…I Gotta Wear Shades

…I Gotta Wear Shades Misty “Beans” Matonis takes a look back at her list of independent titles to keep your eye on and sees where these games are today.
By Misty “Beans” MatonisIt’s been a while since I last took a look at what I felt were the next ten “independent” titles you should keep your eye on. That previous article generated a ton of email, mostly along the lines of “you’re a moron” to “what about this game, idiot.” Since quite a bit of time has passed since the publication of my list, I thought it would be a good time to take a look back at those ten titles and see where they are today.

Gladius Online
Or rather, I should call it Roma Victor now. While RedBedlam wasn’t explicit as to why they changed the name to Roma Victor, it’s not hard to speculate as to whether or not the name was changed because the almighty Lucas Arts is developing a game called Gladius as well. Roma Victor is still in development, and has just recently begun a small, closed testing period while development continues. Roma Victor is still one of the more interesting games currently being developed, and despite some thematic similarities with Mythic’s Imperator Online, which will be set in a future world where Rome never fell, it should find itself a nice following of players once the title goes live.

Developer: RedBedlam
Official Web Site: http://www.roma-victor.com/

A Tale in the Desert
eGenesis has launched this title to quite a number of excellent reviews (be sure to read Stratics Central’s review of the game) and a small following of players. Self-published, A Tale in the Desert has been wowing players left and right with it’s interesting game play focused on skills and community work. A Tale in the Desert will continue to find fans and slowly build as one of the top niche games on the market today. It won’t ever reach the popularity of the big titles like Ultima Online or EverQuest with it’s 97,000 different platform games, and you know what? That’s just fine. A Tale in the Desert is a keeper.

Developer: eGenesis
Official Web site: http://www.ataleinthedesert.com
Stratics Central Review: http://www.stratics.com/content/gamereviews/reviews/atitd.php

City of Heroes
You know a game is good when one of the largest MMOG developers on the planet (NCSoft… yes, it’s true, they are one of the largest MMOG developers on the planet) invests heavily in your game. Interest has waned a bit due to a self-imposed silent period pre-E3, however, the game still has a hard-core fan base, and more are soon to join in the fun post-E3, when more information about this exciting title is expected.

Developer: Cryptic Studios
Official Web site: http://www.cityofheroes.com
Stratics Site: City of Heroes Stratics

Lost Continents
Ironically, can almost seem like it can get out of the clutches of death as many times as Indiana Jones can say “snakes, I hate snakes,” but is it on it’s last life? After merging with Jaleco USA, VR-1 resumed development of Lost Continents, only to have development suspended on the title once again. It’s a shame, too. Interesting game play elements and beautiful graphics with imagination would have made Lost Continents a game to keep your eye on, if only the developers would switch the red light to green and keep it there (currently they’re looking for a publisher). As it stands today, I have to wonder if Lost Continents will ever see the light of day. It’s a shame, too.

Developer: Jaleco USA
Official Web Site: http://lostcontinents.vr1.com
Stratics Central Interview: http://www.stratics.com/content/interviews/lc/interviews/rashere092302.php

Earth and Beyond
Electronic Arts is really close to turning Westwood’s stab at massive gaming into the next Motor City Online: a game with a decent premise into a failed title. Should this surprise anyone? EA closed Westwood’s Las Vegas studio, merged the remaining staff with other waywards in California, and the rumors are strong that this game will get the axe sometime during the summer. Just in time for EA’s closure of Motor City Online, too. Westwood isn’t even promoting the title on their Web site anymore, despite the fact that the Earth and Beyond team have published their development plan for the title recently.

Developer: Westwood
Official Web Site: http://www.earthandbeyond.ea.com/home/index_marketing.jsp
Stratics Site: Earth and Beyond Stratics

Black Moon Chronicles
Adios, Black Moon Chronicles. Vircom’s parent company Cryonetwork’s filed for bankrupcy in France in the summer of 2002. Vircom suspended development of the game, opened up a “dead” beta to the public, and very recently closed the game servers. The game’s site is no longer available to the public, if it exists at all. All this after suspending the game’s release at the end of 2001. The writing was on the wall back then, and the wall is where you’ll find those who were looking forward to the release of Black Moon Chronicles smacking their head oh so hard.

EVE Online
Originally scheduled for release in February, 2003, EVE Online, Iceland’s only MMOG export, will be released “soon.” But don’t take that to mean an Origin System’s definition of soon. By soon, I mean in the next few months. Development and beta testing has continued at a rapid pace for this extremely popular title, with words such as “beautiful,” “gorgeous” and “stunning” being tossed around everywhere you look. EVE Online will probably have an extremely strong European market, with a smaller, although no less obsessive North American following to start, picking up some steam as word of mouth gets out about the game; that is, assuming more content comes into play. As the game is presently still in beta stage, the only bad thing I’ve heard about the game is the lack of content. But, ladies and germs, this is beta. Let’s see how the game progresses when it’s released, and then we’ll see.

Developer: CCP
Official Web Site: http://www.eve-online.com
Stratics Site: EVE Stratics

Released in the winter of 2002, Neocron is clearly a niche title for fans of cyberpunk (of which I am one) and first-person shooters (of which I am not). Neocron comes in several different localized versions, and most recently the French version of the game was launched. Neocron favors a strong European contingent, which isn’t surprising: the developer, REAKKTOR, is based in Germany. The game has one of the most interesting skill systems I’ve played yet, with a good variety of different weapon types, all of which can accomidate different playing styles. The inclusion of a PvP “switch” via the LE chip makes it much easier for new players to play the game without incessant fear, and the quest system is pretty good for those who wish to balance their characters. Content is strolling in, albeit slowly. From my perspective, Neocron is right on track. Now all that’s needed is a good push from publisher CDV.

Developer: Reakktor
Official Web Site: http://www.neocron.com
Stratics Site: Neocron Stratics

Dune Generations
The second and last of our cancelled titles, Dune Generations fell under the axe of the Cryonetwork bankrupcy. I’ll be perfectly blunt with you: I’m saying it’s a shame simply because I’m an extremely huge fan of the Dune books by Frank Herbert. Can someone, anyone, please turn this world into a massively multiplayer title? I have cookies!

Darkfall Online
After having some problems in their native Norway, Razorwax picked up and completely moved their development studio to Athens, Greece, with a new publisher and more drive to build the game. The title is still generating a small buzz among RPG fans, and will probably pick up more steam in the RPG-PvP community as the game continues to develop and more people become aware of the title. Keep your eye on this one, MMORPG fans.

Developer: Razorwax AS
Official Web Site: http://www.darkfallonline.com/

Originally published on Stratics Central March 24, 2004

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