Thursday, 6 April 2017

Standing firm in the wake of progress: a tribute to Standing Stone Games

Somewhere during the course of 2016, news reached me that Turbine was transitioning into a 'mobile game studio'. For us, the fans, this came out of nowhere and didn't make much sense: after all, thusfar the studio had been working on MMOs. It sounded ominous for the many Turbine developers that were working on MMOs such as the one I've been playing for almost ten years now: Lord of the Rings Online. After the short announcement, things went on as usual and the worried feeling retreated into the back of my mind.

Fast forward a couple of months (December 2016) and we hear that the developers that worked on LOTRO and Dungeons and Dragons Online for Turbine are starting their own 'indie game studio': Standing Stone Games. The gaming community is blindsided: nobody saw this coming. Some people preach doom and gloom, others regard it as a liberation from the shackles of the 'evil' corporate Turbine. Myself? Somewhere in the middle. I don't believe Turbine is evil; that's a product of gamers having the tendency to blame unpopular decisions on corporate greed.

With Turbine's choice to exclusively focus on mobile games, a clear difference of interest became apparent and I believe every player that spends time in LOTRO or DDO is indebted to the developers that chose to continue developing those games as part of a newborn indie studio. It is an incredibly brave decision, and one that speaks volumes of the love of these developers for the two virtual worlds they created.

Nobody knows for sure what would've happened if Standing Stone Games wouldn't have formed when it did, but the news that Asheron's Call (Turbine's third MMO) was shutting down mere days after SSG announced their secession from Turbine makes one wonder. 

I do not play DDO, so I can't speak for it, but for LOTRO the change to SSG blew a refreshing gust of wind through the game. Old time players reinstalled LOTRO to check it out once more and devs and players held enthusiastic discussions about plans for the future on the game's forum. Some quality of life changes have already made it live (fix of the /say bug and a housing update), others will likely follow this year (High Elf new playable race, new character customizations and Mordor).

When I think of the name of the studio, "Standing Stone Games", I imagine the ancient stones of the Barrow Downs, weathered by the ages, yet upright, enduring. It is a name well chosen. LOTRO and DDO may not offer the most modern gameplay and advanced graphics, but they have successfully conquered their territory in the MMOscape, and their devs are willing to defend it. Not only do these oldschool MMOs have a dedicated fan base, they now also have their own dedicated game studio.

So this one is for you, Standing Stone Games. May you stand tall and proud, until there are no stories left to tell. /drink

This post is part of the eight annual Developer Appreciation Week (DAW), running from April 3rd to 10th 2017. Everyone is welcome to join the prompt and spread some game dev positivity (#DAW8).


  1. I'll drink to that!!


    One of the first things SSG did was to fix a graphical error when I loaded the game on the desktop PC. If there wasn't a graphic in exactly the right directory/location (or it was pointing to the wrong location) a loading screen would have this weird mish-mash of colors. That problem went away about 2 weeks into SSG's stewardship of LOTRO.

    Quality of life improvements indeed.

    And yes, that gives me hope for the future.

    1. I hugely appreciate quality fixes and improvements to MMOs, also if that means less frequent new stuff. Especially in older MMOs problems tend to accumulate when new stuff just keeps being added. There are a tons of things to fix in LOTRO, so I'm definitely hoping the devs keep it up. At least they're up to a good start. :)

  2. My husband and I played DDO for a long time, as in many years. We've also been in and out of LOTRO for quite a few years. I am glad that the devs have such dedication to their games. Both worlds are enjoyable and here's hoping more QoL improvements continue to make it iinto the game!

  3. Screenshots coincidentally fit the title... Stonehenge reference... could this be the product of ancient aliens?

    I never really liked the idea some devs have that mobile is the way to go for gaming. PC gaming isn't going to die anytime soon, especially not for MMOs, it's not comfortable to play a game on a smartphone, at least nowhere comparable to playing it on a powerful computer with a huge screen.

    1. I think this was a typical (real) case of not so much the devs themselves wanting to dive into mobile gaming, but people on leadership positions. After all, said devs just made their own indie game studio to keep working on MMOs. But maybe this is not what you meant.

      Mobile games definitely have been hot stuff - I'm not sure how much that still is the case for new games being released now: there's a lot of competition. I have no clue what direction Turbine is planning to go on the mobile games market, but this is where we part ways. The only mobile game I'm interested in is Pokémon GO - coincidentally (?) a mobile game that calls itself an MMO.


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