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Sep 28, 2006



I'm probably the only person who this doesn't make feel old. ;)

I talked to a reporter at AGC who is doing a retrospective on Meridian 59, so keep an eye out for that.

My own memories of Meridian are a bit strange, in that I was 14 years old at the time, and had absolutely no reference point for what was going on around me. Before Archetype Interactive was bought by 3DO, the company was run in our basement for awhile, with most of the team telecommuting. My bedroom was just off the room they were using for an office for a time (I can't remember if that was early or late in the Archetype days, but at some point I had bedroom in a different part of the house...).

I'm not sure I can accurately describe the experience as I saw it. I helped out by sending form replies to beta tester emails off and on. I played in the alpha, and was too young/girly/white to understand why so many people were named "DrDre". I got to see many parts of the game as they were created for the first time -- the first monster I remember seeing, a giant ant, was pretty freakish. I remember the night the servers first stayed on overnight, lying in bed thinking "It's still on, it's still out there. The world didn't go away when I logged out."

Some of my clearest memories are of odd firsts. My uncle, Chris Sellers, was lead artist originally, and I remember one day when he called to me from the office saying "Hey Sam! Come take a look! We have a forest!" I came into the room and looked over his shoulder at the computer screen. It was, I kid you not, a straight line of trees, maybe eight or ten total. "Chris," I said, "That's not a forest, that's a straight line of trees." He made a face at me and told me that they were going to build out from that point to the right. If I remember correctly, that was eventually the first edge of the forest you'd come to as you left Tos (going south? I think?).

Hmm, I think I will call Chris. One of the strange things about our family (and I assure you, there are many), is that Mike is ten years older than Chris, and Chris is ten years older than me. Which means that now Chris is the age Mike was when Meridian launched, and I am the age he was. I wonder if that will make him feel old. ;)

So ten years later, and here we are. Mike is running another MMOG start up (which both Chris and Charles have been involved in at different points, giving us three of the four Sellers brothers who were involved with Meridian). I grew up, went to college, tried to major in International Relations but found I was writing all my papers on online communities, so eventually just gave in and started working in games. I married myself a MMOG designer along the way, too.

Here's to another decade of progress and good fortune! Maybe next time I'll start feeling old.


Yeah it's all in the family with us. Four brothers, two generations, one marriage.

What a strange ten years.

I don't think I could have possibly predicted, from that basement office (not the central office mind you - we had no central office, just people working on a shoestring in Virginia, California, Texas, Oregon, New York, and elsewhere) that ten years later there would be millions of people playing these games. We kept saying "there are a ton of PhDs in this" but I don't think any of us really contemplated the idea that serious academics would work and publish in this area. I certainly never thought about conferences or movie tie-ins focusing on MMOs, or venture capitalists being actively interested in this (we did talk to several prior to the launch, who politely tried not to look like we were from outer space).

So now of course I wonder what the next ten years will bring. What will MMOs and virtual worlds grow into, and how different will the experiences be? Will all virtual worlds be Second Life? Will every movie and every elementary school have a connected virtual world as a matter of course, or will MMOGs turn out to be the disco dancing of our day? Will we be using these worlds for something completely different, or will they still be the same in many respects? In 2016, will we still be fighting giant spiders as we (those of us who have been around for awhile) have been since 1976 (paper), 1986 (text), 1996 (bitmap graphics), and 2006 (spiffy 3D graphics)?

It's great to celebrate the past ten years. And after all this time I think we really have the whole giant spider thing down pretty well. But as I'm fond of asking, "what's next?"


Thanks, Nate. I'd also like to give a shout-out to my partner, Rob "Q" Ellis II. I'm the more obnoxi..er, vocal of us, but he's done a lot of work to resurrect M59, too. And, while I'm at it, thanks to Chris Ellis and Mike Emmons for being the skeleton team keeping the old girl alive today.

It's interesting to think that is was over 8 years ago that I took the job working on M59, and then to consider all the excitement it has provided me since then. I'm at least glad the game was saved from the dustbin of history that has claimed too many other older games. In the future, people will still be able to see what M59 was about, if they want. But, I'm sure many will still ignore it and make the same newbie mistakes over and over again. ;)

Have fun,


In recently completing a castle tower addition to my home, I've been moving all my old books and such from my garage basement to my new third-floor tower room. Amongst the flotsam and jetsam, I unearthed copies of the Computer Game Developers Association directories for 1985 and 1986 with my name in 'em. A bit embarrassing, now.

I thought I'd accomplished something worthwhile after writing my own multiplayer game in 1984, but in fact it's the Brian Greens and Mike Sellers of the world who actually take their ideas public who deserve recognition. If there's anything like an "MMORPG industry," it's because these folks willed it into existence.

Here's to those who do more than dream!



The thing with "MMORPG" and M59 -- I don't think M59 ever qualified as Massive.

It was the first graphical MMORPG, maybe.

I would say things like FurryMUCK and Kesmai were far more massive than M59.


There's no accepted definition for "massive" and things have definitely moved along in the past ten years. When we coined the term at 3DO, "massive" was a substitute for "large-n" -- more than 16 people or so (and I'm still sorry there's not a better acronym). M59 had a server cap of about 200 concurrent users, which in a persistent world was large/massive enough to see societal effects.

In terms of "firsts," M59 was the first commercial 3D MMOG. There were other graphical games, other games with large online populations, and even other 3D games that came before it. At the time we started on this though, we encountered a lot of doubt that a large population persistent 3D online world was even possible. Times change.


Wasn't Meridian 59 actually sort of 2.5D rather than full 3D? If you Google "Meridian 2.5d" a lot of links come up that categorize it as such, at least.



Yep, 2.5D. It had stairs and various levels and such, but no height-coordinate differentiation for bridges, etc. I don't know if that's changed with the new engine NDS is using.


My, my... as time goes by. To think that today if I play "massive" I play on a server with 10k people, and back then in '82 we started project MYRA with paper... with just a Vic20 to hold the database on the datasette... Just like Bart Stewart I always knew where this was (or is) supposed to go, but feel we could have used the last ten years more effectively.

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