Tuesday, November 17, 2020

The Real Thing

Because I have about as much self-discipline as a squirrel with a Red Bull habit, I have a list of unsorted bookmarks descending to the right of my browser that goes on for about three or four screens. When I'm idling, as I was last night as I waited for the next boss to spawn in Icecrown (Blizzard cut the timer in half but that still leaves plenty of time for staring into space with your mind in neutral), I sometimes scan down the list and click on things I don't recognize to pass the time.

There are plenty to choose from because I always leave whatever default title Firefox comes up with. Renaming them to something meaningful would be far too organized.

I was doing that, tidying up a bit, deleting a few bookmarks I thought I'd never need again, or hoped I wouldn't, when I came across one called FHX Restoration. It could have meant just about anythingbut it turned out (as anyone who followed the link will already know) to be the home of  "A community project to bring back the game FHX".

FHX? There was a game called FHX? Well, no, there wasn't. FHX is an acronym for Ferentus, Herrcot, Xiones, the three names the game in question traded under in different territories. When I played it in beta I knew it as Ferentus and I was oddly fond of it although I'd be hard pressed to explain why.

I guess I have some kind of excuse for not recognizing it but then again I did write about it under that acronym in some detail, less than a year ago, which shows you just how bad my memory is. I'd add "these days", only my memory has never been up to much.


I won't rehash the little I know about the game again. It's all in the the linked post, where I also mention how the team behind the project opened the servers a couple of times in 2019 for people to try it out. Back then, I wrote "I'm keeping an eye open for the next" and then never thought to look at the website again. Until now. When I'd just missed another test by less than a week.

In fact, since writing that post, I've missed getting on for a dozen opportunities to log in and see how things are going, the first of them barely a month later. It's ironic in that I check almost every week to see if there's been any progress on another game I'm interested in, Antilia, even though there almost never is but it takes me a year to notice another game's been running open tests every few weeks for the best part of twelve months.

This is where we come back around to that discussion that was sparking some sharp disagreements a while back, the one on whether Discord is a good thing or not. It's clear that most development teams theses days, from megacorps to kitchen table operations, prefer to use Discord as the main channel of communication. If I'd been in the FHX Discord I'd have known what was going on as soon as anyone. 

For all the reasons that were so heatedly discussed last time, I'm probably not going to do that. What I am going to do, though, is collate all the bookmarks for the games/emulators/projects I'm supposed to be following into one group and stick them at the top of the stack. For me, that counts as getting my act together. It's a low bar, I know.

Of course, there are a whole load of excellent, accessible, functional mmorpg emulators out there already, some of them very well known. The days when it seemed risky, even dangerous, to venture into the grey legal hinterland of community-based revivals of supposedly dead games are long over. 

I think the turning point was Sony Online Entertainment's formal acknowledgment of Project 1999's right to exist. Before that there was something of a feeling that emulators were motivated at least in part by something dubious. Some kind of desire to avoid having to pay for the service or a disinclination to follow the rules. Maybe both. Once P99 got the cautious green light from The Man, though, emulator projects began to look a little more like earnest preservation than exploitation. 

These days it's not always easy to tell the difference between a regular commercial mmorpg and a community-based enterprise. Some, like Return of Reckoning, the Warhammer Online emu, City of Heroes: Homecoming and the various Star Wars Galaxies servers, feel like they might as well be live games in active development.

It occured to me today, when I logged into my own favorite, that the Vanguard Emulator (aka New Telon) has now been online for almost as long as the original game. Given the determination of the volunteer teams behind these recreations and the dedication of the fans who play them, it won't be long before we have a whole raft of unofficial servers with more authority than the originals. If the "Live" version only lasted five or six years but the revival hits ten (or fifteen, or twenty), which one is the "real" game?

For me, in the end, it's not about the authority or even the legality. It's about the playability. I pop in to any number of games, old and new, for novelty, nostalgia, curiosity or a blog post or two but for regular entertainment, year on year, I keep plugging away at the same, very short, list of titles. All of which are still officially up and running.

If any of the titles I do play regularly were to go under, though, then it might be a different story. The chances of anything I like as well coming along to replace them seems slimmer each passing year. Maybe then I would move to an emulator for my primary game. 

I guess a lot of people hit that point a while ago, which is why the mmorpg emulator scene is so active and vibrant. A lot more so than its commercial counterpart, some might say...


  1. I find Discord to be a clunky program. Among the two browsers I have on this PC, I can use Discord just find on one and with the other I cannot log into discord at all. Every time I try, it tries to get me to claim some new account that it made up for me on the spot. Of course when I give it the e-mail address associated with my discord account, it tells me helpfully that the e-mail has already been claimed. Discord refuses to let me log in or see any messages on most boards with that browser until I claim the new account I don't want. What I did to get in into that state, if anything, I have no idea.

    I regularly use github, zoom, and slack. I have zero issues with any of them. How on Discord manages to be less user friendly than any of them I can't easily imagine. Why on earth everyone loves it so much, I have even fewer ideas about.

    1. Discord is well-named, isn't it? It causes no end of arguments. I wonder why they chose that name, anyway. It's like when we used to use Mumble. Is there some supposed commercial benefit to irony? Can't say I can see it, if there is. I always thought Teamspeak was a much better name.

    2. TBF Mumble was never commercial, and I'm not sure it was even originally intended as a gamer platform. It's *really old*, and I can't find any good history…


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