Monday, June 16, 2008

Archeology II - Shadowbane

Shadowbane was/is a free-for-all PvP game. It includes city-building and ressources to compete for. Currently free-to-play and not in development anymore.

I played Shadowbane for about 2 years from the release. Mostly I played a Fury and a Channeler on the Mourning server.

Shadowbane was the first zoneless MMO game I played (yes I know Asheron's Call was first). Sadly the zoneless design was extremely laggy at release and made PvP more painful than usual. The lag issue was resolved after a few months, but at that time most of my guild had already left.

It was also the first game where players could influence/determine the fate of the server/shard through city building and competition for resources. This was in most people's opinion the strong point of the game.

Meaningful vertical movement (flying) that could be used for combat made also possible fly-by shootings and escape from ground-bound forces.

It also had different rulsets and maps on different servers, which could be theoretically changed dynamically (xp-bonus / death penalties).

Another feature showed first in Shadowbane were what is now called "Veteran Reward" allowing players access to additional races depending on their cummulative subscription time.

Immediately axed Design Features

1.) Cross-Shard Travel
Originally there were plans for cross-server travel enabling players to invade other servers. Especially due to the different rulesets and maps it would have been extremely interesting.
2.) custom designed quests
Due to the non-existance of quest NPCs originally plans where for GMs to give players quests, but this was dropped within the first days post-release.

Multi Platform
Shadowbane was released for Mac and Windows-PC at the same time. All expansions were also released for both platforms at the same time. In addition both clients used the same servers.

Shadowbane introduced me to a community that was mainly interested in personal gain by whatever means. Rules/Bugs were used for maximum effect possible and random ganking was common. As example siege times were picked to inconvenience the defending force as much as possible (as in 5am CET), and gold/items exploits were used to gain upperhand in conflicts.
On the other hand close-knit groups existed who managed to not only survive but even do a bit of roleplay on Mourning. Other servers had cases, where one guild owned all cities and moved on to other games due to having "won".

(picture from

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Archeology I - Everquest

Lets's start with the most obvious: Everquest

I played EQ starting from Ruins of Kunark until Gates of Discord, one of my mains was a Shadowknight from Paineel making some of the biggest changes affect me directly.

The original was running one server per zone. While able to cope with a few dozens of players at the same time, lag spikes were widely known to occur in hot zones (as during GM-events).

A few years later SOE showed during a E3 talk (if I remember correctly) a dynamic balancing system in what whole images of zone servers wee balanced on a computing grid. This got rid of the lag and due to the fact that less used zones could share a low-powered host saved them probably a lot of money.

Basically what they invented was one of the first computing clouds as later brought into mainstream by Amazon and Google.

(picture from

Again, the original Everquest graphis engine was what we would best describe now as "god-awful". Especially bad performance showed in places with lots of different textures and NPCs (Paineel anyone?). This was mainly due to the client rendering everything and the removing bits you couldn't see from you POV (as of patch notes). Soon later SOE/Verant used a technique mainly in use by NEC during that time to calculate first the POV and THEN render the rest of the environment as needed.
(late alpha screenshot from alkarazham)

SOE brought out a Mac as well as a Playstation version of EQ, and therefore rank as the first multi-platform MMORPG publisher I know of. The various platforms had their own servers and development teams. All of the non-PC versions were/are not too successful.

The Mac version met its final fate in 2004 when the company tasked with the development did it's last patch. Also it didn't help, that the PC expansions usually took months to get ported (in various stages of completeness). But the surviving servers seem to get a few more players from people looking for the "classic" experience.

at least for me, my first encounters with the following happened in EQ
* different drop rates based on level and place (TLC)
* instances (LDON)
* time dependent spawns (switching between lvl 10 to lvl 40 during the night)
* underwater exploration

first post .... yeah

after reading many years on the web about MMOs and actively playing them, I have to say that quite a few times I see companies reinventing the wheel again and again.
On the other hand new innovations done in the field of MMORPGs rarely make it outside of the company or god beware into other fields.

Oh, and of course I don't have anything to do with : Words to the Wise - a converation on language.