This Is How The World Ends

In Tabula Rasa’s case, not with a bang, but with a whine.

It is probably safe to say that, despite decades of ever more spectacular Hollywood visions of extra-terrestial domination, humanity in its worst nightmares never imagined it would have to contend with spawn-camping aliens.

Brian “Psychochild” Green has a more bittersweet view.

So, while the big TR ending event might win them style and PR points, it fills me with a bit of sadness. Can’t games be special to people anymore? Was TR’s community really so weak that they needed a big event to make the ending special? Are online games becoming more disposable from the business, community, and development points of view?

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57 Responses to This Is How The World Ends

  1. Belsameth says:

    Always sad to see an MMO go, especially because of underperformence.
    Both for the develepors who spend years making it and for the players that played it while around.
    I didn’t actually like TR but it did have it’s unique charm.
    I hope they’ll somehow manage to relaunch it on a much smaller scale to take it’s niche role. (Much like Auto Assault which I still miss *cuddles Coll. Ed. Box).

  2. gyrus says:

    Belsameth :

    I hope they’ll somehow manage to relaunch it on a much smaller scale to take it’s niche role. (Much like Auto Assault which I still miss *cuddles Coll. Ed. Box).

    I have a question probably best asked here (someone here should know):
    How difficult would it be to make TR a Single Player Game?
    Could NC Soft do this and sell it as a Single Player Game?
    What would be required? A bit of re-balancing (to make sure the mission instances aren’t too tough?)
    Put the AI and monster spawn in ‘client side’?
    Is this possible?

  3. Bonedead says:

    ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE AT ZOMBOCOM

  4. Tesh says:

    Too many games are being made into MMORPGs that have no reason to be in that niche. AoC’s Destiny quests would apparently have played just fine as a single player game. (I’ve not played it, it doesn’t interest me, but from reports, that’s what I gather.) TR might have played better as a single player game. (And yes, they should let players who bought the box play it that way.)

    The time of static world DIKU treadmills is waning, at least in the MMO space. It’s a vast waste of potential. The demise of TR should be a wake up call to devs. Stop screwing around with DIKU subscription games, and give us some real MMOs, with real reasons to play (pay only for what you use, have power to change the world, stop skimping on QA, etc.). Likewise, if your game doesn’t really have an extremely good reason to be an MMO, stop trying to shoehorn it into that model because you envy Blizzard’s cash cow.

  5. gyrus says:

    Tesh :
    Too many games are being made into MMORPGs that have no reason to be in that niche. AoC’s Destiny quests would apparently have played just fine as a single player game. (I’ve not played it, it doesn’t interest me, but from reports, that’s what I gather.) TR might have played better as a single player game. …
    … Likewise, if your game doesn’t really have an extremely good reason to be an MMO, stop trying to shoehorn it into that model because you envy Blizzard’s cash cow.

    That is actually my point. TR, and a few other MMOs I have seen recently, play a lot like single player games.
    TR really struck me in this regard.
    I have been ‘soloing’ TR for a month. I found some of the Mission Instances a little tough (so you go away… level up… and come back) and the Control Point Attacks tough to do alone.
    Other than that? Single Player Game.
    So, could it be converted and released as a single player game?

  6. Mark Asher says:

    Anything is possible, given money and time. That’s the crux – money and time. I can’t imagine NCSoft wants to spend another dime on TR. It’s a poisoned IP at this point anyway. “Play TR? That game that failed? Why?”

  7. gyrus says:

    Well the ‘work’ is already done? (Game Design, Art, level design, Animation, AI…)
    You could maybe even skip the ‘balancing’ and just alter the loot drops?
    A rename maybe? (I wouldn’t bother TBH)
    And how much time are we talking?
    6 months for 2 quality programmers? (I really don’t know which is why I am asking.)

  8. MMOs are client-server applications. Single player games are ‘client’ applications (no server, everything happens in the game client itself).

    The work in transitioning a client-server application to a single player game would not be trivial.

  9. Raevhen says:

    I wonder if NCSoft would be interested is selling TR? Some small comany that doesn’t require a WoW level game could take what was already done and set it up on a server. There might be a profit margin in something like that.

  10. My guess would be “absolutely not” given how integrated TR is into NCsoft’s global billing system, among other issues. Generally MMO companies do not sell proprietary technology unless they are getting out of the MMO business entirely (such as Warner Bros selling Matrix Online to SOE, or SOE acquiring Vanguard from a bankrupt Sigil). When NCsoft bought the City of Heroes license from Cryptic, NCsoft as the publisher had already co-developed much of their technology with Cryptic.

    I hate to consistently be the voice of wet blanket sanity on this issue, but MMOs aren’t something you can just pick up and set up on another server rack somewhere. Whenever something costs millions of dollars to develop, there are *issues*.

  11. DrewC says:

    I don’t know (don’t have access to enough information about their numbers and infrastructure), but I strongly suspect that TR could be run for a very small operating profit by a small company. However:

    1) The money it would take to generate that small operating profit can almost certainly generating a bigger operating profit somewhere else.

    2) It seems unlikely to me (again, I don’t know the particulars here) that a deal could be structured that would be worth NCSoft’s time and money to sell TR to an outside entity.

    Stranger things have certainly happened, and all it takes is one millionaire with a dream and a checkbook. However, I would suspect that most of those dreamy millionaires are being quietly sold on funding their own game instead (which is not, by the way, a better plan).

  12. Not to be too mean, but when I saw all the TR guys dress like 80’s rockers, I knew the writing was on the wall.

  13. Raevhen says:

    I can understand that point, but reverse engineered shards can do it, so it is feasible. I’m not hot on the idea, I’ve never played TR, I was just thinking about a need, though small, for a small company to fill.

  14. Mark Asher says:

    It’s hard to imagine anyone buying TR at a price NCSoft would be willing to sell at. TR is a black-eye right now for NCSoft. If they aren’t going to make money from it, I doubt they want to see it living anywhere else. Also, anyone playing TR is someone who could be playing an NCSoft game. Why allow TR to compete with your own products?

    The more interesting question is at what point is there no longer any profit in running one of these games? They tend to scale well. In theory, I would think even a few thousand players paying $15/month could be something you could squeeze a profit out of.

  15. Crask says:

    Raevhen :
    I can understand that point, but reverse engineered shards can do it, so it is feasible. I’m not hot on the idea, I’ve never played TR, I was just thinking about a need, though small, for a small company to fill.

    RE shards are not particularly scalable usually nor do they come with billing and support systems built in. Ask adventurine….there is a lot that goes into running an enterprise application (or MMO) for that matter.

  16. Jeff says:

    Ultima III, Ultima IV and V were some of the best games I ever played. They got a little far away from their roots after that if I recall correctly, but those were some classics.

    It’s sad to see Richard Gariott’s legacy in gaming end this way. Hopefully he’ll go back to where it all began and come up with a new single player RPG. Though I have to admit I’ve been spoiled in the CRPG department by Bioware. Maybe RG’s work on a new CRPG would just be a shadow of what I think it would be. But I’d like to think he has one good story left in him.

  17. dartwick says:

    I heard that it failed because the devs didnt try hard enough.

  18. Einherjer says:

    @tesh “pay only for what you use”

    Give it up already! You have lot’s of free games, pay as you go, etc.
    And most of them are crap. Take the fucking hint.

  19. Belsameth says:

    gyrus :

    Belsameth :

    I hope they’ll somehow manage to relaunch it on a much smaller scale to take it’s niche role. (Much like Auto Assault which I still miss *cuddles Coll. Ed. Box).

    I have a question probably best asked here (someone here should know):
    How difficult would it be to make TR a Single Player Game?
    Could NC Soft do this and sell it as a Single Player Game?
    What would be required? A bit of re-balancing (to make sure the mission instances aren’t too tough?)
    Put the AI and monster spawn in ‘client side’?
    Is this possible?

    Besides the obvious problems Scott pointed out I doubt it would work.
    Tho you can solo it’s still not an experience made for solo play.
    You can play WoW on your own as well, but would this be any fun?

  20. Tesh says:

    My point is that these things should be considered long before throwing millions of dollars at a dev house. If your core game design is more amenable to a single player experience, and doesn’t expand or take advantage of the MMO aspects (like pretty much any DIKU model), it’s very simple.

    Don’t make it into an MMO.

    Yes, it’s too late to convert TR with anything but a fairy godmother wish, but for those devs still coveting Blizzard numbers, stop trying to make an MMO when you should be making single player games.

    *coughBiowarecough*

    And Belsameth, absolutely, I’d pay fair money for a single player offline WoW. The multiplayer aspects of the game aren’t compelling enough to make me sub to the game, but it would play quite nicely as a single player offline game. (Or a local multiplayer/private server game. You don’t need more than a few dozen people. Ever.)

    That’s my point; the MMO genre has vast promise to be a whole lot more than what it is at present. DIKU design isn’t what will make the most of the potential.

  21. wowpanda says:

    This made me so sad, I never played this game but seeing the developers throw their last effort to entertain the players. The devs must be so sad. I remember I worked 2 years in my first company, worked heavily on most of the products and eventually the company went under. It is very sad to see all your work gone.

  22. Michael Pearson says:

    JB Hifi (major chain retailer) was still selling the collector’s edition for $110 on Tuesday .. days after the server shutdown.

  23. Michael Pearson says:

    Sorry – on Elizabeth St, in Melbourne, Australia

  24. Veritas Gax says:

    @gyrus

    Great point. I always thought TR had the potential to be a solid and entertaining singleplayer experience, but that’s not NC’s business and they would never have allowed it to happen. A lot of us on other teams who fired up pre-launch builds of TR thought “this is kind of fun!” but were equally sure that it wasn’t clear that few of us would be willing to pay a subscription fee to continue the privelege.

    If anything, Mass Effect shows us that players will pay $50 or more for a sci-fi shoot-em-up, despite some rather uninspired moments (moon buggy sequences ftw), so long as the overall experience is compelling.

  25. Freakazoid says:

    Scott Jennings :
    I hate to consistently be the voice of wet blanket sanity on this issue, but MMOs aren’t something you can just pick up and set up on another server rack somewhere. Whenever something costs millions of dollars to develop, there are *issues*.

    It would help if you could be a little more specific on that point.

    Since we have some 10+ years of MMO development now, has anyone thought about maybe standardising and simplifying MMO development? There must be enough common elements to design by now that someone in the industry could either code up some program that takes care of those common elements or provide a guide to their infrastructure.

    Something that also seems at odds with your comment are those that have reversed engineered MMOs. UO and Lineage 2 are two that have working 3rd party servers with custom rules. SWG and FFXI are currently in development, but SWG is nearly complete and FFXI can have a working server minus any NPCs/mobs. If MMO design has such terrible and weighty “issues”, then how is it people can reverse engineer some of those MMOs and have them working out of their home?

  26. Freakazoid :

    Since we have some 10+ years of MMO development now, has anyone thought about maybe standardising and simplifying MMO development?

    Quite a few have tried – HeroEngine from Simutronics, Darkstar from Sun, Multiverse, etc. Note “tried”. Making an “MMO SDK” isn’t yet a solved problem (HeroEngine looks the closest at this point, and may actually be the first middleware server engine to be used on a shipped project). But as of now, it hasn’t been done yet, mainly because simply having a game server that can support the demands of thousands of players in a reliable and quick fashion just… is really, really technically difficult. Not impossible, but not something that’s had successful middleware yet, either (despite HUGE demand).

    Freakazoid :

    Something that also seems at odds with your comment are those that have reversed engineered MMOs. UO and Lineage 2 are two that have working 3rd party servers with custom rules. SWG and FFXI are currently in development, but SWG is nearly complete and FFXI can have a working server minus any NPCs/mobs. If MMO design has such terrible and weighty “issues”, then how is it people can reverse engineer some of those MMOs and have them working out of their home?

    In Lineage 2’s case, because the server code was literally stolen from NCsoft.

    In most other cases, homebrew servers are usually a pale imitation of the real thing – while they can emulate a connection to a client, both gameplay and number of concurrent connections are usually far less than that of production-level MMO servers. UO homebrew servers have almost complete gameplay emulation (which by itself is a hell of a technical achievement) but can usually only support a few hundred players. Most homebrew servers only have vague stabs at gameplay emulation. (I haven’t looked at the SWG emulation scene, but given that SOE had troubles running their own servers, I’d be very doubtful they are ‘nearly complete’.)

    A final issue which makes homebrew MMO emulation difficult is that the hardware requirements for production-level servers are prohibitive to the average hobbyist. “Servers” aren’t a single box, but an array of servers doing various farmed-off tasks. When I worked on DAOC servers, I had a test server running on a desktop, which could run one zone – two with difficulty. And that was with most monsters turned off. Most hobbyists usually don’t have a dedicated SQL server hanging around. Etc.

  27. @Scott Jennings

    “My guess would be “absolutely not” given how integrated TR is into NCsoft’s global billing system, among other issues.”

    I dunno, I think a game can be pulled out of it. 🙂

  28. morphene says:

    Scott Jennings :
    Making an “MMO SDK” isn’t yet a solved problem

    I do agree here, though armchair quarterbacking the market is just that, but I have to admit I am surprised that more MMO’s don’t go the license route at least for the graphics engine. How much of these budgets and dev cycles are spent on the client engine these days? Certainly in Darkfall’s case it seems to have been the majority of their work effort as world building and gameplay were so unfinished and went through such major changes in even the last month before release. There is history here: Mythic launched a successful product using NetImmerse and while there is no question it had some drawbacks it allowed them to be successful (in the metrics of the day) without having anything close to the in-house staff that would have been able to build from scratch. Star Vault is also licensing for their upcoming title, though using the Unreal engine and using it for far more than just graphics (physics and hit detection at least) does seem questionable to me at least the basic decision seems sound.

    With so many failed or failing titles I think it would be a brilliant move for a major studio to reinvent themselves into a tools provider. It may be hard to do a startup without a lot of experience to do tools, but someone who has it already been there, done that could be different. Funcom who appears to be in the position of having rather strong IP but a weak property and a questionable future in the market might be ideal (note, I never played aoc, maybe their IP actually sucks but they are far from the only possibility).

    Getting way ahead of myself, I think a shared IP and infrastructure base among a number of indie developers could have significant advantages, allowing them to focus on what really makes a game a game, a server infrastructure that could absorb the launch boom/collapse cycle into a larger cloud, and even some form of a SOE style multi-game pass or discounts as the main code IP would already have been paid for by the user with game 1, and they wouldn’t be logged on to more than one at once. That’s of course many iterations out, but you can see why I think the approach could have significant advantages in a market reality where 50k or 100k subs could be considered a success.

    Scott Jennings :
    In most other cases, homebrew servers are usually a pale imitation of the real thing – while they can emulate a connection to a client, both gameplay and number of concurrent connections are usually far less than that of production-level MMO servers.

    Have to agree here too. Just to use one example, look at blizzard and their database backends that use very large sets of oracle real access clusters and sophisticated table caching middleware for their persistent storage, the design of which is likely beyond a small team even by itself. Contrast that to a WOW emu that only uses memory based storage with dumps to a flat file. Hell, the design of such was even beyond blizzard and oracle to a degree – the biggest WOW launch problems were related to performance of these RAC’s and the middleware, and it took weeks or months with top tier oracle consultants camping out at blizzard to iron all the issues out. It’s possible that this was an overdesign issue, or only related to the large volume of players they needed to service but the basic concept is valid, if maybe only in the abstract.

    I also agree that there are many titles being made as MMO’s that would fit just as well as single player games with a FPS style many server multiplayer component. Just look at how most of these games are designed – most PVP happens in matched instances that basically just are emulating FPS match play, and most PVE happens with a limited number of people that you usually already know. The problem is that everyone saw the subscription continuing revenue and it’s comparably higher margins over box sales as too appealing to ignore. Now that a good number of people have lost money or will the tide will likely turn, though some people will still want to fight for the $15/mo as there is obviously a decent market out there. But I can’t see existing MMO’s converted to single player because of the coding and frankly because of the staleness of the properties. It’s up to later dev cycles.

    Bah, what a boring post agreeing with everyone. So to just balance it out – Go back to WOW, carebears!

  29. gyrus says:

    Belsameth :

    gyrus :

    Belsameth :

    I hope they’ll somehow manage to relaunch it on a much smaller scale to take it’s niche role. (Much like Auto Assault which I still miss *cuddles Coll. Ed. Box).

    I have a question probably best asked here (someone here should know):
    How difficult would it be to make TR a Single Player Game?
    Could NC Soft do this and sell it as a Single Player Game?
    What would be required? A bit of re-balancing (to make sure the mission instances aren’t too tough?)
    Put the AI and monster spawn in ‘client side’?
    Is this possible?

    Besides the obvious problems Scott pointed out I doubt it would work.
    Tho you can solo it’s still not an experience made for solo play.
    You can play WoW on your own as well, but would this be any fun?

    Ummmm… Yes?

    To me it’s a matter of economics (or rather PROFITS).
    If WoW only had a few thousand subscribers left and or the life span of a subscriber was only a couple of months then as a businessman I would be looking at ways to maximise my profits.
    In WoW’s case 10,000,000 x $15 / month – with many subscribers staying subbed for many months = subscription based MMO to me.
    In TR’s case 0 x $0 / month = can I salvage anything from this?
    I would certainly crunch the numbers on the viability of going SP (if it was possible?)
    Because more or less everything is done.
    If you could sell 100,000 units at $70 per box and spend less than $7,000,000 to get to that point then that reads profit to me.
    So, the question becomes – how many hours of time are required to make this work and how many hours do I get for my money?

    “…you can solo it’s still not an experience made for solo play”
    In that case I would have to say the design was bad.
    The game felt like a SP game. In fact, even when I did work ‘with’ other players there was very little communication or cooperation. All it did was make some of the Instanced Missions easier.
    If you design an MMO to be ‘solo friendly’ then guess what? People will solo it. And if people are soloing, is it a MMO or an Online Single Player game with a Multi Player element?
    And is this why MMOs are doing so badly? Because ‘Online Single Player Games’ are being marketed at MMORPG gamers who expect a Multi-Player experience? (one of those “Know your market” type arguments?)

    TR is not the only MMO I have played recently that plays like a Single Player Game either. And I see more in development heading the same way.

    WoW does too – the only reason I wouldn’t market it as a Single Player game quite yet is because it is making lots and lots of money. 😉

  30. Belsameth says:

    @Gyrus:

    I both agree and disagree. While most modern MMO’s are indeed a solo experience for the large part they’re still not.
    The actual gameplay is solo. ie. killing mobs, completing quests ect. all the social stuff is still very much needed. It’s ofcourse a matter of personal taste but I couldn’t imagine farming rep/money/items/ without a guild to curse at and a community to talk to.
    The actual gameplay of most MMO’s nowadays is rather monotomous and dull. It’s the community around it that makes them interesting.
    This in contrast to single player games which can be far more tailored to the player and have (I imagine) very different design/gameplay requirements.

  31. gyrus says:

    Belsameth :@Gyrus:
    I both agree and disagree. While most modern MMO’s are indeed a solo experience for the large part they’re still not.The actual gameplay is solo. ie. killing mobs, completing quests ect. all the social stuff is still very much needed. It’s ofcourse a matter of personal taste but I couldn’t imagine farming rep/money/items/ without a guild to curse at and a community to talk to.The actual gameplay of most MMO’s nowadays is rather monotomous and dull. It’s the community around it that makes them interesting….

    You may be surprised to know I both agree and disagree with you too. 🙂
    I think it is the community that can make the difference to an MMO that people play briefly and an MMO that people stay subscribed to.
    I am not totally against parts of MMOs being soloable (?sp) but I do think a well designed MMO encourages some kind of in game community.
    Interestingly, Darkfall may actually have this factor (watch this space I guess?)
    From my own experience – it was the community that made me subscribe to MMOs and it is the community that keeps me there (or not as the case may be)
    I agree that without the community factor you may as well be playing a Single Player game – and since these tend to be cheaper in the long term that is where players will spend money if the community does not factor in.

    Belsameth …This in contrast to single player games which can be far more tailored to the player and have (I imagine) very different design/gameplay requirements.

    One apon a time I would have thought so… but as I say – more and more MMORPGers have a very ‘Single Player’ feel to them.
    In TR (and a couple of others) the community chat has been used to discuss US Elections, TV Shows & natural disasters but NOT anything to do with the game. Simply because it wasn’t needed.

  32. EpicSquirt says:

    Scott Jennings :
    MMOs are client-server applications. Single player games are ‘client’ applications (no server, everything happens in the game client itself).
    The work in transitioning a client-server application to a single player game would not be trivial.

    Yeah, with the exception that everyone with a clue would have at least designed the framework in a way so that the server and its DBMS can be installed along the client.

    Performance issues aside (running client and world simulation on one machine) this is trivial. When running one zone and one player it could even work out of the box.

  33. IainC says:

    gyrus :
    Ummmm… Yes?
    Because more or less everything is done.
    If you could sell 100,000 units at $70 per box and spend less than $7,000,000 to get to that point then that reads profit to me.

    First off,as Scott pointed out everything is not done. You could reuse the art assets and the story elements but pretty much everything else would need to be rewritten completely. Everything else.

    Secondly you have to understand that 100,000 boxes at $70 each does not equal $7,000,000 of revenue. Not unless you are only selling the game online via your own storefront and processing all the payments yourself through systems that you completely own. Even assuming that the developer and the publisher are the same people (and they never are), a very large chunk of the box price goes to other people – retailers, distributors, payment handling agencies and so forth.

  34. Belsameth says:

    @Gyrus

    Yet even that unrelated chat helps making a dreadfully tedious and boring game and making it bearable, sometimes even fun which is exactly the point I tried to make.

  35. Random Poster says:

    I have played various MMO’s for quite some time now and can honestly say that IF you already had a group of people you played with you could get by with a much smaller server capacity. Once i’ve been guilded in any of these games the rest of the people on the server oculd cease to exist (barring PvP) and I would barely notice. But that illustrates the issue. You have to have those people be there to do that. if you are a new player and entered the world with only a 100 people on it, it would feel very lonely and be pretty boring really. You would essentially be playing Diablo with less rewards and less action. You toss in people for you to meet it makes the world feel more dynamic (even though nothing actually changes) Perception is a very powerful game development tool.

  36. J. says:

    MMOs remain almost unique in that they’re a sort of video game that you can pay for, but someone else can decide you have to stop playing.

  37. Vaxhacker says:

    EpicSquirt :
    Yeah, with the exception that everyone with a clue would have at least designed the framework in a way so that the server and its DBMS can be installed along the client.

    Really? Why assume that? After all, the game client is most definitely targeted towards Windows (and maybe OS X), but the server might be Linux-only for a variety of good reasons. Portable code is nice to have, but supporting multiple platforms on the server side costs time and money that you don’t have to spend.

    EpicSquirt :
    Performance issues aside (running client and world simulation on one machine) this is trivial. When running one zone and one player it could even work out of the box.

    “Performance issues aside”?!? Sure, it’s not as if the client usually uses up most of a CPU or two for the graphics engine alone, and a single large zone eats up a few more CPUs for the thousands of mobs…so those of you with 8-core desktops and 8+ GB of RAM, you’re set.

    Not to mention the cost of this mythical “single player MMO in a box” would be in the range of tens of thousands of dollars to account for the database license by itself, completely ignoring any return on development costs. It’s truly surprising that nobody’s ever done this before! A gold mine awaits…

  38. dartwick says:

    @Random Poster

    Random Poster – you repeatedly used “you” where you meant to use “I.”

  39. TariqOne says:

    I totally get why NCSoft won’t sell TR to a third party.

    I am sort of at a loss, by contrast, why it won’t keep it running on a single server. SOE seems to be doing pretty well with its stable of several crummy little underpopulated MMOs accessed via Station. NCSoft already has several you can access through its own launcher (I forget what it is called now). The development costs are sunk already, as are the costs of being in the MMO business. It seems like NCSoft could eke out a small profit and provide yet another solid game to users of its stable of games.

    Hazarding a guess? Probably some mix of general vindictiveness towards a project they feel burned them and tax benefits of some kind for fully realizing a loss of tens of millions of dollars (as opposed to keeping the project afloat).

  40. Triforcer says:

    As others have said in the past, I’m pretty sure this is almost entirely a tax thing at this point.

  41. geldonyetich says:

    Shoot, I forgot to play the game for free before it closed. 😛

    Tabula Rasa could have been more, sure. But the same could be said for every Nobel Prize nominee who didn’t quite secure the prize. It’s the same in the entertainment biz, there’s a ton of “nice tries” for every success.

    We can spin theories as to why the success didn’t happen, but it’s just water under the bridge. Time is better spent on the next attempt. 😉

  42. Votan says:

    As mentioned it is most likely for tax reasons so they can write off the massive loss they took on the game, and that tax loss benefit would be greater than anything they could get from a buyer. SOE bought games from companies going out of business on the cheap, NC Soft is not going out of business anytime soon.

    I am assuming they did the math and it would have taken them years maybe a decade at the current sub rate to even hope to see break even with just the development cost of the game let alone the ongoing cost of continued operation. Declining subs would only increase over time as I doubt NC would have dumped any more money into the project at this point for new content.

    New MMO’s going forward in order to be successful are going to have offer something radically new and not just a tweaked clone of what is already out. WOW has that market, and the people that want to play that type of game are going to play WOW or go back it shortly after because the clone game failed to meet the level of polish and content that they offer.

    The only people who are going to be successful in making another WOW like game is Blizzard themselves (Starcraft Online), if you want a piece of the market you have to make something completely different yet equally as polished and not clone games that should still be in beta 2 getting release way to early bug filled and not finished as we have had with the recent batch.

  43. EpicSquirt says:

    @Vaxhacker: I spoke about people with clue.

    If you have trouble to make a multi-platform server, if you load a single large zone into memory instead of streaming it, if you simulate thousands of mobs at the same time while the player only interacts with a couple of dozens at the same time and if you don’t abstract your DB layer in a way so it can be made to run with a free RDBMS like MySQL or PostgreSQL you clearly don’t belong to the group of people with clue.

    Heck, one could design the game in a way that it allows remote method invocations or client-side calls and world simulation.

  44. Drakks says:

    I’m sad to see TR flop, and not because I hold any special love for the game in particular — honestly it wasn’t spectacular. TR was, however, different. It was not Orcs and Elves and attempted to veer off the totally beaten path, and that’s a good thing.

  45. Zuzax says:

    As part of their going out of business sale, Circuit City is offering the Tabula Rasa Collectors Edition for 50% off. Sort of a recursive irony…

  46. insanity says:

    Jeff :
    It’s sad to see Richard Gariott’s legacy in gaming end this way.

    People have been saying that since Ultima VI, especially after IX….. heh. what a disaster that was. Personally VI was my favorite though.

  47. Vaxhacker says:

    EpicSquirt: How many MMO server frameworks have you personally written? Myself, I’m up to three, two of which ended up being shipped titles. This gives me a clue.

    I’ll even grant you the point of only simulating the mobs and world around the player. However, that only works for a static world where nothing changes if a player isn’t there to witness it. Most MMOs these days are a little more involved. As a trivial example, ore and herbs respawning in WoW. I’ll leave more examples to the readers.

    On the database side, sorry, but even if you program to an abstract layer (such as ODBC) you end up with database-specific code. Typically, to get decent performance, you use stored procedures, which by definition are not portable. So unless you choose an open source database up front (and PostgreSQL is the only one I’d even consider – MySQL is a joke), the database isn’t something you can easily change.

    You speak of streaming in part of the map…servers don’t do that, since they have to be running the whole zone. Clients only have a partial map view by necessity, and it’s fairly complicated to get right. Why add that nonsense to the server code?

    The big reason (I mean, aside from the time/money it would take and the inherent unplayability of the result) why no MMO developers would even consider support for a “single player” version? Because that is planning for failure.

  48. J. says:

    aww damn someone got told

  49. Tesh says:

    Vax, it’s more of an “exit strategy” combined with holding a targeted market segment in reserve. That’s not planning *to* fail, it’s planning in case something does happen to fail. Big difference. A smart business plan *does* plan for failure, and then devises contingency plans.

  50. Not Richard Garriot says:

    Jesus H. Christ, can we stop the “Why can’t MMOs also be Single Player Games?” crap?
    Why can’t a pretty pony also be a delicious apple pie? BECAUSE ITS NOT.
    Could it be? As Lum said, given enough time/money, anything is possible, but MMOs exist in a gigantic sea of single player games. Can’t we just have some games be MMOs and nothing else? Please?

  51. J. says:

    I’d like MMOs that were well designed from the beginning without a whole shedload of single-player baggage. If you make people think your MMO would be great as a single-player game, you did it wrong.

  52. geldonyetich says:

    Personally, I don’t like to look at game development in terms of money invested. How much money did it take to invent Poker? Chess? Are they “lesser” games? Low budget indy games come out continually that surprise us.

    Money is almost a moot point — sure, technology takes a bit of scratch to harness. However, the heart and soul of the thing the game, is a product of developer talent in understanding the human condition, not money. Everything else is advertising and, well, what intrinsic value have you proved you have if you’ve just paid to be popular?

    That’s right: Eat blasphemous truth, Western world. 😉

  53. gyrus says:

    geldonyetich :Personally, I don’t like to look at game development in terms of money invested. How much money did it take to invent Poker? Chess? Are they “lesser” games? Low budget indy games come out continually that surprise us.
    Money is almost a moot point — sure, technology takes a bit of scratch to harness. However, the heart and soul of the thing the game, is a product of developer talent in understanding the human condition, not money….?

    I would like to agree with you – but the harsh reality is that no-one exists in a vacuum.
    I would love it if games were sold based purely on their ‘artistic and design merit’ because we would probably see a lot more innovation.
    But why does this thread exist? Because TR got shut down.
    Why was that? it was not profitable.
    TR was a very interesting game in many ways. I kinda liked it and liked some of the ideas in it very much (both story/plot and game elements) but that was not enough to keep it afloat.
    And sadly, unless you can turn a profit you are unlikely to get another go.

    As for how much money it took to invent Poker or Chess?
    Hardly a fair comparison, the design team on Chess was huge and they largely worked for free, in addition the development time was in the order of hundreds of years (vaporware!).

  54. EpicSquirt says:

    @Vaxhacker
    So we’re down to that not all mobs have to be simulated at once (sleep/awake triggers) and that a free RDBMS can be used to save on the costs for the to be shipped game (even from start in development if you want stored procedures).

    What’s left is the headless (non-graphical view) server side representation of the world, which can be CPU and RAM intensive or not, depending on how big and alive the world is.

    It can be done.

    Todays most MMOs come with super bloated clients, but I don’t see why a game like Guild Wars shouldn’t be able to run on one PC.

    I am writing about the technical side here, I don’t play single player games at all and I can understand that no one is interested in providing single player modes as an exit strategy, but it’s possible.

  55. Tesh says:

    Even if they don’t want to go the “single player version exit strategy” route (though I think savvy planners should do so), they could at least legitimize private servers. If the fuss is that maintaining the official servers is too expensive to go forward, let people assume that cost on their own.

    Note that such doesn’t necessarily mean aiding and abetting the haxxors, I’m just saying that while you’re cutting costs and apron strings on a game that you’d just as soon disavow, cut the legal team that gets their knickers in a wad over private servers (and not so coincidentally cutting *their* costs out of the budget). There’s not even any new coding necessary, since people who want to do it will find ways to do so. Let them.

    Maybe take an official stand that “we don’t support the game any more, duh” to cover your legal rear, but recognize that while you’ve given up on the game, there are players who haven’t, and they paid money for your product. You don’t have to honor a perpetual warranty, but you don’t have to pour sugar in the gas tank and salt the fields, either.

  56. gyrus says:

    Tesh :…they could at least legitimize private servers. If the fuss is that maintaining the official servers is too expensive to go forward, let people assume that cost on their own.
    …Maybe take an official stand that “we don’t support the game any more, duh” to cover your legal rear, but recognize that while you’ve given up on the game, there are players who haven’t, and they paid money for your product. You don’t have to honor a perpetual warranty, but you don’t have to pour sugar in the gas tank and salt the fields, either.

    Hmmm… here’s a thought… how about a ‘franchise type’ business plan?
    You develop a game and then ‘franchise’ it out to ‘private’ servers?
    Even allow those franchise owners to charge their own rates?
    You sell the franchise the same way you sell regular software – only in this case you are selling the server side software (and as a result it would be VERY expensive). But, that said, gamers are not what they used to be (they’ve grown up!)and there are people out there who might be interested in this sort of idea.
    As with any franchise, you sell the ‘package’ and all the management docs on how to run it (and associated forums, advertising etc) but you don’t actually run it. Also, the franchise holder does not actually own the game or the IP.

    Yeah, I realise there are lots of potential problems here (Tech support for one + putting the game in the hands of the ‘enemy’ ;-] ) but just throwing out an idea.

  57. Hmmm… here’s a thought… how about a ‘franchise type’ business plan?
    You develop a game and then ‘franchise’ it out to ‘private’ servers?

    It’s been done.

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