Tag Archives: Star Wars Galaxies

A Timeline of SOE and Daybreak Games

We are entering a new era for the games of Daybreak which made me think it might be a good time to review the story so far.  We’re around the 25 year mark for when the seeds of the company were planted and, with the Enad Global 7 purchase, the time seems ripe.

  • The House that EverQuest Built

First there was EverQuest.

Firiona and friends at launch, 1999

At some point around 1996 John Smedley, working at Sony, managed to get Brad McQuaid, Jeff Buttler, Steve Clover, Bill Trost, and a host of others together to create a 3D online multiplayer fantasy game loosely (or not so loosely in places) based off of Sojourn MUD / TorilMUD.

Launched on March 16, 1999, a variety of Sony organizational names were connected to the game at different times including Sony Interactive Studios America, Verant Interactive, 989 Studios, Sony Computer Entertainment America, Sony Pictures, and Sony Online Entertainment.  My original disk and manual both display the 989 Studios logo prominently and names a couple others in the fine print.  As I mentioned in my 20 year anniversary reflections post about EverQuest, one magazine referred to the company running the game as Sony, Verant, and 989 in different parts of the same issue.  It was a confusing time.

Clarity came eventually though when EverQuest exceeded all expectations for success.  That was a bit of a surprise.  March of 1999 pre-dates the age of influencers and social media.  The internet wasn’t seen as a serious news source, though Matt Drudge breaking the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal had at least made a few start paying attention.  But a lot of us were still getting our gaming news via glossy monthly magazines where full page ads at the covers were the best way to gain attention.

I don’t recall any such ads for the game back in early 1999.  I only knew about the game because almost everybody then active on TorilMUD got invited to beta, usually by Brad McQuaid’s Aradune character in game.  I declined the beta invite, but came for the opening.

Not only were ads scarce, there wasn’t a lot of background to draw attention to the game.  Compare that to what most see as its direct competitor of the era, Ultima Online.  The Ultima franchise had been rolling along for more that 15 years when UO launched in late 1997.  The series spawned a studio, Origin Systems, that created other well known games.  And then there was Lord British, who ended up living in a castle and going into space on the proceeds of his Ultima empire.  UO had the fame, reputation, and lineage that EQ lacked.

And yet, at their respective peaks, EQ would have more than double UO’s subscribers.

EQ seemed to spread by word of mouth.  After buying it at Fry’s on my way home from work on launch day, I came into the office and told a bunch of people about it.  They all went out and bought copies and we ended up playing together.  And they told people and I told more people and others who played told people and soon the people I was telling already knew about it and there was a song “Has anybody seem my corpse?” being passed around and the whole thing had become something of a minor social phenomena.

And its success cemented the idea of online gaming at Sony so that the plethora of names was eventually pared down to Sony Online Entertainment.  25 years down the road from Smed collecting a team to get the ball rolling, this is all still the house that EverQuest built.

  • A Timeline of Events

This is not an exhaustive list, and I am not going to try to piece together things that came before March 16, 1999 or betas for various games.  Early access though, that is another story. I am also going to try not to editorialize, which won’t be easy for me.  If I have missed anything important, drop me a note or a comment and I’ll update the post.

  • 1999
    • Mar 16 – EverQuest launches, servers are quickly overloaded and a long series of new servers kicks off
    • Jul 28 – MMORTS Sovereign announced
  • 2000
    • Apr 24 – The Ruins of Kunark, the first EverQuest expansion, launches
    • Oct 5 – SOE acquires Infantry
    • Dec 5 – The Scars of Velious, EQ expansion #2
  • 2001
    • Apr 17 – Cosmic Rift launches
    • Dec 4 – The Shadows of Luclin, EQ expansion #3
  • 2002
    • Oct 29 – The Planes of Power, EQ expansion #4
  • 2003
    • Feb 11 – Sovereign MMORTS officially cancelled
    • Feb 11 – EverQuest Online Adventures launches on PlayStation 2
    • Feb 25 – The Legacy of Ykesha, EQ expansion #5
    • May 20 – PlanetSide launches
    • Jun 24 – EverQuest Macintosh Edition launches
    • Jun 26 – Star Wars Galaxies launches
    • Sep 9 – Lost Dungeons of Norrath, EQ expansion #6
    • Nov – Star Chamber: The Harbinger Saga launches
    • Nov 17 – EverQuest Online Adventures: Frontiers expansion launches
    • Dec 1 – Lords of EverQuest, a single player Windows RTS, launches
  • 2004
    • Feb 10 – Gates of Discord, EQ expansion #7
    • Feb 10 – Champions of Norrath launches on PlayStation 2
    • Mar – EverQuest subscribers hit a peak of 550K
    • Sep 14 – Omens of War, EQ expansion #8
    • Oct 27 – SWG Jump to Lightspeed expansion
    • Nov 8 – EverQuest II launches
    • Nov 12 – A second round of EQII servers are launched to absorb the surge of new players
    • Nov – SOE introduces the Station Access plan that gives players a combined subscription to EQ, EQII, and Planetside for $22 a month
    • Nov – EQII subscribers who opt for Station Access get two extra character slots on their account and access to the EQII Players stats page
    • Dec – EQII is down for almost two days as an update breaks the live servers
  • 2005
    • Jan – SOE Announces SWG is being added to Station Access
    • Feb 7 – Champions: Return to Arms is launched on PlayStation 2
    • Feb 8 – EQ server consolidation starts with the four PvP servers being combined into the single Zek server
    • Feb 15 – Dragons of Norrath, EQ expansion #9
    • Feb 17 – SOE temporarily adds the /pizza command to EverQuest II as a cross promotion with Pizza Hut allowing players to order a pizza from within the game
    • Mar 21 – The Bloodline Chronicles, the first EQII adventure pack launches
    • Mar 22 – Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade, a PSP title, launches
    • Apr – SOE begins a series of EQ server merges to bolster the populations, which runs on until the end of June
    • Apr – EverQuest II – East, developed for China, Taiwan, and South Korea, launches
    • May 5 – SWG Rage of the Wookies expansion launches
    • Jun 28 – The Splitpaw Saga, the second EQII adventure pack launches
    • Jul 20 – EQII gets new servers, Shadowhaven, The Bazaar, and The Vox PvP under the Station Exchange program, which allows players to sell in-game items for real world money; players are allowed to transfer characters there from other live servers
    • Aug 15 – SOE takes over operation of The Matrix Online
    • Sep 13 – Depths of Darkhollow, EQ expansion #10
    • Sep 13 – Desert of Flames, the first EQII expansion
    • Nov 1 – SWG Trials of Obi-wan expansion launches
    • Nov 8 – SWG New Game Enhancements update lands, changing character progression
    • Nov 9 – The “SOGA” character models from EverQuest II – East become an available option in EverQuest II
  • 2006
    • Jan – SOE announces they will be merging 10 low population EQII servers into 10 medium population servers because players are “too spread out” on the low population servers.
    • Feb 17 – Shadowhaven Station Exchange server is merged into The Bazaar server
    • Feb 21 – Prophecy of RoEQ expansion #11
    • Feb 21 – Kingdom of Sky, EQII expansion #2
    • Mar 28 – Untold Legends: The Warrior’s Code, a PSP title, launches
    • Mar 29 – EverQuest II – East is shut down, with all Chinese accounts transferred to the Mistmoore server, all Taiwanese accounts to the Najena server, and all Korean accounts to the Unrest server
    • Jun – EQ launches the first progression servers for the game, The Combine and The Sleeper, which let players play though all of the game expansions in order
    • Jun 14 – The Fallen Dynasty, the third EQII adventure pack launches
    • Sep 19, The Serpent’s Spine, EQ expansion #12
    • Nov 13 – Echoes of Faydwer, EQII expansion #3
    • Nov 15 – Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom, a PSP title, launches
  • 2007
    • Jan 30 – Vanguard: Saga of Heroes launches with SOE as publisher
    • Feb 13 – The Buried Sea, EQ expansion #13
    • May 9 – Legends of Norrath collectible card game is launched, running within EQ and EQII
    • May 15 – SOE takes over operations for Vanguard: Saga of Heroes
    • Mar 21 – The Sleeper EQ progression server is merged into The Combine server
    • Apr 30 – The EQII Darathar– UK PvP, Gorenaire– FR PvP, and Talendor– DE PvP servers are merged into the Venekor – RP PvP server
    • Jul 11 – The Agency is announced
    • Jul 19 – EQuinox, the official print magazine of EverQuest II is announced with issue #1 featuring Rise of Kunark information and beta access
    • Oct – Station Access pricing peaks at $30 a month for subscription access to all SOE titles including The Matrix Online and Vanguard: Saga of Heroes
    • Nov 13 – Secrets of Faydwer, EQ expansion #14
    • Nov 13 – Rise of Kunark – EQII expansion #4
    • Dec – SOE is caught after moving the level 60 Unholy Trinity guild off of the test server to a live server, an action against stated company policy and not something ever made available to the average player, causing a fierce reaction from players
    • Dec – A false rumor spreads that Zapak Digital Entertainment is planning to purchase SOE and its games for $300 million, an amount close to what the company will sell for in December of 2020
  • 2008
    • Jan 22 – Pirates of the Burning Sea launches with SOE as publisher
    • Feb 14 – EQuinox issue #2 is announced, featuring Legends of Norrath cards
    • Apr 16 – LiveGamer is brought in to run financial transaction for the Station Exchange RMT servers The Bazaar and The Vox PvP
    • ~Sep – EQuinox issue #3 is cancelled and the magazine idea is scrapped
    • Oct 21 – Seeds of Destruction, EQ expansion #15
    • Oct 24 – The EQII Venekor– RP PvP is merged into the Nagefen, the final remaining PvP server
    • Nov 18 – The Shadow Odyssey, EQII expansion #5
    • Dec – SOE introduces Station Cash, a virtual currency, and an in-game cash shop in EQ and EQII
  • 2009
    • Jan 23 – SOE games become available on Steam starting with EverQuest and EverQuest II
    • Apr 28 – Free Realms launches
    • Jul 31 – The Matrix Online is shut down
    • Dec 15 – Underfoot, EQ expansion #16
  • 2010
    • Feb 16 – Sentinal’s Fate, EQII expansion #6
    • Mar 4 – The Combine EQ progression server is merged into the Druzzil Ro live server, ending the first retro server run for the company
    • Apr – SOE tries a new EQII Passport subscription plan where for just $5.00 a month you can play for three consecutive days during a single month
    • May 5 – SOE announces The Agency: Covert Ops, a free to play title on Facebook
    • Jun 10 – Tanarus, a title that predated EverQuest was shut down
    • Jun 22 – EQ server merges come again, paring down the server count by ten as low population servers are merged into more populated ones
    • Jul – EverQuest II Extended, a free to play version of EQII launches
    • Aug – Plans for EverQuest Next announced at FanFest
    • Sep 15 – Star Wars: The Clone Wars Adventures launches
    • Oct 12 – House of Thule, EQ expansion #17
  • 2011
    • Jan 11 – DC Universe Online launches on Windows and PlayStation 3
    • Feb 15 – The Fippy Darkpaw EQ time locked progression server launches, with the Vulak’Aerr server being added soon thereafter to handle the crush of players (I have a whole timeline for those servers)
    • Feb 22 – Destiny of Velious, EQII expansion #7
    • Mar 31 – The Agency is officially cancelled
    • Apr – Flying mounts introduced into EQII
    • May – SOE games are down for almost two weeks as part of the PlayStation Network security breach in which personal data from a reported 24.6 million accounts were compromised
    • Jun – At E3 SOE announced that pricing for Station Access, now called SOE All Access, would drop from $30 to $20 a month, but extra character slots for EQ, EQII, and Vanguard would no longer be part of the plan
    • Aug – SOE finally gets a unified server status page
    • Nov 1 – DC Universe Online goes free to play
    • Nov 15 – Veil of Alaris, EQ expansion #18
    • Dec 6 – Age of Discovery, EQII expansion #8, which also ushers in the free to play era of the game as EverQuest II Extended is folded into the live server list
    • Dec 15 – Star Wars Galaxies is shut down
    • Dec 18 – The Vox PvP Station Exchange server for EQII is merged into the Nagefen server
    • Dec 21 – The Bazaar Station Exchange server for EQII is merged into the Freeport server ending the Station Exchange program
  • 2012
    • Feb – SOE announces it is selling its EU customer accounts to a German media company, ProSiebenSat.1
    • Mar 16 – EverQuest goes free to play
    • Mar 29 – EverQuest Online Adventures shuts down on PlayStation 2
    • Mar 29 – Infantry is shut down
    • Mar 29 – Cosmic Rift is shut down
    • Mar 29 – Star Chamber: The Harbinger Saga is shut down
    • Aug 7 – Vanguard: Saga of Heroes goes free to play (a week earlier than planned)
    • Aug 7 – SOEmote is introduced to EverQuest II
    • Sep – SOE introduces Player Studio for EQII, which allows players to create cosmetic items to sell in the in-game cash shop, for which they will be paid a cut of the sale
    • Nov – SOE introduces Krono for EQ and EQII, an in-game item that can be redeemed for 30 days of subscription time, which users can purchase for real world cash and sell at the broker to other players for in-game currency
    • Nov 13 – Chains of Eternity, EQII expansion #9
    • Nov 20 – PlanetSide 2 launches
    • Nov 28 – Rain of Fear, EQ expansion #19
  • 2013
    • Jan 30 – SOE publishes the import Wizardry Online as a F2P title
    • Jan 31 – Pirates of the Burning Sea ceases to be published by SOE
    • Aug – A new vision/plan for EverQuest Next is announced at FanFest, which includes the involvement of Storybricks
    • Aug – The FanFest presentation mentions a dev tool EverQuest Next called Landmark
    • Sep 23 – SOE publishes the import Dragon’s Prophet as a F2P title
    • Oct 8 – Call of the Forsaken, EQ expansion #20
    • Nov 12 – Tears of Veeshan, EQII expansion #10
    • Nov 13 – SOE starts selling early access packs to EverQuest Next Landmark
    • Nov 15 – DC Universe Online launches on PlayStation 4
    • Nov 18 – EverQuest Macintosh Edition is shut down
  • 2014
    • Jan – Station Access/SOE All Access pricing drops to $15 a month, the price of a single game subscription, but keeps the 500 Station Case stipend after the forums erupt when Smed suggests they may remove that benefit
    • Jan 24 – SOE announced they will be shutting down Free Realms, Star Wars: The Clone Wars Adventures, Wizardry Online, and Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, which is seen as the reason they have cut the price of SOE All Access
    • Mar – EverQuest Next Landmark becomes just Landmark
    • Mar 31 – Free Realms is shut down
    • Mar 31 – Star Wars: The Clone Wars Adventures is shut down
    • Apr 10 – H1Z1 is announced, a zombie horror title oddly dedicated to SWG players
    • Jun 18 – The ProSiebenSat.1 experiment ends and all EU accounts are transitioned back to SOE
    • Jul 31 – Wizardry Online is shut down
    • Jul 31 – Vanguard: Saga of Heroes is shut down
    • Oct 28 – The Darkened Sea, EQ expansion #21
    • Nov 11 – Altar of Malice, EQII expansion #11
  • 2015
    • Jan 15 – H1Z1 releases as early access
    • Jan 22 – The class action suit for the PlayStation/SOE security breach of May 2011 is resolved, awarding the lawyers $2.75 million and each affected player 450 station cash… but only for US players and only if you filled out a form and could prove you were affected
    • Feb 2 – Sony announces it has sold SOE to Columbus Nova and the organization will be known as Daybreak Game Company going forward
    • Apr 28 – The Rum Cellar, the fourth EQII adventure pack launches
    • Apr 30 – Daybreak acknowledged and blessed the existence of the Project 1999 EQ retro server being developed by a private group, with the P1999 team and the Daybreak EQ team coordinating updates so as not to overlap each other
    • May 22 – EQ opens the Ragefire progression server, the start of a regular run of special servers that help boost the game’s popularity by pulling back many lapsed players
    • Jul 24 – Daybreak announces that long time studio head John Smedley is leaving the company
    • Jul 24 – EQII launches the Stormhold progression server and Deathtoll PvP server, the first retro servers for the game
    • Aug 21 – EQII announces the Drunder server, where rule breakers will be sent to play and no customer support will be available
    • Oct – Nine of the lower population EQII servers, including the final PvP server Nagefen, are merged down to three PvE servers, all with new names (Maj’dul, Halls of Fate, and Skyfire), while the Antonia Bayle server remains unto itself
    • Nov 16 – Dragon’s Prophet is shut down
    • Nov 17 – Terrors of Thalumbra, EQII expansion #12
    • Nov 18 – The Broken Mirror, EQ expansion #22
  • 2016
    • Feb 8 – H1Z1 King of the Kill the battle royale game and H1Z1 Just Survive, the co-op zombie horror game, are split into two products, both remain in early access
    • Mar 8 – The EQII Deathtoll PvP retro server is shut down
    • Mar 11 – EverQuest Next officially cancelled, leaving Landmark the remaining active part of that project.
    • Apr 29 – DC Universe Online launches on XBox One
    • Jun 10 – Landmark leaves early access and goes live
    • Jul 1 – PlanetSide is shut down
    • Aug 17 – Legends of Norrath is shut down
    • Nov 15 – Kunark Ascending, EQII expansion #13
    • Nov 16 – Empires of Kunark, EQ expansion #23
    • Dec 19 – Daybreak acquires Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeon & Dragons Online from Warner, setting them up under the name Standing Stone Games, never mentioning in public that they are the actual owners
  • 2017
    • Feb 21 – Landmark is shut down
    • Jul 31 – LOTRO launches the Mordor expansion
    • Sep 22 – The Vulak’Aerr EQ time locked progression server is merged into the Fippy Darkpaw server
    • Oct – H1Z1 King of the Kill renamed H1Z1 again due to a desire to release the game in China, where having “kill” in a game name is frowned upon by government censors
    • Nov 28 – Planes of Prophecy, EQII expansion #14
    • Dec 12 – Ring of Scale, EQ expansion #24
  • 2018
    • Feb 28 – H1Z1 leaves early access and goes live
    • Apr 24 – In response to a question about Russian sanctions Daybreak issues a statement declaring it was never owned by Columbus Nova, in open contradiction to three years of information, and was always solely owned by Jason Epstein
    • Apr 24 – Daybreak removes all references to Columbus Nova from its web site and attempts to edit the Wikipedia page about the company to hide any Columbus Nova connection
    • Aug 7 – H1Z1 launched on PlayStation 4
    • Sep 4 – The EQII progression server Stormhold is merged into the Antonia Bayle server, ending its run
    • Sep 6 – Daybreak announces a deal with NantWorks to create NantMobile G which will take over H1Z1 on PC with a plan to revitalize it, starting by rebranding it as Z1 Battle Royale
    • Sep 6 – NantMobile G project also proposes mobile versions of Z1 Battle Royale and EverQuest
    • Oct 24 – H1Z1 Just Survive is shut down
    • Nov 13 – Chaos Descending, EQII expansion #15
    • Dec 11 – The Burning Lands, EQ expansion #25
    • Dec 14 – Planetside Arena is announced, an attempt to bring battle royale to PlanetSide 2, with pre-orders for early access for sale
    • Dec 18 – Daybreak offers 4,000 lifetime subscriptions for sale at $299 each
    • Dec 24 – Daybreak announces that they have sold out the 4,000 lifetime subscriptions
    • Dec 28 – Daybreak puts 6,000 more life time subscriptions up for sale through Dec. 31st
  • 2019
    • Feb 18 – PlanetSide Arena launch is delayed until summer, allegedly to have a simultaneous launch on PlayStation 4, all pre-orders are refunded
    • Jul 11 – After over a year being offline, Daybreak announces that Player Studio for EQII has been shut down
    • Apr 6 – NantMobile G hands Z1 Battle Royale back to Daybreak having failed to revitalize the game, after which little is heard about the PC version
    • Aug 6 – DC Universe Online launches on Nintendo Switch
    • Aug 30 – A PlanetSide Arena roadmap is released with plans for early access soon, with an official launch in 2020, PC only
    • Sep 19 – PlanetSide Arena arrives in early access just barely making the declared “summer” launch plan
    • Oct 21 – A PlanetSide producer’s letter states that PlanetSide Arena is a stepping stone towards PlanetSide 3
    • Nov 5 – LOTRO launches the Minas Morgul expansion
    • Dec 14 – Daybreak announces that PlanetSide Arena will be shut down in January
    • Dec 17 – Blood of Luclin, EQII expansion #16
    • Dec 18 – Torment of Velious, EQ expansion #26
  • 2020
    • Jan 10 – PlanetSide Arena is shut down
    • Jan 21 – Daybreak announces a series of sub-studios, with Darkpaw Games responsible for EverQuest and EverQuest II, Dimensional Ink handling DC Universe Online, and Rogue Planet Games handling PlanetSide 2
    • May 20 – The Fippy Darkpaw EQ time locked progression server ends its nine year run as it is merged into the Vox live server
    • Oct 20 – LOTRO launches the War of Three Peaks expansion
    • Dec 1 – Enad Global 7 (EG7) announces plans to acquire Daybreak
    • Dec 2 – EG7 presents an unprecedented array of previously private information about Daybreak to its board, shareholders, and the general public proving, if nothing else, that the company made money
    • Dec 8 – Claws of Veeshan, EQ expansion #27
    • Dec 15 – Reign of Shadows, EQII expansion #17
    • Dec 23 – EG7 completes the acquisition of Daybreak Game Company

And that brings us up into the new year.  We shall see what 2021 and beyond holds for the company

  • Sources

The joy of me blogging the way I do is that I have a blog post that corresponds to most every item on the above list that happened in the last decade.  I considered linking to each and every one, but decided against it.  You can use the search box at the top of the page if you want to find posts here about things like EQII Passport.

Before 2010 I was more chaotic in my blogging and, of course, before September 2006 there was no blog, so nothing to reference.  Fortunately, I had done a post about SOE and its MMORPGs back in 2016 where I had recorded the status of their games, and had researched a bunch of other items in the past.  This blog isn’t all just about Blackrock Depths and World War Bee.

And, where that failed, Wikipedia remains a wonderful source.  There are well maintained pages about most of the games and lists of all the expansions for both EverQuest and EverQuest II that helped me quite a bit.  And over at Daybreak there is even a server merge page for EverQuest and another for EverQuest II servers deep in their site.  There are some errors, but the dates seem solid.

As for what to include, I am obviously biased towards the games I play or played.  I did try to include every paid expansion for games, as those were generally pretty easy to find.  Game content updates are more obscure, though somebody has charted all of the episode drops for DC Universe Online on that Wikipedia page.  I just wasn’t that dedicated to the post.  I started getting into special servers, but decided once they became an annual thing in 2015, I declared them as such and moved on.

MMORPG Preservation and Reality

There was a bit of news last Friday when the Library of Congress announced that they would allow an exception to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act so that institutions interesting in preserving online games, MMOs and the like, could do so.

An exception had been previously granted for stand alone video games no longer published or otherwise available, so this was something of an expansion of that initial ruling.  The Federal Register document is here for your perusal.

The document covers several rulings.  The one you are looking for is labeled as section 8, but is listed out between sections 5 and 7, so it was probably meant to be section 6 as there is another section 8, concerning 3D printing, after section 7.  Maybe this was an error… or maybe I just don’t understand how government documentation works.

This decision was greeted with almost universal acclaim in the niche genre that is fans of dead MMOs.  The Museum of Digital Art and Entertainment (The MADE for short or The Video Game Museum colloquially) over in Oakland, about a 40 minute drive from my home, was particularly effusive.  They were in the fight to make this happen, so were there to cheer once the ruling was announced.  They tweeted out a couple of messages on Twitter that got a frenzy of support over in the comments at Massively OP, this one especially:

I am going to quote that tweet here, just in case it spontaneously combusts out of sheer naivety:

Hey Twitter fans: please go track down people who could legally get us Star Wars Galaxy’s server code, and City of Heroes server code. If they agree to hand over the server code, we can bring those games back online legally.

That note contains the seeds of the problem being faced here.  If you take some time to leaf through the document I linked at the above, you might have run into a paragraph opening with this sentence:

The Acting Register found that the record supported granting an expansion in the relatively discrete circumstances where a preservation institution legally possesses a copy of a video game’s server code and the game’s local code.

Therein lies the rub.  To be within the law, and thus legally protected, a preservation institution like The MADE needs to obtain a copy of the server software legally.  So far as I can tell, the only way to do this is to get a copy directly from the companies who hold the rights to these games, and that seems an impractical and unlikely scenario for several reasons.

First, there is the question as to what sort of infrastructure such a server might require.

Yes, people who put together emulators of these servers do so on the cheap, using whatever is to hand, so you might think this is a non-issue.  But the official server software wasn’t designed to run on your desktop machine.  This isn’t an automatic pass.  This could be a problem because things as simple as the operating system and patch version required to the database connectivity expected to be in place.  The server software might not run as provided without the ecosystem it was made to run with.

The MADE likes to point out that they managed to get Habitat up and running, but that was not only a game from a simpler time, but they were given the source code to work with. I cannot see many MMORPGs doing that for reasons covered below.  Still, at least this is a technical issue, and enough time and effort could garner a solution.

Then there is figuring out who actually has the software and what shape it is in.

Let’s take Star Wars Galaxies as an example.  That shut down in mid-December 2011, almost seven years ago.  At that point it was run by Sony Online Entertainment, one small cog in the giant machine that is Sony.

Time to settle up with Jaba again

A little over three years after that SOE was bought and became Daybreak Game Company.  One might assume that all SOE games, past and current, went with that deal.  But I don’t know if that was actually so.  Given that SWG was a licensed IP, it might have been too complicated, too expensive, or simply not possible or desirable to let Daybreak have that.  It could be stowed away still with Sony.

And, once we figure out who has it,  we have to see if the software has been archived in a way that it can still be accessed.  The server software isn’t like the client, existing in the wild on hundreds of thousands of install disks.  This is likely tightly held, produce on demand software.  Somebody might need to run the build system to generate a copy.

Let me tell you a story about that sort of thing.

Midway through the first decade of the century a company I used to work for once had a formerly famous consumer film company call up and ask for a patch for the server software they bought from us nearly a decade back.  It was on IBM OS/2 and we had long since switched to Windows server.  But that was fine, we had kept the OS/2 build system machines in the lab.  Only when somebody decided to power the system on the drive on the main machine wouldn’t spin up.  And while we had archival backups stored off site, there wasn’t anybody around who could re-create the build system.  And that was all before we had to figure out the problem that company was having, update the code, and run a build.

Since the company calling us wasn’t current on their maintenance contract… we were surprised they were still running our software… we declined to put in the effort.  We probably could of done it, but the work required was not trivial.  Even with the company in question willing to pay us, we had more lucrative avenues to pursue.  Software development is as much choosing what to focus on as anything, since there are always more plans and ideas than there is time.

If we weren’t going to do it for money, we certainly weren’t going to do it for free, which is what organizations like The MADE will expect.  And no company is going to let outsiders troll through their company to look for such software, so finding it relies on a current insider getting permission from the company and using their own time to find things.  This isn’t impossible, but the candidates able to perform this task are probably few.

And, finally, there is the question who can legally provide the server software.

The above are both solvable problems, things that could be made to happen if the right people were to volunteer some time and effort.  Getting the right people to green light this sort of project though, that feels like the highest hurdle of all.

I am going to go ahead and declare Star Wars Galaxies lost to any preservation effort for the foreseeable future right up front based on this.  At a minimum you need Disney, who holds the rights to the IP, to go along with this, and I cannot see that happening.  Mickey Mouse doesn’t even get out of bed unless he’s getting paid.

So let’s look at City of Heroes instead.  This is easier.  NCsoft owns all the rights, so there is no problem dealing with IP problems.  There should be no issue here, right?

The final plea

No server software stands alone.  Even if the previous problems can be brushed aside, it is very likely that Cryptic, in developing City of Heroes, licensed third party libraries, utilities, and other assets in order to create the game.  That licensing likely doesn’t allow NCsoft to give the server software out, even for a good cause.

This, by the way, is part of the answer to every question about why companies don’t open source their games when they shut them down.  They cannot if they don’t own all the code.

In order to cover themselves, NCsoft would have to run down every third party aspect of the software and get the permission of the licensing entity.  My gut says that NCsoft isn’t going to do this and, if they did, that getting every single third party on board would not be easy.

But if you can get past all of that, then you can have an MMORPG in your museum.

And I don’t even want to delve into the question of which version of a game ought to be preserved.  The answer to that will only make people angry since it likely won’t be the launch version or the version from what you might believe to be the golden era of the game.  It will most likely be the final version available from the build system.

All of that ought to be enough to make you say “screw it” and just start working on an emulator.  That has to be easier, right?  You can do what you want with that.  Then you can put it up in your museum.

Well, there is a whole paragraph devoted to that in the ruling.

The Acting Register did not, however, recommend an exemption to allow for instances where the preservation institution lacks lawful possession of the server software. She found the record insufficient to support a finding that the recreation of video game server software as described by proponents is likely to be a fair use. A number of scenarios described by proponents do not involve preserving server software that is already in an institution’s collections, but instead appear to involve something more akin to reconstructing the remote server. She found that this activity distinguishes proponents’ request from the preservation activity at issue in the case law upon which they relied. Moreover, she noted, the reconstruction of a work implicates copyright owners’ exclusive right to prepare derivative works.

That sums up pretty much as, “No, you may not have cheezeburger.”  Recreating is not preserving.  You either get the real deal or you get nothing at all.

And so it goes.  The door has been opened ever so slightly for the preservation of MMOs, but there are still many problems in the way.

Finally I want to call out what I consider a disingenuous to the point of being nearly deceptive part of the tweet above from The MADE.  This phrasing irks me greatly:

…we can bring those games back online legally

Without the necessary context, always a problem on Twitter, one might assume that people will be able to fire up their clients and play their favorite shut down MMO if only The MADE can get the server code.  However, this is covered in the document linked at the top as well:

Video games in the form of computer programs embodied in physical or downloaded formats that have been lawfully acquired as complete games, that do not require access to an external computer server for gameplay, and that are no longer reasonably available in the commercial marketplace, solely for the purpose of preservation of the game in a playable form by an eligible library, archives, or museum, where such activities are carried out without any purpose of direct or indirect commercial advantage and the video game is not distributed or made available outside of the physical premises of the eligible library, archives, or museum.

The emphasis is my own.

So no, should any of this come to pass, you are not suddenly going to be able to play City of Heroes or Star Wars Galaxies or any other closed MMO.  This whole thing isn’t being done just so you can play a video game. Unless you’re willing to schlep on over to Oakland to visit The MADE in person, you won’t be able to see what has been preserved.

And even then, I wonder what a visitor will be allowed to do.  MMOs are strange beasts.  They aren’t like Donkey Kong with discreet interaction parameters and a “Game Over” state after which everything starts again fresh.  MMOs, at least the ones mentioned above, are MMORPGs, with an emphasis on the RPG part.  You go into the world and play a role, interact with things, accumulate items and wealth.   A story unfolds before you as you progress, and it doesn’t reset when you put down the controller and walk away.

How will a place like The MADE handle this sort of game?

Do you let every random person who walks in create a new character?  Do you have some template characters available for people to wander around with?  Do you let people wander around the world and die or do things that irrevocably change the nature of a character’s position in the world?  Do you store progress?  Do you wipe progress every night?

Probably the best case, within the law, scenario here is that a place like The MADE will get software that will let them setup a closed environment in their facility where the general public will get to see, maybe poke at, but probably not play in any depth, certain MMOs.  The only people likely allowed greater access will be press writing articles or academics doing research… and the occasional big donor or volunteer who will get to make a character and play.   The rest of us will just have to feel better that something has been preserved and move on with our lives.

Which is fine.  I can live with that.

But I suspect that many people expect a lot more out of these efforts.

Addendum: Endgame Viable used a couple comments I made on Twitter in his post on this.  This post is essentially an expansion by a couple thousand words on those two tweets.

Addendum 2: Ars Technica has a write up on this as well.

Time Capsule – Computer Gaming World October 2003

I ran across this while I was working on upcoming Month in Review posts.  If I have a block of time I will sometimes knock out a couple of those long in advance.  Well, I’ll knock out the part I can do ahead of time, the looking back sections covering a year, five years, and ten years ago on the blog.  That is the most important part of each month’s review post, at least to me.

The review section is primarily about what I was posting back in the day.  However, I have started adding in addition information for context of the time, usually in the form of launches or closures.  Those will sometimes fall further back in time, being 15, 20, or more years ago.

As I was tracking something down that came up in 2003 for a “15 years ago” entry I ended up on a website that has an archive of issues of Computer Gaming World in .pdf format.

I started digging through the site, scanning various years.  Computer Gaming World, which later became Games for Windows Magazine, stopped publishing back in 2008, having run for 27 year.  During its run it covered a lot of computer gaming history.

You can find the archive at http://www.cgwmuseum.org/ .  Or you could find it there.  At some point between Thursday night and Saturday the site went down.  When I went back to continue looking I was greeted with error messages about the site having gone missing.

The transitory nature of the internet is one of its major frustrations.  Things change or disappear and data goes missing.

Unless, of course, the Internet Archive is backing the site up.

Fortunately I was able to find everything that went missing backed up and waiting for me and I was able to return to this gem from October 2003.

Computer Gaming World October 2003 cover

Just for openers there is a preview of World of Warcraft from more than a year before its launch.

There is also the CGW review of Star Wars Galaxies, something which will annoy the purists I am sure.

And while those are worth the price of admission, there are just so many little things in the issue that are interesting to see.  There are, of course, the ads.  So many great ads.

For SOE fans there are ads for the EverQuest Evolution, a roll-up pack of EverQuest expansions, the EverQuest Lost Dungeons of Norrath expansion featuring the all new “dungeon crawl” experience, and Lords of EverQuest, the Norrath based RTS.

There are many other things worth seeing.  Half-Life 2 was the top pre-order. (And EverQuest Evolved was on the top releases.)

And then there is the Pipeline section that has a list of upcoming releases with planned launch dates.  Included on that list:

  • EverQuest II – Q4 2003
  • Total Annihilation 2 – Q4 2003
  • World of Warcraft – Feb 2004
  • The Matrix Online – Q4 2004
  • GuildWars – Q4 2004

Good times.

Anyway, if you have time to roll though video game nostalgia, you could find worse places to wallow.

Addendum: If you go back a month, to September 2003, you can find their EVE Online review.  They liked the music and space graphics, but the UI… it sums up like this:

Two stars is all

You Get to Decorate the House You Have, Not the House You Might Want

Housing is one of the great line-item features that a lot of people think every MMO should have.  There is a strong desire to have a place to call your own in what tends to be an unchanging and unalterable virtual world.  There is some need within us to leave our mark somewhere in the game.  I get that.

And companies have responded to that over the years, offering up various forms of housing.  Housing was a big part of Ultima Online back in the day.  Housing was part of the attraction of WildStar, which just launched a few weeks back.  And over the years I have explored various implementations.  If I play a game long enough, and it has housing, I am usually there to give it a try.

But how well it sticks for me… well, that is another story.

Rift offered up housing with the Storm Legion expansion, but it was so free form that I barely did anything with it.

Dimension by the Sea

Unfurnished Dimension by the Sea

People have done amazing things with dimensions in Rift… they were even doing so back during the Storm Legion beta… but, like most of Storm Legion, it just didn’t hook me.

Lord of the Rings Online, by comparison, offered some very pretty housing that was, in fact, a house.  A house on a lot even.

A house in Bree

A house in Bree

But the options for it were so limited that I ended up letting it lapse.  There wasn’t much advantage to having the house and the customizations were limited to just a few locations within the house.  You could hang up things from the world… taxidermied monsters or fishing trophies… but it still felt very generic.

And then clipping issues...

And then clipping issues…

And while I liked the idea of there being a yard, the instanced neighborhoods were somewhat awkward.

Elves and their damn monuments

Elves and their damn monuments

And it was tough to find a neighborhood where all of us could find a house we could afford.  In the end, the minor storage benefit of my house in LOTRO meant I let the lease lapse.

EverQuest actually threw down and added housing with the House of Thule expansion.  It borrowed a lot from its younger brother, EverQuest II, while using the instanced neighborhood model similar to LOTRO.  And I was reasonably impressed with SOE’s ability to overlay yet another complex interface onto the aging EverQuest client.  Plus the houses looked good.

A more complete development

A Norrathian housing development

The problem there was that I was pretty much done with EverQuest as a main game by that point.  I like to visit old Norrath, so I had to go try it out, but I had nothing really to put in the house and the upkeep, which was aimed at those who had kept up with inflation, was well beyond my means.

And there have been others.  Runes of Magic offered housing that gave you some form of storage, along with a woman in a skimpy French maid outfit.

Go Google the outfit

Go Google the outfit

Landmark seems to be all housing.  It is about as free form as you can get. no game at this point.

Behold Zuul's Sky Altar

Behold Zuul’s Sky Altar

The pity is that there is no actual game around it yet.

Meanwhile, in EVE Online, the Captain’s quarters… the start (and probably the end) of housing in New Eden… allowed you to see your full body at last, and then park that body on a couch to watch something boring on a screen.

What is on Space TV today?

What is on Space TV today?

That might be too meta for me.

And since I am on about different flavors of housing, I will mention Star Wars Galaxies before some fan comes in to remind us all that this was the greatest housing ever.  We will have to agree to disagree on that point.  Yes, it gave you your own little spot in the real world where you could open a store or whatever.  But it was a visual blight on the game,  with huge clumps of houses strewn across the open landscape, encroaching right up to the edge of any in-game landmark.  It made the game look like a Tatooine trailer park.

Looks like a Star Wars trailer park

Literally a Tatooine trailer park

But after having gone through so much in-game housing over the years, I have to say that there has only been one housing model that has really suited me.  And that is the EverQuest II model.

Yes, you do not get your own house in the midst of the world.  At best you share a door to a stately home or guild hall with everybody else who has rented the same facility, so you all live there in parallel in your own instances.  I do not think that is necessarily a bad thing.  It keeps away the blight problem, and while there is the problem of finding somebody’s house from a listing at a door, one of the bragging points I have heard about the SWG model was that finding people was difficult so that knowing where a given person lived and set up a store gave you power.  I’ll take the less blight version.

But the key for me was that EQII housing gave me exactly what I wanted, which was a simple house where I could hang trophies and other rewards from my travels.  I had the option to decorate, and at times Gaff, who had a carpenter, would send me some neat furniture to spiff up my home, but mostly I just decorated with things picked up as I played.  And the important part was that somebody at SOE foresaw that need and provided me with plenty of items to stick in my home.  In fact, whoever came up with the reward of a weapon you could mount on your wall for the Lore & Legend quests was a genius, followed by the person who decided to make heritage quest rewards displayable in your home.  I went through and looked at every character I had played past level 20 the other night, and every single one of them has a house and has at least some Lore & Legend quest rewards hung on the wall.

Weapons on the wall

Weapons on the wall

There are other aspects about it that make EQII housing good.  The interface is simple.  The house models themselves come in a variety of designs, from simple box flats to a whole island if you want a big guild hall.  And the base models are cheap.  You can have a house in any city for five silver a week, which was inexpensive back at launch when SOE was working very hard to keep a lid on inflation and no mob in the game dropped actual coin.

EverQuest II housing is really ideal for my desires. It is just a pity that it is in EQII.

It is a pity because I do not play EQII.  I don’t play it because, for all the little things it does right, I don’t enjoy the main game.  I don’t enjoy the main game, the character progression and zones and levels and what not for various reasons.  Some of the reasons are pretty concrete, such as the fact that none of my close friends play the game anymore.  It is on the official “never again” list for the instance group.  Some of the reasons are very subjective.  I really don’t like the 50-70 zones all that much.  Everything after Desert of Flames makes me yawn, and even that expansion still strikes me as “the new stuff.”

After all of the above, I am finally getting to my point.

Despite the fact that EverQuest II has pretty much the ideal housing setup for me, I do not play EverQuest II.  I don’t play EverQuest II because I don’t play MMOs for the side features, I play them because I enjoy the overall game.

So I love housing in EverQuest II and the music system in Lord of the Rings Online and the old world of EverQuest and the OCD inducing find all the points of interest apects of GuildWars 2 and… hrmm… I am sure sure there is something I could inject here about Rift if I thought about it… but I don’t play those game because the main game just doesn’t click with me.

I play World of Warcraft and EVE Online which, respectively, ten years in has no housing at all and possibly the most useless housing in the genre.  I play them because I enjoy the main game, or the part of the main game in which I indulge.

So if you are out there trolling for page views by raging about garrisons in one breath because they didn’t meet your unrealistic and unsubstantiated expectations, after making it clear you never cared about housing being brought to WoW in the previous breath, in an environment where housing was probably a slip of the tongue to describe the feature, because Blizzard has been pretty clear in the past about their views on housing in WoW… well… I guess I got the punch line at the start of this sentence, didn’t I?  Those who get paid by the page view…

Would I like garrisons to be EQII housing brought to Azeroth?  You bet!  That would be a dream come true.

But unless you have a compelling argument that garrisons are so bad that they are going to ruin the main game, there isn’t much drama to be had in my opinion.  We can talk about how better the developers might have spent their time I suppose.  But this is a pet battles sort of feature.

In the end, I am buying Warlords of Draenor for ten more levels of World of Warcraft and all the zones and stories and pop culture references and silly shenanigans that goes with it.  And I suspect that will be the story for most people.

If garrisons have any merit, people will play with them and maybe even stay subscribed a bit longer.  Or if they have any achievements… and of course they will have achievements… people will play with them for that.  And if garrisons are truly the waste of time and effort as described, then people will use them to the extent that they need to in order to get to level cap and grab the achievements, at which point they will be forgotten like many a feature in the past.

Is somebody going to try to convince me that this was a make or break feature for Warlords of Draenor?

Or, if you want, just tell me about your favorite MMO housing.  Somebody will anyway, so I might as well invite it!

The tl;dr version: If housing really is a must-have important feature for you, you probably aren’t playing WoW now and you probably won’t be playing it in the future.

Anyway, back to happy pictures.  I put a gallery of my housing collections in EQII, plus a bit of the Revelry & Honor guild hall (which is huge), after the cut, because it really is my ideal housing plan.

Continue reading

Look Out Clone Wars Adventures, EA is Gunning for You!

First Star Wars: The Old Republic drove Star Wars Galaxies from the universe, leaving only an echo of the past lurking in the dark corners of the internet.

But now, not content with that victory, EA and BioWare appear to be maneuvering their metaphorical death star to target the rebel base that is Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures!

That’s no trap! It’s a moon!

That surely must be the reasoning behind dropping a very public message about SWTOR going free to play. These things do not happen by accident.

Yes, they may downplay it [edit: or maybe not], back peddle, twist their words after the fact, pressure sites to pull their stories, and wrap it up in some nonsensical statements.  But the message has been sent.

It is a clear shot over SOE’s bow!

How will the plucky little game with its frequent content updates contend with the might of this fully voiced and operational fourth pillar behemoth out of Redwood City?  Will they be able to stand up to Emperor Riccitiello and Darth Muzyka?

And how will the fourth pillar be applied to mini-games and a cash shop devoted to selling pets and clothing?  Surely this will make for the best cash shop ever!  Like a Nordstrom among the stars!

Will SOE prevail with a Valve/Target gambit?  Stay tuned!

What Google Has Been Telling Me Lately – Spaceship Edition

Nobody at Google actually tells me anything… except that they seem hell bent on redesigning their UI across all of their apps so that they all match Google+.  I am, frankly, not a fan.

But indirectly Google tells me things via the search results that get directed here.

Sometimes that can be viewed as just a message about the search terms in which this site ranks highly.  Often those are the very obvious.  Variations of the name of the blog tend to send people here.

And odd mash-ups of past topics also show up from which I am sure I could build my own version of The Road to Popehat. (Which I sort of do in my monthly summary most months.)  I think searches like “Tom of Finland Harry Potter” would certainly get me started, as does “one does not simply cat tank into mordor.”

Some of these searches can be oddly specific, such as “swtor email in use,” which I am sure is somehow related to account creation.

But sometimes my site ends up not only ranking high in a search, but that search is apparently at least mildly popular.  And from those I can derive different, more specific messages from Google.  Currently Google is sending my three such messages.  They are:

When is Hulkageddon V Already?

Easily the most popular search terms bringing people here revolve around Hulkageddon V.

People want to know when!

Hulkageddon is a player event in EVE Online when some players get together and blow up the ships of other players who, for the most part, would rather their ships not be blown up.

I put up a post about this right after the event was announced back in early November.  At the time it contained all the information available and a link to the forum thread where future information would be posted.   Two and a half months later, the post still has all the information available, and people seem to be getting impatient about it.

Of course I cannot tell if the people searching seek to actively participate in Hulkageddon V or if they just want a heads up so they can take an in-station skills break while it goes on, but there is clearly some desire out there for more information.

People Still Want to Play Star Wars Galaxies

Search terms around SWG emulation started showing up regularly the day after SWG went dark.

Connection to SWG Lost... Forever

These terms bring people to a post I did about SWG emulators that are out there.

All I can really say is that there is clearly some interest out there.  The fact that such searches have been going up noticeably as the first month of SWTOR draws to a close might be a message, but the sample size is so small that any conclusions would be unsupported.

Civilization II is Still Popular

I do not appear to be alone in my love of Civilization II.

A simpler time...

Back in October I finished up my tale about getting Civilization II to run on 64-bit Windows 7.  Things were quiet after that, but around mid-December there was a spike in searches on the subject, and Google has been delivering people here based on Civ and Windows 7 based search terms ever since.

Does This Mean Anything?

Probably only that there are a few people out there interested in a couple of topics about which I have written.  Google sends between 600 and 1000 people to the site based on search results.  These three just stand out in that variations on these terms have topped this list for the last month or more, and have kept those three posts on the Top Posts list on the side bar.  That list is usually just the home of what I wrote over the last week, that post about the guild name generator, and various Pokemon related posts.  People love their Pokemon.

Anyway, that is my read on what Google has been telling me of late.

What I Saw at the End of the Galaxy

Star Wars Galaxies, that is, because last night was it, the end.  The servers are down and the game is no more.

But when I logged in, the results were in for the Galactic Civil War.  The Rebels took the war with a score of 10 servers to only 4 for the Imperials.

Final Results

It is like the basis of an alternate history novel.  How did things play out on, say, the Sunrunner server, where the Rebels only got 4%?  Is that the version of where Luke doesn’t leave the homestead and gets killed with his Uncle Owen and family when the stormtroopers show up?

Bloodfin, where the Rebels eked out 11%, must be the version where Darth Vader says, “I am your father!” and Luke says, “Really? Cool!”

I always picture myself saying that in Luke’s place.

While on Starfire, where the Imperials only got 7%, Luke defeats Darth Vader on Bespin while the Emperor slips on a bar of soap in the shower, cracking his head open and killing him.

And on my own server, Bria, the Rebels won, but only with 63%, which probably means that was the version where Lando and Wedge fail to get out of the second death star before it blows up… and all the Ewoks die due to debris raining down on Endor.

But any victory is still a victory, and so it was proclaimed.

Not sure who she was, but if they are casting for a Popeye MMO, she should try out for Olive Oyl.

The skies of Mos Eisley were filled with fireworks and rebel ships doing fly-bys.

Three is usually a “missing man” formation, right?

More fireworks

Meanwhile, in town, rebel troops were marching, counter marching, beating up suspected Imperial sympathizers, and collecting New Republic “taxes.”  Cash only, please.  No, you cannot have a receipt.

When I say, “Your left,” your left foot hits the deck…

Thinking this might be a good time to stay out of the way, and wanting to accomplish something on the last night of Star Wars Galaxies, I decided I would try to see at least something new on Tatooine.

I decided on Jabba’s Palace.

I managed to figure out how to get a waypoint set for the Palace and set off following the arrow in my X-38 Landspeeder.

A starter vehicle, modest in all respects

I didn’t get anything like that in SWTOR, let me tell you.

And it was then I discovered what a wasteland Tatoonie really was.  Desert is bad enough, but suburban blight had totally taken over.

Looks like a Star Wars trailer park

And it just went on and on and on.

Suburban Wasteland Sanctuary

I get that a lot of people really, really liked having not only a house in the game, but having that house exist as a separate physical structure rather than a door to 100 or so instanced versions of the same house.  But the downside though is easy to see.

On the ride from Mos Eisley, through Anchorhead, and to Jabbas Palace, there were only really breaks in the housing immediately around the towns and again at one point of interest, the Lars Homestead, along the way.

One clear spot, but I could see houses in the distance

Well, there is no point in kvetching about it now I suppose, but I just want to remember the endless sprawl as part of the whole.

I continued on towards Jabba’s.

More housing!

Sooner than I thought it would, Jabba’s palace hove into view.

Destination in sight

They let me in and I found my way around into Jabba’s chamber.

Reg!

And that is where I spent the remainder of the time SWG had left.  For a while it was just me and some of the standard cast.

His father was a much better dresser

A couple of other people showed up, choosing Jabba’s palace to be their final resting place in SWG.

It is what you do at a wake…

I listened to the players, long term veterans of the game, talk about the game while we were reminded every minute that the server was going down and that we should go some place safe to log out.

There was a last minute visitor who came to give Jabba his last regards.

Time to settle up

And then acted on his threat.

Boom Jabba!

And so I recorded Semmi Vipra’s last act in the game.  Soon the count hit one minute.

Some last farewells

And then the moment of truth came.

Connection to SWG Lost!

The connection was down, the game was over.

And so ended Star Wars Galaxies, a game with many high and low points, a game distinct in many ways, a milestone in MMO history.  The official site now has a final message from the SWG team.

A Thank You to the Star Wars Galaxies Community

Looking back on Star Wars Galaxies and all these years I am so thankful for being able to be a part of the Star Wars Galaxies community both as the Producer and as a fan. It would not have been the incredible experience that it was without you, the players and fans, the dedicated team of people who worked on it over the years and the fantastic Star Wars® galaxy itself, which offered us a very unique and compelling place to explore, fight, play, make friends, and build our homes.

This is a book of memories, so let me start with a few of my own.

When I was a little boy, my father brought me to the movies to see a new science fiction film that he heard was pretty good. What I remembered most was the feeling of awe I had back then, and still feel to this day. Once I had experienced Star Wars, my life would never be the same again. In May of 2004, I walked into the office at Sony Online Entertainment to start a new job working on a game based on the very same story that had amazed me in my youth. Cool! I was very excited. All I wanted to do then was learn how this thing worked, and I spent the next seven years doing just that. I can say that not a day passed in the development of Star Wars Galaxies where I didn’t learn something new. Each day presented different challenges and solving them was always a rewarding accomplishment. It is everyone’s hope to find a job that you look forward to each and every day. Being a developer on Star Wars Galaxies was just that kind of job for me.

Star Wars means something different to each of us. That’s why we played Star Wars Galaxies. On June 26th, 2003, SOE and LucasArts released Star Wars Galaxies and, for the first time, you could play online with your friends in the Star Wars universe. I was amazed at how much there was to do in the game – player housing, crafting, entertaining, combat, and more. One of the most exciting times for all of us on the team was the launch of the Jump to Lightspeed expansion, which let players fly and battle it out in space in a true 3D simulation. Now we could all truly live out our Star Wars fantasies. It was like being a kid again.

Giving players a chance to live out that Star Wars fantasy has been the best part of the job. Some of my favorite memories include fighting Imperial forces on Hoth in the Battle of Echo Base, seeing those first player-created quests in the Chronicle Master System, fighting the undead in the Death Troopers update and, probably best of all, taking part in invasions and actually getting to make a difference for my faction in the Galactic Civil War.

From my first day to the last, Star Wars Galaxies was, and will always be, a meaningful and memorable part of my life, an experience I’ll treasure and share with anyone who wants to hear a good story. It has been an honor to take this journey with you, the community and all of the team members who have made Star Wars Galaxies such an awesome game.

On behalf of the Star Wars Galaxies team, thank you. We have truly enjoyed getting to know you – our dedicated players – over the years. From in-game events to Fan Faires, we appreciate your continued loyalty and support. It would not have been possible without you.

May the Force be with you. Always.

– Tony “Teesquared” Tyson

There will be a memory book posted at some point.  And that is all that remains.

[Addendum: The SWG Memory Book is now available, as noted over at Massively.]

[Addendum 2: Oops, it is gone now, along with the SWG site.  I hope you grabbed it already!]

Experience to Come Quicker on Fippy Darkpaw and Something About SWG

There was an announcement over at the EQ Players site, which I will quote in whole both because it is short and because the URLs for such news items seem to change when they go from being in the current month to the archive of pasts months.  It is like SOE is still figuring out this whole “world wide web” thing.

Anyway, the quote, with a link to the forum post about it:

Experience Changes on the Time Locked Progression Servers with the 12/14 Patch

One of the most fiercely debated topics in the history of the current round of Time Locked Progression Servers has been the rate of experience gain that people on the Time Locked Progression servers achieve. During the early phases of the Time Locked Progression Servers, experience gain was severely curtailed to give a closer experience of what playing EverQuest was like in the early days.

As time has progressed and the servers have also, it became time for the Development Team to re-evaluate the rate of experience gain on these servers. After much thought and a significant amount of internal discussion, the Dev team has decided to raise the amount of experience gained on the TLPs. While this rate is still significantly slower than it is on the majority of normal servers, it is a noticeable increase from where the servers started out.

We look forward to seeing your reaction for the changes and hope you enjoy them!

This was alluded to before in the “why is my AA experience so damn slow” thread on the forums, but now there is an official date… which is today.  It is live already.

The announcement includes what might be one of the more transparent lies I have read this week, the idea that anybody is looking forward to the reaction.

Okay, I am looking forward to the reaction, but Peistro couldn’t have possibly known that when he wrote it, unless he too seeks to be an agent of discord and chaos in the world.

The first actual reaction was, as expected, about AA experience.  One of the complaints previously was that AA experience was accruing at drastically different rates for different races/classes.  Apparently it still works that way.

And in a complete digression into the Star Wars Galaxies forum, what has to be one of the more annoying and/or ironic posts in the thread “Where will your grave be?” (i.e. where will you be character be located when the server goes down), Yoyomike, who has 649 posts and a Princess Leia forum avatar, felt the need to remind the thread that the whole thing was “just a game.”

Thanks, I’m sure everybody appreciated that.

No link, since the forums will probably go away soon in any case.

Meanwhile, the best answer, as pointed out by Werit, came from Fishhook445:

No grave for my character, due to a hyperdrive malfunction when he goes into hyperspace in his YT-2400 he is going to be sent back in time to the TOR era. Which is where his story starts, and i’ll have the smuggler for that game so it’ll be as if I never lost him to begin with and only transfered him over to TOR.

Good on you Fishhook.  Always look on the bright side of life.

Oh, and a bunch of players got banned in EverQuest.

This Week: The Changing of the Guard for Star Wars MMOs

Tomorrow, Tuesday, December 13th, starts early access to Star Wars: The Old Republic.  The “soft launch” begins, the game is officially live, letting in paying customers.

And two days further, on Thursday, December 15th, Star Wars Galaxies will shut down at midnight Eastern Standard Time.

I wish I could say that there was a dramatic difference between the two games, the way SWTOR plays as it is starting off and the way SWG is plays in its dying days.  But for me, the two games seem remarkably similar.

It sure feels that old...

There are, of course, a wide range of solid reasons (if you’re a fan of either game) or lame excuses (if you are not) as to why the two games seem so similar.

SWG didn’t start that way, but got forced into that mold with the NGE, while BioWare’s claim to fame in SWTOR has been “story,” which entails hour and hours of watching quest text acted out on screen.  A winning feature for some, a waste for others.

But beyond story, SWTOR fits the mold of your standard issue, Diku inspired, WoW fearing MMORPG.

And so BioWare is probably even now sending out notifications to let people know who is getting into the first day of early access.

What, you thought they would let in just anybody?

So the MMO blogesphere will be full of first day stories.

I won’t be joining in on that.  I cancelled my SWTOR pre-order after playing in the beta.  Somebody is going to have to tell me how big that launch day patch ends up being.

I will, however, try to be logged in for the final minutes of SWG.

I have meant to log in and explore the game a little more before it goes.  But I really haven’t done much beyond the one weekend’s worth of exploration, which confirmed my “sameness” theory.

So on Thursday night I’ll be standing on Tatooine waiting for the end to come.

Maybe I’ll watch a few of the classic SWG trailers and think about what might have been.

The era of the Jesus feature is over

A Jesus feature, it emerged, is something that turns “4 loaves of bread into 50,000 new subscribers“. It’s the home run, the called shot into deep left field, the awesome idea that will solve all of CCP’s problems, carved in a stone tablet made of virgin Eyjafjallajökull lava and delivered from on high down to the adoring fish-factory devs.

Supertitans! Tech-IV! Jovians! Jovians in Tech-IV Supertitans! And they’re naked, and want your precious NEX store clothes and monocles!

You get the idea.

Trebor Daehdoow, Member of the Council of Stellar Management

The quote in the title was attributed to Hilmar Pétursson, CEO of CCP, as part of his address to the latest session of the CSM.

According to the full post, the next couple of expansions will be more like Crucible, fixing and refining.  It will be likely be 18 months before the next big “new feature” based expansion.  While the minutes of the session are not out, that seemed to be the general gist of things.  The Mittani seemed to only be tweeting about alcohol at the CSM, which I take as a sign that there was little drama.

Now, in the case of CCP and EVE Online, they kind of backed themselves into a corner.  Their last set of “big” features, which came as part of Incarna, and they failed to draw many new people while alienating a lot of veterans.

But a lot of other companies take their shots at “Jesus features.”  Free to play seems to be the big one these days.  And it seems to work, for the most part, though it isn’t really a feature of the game, just a payment plan change.

But history is also full of big feature plays that failed.  Trammel in Ultima Online and the NGE in Star Wars Galaxies, to name a couple of historical precedents.

Do MMOs just hit a point in time when the best thing to do is incremental changes and improvements?  Where raising the level cap, adding a few more zones and dungeons, tacking on a new features, and maybe tossing in a new race or class is all they can safely do?

When does the era of the “Jesus feature” end for most MMOs?