The Nethernet is back!(?)

Image representing PMOG as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

2010 enters with a interesting bang. The previously through dead PMOG (Passively multiplayer online game) Nethernet has returned from the land of 404 apparently, in what seems like a total change of heart from the part of the developers.

By now information is still scarce. Some of the old faces are back, the game’s code has been rolled back to a previous version which had far less tools and did not use the purchasable currency, bacon, which is btw not going to be returning. This is quite perplexing since from the information we were given after the game was originally shut down, it looked as if the old code was just not salvageable (Emphasis mine.)

For the record, I’d like to say I think uselessness is dead on. There is very, very little hope of saving TNN/PMOG, even if it were to go open source. This is for a number of reasons, having seen the code, I may have a slightly better idea than the average player of just how server hungry, and just how hacked together the majority of it is.

Additionally, while I worked at GameLayers, there was no magic wand that could be waved to revert back to a previous version (on the server side). At time we’d revert to a later commit, but to revert to one of the final PMOG builds or a 0.8 version of TNN is more than likely impossible — the data just isn’t there.

It seems then that Gamelayers did exactly what was then seen as a bad move, possibly wiping a lot of data in the process, as seems to be the case.

Still though, this means that they are still using the old, badly-optimized code which was severely overloading their servers. They mention that now they are funded for a good part of 2010 which obviously means they’ve got new venture capital injections but from whom and why we still don’t know. I find it hard to believe that it’s from the old venture capitalist and I’m guessing that someone new has stepped up.

Half-arsed theory I’ve got now is that after Gamelayers tried their luck in Facebook with Mafia Wars clones and the like, they quickly discovered that that area is over-saturated already and not easy to monetize. Furthermore, the passion of the Nethernet refugees and the interest in making another PMOG (and the subsequent creation of Nova Initia to replace the Nethernet) gave them hope that there is still interest in PMOGs. That, combined with the fact that The Nethernet was more than likely their favourite project, drove them to attempt and reignite the game.

So there is a lot of speculation at the moment until the original developers chime in but honestly, I’m not expecting the whole truth from that front either. This comeback is just too weird and they don’t have exactly a great track record on openness (just look at the suddenness and secrecy which surrounded the original shut down and months previous to that). However on the positive side, they seemed to have moved to a donation-based system rather than perk-purchasing system which is a good move imho. If they are smart, they’ll open source it as well and let the community help out with optimizing the code as much as they expect it to be improving the content. They seem to recognise the power of crowdsourcing and hopefully they’ll recognise that providing freedom to their playerbase is also a powerful form of reward on its own.

So lets see what the future holds for the revived Nethernet. Many are pessimistic and expect it to shut down again in a couple of months so obviously the community’s trust has been wounded. Still many more are glad to have it back again. In any case, it’s an interesting case study of internet startup development and progress.

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