There are two MMOs that have a chance of having me swap off WoW. Star Wars: The Old Republic will tap into a deep-seated part of my medulla oblongata that has been fantasising about being a Jedi since the original Episode IV came out. I will definitely try it, and as I probably only have room in my life for 1 MMO, it will be an interesting time to see what happens.
But even more exciting is the prospect of an MMO based on the Warhammer 40,000 IP. I played the original 40k way back in the Rogue Trader days, and over the years have amassed many armies of miniatures. Sadly, when we moved home from the UK, I ebayed it all but I have lately been considering getting back into the tabletop as a result of reading some of the incredibly rich and well-written WH40K fiction. Make no mistake - if a quality 40K MMO is released in 2012 as rumoured, I will not only quit playing WoW/SWTOR but I will also probably quit my job and mutate into a half-man, half-chair gaming automaton, existing purely on cheezels, Dr Pepper and forty-first millennium pure WIN. Please, THQ, I beg you: make it full of win. It is an epic franchise that absolutely must not be sullied with an inferior product.
Although 2012 is a long time to wait, THQ will have ample time to learn from the SWTOR MMO and apply those lessons. There are a few things that interest me greatly about how it might be implemented:
- Presumably Humans would be one of the initial races, as would Orks. This immediately lends itself to a "faction" system similar to WoW. But what about Eldar, Tau, Necrons, Chaos etc? Nobody really fights on the same side as anyone else. It's almost going to have to be everyone versus everyone, possibly with server-wide or even zone-wide temporary alliances between certain races? Even then, can you imagine Eldar and Slaanesh Marines being allied for any reason? Not me...
- Taking Humans first: there's a hierarchy in the various arms. The Astartes report really to nobody except the Emperor, though they have some respect for the Inquisition. Would anyone want to play an Imperial Guard toon when there was absolutely no way they could be as powerful as a Space Marine toon? the only way to even it would be to have the MMO less "individual toon" based and more "warband" based - so a level-cap marine may have a squad of marine "combat pets" but a max level Guard commander may have a whole platoon plus heavy weapons, etc? Then it's almost a fair fight. Balance is going to be a hard thing to achieve, but it would be awesome to have a bunch of NPC combat pets doing your shooty bidding.
- There are degrees of "freedom" in the various denizens of the 40k milieu. Marines for instance are loyal only to their Chapter and the Emperor. They do what they're told - simple instruments of war, with little thought to personal advancement. How does that work for levelling/gearing up? Is a rank and file marine or Guardsman even an appropriate toon, or would it be too restrictive? Will it need to focus on the more "individual" characters in the milieu - Inquisitors, Harlequins (Solitaires?), Rogue Traders, Fallen Angels (aaaawwwweeeesome), etc.
- "Quests" - it would be great to have these race-specific. So for example for a marine toon, the missions would be handed down by the chapter in a level-appropriate way, possibly for a zone-wide PvE "instance" - so you could solo it as a skirmish, or group up with others from the chapter or allied factions to tackle a larger 5- or 10-man instanced zone quest. For Ork toons, maybe you're a small cog in a Waaaaagh, following your Warboss from world to world and occasionally encountering PvP resistance from opposing factions. Then the level-cap zones would be the epicentre of the fighting - where the Waaaaghs meet the Crusades, the Hive Fleets, the Craftworlds etc and all fight against each other.