Goodbye Dungeon Fighter: The Best MMO Ever Shuts Down

At 4:21 AM PST today, my copy of Dungeon Fighter Online spontaneously closed, never to open again. There was no fanfare, no final event, no goodbye message or even a “We are closing the servers now”. It just closed, four hours and 21 minutes late, as always.

Of course MMOs close every day so why does this one matter? Well, for me personally it was the best damn MMO ever made and three dreams come true in one game.

You see, Dungeon Fighter Online was originally released in Korea in 2005 as Dungeon & Fighter, an awkward portmanteau of Dungeons & Dragons and Street Fighter. It was created by a small company called Neople as sort of a more serious alternative to the then new and hot Maple Story. The original plan was just to throw together a game, run it for a year or two, and then let it fizzle out. It was meant to be a quick throw away MMO.

Instead it became an overnight success. Jam packed with players during the open beta, they delayed the full release to retool the game. They added more classes and greatly expanded the game to accommodate the newfound popularity.

The reason for it’s success was probably the brilliance of its concept: Dungeon & Fighter was an MMO beat ’em up. Using 2D graphics it was able to run on even the most low-end machines. The gameplay was fast-paced and fun and the combat surprisingly skill based. No other game like it existed at the time.

You see, unlike many entries in the beat ’em up genre, Dungeon & Fighter featured a massive movelist and a proper combo system. There are a few brawlers that have these features, but never to the same degree as Dungeon & Fighter. Couple that with the RPG elements inherent in an MMO and an ever expanding number of quests to undertake and you’ve got yourself a winner!

You see, this is how the game is three dreams come true for me as there were three separate things I really wanted that Dungeon & Fighter delivered on:

#1) An MMO With Action Combat

I hate the “click on enemy, wait until it falls over”-style of combat seen in 99% of the MMO genre. It’s abysmal. There is no interactivity! No game! Screw that! Give me action! Give me skill! Back in 2005 only PSO delivered on this and…well…it was basically closed then.

#2) A Beat ‘Em Up with a Move Set and Combos

Ever notice that a beat ’em up is basically a fighting game you play co-operatively instead of competitively? So why haven’t they evolved like fighters have? Why are so many just mindless button mashers? Where are the moves and the combo! Yes some games have a few of these, but they are ridiculously hard to find.

#3) A Beat ‘Em Up with Custom Characters

Even now that we can do good 3D beat ’em ups, they never have custom characters. Ever. For some stupid reason no one puts brawlers and customization together. Heck, even DFO’s own clones don’t manage to get this right! Every other beat ’em up MMO that has tried to follow in it’s footsteps features named characters with little to no customization! What the crap!

Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the game. Unfortunately, I had to wait five years.

You see, Neople was a small company that could barely keep up with the updates to the Korean version of the game. They had no global presence. As such we wouldn’t see Dungeon & Fighter until Neople merged with Nexon. Now that they have Nexon’s money and resources, the game could come to America! Now I could play Dungeon & Fighter, now renamed Dungeon Fighter Online.

However, a lot of things happened in those five years.

Around the same time as Dungeon Fighter’s launch, a similar game called Rusty Hearts also launched with cel-shaded 3D graphics. The charming 2D sprites of Dungeon Fighter were looking rather dated and other action MMOs were just starting to pop up. How is it that for the previous four years when I was starving for an action MMO, they didn’t exist! Then just as we get Dungeon Fighter, a bunch of them show up to steal DFO’s spotlight!

Not to mention many people were suffering from MMO fatigue. Many of my friends I wanted to get into the game instead curled up into a ball and began screaming “NO! NOT AGAIN! NOT AGAAAAAAIN!!!!!” as they had just gotten off World of Warcraft.

That is not an exaggeration eithter.

Also, Nexon did not handle the launch well. The US release was years behind the Korean one and in their infinite wisdom they decided to double the amount of EXP required to level-up in the U.S. release. The cash shop was near non-existant and when implemented they went with the idiotic “gacha system” of random avatar item acquisition instead of just letting us buy the clothes we wanted. These issues would later be fixed, but it was too little too late.

Especially because Nexon decided to cannibalize the game.

Dungeon Fighter Online did not see much promotion or advertisement as it was. However, just as the game was getting good, Nexon released Vindictus. Vindictus is a gorgeous looking 3D action MMO that quickly stole DFO’s thunder. Being a more in-house production, they promoted the crap out of it.

Still, Nexon did updated DFO frequently and we soon were only a year behind Korea. However, just as we were about to get the big “Season 3” update, they stopped. We went from monthly updates to nothing for months on end until finally Nexon revealed they were shutting the game down.

The theory is that the new update was just too expensive. It would have added anime cutscenes, full voice acting, a new class, and more. These things would cost more money than was worth it for what DFO was bringing in. The playerbase had stagnated without proper promotion and advertising. The fact of the matter was that Dungeon Fighter was not suited for a PC audience. Had it been a console game, it may have succeeded, but it wasn’t.

You see as much as I hate to divide people up into classes, PC Gamers and Console Gamers really do have different tastes. Console Gamers prefer something fast paced and visceral. Something that involves timing and reflexes. PC Gamers would prefer something slower, deeper, more complex and strategic. This has led to continual aggravation throughout the years. Every time I see what I precieve to be an awesome action game flop on PC, it’s usually because it is more console-centric in its design. Meanwhile whenever I see a deep simulation or strategy game flop on console, I know it would do better on PC.

Of course that isn’t even getting into the beast that is the hardcore MMO gamer. A depressing number of MMORPG fanatics really do want the game to play itself. They want to punch their timecards, click on the right things, and be the best player in the game. I have often seen these people act with disgust and disdain for MMOs that actually require players to actively attack enemies. The action MMO is, strangely, a niche genre and there’s really only room for one or two entries in it.

Oh DFO tried to go to consoles. Dungeon Fighter Live was released for XBox Live Arcade, but it was a joke. With only 3 classes, no customization, and no second class (meaning almost no skills), the game was utterly devoid of everything that made Dungeon Fighter so good. It was a hollow shell of the real deal and the fact that they charged $10 for less than what you could get for free is an outrage. Yet, more people were actively interested in it than the real thing.

So with that, Dungeon Fighter Online was to close at midnight on June 13th, 2013. I decided to log on one last time to watch them turn off the servers. Seems I wasn’t the only one as there was a huge crowd of players in the middle of town, all decked out in their best avatar gear. You could tell these were hardcore fans. At the stroke of midnight, they tried to all shout “I LOVE YOU DFO!” in unison. It…went about as well as you would expect.

ByeByeDFO_1

Of course, leave it to Nexon to screw even that up. It took them four hours and 21 minutes to actually close the servers. In the meantime, the players began to dwindle, all scratching their heads as to what was taking so long.

ByeByeDFO_2

Then, at 4:21 AM the game closed. No warning, no “we’re closing the servers now” message. The game just closed. In fact, looking at another player’s video, I think they actually had to manually boot every player. Ha!

Meanwhile Dungeon Fighter Online never even got out of Beta in Europe. The region locked nature of the game prevented many people from playing it at all. However, it is still going strong in Korea 8 years after it’s initial release. However, the creation of a new game from the same company (called Cyphers) may indicate the once mighty game’s popularity is dwindling.

This, my friends, is the real shame of an all-digital world. Dungeon Fighter was a revolutionary MMO unlike anything else on the market. While other action MMOs have appeared as have some great beat ’em ups, none have put the two together as well as DFO and with as much customization as this game had. It is a milestone in gaming and one we won’t be able to share with future generations.

The worst part of it all, however, is that Nexon owns Dungeon Fighter now. That means that unlike many MMOs that come back, like Audition Online or Grando Espada, chances are we’ll never see Dungeon Fighter in America again. The very thing that brought it here in the first place is its downfall.

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18 Comments on “Goodbye Dungeon Fighter: The Best MMO Ever Shuts Down”

  1. Sleepy Says:

    Damn, I didn’t even know about this. I wanted to start playing this game as soon as I bought my new gaming laptop, but I guess that’s not happening now. Can I still play the Korean Dungeon & Fighter or is it region locked?

    Also are there any action MMOs (preferably free-to-play) that you liked and are willing to recommend?

    • GEL Says:

      Korean DFO is hella region locked (you need a KSSN on top of a Korean IP). Japanese is somewhat possible to get into (just need a Japanese IP). I hear China is now the easiest to get into but dunno the exact details.

      As for action MMOs? I really haven’t found any I wanna stick with beyond PSO2 if it ever gets a US release. Rusty Hearts IS respectable but I really wonder how much longer it’s gonna run.

      There’s also a Chinese made MMO called Mystic Fighter Online that looks…pretty DFO-ish but it has no US release yet.

  2. RegalSin Says:

    Damn

  3. Billy Says:

    People were interested in XBLA DFO because DFO *was* a beat’em up. It seemed like a perfect fit for a console port. Plus, the XBLA version was going to have local multiplayer. On the surface, it should have been one of the best console beat’em ups released in years and a potential shot to the system for developers.

    But then the console port’s release date seemed lost in limbo. And it was only three characters. Etc… When it finally did come out, interest in DFO had already waned, and the console version was underwhelming. (I also think the gameplay in the console port was more sluggish. I remembered DFO as being a bit faster, even though I’d quit playing some time before the console port came out. My friends that had played PC DFO felt the same, that the XBLA version was sluggish. Maybe it was just the difference in starting over from the beginning, though.)

    As for Rusty Hearts… I ended up trying Rusty Hearts some time after leaving DFO. Rusty Hearts *was* interesting. But I might have quit playing it faster than DFO. I can’t even remember why. I generally don’t remember Rusty Hearts even existing, at least not until someone mentions it. And, unlike DFO, no one ever mentions it.

    • GEL Says:

      Oh indeed! I was excited for the console release too until I found out it was completely separate and sorely lacking in content.

      When I say it was easier to get people interested in that, I mean AFTER it came out and AFTER I told them it was crap. “Oh it’s not THAT bad! You’re just exaggerating! It’s the same game!”. They learned the hard way.

  4. Jiggi Says:

    Denjin Makai II/Guardians, man. If you want your 2D beatemup with an advanced combo system, expansive fighting game-style moveset, and huge roster, it’s been there since 1995.

    Capcom’s Dungeons & Dragons games are also conspicuously missing from this article, especially considering that the rerelease is out tomorrow.

    • GEL Says:

      Oh I am well aware of Denjin Makai II. Honestly MEANT to mention it! XD I think I did in the earlier angrier draft. But yes, Denjin Makai II is the best damn beat ’em up ever made to such a degree that I’d have to give it a 6 out of 5 for retroactively curb stomping the ENTIRE GENRE.

      And yes, I’m all in on some D&D. The only question is how many times I’m gonna buy it.

  5. RegalSin Says:

    Funny how a person could probably run Windows on a 360 and play DF on a 360 with PC players.

  6. AnonTwo Says:

    If i could offer my own reasoning based on why i personally didn’t play it…

    The game was something i ‘really’ wanted. I mean i tried to make it work, i tried to get friends to play it to make it work.

    But the UI is what killed me.

    -the resolution was too small for my computer
    -The lack of windowed mode made it difficult to navigate on my computer
    -The loader which is convoluted, slow, and made it a headache just opening the game.

    Lastly, the only thing that killed my interest in game: Stats

    Leveling itself is cool. You get new spells, new quests, that stuff…but the stats while sounding cool on paper, was poorly implemented in the dungeons. You enter a dungeon you’re too weak for, and you might have fun. After hours of kiting you finally defeat a great enemy….and then

    You come back later and beat them so fast you’re actually penalized. The game PUNISHES you for not being able to combo weak enemies.

    Dungeons are not revisited in a way that’s actually fun. And the thing is “That is one of the best parts of a beat em up”. Going through stages you’ve been in and just beating stuff up again. Who wants to go back to a dungeon and not even be presented a challenge?

    I didn’t like the idea of going from area 1 to area 2, and no longer being able to ‘enjoy’ area 1. Even King difficulties weren’t presenting a challenge, and nothing actually scaled well with character level.

    All you seemed to be able to do is go on. And if that’s the case, why not just play a non-RPG beat em up?

    So to reiterate, the reason i found myself quickly losing interest, and not being able to invite friends to this game:
    -The client itself is dated, difficult to use on a modern computer, slow, and requires effort just to load.
    -The game nullifies old content very quickly


  7. God damn man, seeing that first pic makes me almost cry. Everyone there for one final send off. I was there since the beginning (hell look at my avatar!) what a shame dfo is dead.

  8. James Says:

    All those surveys, just to get a cool pet. Wasted.

  9. Gordon Says:

    How sad, i really liked that game! :(

  10. DrkZero Says:

    i missed that game very much, i was seriously disappointed when i heard it shut down, at first i thought they was joking, so i went on the site myself and found out it was true, i was so hurt, cuz tht game really got my interest, i wish they put back dfo again it was really great
    right now i play elswords its man game i play now, mabingoi is ok pretty tough cuz u have to to way too much work, and pandora saga i kinda lost interest since i heard tht the russians hacked, dealing with gold so thts a major problem

  11. fenikkusu5 Says:

    You did a good job of summarizing but you missed a lot of the stuff Nexon did that dropped the player base. You got the marketing part which was big. I feel like Nexon was the one behind DFOs downfall in a more direct manner however. The marketing of DFO lasted for 1 month. In that month DFO had gotten enough players to soon overtake in-house games like Maplestory and this could not be allowed to happen. Thus, they cut marketing at this point completely and it just went down hill from there. This game is very PvP based as you can imagine from it’s mechanics and a lot of it’s player base (half or more) played it purely for that. Early in the games life they had a mass banning that wiped all high level PvPers off the game by banning them for “being bots”. This took out very few bots and a heck of a lot of the games devoted fans. They also had many updates that rather than making the game more fun would make the game less fun and take away from the fun of it as well as never getting updates right in terms of glitches. The light client, blitz bar and some intermittent things were a part of this. Furthermore they changed the exp curve shortly after lvl 70 cap was released in the wrong way. The way it was then, lvl 1-60 was just right but 60-70 way too hard and in need of adjustment. What they did was change the whole 1-70 to be easier taking the challenge out of the game and making it only fun in the end game or PvP. They also had horrible customer interaction. They were very fake when giving updates, barely communicated with the community and never answered their support channel (until 5-12 months later with a copy paste answer like try and restart your computer even tho you clearly stated that you did in your ticket). Much of the end game stuff was bugged, nerfed and/or crippled too such as OV and the Tournament style area that I forgot the name of. Also Nexon was very overpriced in their cash shop. It cost way too much to get something necessary unlike in games like Rusty Hearts and Neverwinter today. For example, 20+ dollars for a skill reset and 30 dollars for a new avatar set are not micro-transactions yet people still bought which should say Alot about what players were willing to go through for them. They later fixed this but that was in one of the last few updates so it was too late. Also inaccurate server maintenance, many “emergency maintenances” especially after any major update and each maintenance always broke two features for every one fixed. Finally, I believe DFO shutting down because they were not making enough money was a lie and that it was rather because they saw just how unqualified they were for the job and how badly they messed up with it and so they decided to shut it down “cause it’s too hard and we can’t do it” with the one exception that killed it being “if we can’t do it, no one can or will”.
    On a side note another thing that made DFO amazing was the modding capabilities. As many games do, it had the capability of graphic or audio client side mods. It was precisely because it was 2D and not 3D that this was remarkable because you could very easily mod anything to anything and have fun with it. Recolours or whole sprite changes. You could create your own custom avatars or change a summon to a different sprite like one mod I made of Kenpachi Zaraki as the Necro’s summon (forgot his name, big guy with a sword for anyone who remembers) or making the berzerkers blood effects into a bleach style getsuga tensho. The mods were great and added a whole other level and you felt in control of your customization in a way that most 3D MMOs cannot. Also the skill builds had many viable options unlike most where there is one superior route and others that pale in comparison. The skills were so balanced that you could make your final build many different things and get the same power output for your playstyle. That’s not to say that you didn’t have to think about your build but most of my characters had seemingly controversial builds and worked just as well if not better than the standard builds. The dungeons were fun and quick enough that you could fit one into a busy schedule and not be held for too long. However, one of their best features were their social features. I don’t know how they did it but Nexon or Neople or both found the perfect MMO social system. This game was like an online chatroom and I know ALOT of players that came on just to talk to friends and socialize. I made many good friends which I brought with me from DFO and would log on on busy school days just like MSN (its a pity that that’s gone too). To be honest one huge reason I stuck to DFO was the social aspect and the sad thing is more people would have too if they had enough people and guilds that you could make parties, friends, and guilds if and when you wanted. And the skill effects man! Those were amazing! They were crisp, just flashy enough, fun to use and so well done. Had their own style and I remember one time when I came back to DFO trying a few other games it was specifically because I missed one skill effect (Ghost Orb). I have never had any game do that before. Just one skill bringing me back to this amazing game. Lots of classes too each with many options of building and different focusses. Great lore and backstory and aside from some of the newer quests the quests made sense and were fun. The whole graphic feel was great too. In a world that wants 3D and 3D Realism this game offered a stylised 2D Art style and nice art feel and aesthetic.
    There’s much more like the NPCs, Maps and items but I think I’ll end this here. This game was gem in a world full of clones and coal but unfortunately the miner discarded it mistaking it for another piece of coal. Sorry for any errors as I wrote this after just waking up. I hope to play DFO again whether from cDnF or DFO coming back tho I have little hope for the second one. Tho I will say if Nexon did do that they would gain a lot of respect and a lot good views as people would see the start of a change for the company as currently even their current players or apparently employees don’t respect them. Cheers and may we quest in Arad again!
    –Fenikkusu

    • Yora Says:

      Let’s not forget the MASS periods of accounts being hacked due to a Nexon account database leak. For about THREE MONTHS, there were new posts on the forums every single day of new people saying they’d been hacked, and that’s just from those who actually go to post on forums. In game, every goddamn day many of my friends were logging on to all their items and gold gone (including myself) and many also quit the game as a result. This isn’t something a company can just 100% avoid happening, but the way they handled it (not a word of recognition until 3 months of daily account hackings) was unimaginably bad.

      There were other atrocious events like this where Nexon brutalized the community with their complete shittery. I remember the many gory stabbings they took on the PvP community (I was an avid PvPer). Not dealing with bugs in PvP that THEIR local version client update caused for MONTHS (remember the lagbox, anyone?) comes to mind initially, which caused frusteration in the players who didn’t understand these bugs and took it as a representation of the game’s PvP. I’ve heard so many players express their distaste for PvP soley for reasons caused by Nexon’s shitty local version bugs themselves and never set foot in PvP again as a result.

      The shit doesn’t stop there, not by a long shot. Alas not like it matters now as the game “closed to due a lack of interest” – SUCH a goddamn joke, they murdered their own game with the way they handled it, hands down.


  12. […] can read how I felt in this article here. If you think I sound broken up, you should see some of my friends! You don’t really know […]


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