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What Happened To... (Part 3)

Updated Mon, Oct 18, 2010 by borticus

Not every lost MMOG of the past is gone forever. In today’s edition, I’ll be looking at a few titles that may have fallen off the radar, but aren’t necessarily out of the running. Although their current fates may be pinned to nothing more than hopes and promises, each of these games are still clinging to the few fans they have left and dreaming of brighter tomorrows.

spellborn logo

Chronicles of Spellborn

Imagine a world encased in solid stone where, when you peer into the sky, all you see is the unfeeling rockface of your world’s gigantic prison. This is the world of Spellborn. Originally developed by Spellborn International and later taken over by Acclaim, the Chronicles of Spellborn promised a few intriguing features that had many MMOG fans considering it as a candidate for “the next big thing.”

spellborn

The game’s generic fantasy feel was familiar enough to warrant mild speculation, but it was really the combat system that drove imaginations wild. It featured a unique combination of manual targeting (such as those seen in first-person-shooters) and the familiar hotkeys of standard MMOG fare, which joined forces to create a series of mechanics that have not been seen before or since in a published MMOG. Additionally, CoS included a robust customization interface that allowed players to tailor every detail of their avatar, including their actual visible equipment. Upgrades to your equipment would be later obtained via sigils and "bodyslots" which had no effect on your appearance, allowing all players to appear exactly as they wanted to from the day their avatar was born into the game world.

spellborn baddieSadly, these innovative features did not override the blandness of the title as a whole. After its initial UK release in 2008 (2009 in US), reviews ranged from lukewarm to cold, often mentioning a bland color palette and a lack of depth in quest design, as well as the lack of key PvP features that were supposed to make up the bulk of the game’s high-end content.

But it wasn’t just the content that garnered such a lack of enthusiasm. The game itself was released as a free-to-play title (supported by microtransactions) with the promise that it would eventually be re-launched as a full-featured title. However, shortly after this release, the client download, then the patcher, then the client itself all slowly ceased to function as stand-alone applications, requiring 3rd-party workarounds and "hacks" to keep them operating. All bug reports and additional correspondence to the developers and customer service departments went completely unanswered, leaving players feeling abandoned.

In June of 2009, just 3 months after the US release, Spellborn Works announced their bankruptcy, and just two months later it was made public that the servers would be taken offline at the end of that month. During this period of time the operation of the title was sold off to Playdom, who almost immediately sold it to Disney, leaving none of the original staff available to support the title, or its players.

To most, this series of unfortunate events would have foretold the final doom, but Acclaim spoke out about the title just before closing their doors, claiming that Chronicles of Spellborn would be re-launched by a still-unnamed publisher at some point in 2011. Time will tell if this mystery publisher will be up to launching such a risky project, but many hope to once more adventure under the stoney dome of Spellborn’s world.

spellborn landscape

Until the eventual re-launch, you can learn more about the stories of this title, as told by a former community manager at Acclaim. His blog (www.thehistorian.org) is an ongoing tale of the behind-the-scenes events, told from his perspective, leading up to the downfall of his former employer.

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