NCSoft is looking to deliver an MMORPG in 2006 that has my full attention. This is a somewhat unique situation, as the last time I was really excited about a roleplaying game of any kind was probably Ultima IV.
Auto Assault, which is being developed by NetDevil, is looking to let everyone play Road Warrior in a bleak future where the world has been dividied up by humans, mutants, and some kind of robot species that can, apparantly, modify cars. (I'm unclear what's meant by this, but hopefully I'll be able to put an ashtray in the dashboard - I'm skeptical of any future with a smoking ban). So the story sounds pretty trite, but that doesn't really diminish my enthusiasm. All the released media makes the game look like a fast paced vehicular shooter that's part Carmageddon and part Interstate '76.
I guess what I'm most excited by is the promise that Auto Assault could in fact deliver a mass-scale Interstate '76-like experience. For those who don't know or remember, Intertstate '76 was a fantastic early Direct3D car-based shooter with multiplayer support via modem and IPX network. I never managed to spoof its IPX into working over TCP properly, so I never played it with more than one other person, but the idea of playing something similar with 20 people, let alone the 1000 or more that NetDevil is projecting is extremely alluring.
What an MMORPG needs to be profitable more than anything is a strong and dedicated userbase. I hope NCSoft's past successes in the industry have given them the wisdom they need to market this game properly. On the other hand, I am, as I already noted, not a fan of the genre at all as a general rule, so I'm mentally crossing my fingers about this one.
The published screenshots show how far we've come from Everquest, let alone Interstate '76. How the decidely next generation physics engine will hold up in real time with hundreds or thousands of networked users is still unproven, althoguh a public beta is in progress as I write this. Head on over to http://www.autoassault.com
to try to get in, if you like.