bankruptcy

Trion just bought up Gazillion’s assets to beef up its MMO publishing arm

Did you see this one coming? VentureBeat has a piece out this morning interviewing Trion Worlds CEO Scott Hartsman, who’s apparently just revealed that Trion’s bought up all of Gazillion Entertainment, or what’s left of its assets, anyway.

Gazillion, of course, infamously shuttered along with its core MMORPG, Marvel Heroes, last autumn following weeks of missed content, an apparent failed contract renogotiation, a sexual harassment scandal, and ultimately Disney’s rescinding of the Marvel license, driving the studio into bankruptcy. At the time, we called it the worst-managed MMORPG sunset of all time.

It looks like the goal for Trion here isn’t necessarily to save or remake Marvel Heroes (although that would be fun, and VB notes Trion has picked up an isometric game engine as part of the package) but to bolster its publishing for MMOs specifically, something MMO players will recall Trion’s been working on for the last few years with Glyph, where Trion’s existing games – including RIFT, Trove, ArcheAge, and Defiance – currently dwell.

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The Game Archaeologist: The tangled legal history of Interplay’s canceled Fallout Online

With the recent revelation that Bethesda’s Fallout 76 is going to be an online multiplayer survival game, players who have been hoping for a Fallout MMO finally have something to anticipate. Sure, it’s not a proper MMORPG, but it’s all we could ask for in this day and age, right?

Actually, Fallout 76 isn’t the first time that the Fallout series was heading for online shenanigans, nor is it the closest concept to a pure MMO. Years ago, an attempt was made by the original creators of the Fallout series to bring an online game to the community, but this effort was stymied by Bethesda and a mess of legal issues.

For those who look back at the Interplay era of Fallout with deep fondness, the thought of the canceled Fallout Online project is a sore wound that continues to cause pain whenever prodded. Which is, I guess, what I’ll be doing today as we look at what Fallout Online was going to be — and why it never came to be.

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Get caught up on the Darkfall spinoffs as ex-Aventurine devs explain what happened to the original (and throw shade)

Unless you’re a hardcore Darkfall player from way back in the day as MOP’s Andrew was, you probably look at the sequels and spinoffs with pure confusion. What’s the difference between Darkfall, Darkfall: Rise of Agon, and Darkfall: New Dawn? That’s at least partly the subject of a new infographic out from the New Dawn team. For starters, you can’t actually play the original Darkfall. After launching in 2009, rebooting amidst much controversy as Unholy Wars in 2012, and toying with plans for a more classic reboot, its dev team abruptly vanished without much of a goodbye in 2016, saying it hoped the service disruption would be temporary. It wasn’t. Aventurine wound up licensing the game out to two different player-led studios, which separately put together their own takes on the game to keep it alive.

New Dawn, as the infographic touts, focuses more on group PvP than the original, with less grind and griefing and a more realistic economy and trade, as well as combat that’s less “ping-dependent.” Its most recent dev blog talked up improving PvE and soloabilityRise of Agon, on the other hand, boasts housing, no safe zones, twitchy combat, large-scale warfare, and a heavier crafting focus; it just got an update to PvP. Both spinoffs harken back to the original Darkfall more than to Unholy Wars, and both games are in a launch state.

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Video game preservationists attempt to raise $450K to rez Marvel Heroes [Updated]

(We’ve updated below with MMOBomb’s detailed investigation into this Indiegogo – short story, don’t go handing over your dough.)

With Marvel Heroes dead and gone, most fans have moved on to other gaming pastures. After all, it would take a miracle to bring it back, right? Turns out that miracles are pretty expensive in this modern age, but there are always those who will take a shot at the near-impossible.

Enter Paragon Institute, a new non-profit that says it wants to purchase Marvel Heroes for $450,000 (or more) and form an indie studio to operate it. Even more interesting, this group says it wants to use Marvel Heroes and other titles as “learning labs” to train developers and preserve abandoned video games.

“Our goal is to establish ElderMage Studios as a learning lab to partner experienced professionals with aspiring game developers to help them gain the skills and hands-on experience necessary to work in the field,” the group posted on IndieGoGo. “This may include time spent supporting or enhancing existing titles to create entirely new ones. A secondary mission is to preserve games that are no longer supported so that those who have licensed them may continue using them and so others may learn from them.”

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Creditors lay claim to nearly $700,000 in Gazillion assets in bankruptcy case

We named the sad death of Marvel Heroes the greatest MMO disappointment of 2017, and it appears it’s not even over yet. Redditors noticed that on January 4th, three creditors – Secret 6, Playchemy, and Caitlin Capes – filed claim against the assets of Gazillion, or rather, whatever is left to fight over following the company’s apparent collapse last year.

Secret 6 appears to be a multinational game dev studio known best for its art production (Ronald Schaffner is its president), while Playchemy is a mobile development studio. Caitlin Capes’ linkedin shows her as having been an associate producer on Marvel Heroes as well as on the multiplatform VR game Gazillion was reportedly working on. In total, MMO Fallout reports, the three are claiming nearly $700,000 in unpaid debt, the bulk of which is allegedly owed to Playchemy.

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The Game Archaeologist: Neocron

It’s the distant future. The high-tech battle armor you wear sharply contrasts with the ruins of civilization that you traverse. You spot an enemy and raise your pulse rifle, firing off shots as you strafe to cover. Technology hasn’t solved the issue of war; it’s just raised the body count.

PlanetSide 2? Nope — this is Neocron, the quite-forgettable MMOFPS from the way-back era. I like to call it “that game with the most regrettable cover art in the history of video games,” but that isn’t quite as snappy.

Going into this article, I have to admit that I previously knew absolutely nothing about Neocron other than the fact that it was a sci-fi MMO that vaguely reminded me of Anarchy Online. Oh, also the fact that nobody I know or perhaps ever will know played it. Was it just a myth? A practical joke to make us believe in an MMO phantom? Only sifting through layers of dust and grime would produce results, so I rolled up my sleeves and started digging.

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Marvel Heroes: Former dev says Disney’s not the bad guy, Xbox One grants automatic refunds

Still reeling from the abrupt early sunset of Marvel Heroes yesterday? Same here. If you want a little closure, maybe check out Kinda Funny Games, which yesterday posted an interview with former Gazillion Systems Designer Anthony Gallegos, who discusses the collapse of the studio.

Gallegos suggests that Gazillion is going through “some kind of bankruptcy” and notes actually furloughed employees a week and a half before the layoffs – and indeed, lost a quarter of its staff from layoffs earlier this year. He also confirms that the license (he says “contract”) for Marvel Heroes was lost in October and negotiations with Disney/Marvel began anew.

This was a time when Gazillion reps were telling the press and the playerbase that “the company [was] functioning normally.” It clearly was not.

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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

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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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Vette gets a big gun in SWTOR’s next chapter, Profit and Plunder

Hot on the heals of last week’s producer livestream announcement, we’ve gotten a look at the next Knights of the Fallen Empire chapter for Star Wars: The Old Republic. Profit and Plunder promises a high-stakes heist featuring two returning companions: Gault from the Bounty Hunter storyline and Vette from the Sith Warrior storyline.

The teaser trailer below isn’t even 30 seconds long, but we do get a good glimpse into what chapter is all about, and we get to see the tiny Twi’lek Vette show us that she can handle a big gun, which is what’s really important, right?

As mentioned before, if you subscribe by May 1st, you will earn the HK-55-inspired ship droid customizations and access to Chapter 13 on May 3rd. Everyone else will gain access on May 5th.

On a side note, does anyone else find it serendipitous that “chapter 13,” a term synonymous with bankruptcy, is called “Profit and Plunder?” Think about that as you watch the video and gaze at the screenshot gallery below.

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The Game Archaeologist: The sad saga of Stargate Worlds

In 1994, a science-fiction movie called Stargate took the idea of alien portals that allowed people to travel instantaneously across the universe and turned it into a modest success. The notion (and box office gross) was sufficiently interesting enough to be reworked into a hit television series that then became a major franchise.

Stargate SG-1 ran from 1997 to 2007, and was soon spun off into Stargate Infinity (2002-2003), Stargate Atlantis (2004-2009), Stargate Universe (2009-2011), and a pair of direct-to-DVD sequels in 2008. Books, video games, amusement park rides, and even a pinball machine spawned from this series, which by the mid-2000s had a sizable crop of very loyal fans.

So why not an MMORPG? The popularity of the IP would help bolster interest in the game, and the idea of hopping across the galaxy to different planets went hand-in-hand with the virtual world setup of MMOs. In 2006, at the height of Stargate’s fame, work began on such a game — work that would soon enough lead to ruin and heartbreak. This game was Stargate Worlds.

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The Game Archaeologist: Seed

Seed is a game that I thought I must have dreamed up at some point. Do you ever have that happen? For years I had a vague recollection of reading an article about some sort of cooperative sci-fi MMO that was in development, but I couldn’t remember the name or even verify if it was real.

Well, it was real, although considering how short that Danish game studio Runestone’s Seed was on the market, I could be forgiven for not knowing much about it.

Seed was an MMO that attempted to break away from the combat-centric design that dominated (and still does) the industry. Instead, it looked to other avenues — crafting, politics, exploration, socializing — to fill the combat void and create a compelling experience. It was, at the very least, an interesting experiment and a shame that it didn’t run for more than a few months. Let’s take a look at what made this MMO take the road less traveled!

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Shadowrun Chronicles developer declares bankruptcy [Updated]

After several delays, Shadowrun Chronicles, the rebranded form of what was originally being developed as Shadowrun Online, launched on Steam a month ago. Now, a month out, the studio behind the game is bankrupt. The company has apparently already been assigned a liquidator, which raises serious questions about the future of the game after a month of operation.

One of the developers posted on the Steam forum that this does not mean doom for the game or even the company, with a statement due out later tonight regarding the situation. While players are assured that the servers will remain up and the next update is on track… it’s a bit hard to feel terribly certain, obviously.

[Update]: MassivelyOP has been provided with a copy of the most recent backer update wherein Cliffhanger Productions addresses the bankruptcy filing. You can read it after the cut.

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