The Sims Online met a sorry fate, being re-branded and redesigned as EA Land and eventually put to sleep as player numbers continued to dwindle. That doesn't mean that many don't have fond memories for the bizarre MMO. Enter FreeSO [official site], a fan-created attempt to revive the original game, without the subscription fee and on its own servers. The revival launched on January 6th, unlaunched shortly thereafter as the servers collapsed under the weight of players trying to log on, and has plans to return in the future. Step below for details of what happened and an (un?)launch trailer.
If you're interested in what went wrong with the launch, the one-man development team explains in a blog post that it was a mixture of DOS attacks and simple interest from legitimate users. 500 people were trying to sign up to the game at the same time at one point and it seems that was simply too many, though this seems mostly due to configuration errors on the game's API server.
The developer is therefore confident that FreeSO will return. In another blog post he explains that he's transitioning to a new web framework for handling API calls, reaching out to fan groups in different territories about running their own instances, and planning an invite-only closed beta to more gradually let in new players. From the post:
"The current plan is a beta mailing list, where you submit your email to recieve a FreeSO beta invite code some time in the future. This way, we can gradually scale the server up, see how it behaves, and there will be no need to join a large “city lot” style lot to get started (this would only need to be available through the first few invite phases). I’m also predicting that many people will quickly stop playing. An immediate playerbase of say, 2000 users that gradually drops to 750, is a lot harder and more expensive to deal with than increments of 50 to get to the same 750 end users point.
"This will be announced on this wordpress when it is available. The emails to recieve codes will probably be picked in order, but it’s likely some randomization will be employed. Please stay tuned."
Unfortunately it seems that due to the large list of things which now need to be completed means that the beta is unlikely to "launch soon". For now you'll have to keep dreaming.
I enjoy The Sims games in general, but when I played The Sims Online back in the day I found it a garbled mess. Lots of lag, lots of anti-social player behaviour, lots of grind to earn enough money to buy anything through legitimate means. The game did produce a number of interesting stories from the broader community, however, owing mostly to its entirely player-driven economy and the lack of foresight in some of its design decisions. For example, players would often buy and sell real estate to one another, but there was no deed system to protect players from being scammed during the trade. Cue the creation of player-run police forces and criminal organisations, and a great many EVE-Online-in-suburbia anecdotes alongside.
Thanks, PC Gamer.