Dark Sun Online: Crimson Sands is an early Massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) that was developed and published by Strategic Simulations, Inc. in 1996 for Windows 95. Dark Sun Online is based on the licensed Dark Sun campaign setting for the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons tabletop role-playing game. Dark Sun Online was one of the first fully graphical MMORPGs.
The game was originally commissioned for AT&T's proposed Interchange network, an intended competitor for AOL. Dark Sun Online was intended to be Interchange's competition for the original Neverwinter Nights, which ran on AOL at the time. Although AT&T withdrew from funding Dark Sun Online after Interchange was scrapped, SSI continued development on the game. The game was eventually released on the Total Entertainment Network (TEN). The Dark Sun Online servers were shut down in 1998 when TEN was discontinued. Total Entertainment Network was eventually purchased by Pogo.com and official support and development for Dark Sun Online was ceased.
The Dark Sun Online game engine was originally adapted from the same engine used by SSI's previous Dark Sun game, Dark Sun: Wake of the Ravager. Some sprites and sound files were borrowed from that game, its prequel (Dark Sun: Shattered Lands), and other games from SSI's parent company, Mindscape (namely Al-Qadim: The Genie's Curse and Thunderscape). Interaction between players was accomplished via a MUD-like chat interface, and combat was turn-based, with each player having a short timer on their turn. Dark Sun Online was one of the first fully graphical MMORPGs to feature a number of features popularized by later games like Ultima Online, such as nearly unrestricted player versus player combat. Due to the game's peer-to-peer structure, the game was susceptible to hacking by its players.
According to GameSpy, Dark Sun Online was "a well-intentioned experiment from SSI that just never got off the ground the way it could have".
Dark Sun Online: Crimson Sands Wikipedia