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Mar 03, 2005



Well according to Mud Connector my favorite from more than 10 years ago is still around. I'm sure its been broken, recovered, split, and merged more than once over all that time, but it still holds a great deal of nostalgia for me.

I'm don't think any of these games can die before the community completely dissolves. Even if EQ or UO pull the plug I can imagine people still running their own shards trying to keep a piece of their memories alive. Seems like they are doomed to fade away.


"This is how the world ends. Not with a bang, or a whimper, but with a collective 'Meh', and a shrug." Like fairies, these worlds die when we stop believing in them.

--Dave (with apologies to T.S. Elliot)


I have one word for you: Activeworlds.

30,000,000 square miles of empty, abandoned urban sprawl.

That is probably the most striking example of an abandoned world.


I think the ActiveWorlds comparison is a really interesting one. It's certainly one of the worlds I had in mind when thinking about this question. It was a frontrunner at the time in terms of 3D worlds, and one that was reliant on user-produced content. It was also notable in that the servers could be purchased so that you could run your own world, but they were all centrally recognized so it was easy to find new worlds. It is also a platform that has been "rescued" several times by users/investors.

I think the comparison highlights for me some issues I didn't spend enough time articulating in my initial post. As far as I can tell, the costs for keeping that world going must be fairly low. I'm not here talking about just monetary issues, but can imagine a company making some kind of reputation calculation - though I'd really like to hear from those who actually work in the industry on this. So, is there a kind of harmful effect on Sony's reputation as an MMOG provider when they lose the "massive" angle? Of course, it's very relative so I suppose a related issue might be how difficult is it organizationally/institutionally to shift gears, so to speak, and reframe your once powerful MMOG as now more niche?

But the other angle the AW comparison highlights is that because the server can be purchased there is still always fundamentally a way users can retain their communities, even if they are in small forms. Even if it's just still having the space to see all you've built. World as memory box.

I wonder, should the 2nd ed of Mulligan and Patrovsky's excellent book on developing online games include a new chapter on when and how to pull the plug? Will Amy Jo Kim consult on managing the death of a community?


What I immediately thought of were EA games such as Motor City. I’d like to hear detail of how these were closed, from what I picked up at the time it seemed like EA spotted a slightly sickly MMO in the pack, lead it into the woods and shot it. Maybe there was some elegant community management going on but I don’t remember hearing about it.


I think the "collective 'Meh' and a shrug" describes the death of a MMO world best. After all, it is the unsuccessful worlds, or the outdated ones, that get shut down. The shut down is a result of people having lost interest.

If such a shut down surprises anybody, that is because game companies never talk about how many customers they lost. If they have strong growth, they will publish a press release. If they decline, they keep silent. Nobody really knows how many people are still playing Everquest. It would be reasonable to think that the near-simultaneous release of EQ2 and WoW did cost EQLive a significant number of subscribers. But SOE certainly won't tell you.


>It would be reasonable to think that the near-simultaneous release of EQ2 and WoW did cost EQLive a significant number of subscribers. But SOE certainly won't tell you.

It strikes me this morning that this is just another reflection of real life.. The reltionship fades and people abandon it for something fresher, younger, betterr looking, but less mature.. How much growing do we have to do before people appreciate a mature game for its personality?


Is a "mature game" like a well-aged cheese, or is it like a moldy slice of bread?


> If such a shut down surprises anybody, that is because game companies never talk about how many customers they lost.

When EQ Server status shifted from a head count to a simple 'up' or 'down' mode, I always wondered why...

Seeing old servers such as BristleBane, Antonius Bayle etc., it made me think of the question raised in Collective Amnesia post (http://terranova.blogs.com/terra_nova/2005/02/collective_amne.html)

Merging servers creates an interesting social experiment when large numbers of new players are infused into a world inhabited by old players. The social and political hierarchies that existed prior to the merge get skewed. In a world where its foundation is largely based on player created community, server mergers may also be seen as revitalization projects.


Carnildo Greenacre wrote:

Is a "mature game" like a well-aged cheese, or is it like a moldy slice of bread?

As someone who runs a "mature game", I'd say it's more like a fine wine, personally. The taste is complex and deep, and not everyone will appreciate it. Of course, there's always a new flavor of Boone's Farm to make the kids declare that old wine is "yucky" (primarily because it's old, you see) and that new wine makers sure know how to make stuff sweet.

Snobbery aside, I do think that more mature games are still interesting for players. Even setting aside my personal investments, we can look at EQ to see this is true. When EQ started, it was limited world. Over time, the game has been expanded to include more areas, more items, more options, more features, more of everything. A lot of what makes EQ an impressive game today was added in the years since it launched. The experience of playing EQ in 1999 and playing it in 2005 are quite different.

Mature games are also a lot more reliable. M59 has had single-digit number of days of unscheduled downtime in the 7 years I've worked on it. Compare this with a more modern game where downtime in some games (I don't even have to mention names :P) happens frequently and with almost no warning.

This isn't to say that older games should be more popular. Most of the older games have had to focus on long term goals instead of short term ones in order to stay in business. This means that the newbie experience might not be as smooth or as sugary sweet as it is in other games. You also sometimes have to deal with basic design problems that would absolutely destroy the game if you tried to "fix". But, people that give it a try and stick with the game usually finds something they didn't know was missing from newer games: depth of solid gameplay, and administrators that deeply care about the game.

The problem here is that our primary audience comes from a single-player game background. Companies that make single-player games have invested a lot of time and effort into marketing that says "old = teh sux" because old games don't make as much money as new ones. The traditional games industry is more interested in sequels and derivative games because they can sell these to the same audience that bought the original. In some cases, the sequels will do better than the original games. Some optimists seem to think that the industry is finally starting to realize that these games can potentially have a lifespan measured in terms of multiple years instead of the typical few month life cycle of an average console game. However, I've seen multiple reports that companies that launch multi-million dollar online games still don't understand this concept.

Some thoughts,


When I followed the EQ link re server merges I noticed that one of the servers being merged, Solusek Ro, was also a server that had been split at one time due to overpopulation. I was one of the players that moved from it when it was split.

While I cannot recall with certainty, I think Bristlebane was also a server that had been split as well.

I can't help but wonder what kind of effect this had on the server population over time compared to a server that was never split.


There are some really interesting things taking place due to these merges. Being from Bristlebane for the 5 1/2 year duration I spent playing EQ, I can tell you that the majority of my former guild (www.clubfu.net) is enthused about the move. New blood means more folks to fill raids nightly and a happy Nick Cassidy that no longer receives phone calls at 4am by his guild leader to "get on Nick... we need a shaman".


Also to confirm Jon Carver... Bristlebane was split not just once, but a second time during early December of 2002.


Andrew Phelps on this topic (not so enthused):


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