Revealed: a game will be revealed next month. However, this quasi-news is of note despite the lack of a name and a JPEG or two purely because it concerns the next MMO from NCsoft, and the impressive clutch of developers who are making it. It’s made by Carbine Studios, a sort of MMO dev supergroup headed up by Turbine co-founder and Asheron’s Call co-creator Jeremy Gaffney (who also worked on at least one of Ultima Online’s axed sequels), Fallout lead designer Tim Cain and Guild Wars’ world designer Jess Lebow – plus folk who’ve worked on the likes of World of Warcraft, Everquest 1 and 2, City of Heroes, Free Realms, Diablo II and StarCraft.
In other words, this is probably something we should sit up and pay attention to.
It seems likely this will be far more of a Westernised game than NCsoft’s last big release, Aion, so we’re probably not in for something grindy in the Eastern MMO idiom. Hopefully it’s also learned the lessons of Tabula Rasa and Auto Assault. I met Mr Gaffney a few months back, and he seemed to have The Right Idea About Things, plus genuinely convinced that this is going to be an immense release in MMO-land, so I’ll be paying attention to whatever this is very carefully. And I’ll get to find out what it is next month at Gamescom, on Weds 17 August. I’ll be sure to report back to you, hopefully excitedly.
Meantime, let the guessing begin. Over on Carbine’s site, all we’ve got to go on is a collection of environment concept art, given names such as Valley, Swamp, Forest, Desert and Wolves. This would seem to suggest a fantasy game to me, but perhaps those names are a red herring. Potentially the most illuminating is Battle, as seen at the top of this post. Who knows if that art style will be carried over to the game proper, but I like it.
Another element to mull is the business model. Will NCsoft go down the subscriptions route again, or does the Guild Wars up-front purchase hold more clout now? Then there’s City of Heroes going free to play…
Who knows. I keep inclining to thinking at Star Wars: The Old Republic has to be the end-stop of the age of expensive subscription MMOs, a last titanic blow-out, but maybe there’s still some life in MMO v1 after all – for the right game.