Culture & Community Category

The softer, gentler side of MMORPG life. [Follow this category’s RSS feed]

Massively Overthinking: Are MMORPG players a minority in their own genre?

Deep in the comments of the MMOs-vs.-survival-sandboxes thread from last week, reader miol_ produced a beautiful comment about how MMO players have become a minority in their own genre, which he then expounded upon for us in this provocative email.

“I’ve reached the opinion, that since the launch of WoW and its clones, the ‘original’ MMO-playerbase became a minority in their own genre. Before, we were but hundreds of thousands of MMO players, but then came Blizzard with WoW and its legions of fans in the dozen of millions at its peak, starting to dictate what the new success of MMOs should look like. Even if we others tried to vote with our wallet and feet, we became a minority, having only a fraction of our initial influence, while many devs tried desperately time and again to find ways to get at least a portion of the new Blizzard playerbase.

“Am I wrong with that perception of history? Am I totally missing something? Or are ‘we’ are slowly becoming a majority again, now that WoW and its clones are seeing steadily declining numbers (instead of us winning more players to ‘our side’)? How do we lobby better for ‘our cause’? Or can we only wait and see, until the genre is small enough again? Or is it too late? Have we ourselves grown too far apart into our even more niche corners of personal taste since SWG, while production costs and our demands for production value have skyrocketed at the same time? How could we come closer again?”

Let’s tackle miol_’s questions in this week’s Massively Overthinking.

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Revelation Online invites you to visit the Immortal Annex

The Immortal Annex in Revelation Online is a place of boundless learning, a faction devoted simply to studying, researching, learning, and never actually going out to get a job. It’s an undeclared college major’s dream locale, and it’s also the latest spot being highlighted by the game as the place to go. Not just for Rush Week and the weekly keggers, but for huge amounts of untapped knowledge and the usual mechanics of raising your esteem with a faction.

Secret skills are available to those who take the time necessary to really study the lore lining its halls, while the area has attracted several merchants who happily sell powerful gewgaws to anyone with the Annex’s best interests at heart. It’s a neat place to be if you want to learn more, and so perhaps you’re overdue for a trip back to school. And hey, if you’re already in your seventh year of an undeclared major and still think pizza is the ultimate breakfast food, it’ll feel like coming home. Maybe.

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Choose My Adventure: Failure to trade in Black Desert

Despite my best efforts, I walked away from my trading attempts in Black Desert having been wholly unsuccessful. I consider this a good thing, and it left me with a very positive impression of the mechanics involved, with maybe one exception.

This may sound weird and almost nonsensical, but additional context sheds some light on that statement. One of my repeated points which I harp on over and over is that I want systems to have complexity equal to the amount of time you’re expected to devote to them. If you want me to work hard at establishing trade routes, I want that system to be as complex as clearing out high-level dungeons or engaging in siege warfare.

In other words, it shouldn’t be something I can master or even do much more than brush against while I’m on a high-speed tour of the game and what it has to offer. And while I was a bit disappointed with the game’s gathering mechanics, the trading system seems to offer exactly what I wanted to see.

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Conan Exiles walks through the process of adding texture-rendering middleware late in development

The developers of Conan Exiles had a problem. The game was full of high-resolution textures to paint across the world, thus ensuring that rocks looked like rocks, trees looked like trees, and skin looked like slightly softer rocks. But the amount of required textures were also causing issues with video cards with only 2 GB of VRAM, and even 4 GB of VRAM could result in problems. So how could the team avoid turning the game into a blobby mess? That’s exactly what the latest development post is all about.

If you were hoping to read about some major new gameplay system coming to the game, we’re sorry to disappoint you, but this post does not end with the revelation that players can kill and harvest textures. But it is an interesting peek behind the scenes at a development element we rarely consider that has a large impact on the game as a whole. Check out the whole thing to learn how the game handles textures, and then hug a textured and non-blobby tree in the game. Then chop it down for lumber.

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Elite Dangerous’ community tool developers have gone on strike

Update: The strike has ended — see the end of the post for details.

Move over, voice actors guild: Elite Dangerous gamers are going on strike today. Specifically, it’s developers of a large number of Elite Dangerous third-party tools and websites, who have taken their services offline beginning today through Sunday, striking to attempt to force Frontier to better support them.

“Our third-party websites and tools are used on a daily basis by many tens of thousands of players, and they generate millions of pageviews every month. We believe that our tools greatly enhance the game playing experience, and yet we often feel that Frontier does not actively encourage the effort that goes into supporting their game with these tools. We believe they can and should improve on this situation by maintaining clear and open communication with the third-party developer community. There is currently no easy way for us to request features and support that will benefit the community as a whole, and there is often no warning from Frontier when a game update will alter or break existing APIs that we rely on. This places a significant extra burden on third-party tool makers to work around these issues and to fix our tools. Repeated requests for support and bug fixes are made, but there is frustration caused by an apparent lack of progress on those.”

The strikers have apologized for the inconvenience, but the timing couldn’t be worse for the players affected by the outages in light of the massive event planned this weekend, during which players will be participating in a roleplaying event whose outcome will affect the game’s upcoming novel.

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World of Warcraft’s Dog makes the journey from garrison to Dalaran

World of Warcraft garrisons these days are a sad, lonely place. They’re still there, of course, languishing on Draenor as a monument to yet another Blizzard feature introduced and abandoned in the span of a single expansion. Yet there might be a way to bring a small bit of garrisons over to Legion — if you have sharp enough eyes for it.

Players have discovered that there’s a pebble on the streets of Dalaran that can be used to retrieve an old friend. By taking this pebble back to your garrison and showing it to fan-favorite Dog, Dog will relocate to the pet shop in the floating mage city. How? Because Dog is magic, apparently. So woofy. Very travel.

Don’t believe us? There’s a video showing off this Easter egg after the jump!

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The Daily Grind: How many tries did it take you to get into your favorite MMOs?

I remember the first time I ever launched City of Heroes. I fired it up, made a character, started the early tutorial… got bored, rolled my eyes, sighed, and shut the game down. No, really. It actually wasn’t until my third go at the game that I really got into it, after several changes post-launch. And it’s not alone; while I talk about having played World of Warcraft right at launch, I actually stepped away from it for a while for a few months and only fell head-on into it for an unbroken period several months later.

Of course, as soon as I started playing Final Fantasy XI I was pretty well hooked, and my first go at Guild Wars got me into the game and committed to seeing it through. I was even one of the rare souls who stuck it out in Final Fantasy XIV before the relaunch. So sometimes the first try was what stuck for me… but sometimes it took a few goes before my favorite games actually hit home for me. So what about you? How many tries did it take you to get into your favorite MMOs? Which games just didn’t click for you until you were resubscribing for the second or third time, and which ones had you hooked right out of the gate?

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Battle Bards Episode 97: The sound of magic

“Magic can be ANYthing!”

The forces of magic run deep within MMORPGs, casting shadows of wonder wherever we look — and listen. In today’s show, Syl sparks a musical revolution as her fellow Bards struggle to rise to the challenge of defining what, exactly, constitutes a “magical” track and evokes that particular feeling. Did we nail it? You’ll have to join us for the journey to find out!

Battle Bards is a bi-weekly podcast that alternates between examining a single MMO’s soundtrack and exploring music tracks revolving around a theme. MOP’s Justin co-hosts with bloggers Steff and Syl. The cast is available on iTunes, Google Play, TuneInPocket CastsStitcher, and Player.FM.

Listen to Episode 97: The sound of magic (or download it) now:

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Leaderboard: Where do you draw the line between griefing and roleplaying?

On the Morrowind subreddit a few days ago, a player was recounting a particular roleplay-slash-griefing episode on a hardcore-roleplay Ultima Online emulator. The player explains that he spent months roleplaying as a bartender serving drinks to the adventurers he befriended. But he was actually planning something far more nefarious:

“For over a year I roleplayed with these people as a simple barman, pretended to be their friend and confidant, and then during a harvest festival where every player on our server was in attendance and I was [paid] to provide the food and drink… I poisoned every last morsel of food, every drop of drink, and after the [regent] delivered his speech and all of these fools raised their goblets for the toast and took that deadly sip, I stepped onto the stage and revealed what had happened. They [were] all going to die, and die they did. Now this was a permanent death server (hardcore RPers, mind you), and some had been playing those characters for 8 years, and there they all were, collapsed and dying. Soon they were all unconscious, as you could only die if you went unconscious three times in one day or if a certain psychotic bartender came and cut off your head… which I did to every player in our group of 38. They were all there, and unfortunately so was I.”

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Players purchase and revive defunct MMO Crowns of Power

An abandoned fantasy MMORPG might be getting a second lease on life thanks to its players, although the road ahead looks to be challenging.

Back in 2008, Rampid Interactive launched Crowns of Power, a MUD-inspired PvP MMO that was deeply focused on the theme of magic. While the game did have its followers, for some reason the game fell into disrepair and Rampid abandoned it in 2011. Now in 2017, one player purchased the title and is looking to repair and rebuild it for a future launch.

“We have officially purchased Crowns of Power,” the new owner posted on the site. “This is the first major step in bringing this game back to life, this isn’t just a remake; this IS the Crowns of Power we all know and love.”

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Popular World of Warcraft YouTuber passes away from cancer

On a sad note this week, a much-loved World of Warcraft YouTuber has passed away following a battle with a rare form of cancer.

In a video posted Monday, Hayven’s death was announced to the community. “Hayven passed away on the 18th of March, 2017, at 26 years old,” the video’s description says. “He was an inspiration to many and someone who cared immensely about his fans and community. Hayven had fought epithelioid sarcoma, a rare and severe form of cancer that usually affects teenagers and young adults.”

Hayven delivered an update about his cancer treatment back in January, saying that his health had taken a turn for the worse. His YouTube channel grew to over 55,000 subscribers and covered hundreds of videos dating all the way back to 2014, looking at the evolution of World of Warcraft over the years. Hugs go out to everyone in his family and community.

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Tamriel Infinium: Class changes are a bad reason to pan Elder Scrolls Online Morrowind

Elder Scrolls Online possesses a distinct flavor. I can honestly say that there is no other MMORPG like it. In fact, the whole Elder Scrolls series is unique. The only thing that probably comes close to matching it is the Fallout series, and since that’s made by the same developer, does that really count at all?

But I still know there are people who will still not like the new chapter for Elder Scrolls Online, Morrowind. Opinions abound, and I welcome them. But I also understand that you can be critical of something without pouring blind hate all over it. I appreciate it when people can have an honest, thought-filled discussion about why something doesn’t work for them. It’s kind of a journey of self-discovery, to be honest.

And that’s why I would like to talk about why some people are not going to like Morrowind. Specifically, I would like to talk about some of the more absurd reasons that people have been blowing up the hate on the forums about class changes. Although there might be a little bit of substance to what is being said, many of the underlying reasons are without merit.

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Perfect Ten: The City of Heroes basic Archetypes ranked

So it’s just about that time again – we’re remembering when City of Heroes launched and when it said goodbye. Which is a bit of a sad time, y’know? I loved that game. I still do. Is it my favorite game ever? Heck no, but the fact is that it was a good game, and I wish it were still around. I could, of course, just rewrite my last column when I was talking all about that game for this year… but that’s not how I do things.

No, this year I want to go a different route. At the time it closed down, the game had 10 normal archetypes, which were and were not classes; they were most cleanly classes rather than anything else, but a given archetype contained more variability than your average class in most MMOs. Yet leaving aside the epic Archetypes, we’ve got just the right number for this list format. So while we all know Crab Spiders would be at the first-place spot if we included those… out of the original basic archetypes, how do those rank up, worst to best?

Thus, that’s what we’re doing this year. Which archetypes were the most original, fun, and nifty, and which ones were the most boring? Which means this time we’re starting at 10, because I like countdowns.
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