An Interesting Bit of History on Darkfall Rise of Agon

My name is Andrew and I started a Canadian company Big Picture Games Ltd to purchase Darkfall back in 2015. We succeeded in March 2016 in securing a licence for the game alongside a second company called Ubergames based out of France. Uber has since shut down their version called Darkfall: New Dawn but we continue to operate ours under the name Rise of Agon. Given we’ve done this task thanks to many dozens of volunteers and a couple professional developers for just shy of 5 years I have a few insights into this. Our project is a little unique as the game we licensed was controlled by an indie game studio out of Greece that built the product themselves on their own platform. A larger studio game would be a very different endeavour than the insights below I imagine :).
This has a very complicated answer because there’s a lot of factors from technical to financial to simply getting enough dedicated following for someone to take a crack at it who can bring together all the pieces needed to even attempt this. MMORPGs are extremely massive and complicated interconnected pieces of software, the code base for our game is something like 2 million lines between engine and game logic. I’m not a skilled programmer but I do have a variety of experience in hosting, scripting and networks. My expertise is my ability to connect people and talent together, so understand that while I’m very technically inclined I don’t have expertise in the deep coding we work with at BPG :D.
It’s a gamers dream to have their beloved game taken over by the fans and it has a high barrier of success for several reasons:
-The owner of the IP is often controlled by a group of individuals and multiple companies/investors may be stakeholders. A case for selling/transferring the IP must be made that appeals to their interests, a viable business plan and a solid sales pitch is needed as is finding the right people to talk to.
-You need at least a small team of people with the right skills to get a project like this off the ground and typically a 6-7 figure sum of investment is needed for purchase of the IP, setup costs, development time/programmers salaries, legal costs for contract negotiations, server costs and building websites, business startup costs and intellectual property registration/transfers. We started entirely volunteer, no paid devs till we launched in Q2 2017, almost 2 years after the project started. You need to get a working Alpha, get experience in the code if there’s new to the project developers working on it.
-You will need to market/promote the project and get a following behind it to likely get any negotiations started to prove viability. We started a website and generated interest through Reddit, our forums and made connections with many community members and guilds from the original game.
-Negotiations with the owner(s) and a contract for either a purchase or royalties agreement. This process alone took about 6-8 months and was complicated due to 2 projects being given licences.
-When we got the contract finally signed and was given source code it was a jumble, little to no documentation and the original developers had moved on leaving us mostly to tinker and get it working nearly blind. Development tools were non existent and no pipeline to speak of we had to develop it all ourselves on a proprietary engine without even source files for most assets. We eventually were able to create a process to import/export assets effectively using modern 3D artists tools but initially we had no ability to insert modern built assets effectively for years.
-We funded the development by internally raising the initial seed money for the purchase through a few of our core team members. The initial cost was not too onerous as we had a higher royalty, the owners knew it would be a challenge so they let us take a crack with a relatively small up front sum. However we had to pay for website hosting and an initial development cluster which cost us thousands a month before we launched. Fortunately we had a large community of dedicated supporters that signed up for founders packages so we could fund the hosting/operational costs for over a year before we launched (March 2016 to May 2017). No personnel just operational costs were thousands a month in Dev tools/Alpha servers to run the testing grounds out of New York as we promised our supporters.
Anyways this is a little insight into some of the challenges we faced in succeeding in purchasing a dead MMO and reviving it. It’s been live 3 years now since we launched and we’re still developing it with thousands of players playing. We earn enough to keep the lights on and a small underpaid but very appreciated team of developers that are mostly past players. We loved the game and it’s why we took on this task, it has been a rollercoaster ride of trials and success, highs and lows. It is a very big endeavour to revive an older game which is why it is seldom done. We got lucky that things worked out like it did especially given that the team was created out of the old playerbase by myself gathering internet strangers together to cobble together a cohesive group and somehow pull it off.
If anyone is seriously interested in this kind of a project send me a message I would be happy to share some of what I’ve learned and mentor anyone trying to pull off this kind of project. It’s a ton of work but it has been extremely rewarding to see my favourite MMORPG played by thousands of fans and continue to be developed. I sadly don’t have the time to play as I’m a father of 4 with a day job plus running the game but I live vicariously through our players :).
Big Picture Games Ltd

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