So this is what it’s like when an MMO dies

Massively multiplayer games promise epic, persistent experiences, but in a very significant way they are less persistent than the copy of Tetris you have stashed in the basement: once developer and publisher support ends, you simply can’t play them anymore.

So it goes for City of Heroes, the charming and original massively multiplayer game from Cryptic and Paragon. Friday was the last day of play, after an eight-year run. Eurogamer’s Richard Cobbett was there, and he reports that there was very little of the “party like we know it’s the end of the world” and a lot of weird, halting gestures and a sense of the absurd. 

“Engineers say the server problems should be resolved soon. ETA 4 hours,” announces one of the last admins, HitStrike, with two hours left on the doom clock.

He also captured some unexpected poetry in the dying hours of the game. 

At the last minute though, almost literally, Virtue gets its own heroic second wind – firing up just long enough to face the firing squad with some measure of dignity. As flaming torches raise for the last time, the world ends, officially this time. Not with a bang. Not even a whimper. Just a grey dialog box saying “You have been forcibly disconnected from the server. Servers are shutting down.”

People spend months of their lives in these worlds, and then they just end. They don’t exist, even as virtual spaces, there to be explored in a moment of nostalgia. They’re gone, buried; they exist only on video and in words and images and memories. It has an element of the tragic, doesn’t it? What will it be like in a few decades when Blizzard shuts down WoW? What will the funeral look like? Happy? Sad? Angry? Need we consult Kubler-Ross?