What Happened To...
In every business there are failures. In the world of MMOGs, these
failures sometimes sting so harshly that even time does not erase our
bitterness over what could have been. As gamers, we invest a lot of
ourselves into wanting to play and live within universes that captivate
us. These universes can be derivatives of our favorite novels or
television series, or created out of thin air by talented teams of
developers, but either way, when a world comes along that captures our
imaginations, we cant let it die easily.
And so, in any conversation with an MMO gamer whos been around for
more than a couple years, you are bound to come across references to
some of these great might have beens from years past. In
this article, Ill wander down memory lane with you, to tell you the
tales of the MMOGs that never were, and update you on some that may
once again march into the daylight in the near future.
Perhaps one of the most disappointing failed MMOG tales in recent
history is the story of Stargate
Worlds. SGW had all the potential of a rich, deep IP with
almost endless content possibilities, coupled with a dedicated (some
might even say rabid) fanbase to draw from. So, how did it all go
To tell you the entire story of this troubled IP, Id have to be a
professional lawyer and private investigator. The accusations, href="http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/stargate-worlds-developer-sued-over-unpaid-bill"
target="_top">rumors and href="http://www.ripoffreport.com/Internet-Fraud/CHEYENNE-MOUNTAIN-EN/cheyenne-mountain-entertainmen-6bg4a.htm"
target="_top">unconfirmed insider statements are
so convoluted youd almost swear that they were intentionally crafted
to deceive and mislead an outsider from finding the true stories behind
the companies responsible for this MMOGs failure. And, you style="width: 85px; height: 113px; float: left;"
alt="Cheyenne Mountain Logo"
vspace="5">wouldnt be far from the truth. You see, style="font-style: italic;">Stargate Worlds,
and the entire Stargate IP, was merely an innocent bystander in what
turned out to be a multi-level get-rich-quick scheme, also known as a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ponzi_scheme" target="_top">Ponzi
Scheme, headed up by a CEO of questionable repute and even
more questionable character. How it was that Cheyenne Mountain
Entertainment managed to grab hold of the Stargate IP is still an
unknown, but it seems likely that href="http://www.theonering.net/torwp/2009/09/25/33629-mgm-teetering-on-bankruptcy/"
target="_top">MGMs desperate financial situation
over the past several years played a role. Perhaps they did not do
their homework before signing the deal, and were blinded by the
potential dollars a successful MMOG could bring to their door. However,
the simple truth seems to be that Gary Whiting, as the head of CME,
never intended to release a finished product to the public and was
simply using the beloved Stargate franchise to further their own
nefarious money-making scam.
vspace="5">By capitalizing on the reputation of this
well-known IP, the leaders of CME headed up a multi-level marketing
scheme, under the company name of href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/61377" target="_top">MMOguls,
which brought in droves of relatively small-dollar-figure investors who
were promised outlandish returns once the game was made available to
the public. One published statement claimed that SGW was href="http://www.mmorpg.com/discussion2.cfm/post/2750782#2750782"
target="_top">guaranteed to bring in 150-200 million
subscribers -- a claim so unbelievable that it should make
any veteran MMO gamer laugh out loud. Unfortunately, several dozen
claimants in the ensuing lawsuits bought into these outlandish
statements and invested their hard-earned money into CMEs venture with
the promise of reaping unearthly dividends at a later date. Needless to
say, such promises were never kept.
As if that wasnt enough, the story doesnt end there. Since the
collapse of CME under the weight of href="http://www.cheyenneme.com/news/587/" target="_top">various
statements and href="http://www.superiorcourt.maricopa.gov/docket/CivilCourtCases/caseSearchResults.asp?lastName=&FirstName=&bName=cheyenne+mountain"
target="_top">civil filings, various news sites
(including Ten Ton Hammer) have attempted to get a straight story out
of the parties involved, only to be shut down at every turn. Internal
arguments and finger-pointing have become common with those caught up
in the whole ordeal, and its difficult to tell if anyone in this story
is innocent of wrong-doing.
After all of this strife, what has become of the IP itself? What
happened to Stargate
The most recent news item to float out of the murky depths of the
continuing litigation surrounding SGW is that a newly formed company
called Fresh Start Studios (comprised primarily of former-CME
employees) was href="http://www.vg247.com/2010/03/27/fresh-start-studios-to-continue-work-on-stargate-resistance/"
target="_top">offered the opportunity to buy the IP
and all of SGWs assets for the sum of $100,000 -- a fraction of 1% of
the total value of these assets based on the amount of third-party
investments sunk into the venture. This resulted in href="http://www.gamerlaw.co.uk/2010/03/mysterious-goings-on-at.html"
target="_top">additional legal action, because CME
was not allowed to liquidate any of their assets while under litigation
target="_top">bankruptcy. Former investors into
CME are now suing Fresh Start Studios (and a laundry list of other
parties involved with the transfer) over this questionable act, because
without the Stargate IP CME now lack[s] any reasonable means or
prospect of internally generating revenues."
Its probably safe to assume that SGW is not due for a rescue story of
the sort weve seen happen to other MMOGs in the past. It is likely
that the assets and license will be tied up in litigation for some time
to come thanks to the underhanded investment schemes and fraudulent
tactics of those previously in possession of the IP. The best we can
hope for, as fans of the franchise, is that MGM will retake the rights
to this rich universe, and more carefully choose their next partner in
the future. But considering MGMs rocky financial footing at this time,
the future of this gaming franchise is far too uncertain to make any
alt="Stargate Worlds Screenshot"
Don't hold your breath
alt="Gods and Heroes Boxart"
vspace="5">Originally announced in 2005, style="font-style: italic;">Gods and Heroes
promised to be the first ever MMOG set in the mystical world of ancient
roman mythology. The game was developed up to the point of an
invitation-only closed beta process, when href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perpetual_Entertainment"
target="_top">Perpetual Entertainment (by then
called P2) abruptly announced their href="http://potshot.wordpress.com/2007/11/27/perpetual-speculation-warp-factor-four/"
target="_top">impending bankruptcy, and shut the
game servers down in October of 2007. A mire of financial squabbles and
posturing followed that left no clear indication as the final ownership
of the games existing assets. Rumors at the time indicated it may have
been obtained, along with the Star
Trek Online IP, by a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravity_%28company%29"
target="_top">Korean-based MMOG company, but such
statements were later denied after href="http://trekmovie.com/2008/03/13/cryptic-confirmed-as-new-developer-for-star-trek-online/"
target="_top">Cryptic Studios and Atari confirmed that STO
was now in their hands.
And so, after it received multiple href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/index.php?q=node/442#GodsHeros"
target="_top">Best in Show awards at the 2006 E3
and several promising previews, we were left wondering the fate of this
once promising MMOG. Despite its history as a high profile development,
it simply slipped into the darkness following Perpetuals collapse. For
years no announcements were made, and no news or rumors surfaced.
Quietly, our hopes of seeing this original and innovative IP come to
fruition, were lost.
hspace="5" vspace="5">And then, as if heralded by the
thunderbolts of mighty Jupiter himself, an announcement rang out across
the internet in February of 2010. The dark silence was finally broken,
and developer href="http://pc.ign.com/articles/107/1070873p1.html"
target="_top">Heatwave Interactive announced their
continuing development of the forgotten project. Current
estimates put a release date at some point in late 2011, according to a
quote from Heatwave CEO, Anthony Castoro.
alt="Heatwave Interactive Logo"
vspace="5">However, skepticism still runs thick. The href="http://www.heatwave.com/" target="_blank">Heatwave
Interactive website shows their only previously published
products as an in-browser flash game available on Facebook, and a
soundboard iPhone app. Fans of the original development may be dismayed
to hear that Heatwave intends to bring the game to market as a casual
web-based app. Yet they still display a href="http://heatwave.com/product_GodsAndHeroes.php"
target="_top">trailer on their website that shows
the assets and artwork included in the original development process.
So, where does the truth lie, and how will the final product look and
play? Well have to keep our eyes open, and find out for ourselves on
this one. The mere fact that the game is now back in active development
should interest fans of Roman mythology, or those enamored by the work
originally created by Perpetuals developers. But the significant shift
in delivery methods is likely to disappoint many of those who followed
the original development under Perpetual Entertainment.
"I'm not dead, yet!"
alt="Hellgate London Logo"
vspace="5">When we speak of failed IPs and lost potential,
few can forget the heartaches and headaches brought on by the colossal
fall of Hellgate: London.
Publicly released in October of 2007, the game was forced to href="http://news.bigdownload.com/2008/10/24/hellgate-london-online-servers-to-shut-down-jan-31/"
target="_top">shut down their servers after just
over a year due to financial instability within the company. The IP was
seized as an asset, because publisher Flagship Studios had put it up
for collateral when obtaining capital from their investors to continue
operation and development of the title. This server shutdown was
perhaps felt hardest by those who had purchased lifetime subscriptions
to the title, which by current estimates is said to include tens of
thousands of players, each of whom paid $150USD apiece, the approximate
equivalent of 15 months of play, and, unfortunately, several months shy
of the time in which the servers remained active. The pain of this lost
investment cut extra deep for those who bought into it, since the
majority of Hellgate
players did not subscribe to the game and instead played under a
somewhat restricted free-to-play model. While these non-subscribers
enjoyed robust gameplay options at no recurring cost, those who paid
for lifetime subscriptions ended up feeling like second-class citizens,
denied their proper reward for making the choice to financially support
the games continued development.
The IP for Hellgate:
London was later href="http://news.mmosite.com/content/2009-11-13/20091113030637844,2.shtml"
target="_top">sold to Korean-based company Hanbitsoft,
which has since opened servers in their home region to support
multiplayer capabilities. As of February of this year, href="http://gamerlimit.com/2010/01/hanbitsoft-resuscitates-hellgate-london-in-north-america-and-europe/"
target="_top">Hanbitsoft has obtained the rights to a US/EU
release, and is looking to republish the title in those
regions in the near future. Details regarding patches, upgrades and
changes to the existing client since the 2009 shut down are difficult
to track down, but it is likely that the newly re-released version of style="font-style: italic;">Hellgate: London
at this time) will require players to purchase a new client.
vspace="5">The story of Myst
Online, despite being fraught with disappointment, is
perhaps as unique as it is inspiring. The game originally began
development back in 1997 under the title style="font-style: italic;">Ages Beyond Myst: Uru Live
and was intended to be the first multiplayer title to take place in the
then-chart-topping world of Myst.
Over the years, developer Cyan Worlds experienced a turbulent
development process, as well as disagreements with their publisher,
Ubisoft, over the single-player aspects of the title. Ultimately, the
game ended up being released without a multiplayer component as " style="font-style: italic;">Uru: Ages Beyond Myst"
but developers at Cyan Worlds refused to abandon further development of
the title. It took them almost a decade, but in 2006 they announced a
partnership agreement with the online game service GameTap, and a
working published version of the multiplayer title style="font-style: italic;">Myst Online was
finally released to the public in February of 2007,all thanks to the
tenacity and passion of Cyan Worlds and their dedicated fans and
Sadly, thats not the happy ending to the tale. Despite the rabid
dedication of their small market of players, GameTap was forced to href="http://mystonline.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=14595"
target="_top"> shut down their support for the title
in February of 2008 due to concerns regarding continued content
delivery and creative disagreements. And yet, even with this setback,
the plucky Cyan Worlds team refused to throw in the towel and href="http://n4g.com/news/164066/gametap-hands-back-myst-online"
target="_top">re-acquired the rights to style="font-style: italic;">Myst Online free of
charge after a few months of negotiation. In February of 2010, a small
private server was brought online, and the game was republished under
the title Myst Online:
Uru Live Again. The game is now free to play, though no
new content is currently being developed. Cyan Worlds has announced
their intention to release the source code for style="font-style: italic;">Myst Online,
however, which could potentially lead to user-generated content at a
more to come!
It is strange to find such a varied collection of stories in a single
business model. From companies actively seeking to scam investors and
line their own pockets, to developers that care so much for a title
that they release it free to the public after more than a decade of
hard work, these tales show us a glimpse of the best and worst that
this genre has to offer, and many of the perils that any upcoming title
has to overcome in order to finally stand by its brethren on the
shelves of retail stores around the world.
But for every shared story dozens more go unspoken. And for
every story of success, there is at least one failure that we never got
to play, or that passed into obscurity before its time.
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