On the Brink: Planetside

Planetside, touted as the first true MMOFPS, takes yet another turn towards its ultimate demise, with the announcement that the game’s two servers will finally merge into one, to deal with lacking population.┬áThe original five servers have gradually closed and merged, and currently the game houses two servers; One North American and one European.

As far as MMO’s go, server closure is one of the first lines of defense in keeping a game alive. When empty servers spread players thinly, forcing them into a smaller space will give an illusion of player count, and may inspire ex-players to jump back into the renewed action, creating a snowball effect that brings more and more players to the game.

Sadly, if history has taught us anything, it is that this mantra will more than likely fail for Planetside, a game that has been on a downward slope for years now. Planetside’s status as pioneer in MMOFPS action, massive scale battles, and focus on skills above levels, will not help it in its fall from grace.

The merge will go ahead on August 25th. Once Planetside is consolidated on to one server, it is anyone’s guess as to how long it has to live afterwards.

Tabula Rasa: What Happened

Tabula Rasa was an MMORPG that blended role playing with 3rd person shooter tactics, in an open ended and dynamic war waged between the human and bane forces. The game focused on Logos, artifacts that players collect to enable certain powers. While the game focused on PvE play, the introduction of PvP content introduced war games, allowing various game modes to be played between warring clans.

Unlike most other MMO’s that feature a targeting system and auto-attacks with the addition of hotbar attacks, Tabula Rasa features a targeting system for only some weapons, combined with a third person shooter system, and rpg hit/miss and damage calculations. Tabula Rasa focused on the war aspect of the game, and both sides of the war would launch attacks on each other’s bases. It was completely possible to lose a base to the Bane forces, meaning that access to the NPC’s, vendors, spawn points, teleport locations, and anything else located in the base would become inaccessible until the area was retaken.

So where did Tabula Rasa fail? The easiest way to answer that is unfulfilled promises. The game launched with very little, if any, end-game content, and the developers took so long to introduce any inkling of end-game content that many of the players who had reached the level cap had quit long beforehand. Certain promises of player-driven mechs, pvp wargames, and more, weren’t fulfilled until literally a month before the game shut down. Richard Garriot also left the company a few weeks before the announcement of shutdown.

Inevitably, player count went down sharply, resulting in the game getting the axe for subpar subscriber numbers.


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Auto Assault: What Happened

On August 31, 2007, Auto Assault was given the final shutdown, after a failed attempt to sell the IP to NCSoft, despite various offers from 3rd parties to buy the rights to the IP and continue running servers based around the game.

Auto Assault is one of the shorter running MMO’s, from April 2006 to August 2007. The title suffered from, as many starter MMO’s do, the lack of subscribers that eventually pulled the project into the ground.

Auto Assault takes place in the distant future, and is a post-apocalyptic MMO. The player takes control of a vehicle that is equipped with weapons, and all of the action is real time, 3rd person perspective. It is only during short intervals in safe cities that the player is able to leave their vehicle and actually walk around. Despite the game’s shortcomings, the concept was very creative, and offered a nice alternative to the usual walking around and bashing stuff with a sword, to driving around and shooting stuff.

The question that is inevitably asked is; “Was Auto Assault doomed from the start?”, and the answer to that question is a defiant “probably.” Auto Assault had the unfortunate timing of being the “Starter MMO” released by Net Devil, who reportedly has a staff of a whopping fourteen people. Without a doubt, Auto Assault is a niche title that didn’t appeal to the massive audience, but even then it didn’t appeal to enough of an audience required to keep an MMO floating on the water. The project was ambitious for such a small development team, and as many risky titles go, this one fizzled out. Wrong time, wrong company.

Net Devil does not currently have any other MMO’s on the market, although the developer is currently working on two titles for release in the 2009-2010 time frame.

Asheron’s Call 2: What Happened

Dear AC2 subscribers,

In spite of our hard work and the launch of Legions, AC2 has reached the point where it no longer makes sense to continue the service. We will be officially closing the Asheron’s Call 2 service on 12/30/05. Until then, we plan to run live events, but we will not be adding any content or features.

We deeply appreciate the many dedicated fans of AC2 who have stood by us over the years. You have our sincerest gratitude.

Best regards,

Jeffrey Anderson
CEO, Turbine

Asheron’s Call 2 launched on November 22, 2002, as a sequel to the popular Asheron’s Call, developed and published by Turbine Entertainment Software. The game boasted an extensive crafting system with no level caps, that allowed players to excel in everything from various armor crafting, to weapons making, and onward. Experience was gained by questing, monster hunting, and even turning in treasure for gold. The player vs player mechanics were always consensual, offering a combination of duels, pvp zones, and pvp dedicated servers.

So what happened? Asheron’s Call, the original, is still running! For starters; Asheron’s Call 2 failed to gain the attention of the fans of the original, who cited massive gameplay changes, calling the game a sequel “only in name.” Asheron Call 2’s subscriber numbers peaked at a paltry 50,000, and depleted down to an estimated 10 to 15 thousand, as estimated by mmogchart.com. While Everquest/Everquest 2 shared the same scenario as Asheron’s Call, the major difference is that Everquest 2 managed to bring in enough new players to supplement those that would not transition over from the original, enough to stay afloat and continue expanding. Everquest was, and still is, a household title to the MMO genre, and such an ambitious venture did nothing but benefit SOE. Asheron’s Call, on the other hand, is not a household name, and was not equipped well enough for such a project.

Asheron’s Call 2 is lived on by its predecessor, Asheron’s Call. Although Turbine refuses to reveal numbers, it is estimated that Asheron’s Call has dropped below 10 thousand subscribers, meaning its days may be numbered as well.

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