Perhaps one of the most amazing MMORPG emulator projects is one that has flown under the radar of the larger community. Following the shutdown of Disney’s Toontown Online in 2013, the community relaunched the game as Toontown Rewritten. Instead of wallowing in obscurity, the emulator has flourished with a vibrant community and regular updates.
It’s been so successful, in fact, that the dev team has held player conventions for years now. The next ToonFest is coming up at July’s ReplayFX Arcade and Gaming Festival in Pittsburgh, PA. It’s here that fans will gather together to meet with the developers, hear update announcements, and attend panels with the team.
“I still believe that one way or another, Toontown’s going to hang in there and have that long, long life,” said Schell Games CEO Jesse Schell.
Curious about Toontown Online and why it’s inspired such devotion? Read up on this title in our Game Archaeologist column!
Surfacing at the tail end of last week was the news that multiple former BioWare devs who’d all contributed heavily to Star Wars The Old Republic at one point or another in their careers were moving on to a new studio called FogBank to work on unnamed narrative-centric games. The Fogbank roster includes Daniel Erickson and Alexander Freed, both of whom left BioWare and SWTOR years ago. But it also includes renowned storyteller Drew Karpyshyn, who’d returned to BioWare specifically to work on Anthem, which certainly cast some doubt on the state of that game, which has been delayed at least once (though EA denies it).
On Saturday, Anthem studio boss Casey Hudson address growing player concern on Twitter, suggesting rather ambiguously that Karpyshyn had simply finished his work on the game and was moving on as part of the natural course of development. “Story will always be an important part of every BioWare game,” he wrote. “Drew has wrapped up his work on the project, but Anthem’s Lead Writers and their teams continue to do amazing work developing the world, story, and characters.”
We don’t know exactly what titles they’re working on, but three former Star Wars: The Old Republic veterans have joined forces under a studio now called FogBank, working on an “episodic narrative” game developed in conjunction with an “interactive storytelling platform.” As GIbiz reports, FogBank isn’t entirely new; it’s a a spinoff of Kabam that was picked up by FoxNext as Aftershock, then renamed.
The studio is led by studio director Daniel Erickson, the former creative director of Star Wars: The Old Republic; he moved around in the last few years after departing BioWare and SWTOR, most recently doing a stint for Kabam, where he was the director on mobile titles Spirit Lords and Star Wars: Uprising.
VentureBeat notes that Alexander Freed, the beloved SWTOR senior writer credited with the popular Agent storyline, will oversee narrative development for the new company. He left BioWare in 2012 too.
Over the last couple of years, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has been petitioning for changes to the DMCA to help preserve old video games – to eliminate server-based DRM and legalize emulators for games that had been abandoned. As of 2015, the Library of Congress granted the request, but the exemption very specifically didn’t cover closed-down MMORPGs.
Then, in October of 2017, the US Copyright Office effectively renewed the exception and reopened the argument, in part because of a Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment (MADE) proposal to consider even massively-multiplayer games on the table for archival purposes. Even if you have no interest in playing on an emulator for an ancient MMORPG, surely you can see the value in allowing future historians the opportunity to see these worlds first-hand instead of through blurry YouTube videos. The code still exists, after all; outdated laws simply keep them closed to all of us.
Not so fast, says the good ol’ Entertainment Software Association.
Ever pause during your day and find yourself wondering, “Whatever happened to that game?” With hundreds upon hundreds of online titles these days, it’s surprisingly easy for MMOs to fall through the cracks and become buried as more aggressive or active games take the spotlight.
Well, every so often we here at Massively Overpowered find ourselves curious what has transpired with certain MMOs that we haven’t heard from in quite a while. Have we missed the action and notices? Has the game gone into stealth maintenance mode? What’s the deal? What has it been up to lately? That’s when we put on our detective hats and go sleuthing!
In this special pirate edition of the column, we’ll be visiting the fates ‘n’ fortunes of Pirates of the Burning Sea, Pirates of the Caribbean Online, and Puzzle Pirates. Yo ho!
Raise your hand if you’re a little tired of Electronic Arts’ handling of the Star Wars video game franchise since its acquisition in 2013. One… two… yeah, a few of you.
Well, there might be A New Hope in the future for a new handler. Rumors are emerging that Disney is eyeing two different publishers to take the reins of the Star Wars IP in the video game market, especially in light with the Star Wars Battlefront II fiasco last year.
Cinelinx has the possible scoop: “From what I’ve heard Lucasfilm is upset as well and looking for other options. I’ve had a couple sources reach out to me about the current state of Star Wars gaming. According to them, Disney/LFL higher ups pulled EA to the ‘principal’s office’ to talk about what’s going wrong (which is what others have reported as well). Moreso, they’ve apparently reached out to both Ubisoft and Activision about developing Star Wars games.”
Have you ever thought about what it is like for developers and community managers who handle online games that are being shut down? It’s certain just as painful (if not more) for them as it is for us, and it is not as easy as turning off a switch and walking away.
PC Gamer has a fascinating piece on the process of sunsetting titles from a studio’s standpoint, including looks at games such as Club Penguin and PlanetSide 1.
Former Club Penguin CM Bobbi Rieger shared the overload of details that the team had to sort out when the news broke: “My immediate reaction was, ‘Oh crap.’ Of course my thoughts went to the community and how we could make this as positive as possible. At the end of the day, it’s going to be hard. It’s gonna suck. I was just like, ‘OK, what’s the action plan?'”
(We’ve updated below with MMOBomb’s detailed investigation into this Indiegogo – short story, don’t go handing over your dough.)
With Marvel Heroes dead and gone, most fans have moved on to other gaming pastures. After all, it would take a miracle to bring it back, right? Turns out that miracles are pretty expensive in this modern age, but there are always those who will take a shot at the near-impossible.
Enter Paragon Institute, a new non-profit that says it wants to purchase Marvel Heroes for $450,000 (or more) and form an indie studio to operate it. Even more interesting, this group says it wants to use Marvel Heroes and other titles as “learning labs” to train developers and preserve abandoned video games.
“Our goal is to establish ElderMage Studios as a learning lab to partner experienced professionals with aspiring game developers to help them gain the skills and hands-on experience necessary to work in the field,” the group posted on IndieGoGo. “This may include time spent supporting or enhancing existing titles to create entirely new ones. A secondary mission is to preserve games that are no longer supported so that those who have licensed them may continue using them and so others may learn from them.”
A week ago, I started to engage in an interesting thought experiment. I started jotting down what I thought were the best World of Warcraft music tracks to see if, I don’t know, I could come up with a top 10 list or something. What would those tracks be, anyway? I drafted good prospects from my own collection, scouted around on various soundtrack sites to see what others said, and even polled Twitter.
The list grew. And it grew. And it grew some more. That top 10 list became a top 20, and before I knew it, it had topped 30 tracks with no signs of slowing down. While World of Warcraft has a surprisingly large number of filler and forgettable music tracks, Blizzard has put so much care and effort into creating the game’s score that dozens of masterpieces have been added to the soundtrack (which is somewhere around 600 pieces, depending on how you count them).
So I drew a hard line and decided to count down from my personal 32 favorite tracks over the next five installments of Jukebox Heroes. Some of these are definitely popular hits while others might only exist as my guilty pleasures. Let’s get started with the countdown — and let me know what you think should be included in the weeks to come!
Has the pace of news moved so quickly that we’ve already forgotten about Brendan “PlayerUnknown” Greene’s statement that video games lack any IP copyright protection? Because that was really ridiculous. Especially since what he was referring to was not actually even remotely related to copyright, but covered something that would be handled via patent. And even that wouldn’t have worked!
Of course, you can’t really blame him. By which I mean you can totally blame him, but it’s a common misconception that turns up time and again. People talk about copyright, trademark, and patent issues in the same general melange of “this company owns this,” and the thing is that they’re related terms and concepts that nevertheless mean very, very different things.
We named the sad death of Marvel Heroes the greatest MMO disappointment of 2017, and it appears it’s not even over yet. Redditors noticed that on January 4th, three creditors – Secret 6, Playchemy, and Caitlin Capes – filed claim against the assets of Gazillion, or rather, whatever is left to fight over following the company’s apparent collapse last year.
Secret 6 appears to be a multinational game dev studio known best for its art production (Ronald Schaffner is its president), while Playchemy is a mobile development studio. Caitlin Capes’ linkedin shows her as having been an associate producer on Marvel Heroes as well as on the multiplatform VR game Gazillion was reportedly working on. In total, MMO Fallout reports, the three are claiming nearly $700,000 in unpaid debt, the bulk of which is allegedly owed to Playchemy.
One of the frustrating bits about our end-of-the-year content rollouts is that sometimes predictions and story roundups can come across as negative. It’s way too easy to assume that if someone is predicting game X will flop, she wants it to happen and is gleefully steepling her fingers and cackling madly over its future demise. Which is just not so! I never steeple my fingers.
But all the same, for tonight’s Massively Overthinking, we’d like to take a moment to set aside our fears and expectations and just talk about our hopes and wishes for 2018 in an MMORPG context. That was what we think will happen. This is a summary of our most optimistic daydreams.
It’s true that we lost a lot of MMOs in 2016 — bigger and more important ones than in 2014 and 2015. 2017, however, has been a different sort of beast. The list is long, and while it’s painful for those whose games are gone, the genre didn’t lose many major MMOs this past year. And that startles me.
Marvel Heroes was surely the most dramatic of all the sunsets, given that it shut down early without notice. Earlier in the year, we saw Daybreak put an end to Landmark after less than a year of live operation, while Turbine let the Asheron’s Call franchise go, Firefall formally closed, Club Penguin’s sunset broke the internet, and NCsoft called it quits with Master X Master. A number of other MMOs simply halted development – Perpetuum, Sword Coast Legends, and SkySaga being the most prominent of those. And on a more positive note, there were a few sunsetted MMOs that were revivified, including Otherland, Uncharted Waters Online, and RaiderZ.
Farewell, old friends.