MMORPG

Blackstar (Spacetime Studios) [PC – Cancelled]

Blackstar is a cancelled Sci-Fi MMORPG that was in development around 2005 by Spacetime Studios, planned to be published on PC by NCSoft ( Lineage, City of Heroes, WildStar, Guild Wars). The team was composed of experienced developers who worked on such projects as Wing Commander, Star Wars Galaxies and Ultima Online, but unfortunately they were not able to complete the game after NCSoft dropped their support in 2008.

As we can read on Spacetime Studios’ website:

“Spacetime Studios’ Blackstar MMO concept featured a unique combination of space flight, real-time shooting and role-oriented (RPG-style) combat. In Blackstar, players piloted heavily-customizable starfighters through evocative space environments, battling a universe of exciting foes with a combination of weapons, defenses, and other abilities that improve through experience and gameplay.”

A new breed of game, Blackstar resurrects the dream of online space combat with real-time spaceflight featuring fast and nimble fighter-craft loaded with devastating sci-fi weapons.

You aren’t limited to the canopy: get out of your ship and hit the deck for fast paced ground combat on the surface of alien worlds and aboard enemy ships.

Fly your spaceship to exotic locations: blasting through cunning enemies and dreadful space creatures. Leave your ship and take up the quest, exploring mysterious planets, derelict space stations, and force your way onto enemy ships.

Live as one of four races: ranging from heroic humans and beautiful aliens to warrior robots and undead horrors in an epic science-fantasy universe where advanced technology clashes with ancient demonic power.

Combine spell-casting with real time shooting as you blast through enemies, collect loot, and gain levels in a variety of unique alien environments.

Join up with your friends in maneuverable fleet formations to take on capital ships and enemy starbases in epic large scale battles.

Play as a member of one of two galaxy-spanning factions: the hopeful and technologically advanced United Colonies or the dangerous, prophecy-guided Scorn Empire.

Choose your role in the fight from a variety of powerful classes: From deadly Assassins operating behind the enemy lines, to powerful Crusaders who shrug off damage and unleash volleys of blistering fire, pick the role that matches your style of play.

Participate in a rich story as the forces of futuristic technology and mind-twisting magic clash in a battle to decide the fate of the galaxy.

Declare war against other players and destroy them in action packed player-vs-player combat that serves all levels of skill from the freshest cadet to the deadliest ace.”

Some more details can be found in old interviews by TenTon Hammer and Engaged:

“Our team has a great history… Cinco and Anthony (Sommers) have worked together since QA/ CS waaaaaay back in the old Origin days, Jake (Rodgers) and I both worked at Digital Anvil many years ago, and all four of us worked together on various aspects of Star Wars: Galaxies and SWG: Jump to Lightspeed. That’s just the founders… our team has an amazing amount of experience building, shipping, and running MMO’s as well. Collectively we have shipped three MMO’s under our belts (Ultima Online, Shadowbane, and SWG) as well as a vast multitude of single-player titles.”

Space flight and space combat will be an integral part of our game… it is what we are passionate about and what we know best. It is safe to say that the game will take place primarily in outer space. At the same time, we feel that a strong avatar component is essential as well.”

“Take the best of Wing Commander and Descent. Add some kick-ass ground combat. Play a lot of PvP to polish the hell out of it until it hits the right balance of easy to play/difficult to master. We are unconstrained by the existing fiction of a licensed product and free to attempt the artistic purity that can truly define a franchise. There’s nothing like it and we don’t see anything on the horizon.”

In 2011 Spacetime Studios were able to regain control of the Blackstar IP and its concepts became the inspiration to create Star Legends: The Blackstar Chronicles, a quite different MMO for mobile phones.

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Spirits (Jadestone) [N-Gage – Cancelled]

Spirits is a cancelled MMORPG / collectible card game that was in development around 2005 by Jadestone Group for the ill-fated N-Gage portable console / mobile phone. By taking advantage of the device’s mobile network features you could have been able to play against people from all around the world, fighting them and collecting new cards / monsters to use in your team / deck. As we can read in the original website:

“A long time ago, peace ruled the Earth as mankind lived in harmony with nature and all the other inhabitants of the planet – those you could see and those you couldn’t. Spirit beings born out of the four elements were all around us, and some humans could even communicate with them.

The memory of those ancient times is buried somewhere in the collective consciousness of mankind, but there are still spirit beings here to this day. SPIRITS™ tells the story of people that have been involved with the spirits in different ways over the millenia. The epic saga, which began in the ancient past of humanity, now plays out in the streets of today’s metropolitan cities.

SPIRITS™ is a massively multiplayer online (MMO) game with one main objective. You must fight the CUT – a doomsday sect trying to stop overpopulation by creating natural disasters to kill innocent people. You’ll have to hunt and collect spirits, test your skills in duels, perform rituals, and take on challenging missions that require tactical thinking and speedy reflexes.”

It seems Nokia and Jadestone had a demo of their game available at E3 2005, as reported by Gamestop at the time:

“Spirits aims to tap into the immensely addictive qualities of collectible card games, like Magic: the Gathering, to combine them with the massively multiplayer online capabilities of the N-Gage. It’s pretty clear that simply sticking a collectible card game, wholesale, into a video game doesn’t make for a great experience — and waves of mediocre Magic games have proven it — so Spirits is built upon a fairly complex backstory to provide the gameplay with some context.

The entire game will play out on N-Gage Arena, much like Pocket Kingdom does today. There are four basic gameplay elements in Spirits: collecting spirit cards, completing missions, dueling other players, and optimizing your “team” of spirits to keep it in fighting shape. To get new spirit cards, you’ll have to participate in a little minigame, called a “hunt,” where you actually catch spirits as they float around.

First, you assemble a team of six spirits that will comprise your troops. Your team and your opponent’s team are then placed on either end of a small isometric game board. Combat seemed to be really simple, at least at this point in development, so you select an attacking spirit, and then you choose an enemy spirit to target. The two collide, and damage is assigned. The gameplay’s turn-based, but both players make their decisions simultaneously, which adds a little more guesswork to the mix.”

Thanks to Jason for the contribution!

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Amazing Tales (Project Caspian) [Xbox 360 – Cancelled]

Amazing Tales (AKA Project Caspian) is a cancelled MMO planned for Xbox 360, that was in development by Flying Lab Software around 2010 – 2011. The team was mostly known for their Pirates of the Burning Sea MMO, published by Sony Online Entertainment for PC in 2008, but when massive online games became an overly saturated genre, they were not able to find new publishers interested in their skills.

As the PC market for MMO collapsed, we can speculate their idea was to pitch an original MMO for consoles as it could have been more profitable with less competition. They started the project creating an early prototype for Xbox 360 running on the Cryptic Engine, showing off some of their ambitious concept: a “pulp online adventure game set in the Weird 1930s”.

As we can read from the blog of a former Flying Lab developer:

“…the premise of Amazing Tales was based on a variety of genres ranging from pulp, to sci-fi, to adventure. Amazing Tales brought together great themes seen in movies such as Indiana Jones, Sky Captain, or The Mummy. What made this project so fun was the freedom we had with throwing in ideas. We had big plans for this game… and we couldn’t wait to see it all unfold.

We weren’t sure exactly if we were going to sell this game as an MMO, but we knew it was going to be multiplayer. We’d start out with the player choosing which class they’d like to be. The classes ranged from Adventurer, Vigilante, Scientist, Occultist, or Monk. Then we’d throw them in the middle of Egypt, where they had to band together with other players to take down the threats of the planet. What were the threats, you might ask? Our enemies ranged from Atlanteans, martians, Nazis, occultists, the undead, dinosaurs, and various other creatures, hellbent on wreaking havoc on civilization!

Further progress in the game would lead the player to other locations, such as New York, Shanghai, or London. Missions would consist of teamwork and strategy of playing off yourself and your teammates’ abilities. The end result of missions would lead the players into an ultimate boss fight. A major selling point we wanted to have in Amazing Tales were the boss battles. We wanted them to be memorable, so we wanted them to be huge. The fights themselves, AND the actual boss. Players would be up against giant alien robots, Tyrannosaurus Rex’s, or battles aboard huge war zeppelins.”

By reading this description we can say it sounds like an interesting and fun concept for an online multiplayer game. By looking at remaining footage and screenshots from the early prototype, it really looks like this could have been a great addition to Xbox Live.

While the team put all of their efforts and talent into Amazing Tales, unfortunately they were not able to secure funds from any publisher. The project was canned and soon Flying Lab had to close down with no money to stay alive. Artwork, screenshots and footage from the Amazing Tales prototype were shared online by former devs such as Fiona Turner, Alison Burkley and Bruce Sharp.

These documents are preserved below to remember the existence of their lost game.

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3rd World (MMORPG) [PC – Cancelled]

3rd World is a cancelled space simulator MMORPG that was in development between 1998 and 2002 by XYZ and and M.U.S.T. Corporation. You could create your own character and start living in this sci-fi virtual world, to survive against other players, trade with space travelers, own space stations or became a space-pirate.

It was quite the ambitious project for its time and for such a small team: you could somehow imagine it as the “Star Citizen” of the late ‘90s. The team promised a huge galaxy to freely explore, populated only by thousand of real players and no NPCs, nor quest or storyline. You could fly from planet to planet with your own spaceship, or land in one of the many space stations where to walk around on foot. The whole experience was based on your interaction with other players and the vast galaxy.

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As we can read from their old website:

“3rd World is a space massive multiplayer game system. Based on the legendary Elite concept of space trading and fighting, it extends that idea and adds two more elements to the space SF genre never seen before. Wondering through the space stations and unlimited upgrade possibilities in real-time.

3rd World is a game universe set in space for you to live in, explore, and rule. In many ways different from anything you’ve seen so far, 3rd world will give You the opportunity to live your own parallel life in space. Feel free to do what ever you imagine.

Be a pirate, be a trader, be a businessmen, or be a king. Own your own army, own your own empire, or just be the most famous person in the galaxy. We are presenting you a world where anything would be possible. World with no limits and no rules, but the ones you create. You will be the one who makes deals, the one who sells illegal goods, or the one who is hunting a famous criminal across many star systems. You will lie, steal or kill if it is necessary. Sometimes to save your own life, and sometimes just because it pays well.

There will be a lot for you to discover. Secrets that no one will know. Well covered conspiracies. And for some there will be a path to follow different from a normal space life. Temptations and courage, braveness and loyalty will be your guides on that sacred journey. Is the reword high enough to risk your life for?

Secret societies, secret weapons, powerful corporations, powerful people, the good side, the bad side. Conflicts are unavoidable. Be prepared for a whole new gaming experience!

In 2000 IGN had an interview with Vitomir Jevremovic, project manager for 3rd World, with many details about their vision for 3rd World:

IGNPC: What is the basic concept of the game?

Vitomir Jevremovic: Space massive multiplayer. It is not a game in any common sense; it is more of an on-line world of future. The players will be given liberty and freedom of choice they could not even dream of until now. There will be a preformed world with a set of highly liberal rules. Everything else is permitted. Quests and Clans will appear over time as a natural consequence of playing ¿ the players will start communicating and forming alliances on their own, all we will give them will be the tools to do it as quick and as easy as possible. Only their personal or professional needs will make them take up quests. If a player hears about an interesting object or person he can try to find it ¿ just like he would in real life.

IGNPC: Will there be any features present in most games, like a storyline, or any kind of an elaborate plot?

Vitomir Jevremovic: No. No linear or non-linear storylines. No predefined systems of Quests. We are creating a world and not a Quests&Hacks&Slashes engine. NO LIMITS.

IGNPC: So, what is going on in this world?

Vitomir Jevremovic: People live, trade, smuggle, buccaneer, communicate, lie and fight… anything you want.

IGNPC: How do you intend to contribute to the future of this world?

Vitomir Jevremovic: That is a big question and the essence of our story. We cannot be too specific about it because of the revolutionary technology we are currently developing. Let us just say that it should never grow outdated because it will keep expanding ¿ the players will have absolute liberty to upgrade anything at all, from pistols to battleships. We will also constantly introduce novelties so that there will always be something to do. Some of the most zealous players will be able to take part in very important and secret events of that world.

IGNPC: So there will be a special part of the game taking place on space stations?

Vitomir Jevremovic: Yes! The players will drive their ships about space and control their characters when in space stations. This is where most direct player communication will take place; where players meet face-to-face. I wouldn’t like to go into more detail about this but I guarantee you will be ecstatic.

IGNPC: Will players be able to own space stations?

Vitomir Jevremovic: Of course… the stations will be a criterion of power because they are the main business and trade centers. We intend to let actual players take over all the space stations in later stadiums of the game. Owning a station will mean dominance in that sector. And I do not have to tell you what happens when two large estate owners start fighting over trade lines for the neighboring sector.

IGNPC: Finally, how long have you been working on the project, what is its current stage of development and how long will it be before it invades the net?

Vitomir Jevremovic: We have spent the last year working actively on the project, and the concept had been developed two years before that. We are currently about half way through, but all the major work about the engine technology has already been done. We plan on having closed beta testing by the end of this summer, and as for any public testing, that will depend on the performance of the first beta.

More details can also by found in another interview published by Gamespot:

GameSpot: Can you tell us a little about the development team working on 3rd World?

Vitomir Jevremovic: XYZ is a game development studio currently working only on 3rd World. There are members of the team that have already done a few game projects, while some of our people are, for the first time, active in the game industry.

GS: What inspired the team to make a space-themed massively multiplayer RPG?

VJ: There are a couple of different reasons why we are doing an online space RPG. […]  the fact that there are no real MMORPG [games] yet. Yes, we have EQ, UO, and AC, but all these games are concentrated around NPCs, and player-vs.-player interaction is down to a minimum. There is also the fact that every new MMORPG in development is still following this basic design (although there are some attempts to allow more PVP conflicts).

We believe this is not a good thing for the next generation of MMORPG games, so we are going with one very different design approach. We will not have any NPCs in the game, we will not have any in-game quests, and we will allow almost unlimited possibilities for our players (that fit inside the gameworld, of course). This will allow players to completely organize their own way of living in the gameworld.

This is a big risk and a very different approach from anything seen so far in the MMORPG genre. We find this risky because human nature is very unpredictable, and this game will be based on human nature, so anything can happen. And this is the real reason why we are doing this game: Because we always wanted to play a game like this.

GS: The only time players actually get to control their player characters directly is when they’re in space stations, and 3rd World switches to an isometric perspective. What can players do while they’re in space stations?

VJ: Space stations are main centers for player-to-player direct interactions. Inside, you will be able to chat with other players, make business arrangements, rent a room, relax in a local bar, trade with the station or with other players. You can also buy or sell additional equipment for [your character] or for your ship.

We will later introduce even more possibilities for this in-station play and allow players many more gameplay options. Things like inserting an old-school arcade machine in a bar so players can compete for high scores. We also have plans for specific galactic pets. Then later we will make arenas for illegal (or legal) pet fights.

GS: How is death dealt with? Do players lose money, experience, or items?

VJ: Yes, players will lose everything that they have on them in the moment of death. Plus, they will lose experience points and possibly even some skill points.

There will be many different ways to die in 3rd World. The way you die determines how many experience and skill points you lose. Here are a few examples of different deaths: You die during a space fight you started; you die in a space fight you didn’t start; you die in a station fight; you die from a bomb placed in your room on a station while you were asleep; you die on a station, which was destroyed in the attack when you were not online at all.

These are just a few examples. Precise figures on this will be determined through the beta phase, as we don’t want to ruin the gameplay by taking from players more than they deserve. There will also be some insurance, so players can get some money for what they have lost.

VJ: Players will be able to carry all sorts of items. From small button-sized implants, equipment, or keycards to big two-handed weapons.

The inventory system will be very detailed and will have options for putting your items in different pockets or bags that your character has. This is very important because thieves will have to go for a specific pocket, and they can get only what is stored inside that specific pocket.

GS: How do skills like hacking come into play when players are on stations? Will they be able to hack into security systems to enter new areas in the station?

VJ: Yes. It looks like a big number of players will be interested in hacking skills. There will not be many hackers inside the 3rd World universe. Hacking skills will be one of the most hard-to-get [skills in the game]. As hackers are attacking many security systems and, in that way, are threatening the lives of many, many players inside a station, they are considered very dangerous. No station owner will be interested in having a hacker around his or her station, so being a hacker is not a pleasant thing at all but can have a lot of possibilities.

GS: Do planets factor into 3rd World’s gameplay at all?

VJ: Yes, they factor in a lot. Planets are the main suppliers and consumers of all the goods that are traded throughout the galaxy. Some specific materials will be produced only from raw materials from specific planets, much like the situation with “spice” in Dune. These planets will become centers of galactic conflicts, and owners of stations that surround that planet will have a lot of worries on their heads.

GS: When do you expect the game to be complete?

VJ: Somewhere in 2002. The precise date depends on a future publisher and the quantity of materials that should be included in the final release. Looking from our point of view, the game will be fully operational even with the basic set of modules, a few ships, and a couple of stations.

Even Eurogamer had a preview for the game in late 2000, then another article by AG.ru in 2001, but after that 3rd World vanished forever with no official statement. Their latest update on their website was posted in 2002, reading:

“It has been some time since our last update. Many fans and community members have been writing emails, asking what is happening with 3rd World and why we are short on news and releases on our official site.

As we have explained in our open letter to community, developing a game like 3rd World is a very hard task. We have been in a difficult situation for a long time, and we feel that community support in these tough moments was the greatest encouragement for all.

Because of this, we plan on writing a new design document which will explain in more details our problems and our progress. It will feature details on current state of 3rd World, and story about our main achievements in last couple of months.”

What happened to the project? We can assume an open ended MMORPG was too ambitious for their small team, and were not able to convince a publisher to fund their idea. The XYZ studio collapsed and the game forgotten by everyone.

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Adellion (MMORPG) [PC – Cancelled]

Adellion was a medieval MMORPG set in a world of the same name, in development by HonourBound, a British company. Development started with a full team in 2000 and ended in 2010. The first engine used for Adellion was a custom engine designed by the team but later they switched to Torque 3d by Garage Games.

The team consisted of a group of approximately 12 writers as well as artists, programmers and a project manager: all of them were working for a share of the profit when the game would release. Lore was important for the game and it was the main framework for the stories created by players. Role-play was central for the online community and in-game mechanics were created to support role play. Players could choose from six factions as well as a neutral multicultural city, Caeril.

These factions were: Aethans, Dalmites, Drulons, Sakoians, Salanians and Tarians. All of these factions were humans and there were no fantasy races appearing in the game. Each group had its own traditions and history, along with specific strengths and weakness. For example, a desert dwelling Sakoian would be more comfortable in hot dry climate than in wet swampy climate of the Drulons. These traits would affect players stamina and other stats. Food and drink also influenced characters’ stamina.

In the world’s lore these different cultures were either allies or enemies. The main story began during a major conflict when people took sides. The actions of players could change the outcome of the war: skirmishes could be fought, supply lines could be attacked, and even realms’ borders could change. Players could only choose one character per server to avoid using a second characters to pass sensitive information between factions of the same server.

In an early interview, Adellion was described by a developer:

“Adellion is a very different world to the current crop of massively multiplayer online games out there. We’ve tried to make the world as realistic as possible; we want players to feel like the world they are in could exist in real life. Our main focus is to get the players involved in the world, to make them feel like they are making a difference. To that end, the whole of Adellion can change through player actions – they can take over towns, wipe out cultures and make peace with one another if that is what they wish to do.”

The game evolved as time went by becoming more and more focused on role play and less on strategy. However, PvP was an important part of the game. Perma-death is another feature which was planned to be implemented in the game, to made players think wisely about their actions.

Gameplay mechanics included a skill-based system with no levels. Players could choose many different skill to shape up their character and a daily skill-capping system limited players from spending all their time grinding. Players housing was planned to be included into the final game, as well as the ability to hire NPCs for specific tasks, including let them work as shopkeepers and as troops in combat. Well feed NPCs would work harder than those who were neglected.

Developers gave away beta keys to about 1000 players early during development, but time frame was underestimated and Adellion never reached its beta stage. At the peak of development, there were about 18.000 forum members in 2010, with at least a third of them being very active. After the game cancellation in 2010, forums remained online for a couple of years before they were taken down. This allowed the community to come to terms with the cancellation and continue their relationships for a bit longer.

Adellion was to be published by Alchemic Dream, a Canadian company. A change of management occurred a few years into development when the original creators left the project and it was picked up by the remaining developers. They worked on the game for a number of years. Unfortunately engine issues, overwhelming ambitions and loss of funds killed the game.

Article by Vipaah, thanks to Laura “Teila” Wampfler for the contribution