The Elder Scrolls MMO
After Oblivion dragged RPGs kicking and screaming back from the realm of dark, moist, D&D-obsessed teenage bedrooms and into the gaming mainstream, it was only a matter of time before the 'monthly subscription fee' dollar signs pinged into the eyes of execs at Bethesda. And sure enough, their parent company ploughs a wad of cash into creating ZeniMax Online Studios... and then a website called - wait for it - elderscrollsonline.com pings into life on the web. Coincidence? Not on your dwarf.
So, what can you expect? Well, personally we'd be well chuffed if somebody simply used the existing Oblivion tech and transformed one of the greatest single player experiences ever into a persistent online world - though on the condition that they ironed out a sluggish engine that could hardly support five elves on screen at one time.
What'll really happen though is that Bethesda's core team will crack on with developing classic single-player fare like 2008's eagerly awaited Fallout 3, and cede development of any online titles to a fresh outfit lead by recently-hired MMO legend Matt Firor - who'll probably poach a bunch of his old team who are currently toiling away on beardy nerd fave Dark Age of Camelot. In other words, it'll be Dark Age of Camelot 2 masquerading under the Elder Scrolls moniker - and you read it here first.
Star Wars FPS
Free Radical announced that they were teaming up with LucasArts aaaages ago. What's not quite so well known is that what Free Rad are developing is a first-person shooter. We know this because they told us (er, probably off the record) when we went up to visit them recently to talk about 'Splitters 4.
So, what could it be? Could it be an update of legendary Star Wars FPS, Dark Forces? Could it? Eh? EH? Certainly, while there have been a lot of shat Star Wars games over the years, Dark Forces, and its superior sequel Jedi Knight, were two of the best. Although criticised at the time for lacking any multiplayer options, Dark Forces was lean and efficent, taking the oft-imidated Doom template and introducing innovations - for the time, at least - such as liquid surfaces (ie rivers and lava pits), as well as standout moments set inside Jabba's Palace and onboard the Star Destroyer. Jedi Knight streamlined everything: it had a multiplayer, bigger set pieces, a better story, and - interestingly - was also the first Star Wars game to introduce the concept of Light and Dark Sides, and how your ingame actions dictated which side you ended up on.
After so many mis-steps with dump like Masters of Teras Kasi, Rage of the Wookies and Bounty Hunter, could Free Radical join the likes of Bioware, Obsidian and Travellers Tales in creating an actual Star Wars game that pushes the franchise forward in some way? Expect a Dark Forces-shaped announcement early '08.
Death, destruction and huge guns will NEVER go out of fashion. Dear old Uncle Tom Clancy knows that, and with the Clancy universe of stars-and-stripes gaming proving a licence to print money for Ubisoft, it doesn't take an evil genius-level IQ to predict that GRAW3 was all-but guaranteed the moment '2 shipped. The first few months of next year will mark its unveiling, with January and February traditionally being the time when the French publishing monsters start talking about their year ahead.
So... here's what we're hearing will get addressed. Number one: a whole new engine for both single-player and multiplayer. Hardened GRAW players will know that the biggest problem with the first two games' multiplayer was that it wasn't similar enough to the main Campaign mode; the fact that single-player and multiplayer were developed by two separate teams was glaringly obvious, and many of the things you could do in single-player (locking to cover, for example), you couldn't do in multiplayer. And vice versa: where was the co-op in Campaign? Sheer madness.