CAN ANYONE SAVE DUNGEON FIGHTER ONLINE?
Dungeon Fighter Online is a game that combines old school arcade side-scrolling beat em up action with a nice MMORPG touch. The game is surprisingly deep and lots of fun, especially when playing with buddies. Chances are though, you’ve never heard of it and pretty soon it will no longer exist (in the US).
A Game Gone Too Soon
Last month when Nexon announced they would be shutting down the superbly awesome Dungeon Fighter Online (DFO) in North America, most fans of the game were saddened but not surprised.
The CEO of Nexon cited unpopularity of the game in the US as the reason for the shut down:
“Sadly, Dungeon Fighter Online has not attracted enough player interest to properly service the game. Internally, we struggled deeply with the popularity of DFO in North America as the title is immensely popular overseas. For more than three years, we went through many milestones and several pushes before we came to this very difficult decision.” -Nexon/NeoPle CEO Min Kim
But those who played knew that while the game wasn’t nearly as popular in the US as it was in Korea and Japan, it was the mismanagement and lack of marketing that did the game in.
Since you have likely never heard DFO, let me describe it:
It is/was a 2D MMORPG side-scrolling beat’em up in the spirit of great arcade classics such as Final Fight, Golden Axe, TMNT, and X-Men. DFO successfully captured the fun of those games while mixing in the MMORPG element and they worked together beautifully.
DFO was at it’s best when played with 3 other friends. There were a large array of different classes to pick from (Mage, Fighter, Thief, Gunner, Slayer, and Priest), and each class had a long list of different skills and subclasses to choose from as well.
There were also many, many different dungeons to play in as you progressed on the long road to maxing out your character at level 70. Each dungeon offered it’s own unique boss and an awesome rockin’ soundtrack. There was a whole lot to keep you busy and coming back for more.
As you might expect, the game was free to play and there was a real money shop (they gotta profit somehow) where you could buy useful items and +stats clothes for your character if you wanted. Most items were nice to have and could really come in handy but did not make you exceptionally better, so it wasn’t a pay2win type of system.
The shop was basically just a way to support the game and get spiffy things for your character in return. From what I could tell, the real money shop in-game was very successful. They ran a lot of promotions and must have made a lot of money that way.
Why did DFO Fail in North America?
One reason is that the game wasn’t easy on the eyes. DFO was as graphically advanced as classic arcade games from the 80s and early 90s. It also didn’t help that the game forced you to run at 640 x 480, with the annoying chat box taking up 1/4th of the screen.
Graphics aside, the real cause of DFO’s demise was Nexon themselves. DFO was mismanaged from very early on. Substantial bugs/glitches would go unfixed for extremely long periods of time, support tickets were left unanswered for months and even years at a time, and it seemed that no effort was put in stopping armies of bots and gold sellers from spamming constantly in chat.
These annoyances, combined with an understaffed US Division that was repeatedly hit with layoffs over the years, almost makes me wonder if Nexon was trying all they could do to deter people from playing their own game. I will say though that putting the game on Steam last year was a step in the right direction but it was too little too late.
In any case, Nexon will be shutting down the US servers for DFO on June 13, 2013. It’s a shame to see a really fun and unique game go mostly un-played and unnoticed here in the states but Nexon only has themselves to blame. I quit playing a year ago— a combination of being fed up with Nexon’s lack of support for the game and the fact that I poured a crazy amount of hours into it left me ready for an extended break. I knew I probably wasn’t ever going to come back though.
Is DFO Doomed Forever in the US?
It’s looking that way. Perhaps DFO’s last beacon of hope in America is the small but devoted fan base. There has been a little chatter here and there of privately run servers—people asking if anyone is going to try and make a private DFO server. There are none at the moment. I used to play on a private Ragnarok Online servers many years ago and it was actually a pretty cool experience.
Instead of paying for a monthly subscription to play Ragnarok Online and dealing with extremely crowded servers and latency issues/wait times, people started their own servers (without permission of course, and probably violating a few pesky laws) and managed the game as they saw fit. There were lots of servers, most with higher item drop rates and faster EXP gain, though some had the default settings.
Obviously, setting up private DFO servers could only be done by those who are as passionate about the game as myself and who are technically advanced in such things (unlike myself).
Why would someone devote so much of their time and own money to run a server? For the same reason people ran private Ragnarok Online and other pirate MMORPG servers: It’s for the fans and it’s a hell of a lot of fun.
Of course, this is just wishful thinking and come June 13, the US servers for DFO will be shut down.
As a parting, here are links to a few short videos of DFO in action: