Tag Archives: Landmark

Five MMOs That Died Young

The sad reality is that MMOs aren’t forever. Someone has to pay to keep the servers online, and as the years advance and revenues dwindle, it can become harder for companies to justify the expense. Even sadder are the MMOs that died too young. While it’s unrealistic to expect MMOs and MMORPGs to last forever, there’s often a lot of potential that gets left on the table with canceled or dead MMOs.

For fans, it’s always sad to see a game go. They are cut down before their time, their players left adrift to dream of what might have been. Today, we’ll be taking a look at some of the most unique and beloved MMORPGs to have met a premature end.

The Matrix Online

MMOs that Died - Matrix Online

If ever there was a perfect setting for an MMORPG, it is the Matrix. A virtual world about a virtual world — it only makes sense. Its release came only two years after the Matrix trilogy ended. It was therefore surprising that it joined the ranks of MMOs that died in 2009, after only four years of existence. The creators of the Matrix films, the Wachowskis, even gave their blessing to declare The Matrix Online the official continuation of the story that began in the movies.

Players were able to join one of three factions — the human rebels of Zion, the machines who control the Matrix, or the renegades of the Merovingian — and new story content, tailored to each faction, was delivered on a regular basis.

Matrix Online had more to offer than a great setting, too. It also boasted a unique combat system based on both real time “free fire” and close-quarters combat in slowed down bullet time. The class system was quite flexible as well, with the three main classes being augmented by numerous sub-classes for a variety of roles.

But despite the strength of its setting and its many interesting ideas, The Matrix Online was not a runaway success. The population, never huge, dwindled over the years, and the game’s production values took a nosedive. The story began to take some very questionable turns, further souring opinion of the game.

Ultimately, the population bled down to just a few hundred people, and in 2009, after just four years of operation, The Matrix Online shut down for good. There was a final in-game event in an attempt to provide some closure to the story, but even that was a buggy mess, preventing many people from fully appreciating it.

The Matrix Online now stands as one of the greatest examples of wasted potential in the MMO space.


MMOs that Died - Landmark

Voxel-based building sandbox Landmark was another game with a strange and tormented history. Originally, it was developed as a building tool for the much hyped EverQuest: Next. It proved so popular with its own developers that it was then spun-off as its own game, launching into early access.

It languished in early access for a very long time, and even when it finally did launch for real, it was often plagued by polish issues and stability problems.

Nonetheless, it was a game with a lot to offer. While there are other building games out there, none have ever been quite like Landmark. Its unusually high graphical fidelity and extremely easy to use toolset allowed most anyone to make true works of art.

Conventional wisdom says that if you give players the tools to make their own content, the large majority of it will be terrible, but Landmark disproved that as a lie. Nearly every build in Landmark was beautiful or fascinating, and every log-in brought new wonders to explore.

But it was not to last. Daybreak put little effort into advertising the game after its initial early access launch, and worse, when EverQuest: Next was cancelled, the greater gaming community chose to take its frustrations out on Landmark, review bombing it and generally taking every opportunity to sully its name. Daybreak seems to be more associated now with old MMORPGs and MMOs that died more than releasing anything new or of note.

Under-supported by its own developer and unfairly persecuted by the community at large, Landmark failed to find a strong enough audience, and shut down less than a year after its official launch, taking with all the amazing creations of its players.

The Secret World

MMOs that Died - The Secret World

Unlike the other games on this list, it is still possible for at least some people to play The Secret World (without the aid of an emulator). But if it’s not yet entirely dead, it is at least mostly dead.

With the launch of its reboot, Secret World Legends, it is no longer possible to purchase or otherwise create a new account for TSW, so only those who were already players can still access it. All plans for future content have also been scrapped, and the game’s population has cratered. It now seems only a matter time before the servers are shut down altogether.

And that is a terrible loss for the world of online gaming, as over its five years of life TSW proved itself one of the most unique MMORPGs ever made. Its writing was impeccable, its modern setting was darkly fascinating, its missions were challenging, and its build system put an almost unheard of level of power in the hands of the player.

But it always struggled financially due to poor marketing, a steep learning curve, and its mature subject matter. The reboot as Legends was a final attempt to reverse the game’s fortune’s, but I have my doubts over whether Legends can do any better than its predecessor, and even if it does, a lot of what made the original TSW special has been lost in the transition. Many may view Secret World Legends as simply a F2P Secret World, but I assure you that The Secret World’s time is past and thus, belongs in the ranks of MMOs that died too young.

Adding insult to injury is the dishonest way the entire transition has been handled. For months, fans were told that new content for TSW was in production, when all along the plan was to abandon the game in favor of the reboot.

City of Heroes

MMOs that Died - City of Heroes

The closure of City of Heroes in 2012 sent shockwaves through the entire MMO community. It may not have quite been a household name, but it had always been well-regarded and respectably successful, and its sudden end was a sobering reminder of just how uncertain the future of any MMO can be.

Over its eight years of life, the superhero MMO built up a modest but very tightly knit community and developed a uniformly positive reputation within the greater MMORPG space. Critics praised it, its players were passionate, and even those who didn’t actively play largely held City of Heroes in high regard. In a community infamous for negativity, CoH managed to emerge largely unscathed.

That made it truly shocking when publisher NCsoft decided to close the game. Even finances shed little light on the decision, as all indications are that CoH remained profitable, even if only modestly so, until the end.

For fans, it was a betrayal, and for many it permanently poisoned the reputation of NCsoft. Even for those who did not play, it was a stark wake-up call on just how capricious the world of online gaming can be. If a game as well-regarded as City of Heroes wasn’t safe, what is?

In a cruel irony, many City of Heroes players chose The Secret World as their new home, only to be uprooted yet again a few short years later.

The love for City of Heroes has spawned many crowdfunded spiritual successors, such as Valiance Online and City of Titans, but it remains to be seen which, if any, will survive to become completed games.

Star Wars Galaxies

MMOs that Died - Star Wars GalaxiesStar Wars Galaxies could almost be seen as the poster child for MMOs that died too young. I think for a lot of people it was the game that woke up them to the possibility that MMOs could end suddenly.

Much digital ink has already been spilled on the saga of SWG, so you’re probably at least somewhat familiar with it. It was certainly not without its difficulties, as large-scale overhauls known as the “Combat Upgrade” and “New Game Enhancements” caused intense, divisive controversies within its community.

Despite this, SWG remains an incredibly beloved title for many people, and is often held up as the paragon of good sandbox design, a game that offered the freedom to explore many different playstyles and still be a valuable part of the greater online community.

Still, it wasn’t enough to save the game. Star Wars Galaxies shut down with a final in-game event in 2011 after eight years. A clear answer on what exactly lead to SWG’s demise is difficult to come by, but it was likely due to the upcoming release of Star Wars: The Old Republic and the competition for players that would have arisen between the two games.

Still, many years after its end, SWG remains a popular topic of discussion among the community, with a vocal if displaced fanbase. The continued love for SWG has spawned many emulator projects, so there is still an option out there to play it… or a reasonable facsimile thereof.

Enjoy Them While You Can

If there’s a lesson to take from all this, it’s that you can never know for sure what the future will hold for your MMO of choice. So enjoy them while you can. MMOs slowly lose players to new games or simply time and their MMO deaths are inevitable. So my advice – don’t sweat the small stuff, and appreciate them for what they are, because one day you won’t have the chance.

Unless you play World of Warcraft. That thing will be around forever.

Favorite Games of 2016

2016 has come and gone and now it’s time to reminisce about what turned out to be a great year in gaming. Tyler Bro and I have compiled our three favorite games we played in the past year. Most of them didn’t actually release last year, but that only shows one of the great things about gaming. Multiplayer games especially tend to evolve over time and many are in better shape than we’ve ever seen.

The Bro’s Picks:

Elder Scrolls Online
elder scrolls online 2016

I’ve fallen in love with Elder Scrolls Online. There’s so much interesting content here and two months later, I’m just scratching the surface. I tend to get a little ADD when it comes to MMORPGs so the wealth of options is fantastic. There’s a ton of dungeons (with a myriad of difficulties), expansive PvP, crafting, and crazy amount of customization options.

Unlike many other MMORPGs, I don’t feel compelled to play in a particular way. I log on and get rewards for doing whatever it is I find enjoyable. This is not the MMORPG it was when it first launched. ESO took a while to get to the point it’s at now, but One Tamriel really sealed the deal for me. This is my MMORPG of choice for the foreseeable future.


overwatch 2016

Elder Scrolls Online lacks one important multiplayer feature: competitive PvP. This is where Overwatch comes into play. I don’t always want an intense skill based multiplayer game. When I do, Overwatch is just a few clicks away. For a long time, League of Legends was my competitive multiplayer game of choice. With less time to devote to mastery, Overwatch has served as more than a capable replacement.

The characters feel truly unique and most of them offer a different experience from a typical shooter. Using abilities at the right time can mean the difference between a victory and a loss. The pacing of the matches feels just right too. Overwatch is one of the few multiplayer games that really changes things up for a gamer who sometimes feels like they’ve seen it all.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

witcher 3 2016

Of course, sometimes it’s important to just sit back and enjoy a fully immersive single player experience. In that regard, Witcher is hard to beat. I actually played this for the first time in 2015, but I enjoyed it so much I played through it again (with DLC) in 2016. There are some flaws, sure. The pacing is a little off in the main game, and combat isn’t super deep. I don’t think I’ve ever played a perfect game though so I’d qualify these as pretty minor complaints.

I love the characters, story, choices, and world. I can’t say at any point that I lost my sense of immersion in The Witcher 3. Actions and reactions flow in a natural manner, and there is a ton of choice & consequence. Making tough moral decisions is such a great part of the game. I hope to see something similar in that regard in 2017.

Tyler Bro’s picks:


A player character in Landmark

Landmark was a pleasant surprise. We were all pretty disappointed by the cancellation of EverQuest Next, but if that was a case of life giving us lemons, Landmark is some pretty fine lemonade.

It’s a pretty simple game — really more of a toolkit than a game — but for what it is it does its job well. There’s almost no limit to what you can create in Landmark, and some of the creativity on display within it is truly awe-inspiring.

It might not be “main game” material, but it’s a nice place to pop into for some relaxation every now and again.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

An Imperial agent character and Lana Beniko in Star Wars: The Old Republic's Knights of the Eternal Throne expansion

If we’re to measure only by hours spent in-game, SW:TOR was my top game in 2016. Bar a few short breaks here and there, I played it heavily over the entire year. The major changes made by Knights of the Fallen Empire intrigued me, and I wound up getting sucked in for the long haul.

This is actually a bit surprising, even to me, because I’ve never really been a Star Wars fan, and there are some pretty big things about the game that I don’t like, from its business model to its combat.

However, I am a sucker for a good story, and that’s one thing Bioware tends to deliver pretty consistently. Between the class and expansion stories, I had no shortage of plot to keep me engaged, even as I largely ignored the multiplayer and endgame content.

StarCraft II

Nova's ship, the Griffin, in StarCraft II's Nova Covert Ops DLC

Although its last expansion technically launched in 2015, 2016 was still a fantastic year for StarCraft II. Its co-op mode has far exceeded everyone’s expectations, and I can’t even count how many matches I’ve played over the past year. With new maps and commanders coming regularly, it just keeps getting better.

Meanwhile, the Covert Ops DLC also provided a small but very quality dose of story content. I had my doubts about whether Covert Ops could measure up after the excellence of Legacy of the Void’s single-player experience, but it won me over with its intense story, innovative gameplay, and epic challenges. If Covert Ops is truly to be the last story update to StarCraft II, at least they left on a high note.

For all the stumbles made by Blizzard’s other properties in recent times, StarCraft seems to have the Midas touch these days.

Landmark Is Surprisingly Good

Landmark is a game with a strange and somewhat sad history. It was originally a spin-off of EverQuest: Next, but when Next’s development was cancelled, Landmark was all that was left.

A player-made castle in the building MMO Landmark

But now it’s finally been officially launched. After all the drama surrounding EQ:N and Landmark’s seemingly endless journey through early access, my expectations for Landmarks were set pretty low, but I maintained a vague curiosity, so I decided to give it a shot.

What I found was not the empty afterthought I expected, but a surprisingly charming and enjoyable little game.

Getting your bearings:

The first thing you’ll notice upon joining Landmark is that the game is gorgeous. Stunningly, breath-takingly gorgeous. It hits a perfect balance between style and realism to create a world that is detailed and vibrantly colorful. So much of my time has been spent just wandering around and gawking at the beauty of it all.

The only stumble for the visuals of the game is its character models, which plunge headlong into the darkest depths of the uncanny valley. Faces are more than a little terrifying.

Character customization is also woefully inadequate — I’m particularly amused by a “facial hair” option for female characters, which does nothing. Though I suppose the point is to show your personality through your build, not your character. Still, surely they could have included a few more options.

On the plus side, character animations are incredibly good. Far more fluid and natural than in most MMOs. Seeing your character adjust their stance to account for a slope or slide down the side of a hill is a real joy.

Sliding down a hill in the building MMO Landmark

Movement in general in Landmark is fantastic. Every player is issued a grappling hook to allow them to traverse caverns and mountains with ease, and depending on what boots you have equipped, you can unlock various movement powers to help you get around. Few other MMOs make simply getting around such an enjoyable experience.

The core gameplay of Landmark is very basic, but it works. A lot of your time will be spent gathering resources — chopping down trees, mining ore, and so forth. This is quite easy to do, and even the rarer resources aren’t too hard to track down.

It does take a lot of grinding to get enough resources to build anything substantial. In any other game, this would be intolerable, but the beautiful graphics and stellar soundtrack are incredibly soothing, and that makes the grind bearable, if not necessarily enjoyable.

Combat is simple, though more challenging than you might expect. You get just two skills based on whatever weapon you have equipped, and you have a few different choices of armor, but there’s no real vertical progression here.

Landmark’s combat would get old fast if fighting was as crucial here as it is in the average MMO, but it’s a pretty small part of this game. Generally the only place you’ll find significant numbers of enemies is within the chaos caverns, cave systems where the rarest resources are found.

The caverns are an interesting experience. They capture the feeling of exploring the unknown a lot better than your average MMO dungeon crawl, but they’re also pretty repetitive. The only real variety comes from the ruins found at the end of each cavern, which were player-designed. Even then it’s mostly a visual change, as there’s just not that much variety in the combat encounters.

A character wielding a bow in Landmark

But combat and adventuring aren’t the main attraction in Landmark, so let’s talk about what really matters: building.

Making your mark:

The building tools in Landmark can seem a little overwhelming at first. There’s no shortage of options right from the start, and there are dozens more prop recipes to be unlocked over time.

But the game has a very good (if somewhat lengthy) tutorial that does a good job of showing you basics, and once you find your footing, it’s surprisingly easy to build what you want. I haven’t been too ambitious with my creations, but so far I’ve yet to encounter anything I couldn’t figure out how to make.

It also helps that Landmark thus far seems to have an unusually welcoming community for an MMO. General chat is lively and usually seems happy to answer any questions newbies might have.

The relative ease of building and the warmth of the community lead me to believe Landmark would be a very good MMO for children to play, either alone or (ideally) with their parents. I know I would have loved this game when I was a kid.

At the higher end, the potential for what can be created seems pretty impressive. I haven’t spent a lot of time exploring other people’s builds, but so far I’ve found a functioning stargate, a Tim Horton’s, a large and detailed medieval castle, and the starship Enterprise.

Chevrons encoded and locked

What I haven’t found a lot of yet is builds with combat or stories, both of which are theoretically options. But it’s early in the game’s life, so maybe that will come later.

My one major complaint with building right now would be that you don’t get a whole lot of real estate for it.

Before you can build, you have to stake your claim somewhere in the world. Finding a good spot can take some doing, though it doesn’t seem like all the land has been taken quite yet.

Claims themselves are not that big, though, and by default you can only have one. It costs real money to unlock more. Given how inexpensive Landmark is, that isn’t too unreasonable, but personally I would have preferred to have at least two claims off the bat.

It’s also worth noting you need to maintain your claim. They did a pretty good job of making this as painless as they could; you don’t need to pay anything — simply log in to extend the life of your claim. But you do need to be diligent about it, or you will lose your claim. The design will be recorded, so what you’ve built won’t be lost forever, but finding a new claim to rebuild on could be a hassle.

Lingering issues:

Landmark has far exceeded my expectations, but it’s definitely got some problems.

Building a house in Landmark

It is lacking in polish, which is pretty baffling considering how long it spent in early access. There are bugs and some stability issues. I haven’t found any of this to be too game-breaking — I’ve found workarounds for all the issues fairly quickly — but it’s sloppy, and it’s just not acceptable in a game that spent so long in beta.

My biggest concern, though, is longevity. I’m not really sure what you’re supposed to do with yourself once you’ve finished building your claim. I suppose you could start building new claims, but that costs cash, and even then, you’ll eventually run out of claim slots.

You can explore what other people have built, but I can’t imagine that holding my — or most other players’ — attention for too long.

There’s also a lot of lingering negativity directed toward the game because of EverQuest: Next’s cancellation, but I would encourage people to let go of that.

The sad truth is that game development doesn’t always work out, especially when trying new things, and Next was trying a lot of new things. In the end it’s probably for the best that Daybreak cancelled the game rather than release something that fails to meet our expectations. I understand the frustration — I’m upset about losing Next, too — but don’t be blinded by it, and don’t think that Daybreak are the villains because of it.

It is unfortunate for the people who bought into Landmark in the hopes of having their creations ported to Next, but early access is always a gamble. I’m not entirely without sympathy, but if you paid for Landmark in the hopes of helping to build Next, the fact is you’re the one who took the chance of paying for something that didn’t exist.

A view of a distant claim in the building MMO Landmark

It also needs to be said that Landmark was never the beta for EverQuest: Next, as I’ve seen a lot of people claim. It was always intended to be a separate game. Landmark isn’t an abandoned, unfinished version of Next; it is its own finished game.

Oh, Landmark could — probably should — offer more than it does. I want more character customization options, myself. But it was always intended to be a building tool, not a full-fledged MMORPG.

And as a building tool, it’s pretty good. Not perfect, but good.


Much to my own surprise, I’m going to recommend Landmark. It’s not necessarily worth making your new main game, but it’s got enough going for it to be worth checking out. Even if you only end up running around and exploring for a few days, the game should still justify its paltry ten dollar cost.

For my part, I need to dig out a cellar for my cottage.