Massively multiplayer online role-playing game Warhammer Online is no more. This week EA shut down its servers and in the blink of an eye the five-year-old once would-be World of Warcraft killer was snuffed out of existence.
As an online-only game, that was that. Charge your glasses. There is now no way to play the game. Or is there?
Ex-Warhammer Online developer Andrew Meggs suggests there may be a way to keep Warhammer Online, albeit in single-player form only, alive. In a blog post, the co-founder of Camelot Unchained developer City State Entertainment revealed the existence of an internal-only developer build of the Warhammer client that could run without a server. And he'd know, because he worked on it.
"There were no login or character selection screens," he explained on his blog Shiny Toys.
"There were no NPCs or other players. There was no gameplay of any kind. It was just you and the entire world spread out before you. You could fly around like Superman, or teleport anywhere at will. You could watch the sun rise and set over Altdorf, and see the smoke rise from fires forever burning. And you could see the thousands upon thousands of hours of work and craftsmanship that went into creating a world that has now been unplugged."
Meggs called on EA to release one last build of the game client, but flip the switch that said "if this is a public build, force single-player mode OFF" to "ON".
"It won't have to be released with any art files or a massive download," he said.
"It can run standalone, pulling assets out of the patch files that the last players will still have sitting on their drives. This won't compete with any current or future game, because it's not a game any more. But it's a place for the die-hard fans to visit by themselves, to reminisce and remember the times they had there with others.
"It's something the hundreds of developers who worked on it will still be able to run for their kids someday. It's a piece of history for Professors of Game Studies in 2113 to better understand what MMORPGs looked like before the neural implants.
"It won't be WAR; that only exists with other players. But it's a double-clickable museum exhibiting much of what WAR was, so it won't be forgotten completely. It's an effort by all of us, as developers, to preserve a living record as our transient medium is created and destroyed. I can't do this; I left behind the code when I left EA. But there are people inside EA who can easily make this happen.
"It's something the hundreds of developers who worked on it will still be able to run for their kids someday. It's a piece of history for Professors of Game Studies in 2113 to better understand what MMORPGs looked like before the neural implants."
Ex-Warhammer Online developer Andrew Meggs
Meggs wasn't the only former former Warhammer Online developer to comment on the game's closure. Josh Drescher, one of the producers on the game, also waved goodbye.
"I'm not going to waste time picking at old wounds or attempting to offer a post-mortem commentary on 'what happened'," he wrote on his blog.
"There's been tons of gossip and speculation and smug armchair game design (and project management) in the years since it launched. Some small bits of it have been on-target. Most of it is uninformed BS. It will be up to people well above my pay grade to decide if the 'real story' ever gets told, but in the meantime I will say this:
"We were proud of and confident in the game we launched. We knew it had enormous potential. We knew it had been well-built and crafted with care and affection by hundreds of developers. We knew that those developers spent YEARS of their lives, giving it their all to make sure that WAR would be everywhere and enjoyed across the globe."
Drescher also lamented the now unplayable nature of the MMO. "It's one of the cruel realities of MMORPG development," he said. "You can't just load up your old work years later and show it off to your kids."