A reference to the sorry state of Hellgate: London as originally released by Flagship. “To have been flagshipped” is to have been screwed over by the studio in some way.
In the pantheon of SOE’s (now Daybreak) flagship EverQuest franchise, there used to be a whole family of MMOs gathered around the table every evening. There was Papa EverQuest, looking a little wrinkled and worn but also radiating fame and authority. Next to him was Mama EverQuest II, a powerful matron of entertainment. And EverQuest Next used to be a twinkle in their eyes before it was extinguished.
Then, in the next room over was a cabinet. The cabinet was locked. Inside that cabinet used to be a weird abnormality that certainly looks like a member of the family, but one that hadn’t seen the light of day in quite some time. This member subsisted on the scraps of an aging console and the fading loyalty of fans, hoping against odds that one day he’d be allowed out for a stroll or something. His name was EverQuest Online Adventures, the EverQuest MMO nobody mentions.
EQOA was a strange abnormality in SOE’s lineup. While it was one of the very first console MMOs and heir to the EverQuest name, it was quickly eclipsed in both areas by other games and left alone. Yet, against all odds, it continued to operate on the PlayStation 2 for the better part of a decade before its lights were turned off. Today, let’s look at this interesting experiment and the small cult following it created.
When Daybreak announced last year that it was cancelling the highly anticipated EverQuest Next project, the series’ forward momentum lurched to a halt. This wasn’t helped by other EverQuest entities that have been retired over the past few years, leaving only the two aging flagship MMOs to carry on the legacy of the franchise.
For franchise it is. It might be fuzzy in people’s memories (or simply absent from them), but there was an era where EverQuest was the MMORPG at the top of everything, and Sony Online Entertainment wasted no time in capitalizing on its popularity. Spin-offs, sequels, and alternative versions spawned into being, creating a library of EverQuest games.
In fact, there are more than enough to fill up a full list of 10 titles — and then some! So today let’s look at some of the lesser-known entries in EverQuest’s ever-expanding franchise and muse about what might come to this series in the future.
Your favorite game is going to die. I wrote about that. Some games are never even going to get to launching in the first place, unfortunately. But then there are these titles: games that went the distance when it came to development, marketing, promotion, testing… but somehow didn’t quite manage to stick the landing past that. These are the games that, in Transformers terms, are the hi-then-die cast of the MMO space.
That doesn’t always mean the games are bad, mind you. Some of these games were great fun. But through a combination of business model issues, publisher issues, player population, and just general weirdness, these titles couldn’t make it to a year and a half in the wild. Heck, some of them couldn’t even make it to a year and a quarter. And if you want to peruse this list and wonder why all of these titles are gone but Alganon is somehow still operating… well, we’re just as confused as you are.
The other day I was reading up on how the upcoming Dauntless will feature a social hub where players congregate en masse and do their business before heading off for much smaller co-op missions on instanced maps.
It’s certainly not the first game to do this sort of lobby multiplayer setup; Destiny, Hellgate London, and Guild Wars are just some of the other online games that use this format. Heck, Secret World Legends is about to reshape and reboot the game to be just that.
It got me thinking: Is this enough for my MMO needs? If I have a social hub and a chat window wherever I go, do I really need maps with dozens of random players possibly crossing my path? Honestly, I kind of like that massively multiplayer world experience, but as long as I’m connected to other players in some respects, I can still enjoy these more limited multiplayer games.
What do you think? Are social hubs and chat windows enough for your MMO needs?
MMORPG fans know well the name Bill Roper: He’s the former Blizzard developer who went on to helm Flagship’s Hellgate: London and Cryptic’s Champions Online before landing the gig at Disney Interactive. Now, he’s moving on to Improbable and SpatialOS, the distributed computing platform that seems to pop up in our feeds constantly nowadays and is allegedly worth a billion bucks.
Roper told Gamasutra that he’d been interested in SpatialOS for a few years but became a convert during this past GDC before accepting the role of Chief Creative Officer. “The possibilities for not just massive worlds, but highly detailed and truly persistent worlds built on SpatialOS are exciting. I believe the games that will define AR and VR are yet to be realized, and the type of simulation that can be achieved with our platform can be an integral part of these new experiences,” he explains.
Improbable’s tech is being used as a base for multiple incoming MMOs, including Chronicles of Elyria and Worlds Adrift. Most recently, CEO Herman Narula revealed that his long-term goal is to “literally create other worlds” and rescue to MMO industry from what he called “nuclear winter.”
If you were harboring some sort of secret hope that David Brevik would return to the battered and bruised Hellgate London to realize its full potential, it’s probably best to put that notion to rest.
Responding to a question about revisiting this past project, Brevik said, “Not anytime soon. It’s owned by Hanbit. A game ahead of its time. Such a shame we couldn’t work out the business and made some bad mistakes.”
Brevik is currently an advisor for Path of Exiles with Grinding Gear Games. For a full history of Hellgate London, check out our Game Archaeologist column on the interesting Diablo offshoot.
It seems that it really wasn’t too long ago that I was filling in the time between night classes by boning up on video game news. I was drinking up all of the hot up-and-comers, such as Age of Conan and Warhammer Online, when I caught word that the maker of Diablo was trying to do the same thing again, only more online, in 3-D, and with a cool modern-day/futuristic/horror vibe.
There’s no better way to put it than to say that from the start, Hellgate: London looked all kinds of cool. Oh sure, you can scoff now with your perfect 20/20 hindsight, but I’m betting that more than a few of you thought the same with me around that time. Diablo but with guns and an online persistence — how could we not be intrigued? One of my most vivid memories was being torn between the idea of buying a lifetime subscription deal for $150 or not (again, this was before the free-to-play era, but also before the era of us spending the same money on alpha access. I’m just saying that you can’t judge me.).
Have you ever noticed that while there’s an entire world out there, most all of the MMORPGs we discuss and play tend to either be ones crafted in the USA or imports from China or Korea? We even have a shorthand for this: “western” and “eastern” MMOs. We’re usually not talking about entire hemispheres with these references, but rather about categorizing three countries that are big into the MMORPG business.
But what about the rest of the world? Are all of these other countries so uncaring about this genre that they’ve never tried their hand at making an MMO? Of course not; as I’m about to show you, there are plenty of online RPGs that have been made in countries other than China, the USA, and South Korea. It’s just that for various reasons, those three countries ended up fostering concentrations of video game developers who knew how to create these types of games.
So let’s take a tour around the world and see if we can’t give some credit to other countries for their contributions to the MMORPG genre past, present, and future. Before you click the link, see how many you can name off the top of your head!
As part of Albion Online’s pre-beta overhaul, developer Sandbox Interactive is retooling the game’s existing Hellgates. No, not that Hellgate. In Albion, Hellgates are basically free-for-all PvP zones with seriously badass monsters. PvP inside the gates is unfettered and comes without reputation loss, but the baddies and their extreme loot make it worth the effort.
“While in general Hellgates have been well-received and they are a great source for intense PvP fights, we feel that we can make them even better,” Sandbox explains. “The main issues Hellgates currently have are related to teams dodging fights or pulling mobs to gain an unfair advantage in fights.”
The studio aims to incentivize play inside the gates with a newly designed map, three difficulty levels, and the elimination of mob interference in PvP encounters. But there’s still plenty of reason to PvE inside these special maps:
Following Jagex’s sale to China’s Fukong Interactive Entertainment back in 2016, there’s been some concern and curiosity over the fate of the studio and its flagship MMO RuneScape. In an interview with Games Industry, Acting CEO Phil Mansell revealed that the transition to this new era has been a “relief” and resulted in growth for both Jagex and RuneScape.
Mansell said that the new ownership has been a net positive for the company: “[Fukong] want us to grow, of course, and they’re being supportive. But they are not looking for some crazy, transformative, risky things. They want us to focus on what we’re good at. They’ve looked at RuneScape and said you can do more with that. Can you make more games? Yeah, we can. Can we work on multiple platforms? Yes. It is a measured approach and the right things to be doing.”
Mansell said that Fukong is setting itself up to be a global entertainment powerhouse with Jagex forming the hub of its western arm. While RuneScape 3 and Old School RuneScape remain at the core of the business, Jagex is branching out into other ventures, such as looking at other studios to acquire, VR tech for RuneScape, adding new games teams, and prototyping ideas dreamed up by the team during designated brainstorming time. No matter what, however, he said that the company under his leadership will see projects driven by player desires and feedback.
Let me start this article by answering my own headline: It’s partly because I’m an idiot and cannot let go of this IP.
Star Wars: The Old Republic has been a part of my life for over six years, and not having it there to fall back on would be difficult. But I could still play SWTOR without a subscription. Many of my friends still do! The truth of the matter is that I’m still having fun in the game, just not playing the game. I still have a guild of about 50 people who log in regularly to participate in activities. I have friends whom I’ve grown close to. And as much as I hate to say it, there is no other game that can give me my Star Wars fix.
I guess it’s possible that I could still log into the game and not pay a dime for it, but hopefully, if I tell you what happens during my typical game day, you will understand why I still hold a subscription for the game, despite not playing a single bit of the content BioWare has given and sold me.
Fiction writers know well of Joseph Campbell’s identification and outline of the monomyth, or “hero’s journey,” in many stories. The 12-step process starts with a sympathetic hero in an ordinary world who then goes on a coming-of-age adventure into a special world where he or she finds a mentor, meets allies, goes through tests, succeeds in an ordeal, and is ultimately transformed into a more powerful and skilled person.
From Lord of the Rings to Star Wars, the monomyth is clear and active. Even with the similar structure across scads of stories, we love it and eat it up. There’s something about this journey that appeals to us, perhaps because we can imagine ourselves going on such an adventure. It’s also why MMORPGs are so gripping, giving us a chance to experience the monomyth first-hand.
In 1999, one MMO decided that it would embrace this formula and called itself, simply, Hero’s Journey. What started with high aspirations eventually fell into a decade of development hell, which ironically took fans on a journey to failure, not success. Today we’re going to look back at Simutronics’ graphical MMO and imagine what could have been.
If you thought we lost a lot of MMOs in 2014 and 2015, wait until you see 2016’s list.
It’s easy to shrug off some of these, like the non-MMORPGs, the games shutting down in far-flung countries, or even Hellgate, which sunsets and revives at least a dozen times a year now.
But others sting. Asheron’s Call, due to sunset in January, is probably the smallest MMORPG on the list, but it casts a mighty shadow over the genre and will be deeply missed by veterans. The cancellations of EverQuest Next and Revival still stings. PlanetSide had a long and storied run, while DUST 514 may yet live again. And our youngins will now miss out on introductory games like Super Hero Squad Online and LEGO Minifigures.
Farewell, old friends.