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!
Veteran MMO developer Brian Green is perhaps best known for his stewardship over Meridian 59, one of the oldest and long-running online RPGs in the genre. While he’s moved on to other projects, Green took some time recently to be interviewed about his time overseeing Meridian 59 and the legacy that it established.
“It set the standard for the flat rate subscription fee that MMOs and other games used for years afterward,” Green said. “I think that Near Death Studios was also an early pioneer in indie game development; we were just a bunch of developers trying to figure things out. We showed what was possible for a small, motivated team to do; this was important, especially since MMOs were seen as giant monstrosities requiring huge teams when we started Near Death Studios.”
Recently we had an interesting question come in from reader and Patron Rasmus Praestholm, who asked me to do a little investigating: “What (if anything of substance) exists in the MMO field that’s not only free, but open source? The topic of open source came up briefly in a recent column, where Ryzom was noted to have gone open source at some point. But have any serious efforts actually gotten anywhere starting out as open source?”
As some graphical MMORPGs pass the two-decade mark in video game history and are being either cancelled or retired to maintenance mode, it’s an increasingly important topic when it comes to keeping these games alive. Not only that, the question of open source MMOs involves the community in continued development, with the studio handing over the keys to an aging car to see what can be done by resourceful fans.
But has anything much been done with open source projects in the realm of MMORPGs? Is this something that we should be demanding more of as online gaming starts using more accessible platforms such as SpatialOS? Let’s dig a bit into this topic and see what we turn up.
When it comes to text-based MMOs created in the ’80s, ’90s, and 2000s, the sheer number of them would blot out the sky. There are certainly more multi-user dungeons (MUDs) than I’ve ever been able to get a handle on when I’ve tried creating lists of the most important to know, but I will say that there are a few that seem to pop up more than others. The original MUD1, created by Richard Bartle and Roy Trubshaw, was certainly a watershed moment for online roleplaying games. Learning about DikuMUD is pretty essential, considering its impact on graphical MMORPGs that we still play today.
But there’s another title that often goes unnoticed, unless you keep an eye out for it. It’s a MUD that keeps popping up when you look into the history of the MMORPG genre, one with ties to key players and design concepts that are still active today.
It’s the MUD that shaped the MMO industry, and it was called Sceptre of Goth.
As Asheron’s Call 1 & 2 are going offline shortly, I thought I might give it a final send-off with a list of things I learned from the series. Maybe it’s cheesy, but I really did grow up in Dereth. Some kids get their life lessons from sports, girl/boy scouts, farm life, church life, alien abduction camp life, and so on, but I learned a lot with the help of the AC series and the people I played with. I’ll focus on 10 life lessons learned from the Asheron’s Call series, but trust me, it’s more than that.
I confess that I have a particular fascination for MMOs that came into existence in the 1990s. It’s not only the fact that I was oblivious to them at the time (er, wild college days?) but that practically each and every one of them were true pioneers in their own fashion. And while your standard MMO fan might think that there were only three such games in that decade (four, if they are gracious and include Meridian 59), the truth is that there were far more online games at the time, particularly if you looked over to the east.
Today we are going to look at one of the most important MMOs to emerge from that time period, Nexus: The Kingdom of the Winds. Its influence was primarily centered in the Korean gaming community while being vastly downplayed in North America. Still, here’s a successful MMO that not only beat Ultima Online out of the door by a year but has since won a Guinness World Record for longevity!
Are you the type of gamer to make resolutions? I’m not, but I know a lot of people who map out their year ahead of time. They have a plan! This week for Overthinking, I’ve asked the Massively OP team about its own gaming resolutions or just basic MMO goals for 2017.
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!
We’re back with our second part of an interview retrospective of Mythic Entertainment’s early online games with CSE’s Mark Jacobs. Last week, we talked about the formation of Mythic, its roster of titles during the 1990s, and how titles like Aliens Online and Silent Death Online helped to push the studio toward its full-fledged development in the MMORPG genre.
Today, Jacobs will take us through a discussion of the challenges awaiting studios trying to make online games in that early era, the communities that formed around Mythic’s titles, and how one MUD called Darkness Falls would be the catalyst that set off Dark Age of Camelot.
This past week was reveal after reveal in the MMO world, and the Massively OP Podcast has you covered with detailed analysis of all of the fun. Was the most exciting part a new Blur trailer? The release of One Tamriel at last? Or a one-two punch of EverQuest expansion announcements?
It’s the Massively OP Podcast, an action-packed hour of news, tales, opinions, and gamer emails! And remember, if you’d like to send in your own letter to the show, use the “Tips” button in the top-right corner of the site to do so.
Twenty years ago this week, Meridian 59 shed its beta trappings and officially released as one of the very first graphical MMORPGs on the market. While larger and slicker games have certainly followed, M59’s presence made a significant impact on the development of the genre, including the birth of Ingress and Pokemon Go.
“I had a chance to soak in the early days of MMOs and some of the first online guilds that got formed and watching the whole social dynamic of that type of game emerge in the early days,” Niantic founder John Hanke said in a July interview. “That experience was definitely at the front of my mind whenever the concept for Ingress was being created. It was really very simply to take that MMO experience and hopefully the social-team cooperative gameplay element to that and bring it out into the real world.”
For more Meridian 59 memories, check our Game Archaeologist retrospective of this long-running MMO!
When it comes time for whatever reason to put an MMORPG to pasture, how should a studio do it? For Brian “Psychochild” Green, this question is not merely academic. Green has been through an MMO sunset twice with Meridian 59, and in an interesting essay he talks about the difficult choices involved in the process.
“Let’s say you’ve decided to shut down a game. When do you announce the shutdown? Again, cold, hard reality means that you probably want to give as little time between announcement and closure as possible. First, some players may buy into the game a little more before the announcement, although some of these players will probably seek refunds. […] The other big issue is the amount of time you have to officially deal with the fuss from the remaining players about closing down the game.”
It’s not all depressing sunset talk in today’s tour of the MMO blogosphere! We’ve got unconventional takes on classes, comparisons of PvP styles, cries for gaming assistance, and more waiting for you in today’s blog roundup.
In the wake of the apparent complete emptying of the Red 5 Studios offices this week, former Firefall founder Mark Kern is forging ahead on his own reimagining of the game with a new title called Ember.
A bit of context: Kern is a decidedly controversial (his word) figure to MMORPG genre veterans, to the point that when his name is mentioned in an article, we will invariably have commenters requesting we not cover his games or activities. His chief claim to fame is as an original developer on World of Warcraft, which he repeatedly slammed after his departure from Blizzard. Though he founded Red 5, he was forcibly removed from the studio in 2013 following a round of layoffs and the suspension of PvP in Firefall; in the months that followed, former employees called his behavior as CEO “erratic” and “destructive” and mocked his infamous e-sports bus project. Somewhere in there, he founded and raised seed money for a VR MMO (which doesn’t appear to exist now) and became involved in promoting bizarre petitions against mainstream gaming websites. More recently, he marched into the drama surrounding the now-closed Nostalrius vanilla World of Warcraft emulator, insisting on hand-delivering a player petition to Blizzard at a meeting with his former bosses during which he advocated for vanilla servers.
When Firefall began to falter this past winter and spring, Kern volunteered to purchase the game if it sunsetted, denouncing what shipped after his removal from the project as “a complete disaster.” The9 hasn’t made any announcements about the present or future of Firefall yet, but in the meantime, Kern’s got another related project on tap, and that brings us back to Ember.