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"Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex - First Assault Online": A Dream Disconnected

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A failed attempt with too much time to introspect about self and other trivialities.

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Declared Defective

On December 6th, 2017, a game by the name of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex - First Assault Online was unplugged and terminated, much to the chagrin of its player-base, including myself.

The reason behind this action was the dissatisfaction the developers had for their own creation, stating that "continued development wasn’t going to help the game become what [they] hoped it would become." Speculation among the still loyal fan-base goes further into detail saying that factors such as low player-base and insufficient funds, either from in-game purchases and/or otherwise were the real reasons why this game received its untimely ending.

This is the story of a game that even in death, it's still alive through the people that are striving to bring it back.

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A Unique Niche

Developed by a South Korean group called Neople, its publishing was handled by Nexon. Inspired by the anime and manga series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, the game version titled GitS: SAC - First Assault Online, was developed using the Gamebryo engine, which according to user statements, proves itself lackluster in many cases. Apparently, the engine met better uses when applied to the making of RPG games presenting many instabilities when used for the incumbent game. The only benefit that I believe the engine brought to the game was displayed by way of visuals, that being one of the best traits of the game. Backed by an entire franchise, which itself had a loyal following, I assume the developers expected the game to have the same type of following transferred to the game, giving it a boost in popularity. Unfortunately, this wasn't the case as the popularity of the franchise stemmed mainly from within Asia, where the franchise was more renowned than other parts of the globe.

It isn't to say that it was completely ignored everywhere else, on the contrary, there were people playing and enjoying the game, but its player-base was relatively stagnant, having very few new players join the fray. This flow continued for the most part throughout the history of the game, but the fact that people kept playing it despite low numbers still amounted to the game being kept alive.

Players were dissatisfied with elements like game mechanics, hit registering, and other technical details, to care how popular the game was since the low numbers meant the game was building itself an incredibly active fan-base, but in spite of such facts, the game was considered a failure.

Irony has it that today, the game has a possibly bigger following than it had when it was active, many people finding the game before it got shut-down, which is unfortunate.

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A Personal Connection

The game itself managed to strike a chord with me from the moment I laid my eyes on it during its early phases when the game was available on Steam to be purchased. it was then made available for free, which was when I picked it up. When it comes to game-play and universe, the developers managed to bring the universe of the anime to the game with great detail, giving it life through the combat system and all its branching components such as weapons, characters, and customization, which for me was the icing on the cake.

Dynamically, the game was beyond satisfying to play, as interactions between enemies were complimented by the various characters and their unique abilities, specifically designed for use in a military setting. Presenting a complete array of weapons, it allowed players to approach the game from a multitude of directions such as stealth, sniping, and of course head-to-head massacre. Because it was built from the bottom-up being based on an already existing world, everything was sound and balanced, each component complementing the next, making it a smooth experience for the most part.

The game was known to possess two stages of life, primarily known as version 1.0 and version 2.0, which for many was reason to forfeit the game as it brought with it many changes, that for many meant a ruined experience. The first generation allowed the freedom to combine any character of the game with any weapon, giving way to maybe thousands of combinations when it came to character and weapon customization. An aspect that got demolished in version 2.0, when the developers implemented restrictions of weapon usage for certain characters, completely ruining the style of many players within the fan-base. I got lucky, as my character and the weapon I focused on were allowed to be paired, thus keeping me loyal to the game until the end. Despite the harsh move from the developers, many members compromised and continued playing the game, showing true loyalty.

The changes that 2.0 brought, made the game resemble other titles such as R6: Siege, Overwatch, and many others, which in my opinion had the opposite effect of what the developers actually wanted, reducing an already niche game to be drowned into an already saturated market of ability and weapon-specific, first-person shooters. In doing so, the developers concluded that the game was never going to reach the heights they desired, and thus pulled the plug, much to the dismay of myself and hundreds of others. Many say the game should have never received the update that 2.0 brought, but of course, opinions are mixed.

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A Dive Into Detail

Having started production in 2011, it had a very tumultuous life until its demise in 2017. It was run on multiple servers, separated based on geographical location, with the Japan section having its own set of servers. The location of the servers dictated the naming of each server as follows: America Empire East, America Empire West, European Union (Previously EU East and West in 1.0), Australia, South America, the European pair being merged with the drop of version 2.0.

The developers released the game as a closed beta on October 1st, 2015 and closed it on October 5th, 2015, which was then followed by an early access release within Valve's Steam on December 14th, 2015, which was around the time I discovered the game. The game never left early access, being rolled as a beta option even through 2.0, which instead of facilitating a worldwide release in 2017 caused the game to be brought to a halt indefinitely, depriving its fan-base of a much-loved pass-time.

The discontinuation process was deployed in two stages, the first one happening on November 29th, 2017 affecting Japan, and the second, which was announced on August 21st, affected the rest of the world, being brought to fruition on December 6th, 2017.

The Ghosts Live

Since it has been taken down, remnants of the game remain on Steam, as the game itself can be found within the libraries of former players. Despite being able to download the game, play-ability isn't an option as there are no servers to communicate with.

The developers have been constantly and politely asked to release the game over to its player-base, in order to use its raw materials to re-construct the game anew, but they are yet to show any will to listen to such demands. In spite of the reluctance displayed by the developers, the player-base has taken the problem in its own hands and has decided to bring the game back using resources that could be scavenged and recovered through various means, all of them being legal, of course.

Discussions between this group and the developers were had and the creation of this project was green-lit, under the condition that the game is named something other than its original name. The group can be found today on Discord, under the name Section 9. Anyone can join if they wish it, either to follow the development process and await the release, but more so if they can volunteer.

A purely altruistic endeavor, the game is being worked on by individuals that receive nothing in return, simply showing how much this game meant for those that played it, in an effort to breathe life back into a game that wasn't loved enough by its creators.

© 2020 Bogdan L