Goodbye Shadowbane (and Wolfpack)

It went “free” not long ago.

No mention on what was the plan behind the change. Some people believed it was to hype up some sort of sequel that Wolfpack was already working on for a couple of years.

Then there was a rumor from Grimwell (now edited):

  • Wolfpack and Ubisoft not so friendly. Ubi dropped the price to “FREE!” and there is no SB2 announcement. Sat in on a PVP roundtable moderated by Damion Schubert and he didn’t mention this, neither did the other WP friends. At the end of the day SB didn’t bring the $$ on a large scale despite doing many things right for MMOG’s and PVP. Possible, but not verified.

Now we have the other half of the news, confirmed by Ashen Temper (working at there as Community Rep or Designer, I’m not sure):

I wasn’t going to post this initially but I figure the word is already out (I’ve already seen it on a few webzines as well as a multitude of forums). Yes, the rumor is true: I am looking for a new job. No, I did not get fired. Nor am I the only one looking for a job. We were recently informed that as of mid-May 2006, the doors of Wolfpack Studios will be closing. Ubisoft, our parent company, will be refocusing their efforts on the console market with the new fiscal year, what with the new systems coming to market such as the X-box 360, PS3, and the Nintendo GO! (or so the rumors call it lately). This is not an unheard of practice; many game publishing companies tend to put a majority of their efforts into development of games for new systems. It is best to strike when the iron is hot, as the saying goes.

What does this mean for Shadowbane? Truth be told, I really don’t know. I wish I did because I don’t only work on the game, I play it too. Once I do know something and can officially state as much, I’ll let you all know.

And from mmorpg.com:

In total, approximately 25 people at the Austin, TX studio have been left without work.

This is probably completely unexpected considering that Ubiq was looking for people to hire.

It’s quite possible that the game will fade away with the company.

Yes, but what does this mean for Shadowbane?

Oh… I see…

SB always struck me as the fantasy equivalent of WW2OL - both had horrendous launches and both were plagued with showstopping bugs months after release. I hear SB still has the dreaded SB.exe bug. Both games catered to the hardcore pvp’ers but really never grew beyond their niche bases.

CRS recently laid off half of their staff and given that they were already pushed to the max trying to add new features, improvements, and new toys, I just don’t see how they can keep this act up any longer. I know that my patience as a subscriber has run out. I mean it’ll be five years this June since the game was launched and they still don’t have my motherfucking Ju88 modeled.

Did they ever fix the horrable bugs that plagued the game?

Yeah most of the showstopping bugs that were present in the early days are gone. No more flying infantry and guns that shoot backwards.

In the last year or so, SB didn’t really have a problem with bugs anymore. But it suffered from its reputation; whenever the game got mentioned, people would just fixate on the state it was in on day one, as if there hadn’t been any changes at all. Y’know, like in this thread.

It’s too bad really. We’re left with a small handful of MMORPGs that try to do something different, and most of them seem to be failing. Not a problem if you enjoy WoW / EQish grinds, but if you don’t, the genre is essentially fucked.

I don’t particularly enjoy “WOW / EQish grinds” (I only lasted 3 months in WoW), but I didn’t find Shadowbane very interesting either. It was too guild-oriented for my taste, and it depended too completely on player-generated content.

Still, it’s sad to see someone’s hopes and dreams go down in flames.

Puzzle Pirates?

A Tale in the Desert?

Toontown?

Eve Online?

Meridian 59?

I’d toss Camelot into the mix there, since, you know, in 2000, when it was being developed, PvP (RvR) games were great big ol’ risk.

Don’t blame this on innovation. Blame this on execution.

-Walt

PS - Seriously, man, best of luck to the guys that were left at Wolfpack. I highly doubt that any of them had anything to do with the problems that led them to this end.

Well you could say the horrendus bugs at launch led them to this end and it would be thier fawlt.

I am sure a lot of MMOGs would be in better shape then they are today if they had smooth launches. I bet a lot of people would not have given up on AO. Then there was the eurpoean MMOG that took place in a future, decaying new york city where you went to the sewers and killed rats and hacked boxes. It has some horrid problems. The game idea was really neat, the execution really, really sucked.

You think EQ2 wouldn’t have been a bit bigger if the launch problems they had didn’t exist? Even though WoW had some issues, they were resolved fast while EQ2 people were screaming for months. Hell when I played it, like a YEAR later there were still, in my book, some unforgivable bugs. For example, the game kept blocking out unless you had the exact right versions of the ATI drivers. No other game I had, had this problem. Then the monsters completly ignoring the terrain. Attacking you from inside walls, was like busniess as usual. Sorry, I do not play games with every day issues like that.

So yes, I really do think launch problems can hurt a game in the long run. The worse the problems and the longer they take to get fixed, the worse it gets for the company in question. People will give a game a grace period, but god help you if you do not get it fixed past this honeymoon.

What happend to wolfpack, I suspect happens with a lot of game companies. They took on something way beyond thier means. If I had a company, and I wanted to make a MMOG, that would not be the first thing Id do. Id make another game, to give the team time to gel and learn a bit about game craft. Even experienced programmers can quickly create a frakenstiens monster if they are not careful. Something on the scale of an MMOG is vastly beyond your typical experienced programmer.

Wolfpack proabbly had this bug infested nightmarish codebase they could not debug very easily and that is what brought them to thier knees and eventually destoyed them.

Agreed.

Man, I remember giving Shadowbane a try when it first came out. It did something that I thought was brilliant. When in a group and you kill a monster, everyone gets full exp for the kill, not full exp divided by the five members. I loved that! Bottom line though was the poor graphics and support killed it for me. Tons of griefing as well.

I have no idea what Shadowbane is/was.

In short, it’s a fantasy MMOG that was very ambitious but always seemed half-assed. The main draw was that player guilds built their own cities from the ground up, and then went around destroying each other’s stuff at 3am.

Neocron! Well, that was a great game. Once you got past the brief rat period it did some really new and unique things that other games never quite managed to do. For example, the combat felt real-time (but wasn’t quite), the pvp was a lot of fun and it wasn’t too hard to get to, and it was a ‘big’ game in a ‘small’ package. Some of my best online gaming moments were in Neocron and I really hope we’ll see more of its ilk.

Frankly, I’m pretty tired of the whole fantasy MMORPG thing. Innovation is good.

I’ll always have a soft spot for Shadowbane so I’m sad to see it go.

Yea, Neocron was the one I was thining about. It was a great idea, but piss-poor execution. I think it lasted less then a year.

I will deeply miss Shadowbane.

I haven’t played in years, but my guild (well, the guild I’m in when I’m actively playing an MMO) “The Defenders of Order” caused many a ripple there with our “carebear” tactics and our domination-through-peace of a couple of servers.

Good times, but yeah, exhausting times, too. How many times can you wake up at 2:00am to fight off a bane circle on your capital before exhaustion sets in? It was honestly the closest thing to actually being in a war that I’ve ever experienced (lucky, lucky me) and it was tough.

The “user generated content” was amazing, but the things I found disappointing:

  1. Sb.exe crashes and horrendous lag in any type of serious fight.
  2. “The Stack” - a winning strategy of massing all of your army on top of one person, making prioritized targetting nearly impossible. No collision detection in a game like this makes a huge difference. Sure, that kind of physics processing wasn’t possible (and perhaps still isn’t without one of those new fancy add-in cards) but it completely sucked.
  3. The “events” never worked. Ashen Temper, or one of his crew, would RARELY wander around roleplaying merrily and trying to move the game story along . Unfortunately it just resulted in lots of people missing out on the event, or yelling “What’s going on? Where’s the event?!” in the public chat channels and swarming to the location. It just never really did anything for me, and in some cases it actually messed with the “user generated content” (ongoing war between Nations and Alliances) that we’d created for ourselves.

All this being said, I still had many great hours of play out of SB, and wish everyone on its Dev Team the best of luck in finding new work.

you were DoO? What server did you guys start on?

DoO (and the Alliance of Order) dominated Deception from Shadowbane launch onwards, though we did eventually fall due to attrition and our plans to migrate to a new server (we ended up on Corruption where we did pretty well for ourselves, too).

Yeah, I’ve been a Defender for years. I’m technically an officer, but I haven’t been very active lately. Being a Defender has been nice, we’re often invited into betas early due to our “reputation”. We’re involved in one high-profile one right now, but I’m taking a break from MMOs post-WoW burnout.

WoW was actually quite terrible on us. We jumped into a PvP server thinking we could play our usual role, but the lack of truly “open” PvP and the importance of loot and instance running prevented us from getting organized and actually putting our “defend the weak from the strong” mandate into practice. We tried to secure some zones for lowbies a few times, but the lack of any real death penalty made that a pointless exercise. And it was always hard to get people together, because there were always instances to run…

Yeah, Shadowbane was good for us. It suited our play-styles and made our actions count. People loved us, or hated us, but how often do you get that strong a reaction from a “game”?

Man, I fought you guys all the time. I can’t remember the name of the guild I was in, but a lot of people hated us. We were really small and caused a lot of shit at the beginning.