Retroactive Game Development

Last night in a conversation with my brother, he reminded me of a game called Earth & Beyond. As a science fiction game, E&B was very ahead of its time in scope and concept. The most interesting thing about it was the entirely player-driven economy, where prices had to be managed, goods transported (and protected from pirates,) and alliances made and broken. There are other games that do the economy thing better nowadays (EVE Online prominent among them,) but for my brother and me playing back in 2001, E&B was an interesting lesson in economics.

E&B’s official game servers have been down for years now, but in a quick google search last night I discovered that there are still ways to play. It is amazing to see how an enthusiastic group of players can act as independent developers for a dead game, animating, programming, and moderating even though they aren’t getting paid. They have writers delivering new content for the missions, 3D modelers creating new ships and game assets, and programmers tweaking game balance and design. The game has been updated as recently as September 2009, an amazing feat for a decade old space MMO!

I have been thinking of contributing a few ship models myself; when I’m not at DDA working on 3D animation, medical modeling, interactive medical training tools or websites involving integrated flash and live-action video, I’m at home playing video games or working on game mods. It is amazing to think that in my free time I can help contribute to a game I used to play almost 10 years ago – it just goes to show that with the progression of technology, games that took whole teams to create can be worked on with but a few people and desktop PCs now!