So, City of Heroes is being shut down. It’s not the first MMO to shut down, nor will it be the last. As Ardwulf notes:
Except… what if they didn’t? What if, instead of shutting down, MMO providers made the game open source? Myst Online did just that. It’s totally free to play, open source, have-at-it-we-hope-you-have-fun goodness. (Or so it would seem… I haven’t actually tried it yet.)
As the esteemed Psychochild might note, there are always costs, and open source systems with or without private servers are not a panacea… but I have to wonder. Will MMOs enter the grey wilds of abandonware, rubbing elbows with pirates and historians? And even if they do, will they just sort of wither as Moore’s Law and the march of technical innovation makes them nigh unplayable? (Imagine playing WoW on a touchscreen or futuretech holograph UI… apparently it’s technically possible, at least on an iPad, but I suspect it’s not quite an enjoyable prospect. Some things just don’t work in a touch interface.) There’s almost no way to really capture the “you had to be there“ness of seeing a game, flush and alive in its heyday, and that’s a big part of MMOs… but there’s a difference between playing a game and reading a wiki or watching videos about it.
I’m not sure… but I do know that I respect devs who release their game to the wilds to let players live on in their game worlds. I also respect those who want to bottle their game up in a pocket of history, so as to keep the memories in a nice rose-tinted fuzzy memory, rather than letting them age gracelessly amidst gaming jackals and vultures.
I do wish historians could maintain access, though (on their own dime, perhaps, not as a continued cost for the company). Just ’cause… it seems like the right thing to do, for the industry and the players.