Saturday, November 23, 2019

A Wake for MMOs Gone Past

Paeroke over at Nerdy Bookahs linked to an old PC Gamer UK article of 25 MMOs that lived and died since World of Warcraft launched. I love both a good list and an opportunity to reminiscence.

As a longtime MMO-Dabbler, I'm surprised that I never played a majority of these games. For the older titles, it was a matter of being stuck on dial-up at the time and having to pick and choose my games. It didn't help that free-to-play didn't exist yet and I was on a high schooler's budget. For the newer titles, it was about waiting for a lull in my play of other MMOs, so that I could dedicate a couple of weeks and play them "right". Unfortunately, that means I waited too long and never got to play Wildstar. Same situation with City of Heroes, although at least that has a thriving emulation community I can rectify that mistake with.

Of the games I did get to play though:

Club Penguin
I was never the target age for Club Penguin back when it was running, so I was always more of a tourist. But it had charm and the minigames were worth the hour or two of play. Mostly, I remember Club Penguin for the Banned from Club Penguin (NSFW) subreddit and a community forming around speedruns from getting banned by the automatic language filter.

Pirates of the Caribbean Online
I played this at the tail end of game's life, after it had been announced that it was shutting down. The graphics were pretty dated by the time I got to it. It was a mix between a small-scale Pirates of the Burning Sea and the single-player Pirates of the Caribbean game that was released several years later. The mix of third person action and some rudimentary naval combat were really fun for the 2-3 weeks I played of it, but by the time I got there the entire game was a ghost town.

It makes me nostalgic for a time when Disney was all in on "interactive medium", whether that was genuinely decent MMOs, satanically difficult flash games, or Disney Quest. Gigantic media conglomerates are more fun when they're making weird stuff.

Vanguard: Saga of Heroes
I had a boxed copy of Vanguard and would give it an install every now and then, but it never ran well on any of the laptops I was using at the time. I did begin playing more in earnest once SOE got the publishing rights back and made it a part of their standard $15 a month MMO fee along with EQ, EQ2, and others. It always felt like a game made by people who like making systems instead of games. That sometimes works, but it often felt like I was staring at someone else's spreadsheet. I recall Bhagpuss mentioning that this game has an emulator starting to form, so I'm looking forward to giving this game a proper shake when that project matures.

Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning
Another game I could never really get to work on my computer right. Not being a fan of the Warhammer IP or off open-world PVP in general I didn't really try to struggle through the low framerates.

I do remember having a ton of fun with an extremely short-lived spin off of this game called Warhammer Online: Wrath of Heroes. It was basically World of Warcraft Arenas but as it's own separate game. I recall the number of abilities being pruned down to a MOBA level. It was the only game I played for what must have been a month or two. The game never got out of beta, and I do remember us being a very small and tight knit community fighting each over and over again. I don't even remember what the business model was, although it was obviously insufficient.

Free Realms
Ooof. Like Club Penguin I was never the appropriate age for this game, but nonetheless it was one of my favorite MMOs of all time. I use the word charm for SOE titles a lot and this game absolutely deserved it. The music, the animation, and just the general sense of cartoonish whimsy always felt great. There is an emulator project working on this, but actual details on it over the past few years have been scarce, and it seems the group is prioritizing other projects first. I keep waiting on the emulator to launch a public beta so I can do a big retrospective on the title. I do hope I get to do that soon.

Hello Kitty Online
I downloaded this game as a joke in college to show my roommates. What I remember though is how maddeningly difficult the flash-based minigames it featured were. I got my ass kicked by Hello Kitty Online in front of all of my friends.

Marvel Heroes
One of the few ARPGs that I preferred to play with a controller instead of a mouse. I had fun with it, but it's bizarre shutdown story was more interesting to me than the actual game.

Speaking of games where the shutdown is more interesting than the game itself: Firefall! I played this game for a week and don't remember a thing about it. I think they completely overhauled the game play a month after anyhow.

Everquest Next/Landmark
A SOE game that never got around to developing that SOE charm. It had an annoying time-limited beta that meant I could play for a week before I had to scrounge up another beta "ticket". The game was never in a good enough state to actually pay for, but I kept dropping in and hoping it would turn into something cohesive.  I'm obviously never a fan of a game getting shut down, but I wonder if even the developers were giving a sigh of relief once this one was over.


  1. I don't think it was your PC not being good enough for WAR. Hardly anybody could get the game to work properly. And if they did, the servers misbehaved. :p

    Wrath of Heroes was free to play, as it was a beta. At least, that's how I remember it. I also really loved the concept and really wanted to see it get released. Too bad they gave up before that.

    1. Yeah Wrath of Heroes was a really great game, and sadly unique. I remember playing it like crazy during an extremely slow summer at college.