project copernicus

A fantasy MMORPG canceled in 2012 when 38 Studios declared bankruptcy, sparking a multi-year Rhode Island political drama. See: 38 Studios on Wikipedia

The Game Archaeologist: Where are all of the open-source MMOs?

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.

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Curt Schilling settles 38 Studios lawsuit with Rhode Island

Ready your “beating a dead horse” memes one last time, MMORPG readers, because baseball star and video game mess Curt Schilling has finally settled at least part of the Rhode Island lawsuit lodged against him and 38 Studios.

According to the Boston Globe, Schilling, Thomas Zaccagnino, Richard Wester, Jennifer MacLean, and insurer Starr Indemnity and Liability Co. will “settle their part of a lawsuit brought by Rhode Island authorities after the video game company went bankrupt,” though the deal must still be approved by the court.

The company went bankrupt in 2012 after accepting $75 million in loans from the state of Rhode Island. Its flagship MMORPG, codenamed Project Copernicus, never launched. Local politicians at the time campaigned to turn the bankruptcy into a national fiasco, accusing the state government of colluding with the company to swindle taxpayers.

Back in July, Rhode Island officials brought their criminal investigation to a close, saying there was insufficient evidence of criminal wrongdoing for even a grand jury finding. The SEC’s fraud investigation continues and could influence future charges brought against those involved.

Source: Boston Globe


Battle Bards Episode 81: Goblins, Orcs, and Ogres!

They may be ugly. They may be smelly. And they may have no table manners whatsoever. What, we’re not talking about the Battle Bards! No, it’s actually a reference to the subject matter of today’s episode: Goblins, Orcs, and Ogres. The most unglamorous of MMO races get their day in the spotlight, as the co-hosts scrounge through soundtracks to find music that best represents their various cultures. Oh, and apparently Ogres are the odd man out, because they get nothin’ other than a sad place in the show marquee.

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, TuneInPocket CastsStitcher, and Player.FM.

We’ve got Episode 81: Goblins, Orcs, and Ogres! and the show notes for you after the break!

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Rhode Island investigators will not criminally charge 38 Studios

Neither Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios nor the state of Rhode Island will be subjected to criminal charges after years of investigation into the bankruptcy case.

Rhode Island’s State Police Superintendent and Attorney General brought their investigation to a close, saying “the quantity and quality of the evidence of any criminal activity fell short of what would be necessary to prove any allegation beyond a reasonable doubt and as such the Rules of Professional Conduct precluded even offering a criminal charge for grand jury consideration.”

The company went bankrupt in 2012 after accepting $75 million in loans from the state of Rhode Island. Its flagship MMORPG, codenamed Project Copernicus, never launched. Local politicians at the time campaigned to turn the bankruptcy into a national fiasco, accusing the state government of colluding with the company to swindle taxpayers.

According to the Boston Globe, the SEC’s fraud investigation continues and could influence future charges brought against those involved.

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Jukebox Heroes: Six soundtracks from MMOs that never launched

As an MMO fan, there are few things as sad as a promising game being killed in development without seeing the light of a full release. Those nagging “what if?” scenarios can drive a fan mad and keep one up through the wee hours of the night.

And while I don’t have the power to resurrect these MMOs through my sheer force of will and present them to you wrapped in a bow, I can perhaps deliver a consolation gift by pointing you in the direction of some of these games’ soundtracks.

Many MMOs that were nearing completion or in development for a long time already had work done on their in-game music. And some of that music has escaped the long, cold fingers of cancellation thanks to composers and fans who wanted to preserve the score. So while it may be bittersweet to listen to the following six games’ scores, it’s also a small triumph that we can do so at all.

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State lawmakers reissue subpoena for Curt Schilling

Lawyers for Rhode Island are attempting to reissue a subpoena for former 38 Studios head Curt Schilling to testify early next year about the loan and business decisions that ultimately led to the demise of the studio, the end of Project Copernicus’ development, and a hefty lawsuit.

Schilling may ignore the subpoena on advice of attorney due to the pending lawsuit. On his blog, the former Red Sox pitcher bit back against the state while also taking the lion’s share of the blame for the fiasco on himself: “I lost what I thought were 3-400 ‘family’ when I let this company fail. I will never ever get past that, and it being mainly my fault maybe I shouldn’t.”

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The Game Archaeologist: Ultima X Odyssey

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.

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Project Copernicus was in trouble long before its $75M loan

The lengthy post-mortem of Project Copernicus and 38 Studios never seems to end, does it? While the answer to “What went wrong?” is multi-faceted at the very least, a new report floating around shows that there were serious red flags about the studio’s ability to pull off a project of this scope well in advance of the studio’s collapse.

Apparently the Rhode Island Economic Development Corportation contracted IBM to do an assessment of 38 Studios prior to the EDC granting the infamous $75 million loan. While the assessment showed many strengths, there were also at least 19 concerns listed. These include confusion over a unified vision, no economics team, decisions being made in a vacuum, goals that were too large, and “opaque financial communications.”

Considering that running out of funds tanked the project, this last mention is particularly damning.

Source: Deadspin. Thanks to Squidgod200 for the tip!


Perfect Ten: Ten MMO futures that never were

One of the things I spend a lot of time thinking about is Operation Unthinkable. For those of you who don’t feel like clicking the link, it was essentially Winston Churchill’s plan to start World War III right as World War II ended, except this time with the Allies against the Soviet Union and with re-armed German soldiers as shock troops. I’m glossing quite a bit, but the point is that the whole plan was always nuts and weird, and it would have made for a very different world than the one we actually live in.

But then, that’s just me. I like to speculate about what could have been but wasn’t, even if it never had a particularly big chance of happening. So here are 10 possible versions of games that never were – some that did launch, some that didn’t, and none of them things that we’ll ever get to play for better or for worse. But it’s still fun to speculate, hmm?

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Final 38 Studios auction brings in $90,000 for Rhode Island

If there was ever any hope of recovering most of the massive $75 million debt left by the collapse of 38 Studios, it’s gone now. A last auction of the defunct studio’s assets last week brought in around $90,000 after expenses, with the auctioned assets consisting largely of office supplies, equipment, and other odds and ends. All that remain are a handful of servers, which the state will be handling through private sales.

The previous auction, which included the company’s handful of game IPs, brought in around $830,000, meaning that the company’s assets didn’t even knock a single million off of the overall loan debt. 38 Studios was based in Rhode Island primarily because of a $75 million loan from the state; the company’s bankruptcy in 2012 left its assets to the taxpayers.

[Source: GamePolitics]


Schilling says Rhode Islanders don’t know the full story of 38 Studios

Curt Schilling talks a lot. Or should I say, he writes a lot, as you’ll see in his lengthy blog post that covers everything from his recent adventures in doxxing to the ongoing fallout from the 38 Studios debacle.

Schilling tells the taxpayers of Rhode Island that he doesn’t blame them for viewing him as chiefly responsible for the boondoggle that left them on the hook for $75 million. “You have every right to be pissed, I am,” he wrote. “When the full story is told I don’t think you’ll be any less angry, likely you’ll be more, but I do believe the direction of that anger will adjust itself.”

He goes on to say that he takes responsibility for the company’s downfall and views it as his first real failure.

[Source: Schilling’s blog via WPRI. Thanks, James.]