Posted by Brian @ 11:01 pm on January 7th 2007

Underlight passes.

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


  1. Hi Brian,
    I was a player since closed Beta days and I just wanted to say its glad that I wasn’t the only one that still checked on the company/game’s progress with a smile throughout the years. Some players bought/licensed the code and are doing a free player driven version of the game, so in some ways your dream still lives on. If you don’t mind I’d like to link to your post, I think alot more would apreciate it. Thanks for 10 years, and we’d love to see a new creation 🙂


    Comment by Luinitari — November 15, 2007 @ 5:21 am

  2. Thanks for the kind words. By all means link this far and wide, no permission needed.

    Comment by Brian — December 22, 2007 @ 1:16 pm

  3. Still remember the game all these years later! Just wandered into the chat room for the people currently running it and then stumbled across this message. I enjoyed Underlight and the community for many years!

    Comment by Mike Fisher — October 29, 2010 @ 5:27 pm

  4. Hey Brian, I’m a UL player from back during the mplayer beta days. Wanted to thank you for your work on the game. I came across this entry while googling some stuff, and thought you’d enjoy to know that Underlight is still moving forward. Many people still enjoy roleplaying in your world, and it wouldn’t exist without you and your colleagues work. Thanks again!

    Comment by Jared — August 13, 2012 @ 10:11 am

  5. Hi, Brian.

    I was wondering if Brent Phillips really has bachelors and masters degrees from MIT.
    Do you know?

    Comment by Anonymous — February 10, 2013 @ 1:46 pm

  6. It’s been many years so I don’t actually recall the exact details, but I do know that he did in fact go to MIT and did a lot of work at the Athena labs if memory serves.

    Regardless of which degrees he got I can tell you that his level of intellect is beyond genius, and that I learned a lot working with him on Underlight and other projects. I credit him with introducing me to Linux and the whole open source movement.

    Comment by Brian — February 10, 2013 @ 2:00 pm

  7. As of 3/28/2013 Underlight is expected to re-launch in approximately two months. It is currently up & running but there’s more to be done. Calling all old dreamers far & wide to visit
    Hoping for an influx of old players to stop by, check things out and come together for a reunion of sorts!

    Comment by HiRo — March 28, 2013 @ 6:31 am

  8. You were Cal? We used to joke about how you would accidentally say your emotes.. any time that someone would talk an intended emote everyone would /e ^cal
    Good times!

    Comment by Dreamer — June 16, 2015 @ 2:47 pm

  9. Hey Dreamer-

    Yes, I was Caladar. 🙂 I had so much fun, especially in the early days of Underlight.

    Good times indeed!

    Comment by Brian — June 25, 2015 @ 7:48 pm

  10. The old Lyra Underlight has been revived with a twist, clashed with the Shades of Truth version. Check it out at:

    Comment by Jade — October 24, 2015 @ 4:31 pm

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