Funcom’s New MMOG – A Casual Browser Game?

Posted by Stropp on July 28, 2008

Late last week, I received a Press Release from a MMOG middleware company called Unity Technologies. Unity Technologies have recently been selected to provide the engine for a couple of new games, one of which was announced last week. That was the Cartoon Networks casual MMO game for kids, Cartoon Network Universe: FusionFall.

FusionFall appears to be a particularly appropriate title, since the game fuses together a number of the cartoons that they show. These include such widely disparate toons like Ed, Ed n Eddy, Ben 10, The Powerpuff Girls, and Fosters Home for Imaginary Friends. A game like this executed well could be quite successful since these are all well received cartoons.

But the big news, not sure -- am I breaking this? Is that the Unity Engine has also been selected by Funcom for their new, get this, casual, web browser, based MMOG.

Here's the press release:

Unity Supports Development of Virtual Worlds &

Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) Games

In-Browser Experience Sets Unity Apart from Competitors;

Cartoon Network with Grigon Entertainment & Funcom with Artplant

First Developers of Unity-based MMOs

SAN FRANCISCO, CA July 24, 2008 – Unity Technologies, a leading 3D game development tool provider, today announced support for the creation of virtual worlds and massively multiplayer online (MMO) games. Already the cutting-edge choice for creating visually rich, 3D games on the Web, Unity now boasts a full roster of MMO features, including multiple terrains for virtually limitless environments and new on-demand streaming features that benefit game developer and player alike.

“The Unity engine with the additional MMO capabilities elevates the in-browser experience – resulting in the best and most comprehensive MMO game development engine on the market today,” said David Helgason, CEO of Unity Technologies. “The Unity engine has been tuned to support the unique needs of virtual world/MMO development, resulting in the fastest downloads, smoothest game play and limitless 3D environments.”

Unity was recently chosen by two leading developers for MMO creation. Cartoon Network’s 3D virtual MMO for kids, Cartoon Network Universe: FusionFall, which is being developed with Grigon Entertainment, is slated to debut this Fall. In addition, Funcom, the maker of Anarchy Online and Age of Conan, along with its partner Artplant chose Unity 2.1 for development of their new casual market MMO currently under production and under wraps.

Lucas Meijer, lead developer of Funcom/Artplant’s casual MMO said, "Unity 3D enables us to create game content for the Web, with higher production values than we've ever been able to do before."

New MMO/virtual world features supported by Unity 2.1 include:

ï‚· Multiple Terrains: Unity 2.1 is the only engine to support multiple terrains in any given scene and to load the terrains on-demand and on-the-fly. Multiple terrains instantly immerse gamer in an endless landscape, based on streamed data, which is critical for the success of any virtual world/MMO.

ï‚· Streaming Resource Files: Unity 2.1 loads assets on-demand with new streaming features. With the new streaming capabilities, developers can add to or update deployed content without having to completely republish content. This results in significant workflow efficiencies for developer, while delivering the quickest download/smoothest game play for the gamer.

Funcom's secret in-development massive online game is not something we've heard too much about so far. Every now and again I've read a few comments on various blogs and news sites, but there's been no hard information about it.

That Funcom have chosen to go for the casual market next is an interesting move by them, and it might be something that will pay off. The casual MMO game market is growing at a rapid pace. It fills a huge gap between gamers that like to spend a little time each day with browser based casual games and the hardcore gamers that spend huge amounts of time tweaking every aspect of their character.

The thing that casual games are missing is the sense of continuity. You log on, play for a while, and then log off. The only persistence is the scoring ladder. On the other hand, casual gamers don't have the time or inclination to spend thousands of hours raiding, PvPing, crafting and the like. These new browser based games should allow them to meet in the middle and progress by spending as much or as little time as they'd like.

If you've got an idea for a casual browser based MMO game, and you're looking for some middleware with which to build it, check out Unity. Prices for licenses range from $199 for the Indie license up to $1998 for the full Pro version.