What happens when people move on from a virtual world? That's what's being discussed over at Slashdot today as the news that Sony would be merging Everquest servers hit the Internet. The idea is that as more and more people leave the MMORPG game behind for newer online experiences, the original world of Everquest doesn't need to be so, well, massively multiplayer anymore. Various realms are being combined to streamline things a little. While this in itself is minor news in the grand scheme of things, it does raise the question as to just what happens to a MMORPG when the players stop playing.
Slashdotter sgant says this:
"You see, it seemed to be a PLACE. When you were in Kelethin you actually felt you were somewhere because pockets of people were there and in other cities because it wasn't so easy to get around. The cities were busy because people were coming and going to the bank etc etc. Now, Qeynos is all but dead...Freeport is a ghost-town...Neriak which used to be such a beautiful city, is empty."
Eventually either every last player will move on and the world will be empty or Sony will pull the plug once and for all. Either way, in the end Everquest will be unplayable. There'll be nowhere to go and nothing to do. That is a key benefit to offline adventures; if you fire up Super Mario Sunshine in 2013 Isle Delfino will still be there and it's denizens will still be looking for fruit and Yoshi eggs. The King of Red Lions will still be happy to talk to you in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. What's to become of the communities and lands that have sprung up in the form of City of Heroes, Star Wars Galaxies, The Matrix Online, and all the others when those games transfer their last byte?
An empty world is a lonely place.