It Lurks Below is a 2-D lovechild of horror, Diablo, and Terraria, sending a lone player into a gloomy, pixelated world filled with terrors and spelunking. The game will make heavy use of procedural generation and randomization to create the maps on which players will explore, scavenge, loot, fight, and build. Brevik made the entire game by himself, including the art and music, and he promised fans that it will be coming out later this year with a limited closed beta starting this weekend (which is full, sorry to say, but you can watch Brevik stream it).
When we moved over here to Massively Overpowered, some of us transplanted our long-running columns to the new space. I perhaps felt most devastated that I was going to lose all of the Game Archaeologist articles that I had painstakingly researched over the years. So my mission with this space became two-fold: to rescue and update my older columns while continuing to add more articles to this series on classic MMOs and proto-MMOs.
I’ve been pleased with the results so far because TGA is a series that I really don’t want to see vanish. As MMORPG fans, we should consider it important to remember and learn about these older titles and to expand our knowledge past the more popular and well-known games of yesteryear.
Now that we have quite a catalogue of Game Archaeologist columns, I thought it would be helpful to end the year by gifting this handy guide to you that organizes and compiles our continuing look at the history of the genre. Enjoy!
Still finding yourself pining away for Hellgate: London on occasion — or perhaps you missed out on it the first time around? This 10-year-old multiplayer ARPG is making an unofficial return thanks to a fan project dedicated to its revival in the west.
Essentially an emulator for the long-dead (yet often resurrected) game, London 2038 seeks to restore the Hellgate multiplayer experience for both old and new generations of players. The title has been progressing through alpha patches this fall, with the test open to everyone who has a copy of the original game.
“All of the 2038 team missed the amazing, ahead-of-its time ARPG Hellgate: London and wanted to bring it back to the passionate, dedicated, and friendly community the game has fostered after all these years,” the project leaders wrote. Check out some of the boss battles from the alpha after the break and then head back to read our weird and somewhat sad history of this game.
And lo, as the Battle Bards walk through the zone of the shadow of death, they will fear no evil, but they will listen to evil’s soundtrack because that is what they do! In today’s episode, the crew looks at the darker side of MMORPG soundtracks, dwelling in the wicked, the profane, and the deliciously macabre. Also, Syp does his Cookie Monster voice.
Battle Bards is a bi-weekly podcast that alternates between examining a single MMO’s soundtrack and exploring music tracks revolving around a theme. MOP’s Justin co-hosts with bloggers Steff and Syl. The cast is available on iTunes, Google Play, TuneIn, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, and Player.FM.
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.”
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.”
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.).
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:
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.
Work continues on the fan-powered project to bring back Hellgate: London to the masses. The London 2038 team reported that it is working through some game-breaking bugs but is moving forward to an alpha build.
“We are at a point where a few bugs remain which can cause the game to be instantly unplayable and are working hard to fix them. This means we are not quite to an alpha state stability-wise, but at the same time our server is playable enough to get some productive testing done.”
The London 2038 team has added a new member over the past month and is preparing to launch its official website in the near future. In the meantime, you can check out the following video of a recent multiplayer test!
One of the most common questions that I’m asked from my adoring throngs on the street is, “Justin, where oh where can I get some of these marvelous MMO soundtracks that you talk about all of the time?” OK, that just never happens (on the street, that is), but people are often curious how they can go about starting to amass an MMO soundtrack collection or where to find their favorite album.
The sad truth is that so much music from these games is never officially released in any capacity, which is why I scour YouTube for fan rips of the music files. However, every so often I do discover a studio release somewhere, and I try to keep an up-to-date log on these to help others in their quest for video game scores.
So in the spirit of Christmas and sharing, today I’m going to show you how you can get your ears on more than 120 soundtracks and scores from MMOs, MOBAs, and other online titles — some of which are free and legal for the taking. You’re welcome; don’t mention it!