2015 is over and that means paying respect to the recently departed, games with no servers and developers without jobs. While the year brought with it plenty of new games, it also marked the end of others and whether or not those games continue to live on through unofficial, community-run private servers is another story.
Let’s reminisce on a few of them.
1. Face of Mankind
Seeing games like Face of Mankind never become truly popular and then die out due to the venom of its own design is disappointing, but alas 2015 was the year that the crowd funded reboot to the sandbox title was finally put to rest and given its proper burial: Six feet under. In theory, it was a great idea: Factions made up entirely of players that would function as a working society with police, miners, terrorists, etc. In practice, however, the game quickly devolved into a free for all deathmatch with no limit to the drama of “you broke the ceasefire,” “no you broke it first” on the forums.
Games like this tend to work, in theory, until you enter the troll factor and compensate for the idea that player vs player deathmatch is the easiest form of emergent gameplay in a sandbox environment. Combine it with a system that both allows players to endlessly respawn and try to take out as many people as they can before they are killed, and the inability of players tasked with enforcing the peace to have any real stopping power, and you have a title that new players could log into, find little more than random grenade spam, and subsequently log out and uninstall.
Ultimately, Face of Mankind was an old game with a niche audience. Not even Steam could change that.
2. Dragon’s Prophet (North America)
This is one of a few on our list this year that shut down not due to the game itself but because of the publisher. Dragon’s Prophet is still alive and not-exactly kicking in Europe and Asia, however when Sony Online Entertainment transitioned into Daybreak Game Company and refused to place Dragon’s Prophet on the All Access list, it was pretty obvious that the publisher was looking to cut ties. As part of its cost cutting measures, Daybreak brought everything in house, laid off a bunch of employees, and fired Storybricks. Later on we learned that the two companies would be cutting ties and that Dragon’s Prophet would be shutting down in North America.
So by that measure, Dragon’s Prophet is the only one of this list that can still be played in an official capacity. Creating an account and playing on the European servers is feasible and, in my experience, doesn’t come with any lag.
Again, a victim of corporate play. In this case, Perfect World Entertainment was unable to do anything with the game due to the closure of the game’s developer MAIET. Rather than go through the process of hiring another studio or bringing some people on board to continue development, costs that would have likely outweighed any potential income that the game might receive due to the extra attention, Perfect World decided to call it a day and shut the game down.
As far its library was concerned, Perfect World had a lot higher quality games to invest its money into rather than pouring it into what was an enjoyable but otherwise generic Korean import with a lot of grind and not a big audience. At least they had the decency to reimburse players who’d spent money on it.
4. Archlord 2
If you haven’t noticed, this list every year has a majority stake of Korean imports, and is also severely incomplete. If I took the time to track down every MMO imported from China or Korea that shut down months after launch, I’d have to start this list in January and there would probably be closer to 100 titles. If I included every MMO in China and Korea that shut down this year, it’d probably be closer to a thousand. So instead, I keep the list confined to the games that were released westward, noteworthy enough to be covered here and on other major western gaming websites, meaning you won’t see any one of the numerous titles that R2 Games or Steparu quietly launched and just as quietly shut down.
So while Dragon’s Prophet is the result of publisher bailout and RaiderZ is the victim of developer absence, Archlord 2 went down due to the simple lack of community interest. We knew this was going to be an issue back when the game was still bound to Korea and was already merging servers during beta with players still having trouble forming public groups. The game wasn’t well received in Korea and it wasn’t well received here. Before they had the chance to bury Archlord, its successor was already on its death bed.
5. Transformers Universe
Not an MMO, but worthy of mention because it is Jagex and this is a game that I had marginally more optimism for than their usual new game announcements. The idea of Jagex working on a game based on a third party IP, ideally, meant that there would be an outside force pushing and prodding and ensuring that the game was being developed efficiently and without the waffling that usually ends up delaying and tanking Jagex’s other projects. Ultimately, however, it seems that the addition of a second player just meant one more hand to pull the plug.
But Transformers Universe is a perfect example of a popular game killer, when a title sees a dramatic turn in development focus and jumps genres halfway through development (or in this case less than a year before it was initially supposed to launch), forcing the team to scramble to effectively start over while still driving toward that initial launch date. It’s like being assigned to cook a lasagna with the expectation that it will be done before noon, only to be told at 11:30 when it’s already in the oven that instead the task is to make bolognese. You’ll get it done, late, and it won’t be as good as making it from scratch because all you have is the ingredients for lasagna, plus some half cooked lasagna, and some stuff left over in the cabinet.
6. Infinite Crisis
Again, not an MMO, but noteworthy regardless. Similar to Transformers Universe, the demise of Infinite Crisis is an important reminder on two fronts: First, that the MOBA market is saturated to the point where your game has to be something special or noteworthy on a design or monetary level in order to maintain the healthy userbase required to keep it going. Second, that big IPs mean absolutely nothing in the ‘games as a service’ genres of MOBA and MMO where you rely on long term revenue rather than the first month.
I wrote an editorial at the time of Infinite Crisis shutting down and its bullet points are still applicable today, probably even more so.