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Shadowbane

EVE Evolved: Designing EVE Onland, part 1

Sci-Fi, Dark Age of Camelot, Darkfall, EVE Online, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, PvP, Endgame, Opinion, Ultima Online, Shadowbane, Mortal Online, EVE Evolved, Perpetuum, Sandbox, Player-Generated Content, Subscription

EVE Evolved title image
When I'm not playing or writing about EVE Online, I can usually be found huddled over my computer typing lines of code into a compiler and chipping away at bugs that make varying degrees of sense. Designing my own hardcore space game is a really fun challenge and very fulfilling work, but I have a dirty little game dev secret: I've actually always wanted to make a fantasy game. While the budget and personnel required to take on a project the scale of an MMO remain quite far outside my grasp for the moment, it's still fun to think about how I might design such a game if the opportunity arose. The MMO genre seems to be heading for a sandbox revolution this year, and there's no bigger sandbox than EVE Online, but could all of EVE's gameplay translate to a fantasy game?

EVE is probably the most atypical MMO out there, maintaining a subscription-based single-shard PvP sandbox in a genre that's typically headed in the exact opposite direction. There are several new sci-fi sandboxes on the way that may or may not qualify as massively multiplayer titles, but the vast majority of MMO gamers still prefer to keep their feet on the ground in fantasy lands. I often find myself wondering how much of EVE Online's core gameplay is possible only because of its setting -- and how much could actually be applied to a fantasy MMO. Not only should it be possible to adapt most of what makes EVE great to a modern land-based game, but many of the mechanics sandbox gamers now attribute almost solely to EVE actually started life in classic fantasy MMOs like Ultima Online.

In this week's unusual EVE Evolved, I'd like to start a game design thought experiment as I delve into the hypothetical world of EVE Onland.

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The Game Archaeologist's top MMO stories of 2012

World of Warcraft, Anarchy Online, Asheron's Call, City of Heroes, EverQuest, Final Fantasy XI, Meridian 59, Culture, MMO Industry, Ultima Online, Vanguard, Shadowbane, Everquest Online Adventures, The Game Archaeologist, Miscellaneous

The Game Archaeologist seals up 2012
As another gaming year spins to a close, we here at the Institute for Digital Interactive Entertainment have been holding our archaeological department hostage with a trained buffy-tufted marmoset until it delivered a final report. After hours of begging and infected monkey bites, the head of that department, Prof. Justin Olivetti, Ph.D., handed us a scrap of urine-soaked paper with the following article inscribed.

While the Institute strongly suggests that you ignore this report and instead work on your button-mashing exercises, the board of directors stated that all such papers must be posted for the public to see.

This report is presented in the Yetbari typeface and contains a sequential series of items that number between 11 and 13.

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GDC Online 2012: SWTOR's Damion Schubert dissects story as a mechanic

Sci-Fi, Meridian 59, Events (Real-World), Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Endgame, Opinion, Shadowbane, Free-to-Play, Events (Massively's Coverage), Star Wars: The Old Republic

BioWare's Damion Schubert at GDC
Damion Schubert remains a well-respected member of the online development community. He can tell tales of his time working on Meridian 59 and Shadowbane. His latest project allowed him to build many of the integral systems of Star Wars: The Old Republic, arguably his most successful work to date. He also writes regularly for Game Developer Magazine and speaks at GDC Online and many other game development conferences nearly every year. When it comes to developers who have shaped mulitiplayer online games, Schubert is one of the originals.

At the Game Developers Conference in Austin, Texas, this week, Schubert spent an hour explaining the thought process and development woes of taking an element like BioWare storytelling and making it work in a massively multiplayer setting. This being the first GDC Online since the launch of SWTOR, Schubert spoke frankly and openly about many of the struggles his team had to overcome to make the gaming systems work. Some of the ideas worked out well; others, not so well.

As an avid player of SWTOR, I saw new light. As I listened to Schubert speak, I began to understand why many players are frustrated with elements of the existing game. I also began to understand that if some of the systems and thought processes has been changed early on, players might have received the game better. That said, I also believe that Schubert's team prevented a lot of issues that could have popped up had certain elements been implemented in the way they were originally conceived.

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The Game Archaeologist: When dead MMOs come back to life

Fantasy, Sci-Fi, The Matrix Online, Star Wars Galaxies, Hellgate: London, Tabula Rasa, Shadowbane, Mythos, Free-to-Play, All Points Bulletin, LEGO Universe, The Game Archaeologist, Faxion Online

Hellgate Tokyo
Maybe I'm alone in this, but my jaw just dropped when I came home this past week to see that Massively posted the news that Shadowbane is coming back to life. Granted, it's only going to happen in China, but still, that's pretty incredible. Shadowbane's been in the ground for three years now, and if I had to pick an MMO that deserved resurrection, this particular one would be farthest from my mind (no offense if you liked the game; it's just that there are so many others that are even more worthy).

But how can this not give you hope? Many of us have lost an MMO we loved or at least had a decked-out character populating the character select screen, and the thought of that game coming back against all odds is a goosebump-rising one. It may also smack of justice served, as some MMOs fail not because of faulty gameplay but because of mismanagement by the studio, complex legal wrangling, or bad marketing.

Today let's look at a few examples of dead MMOs that were brought back to life and what this may mean for the future of the industry. Zombie MMOs! Not, you know, MMOs with zombies.

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ChangYou plans to bring Shadowbane back in China

Fantasy, MMO Industry, New Titles, News Items, Shadowbane

Old MMOs never die, they just get farmed out.  Well, except AC2.  And TMO.  And E&B.  And SWG...
MMOs die. It's a very sad reality, but a reality just the same. And more often than not, there's no chance for a revival. But every so often the stars align just right and fans get lucky, which is almost the case with Shadowbane. Nearly three years after the game's shutdown, it looks like it'll be getting a new lease on life... as the basis for a new title developed by ChangYou.

There are no firm details on what the new game will look like, although it appears to have been in development for roughly a year at this time. Preliminarily titled World of Shadowbane, the game is still too far in the future for any sort of launch information, much less discussion of whether or not the game will see an American release. Still, it's closer to a chance at revival than the game has had in the past three years, and that's something.

The Game Archaeologist seals up 2011

A Tale in the Desert, Asheron's Call, Dark Age of Camelot, EverQuest, Lineage, Meridian 59, PlanetSide, Shadowbane, Everquest Online Adventures, The Game Archaeologist, Miscellaneous

Guild Wars 2
You know what I love about the end of each year? The lists. Man, but I'm a sucker for lists, especially when they come in "best of" varieties. In the lull between Christmas and New Year's, there typically isn't a lot happening in the world of entertainment, so it's a good time to look back before we head forward.

And so it is for The Game Archaeologist. 2011 marks the second year I've been doing this column, and it's been one of my personal favorite series to write. Every week I'm learning more and more about the history of the MMO genre, and I'm encouraged to see just how much passion and interest there are for the titles that started it all and got us to where we are today.

So before we head into 2012, let's take one last glimpse back at the road we've traveled. If you've missed out on any of these columns or want to revisit your favorite classic MMO, I've compiled a huge list of everything I talked about this year, from histories to interviews to player stories. There's also a special request for you (yes, you) at the end of this column, so do me a favor and hit that jump!

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The Perfect Ten: Non-vanilla server rulesets

Age of Conan, Asheron's Call, City of Heroes, Dark Age of Camelot, Darkfall, Dofus, EVE Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Fallen Earth, Lord of the Rings Online, Ultima Online, Vanguard, Shadowbane, Humor, Perfect Ten, Miscellaneous

Perfect Ten
I've always thought that rulesets are a golden opportunity for MMO developers to get creative with their products and try something fresh and exciting. Unfortunately, most every MMO these days, new and old, adheres to the four "vanilla" rulesets that have been in place since Pong. You have your default PvE, your same-as-PvE-except-we-have-a-naming-policy PvE-RP, and the two player vs. player variants: PvP and PvP-RP.

Those are all well and good, but... y'know... couldn't rulesets be used to create fascinating variations on these games? It turns out that yes, yes they can.

While the vanilla rulesets are the vast majority, there does exist a group of fringe rulesets that dared to walk the different patch, er, path and made versions of MMOs that are a bold and refreshing flavor. Like blue! Sometimes these new rulesets were whipped up to inject new life into an aging title, giving players a valid reason to come back and see the game from a different perspective.

In this week's Perfect Ten, we're going to check out just how wild 'n' wacky server rulesets can get!

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The Game Archaeologist uncovers Shadowbane: Talking with Josef Hall and Todd Coleman, part 2

Fantasy, Culture, Interviews, MMO Industry, Shadowbane, Free-to-Play, The Game Archaeologist

Shadowbane creators
Don't miss the first part of this interview with the makers of Shadowbane, which we posted last week! And now for the thrilling conclusion...

The Game Archaeologist: What was the reason behind the free-to-play switch in 2006? Did this help the game's population any?

Josef Hall: Todd and I left Wolfpack shortly after it was acquired by Ubisoft, so we don't really have insight into the decision-making process behind the switch.

Todd Coleman: From what I have heard, it had a very positive impact on the size of the player population -- but yeah, I have no idea what it meant to the game monetarily.

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The Game Archaeologist uncovers Shadowbane: Your journeys

Fantasy, Culture, PvP, Shadowbane, The Game Archaeologist

Shadowbane
Every time I tackle a new game for this column, I keep rediscovering a key truth: that there are the bare facts of an MMO that you can research and process, and there are the memories and experiences that transcend the features bullet points on the back of the box. It's always terrific to see players come out of the woodwork and say things like, "You know what really made this game special...?"

Shadowbane is proving an interesting case study as well. Because it flew so very low on my personal radar during the entirety of its operation, I naturally assumed it wasn't that good for the few souls who did play it. It turns out that I was wrong, considering just how many testimonies we've had from people who admit that if you could get past the graphical limitations and technical issues, there was a helluva game experience waiting for you.

So to follow up from last week's interview with a blogger, this week we're going to hear from Massively readers who took the time to send in their favorite memories of Shadowbane so that they could be preserved in the hallowed Game Archaeologist vaults. Let's do it!

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The Game Archaeologist uncovers Shadowbane: The battle-scarred blogger

Fantasy, Culture, Interviews, Shadowbane, Free-to-Play, The Game Archaeologist

Shadowbane
I've long since enjoyed doing this column because, to me, it feels like the next best thing to having been there back in the day, playing these games. No one MMO player can occupy all titles at once, so experiences are bound to pass us by. Fortunately, the gamers who were there have long memories and are often more than willing to share a story or two if given half the chance.

After last week's initial foray into our Shadowbane retrospective, I fished around for a hearty veteran of the minotaur wars who was willing to step up and answer a few questions without succumbing to post-traumatic stress disorder. Within a minute, my good friend Grimnir bit into the topic, and I reeled him in as he flopped and gasped for air. At some point, this metaphor got away from me, but no worries. Hit that jump and let's cast our nets down memory river and see what we can dredge up!

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The Game Archaeologist uncovers Shadowbane: The highlights

Fantasy, Culture, PvP, Shadowbane, Free-to-Play, The Game Archaeologist

Way back when I used to haunt the corridors of Gamestop and not shun the place due to its stinky evil, I remember being enticed with these fancy-pantsy "MMORPG" boxes when I'd see them on the shelf. I must have picked up Shadowbane a dozen or so times to check out the blurbs on the back, mentally weighing whether or not this would be the one to introduce me to online gaming, but ultimately it was not to be.

It's probably for the best, considering that Shadowbane was primarily PvP and I'm a PvE guy at heart. Plus, the title never really took off the way that publisher Ubisoft had hoped, spending most of its six years of operation lurking in the background of the MMO industry instead of sharing the spotlight.

But still, six years! That's far longer than any of the titles we've been talking about these past couple months, and considering that Shadowbane won last week's poll to become this month's topic, there are obviously strong feelings lurking among you. What did Shadowbane try to do differently, how did it stay alive as long as it did, and what was its downfall? Hit the jump to find out!

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Shadowbane closure date extended to July, possible new lease on life

Fantasy, MMO Industry, News Items, Shadowbane, Free-to-Play


We thought we'd seen the end of Shadowbane in April, but we're happy to report that we were wrong. The game's servers were scheduled to go dark yesterday, May 1st. Ubisoft said this was the case and the developers said their goodbyes. However, overwhelming response from the playerbase is now keeping the game alive a bit longer for a proper farewell, and this stay of execution could possibly allow the devs to seek other options. Shadowbane developer Xanther writes, "Following our recent news, the support and enthusiasm the community has shown for Shadowbane has led to an extension of the closure date to July 1, 2009. This should allow the community enough time to play out its final days appropriately. We are looking into various options to make these final days as fun as possible!"

It seems they're also looking into options beyond closure events for the players. Thanks to a tip from Massively reader NT_we see that Aeria Games has mentioned on Twitter that they're interested in picking up the game and are in discussion with Ubisoft. Also, Aeria Games is seeking input from Shadowbane players to help determine how viable running this title would be. You can let them know via Twitter at @aeriagames. While the situation still remains grim, that Shadowbane has roughly two months of time left, we're happy to see there's potential for a new lease on life for the game if publishers are willing to keep it running. If Massively learns that Shadowbane gets picked up by a new publisher, we'll be sure to let you know.

[Thanks, NT_]

As the moon wanes, Shadowbane is no more

Fantasy, Events (In-Game), MMO Industry, Shadowbane


The developers of Shadowbane will shut down its servers for the last time on May 1st, 2009. The closure comes only weeks after its 6th year anniversary and a year after the historic "Shadowbane Reboot," which relaunched the game to take advantage of better stability and performance architecture.

Shadowbane launched in March 2003 and was a pioneer for open-PvP, political intrigue, and dynamic world content, where the player could actually have an affect on the game's environment. Unfortunately, the title was plagued by stability issues at release, which prevented it from ever becoming much more than a cult classic. The game saw two expansions in its lifetime: Rise of Chaos (Dec 2003) and Throne of Oblivion (Dec 2004).

Ownership of the MMO changed hands several times over its lifespan and while it originated as a subscription-based game, it eventually went free-to-play in March 2006 and finally ad-driven in March 2007. We're always sad to report the demise of an MMORPG, so let us leave you with the fond memories of one of Shadowbane's developers.

Thanks for being a sometimes inspiration and sometimes whipping-boy for the MMORPG genre, Shadowbane. May your soul be eternally bound to the Tree of Life.

Shadowbane dev studio to create MMO for the Wii

At a glance, Game Mechanics, New Titles, News Items, Shadowbane, Consoles


Here's a weird Venn diagram for you: those of you who remember Shadowbane with fondness and also love the Nintendo Wii will be totally excited about this piece of news. Stray Bullet, the Austin, Texas MMO developer, have announced that they're working on a new MMO. At the same time, they've posted a few openings on Gamasutra's JobSeeker board, one for a Senior Programmer for an un-named Wii project, and the other for a Gameplay Programmer for an MMO project. Neither posting mentions the other, but chances are, they're for the same project.

Really, there's no bad time for wild speculation, so let's get the ball rolling! We're envisioning, obviously enough, actual hack and slash combat with the nunchuk and wiimote. Maybe crafting might take on a whole new dimension with the use of the motion-sensing abilities of the Wii. Maybe it'll be a massively Mii experience! Whatever's coming down the pike, we'll keep our ears to the ground for more info. With this on the way, can the Animal Crossing MMO be far behind? Hey ... what're the odds that this is the Animal Crossing MMO?

Shadowbane resets with Patch 22, on test servers today

Events (In-Game), Patches, Server downtime, Shadowbane

I'm not sure if anyone's still playing Shadowbane since its release five years ago, but its developers are about to do the most radical thing you can do to a virtual world: they're hitting the reset switch.

As of Patch 22, showing up soon on the test server for the game, the team has decided that "it would be best for the longetivity of the game" to completely reset all server and character data. They also say that there are certain items in game that make it unbalanceable, and so they're just starting over from scratch. There are a few other big fixes coming in the patch, but as they say, this will definitely be the "most talked about" change.

And players are taking it surprisingly well. Over on the forums, most players seem happy that developers are taking major steps to fix the game. The servers will apparently use the Vorringia mapset, and lots of players are happy about that, as it's a popular choice. A few players are unhappy that they're losing everything, but the general consensus seems to be that making the game balanced is more important than keeping individual player data.

Interesting. It's hard to imagine a more major game flipping a reset switch like this and surviving, but maybe Shadowbane will prove it's possible to reboot and keep a core audience that loves the game more than their own assets.

[Via Wired]

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