Stephen Nichols, producer and lead programmer of NCsoft's free-to-play online RPG Dungeon Runners, has announced that the game is to shut down on January 1st 2010. Reason: it's not making money.
Following yesterday's rumours of cancellations and job cuts at NCsoft's European office, the MMO company has announced that it is to merge its European and American operations under the name NC West.
Rumours of the demise of NCsoft's Austin studio - home to Tabula Rasa and Dungeon Runners - have, it turns out, been exaggerated, as the Korean MMO giant announced 21 job cuts at the developer.
There isn't much in the way of fresh MMO news this morning, because the world of massively multiplayer gaming spent most of yesterday trying to outdo itself - and every other section of the gaming industry - in an orgy of funny fakery. And we have to say it did rather well.
NCsoft has released an update for free-to-play MMOG Dungeon Runners called "Chunk 2", which introduces a few gameplay refinements as well as in-game adverts for non-paying members.
The surprisingly entertaining MMO Dungeon Runners is about to get its first content patch.
At first glance, and perhaps second, third and fourth, it's impossible to see Dungeon Runners as anything other than a derivative of World of Warcraft. The completely free (well, we'll come to that in a bit) MMO seems to be going out of its way to ape the 9 million selling behemoth. Everything - from the fonts used to the colour-coding of the drops to the quest window design - appears to be designed to be familiar. However, with comparatively shoddy graphics, jagged controls, and an immediately obvious miniscule scale, this all seems to be shooting itself in the level 23 boot.
That's until you play it for a bit. At the fifth glance, Dungeon Runners is, against all likelihood, a spoof of the MMO genre. NC Soft, one of the big players in the online world with City of Heroes, Lineage and the forthcoming Tabula Rasa, are taking a cheeky dig at the trend that's brought them riches. And oddly, it works.
It doesn't take long to realise this. The first equipment you will have access to is made of cardboard. Cardboard. Then soon enough the drops reveal names like the "Contaminated Costume Cereal Box Ring of the Sasquatch", or the "Smokin' Natural Wrapped Mu'umu'u of the Hot-Natured Armadillo." Mu'umu'u. That's funny. But not as funny as the "Sphincter's People's Pick of Unending Taint." Ew. When you pick up quests, the turgid babble every MMO makes you trawl through, trying to pick out how many of what you have to kill in amongst the twaddle about dying daughters and invading bees, is equally mocked. Huge long passages of nonsense introduce each challenge (thankfully completely ignorable with a useful summary at the end) filled with overwrought fantasy gibberish. Then even the enemies you need to attack are ridiculous. The Fire Mutant Puker being a favourite. I'm currently in the middle of collecting glasses of Puker Juice. Yum!
NCsoft's MMO Dungeon Runners has opened its doors to players around the world today, and is free to download and play.