SOE Shuttering Vanguard, Free Realms, Wizardry, More

By Nathan Grayson on January 27th, 2014 at 11:00 am.

The dragon is upset because he will miss you all very much and also because people are killing him right now

All good things must come to an end. Even MMOs, and – at least, these days – especially MMOs. Between shifting business models and “there ain’t room enough in this town for the six thousand of us” syndrome, niche standouts are finding it harder and harder to keep their heads above water. That sorry truth curling up like a cold, uncaring cat on our hearts and minds, let’s bid farewell to Vanguard, Wizardry Online, Free Realms, and Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures.

Star Wars and Free Realms will be getting their cords snipped first, with servers coming down on March 31st. Vanguard and Wizardry Online, meanwhile, will be stuffed into flaming coffins and set off to sea on July 31st. It’s all being done in the name of “refocusing resources,” but Vanguard’s developers were especially upfront about it:

“Here’s the deal… player population numbers have decreased making it difficult to justify the resources needed to support and update this game. This is an older game and we’re experiencing more and more technical challenges to continue running and updating it in a way you deserve. Simply put, these are issues that cannot be fixed in the long term and as a player, we would be doing you a disservice and going against our company commitment to provide the best gameplay experiences. So given this information, sunsetting the game later this year is the inevitable conclusion.”

“Again, this is not a decision that we approached lightly or without serious thought and examination. We’ve grown with you and the community throughout the years and shutting down the game is certainly not ideal, but necessary regardless.”

Bummer, but that seems to be the way of the (massively multiplayer online) world these days. Did you spend any particularly memorable days, months, years, or centuries with these games? Were they homes away from home, or just brief vacation spots that you mostly forgot about after a few too many fruit-engorged tiki drinks? Do you regularly down big-gulp-sized tiki drinks while playing MMOs, or is that just me?

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37 Comments »

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  1. razgon says:

    Vanguard was a wonderful game. Well, it was massively flawed at launch, where even top of the line computer struggled to play the game decently, but its massive world, interesting landscapes, huge cities, complex and very rewarding classes (Bloodmage and Bard comes to mind) havent’ really been duplicated as well in other games. Hell, small things like psionicists having their own chatchannel if they used a special mindbuff because they communicated via mindlink was an awesome idea.

    Crafting is also the best possible crafting way I’ve seen in MMO’s and the fact that you could build your own Ships and houses is STILL not replicated in any way that I know of in any other MMO’s out there.

    I think again in the case of Vanguard, that SOE REALLY tried to make it work. They’ve had a lot of developers on it lately, and well, it was just broken too much, unfortunately.

    Here’s to you Vanguard – Thanks for all the fun times!

    • Isair says:

      Very much agreed, not to mention that it’s one of tragically few games that tried to turn conversation into an actual game mechanic.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      Had some good times in Vanguard when it was new. I kind of regret not sticking with it longer until more of the issues where ironed out. Usual story of too many games not enough time, so the one I’m paying a monthly sub to gets the chop.

    • Dread says:

      Vanguard is truly the game most ripe with potential, but which failed to execute it properly. I spend about half a year playing the game almost every day, before the endgame(or lack thereof) robbed me of my motivation.

      A beautiful world, even though the game is 7 years old, it still looks great and just exploring it is a joy.
      Lots of diverse classes (though I dislike, that most classes are pigeonholed into one role). But where it failed beyond the disastrous launch is the game was to make stuff interesting.

      Adventuring is mostly a grind once you get past level 20, with quests literally asking you to kill hundreds of monsters for a meager reward.
      When I first played it, it felt to me like the designers had everything fleshed out until lvl 20, but didn’t go farther, leaving only barebones quest structures at the higher levels.
      In the dungeons you can spend many hours fighting your way through the hordes and dying without a way to revive someone on the spot can be catastrophic as dungeons are not instanced and as such respawn rates are fairly quick.
      It reaches its epitome in the lvl 50+ area, some island, they introduced later. Where you have to do daily quests for MONTHS, just to reach the next level of reputation. This was, what killed the game for me, spending 1-2 hours to do a handful of quests with barely any benefit, urgh.

      Crafting, while interesting is also repetetive and a very slow grind to get to the higher levels and then you have to spend a lot of time mining the rare and ultra rare materials. Though the number of crafting options this game offers is insane, pretty much any stat distribution you want on an item, ability to build houses, ships and furniture, a lot of creativity can be displayed here.

      Finally, diplomacy was the part I liked the most, it’s a fairly simple card game, which unfortunately is also very easy. The main problem here is, that it just stops. You have a long quest until lvl 20 (which then pretty much in the middle), then you can some more and that’s it. from lvl 25+ it’s just a grind to get max lvl and you never need it again for anything before reaching max lvl.
      Another sign, that the game was rushed out too early.

      SOE also made some questionable decisions, when they switched to f2p. Powerful items, like massive bags with stat boosts for money. Flying mounts, which were very hard to obtain before now freely available and sellable everywhere.

    • Maxheadroom says:

      Way, way, WAY back in the day when I was playing the original Everquest I remember a guild mate constantly banging on about a recently announced game called Vanguard and how it was going to be the next big thing.

      Honestly dont think I’ve even thought about it since those early preview days, let alone seen or played it.

      Pft, i remember when my finger was on the pulse. Now I’m just part of the problem :)

    • apocraphyn says:

      Yeah, Vanguard shall be missed. I have a few fond memories of it, back from the early days – especially of the Diplomacy element of the game. Even if it wasn’t perfect, at least they tried to innovate.

  2. Viceroy Choy says:

    In addition to shutting these MMOs down, SOE is implementing an “All Access” pass for all their other MMOs. Basically, you pay $15 (or equivalent) and get subscriber access to all their MMOs along with 500 SC/month which is pretty cool.

    • ramirezfm says:

      Hmm, sounds somewhat reasonable, maybe I should revisit DCUO and SWTOR again. It was fun a while ago…
      Also, I didn’t even know there was a Wizardry mmo…

      • razgon says:

        SWTOR is not part of SOE’s lineup, unfortunately. Different company :-)

        As for there being a Wizardry MMO – There really isn’t. Its the Japanese edition of Wizardry, where they have gotten a TON of weird iterations with the name Wizardry stuck to it for some reason. It has nothing to do with Wizardry of old.

        • Mokinokaro says:

          The online games don’t have much to do with old school Wizardry but Japan has also made games with the name that are successors to SirTech’s series though with some anime aesthetics.

          There’s also the completely unrelated Etrian Odyssey series which are basically somewhat streamlined Wizardry (and not really dumbed dumb surprisingly.)

          That kind of game is still very popular in Japan despite mostly vanishing in the western world.

        • frightlever says:

          Also, it looks like the Japanese version of Wizardry Online is continuing.

  3. Skyrant says:

    I wish they would release the source for these games so fans can run their own servers. It’s not like they lose any money doing it. There is no real reason why they should not do this.

    If needed put a license on it that forbids commercial use outside of pure maintenance or server cost.

    Start thinking outside the box SOE (and others)

    • razgon says:

      unfortunately, there is a reason they don’t do it. They can’t due to legal reasons.

      • Moraven says:

        Maybe for licensed IP but Sony owns Vanguard and Free Realms. Release it on a open non commercial licenses. People will do it eventually anyway via emulation. Save them some time and open source it.

        Of course if the code has licensed tech then you get back into legal problems.

        • Mokinokaro says:

          It’s not just an IP that could be licensed.

          As mentioned there’s licensed engines and code. Art and sound assets might also be partly owned by their creators as well.

    • frightlever says:

      You say they don’t lose any money by doing it but leaving aside the technology licensing issues, if your former players are still playing your old game that you’re making no money from then they aren’t playing your new games that you do make money on.

      • malkav11 says:

        This isn’t really true if you’re going to sell one subscription to all your MMOs at once.

        • frightlever says:

          Fair point actually. They should have just bundled the older, micro-transaction based games into the Sony Station sub and let them run their course.

    • Premium User Badge

      Surlywombat says:

      Smedly actually replied to this on twitter, one of the reasons they won’t do it is because code and systems are shared between games. Including games which aren’t being shut down.

      I can understand that. Releasing the code would open the doors for hacks and exploitation.

  4. Janichsan says:

    Ironically, SCE promised some “new content” for Wizardry Online only a few days earlier…

    • Premium User Badge

      Jp1138 says:

      Typical from SOE: the people working on the game would probably know nothing of this closure. Remember the times when the NGE launched in Star Wars Galaxies while still promising features for the “original” game and just after a new expansion :..(

  5. GameCat says:

    I don’t play MMOs, but every news like this makes me angry.
    It’s digital equivalent of smashing ancient vase on the floor, because we found another one that need to be exposed and pervious one is wasting space and resources.

    • xenominim says:

      It costs money to run the servers and to do maintenance, so in effect they are wasting space and resources. They’re for profit companies, not museums. It would be nice if there was a way to archive games such as this but when you’ve got licensed material such as Star Wars that’s certainly impossible, and I’ve no idea what other legal wrangling might be involved. Perhaps be sad but don’t be angry, you can’t expect them to prop up games that aren’t making money out of the goodness of their heart.

    • Perjoss says:

      this is exactly why I do not understand the gamers that are in favor of a ‘digital future’. It’s not just MMO games either, there’s games vanishing from other online gaming services also, by going purely digital these companies kind of have the power to erase a part of gaming history.

      Watching a lets play on Youtube isn’t the same as playing an old game yourself.

      • goettel says:

        Not quite sure what your point is. Not to be pedantic, but all PC games are ‘purely digital’. If by ‘digital future’ you mean ‘online’ I still don’t get it: few old games would still be played if not for online distribution (and emulation). If your point is against persistent online games, of course those won’t be around if a company cancels pulls the plug (on a game, or itself). If you mean the medium used to transfer copies of the game: I doubt many people like holding on to storage media and the hardware required to run them. My PC doesn’t even have a CD/DVD drive.

        • darkside2205 says:

          Digital Distribution makes things easier on the publisher, helping to fight piracy and cutting costs for them, but it doesn’t cut costs for us, the only good thing we get out of it is we get our games a little quicker and without having to leave our homes. The problem is it ties games to these distribution services, and once their taken down, there becomes no other way to get your hands on the game. And what do you mean PC games are purely digital? I bought physical copies of Skyrim, Deus Ex, and Mass Effect 3

      • derbefrier says:

        Because they are just video games man. The pros of the digital age here far out wiegh the cons of not being able to play some MMO 20 years after it was being actively developed. Besides this argument really only applies to MMOs and always online games setup like MMOs whci are very few in actuallity with most of those thesedays being glorified scams made to get you addicted to spend money on microtransactions. The ones worth saving will be. Just go to piratebay or GoG for proof of that.

    • phobosad says:

      We no longer have the resources to dedicate to maintaining the code base such that it can stay in sync with our platform and our security needs. We’ve been running it at a loss for a long time. We haven’t told the players that but we felt it was the right thing to do to keep it running. We’ve done it for 7 years and it’s just time to shut it down.

      http://www.reddit.com/r/EQNext/comments/1w2lu2/im_john_smedley_president_of_soe_amaa/cey5xki

  6. Tei says:

    Vanguard was a high point in things like worldbuilding and class design. I hope we see something as good or better.
    I really want something like the diplomacy minigame in other mmos.

  7. Bull0 says:

    Bummer, I rather approved of that Free Realms.

  8. Randomer says:

    I can’t believe Free Realms is going to shut down whilst Pay Realms is still chugging along! Who would have thought?

  9. Premium User Badge

    jrodman says:

    I liked vanguard, but didn’t stick with it past a couple of days. The sheer size and feel of the world were very compelling to me. I’d love to play a game that has that scope for me to explore, without trappings I enjoy less.

    Ah well, back to Euro Truck Simulator 2.

  10. Pubjead1970 says:

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  11. CutieKnucklePie says:

    I really hope that they set about doing a real Wizardry game this time and not that botched nonsense that was WO.

  12. Premium User Badge

    deadfolk says:

    Anyone missing Vanguard should check out Brad McQuaid’s Kickstarter for a new MMO: Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen

  13. Wedge says:

    In more important news, Planetside 1 is NOT being shuttered and instead is going to be kept around to play free and unmonetized, just because.

  14. Bart Stewart says:

    In yet other SOE news, Jp1138 and others may be interested in what J. Smedley said in a recent Reddit AMA:

    SWG PLAYERS – OUR NEXT GAME (not announced yet) IS DEDICATED TO YOU. Once we launch it… you can come home now.

    I don’t know what this means. But as a gamer who was with SWG from before it launched though the NGE, I hope this means SWG’s skills system and resource-based crafting (in presumably a non-Star Wars wrapper, which is fine by me).

    Update: Smed has since tweeted that this isn’t a new Star Wars game. Which is fine by me; it was never the licensed setting that made pre-NGE SWG special. (Not perfect, just a particular kind of gameplay that’s been hard to find.)