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Shadowbane was a free fantasy computer role-playing game (MMORPG) created by Wolfpack Studios and published on March 25, 2003 by Ubisoft for Windows and Mac platforms. Originally commercial and subscription-driven, Shadowbane was launched in March 2003, and was the creation of text-MUD veterans J. Todd Coleman, James Nance, Josef Hall, Patrick Blanton and Robert Marsa and a team of 45 programmers, designers and artists. It closed on July 1, 2009.
Shadowbane was a top-10 best selling PC game at launch, and was noted for two things. First, the majority of the game world allowed for open Player-vs-Player combat, making it an early pioneer title in the PvP MMO genre. Second, it was the first major MMO to offer dynamic world content as a primary feature of the game. Most MMOs are static, meaning the world itself does not change based on player actions. Dynamic worlds allow player to change the game world itself; morphing terrain, building and destroying buildings and fortifications, and setting up patrol paths for player-hired AI combatants. The game was considered a "cult hit" and sustained a small base of followers, but technical issues plagued the game at launch and failed to retain much of the early fanbase shortly after launch.
After the sale of Wolfpack Studios to Ubi Soft in March 2004, the live service was transitioned to a new management and (largely new) development team, led by Frank Lucero and Ala Diaz. This team later splintered off to become Stray Bullet Games in June 2006, and Mark Nuasha was brought in to run the organization. Since March 15, 2006 the game has been freeware and free-to-play. A system of short ads was introduced on March 6, 2007 to fund operating costs, which are displayed when the game is opened or closed and when a character dies (with at least 10 minutes between death ads). On March 19, 2008, all servers were closed to prepare for the "Shadowbane Reboot," a relaunching of the game to capitalize on stability and performance gains hindered by previously existing data.  All player characters and cities were deleted in this reboot. On March 25, 2008, the 5th anniversary of the game's launch, two servers were brought online followed by a third due to overpopulation.
The regular game took place in a dark fantasy world called Aerynth (the world will sometimes depend on the servers, many of which have unique world maps). Gameplay features many aspects typical of computer role-playing games, such as experience points, character classes, and fantasy races. Character creation was fairly extensive, allowing for detailed, differentiable characters to be created.
On 17 April 2009, it was announced that Shadowbane would be shutting down its servers as of 1 May 2009, however petitions were started by Shadowbane fans to keep the game from the announced shutdown, and due to support and enthusiasm of the remaining player community, on 29 April 2009, it was announced that Shadowbane shut down would be postponed till 1 July 2009.
Shadowbane was notable for emphasizing player-versus-player combat, implementing non-conventional races and specializing in siege warfare (players building cities and trying to raze enemy players' cities) whereas a significant number of MMORPGs released since Ultima Online usually restrict player killing to certain areas of the game or special dedicated PvP servers.[ The game also featured a seamless world map, and made no use of instancing. ]
Players were also allowed to own cities and capitals and most of the property and cities in Shadowbane were player owned. In effect, Shadowbane's war status was decided by the players rather than the game company. Whether a guild city went to war with another guild city was entirely up to the leaders. A government system was also implemented in the game. It ensured players were in total control of the Shadowbane world.[ ]
Though there were no quests in the game, Shadowbane featured PVP, Nation, and Siege Warfare systems, which offered players a wide range of in-game opportunities.
Throughout the Shadowbane world the player could interact with NPCs called runemasters, these NPCs allowed the player to teleport him or herself to a number of different cities across the world, also scattered across the world map were runegates which a player could use to the same effect as a runemaster. There was also a fairly unique ability implemented in Shadowbane that healer based classes could access allowing one to summon, or transport, a player character to their location within only a few moments via a spell.
- Rise of Chaos (December 2003)
- Throne of Oblivion (December 2004)
There were five live servers in operation: Braialla, Mourning (loreplay), Redemption, Vindication, and Wrath. There was also a freely open Test sever which had increased experience and money gains, as well as other benefits, that were used both for players to test new character ideas and for the developers to test possible changes to the game. While it was a test server, it also held a large player base who simply enjoy the increased gains, and thus had all the siege warfare and pvp found on other servers, though it was often "wiped", or reset every few months.
After the relaunch of the game following the Shadowbane Reboot, three servers were brought online: Malog, Saedron and Thurin. Saedron used the Loreplay ruleset while Malog and Thurin used the ARAC (All Races All Classes) ruleset.
Contrary to the ruleset of the "ARAC" (All Races All Classes) servers, where a player's characters are permitted to join any guild regardless of its charter race, class, or gender, a "loreplay" server does not afford the player this same flexibility. Instead, players are only able to join a guild based on that guild charter's race, class, and gender requirements. This is accomplished through the use of game mechanics rather than a community effort as had it had been attempted previously with the official roleplay server, Mourning. The design of the "loreplay" servers were intended to provide a certain segment of the player population with the added challenge that these restrictions presented over that of the "ARAC" servers.[ ]
Shadowbane featured a large world map, containing a large number of continents. Shadowbane's world map varied by server. Initially, Aerynth was the map for all the servers which were created at the games release. A few months after release, the Dalgoth map was released on two servers; Corruption and Vengeance. The final map added to the game was the Vorringia map. After the reboot, Vorringia was on all servers exclusively.
There were twelve races available in the game:
- Aelfborn (Half Elves)
- Aracoix (Flying Birdmen)
- Centaurs (Half man, half horse)
- Dwarves (Stonemen)
- Half Giants
- Humans (Heirs of the All-Father)
- Irekei (Desert-dwelling Elves)
- Minotaurs (The Beast Men, creation of the elves)
- Nephilim (Flying demon-like creatures)
- Shades (The Pale Ones who are linked to the process of death, and have a gaunt, billy corgan-like appearance.)
- Vampires (Powers and spells consume health instead of mana or stamina.)
Originally, several of the races, including Aracoix, Centaurs, Minotaurs and Vampires, could only be created by the player after a certain amount of game time had passed, up to 3 months for the more specialist races. When the game was released for free on March 15, 2006, such restrictions were removed.
The Irekei were a race unique to Shadowbane. They were a tall race who somewhat resemble elves in appearance. However, they had several features which distinguished them from traditional elves such as their crimson or black skin, skin which is hot to the touch, angular facial features, heavier musculature, and inability to perspire. While Irekei were often referred to as Devil Men by foreigners, their name is roughly translated to mean either They Who Endure or Excellent Endurance. The Irekei referred to all other races as fir’khanim, which is translated as Rain-Bleeders.
There were four basic classes; Fighter, Healer, Mage and Rogue. Not all races could use every class. At 10th level, each character had to choose to promote to a specific profession, such as a Ranger or Assassin. Two classes, Fury and Huntress, were for female characters only whilst the Warlock was for male characters only. Which professions were available was dependent on the race, gender and base class of the character.
In addition, each character could take up to four disciplines, from a list of over thirty , though as with Professions, access was limited by race, class and current profession. The level hard cap was level 75, and until level 70 the fourth discipline slot was locked.
After shifting to free to play system, Ubisoft used an ad-based revenue generation system consisting of short ad videos at game start, game close and character death. Ads played on character death were limited to no more than one instance in ten minutes.
Fans of Shadowbane are building an emulator for the Shadowbane server which will allow people with the client to play for free. For legal reasons no money can change hands, the project is entirely a volunteer effort. The project can be followed at Shadowbane Emulator (SBEmu).
- Ubisoft Site
- Shadowbane Emulator (SBEmu)
- Stray Bullet Games site
- Gamezone Shadowbane Interview
- Shadowbane at the Open Directory Projectfr:Shadowbane