Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Sunrise (Always Comes Around)

Among my ridiculously long list of Firefox bookmarks, to which I continually add things but almost never take anything away, I maintain a small, roped-off area for games and gaming projects in devolpment that I'm monitoring. This doesn't include the various major titles for which I've already signed up and in some cases paid for, the likes of Ashes of Creation, New World or Pantheon, from all of whom I receive regular email updates. Nor have I bookmarked all the games I can count on reading about on Massively:OP or other blogs I follow.

The six sites I currently have listed are:



FHX Restoration


Project: Return Home

FR Sunrise

Most, if not all, of them have tags here if anyone's interested in what I've had to say about them in the past. I don't mention any of them very often because month to month, and in some cases year to year, not much changes.

I'm fairly well in the habit now of checking all of the bookmarks at least two or three times a week. I've missed a couple of alpha tests through not keeping up to date and it can be quite annoying to check how something's coming along only to find not only has it indeed come but also very much gone.

Until today, for some reason, I didn't have the bookmark for the Free Realms emulator, Free Realms Sunrise in the designated area. I'd left it languishing somewhere down below, deep in the forest of forgotten links.

That wasn't because I'd lost interest. Far from it. No, it was because I was under the impression the team had moved all their operations to Discord and were no longer updating the website. And, interested as I may be, there's very little I'm so interested in that I'd open Discord to hear about it.


I'm not sure why but this morning, as I was going through the others, I remembered I hadn't checked on the Free Realms project for quite a while. I found the errant bookmark and clicked on it. Just in time! I wonder if I might be a precog? Perhaps this is a Philip K Dick novel I'm living in. Certainly feels like one, sometimes.

No? No. Just lucky co-incidence I guess. And I suppose getting a hunch about something that happened almost a week ago doesn't really count as pre-cognition anyway. Is there such a thing as postcognition? 

Whatever you call it, turns out the Sunrise team is planning an open beta and they're taking sign-ups. So I signed up. 

You might wonder why you'd need to register for an open beta. I did. They do explain it. It's because they expect to have limited server capacity and your beta application date will be used to control the queuing system if they need to use one.

There's certainly a good deal of interest in the project. Free Realms was famously highly successful in terms of attracting players and much-loved by many. It didn't close down because of lack of interest or low population. It closed because, as John "Smed" Smedly later explained, kids don't spend money.

Which, when you come to think of it, is a pretty spurious argument. KingsIsle seem to do alright. So does Roblox. I strongly suspect the problem had more to do with SOE's inability to manage income streams, something their insistence on running disastrous triple Station Cash sales and then letting you use the imaginary money to buy expansions amply demonstrated at the time.

Whatever the reason, a lot of people were unhappy when Free Realms shut down and plenty of them would like to see it come back. The team behind the project seem to be very efficient and organized. There seems no reason to suspect the open beta won't be very well attended.

Oh, except for one thing. As the extensive and informative FAQ explains, you're going to need a copy of the original client.

And you're going to have to find it for yourself.

Hmm. That could be a problem. I had a bit of a rummage down the back of the internet this morning and I couldn't come up with anything. There are a few websites that claim to have downloads but the links just go to a bootstrap that refers back to SOE's original Free Realms website. Which doesn't exist.

My virus software sent another possible source straight to quarantine when I tried it but I don't think it was even pointing to the same game. Having the word "free" in your game's name is a dubious advantage. A lot of the results I got on a search were for free downloads of other games with "Realms" in the title. There are quite a few.

If the web can't provide a client and the new operators won't I'm guessing it's going to put quite a crimp in the numbers. Free Realms didn't exactly attract a tech-savvy clientele, what with being aimed squarely at ten-year olds and it closed down almost seven years ago (thanks, Wilhelm!). I don't imagine too many people still have a copy of the client just sitting around.

Although I might. I have a lot of old hard drives going back a lot longer than seven years. A few of them are even still in PCs that kind of work. Unfortunately not all of the drives can say the same and even the ones that still spin up aren't cataloged in any way. I'd have to go through them all to see if I left a copy of Free Realms installed anywhere.

On the positive side, I only ever delete game files if I'm desperate for space so there's a chance. I might have a dig through sometime. It's not like I don't have the opportunity, what with six weeks of lockdown ahead, at the bare minimum. 

Also, I imagine that when the open beta actually begins some kind soul will make their copy of the client available on some sharing site or other. Always a thrill ride, visiting those. I'm fairly confident I'll get to play the game again somehow.

I hope the Sunrise guys can land their project and make it stick. Free Realms was a very good game. It's a shame it shut down. As for its prospects if it does make it back, well late-era SOE and subsequently Daybreak always seemed relatively chill about emulators. P99 is the benchmark for co-operation between official and unofficial servers and that's an emulator for a game that's still in commercial production. 

I wonder what EG7 think about it, though? And I wonder who owns the rights to the closed games?


  1. Where to get the files is a really popular topic on the free realms Reddit:

    Apparently they will be made more widely available once the game is more stable. It also sounds like haunting the developer discord is a good way to get them (but, discord).

    1. How to get the discontinued client always seems to be an issue with emulators. There seems to be more of a legal question over people acquiring the original software than there is in running the service.


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