One of the longest-running MMORPGs in the world is celebrating its 20th birthday this week. German MMO Tibia launched back in January 1997 and racked up over 30 million player accounts in the subsequent two decades. Even now, Tibia is being played by 100,000 people every day.
CipSoft co-founder Ulrich Schlott had a few words to say about this anniversary: "Tibia is a unique success story. I’m happy and grateful that our student project has grown into such an MMO hit, supported by a very dedicated team and, most of all, by our wonderful players. Even after 20 years, we’re not running out of ideas for Tibia -- I’m sure the game will keep attracting players for years to come."
Last year, Tibia made headlines for a decade-old mystery of a locked door that was finally accessed. You can read up on the history of Tibia in our Game Archaeologist column and see how the game world has grown over its 20 year lifespan in the following anniversary video.
If I were to tell you that there's a Western MMO out there that's as old as Ultima Online and yet still has a half-million players, would you believe me? Heck, I wouldn't believe me even if I came back from the future of having written this article to talk to the past version of me who had yet to start it! But that's Tibia for you: a weird underdog of an MMO that's cruised underneath most players' radars for over a decade and a half.
From its origins as a student project, Tibia jumped in the unexplored waters of the early MMO era and dog paddled for all its worth. This 19-year-old title remains one of the very few active MMOs from the '90s and one of only a handful that stubbornly stuck to a 2-D graphics format even as 3-D swept the gaming genre. And trust me, those aren't even the most interesting facts about it!
The extremely long-running MMO Tibia is just now starting to sell experience boosters in its cash shop, 19 years after the game's release. The boosts give 50% more XP for monster kills, work for an hour, and can only be purchased in limited quantities. Along with these XP boosts, Tibia is also selling a currency pouch with unlimited space and a gold converter.
The developers attempted to stave off controversy in a special FAQ: "By now, there are numerous games out there which offer experience boosts without exhibiting a huge or extremely aggressive pay-to-win factor at the same time. XP boosts in Tibia are more of a time-saving convenience [...] While there are players who dislike the idea, there are also players who would like to buy such boosts. Of course, the introduction of XP boosts also has financial reasons. Earning money is vital to ensure the continued existence of our games and the sustainable success of our company."
Of course, what we really want to know is: What was behind that level 999 door?
Last week, we wrote about Kharsek, the Tibia player who was pushing level 999... and almost able to enter a special door marked for his level only, a door no one but the devs has ever been through, which led to intense speculation over just what's back there. Since then, Kharsek did indeed hit 999 and breached that door, but he's refused to relay what he's seen.
And people are pissed. He's been accused of trolling the community, though given how he's apparently been treated on his long grind, it's not even undeserved. Some players believe he's made it to a special island, and other people... well, they have no faith there's anything at all beyond that door.
I feel like we're in an episode of LOST.
As silly as this is, and as obscure as Tibia is, I can't help but think these kinds of mysteries are one of my favorite things about online gaming in general, especially MMORPGs. I'm not sure I'd tell all if I were Kharsek either. Wouldn't it be the worst spoiler ever? Would you tell? Is it better for the community to spill the beans or keep your mouth shut? And do you want to see more true mysteries like these in MMORPGs, even if they take decades to solve?
Tibia is an old game. Very old. Old enough that the developers could add a more-or-less throwaway joke a decade ago, a door that could only be opened by someone at level 999. At the time, this was more or less impossible, as no one was even close to level 999. Years later, it's still an insanely high level... but now, someone is close to level 999. Just one level off, in fact.
The character named Kharsek is now level 998 and well on track to reach 999 in a few days, thus allowing him to be the first to pass through the door and see what's there. Whether or not he'll reveal what's behind the door is a subject of some debate in the community; he's under no obligation to do so, but many people are anxiously hoping to find out what lies beyond a decade of mystery. There's no way of being certain that it's worth the buildup, though.
Free-to-play, top-down, 2-D MMO Tibia is closing in on two decades of operation, and it's just released its very first trailer. The game pubbed a patch in December and was greenlit on Steam last year, but in September CipSoft told fans the game just wasn't ready yet to relaunch on the platform because of the requirements of the new client:
We are still aiming to release Tibia on Steam and we will continue to work towards this goal. However, a Steam release is closely linked to the development of a new Tibia client - a time-intensive, long term project on which we have been working for quite some time already. At the moment, we are still in a development stage where we cannot provide concrete, reliable information about this project. This also means that we cannot provide an ETA concerning a Tibia release on Steam yet or an estimation as to when we will be able to share more details with you.
Check out the trailer and images below!