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The Game Archaeologist and the Classic MMOs in November


It's seemed like every time I turned around in November, a spritely old-timer of an MMO was showing that it wasn't quite out of the running just yet. I mean, heck, we actually got word of a big change to Battleground Europe, prompting millions to throw their hands up and exclaim, "World War II Online is still actually online? Holy donkeys!"

In a way, I think these older MMOs get a free pass to escape the craziness of having to compete with more modern titles, and as such, they're more confident in their position and freer to pursue whatever is best for the game. You know, instead of trying to ape World of Warcraft (which probably aped them first in the great circle of apes).

So what's been going on with our favorite classic MMOs last month? Let's cast our UltraVision™ back on the events of November to see what's been up with four games and their communities.

A tale in the desert
A Tale in the Desert -- one of the very few MMOs that ends and resets on a semi-regular basis -- kick-started its sixth incarnation a few days ago. While players from Tale V weren't able to complete all the tests, they did manage to finish a respectable four of them, which means the team has to design an equal number of new tests for A Tale in the Desert VI.

The community is already hard at work on a completely new wiki for the game, as is usual for each telling. Currently information has been (mostly) merely copied over from Tale V's wiki, although as data pour in from the current build, this is sure to change. There's also a fragmented transcript with the game's developer about amnesty from Tale V that's of interest to those making the jump to the latest version.

If you've never played this crafty (er, crafting) sandbox title, jumping in at the beginning of a telling is a great introduction to the possibilities out there. Several players on the forum are mulling over their goals and approach to Tale VI, such as one subscriber who's looking to record his progress with Fraps as he builds a settlement over a period of several weeks.

Anarchy Online
It's been quiet lately in Anarchy Online's neck of the woods, although this is about to change. The team's wrapping up work on revisions to its holiday update, which includes a brand-new instance. The tongue-in-cheek Santaleet's Workshop will challenge players to fight back against the invading Kyr'ozch and save the Elfleets through a series of minigames. Yes, there will be blood. Um, no, not blood -- snowballs. Lots and lots of snowballs.

A couple of weeks ago, Game Director Colin Cragg opened up his mind-vault to the community in an extremely impressive four-page Q&A session on the forums. Among the many, many questions he fields from players, Cragg speaks frankly about the progress being made toward the graphic engine update:
Full focus was put on creating a preview video in the middle of October and has been there since. Once the focus was put on producing something to be seen externally, with that kind of attention to detail that we know critical individuals will have, we began to see small but significant rendering issues we were not happy with. Fixing these issues has been far from trivial and has resulted in more than a few complete re-writes. In some cases we have run in to some limitations of the engine we were not particularly happy with and have been working with the engine team to resolve these issues. Many of these changes have also resulted in what would have been a complete rebuild of the entire client... which for the conversion processing of 400+ old AO playfields represents approximately 400+ hours of exporting/conversion.

We all want a closed beta running as soon as possible but we are not really wanting to run that process before we are dead certain we will not have to run it again. It also goes without saying that we all want this out as soon as possible, but with years already invested in this undertaking we just aren't willing to deliver something we are not happy with. If there is a positive note in the delays associated with getting the code aspect of this change up and running it is that it has given the artists much more time to upgrade assets to be there for the day it goes live. Our goal is to have a closed Beta running this year. This is still an aggressive target at this point and it is hard to determine whether we will make it or not at this point as a great deal of this work is still "innovation" and "creative" in nature.
If you're eager for any scrap of information about the game's eventual graphic update, new screenies have been posted to the forums that make this 10-year-old title look positively modern.

In a touching thread on the RuneScape forums, player "Lady" recounts just what the game has meant to her at a difficult time in her life:
About a month and a half ago, mid-October, I was pathologically diagnosed with stage IIIA cancer. I have recently started to undergo chemotherapy and it has been working rather well. As well as it could go, I suppose. I won't go into much more detail, so onto the point of the thread...

With this being such an emotionally stressful time in my life, I have been looking at things in such a new way and really thinking about and appreciating the people, things, and nuances of my life. Today I come to the RuneScape forums to share with anyone who cares to read how RuneScape has impacted my life as I grew to become an adult and the lessons it has taught me, and hope to hear some of your stories about how this game has had a positive effect on your life as well.

I would have to admit that the most positive effect RuneScape has had on my life would be the support from my great online friends and the friendly (for the most part) community. You guys are seriously amazing, and you make this game a truly wonderful experience. Thank you all so much.

With a little over a week to go until Star Wars Galaxies logs off forever, players continue to struggle with how to process their final hours in the game. Some are morbid, some thoughtful, and some grateful. It will be cool to see which side -- Rebels or Imperials -- will win in the end, and having a new patch to play with helps to distract from the upcoming conclusion.

I just want to remind Massively SWG players that we're still looking for house screenshots for Friday's Some Assembly Required, so raid your hard drive and send us your best before it's too late!

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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