Sadly, in recent years, MMO shutdowns have become much more common and the corporate leashes a lot shorter. Older games like Asheron’s Call 2 and Earth and Beyond aren’t on the list. The sad truth is, not everyone gets cancelled as quickly as these four. Earth and Beyond ran for 729 days, while Asheron’s Call 2 survived a whopping 1,134 days.
Now, on with the show:
#4 Auto Assault
Launched: April 11th, 2006
Canceled: August 31st, 2007
The puns come Fast and Furious when this car-based MMORPG comes up. Developed by the folks at NetDevil and published by NCsoft, Auto Assault crashed and burned after only 507 Days of Thunder.
All jokes aside, the team hoped to create a new and innovative MMO experience. Set in a post-apocalyptic world (the year 2030, to be exact), players chose one of the game's three factions: Human, Mutant, or Biomek.
There were two distinct parts of Auto Assault: in-town, where the players walked around in the classic MMO way, and everywhere else in the world, where characters were represented by the car that they drove in a Mad Max-esque free-for-all world. In this game it wasn't people that killed people, it was cars that killed people.
Doing something different is always a risk. There's a reason that a most of the current MMOs follow a familiar formula. Auto Assault attempted to mix car-based games like Grand Theft Auto, or maybe more appropriately Carmageddon, with the MMO genre and it just didn't jive with players. It was new, it was original, but ultimately, it just was just a bit difficult to get into and didn't have enough depth once people did.
Luckily for those involved, its demise wasn't catastrophic for either the game's publisher or its developer. NCsoft is still a global jauggernaught, if a dented one, and NetDevil is currently working on a pair of high profile games: a follow-up to the sci-fi MMO Jumpgate called Jumpgate Evolution and the eagerly anticipated Lego Universe.
Auto Assault just ran out of gas.
#3 Tabula Rasa
Launched: November 2nd, 2007
Canceled: February 1st, 2009
How does a single game go from taking place in a light and mystical fantasy setting full of unicorns and ninja elves to a dark and gritty space war adventure game? That's the shift Tabula Rasa managed to make during its long and controversial development. About two years into the development a decision was made to radically change the design and even concept of the game. It was the space game that tanked, though, so let's concentrate on that.
Tabula Rasa launched in November of 2007 and ran for 484 days before NCsoft finally put this one out of its misery on February 1st, 2009.
Aliens, guns, Richard Garriott, fast paced combat, ethical parables, a new language called Logos that allowed humans to tap into a kind of powerful magic, an innovative cloning system that negated the need to start characters over... This game had a lot of unique features and a lot of going for it on paper. With the Ultima Online icon at the helm, players had high hopes for NCsoft's sci-fi game that promised to combine the pacing, strategy and combat styles of an FPS with RPG elements like mission decisions that altered the course of each character.
The death of Tabula Rasa has been an absurd array of reports, rumors and innuendo. Most of them seem to agree that the game, which had already taken longer than expected due to the complete re-design, was simply pushed out the door too early.
While likely, the problems definitely ran deeper. Simply put, Tabula Rasa tried to be too many things to too many people and never managed to impress any of them.
Yes, the game had the look of a shooter, but in the end it still came down to the same die rolls.
Yes, the game had "ethical parables" that allowed players to make moral decisions that affected the rest of their game, but in the end these parables were too few and far between and mattered a lot less than most expected them to.
Yes, the game had its own brand of puzzles and "magic," but it always seemed a little bit out of place. Who brings a (proverbial) magic wand to a gun fight?
All of this made it hard to connect with Tabula Rasa and when you fail to connect with your audience, it's hard to convince them to pay a monthly subscription fee.
Tabula Rasa lived up to its Latin name and was wiped clean.
Launched: October 16th, 2007
Canceled: August 5th, 2008
What do you get when you take an MMORPG and strip it down to its barest, most savage man vs. man elements? You get Fury, a game from the Australian developers Auran. The game itself, which prompted players to “Unleash the Fury,” took the concept of a PvP centric MMORPG to the extreme. It removed or minimized those pesky RPG conventions like story, setting, quests, socialization, a rich game world and amped up the only part that the developers thought players cared about
: combat, advancement, competition and loot.
Auran hoped to get the word out that Fury was a competitive MMO, almost a sport. The developers even held contests in the game’s beta phase and just after launch that let players compete for real-world prizes. It’s a tactic that hasn’t worked with MMOs in the past (see: Risk Your Life Million Dollar Tournament) and it didn’t work here. After the game’s launch, players complained about the steep learning curve and that veteran players were just too much better for newbies to get involved. As with any game, the developers worked to fix the fan complaints, but there were just too many. After a mere 294 days of operation, Fury’s developers threw in the towel and the game took up the mantle of second fastest MMO Cancellation in history.
It isn’t fair to hold up Fury as an example of why PvP-centric MMOs are doomed, as some critics have done. There was a lot more to it than that.
For one, while its graphics had the potential to be beautiful, that required a computer so ridiculously detached from what the average person owns as to be laughable. At best, day-to-day performance could be described as sluggish. At worst, unplayable would be more apt. This was made worse by the game’s fast pace and competitive nature. It sucks to lose, but it sucks even worse when the death can be blamed on a client hiccup.
The setting didn’t help either, at least with the Western audience. Clearly, they had an Eastern market/theme in mind when they developed Fury, but fact is, they launched the game in English and it would have been good if the setting matched that audience.
Even basic things didn’t go right. There’s no reason people should not be able to figure out how to fight in a fighting game.
They also failed to label it correctly. It was marketed as an ultra-violent, ultra-competitive MMO. In reality, it was probably truly none of those things.
When Auran unleashed the Fury in 2007, it ran out into the street and got nailed by a semi.
Launched: May 2nd, 2006
Canceled: September 28th, 2006
The prize for the shortest reign in MMO history goes to a little game called SEED. Developed by Runestone Game Development, the survived for a mere 149 days, just over half as many as Fury.
SEED was an ambitious concept. This comic-book styled MMO the exact opposite of Fury. It had absolutely no combat at all. SEED was a purely social MMO.
The story went that humans had colonized the stars, and seed ships with a cargo of human DNA and other necessary ingredients for life were sent out to find a new world, terraform them and then create new human colonies grown from the samples. These humans, while infused with much of Earth's knowledge, knew nothing of the violence and war that had crippled their creators.
Unfortunately, the freshly grown humans awoke and found that their new world hadn't been terraformed at all. So they - the players - had to work together to make things right and finish the job their ships had failed to do. It was a pretty clever setup for a game that focused on social interaction and teamwork.
Runestone closed the doors on the game very suddenly. Simply, they ran out of money. They never had a publisher and the expense was too much for one little Danish company to bear. It turns out that the MMO community was not ready for a game that looked and played like a standard MMO, but didn’t include any form of combat. Like it or not, combat is the core of almost every game out there. It’s tough to find an investor who will put their money behind something so experimental.
It seems that Runestone just didn't have a green thumb.