The Darkest Age Of Camelot: EA Shuts Down Mythic

By Nathan Grayson on May 30th, 2014 at 8:00 am.

I don't really feel like I need to explain the metaphor here.

Awww, this is rather sad. Once upon a time, Mythic created classic MMO Dark Age of Camelot, one of the few real alternatives to EverQuest back in its heyday, and classic MUD Dragon’s Gate before that. Later it also warred out the warrisomely war-packed Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, which recently went bye-bye itself. Since then, Mythic’s been in a strange spot, unable to find a new niche with middling arena brawler Warhammer Online: Wrath of Heroes and eventually, the utterly wretched mobile version of Dungeon Keeper. Now, however, it’s in no spot, as it no longer exists. EA has shut down the studio once and for all.

EA made the announcement with a brief statement:

“We are closing the EA Mythic location in Fairfax, Virginia, as we concentrate mobile development in our other studio locations. We are working with all impacted employees to provide assistance in finding new opportunities, either within EA or with other companies via an upcoming job fair.”

So that’s that. End of an era.

Admittedly, much of Mythic’s prime talent scattered to the winds beforehand, including founder Mark Jacobs, who recently Kickstarted ambitious realm-vs-realm MMO Camelot Unchained.

Still though, it’s always a shame to see studios with such billowing legacies die – especially when they go out on as sour of a note as that Dungeon Keeper remake. Ugh. Here’s hoping affected employees land on their feet, though. If anyone wants to talk Mythic’s final days, my email is in my byline.

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41 Comments »

  1. Dingobloo says:

    We should just save some time and do a write up of all the developers EA has acquired and not yet shut down, save everyone some time.

    • BooleanBob says:

      I think you just did.

    • Cooper says:

      There is a well referenced list kept at:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_acquisitions_by_Electronic_Arts

      EA have a habit of changing the name of a studio to “EA [Name of location or studio]” and only then shutting it down…

      The list of dev studios now defunct after being acquired by EA are:
      Batteries Included
      Origin Systems
      Bullfrog Productions
      Westwood Studios
      Black Box Games
      NuFX
      Phenomic

      Not as many as you’d think. Most of the recognisable UK studios everyone knows as being pulled down by large corporations were all pulled apart by different ones (Psygnosis; Sony. Bullfrog; EA. Ocean; Infogrames. etc.)

      • Philomelle says:

        I’d argue Westwood Studios pulled themselves apart without anyone’s help. Maybe if they spent less time trying to challenge Blizzard to cockslapping contests and more time on developing good games in their last years, they wouldn’t have gone under so hard.

        Let us never forget Nox, the game that was very loudly and publicly advertised by Westwood as a “Diablo II killer” long before Diablo II was anywhere near released.

        • Mokinokaro says:

          The same goes for Bullfrog (its core devs left long before the actual closure to form Mucky Foot.)

          Origin Systems is a similar case. Wing Commander Prophecy bombed hard and shortly thereafter Chris Roberts decided he wanted to do movies instead so he left the company. Ultima IX eventually sealed the fate of the company already in decline., Yes, the release of Ultima IX in its horrible state was at least partially EA’s fault but they’d sunk tonnes of money into Origin by that time with little reward.

          Both companies (and Mythic) had already been scuttled by their main talent wanting to split off and do new things long before EA closed the door. It actually happens to software/tech companies all the time without any help from a publisher.. It’s not a stable business except for a select few.

          • Philomelle says:

            I’d say EA was as responsible for Ultima IX’s state as Activision was responsible for X-Men: Destiny. At some point the project ends up spending so many years in development and costing so much money that could’ve been used on other things that you have to stomp your foot, set a release date and tell the developer to follow it, whether they want it or not. Not the healthiest outcome for the game, but sometimes big name designers need that kind of wake-up call.

            I don’t blame them. According to my friend who backed Richard Garriott’s Shroud of the Avatar and maintains that it’s the only project he ever regretted backing, Garriott never did regain his focus.

          • Jenther says:

            There is not a single thing right in this post.

            Chris Roberts left Origin after Wing Commander 4. Prophecy outsold WC 4 and given it’s cheaper production costs actually made EA more money then 4 as well, or did the fact that Origin gave away Wing Commander Secret Ops away not tip you of to that? It’s not like there isn’t evidence showing that EA was going to continue Wing Commander with Strike team and Privateer 3. Ultima IX may not have made EA money but Ultima Online certainly did (and still does), so much so that EA made Origin the MMO arm of the company. In the end what really finished up Origin was EA’s belief that they needed to consolidate sites to reduce overhead.

          • ohminus says:

            Ultima Online made EA plenty of money even though they originally did not want to have it. But after the beta was successful, EA did a 180 and now instead demanded that Origin focus on UO. Ironically, EA being a franchise game, as soon as UO hit the market, they wanted work to be started on the sequel – they didn’t understand what would be called MMORPGs and completely overlooked they would be cannibalizing their own product. Well, apparently, eventually they realized, as UO2 was, of course, canned later on.

            Instead of using Origins’ creativity and understanding of its fans, EA stifled Origin’s creativity and overruled their understanding of their games and their market. EA could have had a gold mine had they focused on keeping Origin’s business processes sane but deferred to their ideas and understanding of their players. Instead, they tried to have Origin conceptualize games the EA way.

            For a long and interesting article on the matter, cf. http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/video-games/issues/issue_14/87-The-Conquest-of-Origin

        • InternetBatman says:

          Nox was so much fun, and I did enjoy it much more than Diablo. The barbarian’s dash is so visceral, and the conjurer’s little walking bombs are pretty fun. The problem is that they didn’t understand that randomization was the key to Diablo’s success, so there was little reason to replay once you had beaten the game three times.

          • Philomelle says:

            I’m not saying that Nox is a bad game, I loved the hell out of it back when it came out. A few bugs aside, it was a very inventive game with amazing gameplay and decent writing.

            My point is more that it was incredibly stupid of Westwood to loudly advertise Nox as a “killer” of the game that wasn’t even out yet and nobody even knew if the two would play anything alike. The game’s marketing was a load of hot air because it relied on constant comparisons with a product that didn’t exist in playable form yet and was only represented by a handful of screenshots that proved to be nothing like the final game.

  2. Ramshackle Thoughts says:

    EA Exec: You guys, make Dungeon Keeper! With all the things on this checklist! Hmm, this all blew up in our faces… Well, you guys sure screwed this up, buh-bye!”

    I know that’s probably definitely not the reason, but it’s telling that such a scenario enters my mind. I had a great time with both Age of Camelot and Warhammer Online. I hope all those employees find work and continue making what they love (not more Dungeon Keepers).

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      This is the sad thing, it’s always the developers that are scapegoated and then fired. Not the suits forcing the developers to make this crap based on what their marketing department told them.

  3. J Arcane says:

    Warhammer Online could’ve been so great.

    It WAS a fun as hell game, and it was gorgeous as hell, and many of the ideas it pioneered are still being used in the MMO space, but launching a game with half-finished solo content just isn’t acceptable anymore.

    PvP isn’t the bread and butter of an MMO the way Mythic remains convinced it is. It’s important, and they went a long way towards making it something everyone would want to play, but the assumption and attitude that it was all they needed and that it could shore up the holes elsewhere in the game was just dead wrong, and an almost good game got killed because of it.

    • apocraphyn says:

      Nah, there were many reasons WAR crashed and burned. Solo content wasn’t the sole reason – got my character to max level in no time, largely relying on solo content and dabbling in the PvP from time to time. The dungeons/raids were all unfinished and horribly unbalanced at release, the city siege system didn’t work properly – hell, the initial intent was supposedly to incorporate a city for each race, rather than one for each faction. But yeah, once you reached the post-game, there was practically nothing to do but PvP. The PvP took on many forms, but no matter how many coats of paint you give it, if it’s the only thing you can do, it gets a bit old after a while.

      • Ciaphas22 says:

        The other major problem with WAR is that it is incredibly difficult to do RvR style gameplay when you only have 2 factions. Chaos always had a higher population than Order besides a relatively small number of servers, and because Chaos had more people they started winning, which led to Order players leaving or switching to Chaos making the populations even more unbalanced.

      • jonahcutter says:

        They never really figured out the endgame pvp/rvr structure either.

        Remember the fortresses? They proved too laggy and basically just a bigger version of the keeps, so the content was removed from them. But they remained in the world and you still had to run through them to get to the city fights. So they sat as eternally empty husks, reminding everyone of how poorly imagined and implemented the endgame pvp was.

        Even the revamped city-fight structure didn’t work that well. It usually ended up as zerging, There’d maybe be one big fight, one side rapidly would gain the upper hand and most of the other side would log out.

  4. apocraphyn says:

    I’d say it’s a shame, but it’s not. As was said in the article, pretty much everyone that made up Mythic in its heyday had already left before they were dissolved. Still, DaoC was excellent, they made an admirable go of things with WAR (despite the fact that it was blatantly rushed out by EA before it was ready) and they pretty much defined Realm vs Realm PvP combat.

    Westwood, Bullfrog, Mythic…not to mention how Maxis and Bioware have turned out. How many other devs has EA run into the ground, now?

    • Philomelle says:

      I really wouldn’t blame EA for Bioware’s recent achievements at pissing off their fanbase. The studio had never been all that exceptional. Yes, they made a lot of good games, but Black Isle always made much better games on the tech they developed. Plus, anyone who ever hanged out on Bioware forums will tell you that a lot of their staff get incredibly defensive and confrontational about the criticism toward their games.

      Hell, David Gaider regularly picks fights with fans on Tumblr and he’s still the most pleasant and open person on their team that I know of.

      • drinniol says:

        How do you know they’re real fans? :P

        • Philomelle says:

          That’s actually a very good question. A lot of Bioware-related drama on Tumblr erupts because Dragon Age fans get really crazy with lore interpretation, at which point Gaider (who is very active on that website and keeps a fairly amazing blog) chimes in with explanations and clarifications concerning their theories. Outrage follows as butthurt fans realize that Word of God contradicts their pet theories.

          That said, Gaider can get very terse and confrontational and he’s still better than Ray “YOU FILTHY PLEBEIANS JUST DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE FINE ART THAT IS MASS EFFECT 3′S ENDING AND ITS MULTIPLE COLOR CHOICES” Muzyka.

          • Lord of the Fungi says:

            To be fair, that’s exactly the same thing that Rock Paper Shotgun’s own John ‘Whoever disagrees with me is giant far of a human’ Walker believes.

          • tormos says:

            John is also not trying to sell you something for money

          • Smoky_the_Bear says:

            Isn’t tumblr 99% irrational ranting anyway? Can’t be surprised that people on there are getting defensive over something.

      • apocraphyn says:

        Yeah, I was just lumping multiple bad occurrences together there. There’s no telling how Bioware would have turned out without EA (and I agree with you on the Black Isle front, since everything they touched turned to gold), but you know how easy it is to point fingers and imagine how things might have been had they not turned out as they did.

        • Philomelle says:

          Oh, I’m aware. I dislike EA and their business practices as much as the next person (as anyone would be able to tell from the recent Battlefield 3 article), it’s just that I strongly disagree that all of those bad occurrences are strictly EA’s fault. Sometimes developers are just as guilty.

          Take for example Westwood. It’s easy to claim that they failed because EA was treating them poorly, but the truth is that Westwood spent the last five years of their existence desperately trying to one-up Blizzard at their own game. Blizzard announces StarCraft: Ghost? Westwood comes out with C&C: Renegade. WarCraft III coming up? Better revive Dune, their own original RTS franchise. And then there was Nox, where a Westwood representative spent his whole time at E3 shrieking to every reporter about how the game will be a “Diablo II killer,” even though Diablo II was delayed at that very E3 and wouldn’t even come out until 6 months after Nox’s release.

          I seriously doubt EA went into their offices, pointed at Blizzard and said “See that other veteran company whose only connection to you is that it made the other legendary RTS property? Go fuck with it.”

          And in Bioware’s defense, they seem to be getting back on track now that Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuck are gone. Dragon Age: Inquisition seems to focus on the same things that made old Bioware titles great, a large world with a variety of choices, different ways to approach the story and companions that have agendas other than banging the player character. So there’s always the possibility that the studio was simply in the hands of bad management who decided that big budgets = Hollywood blockbusters disguised as games.

    • Mokinokaro says:

      Maxis died when Will Wright decided to move into his own small projects. They were such a cult of personality they’ve had issues adapting to development without him.

      Bullfrog, as I said above, was killed by Mucky Foot being formed not EA.

      Westwood can’t even be compared to the others. Westwood survived a long time under EA, even if they were renamed EA Los Angeles. It’s just that RTS games outside of Starcraft don’t grab huge sales any more.

      EA “ruined” Bioware only in the sense they let Bioware grow far too fast which has lead to a management mess. I know people who’ve worked for Bioware in Edmonton since not long after the EA acquisition and they’ve told me the big problem is that Bioware’s managers try to run a 100 man team the same way they used to run their 10-20 ones which really doesn’t work.

  5. Jekhar says:

    Apparently Ultima Online is unaffected by all this, and this is the only thing i need to know.

  6. elderman says:

    Tangentially related: is DAoC a game that holds up? A friend of mine wanted to get me into it and so we spent an afternoon leveling up characters. That stuck me as an empty experience, but he swears it gets better. It was my first experience with any MMO. Not sure now whether to dedicate more time to figuring out what he loves about that game or just give it up as ‘not my thing.’

    • Grygus says:

      If you haven’t done any RvR then you haven’t seen the actual purpose of the game yet.

      I think the whole RvR concept was improved upon by Guild Wars 2, though; you might ask your friend whether they’ve tried that.

    • Berzee says:

      I liked it a lot when I played it, but that was upon initial release and I had a number of friends playing as well so that may have influenced it. I don’t remember any tremendous shift in the way the game plays as you gain levels, just the usual MMO thing of battles becoming more complex because of increased skills, and more high-stakes because of how long it takes to recover from the XP loss. =P

      He might be talking about how at higher levels you can get more involved in RvR, though that never really held much attraction for me (I prefer free-for-all PvP with the possibility of item loss and chatting with one’s killers =P). So I’m not sure how it compares to later attempts at regimented “faction” PvP. Higher level group PvE does a pretty good job of giving every party member an important role to play without necessarily presenting one Right Way to do things, which gives a nice feeling of cooperation.

      I think what I liked about it is, and something that does improve over time, is its nicely understated and solidly constructed world. Just crisscrossing the country, learning the landmarks and travel routes, seeing your old home village in the distance, progressing in class quests that involve you in the mythology, impatiently anticipating your next skill point…it’s nothing particularly revelatory or unique at this point, but it’s reliable, well balanced, and doesn’t feel the need to flash exclamation points and fireworks in your face to keep you entertained, which is something I appreciate. =)

      These impressions are the result of lots of hours of play, but in the early days of DAoC (I only played a little bit after Avalon was released and then mostly just rolling different noobs to cavort in the battlegrounds). So yeah, I don’t think it’s the kind of game that suddenly shifts onto a higher plane of fun, but I do think it just quietly gets better as it gets more familiar, and won’t disappoint you by suddenly revealing something terrible. Or so says my outdated, hazy memories. =P

      • elderman says:

        Thanks for your thoughts, guys. I’ll give it a bit more time, if we can find a free gaming afternoon in common.

    • Major Seventy Six says:

      DAOC is the only MMO I really appreciated.

      WAR, WOW, GW, LOTRO and others all failed to drag me in in the way that DACO did.

      This is a sad story here.

  7. Zepp says:

    EA = Tyranids

  8. Moraven says:

    Don’t forget, many Mythic DAoC and Ultima online people splintered off to form BroadSword Online games. Lead by Mythic co-founder Rob Denton, they took over support and development for DAoC and Ultima Online. EA still does billing and owns the IP, but they are not under EA’s full control.

    • Fiatil says:

      Thank you so much for posting this! I haven’t played DAoC in a bit and I had no idea that such an arrangement had taken place. It did seem like whoever was running the show had recently re-engaged the community, so hooray! I was sitting here planning out using vacation time to mourn what seemed like the inevitable DAoC cancellation.

  9. toby1kenobi says:

    Never played it, but the cinematic trailer was one of my favourite ever for a game,

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-68bXPgH9Dk

    Would have loved to see that as a full movie

  10. JonClaw says:

    Does that mean someone can make a Splatterball remake now?

    • Okcel says:

      And a Magestorm remake!

      I also miss Legends of Kesmai, but I don’t think there’s any meat left on those bones.

  11. icemann says:

    I absolutely love the mobile version of Dungeon Keeper.. Sure it’s only partially like the original, but for a tower defense game its pretty damn awesome. Been playing it daily since release.

  12. MerseyMal says:

    Started playing Dark Age Of Camelot after a work colleague was sacked for spending too much time on DAOC forums on Barrysworld and was interested to find out what was so special. 5 years later I was still playing it.