Whether they’re long dead or still running, private servers for MMOs are always a bit of a curse. Reverse-engineered servers cause all kinds of obscure trouble, and small communities leave once-bustling towns feeling like ghost towns. But in the case of the cult (certainly real) HitFlesh MMO, a fan-driven revival seems to be haunted by more than just netcode.
Developed by Virtual Archaeologist and teased during last week’s EEK3 presentation, HitFlesh is a single-player adventure through the remnants of a âstrange and ancient MMORPGâ put together by fans.
Despite the revealing name, the first half of our trailer sells some fantastic, upbeat music about lo-poly player characters, all grouped together under floating names and level icons. There’s a full character creator and a customizable interface, and it’s instantly recognizable to anyone who’s dived into Warhammer Online’s rebirth server or a slew of Warcraft clients run by janky fans over the years.
At least until the curtain goes up and things get bloody.
As you would expect from a HauntedPS1 game, HitFlesh quickly takes a bad turn. The characters disappear, the worlds turn into heaps of fleshy meat, and the rib cages descend from the rafters. But what excites me about HitFlesh is that the virtual archaeologist isn’t afraid of how online communities can be their own horrible beasts.
HitFlesh’s store page notes that the game contains references to sexual abuse, bullying, harassment, and male violence. These are items that could easily fall in shock value. But as someone who has spent a decade engulfed in MMOs, these communities can be faced with this kind of behavior, and the Virtual Archaeologist has great potential to deal with these very real horrors.
âAs individuals and game developers, we are unconditionally opposed to heteropatriarchal violence and alternative right-wing ideologies,â the developer writes. “We believe that video games and other forms of fiction are necessary to explore cultural and political imaginaries and can help dismantle naturalized toxic behaviors and structures.”
HitFlesh doesn’t have a release date at the moment, but there will be a demo to try on Itch soon. In the meantime, I highly recommend you check out No Players Online, a free short trip through the empty servers of a dead online FPS that accidentally spawned a sprawling ARPG.