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Microsoft cancels Mythica MMORPG

Microsoft has cancelled massively multiplayer online RPG Mythica following an internal evaluation, in a move which could lead to job losses for some of the 40 development staff.

Microsoft Game Studios has cancelled MMORPG Mythica, the publisher announced last week, "based on a careful evaluation of the competitive MMORPG landscape". An MGS spokesperson said that the publisher had two massively multiplayer titles in development - Mythica and another, as-yet unannounced project - and didn't want the bother of eventually maintaining two in an already crowded marketplace.

Announced just prior to E3 2003, Mythica was conceived as a new breed of MMORPG in which players take on the role of immortals in the mythological world of Norse gods, embarking upon epic quests to earn their place in the stars. Beneath the spin it was a game that tried to shed the chat room baggage and inane levelling cycle of more traditional MMORPGs with its "Private Realms" - individual, automatically generated quests that could be played alone or in groups, with fully destructible environments, individually tailored storylines, etc. It also drew heavily on Norse mythology - you could even earn special abilities by praying to particular gods.

Although Microsoft retains the technology developed by the Mythica team and my reuse it, the publisher last week said it had no plans to rework it into a single-player title. Speaking on the game's website, MGS studio manager Adam Waalkes also tried to explain the cancellation.

"While the game looked ready to deliver advancements to the genre, after careful evaluation of the MMORPG landscape, MGS has decided to streamline its portfolio, making fewer investments in this genre. After a rigorous review of current and future projects, the decision was made that Mythica would not be one of the projects we would continue to invest in," he wrote. "We truly appreciate all the support Mythica has received from its fans and the games community."

It hasn't all been bottomless beer cans, polished spiky helmets and flowing compliments though. Regular readers may recall that Dark Age of Camelot developer Mythic Entertainment was in the process of suing Microsoft for infringing its trademark and engaging in unfair competition, alleging in a Virginia District Court last December that Mythica was too close in name to the rival MMORPG developer, and draws on the same Norse mythology that inspired DAOC (along with Celtic lore and Arthurian legends).

At the time, Mythic CEO Mark Jacobs likened the tussle to Microsoft's complaints about the Lindows operating system. It looks like he won't have to worry now, although the 40 staff impacted by Mythica's cancellation may not be so lucky - MS will try to re-home them on other projects, but a number of jobs may now be lost.

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