Top virtual-worldist Edward Castronova
reportedly scored $240k USD in funding last year
to develop Arden
, an MMO based on the works of William Shakespeare. This week, Castronova announced
that the money's been spent, and the project will drift into limbo. Apparently, the Multiverse
MMO engine was tried initially, but Castronova's team settled for the Neverwinter Nights engine
instead. That's one very costly experiment for what amounts to a Shakespeare-themed, minimally-multi-player Dungeons and Dragons
game, built with a mature tool-set requiring no custom assets or fancy scripting (although both definitely go a long way towards a robust Neverwinter
I really don't mean to kick the dude in the nuts, but holy crap, Ted, given everything you know about synthetic worlds, what made you think building one from scratch wouldn't be so hard? Sounds like the Arden project could have used some early-stage consultation from folks with at least some practical world-building experience--I'm a bit mystified as to how this seems to have been neglected (but admittedly am ignorant of how the project was actually planned). I hope Arden
's low-key outcome doesn't scare off future funding for similar projects. If it gets another kick at the can, Arden
's second wind will surely be better devised. Neverwinter
is a good engine for small-scale games, but it's no MMO environment, and is married to the D&D system.
On a completely unrelated note, I commonly freelance as a consultant and creative developer on large interactive projects, and built an elaborate Neverwinter-powered world
in 2001 which formed the basis of an acclaimed four year-long game campaign. psst... Mr. Castronova... call me, baby...