What Happened To... (Part 4)

Updated Tue, Oct 26, 2010 by borticus

In the fourth and final installment of “What Happened To...” we’ll take a look at a perpetually re-launching phenomenon, and a game-changing up-and-comer. But first I’ll be digging into the details of a game that just might be considered the perfect example of how to fail at launching an MMOG.

DnL Logo

Dark & Light

Development of Dark & Light originally began in 2002 by NPCube, and publisher Farlan Entertainment announced a prospective release date of 2003 shortly thereafter. This was not the first outlandish promise that would come from this team, and far from the last that would be met. The features list for DnL still reads like a wishlist for any MMOG and includes features that have to this day never been successfully executed in any title.

dnl-dragon-flightBut such fantastic claims were DnL’s bread and butter during the bumpy development cycle. Promises of mounted dragon flight and a massive seamless world to explore created so much hype that even after repeated major delays and a lack of beta announcements, the launch of their official forums is said to have resulted in more than 500,000 registered users over the first week it was live.

The hype they’d built up could not overpower the failure that the game turned out to be, however. Upon the launch in 2006, the servers and client were each so unstable and bug-ridden as to render it largely unplayable. The few brave reviewers that risked frustration and repeated crashing to render judgement on the title universally rated it poorly, citing primarily the instability and bugs, but also the complete lack of more than half of the promised features that caused players to buy into the title to begin with. And as if the technical and gameplay glitches weren’t enough to frustrate the average gamer, billing errors were also a common occurrence.

The situation was so bad, and received so much negative press, that Farlan Entertainment publicly announced in April 2006 that any existing subscribers would be receiving 90 days of free game time. Included with this announcement was the public admission that, “Farlan Entertainment now acknowledges that the game was released prematurely due to pressure from its investors and from the gaming community.”

Way to blame your players, Farlan. Thumbs up!

Despite receiving a steady string of bad press, and suffering badly from server instability throughout its entire run, DnL managed to limp along and remain in operation until 2008, but then it all came crashing down. A lawsuit against NPCube was filed by virtual terrain engine developer VWorld, claiming "software counterfeit, non-respect of the right to credit and paternity, unfair competition and parasitism." In a startling turn of events, NPCube actually had the gumption to counter-sue on the grounds of “unfair competition and damage to NPCube’s reputation” but this counter-suit would get them nowhere, since it was later discovered that they actually had used VWorld’s terrain generation software to create much of the world of DnL. The resulting financial damages incurred in the ruling against NPCube caused them to be unable to support further operation of the DnL servers, and in mid-2008 the servers came down and the game quietly ceased to operate. No announcements, no refunds.

In retrospect, maybe it was unwise to bank on a game being developed by a company located on a tiny island in the Indian Ocean...

Approximately two years have passed, and most DnL followers have given up hope on ever hearing from this apparently-deceased title again. But it seems that the few who have hung onto their memories and hopes are about to be rewarded. Chinese developer Snail Game recently announced at the 2010ChinaJoy event that Dark and Light would be joining their future line up of games, though with a drastically improved look as well as significant technical improvements. No launch date is currently available, and there is no word on international availability outside of China.

dnl dragon battle

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