Thursday, February 21, 2008

Starbreeze Resurrecting Old EA Franchise

An announcement went out today that EA has tapped the developer Starbreeze Studios to revitalize an old franchise of theirs, with development currently under the name Project RedLime.

This really could be any number of franchises we haven't seen hide nor hair of for years... let's go over a list of the possibilities.

  • Archon - But how many still really remeber this game today? I don't think it's going to be a franchise that no one today knows about outside of the hardcore PC enthusiasts, or rather one that only necessitated 1 sequel. I mean, this is EA we're talking about.

  • The Bard's Tale - Not likely as this was just re-attempted a year or two ago. But one never knows. I know I wouldn't mind a real re-launch of this one

  • Skate or Die! - Doubtful too as EA just launched the "skate." brand this year.

  • Populous - Again doubtful as EA is about to launch another certain God game this year... Spore. Don't think they'd compete against themselves.

  • Desert Strike - Maybe? War games are in right now, and a helicopter shooter might go over well. Still, I hope not. Just because I wouldn't care.

  • Dungeon Keeper - Maybe? I never really played the DK games, but I know many loved the titles, and there's a big push for user-made content these days, as well as action-RPGs, so who knows.


    The Ultima Series - Garriott and crew do not own this license... can you believe that? EA does. And I think they may be gearing up to bring a single-player RPG to the masses with Starbreeze. Not UO2 mind you, as they're already pressing hard with Warhammer and wouldn't want to steal from the same userbase with a sequel to UO. But a direct competitor to the open-world RPG reigning champ that is 2K and Bethesda's Elder Scrolls Series might be right up their alley.

    Why do I think this? Aside from wishful thinking, the guys at Starbreeze said this in their portion of the press release and it just sort of clicked into my head that Ultima was the one: "We’re already deep in development on Project RedLime and the team at EA is giving us the time we need to perfect our vision. We’re excited to bring a new perspective and gameplay innovation to this beloved fiction."

    I can't really think of any other "beloved fiction" that EA has its hands on, except maybe James Bond, but isn't a new game for that already being made? Did the series ever go away and seem in need of a revival? It's been running on all cylinders since Goldeneye (even if some have sucked). EA also called it "reinventing one of their most acclaimed franchises". Hence why Ultima seems like exactly the direction they'll head. Hell, it would be where I'd go.

    Starbreeze has proven with Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay that they can do the adventure-action game really well, and with The Darkness that they can tell a story and do an FPS well. I wouldn't be surprised if they could pull off a deeply compelling RPG too. They've been one of my favorite independent developers to watch grow over the past few years.

    There are some major trends in gaming these days. Open worlds. Lots of customization. Dark and deep thematic material. Action-based gameplay. All of these things have been a part of the Ultima series for years... and yet since 1997 it hasn't really seen a new game to take it that "one step beyond." UO, as great as it once was, is now but a dated shell of its former glory. Ultima X just might finally be coming down the pipe.

    Then again, it could simply end up being Road Rash and I'll go back to my daydreaming.

    It'll be interesting to see this one unfold over the next few months as more details are announced. I'm crossing my fingers for the Avatar to make a return, even with out RG behind it. In fact, it may be served better to have some fresh hands on the series.



    EDIT: Oh, and expect Ultima X to be on the Xbox and PS3, as well as the PC.

    PS - Heather, I swear I'll get to that meme soon. :)


    Hexx said...

    I tried to play the updated Bard's Tale... got pretty far, but i was looking for nostalgia, and didn't get it.

    Archon sucked away much of my time ages ago, but the combination of chess-mind and twitchy-hand gameplay is better served by fast-paced RTS these days.

    Ultima, though? Ultima is ripe for an epic game. but, has it been too long? How many people playing video games today played Ultima? or even Ultima IV?

    I don't know if the Ultima branding is strong enough to grab a new generation of gamers. And with all of the Fantasy RPG competition, it would have to be awe-inspiring to make a dent.

    But it would be cool...

    Bildo said...

    I'm younger myself, at 24. My first Ultima experience was the Black Gate in the 90s. After which I tried every one from before (which was a bad idea really, as VII was the peak at that time) and then each after, and eventually UO when finally had online in my house in the late 90s.

    I think it's safe to say that if Ultima is ressurected and they can accomplish making an engaging open world the way Bethesda has, that they'll succeed and many gamers my age and beyond will eagerly buy it off of store shelves.

    Now if it sucks... then we have a problem. Something tells me that these days, EA will whatever it can to make sure their games can compete. Signs of the beast changing its ways are all over.

    I mean... they even apologized for the buggy mess that was Madden this year on launch day (it has sense been patched to be much better). And if they're apologize for America's most obvious case of Dynasty Warriors-itis, then I'm willing to believe they're really caring about quality these days once again.

    Time will tell.

    All Starbreeze needs is said time, and the money to pull it off.

    Hexx said...

    I'm an old fart at 37... my first Ultima was Ultima II. I skipped Ultima III, and then was absorbed by Ultima IV. Ultima V was a disappointment after the epic IV...

    Ultima VI and VII were ok, but by then I was Ultima'd out and the franchise was doing a lot of coasting.

    I avoided Ultima Online... not sure why, really? I guess I was in my Mechwarrior phase then.

    But when I think of Ultima, I think of Ultima IV... figuring out the character creation, keeping notebooks full of notes, books of maps, solving puzzles, etc. I think that game took me and my buddies most of a summer to beat. Then, we all got little cards signed by Lord British in the mail.

    With the weight of nostalgia that heavy on me... I'm not sure if *any* Ultima game can crack my older, jaded self and bring back the wonder of playing a game when I was a teen...

    But we'll see :)

    Openedge1 said...

    Ultima and Archon...
    Still remembers fondling...uh...sorry...fondly...thoughts of his Amiga..
    This was a great computer, and any of these (Ultima, Archon, Bards Tale) will always be such wonderful times...that may never return if games keep being mediocre and not pushing the envelope anymore..

    Thallian said...

    Dungeon Keeper 2 is very fun, for a while. I recommend it.

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