The MMO market is one of the most lucrative (yet dangerous) in the games industry. Its history is laden with soaring successes and spectacular failures. But where did it come from? Do startups stand a chance? Alexander Gambotto-Burke investigates
Richard Garriott watched his first completed project since 1999's Ultima IX: Ascension, Tabula Rasa, go live. Granted, at this point, it was just those smart enough to pre-order who were making baby steps into Garriott's new world. But three days later, Tabula Rasa hit retail, and Earth Prime got an invitation. This day was the relatively seamless conclusion to a six-year development cycle that, halfway through, endured a complete artistic overhaul. And in most spheres of game development, a day like this would be tinged with near-euphoric relief. Garriott hadn't released an ordinary game, though – his was an MMO, and in his experience as the creator of the world's first true massively multiplayer game, Ultima Online, he knew his work wasn't done yet. On the contrary, it had only just begun.