Perfect Ten: 10 old MMO promises that never happened

    
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See, that's the joke of the name.

Developers like to talk a big game. It’s expected, it’s encouraged by all parties, and it’s part of the fun. When a game or big expansion is coming up, the spokespeople for studios like to hop on stage, grab that mic, and start proselytizing for all they’re worth. And while some promises come to fruition, others are various shades of white lies, and still others never come to be at all.

Sometimes things happen along the way in development. Studios run out of time to get in all of the features and have to prioritize which make the cut and which do not. Features end up not testing as well as hoped and the studio quietly drops them because the PR hit for the features not going in is much less than the disaster that they might cause.┬áToday let’s go through 10 old features that were talked up but notoriously never delivered in MMOs!

Warhammer Online: “Your characters will grow physically!”

Mythic was free with the promises when it came to Warhammer Online’s featureset, especially semi-innovative ones like the token system and (yeah, I’m going there) “bears, bears, bears.” But one neat-sounding idea that was touted quite often during the development stage never got into the game proper, and that’s the concept of player characters growing and changing physically over time. Orcs were supposed to bulk up as they leveled, Dwarf beards would become longer, and Marauder mutations would become more noticeable.

Alas, this did not come to pass — and the little gobbos stayed puny for the duration of the game’s run.

World of Warcraft: “We’re going to let you learn new dance moves!”

Listen, I could probably fill this entire list with lofty promises that Blizzard made about WoW and since ignored, abandoned, or reneged on just to watch fans cry. However, someone’s already done that, and I want to mention one infamous moment of history: the dance studio.

Teased as one of the new features in Wrath of the Lich King, the dance studio was supposed to allow characters to learn dance moves beyond their default boogie. However, even those such mechanics already existed in other games, this proved to be so difficult, so arduous, so incredibly tasking for the world’s premier MMO studio that the devs just couldn’t make it happen.

Ultimate alt-line

Ultima Online: “We’ll have an intricate virtual ecosystem!”

Ultima Online was a pioneer in many ways, taking the innovative concepts of the CRPG franchise into online space. One of the new ideas was to make this a living, breathing world full of animals and plants that would form an ecosystem much like we find in the real world. Bigger animals would prey on smaller ones, smaller ones would eat plants, herds would migrate, and players would need to adapt based on scarcity and supply.

Then after this intricate system was constructed, the flood gates of beta opened and players. Slaughtered. Everything. Unless you consider “dirt” an ecosystem, there wasn’t much of anything left once the hordes finished plundering. The concept was pulled and never reinstated for the live game.

City of Heroes: “You’ll be able to go to the moon!”

Why keep superheroes confined to the bounds of terra firma when the comics often had them going out into the cosmos? A trip to the moon was allegedly on the docket for City of Heroes, as clues and hints for a “moon zone” were found in several places. While this never came to be, the developers did confirm that such a zone was in the works prior to the game’s closure.

EVE Online: “You can walk around in a space station!”

Oh, you knew this was coming.

Has there ever been so much hoopla made out of an avatar walking around as we saw in EVE? While this is something that most MMO gamers take for granted, like killing pigs carrying around coins and being healed by vials of red liquid, I guess it was something just shy of a gaming revolution for cabin-confined pilots in New Eden. Yet to date the closest CCP has come to making this flight of fancy reality is sticking players in another confined space: their bedroom.

Unsurprisingly, players weren’t that happy about a major studio treating them the way their parents do.

Age of Conan: “You’ll go to hell!”

Have you ever had a game tell you to go to hell? Age of Conan almost did. One of the potential death penalties kicked around in the development phase was a trip to the underworld if you’ve been especially bad.

The idea was that players using dark magic would receive soul corruption points for tapping into that forbidden power. If you got too many of those points without cleansing them, you’d find yourself in hell, battling your way back against demons to return to Hyboria.

Neat idea for this gritty world, but unfortunately not to be. Guess all barbarians go to heaven when they die.

DAWN: “We’re a real MMO with everything you could possibly imagine! Srsly! We promise, guys!”

Take a half-dozen “developers” and every pie-in-the-sky idea that any MMO gamer has ever had, call it “truth,” and sit back to doing pretty much nothing, and you’d have DAWN. DAWN wins the award for most broken promises in an MMO, which is “all of them” since the game wasn’t so much a piece of software as it was an entry in someone’s dream journal.

Animals that have sex! A fully constructible world! Agnosticism! Torture! A realistic star system! Pregnancy! Exceptional water physics! Something called “squirmishes” that’s probably a typo but if it is then it’s the best typo of all time!

Champions Online: “You’ll enjoy the same Foundry system that other Cryptic games have!”

Ah, Champions Online. My pity flows out toward thee, you unbeloved runt of the Cryptic family. Ignored, belittled, and criminally underdeveloped, Champions hasn’t even received the same quality of free-to-play adaptation that its other family members have.

It also hasn’t received a player creation content system that the other titles had with the Foundry. Oh, sure, it was once talked about, but considering that the Champs team most likely consists of one part-timer, a cardboard cutout of Leonardo DiCaprio, and a terribly depressed hamster, I wouldn’t hold your breath.

Guild Wars: “Utopia will be our third campaign!”

There’s a new type of MMO. It’s not a real MMO, but we’ll pretend it is. It comes out without subscription fees. It says that it will make its money by releasing new campaigns — standalone or stand together editions of the game — every six months. It does this three times and not on that schedule. But when it starts to plan for a fourth, the team balks, changes its mind, and yanks it from production in favor of an abbreviated expansion and a sequel.

That’s the saga of Guild Wars Utopia in a nutshell. For a longer version, check out our Game Archaeologist retrospective on the aborted project.

Vanguard: “You can reserve a whole family of mobs just for your party!”

Open dungeons offer a whole set of complications and issues with greedy and malicious players. Vanguard’s devs hoped to cut down on the jerk quotient with a so-called “Advanced Encounter System.”

If your party was in an open dungeon and managed to hit a certain threshold (such as downing a named mob), then the system would reserve the remainder of that area or those mobs for your party so others couldn’t leapfrog past your accomplishments. It was put into the game for a couple of months, got so buggy as to be unusable, and was yanked from the game ever since.

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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