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Classic MMOG Raised From the Dead by Past Players 360

Chromain writes "Back in 1996, the Seattle-based company Starwave created one of the first graphical MMOGs: Castle Infinity. Though it was well received by all who tried it, it quickly sank under bad marketing, extended downtime, and sloppy leadership. Now, nearly 8 years since disappearing off the map, the game has been (quite literally) rescued from a dumpster by a group of past players. It's available for free at their new website."
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Classic MMOG Raised From the Dead by Past Players

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  • by Chromain ( 893637 ) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @12:35AM (#12869505)
    /., My name is Greg "Devil Dog" Kumparak, and I'm an Architect of Infinity. I hope I'm not doing the rest of the team a disservice by attempting to speak for them. I've been playing Castle Infinity since a very young age, and have volunteered on the game for quite a few years. Castle Infinity was developed around 1995/96 by Starwave. It grew a rather large fan base, which simply wasn't big enough to outweigh the cost of running it. After being transferred from company to company, it was eventually forgotten by all except for the original players. Sure, company after company brought it up for 2-3 months, but it was only a tease. Each and every time, Castle Infinity was closed down. The blow of signing on to see "Sorry, we're closing down until further notice" hit some of us quite a few times. That was until we realized that Castle Infinity had been thrown away. I do quite honestly mean thrown away. In a trash can. With a bit of good timing, and maybe a liiiiittle bit of fast driving, we got our hands on the server and a large portion of important data. (Thanks Kevin!) For the past few years, we've spent a large portion of our free time on rebuilding Castle Infinity. Months of server woes, countless bug fixes, and an unimaginable amount of stress on each and every member of the team.. and it's all lead up to this. We're up, we're running, and we're ready to dump as much cold water on our server as it takes to keep it from melting. Theres a lot of work to be done, but trust me - we're trying as hard as we can. We have quite a lot in the works. We're constantly working on ways to make Castle Infinity feel much more "modern", giving it features to make it compare to the MMOGgs of today's standard. Due to this, we're ALWAYS looking for a talented hand. Think you can help out in any way? Contact us. Don't worry, we're good people. With that, I welcome you. Welcome to the fruition of our noble quest. It's been a long, wild ride. Uncountable heartfelt thanks to all at Slashdot for running this story. Greg Kumparak Architect of Infinity
    • A little cold water over here, Greg, please....
    • We're up, we're running, and we're ready to dump as much cold water on our server as it takes to keep it from melting.

      I figure that a fire hose is the only thing that's gonna keep that server from melting down now that it's on Slashdot's front page.

    • I think I found the link to the bio page for the makers of the game. http://www.weirdness-central.co.uk/gallery/2002/in dex.asp [weirdness-central.co.uk]
    • Kudos for the hardwork! I hope the /.ing goes ok, as I'm unable to check your site out, to which I'll do tomorrow. But anyways, my quick question was:

      What kind of server hardware were they throwing out? And where can I get some!?? :-)

      I'm only asking because I find it - well - wasteful that some company would literally throw away a complete server whole like that. Was it low end? Or was it just too old? Do you guys still run the same exact hardware, or did you guys upgrade to newer stuff? And if you guy

      • by Chromain ( 893637 ) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @02:13AM (#12869899)
        Unfortunately, this is one of the topic's i'm not incredibly well informed about. On that note, and for that same reason, this entire post could be completely wrong. If that's the case, please ignore it and hit me with a stick or something. The main reason we needed the server was for the server/db software that (luckily) was on the hard disc itself. The rest of the server was either trashed, far too out of date to use, or just over all crud. We have upgraded from that server, which actually required quite a bit of work. The software/db stuff that is required for the interconnectivity of the game and the website is rather hateful, and required some INCREDIBLY specific stuff. Of course, we got around all that eventualy. Sadly, the software still hates us. Basically, our hardware rocks - its the software side that's killin us. (And to answer your other question - sorry, to my knowledge we've already given away or tossed any server hardware we didnt need. The original server would be very outdated by now, though.)
    • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @09:10AM (#12871308) Homepage
      Greg Kumparak Architect of Infinity

      Oh, man. That's gotta be the coolest title ever. :-P
  • Dumpster (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @12:36AM (#12869507)
    If only someone would rescue their webserver from the dumpster, so I could see what this is all about.
  • /. already? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by KingEomer ( 795285 )
    Wow. How can they expect to host an MMORPG when the site is slashdotted in a few minutes?
  • by Migraineman ( 632203 ) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @12:37AM (#12869518)
    Zero comments and the linked site is toast. Perhaps "Castle Not-Quite-Infinity ..."
  • by zhevek ( 147623 ) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @12:37AM (#12869523) Homepage
    ...that is, if you want any part of your life back ;)
  • ..Wow (Score:5, Funny)

    by Chromain ( 893637 ) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @12:39AM (#12869533)
    As you can tell, that went ..not so well. Not only did our server just eat itself in less than 2 minutes, but I managed to forget all about line breaks. *Laugh*
  • by futuresheep ( 531366 ) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @12:44AM (#12869570) Journal
    It's time for MORE extended downtime!
  • by AEton ( 654737 ) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @12:46AM (#12869575)
    Twelve years ago the landscape of the Internet was totally different. We had Clevnet, and that could get us anywhere!

    BBS games were before my time (or I just missed out on the craze), but I was a big fan of single-person text adventures before they were Interactive Fiction. I was especially fond of a couple of adventure games on some pay-per-minute service, Compuserve or Prodigy maybe. One in particular stands out because it involved a vampire (Dracula?) and it was designed to be incrementally solvable. It's where I learned the maze mapping skills that came so handy in Adventure later (even though it came out earlier).

    Does anyone else remember this vampire-themed adventure game that was available on some early ISP? Even a name would be a start...
  • Well. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Chromain ( 893637 ) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @12:58AM (#12869619)
    The server got a bit hot - we dumped ice cold water on it. Unfortunately no one told us that water on a server isn't actually a good thing. Yeah. Thats what happened. *cough*.

    Anyways, I have good news! There IS a direct link to the download. Unfortunately, the only way to register is on the website itself. So. If you managed to register but didnt get to the download in time, head on over to:

    http://www.mediamerlin.com/castle/C8/C8Install/C8S etup.exe [mediamerlin.com]

    On that note - the site is currently up, it's .. just kinda limping. And as I typed that, it went back down. We're gonna throw up a static page with a link directly to the registration and download pages.

    My apologies for the mess. If you're interested, please bookmark the link - we're workin hard here.
    • Why would I bother to register and download without knowing anything about the game?
    • Bittorrent... dude Figure it out!
      • Re:Well. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jred ( 111898 )
        You'd be surprised by how many ppl don't have any clue, or think it'd be too hard to do. I emailed the guys who did the Star Wars Chopper video and recommended BT. There were half a dozen mentions on their site that they kept blowing up all of their donated bandwidth. He wrote back with a bunch of questions, and I sent him a brief explanation & a couple of URLs.

        And remember, these guys are stuck on a game that's 10 years old. They aren't necessarily keeping up with the times :)
  • My friend introduced me to this game several months ago.

    They've been playing it on and off with few problems connecting for years.

    I think the tenses in the story are a bit off...
  • by darkonc ( 47285 ) <stephen_samuel@b ... minus herbivore> on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @01:15AM (#12869695) Homepage Journal
    I managed to get one response. Here it is..
    Who are we? Well, for one thing, we're a public-benefit, not-for-profit, California corporation. We're also all volunteers who were originally players, and who love Castle Infinity and want to see it fulfill its potential. We range in age from 15 to 53, and spend minutes to hours a day working on Castle Infinity.

    Kevin Quitt ... In putative charge is Rev. Kevin D. Quitt [quitt.net], who came into his position of Benevolent Dictator by virtue of the fact that he went dumpster diving when Castle Infinity's creators (Starwave) decided there was No Commercial Potential for the game, and threw out the baby with the bath (servers and all). He is the game's and the corporation's administrator, but besides that, he designs some algorithms and codes some of the utilities we use.

    John Cantu joined the Castle Infinity staff in 2000 and does assorted administrative tasks. (Have you ever noticed you can't hack connect.dat? That's because he did it first.) Outside C8, John is working towards his B.S. in Computer Information Science with a goal of becoming a systems/network administrator, and currently works as an analyst for a multinational media information company.

    David Estes
    David Estes is possibly insane due to being a mad scientist
    David Estes is glad that this intruder chose to invade his wheat field
    David Estes is well known throughout the community for his soccer talents
    David Estes is the new assistant provost for teaching
    David Estes is president of the lutheran child and family services of illinois
    David Estes is one of the owners of pacific northwest distributing

    Greg Kumparak's been around Castle Infinity longer than he wishes to disclose. He started playing around the same time he began sporting a Power Rangers lunch box. Greg is responsible for the majority of the new art (including this site) and likes to brand himself as "Lead Level Design" when discussing Castle Infinity with others. Children simultaneously adore and fear him.
    He still carries around a Power Rangers lunch box.

    Edward Marks, unlike the other architects, never had a chance to play Castle Infinity when it was still operated by Starwave. He began playing in 2000 and joined the architect team in 2002. His original job was as an artist, but Greg has taken over most of his former responsibilities. Now he is responsible for the organization and use of original Starwave material (a lot of it was left on those abandoned hard drives) and has created several body parts, items, levels, and ideas. Outside of the game, he attends Thomas Jefferson School, with Andy, but will soon graduate and enroll full time in Stanford University in California.

    Andy Matuschak [andymatuschak.org] joined the Castle Infinity team in 2001 as a client programmer (he likes to refer to himself as the "Lead Programmer"), but he's served in various capacities since then. His largest projects for the game include the site you're reading now (which he coded), the Infrared update system, the currency system, and the HUD. On a day to day basis, Andy is responsible for new features in the client, web site updates, and most of the levels that require code. Outside of the game, he attends Thomas Jefferson School in St. Louis, MO (graduating in 2006) and spends much of what time remains working with the Open Sword Group on open-source Mac software.

    © Castle Infinity, Inc. 1996-2005 (( -- but I hope they don't mind me posting this here. ))

  • wow (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @01:18AM (#12869710)
    hacked together

    a true hack and slash rpg
  • typical... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @01:19AM (#12869714)
    >>You have encountered a Slashdotting!
    >>You cannot evade.
    >>You cannot evade.

    geek@computer> nethack
  • To the CI architect (Score:2, Interesting)

    by unkokue ( 825656 )
    Since you guys are about the game experience rather than money, does this mean some kind of meaningful PvP is in store for downloaders of your game?
  • Illegal? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Isn't .. er, removing items from peoples trash stealing?

    And on that note, do they have the 'right' to use the game code?
    • Re:Illegal? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by eclectro ( 227083 ) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @02:09AM (#12869889)
      Actually not. Once you throw it away, you're throwing it to the birds.

      The problem is more how it was thrown away. If the dumpster was located on private property, then that's tresspassing. Public property - that's a different matter entirely. Laws vary from state to state on this. But you do not see much enforcement anyway, as it's trash.

      I imagine that there are different laws for each state that prohibit people from climbing into dumpsters for safety reasons..

      So much as the code goes, I searched and could not find information about the status of code ownership/trademarks or current license. I do note that a non-profit was started for the sake of preserving the game.

      As an aside, I think this exemplifies why current copyright law is too long, and favors those who have deep pockets for lobbyists to protect a "few" things, while literally everything else goes to the trash.
      • Re:Illegal? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Chromain ( 893637 ) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @02:28AM (#12869958)
        We were in fact given permission to "retrieve"(Read: Dumpster dive for) the server and do whatever we please with it. The ownership/trademark issue is one we've dealth with for the past few years, and is a large part of the reason we're just now trying to get a foot up in the world. And by the way, I absolutely agree with you on how copyright is currently handled. It's a bit absurd.
      • Still covered by copyright...

        Civil + criminal liability if Starwave wants to get nasty...

        BUT They throw it away will be a good defence to stave off the liability - but it won't get copyright transferred to the non-profit. Starwave could get an injunction stopping usage even if it couldn't get them punished straight off (but violating the injunction would result in punishment)
  • by bnitsua ( 72438 ) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @02:06AM (#12869880)
    I think this raises interesting questions about abandonware...
    what's the legality of taking over a project that was aborted? even though the company who owned it literally trashed the project, don't they still own some sort of rights to it?
    if it became popular, could they do anything, since they bought the rights from Starwave... or does throwing it in the trash forfeit those rights?
    • . . .does throwing it in the trash forfeit those rights?


    • . . .does throwing it in the trash forfeit those rights?


      Roland Piguepaill
    • by The Famous Brett Wat ( 12688 ) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @06:09AM (#12870567) Homepage Journal
      To the extent that physical artefacts were recovered from the trash, there's no question of theft here. I recall reading about a case a while back in which the police obtained evidence without a warrant by taking it from someone's trash, and the court ruled that as non-infringing. Some reporters retaliated by raiding the trash of some high-profile public servants associated with the area, and reporting on it. Sauce for the goose... gotta love it.

      Anyhow, what you're asking about is the copyright, no doubt. We've had some succinct answers offered in this thread already, and I'll have to back the "maybe" on this. If it went to court, the arguments would be pretty interesting! Can you throw a copyright in the trash? I don't think the law specifies, and I don't think the courts have ever ruled on it. Interesting concept, though. If I were the lawyering type, I'd want to argue that the copyright was trashed, unless there is some evidence to suggest that the work was retained, or the copyright sold. My argument would be that the material entered the public domain due to abandonment -- although I'd find out what the accepted Latin phrase for that is, to underscore my lawyerhood.

      How about, "if a copyright owner abandons all physical embodiments of the work, and has not entrusted the preservation of that work to another party, then, ceterus paribus, the copyright has also been abandoned." (Latin included only for show.)

    • Abandonware is a way for us "pirates" to feel better about what we do.

      It doesn't matter that the company doesn't sell the product or support it any longer.
      • Not strictly speaking true. Reputable AW sites (such as HOTU and Abandonia) will post a title, and inform the vendor that it's up. If the vendor complains, the title is taken down. If the vendor doesn't complain, then the product can be considered abandonware, and freely distributable.

        Also, when a company no longer exists, and nobody bought the copyrights, their product becomes public domain. An awful lot of abandonware titles actually come from studios that went belly-up. In these cases, since there's no
        • Abandonware (Score:3, Informative)

          by jrboatright ( 843291 )
          you would -think- that was true, and it is certainly reasonable, but it is simply not how the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act left things.

          There is no such thing as a corporation which has no "heirs". At a minimum, if the corporation is dissolved, the debtors (in the case of a bankruptcy) and the stockholders have on-going rights in any intellectual property that existed unless the board of the corporation EXPLICITLY turned the companies intellectual property over to the public domain.

          Or, under some ci
    • Since a couple of the other answers are simply "yes" (wrong) and "no" (correct), I thought I'd post a response as well.

      Just because you abandon a product does NOT mean you give up any of your copyright to the code.

      Unless explicitly released under a non-commercial license after abandonment, you have NO RIGHTS to distribute it. Yes folks, it means abandonware is illegal, and no, there is no excuse for thinking it is legal. All computer games is afaik new enough that copyright has not expired.

      The whole not
    • I'm sure it only matters if they are successful, in which case a circling cloud of patent attorneys will descend on them to pick them clean.

      It will go into court, and the judge will decide against all common sense that "throwing it into the garbage" does not revoke one's title to original work. Then he'll go on an extended vacation paid for by the RIAA/MPAA while the case chugs through into the appeals process.

      The creative and hardworking crew will have the EFF join them as well as vocal but useless mora
    • even though the company who owned it literally trashed the project, don't they still own some sort of rights to it?

      Well that all depends... do you think that ideas have intrinsic value? Well of course, that's obvious. But in terms of copyright law, not so much. You definitely can't copyright an idea that exists solely in your mind (though you could patent it). You definitely can copyright a finished product based on an idea. In between is a grey area...

      Oh and just to add my $0.02 and risk getting mo
  • A similar fate (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hobotron ( 891379 ) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @02:30AM (#12869964)
    Was one of Redmoon. (http://www.redmoon.co.kr/ [redmoon.co.kr] Korean version) An english server lasted for at least 5 years, but due to mismanagement, ingame and secuirty, the server software was "obtained", and now countless old players can download it and set up their own, or play on one of the many private servers, I have first hand knowledge of these events because I was a Redmoon player for a long time, I've followed it from the US version, to the Singapore company that bought it, to its home right now as a player created/tinkered operation.

    Sure some of the things done to obtain the software were ethically questionable, but when you really love a game a lot, its hard to see it completely given up on. A lot of this love comes across with the development team that ressurected castleinfinity. It wasnt the first MMORPG that was resurected, and it wont be the last, as long as you have a deep emotional tie with a game (bordering on adiction, believe me, I know) you cant just let it go.

    Thanks for bringing back some memories that were close to me with this story.
  • I read a couple of pages on your site (sorry), and I must say I like your style, tongue-in-cheek as it is. I'll definitely return later to view a screenshot or two.

    I hawe to ask: any plans to make this into a cross-platform thing? Otherwise I'd be stuck on my work computer, and I'd much rather run it on my own hardware.
  • and no mac version either. I guess I shouldn't complain since it is free, but maybe someone will do a port some day.
  • First MMOG (Score:3, Informative)

    by Geekbot ( 641878 ) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @08:44AM (#12871152)
    It always cracks me up when I see this "first MMOG". I remember using Q-Link (AOL predecessor) when I was so young on my C-64. At one point they developed a game where you could walk around this island and collect stuff and chat using avatars. You could see other peoples avatars and they would walk around. It would be something of a conquest to run around and see who could find the most junk. They ended up ruining by having a bunch of mods that abused people for fun.

    But that's just my own experience. Look at all the MUDs and such. I think the massive in MMOG is somewhat relative. There have been MMOG's for a long time in my opinion.
    • You are refering to "Club Carbie"

      I should be awared geek points for knowing this tidbit....never mind, I am already posting on slashdot.
    • Many of us played MOOs and MUDs and games like TradeWars even for years. There was a great planet-conquering game too where you would have a province for your local BBS with groups of players forming small governments and you'd launch attacks against other provinces (BBSs) in town and stuff.

      Great fun.
  • What if the company who tossed this in the dumpster comes and says they want it back? Did they ever give up their rights?
  • My name is Greg "Devil Dog" Kumparak, and I'm an Architect of Infinity.
    Wow! Architect of Infinity... that is what I want MY next job title to be. That would rock. Now... what exactly does an architect of infinity do?
  • by Spazmania ( 174582 ) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @10:55AM (#12872174) Homepage
    First off, good for them. That was a remarkable rescue.

    I do have a small bone to pick, though. Castle Infinity is not "one of the first" by a decade or so.

    The first graphical MMOG I know of was Habitat from 1987. Yes, that's 1987 not 1997. Habitat was built by a partnership between Lucasfilm Games Division (now LucasArts) and Quantum Computer Corp (now America Online). It ran on a Commodore 64. Though usable at 300 bps, you really needed 1200 bps to do more than poke around.

    Habitat didn't make it out of the beta test in the US because it used an indecent amount of server hardware. Quantum needed the hardware for the beta version of AOL. Habitat's bastard stepchild did make it to release, though: Club Caribe. In 1988 it had tens of thousands of players and supported upwards of 1000 at once.

    Lucas later released a standalone game using the Habitat engine. You may have played it: Maniac Mansion.

Seen on a button at an SF Convention: Veteran of the Bermuda Triangle Expeditionary Force. 1990-1951.