Archmage

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Archmage was a successful browser-based multiplayer turn-based strategy game, where the player plays a wizard resurrected from the depths of Hell and commands vast armies with magical and mundane elements. The game was created by Korean telecommunications company MARI, but has since gone bankrupt and ceased supporting and hosting it. Fans have since created games encapsulating the essence of Archmage. Such games include e.g. The Reincarnation.

Gameplay

Archmage was a rich turn-based fantasy game with a focus on player versus player interaction and resource management. The player could build up his kingdom by exploring to find land, creating buildings, gaining resources, researching new spells to cast, increasing your population, acquiring magical items, and building a military force. Players could build up armies by summoning them with magic spells or items, or by hiring them as mercenaries. These forces could then be used as defense or sent out to conquer land and resources from other players. As the player's kingdom grew in size, peaceful exploration of land grew less effective and taking territory from other players became more necessary.

One of Archmage's unique aspects was the ability of players to reset the game themselves. The most powerful spell in the game was Armageddon, and required seven players to cast it in succession. Each time the spell was cast another "seal" was broken, and all players were informed of their impending possible doom. Unless one of the casting mages was stopped by other players in time every character's progress would be erased and the game restarted. The players that cast Armageddon, along with the top ten ranked mages at the end of the game, would have their names enshrined for all to see in the Hall of Immortality. These goals were essentially how one "won" the game. Instead of pursuing the Hall, some players waged war with other players, "winning" by defeating their enemies.

The game offered several servers to play on. The main difference between servers in terms of game mechanics was the rate at which turns were acquired. For example, Blitz servers operated at one turn every five minutes, whilst Ager servers had one turn every fifteen minutes. Turns accumulated until a certain limit (200 turns on Blitz, 180 on Ager), after which they were wasted. This lead to a dramatic difference in gameplay across servers - players on Ager would conserve turns whenever possible, whilst Blitz was more of a frantic free-for-all. Another server, Server, used one turn per ten minutes.

Another factor affecting gameplay was the degree to which coordination was allowed. Most servers came had two variants: Guild and NonGuild. Guild server encouraged players to cooperate as teams of indefinite size, whilst NonGuild limited the player to having two allies only. The Blitz servers had a third variety, Solo, a server without guilds or allies.

Playing in a guild was almost essential on Guild servers, especially for new players. Guilds offered instruction and protection, and formed the basis of the Archmage community.

A unique server, known as Apprentice also existed, originally created as a place for new players to learn the basics. Apprentice offered guild play but used one turn per twenty minutes and restricted access to the most powerful spells and creatures in the game, known as ultimates. The server became a place where many veterans played, and hosted some of the fiercest wars.

History

Archmage went live in 1998, with the first servers located at http://www.magewars.com. More servers were added over time, at the games height these included Ager Guild and NonGuild, Apprentice, Server Guild and NonGuild, Blitz Guild, NonGuild and Solo, a beta server for testing and numerous language servers. For many years, hosting costs were supported via a banner add click campaign, where players received in-game "Lady Luck" for clicking. The practice ended due to the general downturn in revenues from banner advertisements.

The game achieved the Game of the Month award on MPOGD, and as it's popularity rose to the point where it started attracting attention. MARI was faced with multiple copyright infringement lawsuits, most notably over the name of one of the available monsters - the Mind flayer, owned by TSR, Inc.. The creature was renamed Mind Ripper, along with a number of other changes to avoid copyright infringement.

This period also saw the rise of multimaging, a method of cheating involving a single player controlling multiple accounts for their own benefit. MARI's Archmage servers were very open to exploitation. Players created custom interfaces to play through, along with more sinister tools including scripted mages, movement trackers and spellbots. With many players moving to IRC-based communication, these scripts were easily integrated into gameplay.

In an attempt to cover increasing hosting costs, MARI announced pay-2-play in mid 2001, a system where players pay for access to some of the servers. This was met with ridicule by the community, as while the game was good, few believed it was worth paying for - remembering that this period of time also saw the popularity of other web games such as Ultima Online, Everquest and Dark Age of Camelot.

From this point on, the servers were often down or sluggish, and communication from MARI to the player community dried up. Later that year, MARI announced they would be shifting their focus from Archmage to another game they owned, Archspace - a turn based space simulation - again alienating the Archmage community.

In mid-2002, MARI announced that they were in talks with Microsoft, with plans to port Archmage to the then newly released Xbox console. If these talks actually took place, they were in vain. The last MARI-sponsored resets ended in December 2002, with the servers never to be activated again. The game's forum, known as the UBB, lasted until September 2004 before disappearing. By this point in time, MARI's corporate website was also gone.

Clones and Spinoffs

Archmage boasted a very loyal fan base. As such, it is no surprise that many clones were created after the game's demise. Listed below are the known clones to date.

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