What got me thinking about this? Oh! Yeah, I saw some folks talking about Fractured today, which is an MMO that I had heard of but know nothing about. The same can be said for Ashes of Creation, and a few others to lesser extents. I was naming off some of these in my head when I got to the point where I realized that I really don’t play MMOs any more, so I could be excused for being “out of the loop”.
As my semi-super-serious-guys blogging career hit its high point during my peak interest in MMOs, it’s kind of weird to realize this. I couldn’t figure out a when or even a why, so I theorized that at some point in past year or two, I subconsciously decided that I had seen everything that the MMO genre has to offer. I’ve played PvP and PvE games, games with intense crafting, games with housing, games with custom content, games where story came first, games that relied on social bonds and games that let people play solo. I think I eventually was looking at MMOs that were in development and I didn’t really see anything among their bullet points that hadn’t been done before in some way or another. As the “MM”-ness of an MMO tends to distract from all other features (“Hey, Naked Elf dancing on the mailbox! You’re distracting me from my EE-MER-SHUN!”), I guess my mind packed its bags and left MMOville under cover of the night without leaving a forwarding address.
I then also realized that I have all the MMOs I feel that I need. I return to older games a lot, so I have GW2, ESO, and to lesser extents the “not-quite-MMOs-but-distant-cousin” games like Anthem, The Division(s), and Destiny(s).
And that train of thought left me at the current station: games that I loved, but which I can never go back to because they are no longer with us.
MMOdom kind of sucks turkey giblets because unlike older, single player games (like everything available on GOG.com #NotAnAdvertisement) we can’t go back to a shuttered MMO — not officially, anyway. The literal key to the life of an MMO is the back end server that brings us all together, and since companies are loathe to release the source code for those, when an online game shuts down it really shuts down. Either that or talented community members coalesce around the idea of spinning up their own custom implementation of a game server, which is a whole other can of worms. Still, those projects are few and far between, rarely have stamina to reach a production state, and don’t get a lot of headlines for legal and drama-filled reasons. In short, being a dedicated MMO player kind of sucks from a future-proofing standpoint.
In memoriam, here’s a few of my favorite MMOs which are no longer (officially) with us. I say “favorite” only because I wish these games were still in operation, would get rebooted, or picked up and resuscitated by some well meaning, trustworthy company.
Chronicles of Spellborn
Every two years or so I fire of a “Where’s my Chronicles of Spellborn!?” Tweet on the off chance that some company community manager will shout back “Watch this space!”.
Spellborn was a kind of under-the-radar game which I cannot to this day explain. I had originally dismissed it because it had a weird mechanic by which your hotbar rotated between different sets of skills based on some voodoo (read: I forget why) reason. But the lore behind the game was pretty great. You inhabited landmasses of some former planet that had exploded in a magical cataclysm. Not terribly original, but there was something about the lore and the art style that really drew me in once I gave it a shot. Unfortunately the game closed down not long after I started getting into the groove.
Here’s a video from a server emu project.
If there’s a dev company out there in need of a cautionary tale on what not to do, look no further than Firefall. Hubris, mismanagement, lack of focus, shady money, a fucking bus…you name it! The sad part is that Firefall as a concept, and once it hit a stride, was an awesome game. Again, a great universe, intriguing mechanics, and it was fast to get into which made for a great go-to game even when I didn’t have a lot of time to play. Eventually all of the crap it suffered through caught up with it and the game could never catch a break. Thankfully, we have Em8-er! [Note the implied sarcasm inherent in that last sentence].
I cannot remember if this was a real game or a fever dream. In AA you built a battle-car, Mad Max style, and duked it out with other players on the open road. For fans of the old Steve Jackson Car Wars tabletop game, this was the second best car-battling CRPG made (the first being the Autoduel translation I had played on the C64). Since then we’ve gotten some custom car battlers, but their titles escape me which I guess means that I shouldn’t wish too hard for this one, considering I can’t be bothered to remember it’s successors.
Remember the hoopla surrounding Tabula Rasa? It was Richard Garriott’s return to CRPGs, and as an MMO, no less! Great things were promised, and great things were expected! But it seems that the game shut down not long after it launched. Like most of the other games on this list I can’t remember why it closed, but TR was frustrating yet fun. There were a few mechanics that were cool, like the DNA system, but ultimately it never hit its stride.
Seriously? Do I really need to explain this one? I always feel bad about bemoaning the loss of what was and could have been a fantastic game, because I’m part of the reason it’s shuttered: I didn’t play it when it was in operation. Still, I have some very strong and vivid memories of Wildstar, and will remain angry each day that passes without some other product set in the excellent Wildstar Universe.
Earth & Beyond
I have played on an E&B emulator server in the past five years, so I can honestly say that this one is probably better off dead. Still, at the time I was blown away by the idea that I could get into a space ship and fly with and against other players, land on space stations and walk around, customize the hell out of your ship, and Conduct Commerce among the stars. It was the first free-form space fight game I’d played since the ol’ Trade Wars days, and it was in glorious 3D! Now, of course, we have the X series, Rebel Galaxy Outlaw, Elite Dangerous, and Star Citizen, so I have plenty of company with which to commiserate in the absence of E&B.