Play to (profitably) crush: Round 2?

 Massively has a nice two-part interview (linking not working atm…) with two original Shadowbane, and now Wizard101, devs that is well worth reading.

The story behind Shadowbane is a familiar one. New devs biting off more than they can chew, having more ideas than time to code them, and ultimately a lack of funds forcing a release and dooming the product. The final bit, about announcing the game too soon and getting people hyped too early (while also possibly allowing the game to get funding), is very interesting and really highlights how screwed up funding can be.

I played Shadowbane briefly during beta and at release, but it was basically unplayable on my machine at the time (5-10 FPS), and by the time my hardware was upgraded and the game was fixed up, I had moved on. But I played the game enough to see the good parts (city building, sieging), and it is telling that no major release since SB has attempted some of the things they had going.

It would also be fairly humorous if these guys took the money they made with Wizard101, a F2P kids game, and created Shadowbane 2. This time armed with all the lessons learned and a proper budget. One can wish.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
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11 Responses to Play to (profitably) crush: Round 2?

  1. Max says:

    I stuck with shadowbane for quite a bit (and it was also the first (and last) game I followed closely all the way beginning with the pre-release hype and up to its demise)

    I think even discounting technical problems (which were never ever fixed entirely) it was a bad game. Great lore and art direction . Very poor coding and even worse gameplay design. It had many interesting ideas but the implementation was bad. Combat and class design were interesting and innovative. But Everything related to cities ,economics and guild warfare was unmitigated disaster.

    The only game I think which was worse in terms of design is ironically Darkfall , as a result DF didnt hit even half the numbers Shadowbane had at its prime, despite being production quality (e.g. relatively stable servers and client).

    I think those 2 games are majorly responsible for the downfall of fantasy PvP MMO sandbox. And I honestly wish they never existed

    • SynCaine says:

      Just wondering, if SB and DF are responsible for the downfall, who is responsible for everything else?

    • epic.Ben says:

      “Shadowbane was a top-10 best selling PC game at launch, and was noted for two things. First, the majority of the game world allowed for open Player-vs-Player combat, making it an early pioneer title in the PvP MMO genre. Second, it was the first major MMO to offer dynamic world content as a primary feature of the game.”

      How is that “burying” anything? It was a success in many ways that a lot of people remember fondly.

      • Max says:

        How is that “burying” anything? It was a success in many ways that a lot of people remember fondly.

        Its precisely because it had such success at launch and wasted all initial customers it buried. Look if it was obscure project which never ever became popular or heard of it would not be a big factor. But SB was big and sold relatively well. And all the people who bought it know how bad of a disaster it was and they told everybody they knew.

        You know if you stuck with SB trough 2 initial months and you leave afterwards it wasn’t because you were spoiled customer (it had it all – daily server downtimes, lost resources (sometimes cost of weeks of whole guild work), unbearable lag and client side FPS drops ,eery bugs, crashes to desktop every 10 minutes, cheating and dupes) .. The core was rotten. Underneath all that there was bad gameplay and bad design for most part. Like farming gold day and night. like setting up macros to run the shop. Like whole guilds leaving overnight because months of all that sh1t were all destoryed in 4 am raid.

        Yes it had great parts too. Like character template design. Like actually having your guild city on the map. Like fighting on the walls of said city side by side with your friends . Or scaling enemy walls .

        And then after SB nobody but the most ultra hardcore ever bothered with Darkfall (which could be for the better as DF was even worse in some ways)

        I’m not really disagreeing, but was curious if you considered any games post-SB as examples of sandbox PvP done right

        There are none. And I blame SB and DF for that. No one bothered to steer any AAA projects in this direction and I think failure of SB was not a minor factor in this

        All pvp in MMOS modeled nowdays on WoW. Why? – because it was success.

  2. Max says:

    Responsible for rise? -well there were never a breaktrough in terms of sandbox pvp MMO (like EQ and later WoW for PvE themerparks). There were relatively successful projects pre-trammel UO (which after trammel went pve theme-parky ways) , Darktide AC, DAOC, and of course EVE . EvE in fact is the only thing which proved that sandboxes with pvp are not complete unmitigated disaster.

    SB was the first project to expand in the direction of player ran fantasy environments in MMO. But it buried that idea. And DF danced on its grave. I bet nowdays investors look and say – SB and DF proved fantasy sandboxes dont work. Sci-Fi? -maybe (EvE and SWG). Fantasy? -no , thats only for themeparks

    • SynCaine says:

      I’m not really disagreeing, but was curious if you considered any games post-SB as examples of sandbox PvP done right. While I disagree on SB/DF being ‘bad’, I can’t name another game besides EVE that belongs on the list.

  3. epic.Ben says:

    Shadowbane stands as the highlight of my MMO playing time. The diversity of builds in SB remains unparalleled today.

    Thing is – even as a half-assed game (and it was half-assed; stuff broken, wonky builds, poor graphic optimization), it was extremely successful. As that interview points out, they made a lot of money and the game sold well.

    Makes me wonder what people are talking about when they say that gamers don’t want sandbox games. oO

  4. Y||B says:

    I think SB still stands as the forerunner, and I believe that many problems/issues only can be found by implementing features, so current game designers should be thankful for that.
    * It was the first MMO (not counting the EQ Mac abortion) that ran on a Mac .. actually better than the Windows version.
    * the continuous environment was great (at least when it finally worked after a few months)
    * the 3D PvP combat with friendly fire
    * observing social PvP behaviours (2am sieges, thieves, trap villages, play to crush, tree spawn camping, using an unaligned character to grief random newbs, optimising guild charters)

    Actually if you want to see all that was bad in Shadowbane, have a look at the AoC PvP servers.

  5. Ramizeth says:

    Two words that killed Shadowbane for me when I played at release…

    “SB.exe error”

  6. Tyeer says:

    I played shadowbane when it went free, although i never became a good pvp player and was never fund of the darker aspects of PvP which shadowbane allowed, i did like the game. The reason Shadowbane failed, aside from the techincal diffulties that did plague the game were the simple fact that there is not enough HArdcore PVP players to sustain a game of it’s harshness. Most people enjoy a mix of pve and pvp, see Eve, you can play the game for moths and not get involved in a pvp encounter if you don’t want to, shadowbane did not allow this!

    The game shone in the creation of a world which players mattered and cared, the guild and nation were really important to players, loosing in city wars meant a lot!
    The character creation is unrivaled in any game i have played since, the possibility to customize your character was simply amazing.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I played SB at release and after the terrible failures at the beginning, it got much better just a couple months later, sadly, after already losing half their fan-base. I personally think it was and is unrivaled in the dynamics it presented. Unlike WoW you aren’t tied to some lame story-line where it takes FOREVER to level (I played for 1 month then sold the game and the rest of the 5 month online time on ebay I was so disappointed in it). PvP was the best because of the attraction points: cities, resources, runes, leveling areas, etc. Alliances/enemies between guilds. Sure there were problems, but overall, having a 300 vs 300 seige was epic… I had a few experiences with such enormous fights and that’s when it went free. They fixed a lot of it up and I really enjoyed myself for quite some time. The attack/defense ratings, DPS, and total character customization helped get away from other MMORPG cookie-cutter classes. Your character was as good as you 1.) designed them and 2.) played them. Gear helped, but it wasn’t a make or break, it was all about being intuitive and pushing your character/selecting the skills you needed to accomplish what you wanted. So many classes and races made it awesome… Anyone who played past all the bugs/errors/hacks in the first few months really enjoyed the game. There’s a thrill of knowing that someone could always be coming for you- that’s why you had to work as a TEAM and look out for each other- fight or recall, you have to decide. Use a scout to see what’s out there, etc. Before SB, I was never a huge PvP fan, but then I realized, that’s what makes it interesting and gives it an edge… unlike fast-paced games like Diablo II where someone could pop in a game, macro teleport to you in 2 seconds and kill you, if you were smart in SB, you’d keep a look-out as to what’s going on around you (and again, choose to stay and fight or move). Who wants to stand around farming gold and items all day just killing senseless mobs over and over again- it gets old. Conflict was the heart of SB- whether going after cities, resources, etc.

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