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Steam changes review scores to histograms in an effort to fight review bombing

If you’ve never heard of “review bombing” on Steam, we envy you. The process goes something like this: Something causes a certain group of users to get very angry about something related to game, which could be the actual content of the game, the content that’s not in the game, or something entirely outside of the game like takedown orders being filed against a streamer who won’t stop spewing racist hate speech. The users then flood the game’s Steam reviews with negative feedback, downvote all positive reviews, and upvote all negative reviews in an effort to reduce the game’s overall positive rating.

This is, needless to say, a bad thing. A new post from Valve explains the tools the team used to look at this trend and how to possibly solve the issues.

In short, Valve doesn’t necessarily want to lock people out from reviewing for a period of time, especially since there’s no hard-and-fast rule to follow and pretty much any review-bombed game reverts back to its original rating over time. However, the developers do want to make it clear when this is happening, and thus they’re changing how reviews are shown into a histogram displaying the trend over time. So if a game is receiving a usual stream of positive reviews and then a sudden negative spike, you can hopefully tell what’s going on, at least.

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The Daily Grind: How do you feel about IP-knockoff MMOs?

I have to admit to being a little on the fence about the whole Legends of Equestria project. On one hand, it looks like a spot-on My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic production sans the name, and I admire fans who see a need going unfulfilled and go to such lengths to do what the IP owners do not.

On the other hand, I have a slight allergy to knock-offs (I never liked getting Go-Bots in the 1980s when Transformers were available) and it concerns me that all this work might be squashed if the IP owner decides to raise a legal fuss about it. I guess I would much rather have official products rather than fanfiction-made-MMOs, but sometimes you don’t have the luxury of that choice.

How do you feel about IP-knockoff MMO projects? Are they worth pursuing and playing, or should it be “official or bust?”

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Ultima Online preps for 20th anniversary bash, updates players on enhanced client fixes

Ultima Online isn’t considered the progenitor of the MMORPG genre for nothing: It’s closing in on 20 years of operation next week, to be celebrated at a real-life event outside of Washington, DC, this very weekend, with Broadsword devs and original Origin devs, including Richard Garriott and Starr Long, in attendance.

“The team and I are working hard to finish up the second part of Publish 98 which includes Holiday gifts, new Artisan Festival Rewards and new Veteran Rewards as well as several bug fixes,” Broadsword Producer Bonnie “Mesanna” Armstrong writes in this month’s newsletter. Some of those fixes revolve around the enhanced client, the current version of the upgraded client that Armstrong has said half of the playerbase uses; specifically, performance during live, studio-run roleplay events is an issue, both in terms of graphical effects and loot.

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Gigantic outlines new penalties for players who leave mid-match

It’s a great feeling when a Gigantic match starts up, and then some of the other players just leave without warning in the middle. Wait, not great; what’s that other word that means the opposite of great? Crappy. That’s the one. And the folks behind the game know that. That’s why they’re rolling out new penalties for players who leave in the middle of a match, much harsher than they had been before when stability was still an issue.

Essentially, lockout time increases the more you leave matches in quick succession, with players also getting more time to reconnect in the event of an unexpected disconnection. After a week, your penalties for leaving are downgraded slightly, so if you got kicked off of the game for half an hour one week but don’t make a habit of leaving mid-match, you’ll rarely notice any penalties at all. With penalties starting at five minutes and extending up to a full day of being locked out of queue, players will hopefully want to stick out a match while also not being horribly penalized for stability or other real-life issues.

Source: Reddit

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MechWarrior Online integrates special events with its newest patch

If you played BattleTech around the table before jumping into MechWarrior Online, you’re probably familiar with the “IIc” designation attached to certain ‘Mechs, marking Inner Sphere designs adapted to serve as Clan ‘Mechs with significantly improved technology. Four new hero ‘Mechs have been added with the game’s latest patch, a quartet of Clan IIc machines for those who want the smooth tech of Clan engineering combined with the brutal lines of Inner Sphere machinery. Or for those who are just really attached to the Hunchback for whatever reason.

The big centerpiece of the patch, though, is a new special event system integrated into the game that will make special battles more immediately visible and relevant for players. It will support per-faction conflict more comprehensively while improving both Quick Play and Faction Play modes. Now you can just see your goals and your progress right from inside the game. And if you use those new hero ‘Mechs to take on some of these special events, well, there’s nothing wrong with that.

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Conan Exiles offers its first weekly progress report to fans

Last week, Conan Exiles players got an apology and a promise that Funcom would do a better job of communicating what was going on with the game’s development. This week… that promise has already gotten its first bit of follow-through with a weekly community letter discussing the state of the game on both Xbox One and PC along with upcoming projects. The former is being quickly brought up to parity with the PC version, while the latter is having stability fixes rolled out and new updates added for testing.

Further out, the team is working on a new fire-themed dungeon area for players to explore, new building pieces for housing, and an overhaul of the game’s combat system. It also explains the split between the various portions of the team, hopefully putting to bed the idea that the team is only working on one thing at any given time. Check out the full letter to get a sense of where the team is at and what’s next for survivors in the exiled lands.

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Monster Hunter: World will release worldwide on January 26, 2018

Good news for fans of hunting monsters today, as Monster Hunter: World has announced its release date as January 26th, 2018! The slightly less-good news is that’s just for the versions on Xbox One and PlayStation 4; players on PC will have to wait for an as-yet unspecified date. But it’s still happening, and a firm release date just makes it seem that much more likely in the near future.

You can also check out a new rather narrative trailer just below, showing off the landscapes and (most importantly) the monsters players will encounter in the game. Those of you who remember that a rather similar title pushed its own launch to 2018 might be looking forward to the battle for hearts and minds, but if you’re a stalwart Monster Hunter fan, you can be happy just to know that there are only a few short months before the game is open to the world. You can also check out our hands-on from E3 this year.

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Guild Wars 2’s Path of Fire is rejiggering crafting material storage to prevent hoarding, and fans are not happy

Material storage in Guild Wars 2 is a pretty important part of the game, especially if you have any interest in crafting. People who hold on to everything and/or craft a lot will not be happy with the announcement that some common materials will not be placed in material storage when Path of Fire launches.

The reasoning, according to ArenaNet, is that the studio saw players hoarding certain materials in Heart of Thorns that should have been common, but players were hoarding and selling small numbers at best, leading to some unbalanced costs on the trading post. The studio’s ostensible hope is that this change will encourage players to sell more and keep materials moving.

“With the arrival of Path of Fire, many new materials and components will be added to Material Storage,” says ArenaNet’s Gaile Gray. “But for a handful of items, we’ve specifically decided not to start with them in Material Storage, and instead to add them to the storage system later. Why? Well, at the launch of Heart of Thorns, we noticed a peculiar behavior: most players will deposit first when clearing their inventory, and then proceed to take actions like salvaging, opening chests, or, crucially, putting items on the Trading Post. This tended to mean that before a player will post an item on the Trading Post, they’ll wait to accrue a full stack in their Material Storage. During the early period of Heart of Thorns, this significantly contributed to the early expense of flax, which was abundantly available but, for the most part, was ‘warehoused’ in the banks of players.”

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Check out Elder Scrolls Online’s Clockwork City patch notes, new houses, and new cosmetics

Who doesn’t like some nice fresh patch notes? The Elder Scrolls Online is letting players into the Clockwork City, at least on the test server, and that means a fresh batch of patch notes for everyone.

Naturally, no one has even tried to mine out more information about the patch, except of course people have. The next offerings on the game’s crown store have been datamined, which is mostly a jaunty selection of hats. The new housing offerings have also been mined out: Pariah’s Pinnacle and The Observatory Prior, the former of which is an Orcish home and the latter of which is a clockwork-bedecked unit. There’s even a video guide to the new transmutation system available below, so you can take a gander at how things will change without hopping on the test server.

So it’s good news for players who want to test things out, and it’s also good news for players who don’t want to test but want to see what things look like while testing. Good news all around. Check it all out below.

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The Daily Grind: What one lesson do you wish MMO developers would learn?

MMORPG veteran Raph Koster went on a glorious Twitter tear last week, and I’m sure some of you can relate. In response to a thinkpiece on augmented reality, Koster argues that AR developers are worried about the wrong things – they’re worried about the tech and not putting sufficient effort or research into social systems.

“The essay skates over this in one paragraph saying, ‘It’s sort of like an MMO,’ but that’s wrong. It is an MMO, in every single way. Make no mistake, a mirror world is just an MMO server with phones as avatars. That means every social pattern you ever saw in an MMO will be present, from the WoW plagues to the client hacks to the parties killing monsters to debates over who owns what slice of virtual land to yes, harassment reporting and godlike gamemasters who effectively police the space with panopticon level awareness of history. Those servers will swallow activity, not just point clouds, to a degree beyond what people fear now with stuff like maps apps tracking your location.”

“Frankly, just about no AR people I have met grasp that this is what they are building,” he concludes, suggesting it’s a “terrifying” notion that developers aren’t learning from the lessons taught by games like “Habitat, LambdaMOO, Ultima Online, EVE Online, Second Life, [and] Habbo Hotel,” which already laid the groundwork for how virtual worlds work (and don’t) when players run amok.

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EVE Online thieves produce propaganda music video, auction off ill-gotten gains

If betrayals, heists, coups d’état, and threats aren’t enough to pique your interest in EVE Online’s metagame, maybe memes will do the trick.

As PCGN points out, EVE Online players are rushing to fill the vacuum left by last week’s theft of in-game property worth $20,000 (and subsequent banning by CCP of one of the victims for issuing multiple real-life threats to maim the perpetrator). Indeed, the winning cohort, if you want to call any of this “winning,” has now produced a taunting propaganda video set to Johnny Cash’s God’s Gonna Cut You Down and begun auctioning off some of the in-game property its members stole. I’d link to the pun thread as well, but as of press time, there are racist comments in it, so suffice it to say that EVE’s Reddit community has squeezed every imaginable hand- and mittens-related pun out of the whole mess.

Massively OP’s Brendan “Nyphur” Drain, who’s been covering the EVE universe for over a decade, has written extensively on this topic over the last week, discussing the particulars of this arm of the war, the fallout over the real-life threat, and most recently, the shift in what’s considered acceptable toxicity inside the game since its launch in 2003.

Source: YouTube via PCGN

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PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds breaks Steam’s concurrent user record

If you’ve spent the past few years playing games based on the title with the highest concurrent user count on Steam… well, you have an awful metric for what you play. But you’re about to be playing a new game, too. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has officially dethroned Dota 2 from the service’s all-time highest concurrent user count, beating the previous record by around 50,000 players with 1,342,857 players on the game at the same time.

The last-man-standing shooter launched about six months ago and has seen wild success on Steam, having already become the single most-played game on the service (the highest number of accumulated hours for all players). So for those of you already enjoying the game, it’s a feather in the title’s metaphorical cap, and for those of you who base your play decisions entirely up popularity metrics… well, here you go.

Source: Gamasutra; thanks to Steve for the tip!

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Wisdom of Nym: Final Fantasy XIV’s Stormblood dungeons in review

Have I really not talked about the dungeons of Stormblood yet? That’s unexpected. Usually I would have mentioned them by now, I talk about these things a lot. Yet here we are and I haven’t really given a deep look at any of the dungeons through the leveling experience up to the top. It is, frankly, a shocking realization, and it’s all the worse that I spent a lot of time thinking (and working on) columns on more esoteric elements of Final Fantasy XIV before remembering this obvious one.

So let’s correct this now and talk about these dungeons. The level range for things was adjusted after my initial preview, and we have a similar leveling arrangement to how things were in Heavensward, but I honestly like this batch more. Part of it is familiarity, sure, but I remember feeling like the first two dungeons in Heavensward were kind of clunkers even when they were new, compared to really enjoying the heck out of everything in Stormblood. Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t high points and low points, but… well, let’s just get to it, yes?

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