The Game Archaeologist: Six cancelled MMOs that I wish had launched


In my lengthy tenure writing The Game Archaeologist — which dates back to May 2010, if you can believe it — I’ve covered MMOs that generally fell into three categories. These games are either famous ones that had an early start in the genre, very obscure titles that are nevertheless interesting to explore, and MMO projects that were never brought to fruition for a variety of reasons.

When it comes to the MMOs that died before launch, I acknowledge that not all of them were equal. I can totally see why some of these projects weren’t worth finishing because they probably didn’t have much of a chance. However, there are those titles that I feel could have really gone the distance — if only they got their day in the sun. So today I wanted to share with you six prematurely cancelled MMOs that I would have loved to see release.

Ultima X Odyssey

It’s not that I’m a huge Ultima fan or anything — I’ve really only played Ultima VII to any great extent — but everything that I learned about this tenth title (which would have been a next-gen MMORPG) made me want it so bad.

Specifically, this looked like a much more accessible Ultima MMO with colorful and stylized graphics (like, huh, some other MMO I can’t recall), quests with choices that would change your character’s virtues, and a world that looked fun to explore. And it got close — so close, people! There was a beta, a soundtrack, articles on it, and it was canned right before we got to get our hands on it. Sigh.

EverQuest Next

This is an obvious gimme, but I must mention it anyway. I don’t think I’ll ever forgive Daybreak for pulling the plug on this MMO. I adored how ambitious it was aiming to be, with flexible NPC scripting, modifiable landscape, collectible classes, and more. The graphics looked yummy (am I allowed to say that?), and the whole production genuinely felt like the next step for the EverQuest franchise.

Then a dev came out to tell us that it wasn’t fun so, you know, that was that.

Fallout Online

Fallout fans find themselves having to take sides on which studio was a better caretaker for the franchise: Interplay or Bethesda. (Cue the guy in the comments: “OR OBSIDIAN!” OK, I’ll give you that. Obsidian rules.) Personally, I can see pros and cons to both, but what I think this discussion comes down to is the tone and style, which is very different.

And before Interplay lost every scrap of its claim on Fallout, it was trying to pull off a Fallout MMO of its own. And dang it if I wouldn’t have loved to see what the creator of this franchise could’ve done with a massively multiplayer version.

Stargate Worlds

This is another franchise that I never really jumped on board, back in the day. But even I can acknowledge that the several series, books, games, etc. had a legion of fans that were probably salivating for a virtual world of their own.

And they nearly almost got one, too. I’m adding this to the list because Stargate Worlds made it all the way to the beta phrase — and almost to launch — even as the studio was collapsing underneath it. This one had some creative ideas and a cool setting. It should’ve gotten a chance.

Project Copernicus

There are easily two factors that will get me to jump on your hype train right away. Those factors are lush, gorgeous eye candy and a team that’s swinging for the fences with concepts and features. Project Copernicus threw both of these at me, and from the moment I learned about the game, I knew I wanted it.

Sure, the story of 38 Studios’ downfall is an epic, almost exhausting saga of its own, but the tragedy that I hold on to even today is that it meant we never got to see Copernicus in action. Hey, maybe there was no way it was going to live up to all of its extravagant promises… but I would’ve like to see it try.

Deadlands Legends

For my final pick, I’m going to go with a bit of a dark horse (in more than one respect) and single out Deadlands Legends. Weird western fantasy is a genre mash-up that has great appeal for me, and I was spellbound by what I learned when I dug into this project from the late 2000s. No, it never did get very close to launch, but the pen-and-paper RPG setting for Deadlands offered a whole lot of potential for a unique game world.

Those are my choices, but I’d love to hear yours! Which MMOs that never launched are your most wanted?

Believe it or not, MMOs did exist prior to World of Warcraft! Every two weeks, The Game Archaeologist looks back at classic online games and their history to learn a thing or two about where the industry came from… and where it might be heading.
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