20 years after the release of groundbreaking MMO Anarchy Online, Funcom is still keeping the servers alive. Here’s what Funcom CEO Rui Casais, former Game Director Craig Morrison and many of the other original developers have to say in honor of the game’s 20th anniversary.
OSLO, Norway – June 25th, 2021 – Long before smartphones were a thing, before Bitcoin, Facebook and Twitch, there was Anarchy Online. June 27th the game will be 20 years old, making it one of the oldest MMORPGs in existence.
The development of Anarchy Online started in 1995, just two years after Funcom was founded in a dank cellar in Munkedamsveien in Oslo. More than 70 developers were eventually involved in the development of a game which would make or break the entire company. It was a highly risky affair, especially since no one had really created anything like this ever before.
“I remember when we all gathered in the dungeon in the old Funcom office, there must have been 100 of us,” says former World Designer Viljar Sommerbakk. “We had a specially made keyboard, with a red Enter key. The CEO stood on a chair, held up the keyboard, and then Martin Amor, the lead programmer, went up and pressed the red button to signal that we were live. That was actually quite moving, because we had worked very hard to make Anarchy Online a real product,” he recalls.
That was on June 27th, 2001, and while moving for everyone involved, the launch itself became a bit of a notoriety. There were issues with account registration, lag, crashes – and a massively overloaded customer support staff. To quote a Funcom newsletter post from 20 years ago, it had “not gone as smoothly as we had expected”.
However, a heroic effort from the developers ensured that things improved very quickly. And by the end of the year, Anarchy Online even won the MMO of the Year award from PC Gamer.
“I’m so proud to have been part of that legacy,” says former Anarchy Online Game Director Craig Morrison. “And to get to create this wonderful game and this wonderful place that players have called their home for 20 years,” says Morrison, who worked at Funcom for more than nine years. “Even to this day, as I travel and do conventions, talk to player communities, and meet with gamers and indeed game developers, I am always struck by how well-received the game is and how people have such fond memories of Anarchy Online,” he says.
Anarchy Online became the conqueror of many firsts. It was the first sci-fi MMORPG, it had billboard advertising and in-game concerts long before battle royale games became a thing. It was the first game to be available via online digital distribution. It revolutionized procedurally generated content, introduced hyperlinked items in chat, and implemented instanced dungeons on a scale like never before. And it was the first MMO to launch an expansion called Shadowlands.
For Funcom CEO Rui Casais, Anarchy Online ended up having a significant impact on his career. He recalls borrowing an Anarchy Online account from a friend of his, who had gone away for summer vacation. “I was really happy when he got back, because I was playing so much that things at university were getting a bit down-prioritized,” he says.
“Fast-forward a few years and that same friend mentions that there is a job opening at Funcom in Oslo. I was finishing my degree at the time and decided to apply. And guess what, I got the job! I went to Oslo and started working on a few pathfinding bugs on AO,” says Casais. “I’m very happy to be here this many years later as CEO, still holding the torch, proud of everything the game as accomplished, proud of everything the team has accomplished, and proud of the community that keeps the game alive, running, and as a pillar of the MMO community that has been going on for so long.”
Check out the new retrospective trailer to see more commentary by Viljar Sommerbakk, Craig Morrison, and Rui Casais, as well as former Game Director Gaute Godager, former Lead Artist Vebjørn Strømmen, former 3D Artist Øyvind Jernskau, and current Senior Community Manager Andy Benditt.
And visit www.anarchy-online.com to play the game for free and experience a bit of gaming history.