Let’s face it: There isn’t really a huge pool of MMORPGs from the 1990s to explore in this column. By now I have done most of them, including some of the more obscure titles. Yet there has always been this one game that I have shied away from covering, even though it (a) was an actual MMO from the ’90s and (b) is still operating even today. And that game is, of course, Furcadia.
So why my reluctance? To be honest, I suppose it was my reluctance to tackle anything in the “furry” fandom without knowing how to handle it. I don’t quite get the fascination with wanting to pretend to be an animal, and some of the expressions that I’ve seen in the news and online from this community have made me uncomfortable. Thus I kept away because I was worried that a piece that I wrote on Furcadia would devolve into a nonstop stream of jokes to cover that personal disquiet.
But I’ve tiptoed around this MMO long enough, and I have come to realize that there is virtue in earnestly trying to understand a subculture that is outside of my bubble, even if I don’t end up appreciating or liking it. Casting off preconceptions and simple snark, let us take a look at this unique title and see what it has to offer for the larger genre.
When you’ve lived a life as wacky and full as Ultima creator Richard Garriott, it only stands to reason that you’d probably want to share your stories and lessons with those who aren’t multi-millionaire game designers.
Garriott’s new memoir, Explore/Create, hit the bookshelves this week. The book is co-written by David Fisher and talks about Garriott’s many real-world adventures and his experiences in the games industry. In the book he also talks about how he connected his various interests to game creation, such as his fascination with languages that fed into Tabula Rasa.
In an interview, the Shroud of the Avatar creator said that he and other ex-Origin employees such as Chris Roberts and Warren Spector, still stay in touch and have shared elements between their projects to connect their game worlds. “We all support each other and love each other. Maybe us old Originites might find a way to get back together,” he said.
In late 2012, former Wing Commander developer-slash-movie director Chris Roberts emerged from a decade of obscurity to ask for help to fund his vision of a massive, engaging space sim for a modern audience. Fans opened up their wallets and started pouring unprecedented amounts of money into the project, which Roberts called Star Citizen.
I don’t have to explain to you the subsequent rise of this $138M+ budget title, the vast expansion of its scope, the debate over its viability, and the fanatical following that fans have for this “under construction” sim. Even if it can’t be Wing Commander in name, gamers reasoned as they plunked down their money, it could be the Wing Commander MMO in spirit.
Interestingly enough, there was another, older effort made to bring the well-known franchise to the MMO table back in the late ’90s. A pair of projects, Wing Commander Online and Privateer Online, promised the thrills of the hit space saga with the expanse of the online gaming world. What happened and why aren’t we playing one of these games today? Find out on this exciting episode of The Game Archaeologist!
I think any MMO veteran has a private list of prematurely canceled games that he or she deeply wishes had been completed and launched. I wish we lived in a world where Project Copernicus was a joyous fantasy world rather than a sour news story or where Interplay had free reign to make Fallout Online.
But perhaps one of the greatest “could have been’s” is also rarely discussed these days due to the passage of time: Ultima X Odyssey. The second proposed sequel to Ultima Online showed true promise, an intriguing morality system, and an art style that still holds up today. The more I’ve learned about it over the years, the more I mourn the fact that it died before it was ever born.
So what made this game so special? What are we missing today by not having it? Let’s take a trip back to the early part of the 2000s to discover this Ultima successor.