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Interview - The Open Meridian Project

Robert Lashley Posted:
Interviews 0

MMORPG: Meridian 59 is recognized as one of, if not the first, 3d MMORPG. How is it still relevant today?

Jacqueline: Meridian is an example of how important online personalities are in our culture. It is a testing ground for lifestyles that are just now starting to become permanent. We have a group of people who have spent more than a decade together playing, plotting, and pillaging. Each new adventure has expanded how they are socially defined in the virtual world, and, now, those adventures have progressed to include building and running the game itself. As one of the oldest persistent games, much about the online self can be learned through Meridian 59’s development and persistence.

Gar: There seems to be a life cycle that iconic MMORPGs go through. Meridian 59 has been a great indicator of the next stages of that life cycle throughout its run. While other classics like Asheron's Call are making moves toward player-run servers, Meridian 59 has already been Open Source for a number of years. In some ways, Meridian 59's biggest competitor has always been Ultima Online, as opposed to any newer games that came out, and UO has also shifted heavily toward player-run servers to survive. Looking at Meridian 59 and Ultima Online, it's clear to see that the expansion of the Internet, and the growth and acceptance of gaming, has allowed a new type of culture to come into existence. The future for online persistent worlds may very well be in the hands of the players that love said worlds. We work for free, we are subject matter experts, and we will never stop contributing. There's no way for a persistent game world to die with a team like that behind it. For Meridian 59, specifically, we remain the only first-person game based largely on the rules of 90's-era online text DIKU MUDs, in which the rules were loose, anything could happen, and player competition was lethal and punishing. Most of our players have remained with Meridian 59 because other PvP games simply never lived up to the lawless feel that imbued our world.

Daenks: Meridian 59 was, in fact, the first commercial 3d MMORPG. It was written in a very MUD-like style, which gave the game a lot of flexibility that tragically went unused under early administrations. Over the years, one of the biggest draws for me has been the amount of change that a player can effect in the virtual world... one player can perform in-game actions that affect the entire population, such as stealing a token from a faction rival to cause that entire faction to lose a damage bonus, or dedicating the limited shrines to give their school of spells more power than their enemies'. Combine these factors with open-world PvP that includes real (but recoverable) damage to your character upon death, and you have a recipe for some adrenaline-filled fun. From a programming perspective, the server that runs Meridian (blakserv) is amazing. It was essentially the Unity 3d of its day - a full-fledged game engine using what basically amounts to enhanced DOOM WAD files and a custom OOP scripting. Every time I have to update server code, I find myself amazed at how much they could do in the 90's with so little processing power and bandwidth. Finally, Meridian has joined a fairly small group of MMORPGs that are open source - one of only 6 in the world. Literally anyone can join our team, or join as a player, and have an impact on the game, its world, and its community.

Delerium: RPGs have been around since the mid 20th century, starting off as live-action re-enactments, progressing to tabletop D&D games, and then into text-based MUDs. Meridian 59 and more recent MMOs are successors of the text-based games, and, while there are the obvious differences in terms of graphics and user interface, the gameplay elements are the same, going all the way back to the start - build a character, slay monsters, complete quests, and socialise. The game will still be relevant as long as there are people playing it, just as the previous forms of RPGs are still relevant today. The success of Minecraft also speaks to how well a game with less flashy graphics can do today, though we do have a new 3D client (in Beta) based on the Ogre engine to bring Meridian 59 into the 21st century.

Keen: I view Meridian as the mother of the modern MMO.  It will always be historically significant because it gave birth to a class of games that is still very relevant today.  I also think that, with a little work, some modern MMO concepts can find their way into Meridian.  It just depends on what the community would like to see.

MMORPG: Who is the team behind the Open Meridian Project and what are their backgrounds?

Jacqueline Miller, from Miller Creative Consulting, is a designer and PR specialist. She doesn’t play the game, as she prefers to stay neutral and objective so that she can help facilitate work with developers, the community, and third parties.

Gar / Matt Dymerski is an author and a publisher with some technical background. His formal education includes Computer Science, Economics, and an MBA, but his contributions focus on content, storylines, and experiential advice.

Daenks / Daniel Stone is an IT Automation specialist from Houston, TX. He is the Lead Administrator, one of the founders of the project, and one of the Tool-Chain/Systems programmers for the project.

Delerium is a long-time Meridian 59 player from Perth, Australia. His formal education is in Biomedical Science but has discovered a passion for programming while working on the game. He is an Administrator for the project, coordinates updates on Server 103, works on the server, original client and gameplay code and fixes lots of bugs.

Keen/Matthew Trey is an IT consultant and freelance software developer in upstate New York.  Matthew works on many different parts of the project including client and server development and documentation.

DeadManWalking / Florian Neuner is a Web Developer / Creative from Nuremberg - Germany. He's currently focusing on the development of the new ogre client, especially creating new high resolution textures, designing a new user interface, quality assurance and usability improvements. He's played Meridian 59 since 1998.

MMORPG: What is the Open Meridian Project?

Daenks: We are a group of die-hard Meridian 59 fans who spend some of our spare-time building expansions and tools for Server 103 and Open Source Meridian 59.

Delerium: Our aim basically is to see Meridian 59 flourish with as many players as possible. We build and improve existing tools to make it easy for other groups to set up their own servers and contribute to the game. We are working on creating an easy method to add translations to the game, so that players from other countries can set up servers in their native language. On our flagship server, “Server 103,” we work on adding new content for players, and have updated at least once a month (sometimes more!) since the server opened in November 2013. All the content and tools we create are available on our GitHub repository for anyone to use, and we provide help to other groups who are setting up servers.

Jacqueline: The Open Meridian Project is a group of people who started out interested in exploring new mechanics and gameplay. Now, the project ultimately seeks to create an opportunity for Server 103 - and all other Meridian 59 servers - to expand and grow. We are hoping to build momentum for the community, and, ultimately, we would like to take Meridian 59 onto Steam. Our dream is to have enough players playing Meridian that they become inspired to create their own servers, so that players will have the option of playing the same game under a variety of different versions, ranging from classic historical rulesets to custom future systems.

Gar: The Open Meridian Project is a varied team of individuals who love Meridian 59, and seek to maintain it and grow it. Many of us have played the game since it came out in 1996, and we saw a great deal of potential that was never realized as ownership changed hands and varying market conditions suppressed development investment. The project's goals involve bringing our unique game up to a modern structure. Although we focus mainly on Server 103, there are a range of servers run by different people now that the game is Open Source, and we contribute and help any that ask. We have also developed a launcher that allows players to connect to any server, even if the servers have different rulesets, so that Meridian 59 can stay unified as it diversifies.

Keen: The Open Meridian Project is a fork of the classic Meridian codebase, with many thousands of additional lines of code and changes.  A large number of classic server bugs have been addressed and many new features have been added.  Server 103 is the official home of the codebase, and is where any updates are first rolled out to.  There are other servers that run our code independently, such as Korea-1, and the occasional European server.

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Robert Lashley

Rob Lashley is a Staff Writer and Online host for MMORPG.com. Rob's bald and when he isn't blinding people from the glare on his head talking in front of a camera you can chase him down on twitter @Grakulen or find him on YouTube @RobUnwraps.