Afterlife of MMOs – Unsettled Worlds

Encounter with a ghostly PC in ActiveWorlds

This is the first of what I expect will be a series of short posts about MMOs which have exceeded their ‘productive’ lifespans. These games may have gone dark entirely, or survive only as emulators, or else they hobble on, more-or-less unplayed, into their twilight years.

There is something deeply unsettling about an uninhabited Virtual World.

It is what makes Youtube streamer Vinesauce’s visit to ActiveWorlds, a once-flourishing virtual community, so haunting. In his video, Vinesauce sees remnants of an vibrant, creative world, now abandoned. Then, the ghostly and mysterious Hitomi Fujiko appears. In an extended roleplay session, Vinesauce’s interaction with Hitomi moves the video from melancholy into the realm of horror.

Myst Online, years past its prime.

Logging on to Myst Online was one of the most eerie experiences in my gaming history. I recognize that MO is supposed to be slightly spooky in itself, but confronting the remnants of other players through various tomes and journals was more unsettling than the game-world itself. After 10+ hours in MO, I finally saw another player. I was so unnerved by the experience that I logged off immediately.

Sidney Rutledge compares MO to a dying shopping mall. The comparison is apt.

These abandoned worlds make Secret World Legends look like a (totally-not-haunted-or-anything) playground.

The only way to shake the spook off these worlds is for a group of players to inhabit them fully. Barring that unlikely outcome, the future of these titles seems up-in-the-air. Perhaps the companies or open-source communities supporting them will decide they are no longer worth it. They might disappear completely, or end up museum pieces.

Is a definitive, even premature ‘death’ preferable to this limbo?

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2 thoughts on “Afterlife of MMOs – Unsettled Worlds

  1. I remember enjoying/being unsettled by this video. I can even relate when it comes to my first time playing games like EverQuest and Ultima Online. They were my first MMO experiences and it was odd bumping into other players. For a while, I couldn’t tell players from NPCs which made things even weirder.

    I kind of miss the mystery/newness of the genre. Everything now is just so flashy and in your face. MMOs don’t want you get lost anymore, but that was half the fun for me once upon a time.

    • abbi

      Yes, I remember that period of not being able to differentiate between players and NPCs too. It would be fun to be able to return to that moment where things still felt uncertain, though as an MMO veteran, it’s hard to replicate. Best I’ve been able to do, is get into sandboxes like Project Gorgon, and hold myself back from reading any spoilers or outside-the-game info. But having a basic vocabulary of MMO systems means that I probably won’t misidentify a player as an NPC again, haha.

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