The Daily Grind: How should MMO end-of-life care play out?

    
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The Daily Grind: How should MMO end-of-life care play out?

Nonameplease recently sent us a concerned email about the future of MMOs, specifically Star Trek Online. “I have spent a ton of money on rare ships,” he told us. “When this game finally shuts down, I’ll be SOL…. unless there is an emulator. Even though my previous purchases won’t be carried over, I’m guessing the emu folks know they can’t sell ships and will make all ships freely available to everyone, meaning I will still get to play the ships I spent money on at one point. Getting to the point: Should people plan ahead for emulators of existing live games? And by people I mean people who know how to run emus and get their hands on the code and files and stuff needed.”

The rise of rogue servers – specifically their growing legitimization in the MMO community – has been such a big topic lately that we even noted it prominently among our awards last year. I assume that with every beloved MMO, players planning ahead for the death of MMOs to the point of grabbing what they can before a sunset is even announced with intent to build a player-run rogue server later. With other MMOs, developers themselves have helped out, either with the blessing of the company – or more often, without. What would be a better way to handle all this – how do you think MMO end-of-life care should play out?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!

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Sorenthaz

In an ideal situation I’d like to see MMO server code and such handed over to their communities so the virtual worlds can be maintained by volunteers and possibly even updated. I don’t like when stuff is lost to time and forgotten about because there’s no way to ever attempt to revisit that stuff, especially when it comes to online-only games.

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Aord

I wonder if the MMO Caretaker Service is viable business model. A company that continues to host old MMO titles where players are able to “kickstart” their favorite game for a guaranteed prepaid period of so-to-speak “post mortem” existence. How many players would be interested in, say, 5 more guaranteed years of gameplay (without content updates of course) which can be extended if they vote with their wallets? The cost of hosting and maintaining these games would be much lower since no development teams are required etc.
Just imagining.

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Kickstarter Donor
NeoWolf

The ideal for me would be that a game does a final patch which closes the game off multiplayer wise but leaves the MMO playable solo (which is how I prefer to play them anyway) and all monetisation is removed.

In this way, we wouldn’t lose out time or our investements in these games and could still keep playing them.

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Aord

Many great games are 20% games and 80% community.

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Kickstarter Donor
NeoWolf

There is a lot of truth to that, but there is no real reason you have to lose a community because the game you met in shuts down either.

Heck, I’m still playing with people I met a LONG time ago (talking decades) and MANY games ago!

You can always find a new game, And in my case we mostly all solo so you don’t have to be grouped to interact either (forums, discord, social media, emails, websites heck there are a million and one ways a group of people who want to stay together can stay together these days).

If a community really matters to the people involved it will persist whether there is a game or not.

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Schmidt.Capela

There are quite active communities about shut down MMOs, and even single-player games. You don’t need an active MMO to have a community.

Heck, there are single-player games that I enjoy playing with the game on one screen and a game-related Discord on the other, and this arrangement often makes me feel more integrated in the community than most MMOs ever could.

(Caveat: for the most part I can only really care about a community when I’m there by choice; this makes me feel far more integrated into external game communities — which I can leave at any time without hindering in any way my ability to play the game — than the mandatory in-game community of whichever MMO I’m playing.)

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Utakata

I am saddened…but at the same time I’m very glad, that the only thing that gets pissed away are the memories during a sunset, and not my wallet.

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Kevin Smith

Personally think if they are going to shut a game down for good they should be forced to release the code and allow emulators to run. The emulators should not be allowed to collect any money off the game at all. So in the end they would have to foot the bill to run the servers without expecting compensation. Donations for that would be something that would have to be looked at.

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memitim

I’m guessing the emu folks know they can’t sell ships and will make all ships freely available to everyone

Guess again my friend, guess again.

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Castagere Shaikura

PWE waits till the last minute to shut a game down. All the Cryptic made games will run for a long long time. It’s those big spender players that guarantee STO will be running till the end of time. It makes way to much money for PWE. Emulators can be fun but not all of them will have a player base like COH Homecoming. Earth & Beyond has had an emulator for years and the most they have had online at the same time is maybe 120 players. But those 120 players are real fans and donate a lot of money to keep it running.

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Schmidt.Capela

IMHO, they should:

– Release either working server code or the full spec on how the game communicates with the server, allowing the community to take over. Also all serverside data required for a player-run server. Ideally this data should be held by a third party under instructions to release it some time after the MMO shuts down, so it’s released even if the studio goes under.

– Either keep distributing/selling the game client (with a big red label that it’s for historical purposes only, not supported anymore in any shape or way) or relicense the client so it can be shared, allowing new players interested in the shut down MMO to start playing on a rogue server without resorting to piracy.

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Dug From The Earth

This overall concept goes to show two important things:

1. For now, until better regulations/laws are in place, stop spending money on virtual items unless you realize and are ok knowing that you only have them as long as the game exists. This is why subscription models still make more sense because you are paying only for time, and once you have used that time, you dont “own” it anymore. Its used up.

2. Laws need to be introduced that require game companies to release their grip on an mmo’s server files if the company chooses to no longer offer a way for customers to access what they have paid for.

For way too long now customers have been getting screwed over for every mmo they have paid money for, or spent money on, that decides “We arent making enough millions on this game, time to shut it down”. As much as some media outlets like to label some games, games are NOT amusement parks. You are rarely ever just paying to “get into” the park. Many games require you to buy a box copy. Many other heavily lean on you to pay one time fees to unlock other elements to make the game more playable as well. Imagine an amusement park that made you pay a set fee to unlock each ride AFTER already paying the ridiculously high priced entry fee.

This “lets not talk about it”, unspoken element of complete lack of commitment on the company’s part that is selling you the game has gone on for way to long now. Why should MMO’s be allowed to get away with this? Single player games are forced to live up to the responsibility of supporting their games, and insuring that they are playable even if the company decides to move on to a completely new game. Last I checked you can still play the original Tomb Raider 1 game despite them being on version 10 of the game series or something. The company releasing Tomb Raider 2 doesnt “shut down” the ability to play Tomb Raider 1.

Look at virtual music services where you buy songs and albums. They have to give you the ability to download your collection, for the very reason of “What if they shut down?”. Legally, they have to give you access to the product you paid for, and not hold it hostage if the company decides they no longer want to pay to keep the streaming servers up and running. Again, MMO gaming should be held to the same standards.

If the systems out there held gaming companies to the same standards, we might actually see some companies be a bit more dedicated to keeping their game up and running, if they really didnt want to have to release their server files out into the wild.

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Malcolm Swoboda

Ideally?

Maintenance mode lasts for as long as the code can be reliably enough managed and there is even a tiny profit and the one developer assigned to it isn’t too occupied.

And then, or otherwise, put the code out with clear legal stipulations about it. At the very least it should encourage word of mouth of something that might get invested into again.

I’d rather a RIFT private/rogue server by now, or at least good news on strides towards it. I’d rather Secret World be put in maintenance by now, instead of largely getting infrequent updates that only pile on grind.