Most studios would be overjoyed to have pioneered one significant advancement in video game history, but then again, most studios aren’t Kesmai. While it’s not a household name today, it’s reasonable to say that without the heavy lifting and backbreaking coding that this company shouldered in the ’80s and ’90s, the MMO genre would’ve turned out very different indeed.
Previously in this space, we met two enterprising designers named Kelton Flinn and John Taylor who recognized that multiplayer was the name of the future and put their careers on the line to see an idea through to completion. That idea was Island of Kesmai, an ancestor of the modern MMO that used crude ASCII graphics and CompuServe’s network to provide an interactive, cooperative online roleplaying experience. It wasn’t the first MMO, but it was the first one published commercially, and sometimes that makes all the difference.
Flinn and Taylor’s Kesmai didn’t stop with being the first to bring MMOs to the big time, however. Flush with cash and success, Kesmai turned its attention to the next big multiplayer challenge: 3-D graphics and real-time combat. Unlike the fantasy land of Island of Kesmai, this title would take to the skies in aerial dogfighting and prove even more popular than the team’s previous project.
Ever pause during your day and find yourself wondering, “Whatever happened to that game?” With hundreds upon hundreds of online titles these days, it’s surprisingly easy for MMOs to fall through the cracks and become buried as more aggressive or active games take the spotlight.
Well, every so often we here at Massively Overpowered find ourselves curious what has transpired with certain MMOs that we haven’t heard from in quite a while. Have we missed the action and notices? Has the game gone into stealth maintenance mode? What’s the deal? What has it been up to lately? That’s when we put on our detective hats and go sleuthing!
In this week’s edition, we’ll be catching up with three MMOs from the 1990s to see what they’re up to in 2018: Tibia, The Realm Online, and Meridian 59!
By the time that World of Warcraft came on the scene in 2004, the MMORPG industry had already gravitated toward standard when it came to the interface — specifically, the camera angle. MMO players and devs seemed to prefer third-person views that either peered over the shoulder of avatars or followed right behind them. For decades now, we’ve grown used to watching our characters’ rears as they jog along, and we can’t really imagine the experience otherwise.
Yet when you think about it, while this camera perspective is overwhelmingly used in the genre, it’s not the only one that crops up in MMOs. We’ve seen both old and new titles experiment with the camera angle, sometimes out of style and sometimes out of necessity (here’s a great Gamasutra article on the subject).
For today’s list, we’re going to look at 10 MMORPGs where the camera is positioned in a different way than you’d normally expect, especially if you are coming from modern games.
Plenty of panels at GDC are recorded and uploaded to the internet weeks after the event, including this one. It’s not quite the same as being there, as you miss a few things. For example, this year’s Ultima Online Post-Mortem panel was packed. It was international. It was fun, gross, nostalgiac, and sometimes groan-inducing.
And I’d hate to just summarize the talk, especially since some of you vets have heard these stories before, but since ya’ll couldn’t make it, I’ll do it. For you. But for this particular panel, not only will I try to summarize what was said before the panel will be viewable online in a few weeks, but I’ll dish out on the after-panel chat with Richard Garriott, Starr Long, Raph Koster, and Rich Vogel, including comments from the team on bad bans, kingslaying, VR, and the state of the MMORPG.
When we moved over here to Massively Overpowered, some of us transplanted our long-running columns to the new space. I perhaps felt most devastated that I was going to lose all of the Game Archaeologist articles that I had painstakingly researched over the years. So my mission with this space became two-fold: to rescue and update my older columns while continuing to add more articles to this series on classic MMOs and proto-MMOs.
I’ve been pleased with the results so far because TGA is a series that I really don’t want to see vanish. As MMORPG fans, we should consider it important to remember and learn about these older titles and to expand our knowledge past the more popular and well-known games of yesteryear.
Now that we have quite a catalogue of Game Archaeologist columns, I thought it would be helpful to end the year by gifting this handy guide to you that organizes and compiles our continuing look at the history of the genre. Enjoy!
Veteran MMO developer Brian Green is perhaps best known for his stewardship over Meridian 59, one of the oldest and long-running online RPGs in the genre. While he’s moved on to other projects, Green took some time recently to be interviewed about his time overseeing Meridian 59 and the legacy that it established.
“It set the standard for the flat rate subscription fee that MMOs and other games used for years afterward,” Green said. “I think that Near Death Studios was also an early pioneer in indie game development; we were just a bunch of developers trying to figure things out. We showed what was possible for a small, motivated team to do; this was important, especially since MMOs were seen as giant monstrosities requiring huge teams when we started Near Death Studios.”
Recently we had an interesting question come in from reader and Patron Rasmus Praestholm, who asked me to do a little investigating: “What (if anything of substance) exists in the MMO field that’s not only free, but open source? The topic of open source came up briefly in a recent column, where Ryzom was noted to have gone open source at some point. But have any serious efforts actually gotten anywhere starting out as open source?”
As some graphical MMORPGs pass the two-decade mark in video game history and are being either cancelled or retired to maintenance mode, it’s an increasingly important topic when it comes to keeping these games alive. Not only that, the question of open source MMOs involves the community in continued development, with the studio handing over the keys to an aging car to see what can be done by resourceful fans.
But has anything much been done with open source projects in the realm of MMORPGs? Is this something that we should be demanding more of as online gaming starts using more accessible platforms such as SpatialOS? Let’s dig a bit into this topic and see what we turn up.
When it comes to text-based MMOs created in the ’80s, ’90s, and 2000s, the sheer number of them would blot out the sky. There are certainly more multi-user dungeons (MUDs) than I’ve ever been able to get a handle on when I’ve tried creating lists of the most important to know, but I will say that there are a few that seem to pop up more than others. The original MUD1, created by Richard Bartle and Roy Trubshaw, was certainly a watershed moment for online roleplaying games. Learning about DikuMUD is pretty essential, considering its impact on graphical MMORPGs that we still play today.
But there’s another title that often goes unnoticed, unless you keep an eye out for it. It’s a MUD that keeps popping up when you look into the history of the MMORPG genre, one with ties to key players and design concepts that are still active today.
It’s the MUD that shaped the MMO industry, and it was called Sceptre of Goth.
As Asheron’s Call 1 & 2 are going offline shortly, I thought I might give it a final send-off with a list of things I learned from the series. Maybe it’s cheesy, but I really did grow up in Dereth. Some kids get their life lessons from sports, girl/boy scouts, farm life, church life, alien abduction camp life, and so on, but I learned a lot with the help of the AC series and the people I played with. I’ll focus on 10 life lessons learned from the Asheron’s Call series, but trust me, it’s more than that.
I confess that I have a particular fascination for MMOs that came into existence in the 1990s. It’s not only the fact that I was oblivious to them at the time (er, wild college days?) but that practically each and every one of them were true pioneers in their own fashion. And while your standard MMO fan might think that there were only three such games in that decade (four, if they are gracious and include Meridian 59), the truth is that there were far more online games at the time, particularly if you looked over to the east.
Today we are going to look at one of the most important MMOs to emerge from that time period, Nexus: The Kingdom of the Winds. Its influence was primarily centered in the Korean gaming community while being vastly downplayed in North America. Still, here’s a successful MMO that not only beat Ultima Online out of the door by a year but has since won a Guinness World Record for longevity!
Are you the type of gamer to make resolutions? I’m not, but I know a lot of people who map out their year ahead of time. They have a plan! This week for Overthinking, I’ve asked the Massively OP team about its own gaming resolutions or just basic MMO goals for 2017.
One of the most common questions that I’m asked from my adoring throngs on the street is, “Justin, where oh where can I get some of these marvelous MMO soundtracks that you talk about all of the time?” OK, that just never happens (on the street, that is), but people are often curious how they can go about starting to amass an MMO soundtrack collection or where to find their favorite album.
The sad truth is that so much music from these games is never officially released in any capacity, which is why I scour YouTube for fan rips of the music files. However, every so often I do discover a studio release somewhere, and I try to keep an up-to-date log on these to help others in their quest for video game scores.
So in the spirit of Christmas and sharing, today I’m going to show you how you can get your ears on more than 120 soundtracks and scores from MMOs, MOBAs, and other online titles — some of which are free and legal for the taking. You’re welcome; don’t mention it!
We’re back with our second part of an interview retrospective of Mythic Entertainment’s early online games with CSE’s Mark Jacobs. Last week, we talked about the formation of Mythic, its roster of titles during the 1990s, and how titles like Aliens Online and Silent Death Online helped to push the studio toward its full-fledged development in the MMORPG genre.
Today, Jacobs will take us through a discussion of the challenges awaiting studios trying to make online games in that early era, the communities that formed around Mythic’s titles, and how one MUD called Darkness Falls would be the catalyst that set off Dark Age of Camelot.