realm vs. realm MMO set in the public domain setting of the Arthurian British Isles. It was modestly successful, and Jacobs was obviously so enamored with the idea that when he launched a new company and Kickstarter in 2013, it was for a realm vs. realm MMO set in the public domain setting of the Arthurian British Isles. With both titles even sharing a common word, it’s hard to see this other than a blatant reboot and spiritual successor (which, when it’s redoing something that worked well in the first place, isn’t a bad thing!).

City of Heroes and, uh, everything

For the past seven years, we’ve witnessed a curious race between games to become the greatest spiritual successor for City of Heroes. That superhero MMO left a large hole in the hearts of fans and developers alike, and titles like Valiance Online, City of Titans, and Ship of Heroes (not to mention other side projects) wouldn’t mind you seeing them as THE game that took the torch from that sunsetted project and held it aloft once again.

Ultima Online and Legends of Aria

With two official sequels to Ultima Online tanked in mid-development, we’ve pretty much resigned ourselves to the fact that only an unauthorized knockoff is going to give us the continuation of this style of gameplay. Enter Legends of Aria, which is quick to draw comparisons between itself and UO every chance it gets. As a small indie MMO, Aria needs the boost in visibility and association. Can’t really blame it.

Asheron’s Call and Project Gorgon

It’s pretty telling how influential the first generation of graphical MMOs were that all of them are on this list getting some sort of spiritual successor. As for Asheron’s Call and its ill-fated sequel, who better to craft a game in its likeness than one of its creators? Project Gorgon has much in common with AC, most notably the unorthodox (for today’s standards) skill system and interactive world.

EverQuest, Vanguard, and Pantheon

It’s hard, exactly, to say which of Brad McQuaid’s older MMOs that he’s trying the most to emulate with Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, but I suspect that it’s both EverQuest and Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. All of these titles harken back to an older, slightly more hardcore way of portraying PvE, although both of his previous projects have elements that are rearing up once more in Pantheon. So let’s call it a tie?

H1Z1

Star Wars Galaxies and H1Z1

OK, you know I had to toss this on the list, if only to be a sarcastic wise-cracker. So what happened here is that back in 2014, SOE was working on a new game and John Smedley not-so-subtly hinted that this follow-up title would be some sort of spiritual successor to the then-recently-departed Star Wars Galaxies. “We have a new game that I think SWG vets will like,” he tweeted. Other quotes from him mentioned that this would be “a game that many of the old [Star Wars Galaxies] players will feel right at home in” and that it would be “dedicated to” fans of SWG.

Then it turned out to be H1Z1 and… yeah. Expectations were not properly set nor met. Really, I can’t think of a game that would be further away from SWG if I tried.

Firefall and Em-8er

If you couldn’t tell, a recurring theme of this list is MMO developers coming back to create eerily similar follow-ups to games they had done in the past. When Mark Kern got booted from Firefall after spending years trying to create the ultimate PvP sci-fi MMO, he brooded for a while and then got to work on another sci-fi online title. It remains to be seen how much of Firefall’s DNA will be grafted onto Ember, but the genre slant is hard to ignore.

Ultima Online and Shroud of the Avatar

Hey, Ultima Online’s back for another mention on this list! It must’ve been very disheartening for Richard Garriott to see two attempted sequels for Ultima Online (one of which he was deeply involved with creating) go belly-up before launch, so I can’t blame him for wanting to try it again with Shroud of the Avatar. While he couldn’t use some of the copyrighted names and titles from his Ultima series, SOTA all but calls back to the key elements that made that series so famous.

Shadowbane and Crowfall

While Shadowbane wasn’t the most popular or well-known of MMOs, it did all right for a while there before falling off the market. One of its key creators, J. Todd Coleman, never gave up on the idea of a full-fledged PvP world that could be reset, and it was this vision that he brought into Crowfall — albeit with a lot better graphics, design, and community backing. He doesn’t talk about Shadowbane in conjunction with Crowfall a lot these days, but believe you me, the former had a lot of influence in the creation of the latter.

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at justin@massivelyop.com or eliot@massivelyop.com with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”

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Sleepy

Emater! I’d completely forgotten that was a thing. Not hearing much about it, are we?

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strangesands

I remember a LOT of City of Heroes players coming over to The Secret World after the shutdown. Don’t know if that qualifies TSW as being a spiritual successor tho.

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PanagiotisLial1

I love SotA(among my top 3 mmos now) but I am among the first to say the differences are more than the similarities to UO. The main common links is they are both sandboxes, they use a skill based system and you can set Vendor NPCs on your houses. Most other things are a lot different but both are great games. LoA’s main mistake so far is in effort to “simulate” UO they copied the bad things that came with UO, cause lets be honest, no mmo was ever perfect, all got flaws and we just overlook them when we like them. For the record also Mortal Online’s developer had openly said his inspiration was UO. Among the sunsetted games the closest to me that came to feel like UO was Linkrealms and among the maintainance mode ones that still run its Ashen Empires

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Oleg Chebeneev

Im curious what drags people who love SoTA to this game?

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PanagiotisLial1

Its a game with certain flaws and advantages. SotA is a sandbox with -as opposed to the usual nowadays-a rich storyline, skill based system split into seperate crafting exp and adventuring exp, the deepest housing system I saw so far, player run towns, decent pvp(not forced though). Also it gives a lot more tools for RP than the average game. The more I think the closer it feels to be a hybrid between MUDs and Older Single Player RPGs than anything resembling UO. As a sandbox being a living world first has extreme importance. Its actually very possible to even play as a non combat char but its not my style but for example one guy who taught me recipes(you teach!) only leveled his combat a bit and just bothered with crafts, market, RP etc. Think it like some people on EVE go just industrial.

Now to the bad and neutral things – perfection is inexistent, in games as well. Its more likely to draw sandbox mmo games fans because it doesn have much of hand holding and has some rough spots being an indie game at its core – and sandbox fans are far less than in numbers than other game types. UI while not being bad looking in principle lacks resizing options for many elements, the game uses more PC resources than the quality of graphs would suggest(even it is improving all the time and now its at a point I can 99% play without all my 8gb memory…gone). Without it being too bad it could use more variety in mobs graphs

Lastly I never liked how devs set themselves up in most games tied into mistakes those before them made just because they were used for example “sandboxes dont got a quest storyline” and “theme parks crafting should be only a hobby” as excuses to make us games that dont have a developed storyline if they are sandboxes and they got a useless crafting(at high levels) system that doesnt give much useful things . Can you picture an ESO with a player run economy for example? SotA at least dared to think a bit out of that box for sandbox games

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Bruno Brito

Em-8er

HAHA.

laelgon
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laelgon

As someone who was too young to get into UO, EQ, and the rest of that era of gaming, the problem I have with spiritual successor MMOs is when they lean on nostalgia as a way to sell their game. It’s fine if you want to make a game that takes the formula of an older game and improve on it, but you can’t package up something that keeps all the same clunkiness and limitations of an old game and sell me on it. And you shouldn’t say “Check out X! It’s just like Y that you remember!” because that relies on me having played Y.

I played Legends of Aria for a little bit. I actually like the slower pace, the ability to build a house just about anywhere, emphasis on group play. What I couldn’t stand was the lack of explanations for game systems and the absolutely ancient UI design. Maybe for some masochists those are features, but making things inconvenient because it reminds you of how your favorite game was 20 years ago seems insane to me.

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Thomas Eidson

Ultima Online had 3 sequels, not two. There was UO2, then UXO, then UO 2.0, which I wrote the design for. UO 2.0 had budgeting problems, due to a producer over-staffing too early (and staffing with inexperienced designers/assistant producers). EA cancelled it in 2005.

SWG has had rumblings of a reboot. Its emulators have not been stable, with the leaked code from SOE. I was asked to start up a SWG project, but I’m happy where I am (working on my seventh MMO).

I’m also surprised DC:UO wasn’t mentioned in regards to City of Heroes.

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styopa

Or the flip side: GW2 had the name & the IP & the studio … and still made a game essentially nothing like GW1.

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Castagere Shaikura

I really do miss Firefall. It was the last MMO game I played where I would look over at the clock and hours would have gone by without me knowing it. That game and world was so much fun to play in and it looked gorgeous as heck. When you got your motorbike it was so epic feeling. I wish someone could bring it back.

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styopa

Really? I found it astonishingly dull with it’s tiny little crowded world and pretty much nothing to do except kill some bugs and then go thumping to kill more bugs.

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Sleepy

I think it depends very much on when you played it. At one point it had a load of dynamic stuff going on in the world at any one time and was really entertaining. Really glad I caught it at the right time.

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Bryan Correll

Just stopped by to make sure SWG/H1Z1 made the list. I still have no idea what the hell Smedley was thinking there.

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agemyth 😩

I assume before their Battle Royale game became their biggest and most important game that the game was originally going to be much more about building player-cities and with social and economic hooks playing major roles. The setting of zombie apocalypse seems really far from what I would think would be a natural home for SWG players, but this was probably just a case of game developers’ eyes being bigger than their stomachs.

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Anton Mochalin

Not a single game in the list I’m interested in playing. Games really deserving to have spiritual successors don’t need them as they are still alive.

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Bryan Correll

And no one should have written any epic fantasy after Tolkien.

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Anton Mochalin

I don’t think Dragonlance or Eye of the World can be called spiritual successors to Lord of the Rings. They are in the genre started by Lord of the Rings, quite a different thing. Someone has to start a genre. No one calls Heroes of the Storm or League of Legends spiritual successors to Dota even though the similarities are huge.

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Anton Mochalin

The difference also is that spiritual successors appear when their “ancestor” dies.