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