2006 is coming to a close, and I'm looking into what early 2007 will bring. And if all the announced release dates aren't just a bunch of lies, there will be three major events in the spring of 2007: The Burning Crusade, Lord of the Rings Online, and Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. Of course the Burning Crusade is a must-buy for me, but as I have no idea how many months that will keep me busy, I checked out the other two MMORPG as well.
I'm strangely excited about the Lord of the Rings Online (LotRO). Strangely because it is made by Turbine, which has yet to produce a game I like. But I watched the LotRO gameplay video from Fileplanet, and it is looking very good. I like the graphics, which are not quite so cartoony as WoW's, but not so photorealistically grey and washed out as those of EQ2. The user-interface looks clean, and the combat animations are fluid and good-looking. The whole thing is artistically pleasing. Of course in the video you can only guess about the flow of the game, but from all the leaked rumors from beta-testers that I hear, the game is better than you would think Turbine to be capable of. I think I am going to buy this one.
Fileplanet also has the option for subscribers to sign up for the Vanguard beta, which I did. But in this case its more a case of "try before you buy", I don't know yet whether I will end up buying it, I'm still sceptical. The much longer Vanguard gameplay trailer, 18 minutes with comments from the game producers, looks both less good and less finished than the LotRO one. There are a lot more races and apparently huuuuuuuge landscapes, but being bigger automatically results in the landscapes being more bland. And while you get a horse already as low as level 10, you will still spend a lot of your time just getting to where you want. On the positive side the huge amount of space allows player housing, although I reserve my final judgement on that until I've seen it. Being able to place houses in the landscape could be nice, but it could also seriously mess up the landscape and game. How close to monsters can you place a house? And will the best spots all be taken by hardcore players after a few weeks? Anyway, I hope I'll have the opportunity to test Vanguard, because up to now the reports from beta testers are rather negative, and they might either miss the spring 2007 release date, or release the game half-finished. Vanguard seems to be leaning far more towards the "world" side of things, but the big question is whether it will nevertheless be playable as a "game". The risk is that you have a huge world with houses, crafting, and everything, but players quickly grow bored of it, or frustrated with the slow pace, and the world remains empty due to lack of players.
So lots of exciting MMORPG coming out in early 2007, I guess we won't be bored. I'm not sure yet what I will end up playing in 3 months, or 6, but I am sure there will be some MMORPG around for me to play. And there will be more and more players in total playing this type of game, which ends up financing better and better games. The future looks bright.