What Happened To... (Part 4)

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.

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.

style="width: 350px; height: 157px;" alt="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
target="_top">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.

src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/90835">But such
fantastic claims were DnL’s bread and butter during the bumpy
development cycle. Promises of mounted dragon flight and a href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/3898" target="_top">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 href="http://www.mmorpg.com/gamelist.cfm/game/58/view/reviews/load/43/page/1"
target="_top">few href="http://pc.gamezone.com/reviews/item/dark_and_light_pc_review/"
target="_top">brave href="http://www.onrpg.com/MMO/Dark-and-Light/review/Dark-and-Light-Review-Game-Had-Potential-But-Failed-to-Deliver"
target="_top">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 href="http://www.joystiq.com/2006/08/14/farlan-admits-dark-and-light-was-rushed-play-for-free/"
target="_top">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

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 target="_top">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 href="http://www.prlog.org/10057834-dark-and-light-mmorpg-game-developer-npcube-dismissed-and-convicted-by-french-court.html"
target="_top">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

In retrospect, maybe it was unwise to bank on a game being developed by
a company located on a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reunion_Island" target="_top">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 href="http://www.darkandlight.com/forum/showthread.php?t=72716"
target="_top">recently announced at the 2010ChinaJoy event
that Dark and Light
would be joining their future line up of games, though with a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12xsh4DP4h0" target="_top">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.

style="width: 489px; height: 378px;" alt="dnl dragon battle"

style="width: 420px; height: 253px;" alt="ATITD Logo"

A Tale in the Desert

We now explore a truly unique title in the world of MMOGs. Despite
being announced by developer eGenesis almost a decade ago, style="font-style: italic;">A Tale In The Desert
remains a project that is truly one-of-a-kind, and has never been
successfully copied. Actually more of a sociological experiment than a
game, this title features an evolving online society based on
player-voted laws and player-created tests and trials, as well as
(brace yourself...) a total lack of combat of any type.

alt="atitd promo"
src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/90832">Based on
those features alone, it’s easy to see how this game could become
something of a cult phenomenon within its own niche market. But in
addition to these unique aspects, ATitD also shuts down every 6-18
months, and relaunches again with a fresh world filled with newly
improved graphics, gameplay, and entirely new stories, tests and trials
to experience. This act of closure and re-launch has confused many
outsiders into wondering whether or not the game is active, dead,
re-published, re-born, dead and gone, a private emulator, or any number
of other options at any given point in time. But, I can confirm that
the currently-active ATitD is the same title as originally released
(yet improved with each relaunch) and still in the hands of the
original developers.

Another of the unique features of this title is that the eGenesis’
president Andrew Tepper takes an active role in shaping the online
society, playing as an NPC named “Pharoah” in a type of community
interaction unprecedented in the modern MMOG scene.

It’s not as grandiose as the features above may make it sound, however.
eGenesis is an ‘indie’ developer company with very little financial
backing, and no prior programming or development experience before they
began the ATitD project in 2000. The lack of polish and subpar graphics
are frequently a stumbling block for new players, and the game seems to
have a following of only a few thousand devotees.

style="width: 640px; height: 359px;" alt="atitd scenery"

Yet, the game (or experiment?) lives on. August of this year marked the
beginning of the “Fifth Telling” (or fifth reset/re-launch) and the
game appears to be getting a stronger following based on their href="http://stats.atitd.org/usage/" target="_top">publicly
available site statistics. Perhaps this is another sign that
the gaming industry is maturing into a world where indie projects like style="font-style: italic;">Minecraft, style="font-style: italic;">Neverdaunt and the
famous “Humble Indie Bundle” are not the only independent projects
capable of capturing the hearts of their audiences.

A Tale in the Desert offers a href="http://atitd.com/download.html" target="_top">free
client download (for PC, MacOS and Linux) that includes 24
hours of free game time before you will be asked to pay a monthly fee
to continue your adventures in Egypt’s newest, and oldest, online

style="width: 450px; height: 149px;" alt="Agency Logo"

The Agency

In the world of MMOGs, the RPG is undeniably king. There is no finer
example of this than the juggernaut that is style="font-style: italic;">World of Warcraft,
but even that title came into the genre riding the coattails of the
original 3D MMORPG, EverQuest. And
now, Sony Online Entertainment, the publishers of the game that
arguably created the entire MMOG phenomenon, is attempting to break
existing stigmas around the often-derided sub-genre of the MMOFPS and
finally created a title in that category that is worthy of the “AAA”

style="width: 250px; height: 341px; float: right;"
alt="agency paragon"
src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/90836">The Agency

has been under development at SOE’s Seattle Studios since 2007, and has
already been shown off as href="http://ps3.ign.com/articles/985/985619p1.html"
target="_top">playable and stable as both a PvE
and target="_top">PvP experience. Originally scheduled
for a 2010 release, the title was recently put on an indefinite delay
for the purposes of content development. SOE seems confident enough in
the title that they’ve begun to take an approach of “ href="http://g4tv.com/thefeed/blog/post/705966/the-mmo-report-e3-2010-special-part-2.html"
target="_top">it’s done when it’s done” style="font-style: italic;">(*timestamp 19:05)
and is now href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/agency/interviews/mcguire-aug-2010"
target="_top">estimating the release as some time in mid-2011.
This delay has many fans worried however, as the game is already
earning a reputation as being a “covert” project, with very few
announcements and little press activity coming to the surface. It would
be all-too-easy for the project to quietly slip away into obscurity at
this point, and never heard from again.

But each time the title has surfaced, however infrequently that has
been, it's had a big impact. At E3 in 2008, 2009 and 2010, demos were
shown that left reporters across the MMOG industry raving about their
hopes for this title. The gameplay we’ve seen so far leans very heavily
on its FPS roots, with the MMO portion of its category taking a
backseat to the shooter-driven action. In fact, some might even argue
that calling this game ‘massive’ is a very liberal interpretation of
the term, since public areas are said to support only 50-100 players,
with PvE missions and PvP skirmishes having caps much lower (4 and 24
respectively, at this time). We’ll have to see how the game handles
social integration on a larger scale before making the final call, but
so far this title is shaping up to be FPS first, MMO second.

This point was nailed home during a developer interview which contained
the quote, “a headshot is a headshot,” implying that character
advancement will, in the long run, matter less than actual player skill.

I personally hold out hope that this game lands in a timely manner, and
lives up to the promises and hype that it has earned so far. After my
disappointment with Planetside,
SOE’s former MMOFPS project, I’ve always had a soft spot this type of
game, and I hold on to hope that it will one day boast a title that
will cement the sub-genre’s place in the MMOG industry as a whole. As
such, 2011 can’t get here fast enough.

style="width: 640px; height: 360px;" alt="Agency gameplay"

... and so many more!

Unfortunately, this brings us to the end of the “What Happened To...”
series of articles, here at Ten Ton Hammer. We hope you’ve enjoyed
these trips down Memory Lane, even if this particular avenue is lined
with cemeteries and junkyards filled with the leavings of an industry
that shows no mercy to those attempting to enter it. Hopefully those
treading these paths in the future may learn a lesson or two from those
that came before. As a wise man once said, “those that do not learn
from history, are doomed to repeat it.” Probably as a poorly rendered
MMOG played on a glitchy server, that costs too much on a monthly basis.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Dark and Light Game Page.

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About The Author

A longtime fan of competitive gaming, Jeremy got his first chance to work in the field as a writer for eSportsMax. Now eSports Editor for TenTonHammer, he looks to keep readers aware of all of the biggest events and happenings in the eSports world, while also welcoming new fans who aren't yet sure where to go to get the most relevant information. Jeremy always looks to provide content for new fans and veterans alike, believing that helping as many people as possible enjoy all the scene has to offer is key to its growth.

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