World War II Online

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World War II Online
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World War II Online

Developer(s) Cornered Rat Software
Publisher(s) Strategy First
Release date(s) June 2001
Mode(s) Multiplayer
Rating(s) ESRB: Teen
Platform(s) Windows, Mac

World War II Online is a massively multiplayer first-person shooter computer game that was released in June 2001. Set in World War II, it is a combined arms, online simulation set in a relentless, action-packed 3D environment where players can command and crew a variety of accurately modeled vehicles, naval vessels and aircraft and sling weapons to fight as foot soldiers with and against thousands of other gamers.

World War II Online is the first and still the only massively multiplayer first-person virtual battlefield that covers a scale map of Europe with accurate terrain modeling. It allows players to fight alongside British, French and German forces 24/7 in a persistent world in which character advancement and career paths provide an RPG layer and strategic systems are driven by player missions and command structures.



World War II Online (abbreviated WW2OL or WWIIOL) is continuously developed by Cornered Rat Software, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Playnet, Inc., which hosts the game servers. The development staff, who are affectionately known as "the Rats," includes members with experience developing World War II flight simulations such as WarBirds, Aces High, and Air Warrior.

A Rocky Start

After a lengthy closed beta stage, World War II Online went live on June 6, 2001. (The release was timed to coincide with the anniversary of the D-Day invasion.) It was a controversial and undeniably disastrous beginning for the game, as it was rushed out to stores while still largely in a "beta" state, due to financial problems at Strategy First the publisher, CRS did not want to release the game on the 6th of June. The most glaring indicator of its unfinished condition was that the boxed software required a 60 MB patch to be downloaded before it could be played online, as the developers worked furiously to complete features and fix bugs even after the CD "went gold".

The game, which requires a CD key to play, saw an unexpectedly high volume of sales during the first week. 3 days prior to the release, the co-location facility used by CRS went into bankruptcy. The new facility had a bad optical cable that caused the 10k player server cluster to drop players at the 1200 mark. It took 3 days and 2 Cisco Engineers to find this problem and more days to fix. Playnet's temporary solution to the problem was the set up multiple copies of the "game world" on different servers, spreading the load out across the servers. This solution lasted for several months before the developers finally worked out the server-side issues and were able to merge all the servers into a single game world.

However, despite the around-the-clock efforts of the tiny development staff, many of the features advertised on the game box were only very crudely implemented (and some not at all). This combined with the server outages resulted in a substantial loss of goodwill from the public for Playnet. Game boxes were returned to stores in large numbers, and others simply went unused.

Playnet, for its part, waived subscription fees for the first several months until the major problems with the game were resolved. This helped to retain many of the players, especially the long-term fans of the project, but it was not long before Playnet again saw financial problems. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in late 2001 to buy time while it cut costs, mainly through massive layoffs of its already-small staff.


World War II Online has received numerous industry press awards including GameSpy's 2001 Gamers' Choice Sim of the Year and IGN's 2001 Persistent World Game of the Year.

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