Lineage is the lovechild of NetHack and comic books
The inspiration for Lineage
is two-fold. Story-wise, the game is based on the comic book series of the same name by Shin Il-sook
. While the game's story eventually diverged from its source material, Lineage
still honors Il-sook's work by naming the servers after the book's characters.
But the game itself was the brainchild of NCsoft founder Tack Jin Kim
, who was fascinated with an old-school Rogue
-like game called NetHack
. "I loved that," Kim said
, "and my dream was to make a game based on that sort of virtual world -- so when I encountered the Internet, I was very excited, because this could be a reality! That's why I created a company to make online games."
Lineage was a monster hit well before World of Warcraft
As we all know well, MMO player statistics
are a tricky thing to nail down because of corporate secrecy, shifting definitions, and other variables. But what we can say for certain is that Lineage
was a massive, multi-million subscriber hit before World of Warcraft
was a twinkle in Blizzard's
eye. In fact, it was the very first MMO to gain more than two million subscribers.
Most sources state that the title peaked somewhere north of three million subscribers by 2003, most of whom were in Korea. Even when the game started to show its age, Lineage still pulled in a respectable one-million-plus
in 2008. By that year, the Lineage
franchise had sold over 43 million copies
But because the phenomenon didn't spread as NCsoft had hoped, outside of Korea it was just another fantasy MMO, whereas there it was the
fantasy MMO. In any case, Lineage
proved that MMOs could push past the one-million subscriber mark and stay there for a long time, which was a great indicator of the industry's future.
Lineage established the popularity of the so-called "Asian grinder"
The bulk of Lineage's
gameplay was built around PvP between guilds (or "bloodpledges"), and as such, it skewed toward hardcore gameplay. Not only was the combat harsh and unforgiving, but the time required to build up your character's gear and stats bordered on a full-time career. Yet even so, people flocked to the game and willingly surrendered their free time to the near-endless treadmill of leveling and armor acquisition.
In this, Lineage
provided the most public and well-known template for what we now call the Asian grinder, a game in which repetitive action doesn't supplement other types of gameplay -- it is
the gameplay. There's been a lot of backlast against this type of MMO, of course, and players looking to take a new import down a few notches are quick to slap it with the "Asian grinder" label.
Yet despite this, it proved a successful formula, and with huge success come imitators...
It spawned a legion of "Lineage clones"
Hate the phrase "WoW
clone?" Me too. But WoW
isn't the only MMO that other companies have tried to replicate in search of a second miraculous bolt of lightning. Lineage's
rise to glory resulted in a tidal wave of so-called "Lineage
clones" that flooded the market with similar designs, looks and addictive hooks.
When asked about how he felt about these clones, Tack Jin Kim said it was a compliment of sorts
: "When I see
Lineage-like products, I think that's, well, honouring NCsoft -- something like that! We are pleased to give other developers some impact, some impressions to help make their games better or more fun."
It's one of NCsoft's most reliable money-makers
Yup, we're back to numbers again, and I'll make this short in case you're having match class flashbacks. Year
is cited as one of NCsoft's key sources of income. And we're not just talking "2002" here, but 2011
is the ideal money machine that will continue to rake in the profits for the forseeable future.
It's still expanding
I love it when older titles are not only still running but expanding as well. Last year the Lineage
team added two new classes: the Illusionist and Dragon Knight. A few years back, NCsoft made some noise about upgrading the game's graphics, although this project's appeared to have run out of steam.
Lineage's designer is one of the most celebrated MMO devs in the world
If you don't know who Jake Song
(Song Jae-kyeong) is, then shame on you. Really. For shame. We're going to send the paddle police over to your house within the hour.
In the pantheon of MMO game developers, Song is somewhere near the top tier. Song was the lead designer and programmer for Lineage
and has also worked on Nexus: The Kingdom of the Winds
and Tabula Rasa
. In 2003, Song left NCsoft to form his own studio, XL Games
. That studio's first MMO, ArcheAge
, is the reason Massively's Jef
has taken to skipping down the halls in glee instead of strutting in a manly manner as he is known to do.
Lineage never really caught on in the US
I feel bad ending on a down note, but the truth of the matter is that for as great a success as Lineage
is, it never penetrated the North American market the way NCsoft hoped. Despite NCsoft's hiring brothers Robert
and Richard Garriott
to give the company credence in the U.S., gamers shunned the ancient-looking Lineage
in favor of newer titles like Guild Wars
NCSoft's Young Park recognized the trouble in 2009
, but the company never could figure out how to pull in a wide audience: "What we realized is that we had a gap between the North American content and the Korean content, and that gap was quite wide."
This brings us to the end of Lineage
-- at least in North America, as NCsoft is pulling the plug on local servers while keeping the game operating in the much more profitable region of Asia. So even as we celebrate Lineage
month here on The Game Archaeologist
, we're also bidding it farewell when the NA servers are closed on June 29th
What's your story?
As usual, we're collecting any and all player stories to share in a future column! Send in your favorite Lineage
memory to email@example.com
(100 words maximum, please) along with any screenshots you've saved!
When not clawing his eyes out at the atrocious state of general chat channels, Justin "Syp" Olivetti pulls out his history textbook for a lecture or two on the good ol' days of MMOs in The Game Archaeologist. You can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.