The first I’d ever heard of Titan was at the height of my World of Warcraft career, which was also the same time that several games, touted as WoW-killers, came onto the market and failed miserably. It made sense to me at the time that the only thing that could kill WoW was Blizzard themselves, but this also eventually changed with the advent of session-based, microtransaction-supported games like League of Legends. Titan was supposed to revolutionize and revitalize the MMO genre, but it certainly was not the first to crash and burn before its first flight. Here are some MMOs whose ambitions flew them too close to the sun.
Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning
Warhammer is one of those games that everyone knows about but never plays. Considering the level of dedication required to construct miniature armies (let alone learn and play the actual tabletop), can you blame them? Age of Reckoning was Mythic Games and Games Workshops’ attempt to translate the grimdark fantasy world to a digital audience, and was initially successful thanks its novel Realm versus Realm combat, which organized Player vs Player competition into an overarching campaign for actual territory that would eventually culminate in enormous city raids. Unfortunately, dwindling subscription numbers and balance issues killed this one before a F2P business model could even be implemented.
Who doesn’t love Stargate? A lot of people, apparently, because the show was cancelled in 2012 after almost a decade of television. In its heyday, however, Stargate was pretty damn popular, and it stands to reason that popular nerd things usually get video game adaptations. The game was slated to feature a flexible class system that defied the MMO standard healer-tank-damage trinity, as well as customizable tech (talent) trees, shooter-friendly combat, and playable Jaffa. The former three have had varying levels of success in the MMO-sphere (I’m looking at you, Guild Wars 2, World of Warcraft, and Planetside 2), though I would have liked to have played a Teal’c pastiche. Stargate Worlds would eventually be cancelled after licensing agreements between the companies involved in its development expired.
Kingdoms of Amalur was a surprisingly great action-RPG that a lot of people cited as a single-player WoW-simulator. As it turns out, 38 Studios was actually trying to make a full-fledged MMORPG based on the Kingdoms of Amalur IP. Codenamed Copernicus, the game world was set to be written by fantasy/sci-fi scribe R.A. Salvatore (he killed Chewbacca once), however, the studios involved were shutdown following poor sales of Kingdoms of Amalur and the entire project was scrapped, with the only evidence of its existence being some very nice looking screenshots and a fly-through video floating around the internet.
Untitled Halo MMO
As wildly popular as Halo is/was in the shooter genre, Bungie partnered with Ensemble Studios in the mid 2000s to develop an untitled Halo MMO that was, codenamed Orion or, coincidentally, Titan. It didn’t get particularly far, as Microsoft axed its development to pursue projects that would appeal to a “casual, broader audience.” Among the planned features were an art style and cover system similar to Bioware’s Star Wars: The Old Republic, as well as a game world that would include appearances by series mainstays like the Covenant and Flood.
With names like NCSoft (City of Heroes, Guild Wars) and Richard Garriott (Ultima Online series) behind it, Tabula Rasa seemed destined for success. An early adopter of the “shooter MMO” trend that persists to this day, Tabula Rasa featured a flexible character class system and “saving” function which allowed players to experiment with character builds at their leisure, and dynamic questing zones that would change depending on the success of player factions in battle over specific control points. Once again, dwindling subscription numbers signaled a death knell for the game, as well as a lawsuit between Garriott and NCSoft. The game went free to play some time in January 2009 but was shut down permanently only a month later.
Is the MMO dead? I’ve returned to World of Warcraft to prepare for the next expansion and it’s a question I’ve been asking myself constantly as I play. While my Horde server (Illidan) is fit to bursting, my Alliance server (Boulderfist) is almost a ghost town. Clearly the genre isn’t as popular as it was, say, 3-4 years ago, but Final Fantasy XIV and Guild Wars 2 have shown a lot of promise and success despite themselves and Blizzard has gone on record to say that they would continue to develop expansions provided there were people to play them. Perhaps I’ve answered my own question.