Meridian 59 was the first graphical massively multiplayer game. The game was originally developed by Andrew "Zaphod" and Chris "Zandramas" Kirmse in their parents' basement. They teamed up with Mike and Steve Sellers to form the company Archetype. 3DO acquired Archetype shortly before Meridian's commercial launch in June 1996. 3DO ran Meridian for nearly 4 years, finally pulling the plug on August 31, 2000. Brian Green and Rob Ellis, developers who had worked on Meridian at 3DO, acquired the copyright to Meridian in 2002. Their company, Near Death Studios, continued to operate the game for a small group of dedicated fans until January 1, 2010.
In January 2010, Near Death Studios announced the end of the company, but not the end of Meridian 59 . Without interrupting service, Andrew and Christopher Kirmse, the original creators of Meridian 59, took over the rights with intentions of keeping the game alive and updated for fans new and old. Meridian 59 is currently free and available through the official website, www.meridian59.com.
On September 15, 2012, Meridian 59 was officially made open source, and it was announced that the two remaining official servers (named 101 and 102) would incorporate community made content over time. A major community made patch was released on March 24, 2013.
Meridian's Alpha test started in the summer of 1995. Roughly 35 concurrent players could enjoy the seven rooms, three monster types, two spells, and one quest. Players quickly made their own fun, however, engaging in PVP battles that would litter the streets with corpses. The server was almost always at capacity; So much so that the developers had to randomly kick players from the world in order to log in and debug problems.
Damion "Zjiria" Schubert was Archetype's first hire. He built the first city in the game, Tos. Tos quickly became the hub of Meridian social life. His brother, Tim "Mocker" Schubert, also helped out with level building. Rob "Q" Ellis, one of the first alpha players was recruited by Archetype to lead the construction of the game world.
Beta started in April of 1996, running on a server in Chris' dorm room. Chris had made significant performance optimizations to the server which was now able to handle several hundred concurrent players. The content creators continually added new rooms, monsters and quests in order to support the growing population. The New York Times published a piece of Archetype. The news made its way to 3DO CEO Trip Hawkins.
3DO decided to acquire Archetype for $5 Million worth of 3DO stock. Andrew, Chris, Rob and Damion moved to San Jose. 3DO hosted 5 beta servers through September of 2006 when the commercial version of the game launched.
Meridian went on sale September 27, 1996. Seven shards were live, conveniently named 100 through 106. Shards 107 through 110 would be added later.
Vale of Sorrows
The Vale of Sorrows was the first major update to Meridian. It's release on March 18, 1997 consisted of a new forest called the Vale of Sorrows, more sewer zones under Jasper the Barloque, and bug fixes. The Vale of Sorrow contained a mana node which required several people working together to attain. This was one of the only "quests" in the game that required players working together to complete.
Meridian's largest expansion launched on June 19, 1997. An entire island was added to the world with 20 new mobs, 2 new schools of magic spells, and bow and arrow weapon skills. For the first several weeks after the expansion, the servers were extremely unstable.
Renaissance launched on March 16, 1998. A number of new high level zones were added in this update, along with the interesting dynamic of Necromancers and Hunters.
In August 1998, Insurrection came online. Insurrection added per-zone PVP objectives throughout the world. Many zones erected a flagpole where a member of a faction could hang their faction's flag. After a brief period, the zone would turn in favor of that faction. Players belonging to the favored faction would experience faction-specific buffs in that zone.
3DO turned off the commercial servers on August 31, 2000. Several server consolidations had taken place prior to this point as players migrated to Ultima Online and EverQuest. The players that remained mourned the loss of their beloved game.
Near Death Studios acquired the rights to Meridian 59 from 3DO and relaunched the game on June 13, 2002. Two shards become available for players.
The largest technology upgrade to Meridian came on October 31, 2004. The sprite based client was upgraded with DirectX lighting to provide a better visual experience to users.
Notable Places in the World
- Tos - The most popular town in Meridian. Nearly all players would venture to Familiars, the Tos pub to socialize after a long day of killing spiders and trolls. Frisconar's shop, just down the street, sold magical reagents for spells for the cheapest prices in Meridian. Tos is one of three cities to feature a bank. The Duke's castle is just south of Tos.
- Barloque - The capital of Meridian features the Justicar's Hall where players could elect a judge whom could pardon player killers of their crimes. Fehr'lol Quan moved his blacksmithing shop here shortly after launch. Barloque also has a vault where players can store items to save for a later time. Barloque has an extensive sewer system that connects to Jasper's sewers.
- Cor Noth - A city located centrally in the Meridian world, Cor Noth's claim to fame comes from the weapon master Rook. Players who want to learn how to fight with weapons study under Rook's expert blade.
- Marion - A city in the middle of the forest. The wise man Ran'er Hoth protects Marion with a Shal'ille spell preventing PVP conflict within the perimiter. The Shal'ille temple is just north of Marion.
- Jasper - A mining city in the mountains. Jasper is one of three cities that has a bank where players can deposit and withdraw their shillings. Jonas D'Accor and his faction of rebels took up residence in Pietro's Wicked Brew shop.
- Ko'Catan - Meridian's largest city added in the Revelation expansion. Ko'Catan is located on "The Island". The residents of Ko'Catan have created a bank and vault that does not interact with the banks and vault on the mainland. Ko'Caten sells reagents not found anywhere else in Meridian.
- Castle Victoria - A castle haunted by the ghost of the old king and his undead minions. Vic' is a great spot for seasoned players to prove their greatness.
- Brax - Added in the Renaissance update, Brax features the highest level zones for players to explore. Almost completely dark, it's unwise to go to Brax without a torch or a light spell. A variety of skeletons and worms patrol the grounds of Brax that drop the rare blue dragon scale reagents. Brax is where players wishing to become Necromancers or Hunters go to attain their symbol.
Meridian's advancement system is use-based; That is, the more a player used a skill or spell, the more proficient in it they would become. Players could advance a spell or skill to a maximum of 99%.
Each school is divided up into 6 levels. Players must show enough progression in the prior level in order to purchase the next level of spells. The more spells and skills a player had, the stricter the requirement. Have a high intelligence allowed players to purchase skills and spells at a lower prerequisite requirement.
- Weaponcraft - Taught by Rook in Cor Noth, the school of Weaponcraft teaches proficiencies in blades, axes, hammers, maces, hand-to-hand combat. It is also possible to learn Weaponcraft skills for ranged bow and arrow proficiency in Ko'Catan.
- Kraanan - Taught by Priestess Qerti'nya, Kraanan is a school of magical protections and enhancements. It also teaches anti-magic spells, nearly essential for any warrior.
- Faren - Taught by Priestess Tenuv'vyal, Faren is a school of the elements. Fire, Ice and Electrical spells, both up close and at a range can cause massive amounts of damage. Faren also teachs the ability to cause earthquakes.
- Shal'ille - Taught by Priestess Xiana, Shal'ille is a the holy school of Meridian, featuring many healing and undead turning spells. Shal'ille's truce spell causes a zone-wide cease fire, at least until it gets dispelled, and the dazzle spell blinds an enemy with holy light for several seconds. Shal'ille spells require karma equal to 10x <level of spell> in order to cast. If a player dips below that karma limit, the spell is not cast-able.
- Qor - Taught by Priestess Zuxana, Qor is the unholy school of Meridian. Qor teachs the ability to hold an enemy in place for several seconds and to blind an enemy form seeing for even longer. Qor mages can also cast vampiric spells, causing a temporary boost in the mage's hitpoints. Qor spells require negative karma equal to -10x <level of spell>. If a player raises their karma above that limit, the spell is not castable.
- Riija - Taught by the Monk of Riija. Riija teaches magical illusions that can cause players to believe they're being attacked or summon magical illusions that fight for the mage. To get to the temple of Riija, players must complete a long quest acquiring the Sword of Riija, which allows passage over an invisible bridge.
- Jala - Taught by the wandering bard Parrin Aragone, Jala disciples must equip a lute or other musical instrument in order to play the incantations. Most Jala spells effect the entire zone, including the fun Jig spell which causes everyone in the zone to stop fighting temporarily and dance.