I’ve never been much of an MMO player, so I’ve been mostly spared the melancholic feeling of impending oblivion that comes with their eventual shuttering. I’ve heard stories, seen streams, lived vicariously, but I did not truly live this experience until the untimely death last year of a little unremarkable mobile game called SEGA Heroes.
I say unremarkable because, truthfully, I’m just too self conscious to admit that I thought it was actually a really well-designed game that I legitimately and unironically enjoyed. The mechanics were a very solid take on the Puzzle Quest concept, with more of an emphasis on party design and balance. The gameplay loop was quick and satisfying and I never felt particularly constrained by the omnipresent “energy” systems that are designed to manage players’ engagement. The writing (such as it was) was surprisingly playful without indulging in too much cringe-inducing hyper-irony. It was mainly limited to little quips between unlikely allies between rounds, but really how many times will you see Death Adder and Cream the Rabbit engage in officially sanctioned banter?
I had picked this up on a whim years ago and just popped in for a round or two during idle moments on the bus or in bed, though the game became a surprisingly comforting refuge during those early especially uncertain days of the pandemic in 2020. Lacking the mental fortitude to engage in anything terribly deep, I often found myself supine on the couch absent mindedly grinding away with my motley little party of paper-doll-animated Sega friends.
I was not exactly plugged into the wider awareness of this game, so it came of a bit of a surprise to me when, suddenly, micro-transactions were gone…I was getting absurd amounts of money/resources for basically nothing…I was suddenly unlocking all of these aspirational characters at an alarming rate (Kiryu!). My enjoyment and engagement were supercharged as I suddenly found my party similarly supercharged–my most prized combatant, Selvaria Bles, can be observed here vaporizing Knuckles with six-digit elemental damage:
I realized something must be “up,” and mere seconds of internet searching later (I’m sure I missed some obvious banner explaining this in-game, but such was my degree of mental wherewithal) the sad truth was known: the servers (and thus the entire game) would be shutting down on 5/21/2020.
And thus, we come to THE POINT. This was a feeling I had never really experienced with a game. Sure, I had played Ultima Online, but I put that down well before its own apocalyptic world ending event. As a matter of course I try to avoid games that rely on a, perhaps tenuous, life-sustaining umbilical-cord to ensure their continued existence. Surely, some such games will likely outlive me (WoW comes to mind), but the fragility of existence is not a factor I need manifested in an entertainment product.
With these odd feelings swimming in my mind (intermixed with the very real life-endangering maelstrom slowly enveloping the world) I nevertheless trudged on. I completed every quest there was. I unlocked every bonus, character, skill…anything I could get my hands on. I filleted the formerly formidable final foe repeatedly and meticulously. I competed with similarly XP engorged player parties in the competitive arena. This whole time, the Titanic was sinking, but the band continued to play, and it continued to play while injected with fatal levels of adrenaline.
Sure enough, on the appointed day the servers shuttered. The app icon, of course, remained, and the pitiful little software client would dutifully and futilely try to connect, like someone uttering their last words for eternity, not knowing they are already dead. I leave the app installed, not out of any sort of active respect or protest, but because the act of deleting it would require effort, and that effort seems like a mercy killing I haven’t quite steeled myself for.
Well…that got dark didn’t it!! I wasn’t totally sure where I was going with this when I started writing this down, but I am curious if anyone else lived through the final days of a game they perhaps were not quite ready to say goodbye to. Was it unexpected? Was it glorious? Was it a whimper?