Man oh man, why couldn't I just take a month or so off of this column without getting sucked back into it? Why must classic MMOs be so compelling and newsworthy these days?
I planned to take some time off of TGA while I went through Dark Age of Camelot in Choose My Adventure (which you're all reading, yes?), but there was so much to talk about regarding older MMOs that I couldn't sit back and stay mum. Ergo, I've dashed off this special "break" column devoted to commenting on recent news about classic games. Hopefully this will help tide you over until I get back into the full swing of things in April.
Because it came out in 2007, Vanguard isn't technically old enough to be welcomed into the Classic MMO Clubhouse, but it still feels as though it should fall under The Game Archaeologist's domain, perhaps because it was designed to be so old-school, or perhaps because it's been one of those small, struggling games that was sent to the corner to hang out with Baby.
Either way, I'm pleased as Hawaiian Punch that SOEdecided to reinvest and relaunch Vanguard as a free-to-play title rather than scrapping what had to be one of the lowest-grossing members of the Station library. For long-suffering Vanguard fans, this has to be one of the coolest video game resurrections of all time, especially when you factor in that the team has "quadrupled in size" and is hard at work on new content. Despite what some grumpy "this is OUR game and we don't want no strangers in these here parts!" isolationists may say, Vanguard absolutely needs new blood in its lands or else it really will go extinct.
Personally, I'm very psyched. Vanguard's been one of those titles I've followed out of curiosity for a long time without ever trying it. I'll admit, the bad launch, middling-to-poor initial reviews, and "more hardcore than Pong" attitude kept me at a distance, but I also respected a lot of what was being done there. According to those I know and trust who play the game, it's gotten a lot better and has so much to offer the MMO community... if only the community would take a chance on it now. F2P seems like a good as any time to do that, and I'm definitely planning on getting in there this summer (sounds like a good TGA column topic, yes?).
In the meanwhile, SOE's rewarding those who continue to subscribe until the F2P launch with loyalty gifts, much as the company's done elsewhere. This definitely needed to be done to mollify those who are the core of the Vanguard playerbase, since they're the ones who helped keep the game alive these past five years.
I've had a few people write me asking that I go on a crusade championing EQOA's cause, much as I did with EverQuest Mac, and I want to explain why that didn't happen. First of all, goofy writers who cover older MMOs don't have the huge pull you'd expect in gaming circles. Second, while I sympathized, I really couldn't see any way that SOE would reverse its decision on this like it did with EQMac.
See, there was no substantial benefit to keeping EQOA alive for SOE, while there was with EQMac. It's a cold, hard truth, but there it is. The internal case was made that EQMac could be an ambassador to SOE's Mac-using fans, a placeholder until the company manages to get Mac MMOs (such as EverQuest Next) out the door. So it's good PR, right there. EQOA's claim to fame was its position as a console MMO, but it never found much of an audience, and the console on which it was based is obsolete.
The way I see it, the only way SOE could keep EQOA alive would be to invest in the production of more discs and a push to get this 2003-era game recognized as a PlayStation 3 MMO. That's a big pill to swallow, and it probably made a lot more financial sense to shutter it. Doesn't mean you or I have to like it; it's just how it is. I do feel bad for those who loved this game, as I never like to see any MMO closed, and I hope they find a new gaming home.
Reader Hector sent me in this tribute video that he made for EQOA's closure that I'd like to share:
Am I the only one who's wondering what's going to be done with PlanetSide when PlanetSide 2 launches? I can't be. Tell me I'm not.
The thing is that SOE is undergoing a big shift in focus and how it does business these past couple of years (when it's not being shut down by hackers, of course). It's looked through its MMO library and either converted nearly every game to a hybrid F2P model or cancelled them outright. PlanetSide is left as an anomaly, a small, rarely updated FPSMMO that will soon have a hugely hyped free-to-play sequel competing for the same players.
So what's going to happen to it? I haven't heard much on this point, but I'm sort of dying to know. My guess is that SOE will announce PlanetSide's closure when PlanetSide 2 launches, encouraging that crowd to migrate to the new-and-improved setting. Apart from that, the company could keep it as a subscription game and watch it slowly die or convert it to F2P as well. It would be incredibly interesting if it did the latter and created some sort of connection or synergy between the two titles.
And while we're on the topic of resurrections and renaissances, Anarchy Online might just have a shot at reclaiming some of its old glory (hopefully without the old fall-on-its-face-failure) if Funcom can get the much-hyped new graphics engine online for the game. I've always had a soft, fond spot for AO in my heart, and because of that, I was so incredibly giddy to watch a video -- not just screenshots! -- of how this engine revamps the game world.
I'm not going to overstate it here; the engine doesn't make the game look like it came out in 2012, but it certainly brings it within spitting distance of the present versus something that remembers what AOL CDs looked like.
Anyway, there's not a lot of information to be gleaned from this video other than just general amazement at how much better the world looks. The shadows, lighting effects, and rippling flora are all welcome additions, and I sincerely hope we'll see this in the game much sooner rather than later.
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.