The Game Archaeologist: Seven MMOs operating on borrowed time

    
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Most everyone who knows me well will acknowledge that I’m not generally a cynical, dark person. I’m not rooting for games to fail, for the industry to crash, for developers to be banished to the wastelands for their sins, or for the cultural return to Parcheesi. So while you might read the title of today’s piece as rather grim, understand that this is more a public service announcement than a cantankerous gamer dancing on the yet-to-be-dug graves of online RPGs.

Every MMO will die, and some of those much sooner than others. Right now there are seven games that are probably not long for this world, although in this industry you never quite know, do you? But if you have any interest in the following titles, I would recommend getting in to play them now — before it’s too late and you end up posting tear-laden nostalgia pieces on Reddit, wishing for one more day in that world. OK, that might be too grim. I’m not saying that all of these are on the verge of being shut down but that they’re operating on borrowed time and have a very uncertain future.

PlanetSide

There’s no denying that Daybreak has been culling its once-expansive lineup to keep the profitable titles and eject those bleeding cash and reeking of age. The studio has only one game left that’s operating while not being represented on the main site whatsoever, and that game is PlanetSide.

Daybreak said that it would keep PlanetSide running for a while for free, although most likely with the intention of encouraging that game’s remaining population to make the switch to PlanetSide 2. Frankly, I don’t think we have much longer until PlanetSide will be quietly taken out to the woods and disposed of. I doubt we’ll even get an official statement unless someone notices.

Dragon’s Prophet

Speaking of Daybreak’s library, am I the only one who keeps doing a double-take at Dragon’s Prophet on the list and thinking, “Huh, that’s still going?” The fantasy dragon-tamer hasn’t been in the news much at all over the past year and can’t be doing all that well, which has given me the impression that it’s somewhat of an albatross (perhaps a legal, contractual albatross) around Daybreak’s neck.

The last patch the game saw was back in April — and that wasn’t even fully delivered, as players are still waiting for the remaining half. Its subreddit is a virtual ghost town. I think that Daybreak will probably wriggle its way out of keeping Dragon’s Prophet on the payroll this year, although the title might well endure in Europe (where it is seemingly much more popular and better supported) under another owner.

Asheron’s Call 1 and 2

The fact that the Asheron’s Call IP is solely owned by Turbine is most likely the only reason the server’s been left running on these titles. Turbine is in a tough place these days, with its freshest MMO now eight years old, its great MOBA hope now canceled, and its only other announced project a dinky mobile game.

Now that Asheron’s Call is in permanent maintenance mode and isn’t charging a subscription, it has to be either losing money or preparing to do so. Maybe keeping it operating indefinitely and allowing players to run their own AC servers was an option a year or so ago, but now Turbine has to take a hard look at its finances and do what it must to survive. As much as it would hurt to see these two imaginative MMOs leave the field, it might need to happen.

Champions Online

While Cryptic Studios (more accurately, its parent company Perfect World Entertainment) has had a rocky year, the studio has two very strong properties in Star Trek Online and Neverwinter. The weak link of its lineup has always seemed to be the beleaguered Champions Online.

Once hailed as the rightful successor to City of Heroes’ superhero crown, Champions quickly faded into obscurity in the industry and scaled down its content updates considerably. It certainly wasn’t helped by a half-baked free-to-play model that denied non-paying members access to the game’s greatest selling point. And now with the studio indicating that it has the miniscule budget that we all assumed, Champions doesn’t have much of a hope for a future — just a delay of execution.

Final Fantasy XI

Final Fantasy XI has had, by anyone’s standards, a very good run. It’s enjoyed success on both console and PC, seen multiple expansions, and carried the online franchise until it could pass the baton off to Final Fantasy XIV.

But 2015 marks the end of FFXI as we’ve known it for so long. By the end of this year, the console version will go dark and the PC edition will shift into maintenance mode. Yet it may see new life as a mobile title, and no matter what, it’s going to go out with a bang, which is more than what some MMOs see at the end of their career.

Meridian 59

This is a strange title to include on this list, but I have a weird gut feeling that Meridian 59 could be one of those games that might see an abrupt and unannounced end. Right now the original owners have left it running and opened up the development so that players could create their own updates, which is actually terrific for such an old title. At the same time, this lack of studio support and centralized oversight makes me nervous for its future.

I mean, when The New Yorker comes around and pronounces your game “quiet and vacant,” then you might have ceased to be an MMO and become a museum piece instead.

Then again, isn’t that better than being forgotten entirely?

Believe it or not, MMOs did exist prior to World of Warcraft! Every two weeks, The Game Archaeologist looks back at classic online games and their history to learn a thing or two about where the industry came from… and where it might be heading.
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Aglethe
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Aglethe

johnmynard RicharddeLeonIII grimjakk MesaSage Sinaptic
Well, there are a number of different issues with VR that can induce motion sickness.
One of the big ones is latency. In order to maintain a convincing and comfortable illusion of reality, the image on screen needs to respond to the user’s movements quickly enough for the latency to be imperceptible to the brain. Partly that’s a head tracking input latency issue, but render time is also a very large component. By increasing the refresh rate of the display, they increase the maximum possible framerate, and higher frame rates reduce the visual latency (as long as you have the hardware to maintain them…).
There is another major source of motion sickness though that there isn’t really much that can be done to address. The brain typically expects the eyes and the ears to agree, within a certain degree, about what’s happening to the body vis-a-vis motion. When they don’t, it can result in a rather unpleasant experience. 
Perhaps the most common form of this that people are used to encountering is car sickness. The ear detects acceleration, not velocity, so when you’re travelling at a steady speed it feels as though you’re sitting still. However when you look out the windows (particularly the side windows) your eyes tell you that you’re moving quite fast indeed. The result of this for many people is a nauseous sensation.
VR headsets can run into the same phenomenon. They completely replace the user’s field of  vision with something that often conflicts with what the body is experiencing.
Systems that leave some portion of the user’s natural vision intact, like Microsoft’s Hololens, may be able to circumvent the issue though. Many of the people who have tried it seemed to find it to be a much more comfortable experience than the Occulus and its’ offspring, despite it being noticeably more laggy.
There’s still a lot of sorting out that will likely need to happen in the headset sector before we see a completely break out main stream success.

Jeeshman
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Jeeshman

sray155 Everquest 1 and 2 continue to generate a profit, however, so I can’t see Daybreak shutting them down any time soon.  If Daybreak was really concerned about splitting up the playerbase, then it wouldn’t have created Landmark.

I think Daybreak knows the EQ games attract different sorts of players.  EQ attracts the “old school” crowd, EQ2 attracts the “PvE on rails,” WoW group, and EQNext will attract players interested in a more sandboxy, action combat-oriented game.  (And Landmark attracts… hmm… the EQNext people who really like to build houses?)  I think they’ll be around for a long time… unless one or more of them start to bleed money.

ApathyCurve
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ApathyCurve

Midgetsnowman 
Not even close.

ApathyCurve
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ApathyCurve

Scarecrowe 
“At least they eventually went back and fixed STO.”
Apparently you and I have vastly different definitions of “fixed.”

Sorenthaz
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Sorenthaz

Ness199X Sorenthaz Zarkov  Might be wrong but I believe Broadsword devs mentioned that they’re working on moving everything over to their end so you don’t have to go through EA’s stuff like Origin.

Slaphammer
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Slaphammer

I loved the Champions tabletop RPG for a really long time, and City of Heroes remains one of my favorite MMO experiences, but somehow I hated Champions Online.

wjowski
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wjowski

HidingCat skoryy 
Thing is that’s a bit of a Catch-22 situation.  A game needs money to develop content, true, but at the same time players shouldn’t be expected to sink money into an MMO that hasn’t had any serious content developed for it in almost four years.  At some point the Cryptic is either going to have to step up or start making some hard decisions.

ItsBrou
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ItsBrou

Y’know it’s different now. CO is about to get more cross-pollination than ever before imagined. I remain firm in my high expectations of this quarter and next.

syberghost
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syberghost

bigchuckinfinity no, sorry, if the’yd gotten 100% of the remaining CoH sub base to not only show up but buy a sub, it wouldn’t have funded a revamp. Not even close.

syberghost
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syberghost

Doctor Evilface the devs paid a tremendous amount of attention to it when it had the budget. Then Marvel pulled out and they had to remove all of that work and finish the game with an obscure IP that most MMO players simply didn’t care about, so the budget vanished into the bit bucket.

Hell, Champions is so derivative of Marvel (deliberately) that if they had made a hit with CO they’d probably have been sued by Marvel. Again.