I play games other than EVE. Shocking, but true, I know. ;-) For example, blogging was a bit lighter than usual in early January because I was pumping a ton of time into Skyrim.(1) I also toy with other MMOs occasionally; the little text block at the right detailing which ones isn't updated very often, but it's still reality.
Matter of fact, I think I'll sum up my thoughts on Wurm Online right now. First, my concerns: the graphics and interface are terribly dated. It might also be unique in the MMO universe in that it has a steeper curve than EVE Online, partially because of the interface, partially because of the lack of newbie-friendly areas. The instant you jump into the game, you're assumed to be an expert at it, and if you're not... well... sucks to be you.
That said, it also has some positives. The idea of strongly encouraging people to come together, cooperate, and build strongholds and towns to protect themselves from the harsh world outside is a really good one. In the same way that EVE could be the subject of many economic research papers, Wurm Online could be the subject of many anthropological ones. When you watch a community form and build up to defend itself, you really feel like you're watching a bit of early Earth history... people putting up wooden palisades to keep out the wolves... then converting them to stone when their wood-walled village becomes prosperous enough to be worth invading.
So, sum up Wurm Online as: concept good, implementation bad. And I think I'll go ahead and move it to the "departed" list. ;-)
One thing Wurm definitely has on its side is the sandbox element: it lays out the background and the story, then gets out of the way and lets the players provide much of the content. In this way, Wurm has a problem because it steps too far out of the way. But it was the sandbox element that definitely drew me in.
I'm still looking for a sandbox fantasy MMO.
For that reason, another franchise that I'm keeping a very close eye on is the Kingdoms of Amalur brand. In the interests of full disclosure, I'll say that the franchise came to my attention because a friend of mine works for the company producing part of it. However, this one would have popped up on my radar pretty quickly in any case because of its pedigree. The executive designer of the brand is Ken Rolston, who was the lead designer of the Morrowind and Oblivion installments of The Elder Scrolls series. When he left Bethesda not long after Oblivion's release, I was not happy. ;-) The party line was that he retired... but rumors swirled that he'd been pushed due to burn-out.
The first game in the Kingdoms of Amalur brand will be a single-player RPG called Reckoning, set to be released in a couple of weeks. But the second game in the brand will be an MMO... release date unknown. They're not going to run out of money, though. The company producing both products is 38 Studios, owned by former Major League Baseball player (and MMO fanatic) Curt Schilling. He makes it quite candidly clear that he's spending $100 million on the Amalur MMO, he expects it to have millions of subscribers, and he rejects free-to-play as making no business sense.
In that context, anyone interested in MMOs who doesn't have their eye on this property probably isn't thinking straight. ;-)
So those two elements would have caught my attention already, but it's the third element that has me truly intrigued: it's been made repeatedly clear that the Amalur games will be strongly open world, mated to a dense storyline and back-story (written by R.A. Salvatore). You take an open world and plop it down into an MMO, and boys and girls, what you have... is a sandbox. So... yeah. I'm keeping an eye on this one. Expect this to be the first in a series of Kingdoms of Amalur posts around here.
On the 17th, the first playable demo for Reckoning was released, and I spent some time over the weekend playing it. It's available on XBox Live, Steam, and for direct download among other places. Go check it out if you're interested. I'll have more to say about the demo in a day or two, but felt like I should introduce the new tag first...
(1) And I'll be comparing Skyrim to EVE in an important respect in a blog post before too long.