David Perry and Acclaim used AGDC to reveal some brand new initiatives in their Top Secret project. Top Secret is a community designed MMO experience where fans can register on a website and collaborate on the direction of a game. At the end of the process, the best contributor will be given their own chance to make an MMO.
In the meantime though, Acclaim needs to build what the community designed. Originally, community contributions (participants can do more than just design, but also contribute physical content) were to supplement an internal development team. Now, that process itself has become a challenge and contest.
Acclaim has opened the doors to hobbyist and independent developers worldwide and challenged them to create the Top Secret project. Teams are allowed to use whatever engine they like and try to create the best, most faithful version of the game possible. The winning studio gets up to $1,000,000 in prizes, primarily to pay the bill of whatever engine they selected, but also a $100,000 advance and a standard contract. They will also receive royalties on the project itself.
Ultimately, Acclaim views the winner as their first "studio". To date, they've been adapting foreign games, but down the line, whoever pulls out the victory will hopefully work on original Acclaim projects.
Skeptics might call this a cheap way to develop an MMO, but in some ways, it brings this experiment full circle. It may or may not work, but at least it's true to its origins as a kind of reality show-style MMO tryout.
So what did the community come up with? Within the framework of a "racing MMO", they latched onto the idea of a fantasy beast rider game. Players will be able to breed, train and then ride these beats in battle.
To create a good new beats, players need to acquire materials used in breeding. From there, there is a tamagotchi style game to train them. Ultimately, once in a competitive race, the rider is visible on the back as they go. There are several planned game types, but usually some combination of a race and combat is the focus. The riders are invulnerable to damage so long as they're on their beast, but Perry described a potential scenario where a beast is killed near the finish line. The player can dust themselves off and run for it, in one of those classic moments that ends most every sports film every created.
The game is based on a number of factions who battle for control of points within the map, in some ways analogous to Realm vs. Realm in a game like Dark Age of Camelot. Once held, these points provide some form of bonus, although what that is has not yet been decided.
The races are to be in full 3D, although Perry wasn't sure whether the game world outside it would be a 3D environment or some kind of 2D, isometric representation. Often during the interview, Perry seemed to catch himself. He is clearly quite careful not to let his own opinions steer the course of development. Instead, it is left to the community.
Currently, the community has completed the initial design, which the advisory board must now document. From there, they'll continue to flesh it out to further direct the development teams who may enter.