|Released:||June 27, 2001|
Anarchy Online is an online role playing video game published by Funcom, known for its The Longest Journey, Dreamfall, and Age of Conan titles. Development of the science fiction themed game was led by project director Gaute Godager and story developer Ragnar Tørnquist at a time when most role playing games made use of the more common fantasy setting.
As a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), players log on to a virtual world that persists indefinitely with or without player interaction. Players create unique characters that they improve by killing enemies, collecting resources, fighting each other, and various other activities. The game's ongoing storyline takes place on the fictional planet Rubi-Ka, and its extra-dimensional twin.
After Anarchy Onlines release in June 2001, a number of server-stability and registration issues negatively affected public perception of the game.  Those problems prevented many customers from registering or accessing content for several weeks afterward. The game and its expansions packs have since received praise from most reviewers, not least the Shadowlands expansion which was awarded with several Editor's Choice awards. 
The gameplay of Anarchy Online is based on the same features as many of its predecessors in the MMORPG genre of games. Players assume the roles of newly arrived colonists to planet Rubi-Ka where they create unique virtual characters based on two genders, four species, and 14 different professions such as Agent or Doctor. They then choose to align themselves with either the Omni-Tek corporation, the rebel Clans, or to remain neutral. The game does not require players to follow a rigid linear style of gameplay, and there is no specific goal that must be realized to win. Instead, the general objective is to continually improve the abilities of characters by acquiring items and killing enemies. The status of any one character is measured in 220 consecutive "levels" reached as experience points which are earned in a variety of ways. The final 20 levels, known as "shadow levels", were introduced with the Shadowlands expansion pack and require the player to permanently commit to the side they chose earlier.
As players earn experience and gain levels, they are able to increase the skills of their characters through the game's three distinct skill systems. The first base system awards characters with a number of points after reaching each new level. These points are spent to improve skills of their choice. Although many are intended for particular professions, none of the 83 available skills are denied outright to any character. "Perks" are a second skill system introduced with the Shadowlands and Alien Invasion expansions. Perk points are rewarded to the player at specific milestones during their progression. They are chosen from tiered groups which augment specific types of base skills. Research, the third system, was introduced with the Lost Eden expansion. Players may opt to designate a percentage of their earned experience toward either personal or game-wide research projects. Augmented base skills and abilities are rewarded as research projects are completed.
A variety of items can be acquired, at cost or by effort, to further improve characters. Each character has a number of slots representing areas of the body, such as "Left-Arm" and "Head," in which items can be worn. The minimum skill requirements must be met to equip any given item. In addition to common items types like "armor" and "weapons," the game also provides slots for "nano controller units" and "implants." Nano controller units act as a finite pool for players to store skill bonuses in. The more units characters have, the more powerful bonuses that they can make use of. Implants are items worn "under the skin" that give skill bonuses and in some cases new abilities. The slots available for implants are generally the same as for regular armor.
Players can take part in the game's content either alone, in small temporary teams, as part of a formal organization, or any combination of the three. Organizations are semi-permanent groups, similar to clans in other multi-player games, where players band together for their mutual benefit. The creator and leader of the organization chooses its name, and the governing style used to delegate privileges within such as feudalism, monarchy, departmental, etc. Organizations may also purchase city plots located throughout the game world and place prefabricated buildings on them. These buildings offer a wide range of benefits including skill bonuses, ease of transportation, role-playing venues, launching orbital attacks for use in mass-pvp, and personal automated shops to help members sell items more easily. Non-members can use the "Global Market Search" interface as an in-game search engine for these shop buildings, finding items marked for sale by others.
In addition to killing the variety of enemies found in almost every region of the game world, players also attempt quests or missions to gain experience. Missions are indoor collections of enemies generated dynamically on-demand by the player with options such as how difficult it will be, which tactics players prefer to use, and whether enemies are more likely to be humanoid or creatures. Other more difficult objectives such as raids are designed to require the cooperation of large groups of players to complete. These often involve completing an objective based on past experience, or by involving enough players to succeed by brute force. Members of an organization that own a city plot may also initiate on-demand raids inside their city. The difficulty of these raids is determined dynamically by the game based on the players who initiate it. Missions, as well as some raids and other content, are "instanced" meaning that once a group initiates the content, no other players may interrupt them.
Fighting between players is controlled by the use of "supression gas". Certain zones are assigned a certain level of supression gas that can enable players to engage in player-versus-player (pvp) combat. In zones that contain 100% supression gas nobody can attack anybody else. In 75% gas (the most common level) fighting is allowed by requesting a duel or becoming pvp "flagged" (so-called because the player's name becomes enclosed by a double **asterisk** flag). Pvp flags are temporarily gained by either attacking another pvp flagged player or by attacking certain non-player characters (NPCs) such as guards. In 25% gas it is possible to attack anybody that is within your level range. Lower levels of gas exist but they do not affect general pvp combat. Various levels of gas can be found at "Land Control Areas" which are small areas of land all over the planet in which organizations can fight for the right to build "towers". These towers give skill bonuses to all members of the victorious organization. The number of fields is limited, which encourages groups to fight the incumbent owner for control.  It is not necessary to be a member of either the attacking or defending organization to take part in the battle. As most organizations build alliances with other organizations this can often lead to a great many players involved in a single battle. Another venue for players to fight each other are the battle-stations, a series of enclosed games that take place between Omni-Tek and the Clans. Each side fights to capture and hold points on a map which increase their score until the winning score is reached. The Lost Eden expansion pack, advertised to enhance combat between players, provides several mechs and other heavy weapons that can be piloted. These vehicles are allowed in most areas, although they are specifically designed for combat on land control areas and the battle-stations. Anarchy Online enforces a limit on the range on levels in which one player may attack another because of the relatively large difference between abilities at different levels.
Day-to-day administration of the game is performed by paid employees known as "Genetic Manipulators"; which are analogous to Game Masters in other online games. This staff is supplemented by an official group of volunteer players named Advisors of Rubi-Ka (ARK). Advisors help administrators answer problem reports in-game, provide new player orientation, and help coordinate both official and player-run events.
Anarchy Onlines plot revolves around the fight to control the fictional planet Rubi-Ka. Its original four year storyline was written and later directed by Ragnar Tørnquist, who also developed the stories for Funcom's The Longest Journey and Dreamfall titles. It was designed to be played out as a series of in-game events lasting from 2001 until 2005.
According to a description on the game's official website, hyper-corporation Omni-Tek was granted a one thousand year lease to the desert planet on Jan 01, 28708, shortly after its discovery. It was a seemingly useless arid landscape far from civilization until the discovery of the mineral notum. That mineral's properties led to major leaps forward in nanotechnology that made possible the large-scale manipulation of matter, energy, and even resurrection from death. The first five hundred years of Omni-Tek's unfettered control of Rubi-Ka were marked with an exemplary worker treatment record, but as time passed the company's policies degraded into near totalitarianism. It was then that a significant number of poorly treated colonists rebelled and began to trade stolen notum to a rival corporation. These rebel groups, collectively calling themselves the Clans, fought a series of wars with Omni-Tek in the centuries leading up to the in-game timeline.
After the game's release, Tørnquist published his short fiction novel Prophet Without Honor (Anarchy Online Book 1) that serves as a historical primer. The story has since been extended beyond its original conclusion, but a second book was never written.
Role-players often participated in and influenced the outcome of the story during the first four years. This is evidenced in a New York Times article, published in 2003, about a well-known player named Rick Stenlund. Stenlund used the game's message boards to organize an in-game rally in protest of a proposed change to gameplay. Administrators responded by preparing a role-play event with official characters and incorporating the rally into the official timeline.
Development for Anarchy Online started as early as 1995 at Funcom's Oslo, Norway studios.  The company at that time had not yet released its first major title The Longest Journey. In a 2007 interview, former project lead Gaute Godager said that Funcom's management wanted to put substantial resources into a game for the MMORPG market, which they believed would expand in the coming years. He stated that he and many other developers saw the idea as "crazy," and described the project as "ambitious" in most facets. Most online role playing games at that time including the two most successful, Ultima Online and EverQuest, were based on a more common role playing fantasy theme. Funcom made the official announcement of a new science-fiction themed game in 2000. By the time it was released, over 70 developers were reportedly employed to the project.
Anarchy Onlines servers officially opened on June 27, 2001 after a public beta test that lasted several weeks. In its first month online the game was affected by many stability, registration, and billing issues. Customers said that they were unable to register using product keys provided with the installation discs. Others were accidentally billed the registration fee twice, although they were never charged for the second bill. Players were unable to access large portions of the game's content once logged in, as servers were routinely out of service. Funcom later announced that no customers would be billed for play time until the issues were resolved. Most problems were fixed by the end of the month, and by the second quarter of 2002 the number of subscription began to rise again, reportedly reaching 150,000.
Anarchy Online has gone on to become one of the longest-running MMORPGs on the market despite its early troubles. As the market grows, it has been recognized as a standard setting game because of its visual complexity at the time, depth of gameplay, size of the game world, and customer service among other things.   Five expansions have since been published that customers can buy to extend the original game: The Notum Wars (2002), Shadowlands (2003), Alien Invasion (2004), Lost Eden (2006) and Legacy of the Xan (2009). Periodic free updates are also released which fix bugs, add features, and release new content. Funcom issued a press statement on the 7 year anniversary of Anarchy Onlines release in 2008, along with an announcement that an improved version of the game's engine is currently being built. The company says that the new engine, based on the OGRE 1.6 engine, will provide "modern looking" visuals and support for Direct X 9. On November 21, 2008 Game Director Colin "Means" Cragg said in a news update that it would not be available until summer 2009, although no official release date has been announced. 
Anarchy Onlines unique proposed features such as the science fiction setting, large playable area, and dynamic missions created significant interest leading up to the release date. The game was one month away from launching when it made its second appearance at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in 2001, and several video game websites such as GameSpot had written articles about the game's development.  At the European Computer Trade Show that same year it was awarded Multiplayer Game of Show.
The game's launch problems had a strong negative effect with initial critics. Many larger video game websites, such as Gamespy, chose to wait a month or more before publishing a formal review, and the release is often briefly mentioned in later reviews of the game as a juxtaposition.  It went on to be received favorably from most reviewers, averaging a 7.6 out of 10 from GameSpy, GameSpot, and IGN. Caryn Law of GameSpy called it "a promising game with some big technical flaws." IGN described it as "a brilliant, engaging, profound MMORPG," but they added it came with "atrocious technical problems." PC Gamer magazine awarded it with Best Massively Multiplayer Game and described it as "the next great MMORPG."
Anarchy Onlines four published expansion packs were reviewed favorably, although not without some criticisms. The Shadowlands expansion was the most critically acclaimed by far, winning several Editor's Choice Awards from IGN, CNet, GameSpot, GameSpy and others after its release in 2003. Critics applauded the size and scope of it, such as Andrew Park of GameSpot who called it "absolutely enormous." Craig "Silirrion" Morrison of IGN (who would later become game director of Anarchy Online) praised the artistic style of the six new themed areas calling them "visually stunning." Micheal Lafferty of GameZone wrote that it "has depth in spite of its linear nature." The Alien Invasion expansion, released in 2004, did not receive the same abundance of praise as its predecessor, although most scores were above 7 out of 10. The new content it introduced, in critic's eyes, was not designed for new players. GameZone wrote, "...this is definitely targeted toward in-game organizations." They went on to say that it "certainly brings new depth to the title." Most popular gaming websites did not review the Lost Eden expansion released in 2005. The expansion's content itself was well received, but critics pointed to the game's aging interface and visuals compared to newer titles. Sarah Borger of Games Radar wrote that it "make[s] the world hard to interact with," but she went on to acclaim the new features."
Anarchy Online uses a variation of the industry-standard Pay to Play business model. Customers must buy one month of access to the game for a flat rate, or multiple months at a discounted rate. The subscription model is broken down into three tiers. Users have the option of paying to play all of the game's expansions, paying to play only the Shadowlands expansion, or playing only the original game for free.
Funcom began offering the game's original content including the Notum Wars booster pack for free on December 15, 2004.  In exchange, players are shown in-game advertisements provided by Massive Incorporated. Images and videos are shown on static billboards placed in high traffic areas of the game. Paying customers have the option to replace these ads with ones for fictitious game-world products. The Free Play Program was originally advertised to last one year, but Funcom has extended the deadline every year since then as of 2008. Former game director Craig Morrison said in a 2008 interview that "it’s been a vital part of the success of the game." These free players, known colloquially as "froobs" (free noobs or newbies), have become so common that Funcom incorporated the phrase into the game as a wearable t-shirt. Other online games have since offered indefinite free play with restricted content.