The Game Archaeologist and the year that was 2010

Justin Olivetti
J. Olivetti|12.29.10

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The Game Archaeologist and the year that was 2010
Earlier in the year when I started this column, I realized two things. First, I'd be giving myself as much as any of you a crash-course education in older MMOs, particularly with some of the more fringe titles that I'd never really explored up to this point. And second, it would be a challenge to find the right mix of elements to do these MMOs justice.

So before we look back at all the games this column covered in 2010, I'd like to ask each and every one of you to take a minute and drop a comment about what you'd like to see The Game Archaeologist do next. What titles would you love to see honored in 2011? What features are the most interesting to you -- dev interviews, player interviews, history overviews, photo galleries, first impression playthroughs, or links to community fansites and blogs? What could I add to make The Game Archaeologist even better?

I also want to take a minute to thank the readers, players and developers who have contributed to this column so far. While there are MMOs that get a lion's share of the press these days, we at Massively are committed to spotlighting as many of these games as possible, particularly if there's a passionate community and dev team behind them. I've loved hearing your stories and hope that in passing them along, perhaps we've opened a door or two to games that you might've never considered before.

So let's hop in our hot air balloon and soar over the year that was 2010!

May: Ultima Online

In my very first expedition, I went all the way back to the game that put MMOs on the map: Ultima Online. I traced through the rich history of the game, talked with creator Richard Garriott, and spent a few memorable evenings getting my butt handed to me by newbie island bears. This was a game that always intimidated me too much to play it back in the day, so it was great to get over those fears and give it a whirl.

June: Star Wars Galaxies

With The Old Republic on everyone's mind, the issue of Star Wars Galaxies' longevity is incredibly relevant. How did this "other" Star Wars MMO survive past the NGE, why does SWG's community love it with a fierce Wookiee love, and is it ready for direct competition within its own IP?
July: The Sims Online

In a truncated month for this column, I went back to one of the odder MMO experiments: a cross-breed of The Sims and a persistent world. It's still hard to tell whether The Sims Online was simply ahead of its time or hobbled by poor design choices. Probably both, I suspect.

August: Dark Age of Camelot

Even after almost a decade, DAoC remains one of the most-beloved PvP MMOs in existence, thanks to its three-faction battlefront and ingenious warfare systems. I had a lot of fun talking with players, devs and the man behind this success story, Mark Jacobs.
August: Bulletin Board Systems

There's a special spot in my heart for BBSes, as I cut my online teeth on them in the early '90s. In this special one-shot column, I went back to one of the internet's ancestors and revisited BBS door games and their impact on the MMO genre.

September: Anarchy Online

My very first MMO and the inspiration for this column, Anarchy Online has a history that's as infamous as it is famous. From its disastrous launch to its role as a pioneer in the field of free-to-play titles, this game continues to forge ahead boldly while other MMOs timidly tip-toe forward.

October: Asheron's Call

I asked readers what game we really needed to tackle next, and the response was nearly unanimous: Asheron's Call. With its freeform skill system, expansive world, and unique fantasy setting, AC became Turbine's first big hit and cemented itself in the hearts of many MMO vets.
November: Kingdom of Loathing

Kingdom of Loathing is one of those games that's not on most people's radars, but for those who know of it, there exists a passionate affection that outshines the sun. There's very little like this browser-based, pun-enriched RPG parody, and I maintain that you're missing out if you haven't at least given it a week or two of your life.
November: Neverwinter Nights

While it wasn't the first MMO (or even "massive," for that matter), Neverwinter Nights nevertheless made history by being the first graphical online RPG. Even though they had to pay by the hour to access it, players gobbled this up and asked for more. I returned to the simpler days of 1991 to see what it was like to forge such a groundbreaking title.
December: RuneScape

Despite being insanely popular and making Jagex more money than the five richest kings of Europe combined, RuneScape's struggled with the perception of being somehow less than a "real" MMO. This month, I blew that stigma out of the water as we looked at just how revolutionary and innovative this game is. December: Dungeons & Dragons

In our final expedition of the year, we traveled back before (most) video games to fawn over the grandfather of RPGs, Dungeons & Dragons. How did the decisions made by D&D's creators end up influencing MMOs decades later? You'd be surprised!
Thanks for reading, and don't forget to leave some feedback as to what you'd like to see covered next year!

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 or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.
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