I was excited to try out Hailan Rising, a new PvP-centric MMO being published by GamersFirst. It looks sort of primitive but has an old-school appeal that I thought would suit my tastes. For a long time I also thought it was a browser-based game, perhaps because it was being built in Unity, but at this point I'm confused about pretty much everything connected with the title. To make matters worse, the forums are filled with similarly confused players who just want some answers. Many of them cannot log in, but I was able to. But then all I found was an empty server, literally.
I did some research and read up on some of the information we posted on this site as recently as February of this year. I checked the forums and mailed off an inquiry to GamersFirst that as of press time has not been answered. So what is Hailan Rising and what has happened to it?
For me, one of the best indicators of a game's health is how active -- or inactive -- its social media and forums are. Even some of the oldest games out there like EverQuest and Ultima Online use social media despite the unwillingness of some of the older players to accept it. So, when I see a new title that starts off with a presence on Twitter or Facebook or with developers who are active on the forums and then that activity stops, I get worried. It takes mere minutes to send out an update on Twitter or on a forum, so no post means that the developers are ignoring the gamers.
The last Tweet from the Hailan Rising official Twitter account was on the 12th of November. On its official Facebook page, "Hailan Rising is live!" was posted on February 28th. After that on March 4th, a maintenance announcement was made and players were told to enjoy the game. The comments were just a back-and-forth between players and the developers, trying to fix issues that prevented players from actually getting into the game. It seems as if those problems are continuing to this day. If you look on the official forums, you'll see thread after thread with titles like "Absolutely Disgraceful" or "Never Been Able to Play Yet." Most of these threads -- including my own -- go unanswered.
I've come across this phenomenon before. It usually happens in the indie market due to tiny teams that cannot afford a social media master or even a forum moderator or community manager, but GamersFirst is a good-sized publisher. Of course, that doesn't guarantee that the smaller Hailan Rising is rolling in gold coins, but who is to blame when a game that is supposedly launched and ready to go with an open cash shop simply sits there like a toy with no batteries?
I'm not 100 percent sure how I physically got into the game. I started my GamersFirst all-in-one launcher, I hit play, and the game loaded up. I went through a quick tutorial and found myself on an empty island. It's the same island you can see in the player-made video I have embedded in this article, but instead of hordes of people fighting each other, there is literally nobody around. No one. Not a single person. That means my games-writer paranoia kicked in and suddenly I felt I had missed something. Was I on the test server? Did I miss an announcement? We just wrote up an interview with producer Adam Smith on February 22nd. Funny enough, one of the comments on that interview was from a player who seemed to find an empty server as well. Clicking on the YouTube link on the official site brings you to GamersFirst's YouTube page... one that has no Hailan Rising videos on it.
Even though I was alone in the game, I found out that it had some interesting mechanics. Players can literally arm themselves with any combination of abilities, from healing to lightning spells, and can switch them out by purchasing inexpensive items from an NPC. The graphics are definitely old-school, and the game is meant for intense PvP action. From the videos I have seen, I would really like to participate. I even attempted to talk to an NPC that was supposed to send me to the PvP island to fight alongside my fellow orcs, but nothing happened when I clicked the button. More paranoia gripped me, but I kept trying.
"In this way, the game gets players into the action immediately and doesn't waste time with boring grinds or quests. At least that's the theory. Unfortunately, you need more than one player to have a war."
I was able to kill plenty of NPCs around my lonely little island and eventually figured out how to switch out abilities. I liked the fact that there are really no levels or requirements for using an ability. In this way, the game gets players into the action immediately and doesn't waste time with boring grinds or quests. At least that's the theory. Unfortunately, you need more than one player to have a war.
As I mentioned, I have seen this sort of thing happen to way too many titles. It's unfortunate because at the least, players deserve an official response on the forums or through social media. It takes only a minute or two to write up a basic statement about a game's status, but I've also discovered that many independent or smaller development teams are made up of only programmers and possibly a few artists. Communication can fall by the wayside as the coders and designers continue digging in their tunnels of development. The players practically beg for some answers, but the devs are so busy poking through code or designing a new monster that they forget to talk to the players.
Where will Hailan Rising go from here? I'm not sure, and it's very, very possible that the answer is right under my nose. However, my experience is one to learn from because it represents exactly what a brand-new player might go through. Many new gamers find titles at random or while searching sites like this one. Once they find an interesting title and it turns out to be a dud, they never go back. Are the empty Hailan Rising servers an indicator of how development is going? I'm not sure, but it doesn't bode well.
Each week in MMObility, Beau Hindman dives into the murky waters of the most accessible and travel-friendly games around, including browser-based and smartphone MMOs. Join him as he investigates the best, worst, and most daring games to hit the smallest devices! Email him suggestions, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook.