I was a huge fan of The Chronicles of Spellborn, an ill-fated (and ahead-of-its-time) MMORPG that semi-tragically disappeared a few years ago. I enjoyed its unique setting, art style and combat mechanics, but I also knew that it was never to be smooth sailing for the game. After all, it featured not only a grind and a challenge but could be hard to run on anything less than gaming machines (at the time) and characters had to hoof it from place to place. In fact, the game’s lack of mounts is one of those initial design mistakes that modern developers still make. Wildstar, as much as I love it, has shocked me with its lack of spaceships (and I don’t mean houses that look like spaceships, I mean actual flying ships that you could live in. Star Wars Galaxies did it many years before.) available as soon as a player pops into the game.
When a game is based on travel, or space, or dragons, or anything else, the release should feature some sort of player-controlled aspect of that thing.
But, hindsight is twenty-twenty (and armchair designing is simple) and now it’s easy to see just why the game died. It was too unusual and too grindy. To see an example of how grand -- but unusual -- the game was, check out this ancient video:
Even with those design flaws I still loved the game, and being able to read about a possible resurrection got me more excited than I should have been. Players have tried to resurrect MMOs before -- like City of Heroes, the closest they’ve come yet -- but I’ve yet to see one of those efforts turn a game I can just buy and download. Other than a few slightly illegal (or possibly even dev-approved) attempts, once an MMO is dead, it’s dead. I try to remain hopeful, but I do not like supporting other projects that attempt to charge players for a cheaply-hosted, stolen title that is based on currently-running IPs. I don’t like art theft.
I read about the Spellborn resurrection attempt before but didn’t think much of it. I am firmly tapped into the MMO blogosphere and would have heard about anything substantial, so to prove my point my friend Tipa tried the fan-hosted download, took some screenshots while running around in an empty game, and wrote a blog about it.
Basically you can return to the game on a random character. The world is not populated, but it is fun (supposedly, I haven’t made it in after a series of errors) and it’s awesome to see the old stuff still looking good. But, let’s say that all the legal mumbo-jumbo is settled and players are able to go ahead with a relaunch. How would they do it?
With a game that was received like The Chronicles of Spellborn -- indie darling but with a few players -- it’s possible that the fans could follow the model of, say, Myst Online: Uru Live and hope for a server or two but very little or no updates. The community could donate to keep the servers going and could have access to the game for levelling, exploring and roleplay. Not such a bad idea, huh?
Fans could also team up with ex-developers and host a Kickstarter to raise money for a more-traditional launch. With the funds they could re-work old graphics, complete questlines or -- finally! -- add mounts to the game (in the case of Spellborn.) Remember, however, that someone somewhere own that IP and might not be willing to allow it to be resurrected.
Lastly, in the least likely scenario, some publisher could acquire the game, add it to their roster and re-release it as “Spellborn TWO” or “Spellborn Revisited!” To be honest, I wouldn’t pick the title up if I were anything larger than a fan publisher. The game is too strange and would prove eventually to be dead weight. I love the game, but this is the truth, and unless a developer was willing to basically overhaul much of the game, it would likely not be worth it. Anyway, why would a publisher or developer bother? There are, after all, a million young games that deserve attention and many that are light years ahead of Spellborn in many ways.
No, what we need is a fan-based movement (like we are seeing now) that will get the game running and back into the state it was in when it closed down. They could raise some funds through Patreon or other source, pay for a part-time coder and pay for a cheap server. Fans like myself could relive the game and enjoy ourselves, while the game is held up as the piece of art that it is; not really tangible, but important nonetheless.
Good luck to the Spellborn fans. I would gladly pay for the chance to walk around in the world again, even if it was just for a short time.