Back in March, we were all surprised to learn that The Realm Online was getting a reboot. Owners Norseman Games transferred its “exclusive license and rights” to a private server team called Rat Labs, most of whom were already working on the game’s unofficial emulator, to allow it to take over the real MMO and bring it up to spec.
As we’ve previously chronicled, there hadn’t been much movement on the 21-year-old 2-D MMO since an event in 2014, so the transition has been more or less welcomed. The new team has been rolling up a new server and rolling out patches over the last few months, most recently adding consumables to help out the economy, tweaking stats, and fixing bugs.
Back in 2016, the game’s original creator, Stephen Nichols, posted a GoFundMe page asking nostalgic players to donate to his effort to build a spiritual successor called The Realm: Reawakened, though at the time, he said he didn’t have the rights to the classic game and was in talks with Norseman. It’s not entirely clear what’s happening with that project, especially given how Rat Labs is stressing its exclusive license; players are already speculating it may be dead.
Nevertheless, there does seem to be some confusion about who owns what. “We’ve received some information that players are attempting to receive support for The Realm from an unofficial ‘The Realm Online’ Facebook group and that they’re being told that the Norseman Games with whom they’re doing business is a fraud,” Rat Labs says, while asserting that Norseman Games still owns the copyright but that subscriptions go to Rat Labs, as “Rat Labs LLC has the exclusive license to host, develop, and distribute The Realm Online.”
Stay tuned for this weekend, when MOP’s own Game Archaeologist column will be interviewing the new team!