GameIndustry - Life after Fantasy?
Oli Welsh editorial on MMOs as part of the MMO week.
Age of Conan and WAR are both fantasy RPGs. They're very far from being copycats; each comes loaded with its fair share of innovations, grand designs and unique selling points, Conan with its more down-to-earth setting and dynamic combat, WAR with its clever structure for interracial warfare on a massive scale. Neither should they be accused of jumping on WoW's thematic bandwagon; that game, after all, is merely a perfection of the dominant paradigm in MMO gaming going back to the Ultima days, and a reflection of the genre's roots in pen-and-paper roleplaying.
But the fact remains that they're both going to be perceived as extremely similar to WoW by the mass-market. Many in the industry are decrying this, saying that MMOs must broaden their appeal if they're to survive WoW's reign and capitalise on it. The trouble is, experience doesn't bear them out. Looking at last year's pair of MMO contenders, Turbine's polished fantasy stalwart Lord of the Rings Online has performed respectably, while NCsoft's much more innovative science fiction game, Tabula Rasa, is locked in a desperate struggle to retain its audience, never mind grow it.