Rundown (3/20-3/26) Dragalia is (Almost) Dead

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Wherein I discuss the end of one of my favorite games of all time and… little else.

If you are a Nigma Box regular, you would probably remember when I spent a week in 2020 and a week in 2021 releasing these overly long Rambles about Dragalia Lost. A mobile live service that I picked up shortly after getting my first smartphone. I have made it clear just how much I love the game, so you can piece together what my thoughts were when I woke up on March 22nd to the news that Dragalia Lost is coming to an end. After 3/31/2022, no new events or adventurers will be added to the game and the game will see few updates beyond new chapters of the main campaign. All until the campaign comes to a close in July 2022, with Chapter 26. After which, service will end at some unspecified time. But if I were to guess, it would be in August or September, right around what would be the game’s fourth anniversary.

End of life plans have not been fully detailed, but I assume that the game will be unplayable in any form after shutdown. Most likely, Dragalia will only survive via video footage, fan wikis, portrait viewers, model viewers, scene creators, and other community content. This is a damn shame, given the sheer volume of labor, love, and cash that were put into this title. The developers spent over 4 years creating a new IP with a cast of hundreds, elaborate mechanics, and an expansive story that is well over a million words in length…. but now it’s all coming to an end.

When I started playing Dragalia Lost, I knew that the game was going to die. But I did not expect it to be so soon, even considering that production on the game scaled back in November 2021. I think the developers made a mistake announcing this right before an anniversary, where players have been trained to get hyped for events and promotions. And I consider this announcement to sting extra hard, considering how players were expecting to see the release of 3 new endgame bosses and one Legend difficulty boss between April and September 2022. 

It is easy to point out how this shutdown was foreshadowed and point out the myriad things that the game had yet to do in its run, but ultimately… I am satisfied by what this game accomplished, and I’m glad that I could see it through to the end like this. I have invested more time and energy into Dragalia Lost than any other game I have played, or will ever play, in my life. And even when it dies, it will (likely forever) hold a place as one of my favorite games of all time. 

Because while Dragalia Lost has problems, and I have gone on detailed tirades about them in the past, there is a reason I stuck with it. Because, in every sense of the word, I find the game to be beautiful. Its story, characters, world, gameplay, mechanics, user interface, music, controls— none of it is perfect, but it is beautiful all the same.

I want to thank the developers for creating this title and this world. Your work and efforts will always live on in my memories. I hope you have the opportunity to move onto bigger and better things, learning from your achievements in Dragalia Lost in order to make more gorgeous works of art. I also want to thank the community. You were a good lot, your passion was infectious, and I hope that the myriad friendships you forged remain evergreen.

I will produce a more detailed retrospective, tentatively titled In Memoriam of Dragalia Lost when it shuts down later this year. But for now… I’m just going to try and enjoy the game as much as I can, because, in a few months, I doubt I’ll get the chance to do so.

Yes, while Dragalia’s death was announced, it has at least an extra four months of life in it, which… is a pretty good reason to jump in now if you have been curious about the game. Because if you don’t do it now, then before you know it, the game will be gone forever.

…God, I hope that there is a proper end of life plan. Because if there is anything that is killing games as an artform, it’s crap like this. And Dragalia should get an offline version considering the sheer volume of stuff and the developers crammed into it. For the love of goodness, they just added a single-player-only roguelite mode less than three months ago. And that mode alone is good enough to be a $20 game in and of itself! Hell, I would even be ‘fine’ with an Apple Arcade release. But even that is a dubious hope, and one that does not guarantee the game’s longevity beyond the terms of a contract.

Now, there is some precedent to gacha games like this receiving offline versions. I know that Sword Art Online: Memory Defrag got an offline version, which was announced a day after the game’s initial shutdown notice. And I know that Kingdom Hearts X: Dark Road had its shutdown announced in February 2021 with the announcement of an offline version coming after its shutdown in July 2021. …Then the offline version was delayed in September 2021 and delayed again in February 2022

Unfortunately, considering the parties behind this project, I find it hard to cling onto much hope for a Dragalia Lost – Offline Version. The developer Cygames has never kept a title alive after end of service, and the publisher, Nintendo, has shown a blatant disregard for their legacy over the past few years. 

At least we have the archive project. A project to record all story, promotional, and miscellaneous content from Dragalia Lost, preserving it for… as long as the links stay up.

Haven Studios was an independent studio established in March 2021 and consisted mostly of former staff of Stadia Games and Entertainment, which shut down in February 2021. Since its inception, Haven has gradually grown to over 60 employees, and has been working on a new IP for PlayStation, who helped fund the studio. This lasted for a year, and then PlayStation announced they will acquire 100% of Haven Studios.

Like with most deeply related acquisitions like this, I find it hard to extrapolate this as a wholly bad thing. Haven would not be around without Sony, they depend on Sony to keep the lights on, and this move does not represent a loss of independence. Potential independence, maybe, but not true independence. 

Aside from the preamble bombshell and the later minor acquisition, there were not that many stories that caught my eye this past week. The only thing that really stuck out to me was news that a new The Witcher game is coming eventually, and the only detail provided was that the game would be powered by Unreal Engine 5. Presumably because it is hard to justify building a AAA video game engine from scratch, when it is far easier to use Unreal. Which is both good and bad. This makes developers as a whole more efficient and makes development easier, but it also means that Epic gets more money, which means that Tencent gets more money. 

…Does that mean people should not support Unreal Engine games? Well… no. That is too granular. That is like saying that you should not buy plastic products because of the oil industry. There is a logical through-line, but to follow it means dramatically inconveniencing one’s life, all for the sake of making an imperceptible minor difference.

…You know, I thought I would just get over the whole Dragalia Lost EoS thing and be able to take it in stride. But the more I think about it, the more I start to hate what video games have become. I hate how it is normal for something like Dragalia to become nothing more than remnants and memories. There was a LOT of content saved discussing the game and immortalizing its life, to the point where one could dig to find a reasonable facsimile of what it was like playing the game. There is documentation, but… the overwhelming majority of video games from the 20th century have been preserved in some way, shape, or form, and you can play them on modern computers. Maybe not ideally, and maybe only through virtual machines and wonky emulators, but they can still be played. 

However, this is not true for the era of always online games. When it comes to online-only games, there is a wide spectrum of challenges that come with bringing them back to life. These challenges strongly depend on the game in question, as every game is built differently, but only a small pool of highly skilled programmers are capable of reviving games. Meanwhile, most online-only games could be made playable in some offline state within a few days of work. Of course, the game would probably be in a catatonic state without some offline rebalancing, but I’d rather have a disabled half-working game than a dead game.

Also, I finished Max’s Big Bust 2 on Friday, but have not started my review yet, so I might not make the self-imposed March deadline. I was too busy working on a draft of In Memorandum of Dragalia Lost.

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