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 Meridian 59  Developer Near Death Studios Closes
Meridian 59 Developer Near Death Studios Closes
January 5, 2010 | By Eric Caoili

January 5, 2010 | By Eric Caoili
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Near Death Studios, which purchased landmark MMORPG Meridian 59 in 2001 and has maintained the game since, announced it is closing its doors after five years "on life support".

Originally developed by Archetype Interactive and launched commercially by The 3DO Company in 1995, Meridian 59 was one of the first known 3D massively multiplayer online roleplaying games. The subscription-based PC title featured graphics that many often compared to Doom's, as it used a similar proprietary graphics engine that rendered sprite-based objects in its 3D world.

Meridian 59 was already long in the tooth when The 3DO Company shut it in 2000, but Near Death Studios, a studio founded a year later by the game's former developers Rob "Q" Ellis and Brian "Psychochild" Green, purchased its rights and re-launched Meridian 59 in 2002 with hopes of updating the title and growing its community.

"Unfortunately, M59 never really grew," Green admits in his personal blog. "We were lucky that we got a lot of attention for keeping an old game alive from the press. We also had a small and dedicated group of fans willing to keep the game alive. But, the press didn't really care about our attempts to improve the game, and the fans weren't interested in trying to attract new players."

He reveals that while the company made enough money for some advertising and maintaining its servers in the U.S. and Germany, Near Death Studios didn't have enough to grow the community like the team needed. Green says Meridian 59's 2004 upgrade Evolution, which offered a more modern alternative to its Doom-like graphics, didn't help much in the face of its more popular competition.

"The death knell was probably when we tried to do a massive upgrade to the client, getting an actual 3D hardware accelerated renderer instead of the Doom-era software renderer. We finished this project a few months before World of Warcraft launched, and any fanfare we tried to generate was drowned in the flood of WoW excitement. On top of that, WoW cannibalized our subscribers (like it did for many other games), so we had even less income to deal with."

He says the "killing blow", though, was the studio losing its billing provider, making it unable to process credit cards for subscriptions. After a deal to secure another billing provider fell through following several months of negotiations, Near Death Studios decided to finally call it quits.

"Honestly, the last five years the company has just been on life support," says Green. "I haven't taken a regular salary from the company in many years now. There's enough money to keep the server running and someone to do the minimum maintenance required. But, little work has been done on the game, and believe me the fans have noticed. ... So, this has been bittersweet for me. It's been a long time coming."

Green reassures players that the game Meridian 59 will still be available but won't be running as a commercial concern with Near Death Studios owning it.


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Comments


brandon sheffield
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So many ironic studio names. Still feel bad for them though!

Chris Remo
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I think it's pretty impressive they survived this long--which they probably expected from the beginning, hence the name. I remember reading coverage of Meridian 59 in PC Gamer and Computer Gaming World before it came out, way back in 1996. It's amazing that the game was still being commercially run for well over a decade.

Derek Smart
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I honestly had no idea that this was still running tbh.

Alex Beckers
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Damn. Now I can't correct people and look all brilliant and such when they claim that UO is the oldest running MMO.

Derek Smart
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wait! wot? What do you mean UO is still running? Surely you jest!

Brian 'Psychochild' Green
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The game will still be running. Just the studio is closing.

David Wipperfurth
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I see Meridian 59 as part of gaming history, and while I don't personally care much for history, I do see value in preserving it.



Maybe this isn't a new idea, but changing the licensing might encourage growth/stability. Opening-up development, or allowing third-party servers, or the like.



Anyways, I commend your efforts Brian. --Too bad about the closer.

Lars Kroll Kristensen
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This is sad to hear. M59 was ( is ?) a piece of MMO history.

Logan Foster
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I am sorry to hear that Near Death Studios has been forced to close down. They were a great example of an "indie" team who had the passion and determination to fight that uphill battle and try to succeed doing something that they really loved. I met these guys at a few indie conferences over the years and their love for their product and desire for it to succeed never waned.



As a fellow Indie I can attest to the difficulties that they face with regards to a hostile '2 faced' Games Press industry that on one hand cries for more innovative indie style games, but when said games are released they ignore them for the latest run of the mill production from a big name publisher. It feels at times the only way to get publicity with these vultures is to act in an unprofessional manner so they get excited about the starving indie in the rubber chicken suit standing at the side of the highway waving his "come play my game" sign or resulting in despised Derek Smart antic (sorry Derek, not trying to slag you here or start a flame war, just pointing out that you have a bad rep for generating press at times) or much worse antics that others even in the AAA market resort to.



My hats off to you Brian and Rob for going through what you have gone through and do so in a professional manner that many others in the industry, both indie and AAA, could learn something from what you guys went through. Best of luck in the future.

Derek Smart
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@ L Foz



You can make your point without getting me involved.



You're slagging off the press, yet you're pointing the finger at me - an indie dev notorious for taking on the media and everyone in between because I don't play by anyone's rules but my own (which of course I make up as I go along).



The demise of NDS had nothing to do with [lackof] press, though I'm sure some would like to make it seem that way.



There are MANY ways to get people interested in a game, NONE of which have anything to do with garning the attention of the press. Which is why a lot of indies just go about their business[of making games] as normal without crying foul or pointing the finger.

Logan Foster
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You are correct Derek I could have said my point without needing to name you, I apoligize for singling you out there.

Derek Smart
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No worries. No harm, no foul. ;)


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