The Game Archaeologist: Classic MMOs in August

The Game Archaeologist Classic MMOs in August

How few players do you need to have before operating an MMO becomes ridiculously unprofitable and in need of closing? In the case of The Matrix Online, we found out that the magic number was 500. I wouldn't have even guessed that so few people were in that game when its shutdown was announced, especially considering the vocal anguish that arose when SOE lowered the boom.

I guess it goes to show that we're often quite clueless what goes on behind the curtain. There's always this balance between the number-crunchers (who need players and money to justify continued operations) and the passionate creators (who are often developers putting in the effort because they simply love the game and its community). If nothing else, it reinforced my belief that SOE does bend over backwards to keep these games running as long as possible, much longer than some other studios would in a similar situation.

So what other news regarding classic MMOs happened this past month? It's time for another one of my patented roundups, complete with archaeological commentary!

The Game Archaeologist Classic MMOs in August

Ultima Online: Mythic combats token exploit

A nasty exploit was discovered over the past couple of months where players found ways to create or dupe Mythic and Advanced Character tokens. The studio reported that over it spotted over 8,000 of these illicit tokens in the game and had to take action regarding them. So at the beginning of August, Mythic wiped all of the tokens created since June 20th, making sure that players with legitimate receipts got a new token to replace it.

Now 8,000 tokens might not sound like a lot, but it had to be pretty significant given the assumed smaller size of Ultima Online these days. I can't imagine the headache that the devs went through over this, especially since they had to hand out new tokens one by one to players, even doing so in person (in-game). D'oh!

Anarchy Online: Graphics engine beta getting closer

Yeah, yeah, everyone loves to sound jaded every time Funcom mentions that the new Anarchy Online visuals are on the horizon, but I have no reason to doubt that the team is pretty serious about it, especially considering that this might be the last chance to really give the game some big publicity. In the August development update, there was even a hint that players might be able to check the new engine out sooner than not: "We are getting closer and closer to a beta now." The letter goes on to mentioning the bugs that the team is ironing out, including accidentally making certain parts of the female anatomy way too big.

The Game Archaeologist Classic MMOs in August

EverQuest: Call of the Forsaken expansion announced

Amid all of the excitement and news of the newest EverQuest sibling at SOE Live was the word that the series' original was getting its -- wait for it -- 20th expansion. Call of the Forsaken is scheduled for next month and will introduce Heroic Adventures, ways to tweak mercs' abilities, and additional content to be rolled out in future months. I think that's awesome; after all, how many other classic MMOs are still getting expansions a decade or so into their lifespans?

EverQuest's 15th anniversary is coming up next year too, and the community will be voting on a new race/class combo to be added to the game.

Disney kills Toontown Online and Pirates of the Caribbean Online

In one blow, Disney has slain two of its long-running MMOs, announcing on the same day that these titles will be gone in a month's time. I can't remember the last time anyone talked about these games or saw them in the news, so I don't doubt that they were at the point that it wasn't too profitable to keep them up and running.

So if you've a desire to get one last (or first!) look at either of these MMOs, you've got a couple of weeks of free play before they're gone for good.

The Game Archaeologist Classic MMOs in August

Asheron's Call: Emotions Unbound update

Giving emotions to the Virindi doesn't seem to be a very good idea, but what do I know? Any races that start with "V" have a 90% chance of being pure evil incarnate. Then again, if experiments didn't go bad and races weren't evil, how would you continue these stories and deliver content? "And then everyone went for a picnic. Time to increase your ultimate frisbee skill!"

Lineage II: Sweet Summer Slushie Event

I can probably say without any fact-checking whatsoever that this has to be the world's first MMO event concerning slushie making. And yes, that's exactly what it sounds like. Do some gathering, bring things back to an NPC with curiously modern culinary technology, and then drink a virtual slushie. Why? Because the world's gone mad, that's why.

The Game Archaeologist Classic MMOs in August

Dungeons and Dragons Online: Shadowfell Conspiracy launches

I have to admit that I'm a little tempted to stoke the fires of my long-dormant interest in this game to see how it plays in the Forgotten Realms. From my dev tours, I can attest to the fact that there's a good amount of new content here, although probably the star is the addition of three (well, technically four) new heroic classes. I'm also a little curious where the studio is going to go from here -- either continue developing exclusively for Forgotten Realms, go back to Eberron for the next expansion, or something else entirely.

Vanguard: Cave of Wonder is under construction

Vanguard had a really nice panel during SOE Live, especially considering how close this title came to extinction a while back. The team's heavily promoting a piece of upcoming content called the Cave of Wonder (Tony Wonder?). It's actually an old mid-level zone that's being reworked as a new high-level area. That's economical and exciting; I can get behind it!

Vanguard's always been one of those games that make me wish I had time or a little push by others to play it. I've dabbled, very lightly, but nothing too serious. I'm thinking that you really need to connect with a good guild to get the most out of it.

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.