On Winemaking, 3

Draft · 3 min read

I’ve been playing a bit of City of Heroes. Probably more than a bit. Fine, I’m on the third page of alts already. I remember when the first graphical MMORPGs started going offline. It was quite similar to when the Mars rovers would power down. These are machines but they were given life by the amazing people at Nasa through Twitter and other social media outlets. It was a special kind of emotional tragedy for a lot of people, myself included.

Our worlds have life, too. We give our worlds, our MUDs, life by coding them, by building them, by existing in them. When Matrix Online went, well, offline it hit me pretty hard. I hadn’t actually played MxO and I had no connection to the game in any way but it was the end of innocence for many mmorpg players. Our worlds could go offline. Any one could be next.

This isn’t a new thing to most of us. MUDs went offline all then time due to financial constraints, interpersonal drama, AT&T discovering you’ve been running a server on their cable modem service. The MUD community has been watching our worlds descend into the void for decades.

But what happens when they come back? It’s pretty much unthinkable for the graphical MMORPG community. These people running rogue servers of vanilla WoW or Phantasy Star Online or, in this case, City of Heroes are ne’er do wells. Unofficial is a bad word to be sure. At any given moment a stray letter from a legal team could bring everything crashing down; but this time there wont be a letter from a lawyer.

There is another problem at hand, then. What happens to the people who moved to fill the hole? In one large case, Vanilla World of Warcraft, those communities are pretty much finished. Servers such as Nostralius filled that hole for quite a while but with official Classic WoW on the near horizon there isn’t much of a point to have an unofficial one and it gives the legal team at Acti-zzard even more fuel to write their letters.

In another case, City of Heroes, you have The Phoenix Project. In late 2013 Missing Worlds Media launched the City of Titans kickstarter. By the end of it: 5,003 backers pledged $678,189 to help bring this project to life. This was, at its heart, a way to bring City of Heroes back to life without the legal wrangling it would otherwise take. But, now City of Heroes exists, and it’s free to play, and it’s open source, and it has multiple servers and communities. Where does that leave the amazing people at MWM who have labored for 6 years to bring their game to life. Their greatest weapon, their ace in the sleeve, has become their most formidable enemy: nostalgia.

I’m not arguing in favor of City of Heroes having stayed buried in NCSoft’s repository but the impact is worth thinking about. MUD communities are certainly no stranger to this situation. Many popular MUDs have gone offline only to have someone bring them back with an old copy of the codebase, or a recent one in some cases. What does this do to our communities to do this? People don’t want to see their worlds die only to be mirrored and splintered to generate more drama.

Think about the worlds you have a hand over. Think of it like a pet. Would you want your pet, on your death, to just be tossed out for anyone to snatch up? Don’t hoard your stuff. Involve others and make durable plans for its continued survival in the case that you become too busy, get bored of it or, in the worst case, die.