Ex-Warhammer Online Dev Asks EA To Release SP Version

By Nathan Grayson on December 21st, 2013 at 7:00 pm.

We belong in a museum!

Oh ho, the plot thickens! Or rather, it congeals from thin air, because I suppose there wasn’t much of a plot before this. EA yanked the cord on Warhammer Online’s servers (and then presumably bit it in half and bathed in its blood), and that was that. The end. Roll credits. But now a former Mythic developer who’s currently working on Camelot Unchained has revealed the existence of a single-player, server-free version of the sadly short-lived (by MMO standards) game, and he’s pleading that EA release it for history’s sake.

The developer, City State Entertainment co-founder Andrew Meggs, explained in a blog post:

“In every unreleased, internal-only developer build of the Warhammer client, there was the option to run without a server. As the lead client engineer I spent a good amount of time doing that. There were no login or character selection screens. There were no NPCs or other players. There was no gameplay of any kind. It was just you and the entire world spread out before you. You could fly around like Superman, or teleport anywhere at will. You could watch the sun rise and set over Altdorf, and see the smoke rise from fires forever burning. And you could see the thousands upon thousands of hours of work and craftsmanship that went into creating a world that has now been unplugged.”

This release, then, wouldn’t be for players to reclaim and rebuild. Rather, Meggs wants EA to consider his request for the sake of posterity in a medium that often deletes its links to the past without batting an eyelash. It’s kind of a shame that the game’s days as a bustling, player-driven kingdom are well and truly over, but Meggs’ sentiment is an admirable one.

“It won’t be WAR; that only exists with other players,” he stated frankly. “But it’s a double-clickable museum exhibiting much of what WAR was, so it won’t be forgotten completely. It’s an effort by all of us, as developers, to preserve a living record as our transient medium is created and destroyed. I can’t do this; I left behind the code when I left EA. But there are people inside EA who can easily make this happen.”

Let us hope that they do. To be perfectly honest, though, I’m not holding my breath. I feel terribly sad saying that, but this is EA we’re talking about, and it is what it is. That said, I do hope other developers and publishers consider this route when toppling their respective MMO titans. Meggs makes a very good point about gaming’s all-too-malleable history, and it’s doubly disappointing in light of the fact that our museums could be such near-perfect representations of the real thing if they existed. If only.

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47 Comments »

  1. zeekthegeek says:

    Probably legally speaking EA can’t without Games Workshops permission. Even if they wanted to and were feeling charitable it just isn’t likely since the game closed due to not renewing the Warhammer IP rights to begin with..

    • joshg says:

      If they released it as a patch to the existing game, I don’t see how that would matter. They’d be updating something they already had the license for, not releasing a new product.

      That said, the lack of license might mean all the less motivation on EAs part to give this the green light, even if any of the devs themselves wanted it to happen.

      Edit: It’s worth reminding, this headline is misleading. They never had a single-player game developed, they had a debug mode where you could fly around the environment without a server.

      • drinniol says:

        I don’t think GW would see it that way, given their history.

      • Bull0 says:

        The title’s deeply misleading.

        Mythic had a strictly time-limited contract to use the Warhammer IP; releasing a patch that extends the product’s life span past that contract expiring is obviously problematic, I’m not sure why you don’t see that. If it was a straight “you can develop and release one game with our IP” type deal, that’d be different. Hence why I can still play Dawn of War, Final Liberation, Chaos Gate, etc.

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  2. Lemming says:

    If they did this, given enough time I’m sure some enterprising souls would manage to get players, and possibly even multiplayer or bots working in it.

    • Sami H says:

      You mean the private server that’s already up and running (in very early alpha)? People are way ahead of you :). All the -singleplayer thing would allow people to do is look at stuff. No quests, no mobs, etc. Just the world and probably a fly mode.

      • Lemming says:

        Well, I was thinking more a singe player version, with bots/npcs for the PvP zones and drop in/out peer to peer multiplayer. An MMO where I can just do what I want without dealing with others unless they are pre-determined friends sounds ideal, IMO. Having said that, WAR had its inherent problems. The combat always felt a bit flakey when it should’ve been meaty, to me.

      • Aphadon says:

        A developer build would most likely include a lot of the server code as well. So if it was released they can just reverse engineer that instead of having to write a private server from scratch. Sure in it’s released form it can only run singleplayer, but it’s the inactive server code in the binary that people would want to get their hands on.

  3. Paul says:

    I do wonder what is it about this industry that makes people so disrespectful to their own creations. I guess the fact that it is run by suits.

    • stupid_mcgee says:

      “At Bass, the men in suits drove out the brewers. At Interbrew, that struggle continues, but in the long term the suits nearly always beat people who actually make something.” – Michael “The Beer Hunter” Jackson

      http://www.beerhunter.com/documents/19133-001297.html

    • subedii says:

      I think that really hit home for me when MS’s Xbox head was asked about backwards compatibility and basically sneered at the very idea.

      http://www.theverge.com/2013/5/22/4356210/microsoft-don-mattrick-says-backwards-compatibility-is-backwards

      Now on a console I can appreciate it’s a lot more difficult, but the attitude taken is kind of ridiculous.

      Especially when you see those same companies are today frequently re-releasing “Special” editions of ancient games from generations past, that are basically ROMs running in an emulator and with a filter.

      Or maybe that’s the point.

      • DatonKallandor says:

        Sony is taking the same stance on Backwards Compatibility, but they’ve got a smarter PR department. Which means their expression of that stance is to simply not talk about it at all – or rather, to say they’d have it, as a bullet point in the list of PS4 features, but then simply push into the nebulous “after launch” zone.

        Effectively it’ll never be practically backwards compatible, but they avoid the whole “being honest (assholes)” thing Microsoft did.

        • BooleanBob says:

          The only thing worse than a suit… is a clever suit.

        • subedii says:

          Yeah, both consoles may feature a LOT of similarities, but the entire run up to launch was basically one long line of ‘foot-in-mouth’ moments for MS. I’m slightly surprised it didn’t hurt them more, but I guess one thing they learned is to do about-faces quickly and push on with the marketing.

  4. herschel says:

    Without the MMO aspect this game has one less excuse for existence.

    I played it and dumped it for being nothing about Warhammer at all.

  5. derbefrier says:

    oh come on I know its cool and edgy to elude to EA being the spawn of satan and other gibberish but no companies ever do this, not even the ones you like. probably for legal reasons rather then because they are actually evil.

    • Erinduck says:

      No, if EA owns the property (as they do) they can release it just fine.

      • Shuck says:

        Except that in this case, the game is based on a licensed IP (the license for which has now run out), so technically they don’t own the property.

    • Borodin says:

      I don’t especially keep track of who published what, and had ignored the fact that the story involved Electronic Arts. What I understood was “Publisher pressed to release single-player Warhammer game”.

      Now that a game can be released for little more than the price of the download bandwidth, it is becoming more and more bizarre when *any* publisher or IP owner holds on to a title and refuses to let it see the light of day.

      I can imagine all sorts of PR tactics that explain this behaviour, but all of them would be speculation; and when the wisdom of the corporate big guns says, for instance, that to release a demo is only to eat into your profits, then you really have to wonder whether they know what they are doing at all.

      • joshg says:

        Releasing a game still has costs. Customer support isn’t free. And releasing buggy products … well, okay, apparently they’re willing to do so with SimCity, but eventually you end up trashing your own brand.

        FWIW I think it’d be great if companies who did this just gave their server source code away and let people run wild with it.

      • Shuck says:

        Leaving aside the licensing issues that complicate things here, and assuming there was no use of middleware that required a per-unit payment, EA would still have to pay one or more people in the company (disrupting whatever projects they were in the middle of working on) to compile a version for release, do some minimum level of bug testing on it, and then pay for the bandwidth to distribute it (which would be substantial, as it’s probably still huge, even with all the content cut out). All this for a “product’ off of which they can’t make a single penny, and which, let’s face it, is of minor curiosity value at best because it’s not actually a playable game. If the developers cared so much, they should have released it on the sly via bittorrent – that was the only way it was going to see the light of day.

    • subedii says:

      Volition released the source code for Freespace 2, leading to one of the greatest space combat games of all time surviving to this day, with what I can only say is one of the most dedicated modding communities ever.

      id Software has a history of releasing the source code to their titles as well, which is why they always had such strong mod support.

      There are plenty of devs who have released their old games for free, either as marketing tools or simply as acts of good will. Rockstar gave away their old GTA’s. EA (yes EA) even gave away the old C&C games. In fact, a fair number of studios have done this:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_commercial_video_games_released_as_freeware

      And in effect, that’s what this would be, another singleplayer game. What’s being suggested by the dev isn’t even the source code to modify, simply the SP package to a title that can’t do anything anymore anyway.

      I wouldn’t say EA are “evil” for not releasing a defunct title for free, but I’m sorry I don’t buy that “nobody does this”. Unless you’re going to draw a distinction between the above SP/MP games, and an MMO client that would basically be an SP exploration game (if that), but then I’m afraid I’m just going to have to call that an arbitrary distinction.

      Naturally, this leaves aside licensing issues, which is a separate argument.

  6. iseemonkeys says:

    I actual would be interested in just exploring the world in single player without any quests, mobs or players. I liked doing that to the alpha for world of warcraft.

  7. ffordesoon says:

    God, I hate the way this industry treats its past. Have a little bit of self-respect, why don’t you.

  8. mouton says:

    Would love it. I liked the world, but just couldn’t be arsed to grind my way to seeing it all.

  9. Tei says:

    I write your name in the water… say the poem.

  10. mpk says:

    I’d buy that game. Sometimes the best thing about open/living world games is just sitting back and watching it work. And sometimes the best thing about games is that their world is not our world. I’m supremely tired of games based in reality, where simulation of reality is the be all and end all. I think this is a good idea but I agree that, sadly, it’ll likely never come to fruition.

  11. Moraven says:

    Soooo, like every other MMO emulated server?

    Other than Allegiance there really has not been a lot of server based games released to the world openly after support dies off.

    Fans will pay for and run their own servers. Hell, make a deal and take a 30% of a cut of whatever people make off running the servers, if they choose to charge for it.

    I really need to try the Earth & Beyond Emulator. Game had its rough edges but was good fun. Stood out for its time and was nice to see the different experience trees.

    As most said, even if EA wanted to do this I doubt their license to Warhammer would allow it on whim.

  12. bill says:

    I have often wondered why MMOs don’t release single player derivatives. I have no idea about the work involved, so there might be good reasons, but it seems to me to be such a waste of all the art and worlds.

    The companies would probably prefer you to join their MMO and pay money every month, but for a large group of players (like me) that’s never going to happen. But, as I’ve said before in comments here, I’d love to just wander around the world that LOTR Online has made and explore. As long as I didn’t have to pay monthly fees or encounter other players.

    A lot of people said that RPG with the generic name that lost billions (can’t remember the name) was like a single player MMO and that was dull. Which might end up being true. But if they could tweak WAR and LOTR and TOR etc.. and make them into offline sandboxes like Skyrim then I’d be happy to wander around and explore.

    • iseemonkeys says:

      Same for me I prefer just exploring in these games and hate the grinding in morpgs? Do know of any leaked or purposely leaked morpg game you could just explore in single player?

      • bill says:

        Not an MMO guy (obviously), so I have no hands on experience, but I think a fair few MMOs seem to be runnable as Provate Servers, which I guess means you could run around on your own. Maybe.

        City of Heroes springs to mind. May be wrong.
        Try here: http://www.reddit.com/r/Games/comments/1723o5/with_a_lot_of_mmos_dying_what_are_some_dead_ones/

        Personally it would be LOTR, WAR and SWG I would be most interested in exploring, due to being interested in the worlds outside of gaming. Something like CoH or Ragnarok wouldn’t really have any appeal to explore.

        I might be interested in WoW, just to see what everyone has been living in for the last 10 years…

        …but I’m not interested enough to deal with the hassle of researching and setting up servers.

        • iseemonkeys says:

          Thanks, I played a dev build of Wow before, I forgot where it came from but it let you explore the wow cataclysm without any monsters and you could fly around.

    • Caenorhabditis says:

      You’re probably thinking of Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning.

      • bill says:

        That’s the one! I can’t imagine how it failed with such a memorable name!

    • Wurstwaffel says:

      My thoughts exactly. Take your shitton of art assets and lore and engine and whatnot, make it a party based single player rpg with realtime pause and a strategy view in the vein of Dragon Age, slap a questline in it that spans all the levels, a bunch of NPCs, some voice acting and voilà, GOTY.
      I so wish they’d do that with WoW. But as long as there is an MMO behind the spin-off to have its subscriptions weakened by it, it’s not gonna happen I guess. Warhammer online doesn’t have that problem anymore. They’d still have to refresh that licensing agreement with Games Workshop though.

  13. racccoon says:

    Well said my man. exactly what I was thinking I do not see why they just stop and don’t see bacon, all that work needs to go somewhere and THIS IS A BRILLIANT IDEA. Hope EA gets of its ARSE and makes this happen otherwise we will have to call them SNOBS.!

  14. MellowKrogoth says:

    Companies should be obligated by law to deposit full source code for their software and the necessary system to build it into a functioning game in a government archive, in a similar way as the American Library of Congress gets a copy of every book published. Said code would be made public after a reasonable time just like other stuff falls (or should fall) into the public domain. This “reasonable time” shouldn’t be more than 5-10 years and should’nt be eternally extensible like Mickey Mouse’s copyright, btw, but that’s another debate.

    • Bull0 says:

      It doesn’t compare that directly – books are just prose, but code for games could contain valuable technical secrets which a company might want to retain. Archiving released material and in the case of service-based games the server component too would be enough. 5-10 years is too short. You’d be releasing your sequel just as the source code for the original was going public. Commercially a big problem.

  15. razzafazza says:

    i d love a single player Warhammer Offline :p

    i played warhammer online like warhammer offline already when it was new. made a couple of different characters, explored the world , never really bothered with grouping, guilds or pvp. I think I must have played it like this for half a year until I lost interest for some reason I cant remember.

    it may not be the full MMO experience but may I ask whats so different from playing a MMO like that compared to playing a singleplayer open world RPG like skyrim ?

    Actually I d rather replay Warhammer then play Skyrim. MUCH much better combat system (compared to other MMOs it was mediocre though). Much more interesting skill system (all the different classes, skills etc.) … I m hard pressed to think of anything actually that skyrim does better – well being moddable maybe:P

    Granted, I ve already read people claim those MMOs are all about grinding but that s total bull – sorry. maybe that is indeeds the fastest way to gain experience by mindlessly killing challenge-free enemies for hours upon hours but you could definitely level by just questing and exploring in WoW or Warhammer Online. The same was/is true of TES games: the most efficient way to gain skill-ups was/is also to do mindless things over and over. just because there was “endgame” to reach people rarely did it while its standard in MMOs for those who want to be part of highend raiding/pvp.

    Personally I would even pay money for a single player version of Warhammer Offline.
    …and if they could even add some kind of function like guildwars were you could hire NPCs so you can do group content on your own I d pay double the price.

    even if there s just 1000 people like me thats still some free money for something that should not take much work. and with some clever marketing possible lots more considering skyrims sales.

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      I m hard pressed to think of anything actually that skyrim does better – well being moddable maybe:P

      Here’s one for you – you can actually play Skyrim.

  16. Bull0 says:

    The disposable nature of games is going to hold them back as a medium. It’s like taking a book permanently out of print a couple of years after release and burning the manuscript. We desperately need to start preserving games past their shelf life.

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  18. jonny says:

    if anyone interested, my tribute video from the last day http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzOhKKsIDl4

  19. donweel says:

    I would carry this idea further. Would be a great solution for continuing a sunset mmo game to release a coop lan or hosted server version of the game you could buy and play with your friends.

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