Andrew Ross

Andrew Ross usually covers E3, MOBAs, MMO-ish multiplayer games, and game related studies for Massively OP. He's a hardcore PvPer who delivered pizzas to shard defender supply runners in Asheron's Call's Shard of the Herald event, fried fish during Darkfall's World War 1 and 2, and killed many alliance members in World of Warcraft for picking "his" flowers. He is a terrible jungler, but can usually stay on the road in Mario Kart.

Niantic MMOARG Ingress plots a Magnus event series in California this weekend

While Pokemon GO is getting a new global eventIngress is getting a local event in the form of new Magnus events, starting with an event in Camp Navarro, California. It’s a bit of an odd location considering the campground’s official website promotes the idea that it’s not exactly known for having good cell phone service. Niantic will be providing that itself, but the event seems more like a kind of art project/tech retreat from the event description.

13MAGNUS, an original lore society that infiltrates other societies and splinters off (because the game’s lore can be a pretty detailed and difficult to navigate), is also a reference to a previous Ingress storyline that involved international live events that were more than simple PvP matches, but organized gatherings by Niantic that even involved actors. It seems Niantic is trying to up its immersion game by grounding things not in the virtual world but in the real world.

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Exploring TellTale’s Guardians of the Galaxy ‘crowd play’: A dual group dynamic

I have sort of an odd relationship with “story” in gaming. JRPGs really got me into gaming and inspired me to focus on my writing voice(s). Though the quality of narration in MMOs are just bad, some of my early experiences with the genre (particularly Asheron’s Call‘s GM driven story arcs that gave players a way to interact with lore as a group) opened up the possibility of group narratives, especially for those who roleplayed. In fact, as odd as it may sound, I think RP PvP in general showed me just how strong of a feature it can be for someone like me, from virtual Darkfall pirates trying to steal my boat to Star Wars: The Old Republic Jedi fighting for alignment while my bounty hunter simply struggles to make the most money while making the fewest enemies.

Still, sometimes we don’t want to go grind through 20 mobs to get to the next part of the story, or suffer through a raid dance to choose the fate of a character we’ve been interacting with solo. It’s one of the reasons I figure MJ and Larry’s Choose My Alignment is so popular: You still get that story vote without having to be a member of the actual group. It’s odd, being an older MMO player who still sometimes struggles with accepting solo play in MMOs, but the story aspect is the part I get. It’s actually the main thing that kept me in SWTOR.

But there are other options for this kind of play, primarily through TellTale Games and its Crowd Play feature and new game, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series. Don’t worry story fans, as I’ll keep this article spoiler free!

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The Soapbox: Why is Pokemon GO still a tech demo?

I’ve been a bit frustrated with Niantic lately. I love some of its ideas, but I watched someone else play Ingress prior to Pokemon GO’s release, and I noticed very similar problems between the two games after release — problems that the company should have noticed and corrected in its followup.

Recently I decided to try out the former. Both are totally unintuitive. You have to search the UI for the tutorials, though Ingress’ can be accessed only near objectives. You’re asked to join a faction sooner there than in PoGO and with no context beyond 2-3 sentences. The game throws jargon with little to no context at you throughout the tutorial, making it difficult to follow. I walked around, clicking things and used items that I don’t fully understand, not because I’m too lazy to read but because I wanted to understand a game without consulting google. I saw portals get taken without anyone around me as I stood by an objective near a government-restricted area where standing still longer than it takes to read “No Trespassing” could trigger security. I couldn’t get into it, not just because it was simple but because it was poorly designed.

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Pokemon Go shinies, promo codes, and trading

Pokemon GO recently ran a Water Festival to celebrate International Water Day on March 22, a holiday I hadn’t known existed in either America or Japan (though Niantic’s event was a bit early perhaps a better Thailand’s Water Festival/New Year, Songkran). As you’d expect, the event featured more water Pokemon, but it also finally introduced rare shiny color variants of Pokemon… or at least just Magikarp and Gyrados. Sadly, a tracker display issue and its supposed fix made it difficult for some players to catch Pokemon in general. Combined with the low odds of finding a shiny, like in the main series, fans had been worried that the end of the event meant the end of shinies. Not so.

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Pokemon Go: Japan’s snorlax event, gyms, PvP, and trading

Despite what I may think, Niantic is still calling Pokemon GO an MMO at GDC 2017.

Senior Product Manager Tatsuo Nomura referred to it as one while speaking with Polygon. Nomura also mentions that that when it launches, trading “won’t be through the internet,” and that while online trading might be seen by some as a way to potentially help rural players, the developers’ goal is more about potential distribution for regional Pokemon (such as North American Tauros or South American Heracross). You’ll need to be in close proximity to your trading partner, though don’t expect it until at least later this year, as the company is worried it may kill the game. The team is trying to improve the gameplay experience for rurals still, but no specifics were given.

Perhaps this is partially why company president John Hanke discussed the gym situation with Wired, and yes, Hanke mentions attempts to combat spoofers. Translations note that an overhaul of the gym system is the team’s “next step,” wanting to get more people into the gym scene and to have gyms focus on teamwork. Supposedly, legendaries will also be available later this year, as will player vs. player battles.

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The Soapbox: Pokemon Go Generation 2 still isn’t a real MMO

Pokemon GO Generation 2 is out now, and it feels a lot like an MMO expansion in a lot of ways: We have new features, we have new grinding mechanics, and (of course) the combat system’s been overhauled (twice, with the original change making dodging useless, the second possibly fixing the situation).

On the one hand, I’m excited as a Pokemon fan, especially since it’s a free update. On the other hand, I’m starting to think that Raph Koster’s famous comments on AR games being MMOs might be a bit off, at least in terms of POGO.
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Preview: Path of Exile reveals The Fall of Oriath

Path of Exile fans, today is the big day: Grinding Gear Games is officially unveiling your next expansion, dubbed The Fall of Oriath.

It turns out that the place your Exile called home before being banished is not only the main setting of this act but is going through some rough times. Even lowbies like yours truly who vaguely recall their origin story can get behind this act. We’re going home, dealing with civil unrest, and welcoming back some lost deities with sharp pointy objects or finger-wiggling destruction. And that’s literally just the beginning.

Read on for our preview of the expansion from last week’s press event, plus brand-new screenshots and the new trailer!

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First Impressions: Struggling to survive in Conan Exiles

I am no stranger to covering survival sandboxes for Massively OP. I wrestled with dinosaurs before ARK: Survival Evolved was a thing. I got kidnapped and tried to drown myself in a puddle, spent days building a glorified shack before hackers or server admins could destroy them, and got to better understanding of what it’s like to be an Asian gamer thanks to Valve’s social experiment. There have been some good memories for sure, but the cancelled games, broken promises, and fact that most of the genre is in an infinite non-launch state are just some of the reasons I’ve been losing faith in online, multiplayer survival games. I love the idea of PvP allowing for meaningful social gameplay, but in reality, I mostly experience only ganking. But without PvP, I generally get so bored of PvE that I run into the arms of a (J)RPG so I can get drama and permadeath in a finished product, often without kids screaming at me to stop moving and just die.

But here I am again: roped into another shot at the genre. I’m looking at pay-to-play Conan Exiles like a launch title, “early access” be damned!

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A Virginia gamer was shot and killed playing Pokemon Go last week

According to Chesapeake, Virginia, news, a 60-year-old resident was shot and killed by a security guard while playing Pokemon Go last week.

The victim, Jiansheng Chen, who reportedly played the game to bond with his grandchildren, spoke limited English, which may have contributed to what police investigators have characterized as a confrontation. His family owned a home in the neighborhood where the shooting occurred. The family attorney says he was likely training at a gym in his Virginian neighborhood.

The community association for the neighborhood says security guard patrols are contracted to be “unarmed,” not armed. Police confirmed the case is currently under investigation.

As a reminder, please stay safe when playing the game. Real world death is a thing with this game, and not just in America. Muggings happen, even to streamers. It’s especially difficult for some minorities to play. Stay safe, don’t enter dangerous areas, and despite design issues, try not to draw unwanted attention to yourself. Your life is more important than the game.

Source: WTKR 3 News

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Ten life lessons I learned from the Asheron’s Call series

As Asheron’s Call 1 & 2 are going offline shortly, I thought I might give it a final send-off with a list of things I learned from the series. Maybe it’s cheesy, but I really did grow up in Dereth. Some kids get their life lessons from sports, girl/boy scouts, farm life, church life, alien abduction camp life, and so on, but I learned a lot with the help of the AC series and the people I played with. I’ll focus on 10 life lessons learned from the Asheron’s Call series, but trust me, it’s more than that.

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In appreciation for post-apoc Dereth: The life and times of Asheron’s Call 2

On the left in the screenshot above is a windmill in the town of Cragstone in Asheron’s Call. On the right is, well, the same windmill, but in the ruins of Cragstone hundreds of years later in Asheron’s Call 2’s. The latter game’s post apocalyptic setting is quite fitting, all things considered. The sequel was a mechanical departure from the original in many ways, but built on the same lore fans still crave. Not all Asheron’s Call fans would come along for the ride, but the sequel did find fans who never touched the original. AC2 also is about to go offline twice, so, well, there’s that. But there is a reason a sequel was made, and I’d wager the reason it went offline has more to do with the game’s broken past than its innovations.

Join me today as I take a look back through the history and highlights of Asheron’s Call 2. (The original game was the subject of a similar piece earlier this week, so don’t miss that either.)

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In appreciation for Dereth: The life and times of Asheron’s Call

Imagine a game where magic was actually rare, complicated, and often underwhelming in terms of time vs. efficiency — a game where players actually needed to study a language to figure out how to casts spells and magic words were often kept secret.

Imagine a game with little to no fast travel, a game where you need to raise your jump skill in order to get into certain locations, where death meant losing your gear. Imagine a game where you might actually have to ask another player for help, not only retrieving your corpse full of lost items from a physical space, but to kill the monster that’d repeated gained levels as you futilely tried to do it yourself.

Imagine a game where quests start as rumors from barkeeps, scraps of paper found on corpses in the wild, or just something you stumbled on in a random dungeon; a game where lore knowledge was needed just to find a newly released quest; a game where the developers and game masters took control of lore characters and during monthly updates would interact with players to help guide them through the game world’s narrative.

Now realize that this game existed, exists. That game is Asheron’s Call, not just at launch but for months and even years afterward.

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Examining the potential for exercise and exploration in Pokemon GO

Just in time for your New Year’s resolution, we reported on how Pokemon Go was featured in a peer-reviewed study on getting people to move more. But truthfully, Pokemon and Nintendo have built exercise games several times in the past, and Niantic never advertises PoGO as an exercise game. It’s an ARG. In fact, the official site never mentions exercise, just exploring. That being said, we don’t really think of adventurers or explorers as being slugabeds. So what is PoGO doing with exploration that gets people to exercise, and is it really that effective?

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