We asked several MMO makers -- Funcom, Mythic, Turbine and more -- about what they're planning to do to keep their virtual worlds up and running for players in 2009.
Sure, we journalists and gamers have made resolutions for what we'd like to see the gaming industry accomplish in 2009. But what do the developers have to say for themselves? Read on for the goals of those working on "Age of Conan," "City of Heroes," "EVE Online," "Lord of the Rings Online" and "Warhammer Online," and see how they're aiming to keep us entertained this year.
AGE OF CONAN (Funcom)
Craig Morrison, game director:
- A true Hyborian warrior doesn't make resolutions, resolutions are for the weak, a Hyborian's goals are always met! Or they will die trying!
- Our resolution this year is to ensure that we are responsible for even more decapitations (preferably stylish ones achieved at the end of glorious and bloody battles with our foes) than ever before!
- Our resolution is to entice even more brave souls to the brutal and thrilling world of King Conan. We can't vouch for your safety, decapitations are a fact of life in Hyboria (the best you can hope is that it's your foes head and not yours that flies) but rewards torn from the bodies of decapitated foes are always much more rewarding.
On a more serious note...
- In the year ahead we aim to continue to focus on the areas of the game that we feel will bring the Hyborian experience to eaven greater life. There are really two main areas that we will be concentrating on for 2009. Firstly, we will of course continue to add great new areas, dungeons, content and quests for players to enjoy, in particular focusing on the higher level areas.
- Secondly we are working a lot on developing the character and community elements of the game, this means you will see a new focus on character progression through better use of character statistics and items in the game and then later in the year a lot more focus on guild functionality and options for guild development.
- In addition we are already underway on the first expansion to "Age of Conan" and there will be more details on that throughout the course of 2009!
- Most of all we are looking forwards to providing as much fun and enjoyment as we can for the brave souls who dare to explore the brutal and deadly world of Hyboria in 2009.
CITY OF HEROES (NCsoft)
Matt Miller, senior lead designer:
- To prove to the MMO world that we are the #1 superhero MMO, not because we are the ONLY one, but because we are the BEST one.
- To allow our players to customize their character in ways that have not been possible before.
- To allow our players to make their own missions and story arcs, and have the world play and rate them (Mission Architect).
- To continue upon the improvements we've made to the game as a whole in 2008, adding more cool stuff for our players to do.
LORD OF THE RINGS ONLINE (Turbine)
Jeffrey Steefel, executive producer:
- Do everything we can to broaden the reach of "LOTRO" and introduce even more people to this wonderful game.
- Provide much tighter integration between the game and the web to add visibility and reward to players' activities.
- Continue to lead the industry in game quality and innovation with places like Moria and features like Legendary Items.
Michael Jablonn, lead producer:
2008 was a crazy yet amazing and fulfilling year for both "LOTRO" and our development team. With that in mind my resolutions for the game, the team and myself are:
- Continue to put out high quality product frequently and efficiently.
- Continue to build and foster the amazing team we have.
- Stop and smell the roses a bit more often!
WARHAMMER ONLINE (EA Mythic)
Josh Drescher, associate producer:
- To visit all of the places where "WAR" is being played that I DIDN'T visit last year. I'm looking at YOU, Italy and Spain.
Paul Barnett, creative director:
- To make good on our promises -- by which we mean that we're going to bring more "WAR" to more people more often, all over the world.
Jeff Hickman, senior producer:
- To get a track from my band -- The Hamtouchers -- onto "Rock Band 2." [Note: The Hamtouchers are an in-house Mythic band who perform "WAR"-related songs.]
Mark Jacobs, lead designer:
- Now that winter break is done, to get the sand out of my boots, wait for the sunburn to heal and help set the stage for the next great "WAR" event.
EVE ONLINE (CCP)
Noah "Hammerhead" Ward, lead designer:
The entirety of CCP is laser-focused on "EVE Online." After the massive improvements in our hardware and software infrastructure made in our free November expansion, "EVE Online: Quantum Rise," we've really set the stage for some killer changes that take full advantage of our systems. Now we’re pushing into a new year with a production schedule that goes to eleven. That means that we’ll come out with our next major expansion earlier than tradition dictates, by about three months. "EVE Online: Apocrypha" will be one of the biggest free expansions to date (we've had nine previous), and it brings a whole host of new features that include wormholes that lead to mysterious new space, epic mission arcs from NPC agents, profitable ancient technology to integrate into ship design and a refocus on the New Player Experience. That final bit will be crucial when we appear in stores around the world as a boxed copy through distribution via Atari.
In addition to box retail, we'll be entirely revamping the New Player Experience to help ease players into New Eden. We've added the collaborative knowledge-base that is EVElopedia, our wiki and historical archive. In "Quantum Rise" we added the certificate system, which is a great tool for players to use to determine what skills and paths they should focus on to reach their goals. We’re also upgrading from Classic to Premium Graphics for Mac, so Mac users can enjoy the cinematic beauty of our visuals the way they were envisioned.
The biggest prong in our multi-pronged approach in 2009 will definitely be the ability for players to walk around inside of space stations. We've had countless people interested in playing "EVE" try it only to leave after they found out they didn't have a full body avatar. We're really excited to walk around in stations and there are a lot of people out there who share that excitement. That's not to say with the move to walking in stations we're going to lose focus on important things like blowing up space ships. Quite the contrary. The core of the "EVE" [intellectual property] will always be about creating the deepest sci-fi simulation we can and big explosions are the cornerstone of that experience.
The primary thing we're looking to change in 2009 is in the mechanics of the high end gameplay. This was a heated topic at Fan Fest (our annual player gathering) and was also brought up by the CSM (our democratically elected council of players). Everyone agrees that the current system is limited and should be much more layered and dynamic. In a nutshell, the current system has player alliances setting up control towers at moons to claim sovereignty over a solar system. Opposing alliances try to destroy those towers. Our plans aren’t quite finalized yet, but the new system should offer diverse ways for players to influence the sovereignty of a system and claim territory. In turn the system would give everyone more options to cause their enemies pain. I'm really looking forward to these changes because they are going to vastly improve the end game and they are long overdue.
Throughout the year we'll be continuing our server and hardware upgrades in a never-ending mission to increase performance. Graphic upgrades are also on the horizon as we finish making a gorgeous game into something that will drop your jaw to the floor.
After March, we've got designs we hinted at during this year's Fanfest, which will not fail to disappoint. It might be time to finally leave the comfort of your pod and stretch your legs a bit.
So far we've made our fair share of game design decisions (and subsequent programming ones) that have set us apart from the rest of the MMO landscape. From the single shard world to the sci-fi setting and from the death penalty to the skill training system, we've always done things a bit differently and it has served us well. We hope that the MMO landscape grows as a video game genre and even as its own form of entertainment. MMOs are such a tremendous value for money that can also bring truly meaningful accomplishments and relationships to their players. Sure, it's quite a task to create an MMO and help it through its "infancy," but the rewards are so great that we can't imagine competition won't continue to arise. We've weathered the storm of shiny new MMOs being launched before, and I expect the relaunch of "EVE" in the retail space to really help us thrive in 2009.
I predict that in 2009 we will finally see the day where there are more "EVE" subscribers than Icelandic citizens. There will be more "pew pew" than ever before.
MMO players, what do you think of the developers' resolutions? And what hopes do you have for these games?