I just heard that Underlight was shut down on the new year, nearly 10 years after our first pre-alpha. Something in me died when I heard the news.
My involvement with the game ended long ago, but from time to time I would surf over to the site and think positive thoughts, amazed that many years later, people still found the time to dream in the City of Dreams. The game lived a far longer and richer life than I ever imagined, though it never became the success that we all believed it should. We weren’t the first out of the gate, but we were close. Meridian 59 beat us to market, and Ultima Online came out ahead of us, but release we did.
I have so many good memories of the project, and I learned so much from the experience.
When we started working on the game in September of 1995, the execs at the large game publishers we visited actually ridiculed our idea that a large-scale graphical RPG was possible. This mindset cripples the industry, which is why there is such stagnation in commercial game development.
There are so many memories. I fondly remember sketching out the high level architecture for the “party mode” protocol we used in the game with Brent Phillips, long walks with Josh Partlow working on the setting and theme of the game, sitting down with an 80 year old thesaurus and creating the names for the Houses and locations. I remember our “asteroids” networking proof of concept, and the early builds where all we could do was run and jump in a large room. I remember the elation of closing our first round of financing… and the crushing blow of learning that due to a corporate restructure our financing simply vanished. I remember the night when Josh Partlow and I stepped out into the live alpha and roleplayed our hearts out wondering, “will they roleplay back?” And roleplay they did.
Most of all I remember the people that gave so much to make Underlight real. People whom I respect put a lot on the line and made great sacrifices because they believed in the game. Many people I don’t even know came in and kept the game going, and made it better after I left. Underlight is a story about people who believed in something. It grew beyond all of us.
Farewell Underlight. The City of Dreams fades, but my memories will not.
Kelrith, Founding Ruler of House Calenture, and
Caladar, Founding Ruler of the Order of the Sable Moon, and
Tehthu, First Dark Mare
…. among others