Dungeon Keeper 3! The… MMO. Eh?

By Alec Meer on December 1st, 2008 at 6:09 pm.

It’s interesting that everyone who mailed us about this (many thanks, by the way) immediately went for the Oh God No What Are They Thinking angle. Bullfrog fans are purists, perhaps understandably. Me, I’m not going to presume the worst yet, despite being a huge old geeky Dungeon Keeper fan myself.

Absolutely nothing is known about this shock DK sequel/rethink, bar its being an MMO and being handled by a Chinese developer you’ve never heard of. Yeah, ‘Asian MMO’ does set off a few alarm traps, as the Lineage model tends to impress us Westerners about as much as shadow puppetry impresses bears. Clearly, this won’t be Dungeon Keeper 3 – there’s not even a whiff of a single ex-Bullfrog guy around it for starters, and no talk of it being a direct follow-up, but rather of it just using names, themes and characters. Put that Pointy Stick Of Angry Pre-Judgement +3 vs EA down, though. There are hints that this will be much more like the DK of old than folk are presuming…

First up, it’s entirely possible we’ll never see this reach the West. It sounds as though China is the main audience, an EA mouthpiece stating the deal’s part of a Borg-like desire to “extend our product reach throughout the Greater China region.” A number of established Western games are going MMOlike over there, subscriptions being an effective counter-measure for the piracy that runs rife in China – for instance Company of Heroes. This may be a matter of developer NetDragon seeking Western backing for their latest (and first 3D) endeavour, and EA dropping a spare fantasy license on ‘em to ensure their own stake. Or it may be that Dungeon Keeper is absolutely huge in China, but I find it hard to believe a 1997 strategy-management game about building treasure rooms and feeding farting demons really hit that big.

What is contextually interestingly is that Netdragon already has on its CV Heroes of Might & Magic Online, a China-only MMO rethink of the unending, unsmiling strategy-rpg series, which launched this Spring. So that’s, er, HOMMO, then? Er…. It’s made with Ubisoft’s blessing, and presumably shovels some pennies back their way. I can find very little information about it, and especially not about its quality, but what I have gleaned is that it really is HOMM online – as opposed to an MMORPG with HOMM names and skins. This from the press release:

This online game is the first of its kind by combing the classic turn-based game mode of Heroes of Might and Magic with versatile online game features to meet the needs of different players. Inspired by the global perspective of Heroes of Might and Magic chronicles, Heroes of Might and Magic Online allows gamer to play as a hero working for one of the eight races. Players can then build their own castle and recruit a strong army to fight in hundreds of conquests. In addition, the game offers players to play against one another to quench their thirst for victory.

More English details about it here.

Again, I don’t know if it’s any cop or not – but as well as supporting the idea that Netdragon may simply be licensing affordable Western brands to MMOise for China, it actually bodes well for Dungeon Keeper Online being a proper Dungeon Keeper game. It sounds faithful, y’know?

And that’s where I shift from outraged suspicion to very cautious optimism. Yeah, there’s no Bullfrog at the till, but it’s been a long while since we had a really great game in the DK mould. The ingredients – management, combat, comedy monsters, even a drop of roleplaying – are right. If Netdragon really have made HOMMO (giggle) like HOMM, then there’s every chance DKO can be faithful to DK – and not the Lineage or WoW clone with DK skins that many folk seem to presume it’ll be. It might actually be Dungeon Keeper, online – and done right that would be superb.

Sprawling rival dungeons contesting for space, creature populations and gold; fending off dynamic, icky Hero forces that grow in potency as you do; a generous spread of room types and spells… There’s a lot of potential, even if the signs are superficially troubling. God knows I’m as concerned as anyone, but it’s sad that so many folk seem to be entirely writing this off before they even consider what it could be.

That they’re using the DK name specifically is what’s liable to cause the most problems. I mean, why? Doesn’t it just mean angry fans, IP hassle and tiresome business deals? It’s frankly absurd that anyone would hem themselves in by dredging up a license that will mean almost nothing to most of today’s gamers, rather than embarking on something entirely of their own creation. That said, the old foundations of DK are impressive enough and unused enough that there really is scope for someone to build something great on top of them. If it happens to feature Horny and Bile Demons and whatnot too… well, they were hardly one-of-kind creations in the first place. Even if this does turn out to be a horror, it’s not taking anything away from DK1 & 2.

I have no idea if these are the right guys to make good on a job that will inevitably stir up resentment amongst a fanbase EA’s much-abused in the past, and certainly it’s hard to block out the poisonous funk of financial cynicism that seems to surround the project. I am not, however, going to write this game off as a terrible idea until I know something about it. I’m genuinely curious – not least because it sounds like such a ridiculous idea and so should be fun to follow. Hopefully DK fans aren’t as precious as Fallout fans, and we’ll get to hear some proper details about this before they storm EA’s gates.

Finally, here’s the official press bumpf about DK Online:

NetDragon Websoft Inc., a leading game developer and operator in the People’s Republic of China – (“NetDragon” or the “Company”, with its subsidiary collectively know as the “Group”; stock code: 777) announced a new licensing agreement with Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: ERTS, “EA”) on the development of the Group’s first 3D massively multi-player online role playing game (MMORPG) based on Electronic Arts’ “Dungeon KeeperTM” line of games – including themes, characters and other game content. As part of this agreement, NetDragon will develop the game and obtains the exclusive license to operate and distribute Dungeon Keeper Online throughout the Greater China region, including Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau.

“We are delighted to enter into an agreement with EA in the development of our first 3D MMORPG. Our partnership with this internationally renowned game developer is proof of our capabilities in game operations and development as well as a reflection of our market reputation,” said Mr. Liu Dejian, Chairman and Executive Director of NetDragon. “Capitalizing our strength to create a strong gaming experience, powerful operating platform and unmatched expertise within China’s online game market, we are confident that Dungeon Keeper Online will not only become successful in the Greater China region but also achieve remarkable results overseas.”

Jon Niermann, President of EA Asia Pacific said, “The partnership marks a significant milestone for EA as it will enhance our intellectual property and extend our product reach throughout the Greater China region. It will also further enhance our intellectual property with differentiated, high-quality games, particularly in the field of MMORPGs.”

Dungeon KeeperTM is a PC strategy game released by EA in July 1997.

About NetDragon:
NetDragon Websoft Inc. is one of the leading online game developers and operators in the PRC. The Group’s game portfolio comprises of a range of MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games) that cater to various types of players and gaming preferences. The Group has successfully developed and marketed many popular online titles of various styles. Its current offerings include the games Eudemons Online, Conquer Online, Zero Online, Tou Ming Zhuang Online, Heroes of Might and Magic Online, Era of Faith, and Monster & Me. Some of the games are also available in foreign languages, including English, French and Spanish. The Group also has three games currently in development, including Way of the Five, Tian Yuan and Disney Game, which are expected to be launched by end of 2008 and 2009.

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71 Comments »

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  1. teo says:

    I think I share the sentiments of your emailers

  2. Valentin Galea says:

    “It is pay day”;)

  3. Pags says:

    Boo! Hiss! Etc.

  4. Optimaximal says:

    I’m interested in this ursidaean entertainment you speak of and wish to subscribe to any future articles on the subject.

    Oh, what’s that? DK by some lame asian MMO factory? Pfft.

  5. Optimaximal says:

    oh…

    First up, it’s entirely possible we’ll ever see this.

    It’s as engrish as the Asian MMO’s you speak of!

    Well, I laughed :)

  6. sana says:

    Dungeon Keeper? MMO? Asian? I must be dreaming!

  7. phil says:

    “It’s frankly absurd that anyone would hem themselves in by dredging up a license that will mean almost nothing to most of today’s gamers”

    Not at all, if you’re a EA marketing guru it allows to add the bullet point, ‘Radical reimagining of cult IP – high expectations of built in audience’ to your powerpoint pitch slides.

  8. Ian says:

    It almost makes me glad I’m not a Dungeon Keeper enthusiast.

  9. Pags says:

    “We hear Blizzard have got an MMO coming up… what’ve we got in the big box o’ licenses that we can use to beat them to the punch?”

  10. Kast says:

    Article title blow-by-blow reaction report:

    “Dungeon Keeper 3!” – Yay!
    “The MMO!” – Wait, what?
    “Eh?” – Yeah, exactly.

  11. The Shed says:

    Shit, I’ve got DK2 but I wasn’t a pro gamer back then and never really got into it. Hitting that shit. MMO Dungeon Keeper would be awesome- hunners of little dungeons conflicting for Gold, it would be- dare I say it- like and MMO Dwarf Fortress…?

    Still that’s totally not what this article’s suggesting. The MMO culture in the East wouldn’t be up for DK at all.

  12. Jon says:

    My eyes light up at the smallest hint of a DK3.

  13. rocketman71 says:

    Bad idea.

    Stop with the MMO’s already!

  14. Nimic says:

    I was never a big Dungeon Keeper fan, but even I’m saddened by this.

  15. Cabbs says:

    Your dungeon is on a slight incline. Angry creatures cannot play marbles.

  16. Redd says:

    Oh well. It’s closure. =[

  17. Pus Filled Sac says:

    Good. I was hoping for another MMO to satisfy my craving to imagine a game I’ll never play.

  18. Vitalis says:

    Hmm I was just about to mail this to the Hivemind but it turns out other RPS readers’ mastery of the internets/shacknews is greater than my own…

    DK still ranks as one of my favourite game series EVAR! and for it to be effectively/somewhat sold off for MMOification somewhat saddens me.

    I’ll try to keep the torches unlit and the pitchforks and battering rams in storage until I found out how the hell you make DK into an MMO. Assumedly this isn’s going to be a mumorpurger type of MMO as frankly there isn’t really enough RPG is there? so what can you do to make ‘massively multiplayer’.The rival Keepers accidently built all their dungeons adjacently?

  19. davidAlpha says:

    well I for one cant wait for Dungeon-o Keeperu 3: Giant red pointy man play time adventures!

  20. Chris Evans says:

    According to my sources for my dissertation, 58.3% of Chinese internet users use the internet for “online games” which is (if I am working this out right) 14,746,000 people

  21. Jacques says:

    Angry Internet Man reporting for duty.

  22. BobJustBob says:

    Eh, Dungeon Keeper 2 was already markedly inferior to the first. The franchise is already sullied.

  23. Bobby says:

    Dk3 seems to attract that kind of stuff. EA’s original attempt was to make it a warcraft-like RTS:
    http://pcgtw.retro-net.de/index.php?id=games:keeper3

  24. Rei Onryou says:

    It has to be asked. Why sell our precious IP to China where we may not even see it? Why not actually work on a DK3 for the Western fans (DK meets cowboys = …)? The current EA CEO may not realise the promise behind the Bullfrog titles, but we do. I’d much rather see a real DK3 than “Red Alert 4: T and A”.

    Also, anyone know how to get DK1 running in Vista?

  25. Nick says:

    You’d think the number of cancelled/going bust/tits up MMOs would put people off the damn PC gaming destroying genre
    ¬_¬

  26. Tei says:

    Dungeon Keepers entusiast can play “Chicken Mode” in LOTRO.

    That is a MMO. …wait..

  27. Nameykins says:

    I am deeply confused by all of this.

  28. Premium User Badge

    James G says:

    :: Forms No Heroes Allowed ::
    :: Buys Angry Internet Man Suit ::
    :: Buys pitchfork ::
    :: Riots ::

    Although in all seriousness, although DK was one of my favourite games of all time, I can’t work up anything stronger than vague confusion at this. Perhaps its because I had already written off any hope for a true DK3, so this isn’t so much a loss of a potential game, but rather a confounding choice of license. While Alec’s suggestion would be very interesting*, the appearance of the six letters, MMORPG, suggest what we’ll be seeing is a fairly generic grind fest.

    So I look on with bemused interest, little hope, but no anger either, and know knows, perhaps we’ll see something special. You never know, demon spawn might fly. (Especially if they reach level 10 and become dragons)

    * Although I’m not sure entirely practical.

  29. sana says:

    If I see this “Angry Internet Men” meme one more time..

    Justified scepticism regarding the impending usage of a unique license in a game where the subgenre, developer location and probably target audience all have proven to be highly disappointing over the last few years is not an example of “angry internet men” but something perfectly reasonable.

  30. jackflash says:

    This just makes me sad. Makes me miss bullfrog, the good old days of PC gaming. Sigh.

  31. Asbestos says:

    @Rei Onryou:
    Have you tried Dosbox?

  32. RichP says:

    EA will probably gauge the success of Battlefield Heroes before considering a western version of Dungeon Keeper Online. If Battlefield Heroes work out, EA and other mega-publishers will start shoveling money at free-to-play micro-transaction *shudder* MMOs, especially since most “epic” MMOs fail or trudge along in obscurity.

    Anyone know if DKII works in WinXP? I really enjoyed that one back in the day.

  33. Jacques says:

    I’m pretty sure DK2 works on XP, my brain might be going wrong, but I’m pretty sure I recall playing it on my old pc which had XP.

  34. Heliocentric says:

    I’m excited. refuse to learn Chinese though. okay bai.

    Yes it works on xp, might need compatibility settings or patches but it deffo works, you might need to use software acceleration (but modern cpus can handle it).

  35. Colthor says:

    @Rei Onryou:
    DK: Gold Just Works under Vista for me. You could try the D3D patch:
    http://www.patches-scrolls.de/dungeon_keeper.php

  36. eyemessiah says:

    Your dungeon is full of yoghurt.

  37. Premium User Badge

    James G says:

    Didn’t have any luck with the D3D patch here, but then again I’m using Vista 64bit, which causes even more trouble for the already touchy back compatibility.

    Hmm, I’m getting an MSI Wind for Christmas. I was planning to replace XP with Kubuntu, but now I’m tempted to leave XP on for DK and other older games. (Or alternatively just set up a Win 98 VM on my desktop box)

  38. Skurmedel says:

    I hope there won’t be a Theme Hospital Online too, ’cause that’s one of my fondest childhood memories.

  39. Benk says:

    Your dungeon is full of yoghurt.

  40. deudonne says:


    Valentin Galea says:
    “It is pay day”;)

    Hehe – the voice still resounds in my head!

  41. N says:

    Huh… well now, all this makes Horny cry…

  42. Rei Onryou says:

    @Asbestos: I haven’t tried with DOSBox, since I’d like the shiny non-DOS version to run if possible. AFAIK, the D3D patch didn’t do it for me. Furthest I got was the menu. I suppose DOS DK is better than no DK. Or I can buy myself an EEE…

  43. Guido says:

    May I join the riot force please?

    Dungeon Keeper is one of those fabled Good Games of Old, I loved to play it, would be a pity to see the brand destroyed by becoming yet another grindfest…

  44. jalf says:

    For once, I’m not among the angry internet men!
    I’m a baffled internet man on this one.

    Seriously, how can anyone be *angry* about this? It’s just too weird to even contemplate. I mean. Dungeon Keeper, Chinese and MMO? Really? That doesn’t even make sense!

    Once we get some details about the game, I may rejoin the angry internet men, but until then, I’m merely a baffled internet man. Who’s with me?

  45. Malagate says:

    I can also confirm that I’ve seen hide nor hair of any Dungeon Keeper games in all of the chinese internet cafe’s I’ve visited, and those are cities and small towns from the East coast to the big mountains in the south west of China. Lots of CS, tower defenders, SC, WoW, a whole slew of chinese isometric MMO’s and older-than-DK-games, but no DK 1 or 2.

    Even in the “discount games” places where I’ve seen Monkey Island and Fallout there’s been no DK. It’s just so damn confusing to me as to why they’d even bother licensing it when they could make a new license that wouldn’t have to have any constraints to make it appear like a DK game. Although it would be nice to see what they’d make of “One of your imps does a great impression of you, he can even do the ears” and “Never eat anything bigger than your own head”.

  46. Ginger Yellow says:

    On the one hand, yay. On the other hand, what’s with all these Chinese only MMOs? First Company of Heroes, now Dungeon Keeper. Bastards. I suppose I’m going to have to relearn Mandarin…

  47. Pijama says:

    Words can’t begin to describe the rage that fills my heart with the even REMOTEST possibility of my beloved Dungeon Keeper becoming a MMO.

  48. Brann says:

    I blame the Chinese and their evil communist gameplaying ways. Oh wait…

    Anyway, this just makes me sad, I’m a big fan of DK and DK2 and a couple of years ago a clone came out (Evil Genius) that just made me even more wishful for a proper DK3… now this. DK a chinese MMO? Seriously?

  49. Cooper says:

    Nnngghhhh

    I’m having trouble processing this. DK3. MMO. Chinese.

    I want to cry. Cry gently to myself whilst I hunt down EA execs…

  50. Typhon says:

    This is *hilarious*. Face it, EA was never going to do anything else with it anyway. Pardon me, I meant do anything *good* with it. There’s nothing stopping someone else picking up the ball, though.