There's some unfortunate news out of Fairfax, Virginia today. Mythic Entertainment was closed by Electronic Arts. GameSpot suggests that the move appears to have been a sudden decision considering that new job listings having been posted within the last few weeks. However, CIC readers may have seen the writing on the wall. Their flagship Warhammer Online MMO was shut down six months ago, and the Dungeon Keeper game they released this past spring got scathing reviews due to its tedious free-to-play model. Perhaps most telling, its relatively steady revenue drivers Ultima Online and Dark Age of Camelot were recently shifted to a 3rd party developer as well.
If you're a recent follower of our site, you might not be familiar with how Mythic has been the carrier of Origin's torch for some time. After OSI in Austin was shut down in February 2004, much of their old material was temporarily held in California and then found a home in Mythic's storage closets. Due to their success with DAoC, Mythic was also tasked with continued operation of Origin's longest running game, Ultima Online. They even set up a classy dedication page that commemorated all the worlds that Origin created. In 2008, the CIC Staff got the lucky privilege of visiting their studio building to carefully archive and document their stored Origin materials, some of which we've been cleared to release. You can also check out our fun photos of the archiving trip here.
In recent times, there was a glimmer of hope that attention might shift back towards the Wing Commander series. Their studio lobby was redecorated with Wing Commander memorabilia and Mythic's Paul Barnett helped push into Origin's past, which resulted in the release of Ultima Forever. Alas, the next Wing Commander game will come from a different direction. Our sympathies go out to all the displaced employees. Thank you for helping protect Origin's legacy for the past decade!
It's hard to memorialize someone who didn't like you much. I felt bad about the situation and tried to contact him many times over the years, but was always ignored. I regret now not having done more. Nevertheless, Mr. Howard had a huge impact on my own life - and he helped create what we know as Wing Commander fandom today... including the friendships that I consider the most important in my life. I will endeavour to remember him as the kind gentleman who sent his friends candy at Christmas and who surprised me with a phone call when I was a scared boy preparing for dangerous surgery.
I don't know how many of the #Wing-Commander crew are still around, but please leave your memories at the forum - we'll collect them in the tributes section alongside those to the developers who created our universe. Eag deserves that much.
For twenty two years Origin Systems set the tone for the computer gaming. Ultima, Wing Commander and dozens of others set the gold standard for which the rest of the industry could only hope to catch up. This era has finally come to an end as Electronic Arts readies an announcement that it will shut down the Austin-based Origin studio.
This is not the end for Ultima or Wing Commander. Ultima Online will now be run from California, and development of Ultima X will continue on the west coast. Hopes that another Wing Commander game would be developed in Austin were dashed long ago; the longtime belief that a California-based EA team would develop the next Wing Commander title may, ironically, be bolstered by this news.
What it is, however, is a tremendous moral loss on all fronts. Origin Systems will always be the ultimate symbol of gaming's greatest days, and its dissolution to a faceless corporate entity is, sadly, equally symbolic of the world today. Origin entertained, challenged and inspired our generation in a way that seems impossible today. Though the individuals who developed our games long ago moved on to greater careers, the very existence of the company itself continued to stand for something special; something amazing.
The CIC will continue to dedicate itself to Origin's legacy - we will redouble our efforts to archive anything and everything related to the company. We will strike to make the world remember what Origin meant. I wanted to end with a quote - something pithy and literary to express the meaning of such an ending. I came up with only this: