I just kind of happened upon this site last night, and I have to admit to being fairly shocked. It's quite amazing, though not totally unsurprising, that such a dedicated group of players all managed to find their way here. I played this game for many nights and I met countless people I considered to be friends here. I have never come across a similar community, and it seems like I'm not the only one.
I spent more time than I should have going through various posts here, then thinking about...stuff. I see the there have been numerous starts and stops, and I'm not entirely sure where things stand at the moment. They seem to have settled down a bit, but perhaps it's time to change that.
Unfortunately, I have no experience in programming. I do, however, have some experience in project management. I wasn't able to find many details about the various projects which were attempted, so I don't know what has and has not been done. With that in mind, I'd like to offer a different perspective on how to tackle this project and bring the game that we all know and love back to its rightful place.
I'll try to keep this relatively brief, but will happily provide more details, should there be interest.
The ideal way of looking at this project is as a series of smaller goals, which will be combined to produce a larger end result. Developing an entire game is a huge undertaking, which can easily and quickly lead to becoming overwhelmed, especially when setbacks arise. Breaking the process down helps to address some of that, while also providing a small amount of insulation against having to constantly restart the project from the beginning.
1. Game Design: This includes many things which are probably already in place, for the most part, although I think it's still worth mentioning for the sake of being thorough. Anything related to how the game works belongs in this category. Some examples include game rules, spirits, events/migrations, and storylines. It also includes other aspects of the game, like artwork (for both spirits and maps), the welcome screen, and the layout of the game (both the chat interface and the gameplay interface).
While many of these things already exist, some may require updating, specifically the game and chat interfaces. Before even considering actual development, basic aspects, like the layout, need to be hashed out. Each of these categories should have their own subsection, so they can be addressed in detail. After the layouts have been decided upon, the next phase(s) can begin.
2. Front End Development: Front end development includes the actual coding of everything that players will see. The chat interface. The map interface. The icons for spirits and castles.
3. Back End Development: This includes the coding of everything that will make the game run; everything that isn't included in front end development. The database of spirits and code that makes interaction of spirits work.
4. Talent Acquisition: While a developer is needed to write the code, I think more than that is needed. What about updating artwork? Creating storylines for events? Designing new spirits? Obviously, a developer is the most important piece, but in order for the game to truly be experienced the way it was designed, other aspects need to be considered.
4.1. Use your current playerbase: While I don't want to speak for anyone else, I saw many people offering to help, in whatever way they can. I know I am. Allow the current playerbase to use their skill sets to help move the game forward. Are there players who are artistic? Good with sound/music? Web design/development? Find out and include them in the revitalization of the game. Many games have been funded by players, but I'm unaware of any that had players make major contributions to the actual development. This can further set the game apart from everything else that's out there and serve as proof of exactly how loved it is by those who were lucky enough to find it years ago.
4.2. As previously mentioned, a developer is the most important piece of the puzzle. I would certainly suggest having a professional take care of this. I know that freelancer.com has been mentioned before, and I really do think that's the way to go. Maybe not freelancer.com, specifically, but a site similar to that (and there are many). Getting the right developer is the most important thing, and with enough patience, I don't see why it can't be accomplished.
5. Funding: Funds are always an issue. Hiring a development is going to be a significant cost. I won't even begin to guess at what the cost will be, because it depends on a number of factors, including exactly what needs to be done. Just coming up with a ballpark figure will require a good amount of research, but will be worth the effort.
5.1. Kickstarter: I know this has been mentioned before, and I fully understand why. Kickstarter is an amazing platform and has allowed so many great projects to get off the ground. The best thing about Kickstarter is that you can provide incentives to donors. These incentives can be anything from special maps or spirits named after a donor to being allowed to select which Tournament set is played to being granted an additional population reset. Find out what your playerbasee would like, and offer it to them (within reason). I'm sure the ideas for potential incentives will come pouring in.
6. Communication: Communication always seems to be incredibly difficult. Providing a balance between information and tempering excitement. People generally try to avoid giving out bad news, but there are going to be setbacks, and keeping your playerbase informed of what's going on, good or bad, is an integral part of ensuring that they remain invested in the progression of the project. At the same time, it's also important to be realistic and not get hopes up, too high, based on small goals being met. Just finding a developer is a great reason to get excited, but it isn't a reason to declare the game to be back. It's a long road, filled with many steps and obstacles, which is all the more reason to communicate, fully, every step of the way.