Culture & Community Category

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

The Daily Grind: Does teaching toxic MMO gamers what they did wrong actually help?

As RPS reported this week, Valve has taken the relatively unusual step of making your Dota 2 and CSGO report cards semi-public – that is, players can see reports made against their accounts, and the rationales given, even if Valve took no action on them. The author was bemused to find that he’d been reported for “intentional feeding” when in fact, he just sucked that match. Hey, it happens.

But I wonder whether the reports are useful to actual toxic players who’ve been actioned to teach them where they went wrong; it’s certainly an idea League of Legends clung to for years. MOP reader TomTurtle recently suggested something similar in terms of forum moderation too. “I’d like to see how viable it’d be to have moderators give an infractor a chance to edit their post to be constructive in an attempt to have them learn why their initial language was against the rules” in the service of “informing players why they were infracted in the first place,” he wrote to us.

Even if we agree that moderators’ and gamemasters’ jobs should include not just protecting the community from toxicity but actually attempting to – as Raph Koster puts it in his new book – “reform bad apples,” I wonder whether it’s even worth the trouble, never mind the expense. Does knowing what they did wrong actually help toxic players become less toxic? Or does it just cause them to double down to save face? Is the industry just wasting time and money trying to reform players who aren’t just poorly socialized or clueless but willfully destructive?

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SMITE launches Medusa’s Deathmatch

You might not want to look too closely at the latest patch for SMITE. Why? Well, it brings in the new Medusa’s Deathmatch map, and that probably means it’ll turn you to stone. Or it means that you’ll be fighting two enemy teams at the same time, forcing you to adjust your strategy to avoid giving ground to either side while still remaining competitive. If you already feel you know how to handle one other team, you might change your tune when you’ve got twice the enemies and twice the challenge.

The patch has also brought along several new skins and a variety of bug fixes, as patches tend to do. Of course, it’s also brought some issues along with it, which are already helpfully available in a thread on the official site; this includes some after-match placement errors, which are good to know about ahead of time. So jump on in and take on your enemies, possibly while watching everything through a mirror. (It’s a Medusa thing, you see.)

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The Divison’s new Shields are all about earning rewards for the sequel

When people know the sequel to their current MMO is coming out, they tend to be less inclined to complete in-game challenges in the current game. After all, why take part in The Division content now when the next game is on its way? The newest patch for the game has an answer for that: you want to earn shields. No, not the pieces of equipment that you tend to wear in various other MMOs, the unique collectibles that allow you to unlock rewards in The Division 2 for obtaining them.

Players can earn four shields right now, and more will be rolled out over time to give players new things to chase after. The patch also brings in new audio logs and various balance tweaks, so while you prepare yourself for the follow-up game you’ll still have plenty to do in the existing game. And, you know, hopefully you’re having fun anyway.

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E3 2018: Blizzard discusses keeping storytelling going in World of Warcraft

There are a lot of elements to weave together to tell stories in World of Warcraft. You can argue over whether or not the team doing so is actually very good at that task, but the point is that it is quite a task, and the panel for the team at this year’s E3 was all about the challenges of weaving together the game’s story and keeping things consistent. That alone is a challenge when you’re telling a story across games, novels, and various other formats for an extended period of time.

The team is promising to try new things during the lead-up to Battle for Azeroth, along with more major lore characters waving farewell. And there’s a discussion of the challenges in doing just that, along with keeping things consistent and building on long-term stories. If you’d like to look more closely behind the scenes, watch the panel just below; it’s only about half an hour long.

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Black Desert has banned another batch of almost 600 speedhackers and botters

Good thing Black Desert kept that banhammer from the Hystria bans handy because it needed it again this week – in fact, it looks like it’s about to become a recurring party favor, as Kakao says it’s banned another 599 cheaters: 402 of them speedhacking, 197 of them botting.

“With the partial success of the ban wave last week, we’ve been able to streamline our processes to ensure we can gather and analyse data much faster to roll out more effective and more frequent waves. We’re still a long way from 100% but we’ve been able to catch a considerable number that evaded last weeks wave and we’ll continue to go after not only people that are actively using 3rd party software but also historic cheaters.”

If you’ve managed to be an upstanding player not subject to the bans, you may be interested in this week’s update, which adds NPC dating to the game, as well as our E3 interview with Pearl Abyss, in which we discuss the plausibility of a Switch port.

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Players petition BioWare for a console port of SWTOR

Here’s the burning question of the hour: Would you like to see Star Wars: The Old Republic join its single-player predecessors on the console? Do you see this as improving the MMO’s long-term survivability and potentially growing its fanbase, or would it be too difficult, costly, and unnecessary?

There is a crowd of gamers out there who are clamoring for a SWTOR port, as evidenced by a new Change.org petition for BioWare to create one. “I understand that this game was created with only the PC in mind, but with how increasingly popular Star Wars is becoming, a console version would be a great idea,” the petition’s creator wrote. “Not everyone has access to a computer to play this amazing game on and I think more people should have access to it.”

Let’s turn it over to you and see what you think by voting in our poll below.

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‘Magic through serendipity’: Raph Koster on the glorious mess that was Ultima Online

I was a wide-eyed, naive kid when I first stepped into Ultima Online in 1997, and as it turns out, the developers were too.

That’s my takeaway from reading through the Ultima Online chunk of Raph Koster’s new book, Postmortems. Koster, as any dedicated MMORPG fan will recall, went by “Designer Dragon” back then as the creative lead on the game. Having come from a MUD background, he and his wife Kristin Koster were instrumental in shaping Richard Garriott’s seminal MMORPG and therefore the genre as we know it.

Koster kindly sent us a preprint of the book, unwittingly robbing himself of $35, as I was going to buy it anyway, and it’s massive, folks: over 700 pages spanning three decades and the majority of the online games Koster’s worked on during his long tenure in the gaming industry. Some of those games are definitely of more interest to our readers on Massively OP, in particular Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies. It’s the Ultima Online chapters I aim to cover today.

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Star Citizen and EVE Online players unite to call out lookalike concept ship

Fancy staring at some pixel spaceships this morning to weigh in on the latest Star Citizen drama? ‘Course you do. The ship on display today is Star Citizen’s Vulture, the latest concept ship that’s been teased all week.

The problem, as multiple Reddit and Twitter threads have pointed out, is that the ship looks really freakin’ similar to an EVE Online ship: the Venture mining frigate.

It’s certainly possible that the artists were inspired by the same source material; it’s not as if pincer/forklift combine type vehicles are unheard of. That hasn’t stopped both Star Citizen and EVE Online players from mapping the ships onto each other and calling shenanigans.

We’ve reached out to CIG for comment and will report back when we hear more.

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The Daily Grind: What obligations do studios have to provide a griefing-free MMO environment?

There’s some interesting stuff to be unpacked in a recent analysis of Conan Exiles that characterizes it as replete with griefing, racism, sexism, and general unmoderated player garbage. Equally interesting is the official response from Funcom, which is essentially “this isn’t an MMO so we’re under no obligations to moderate this stuff.” You can read that as any mixture of “we don’t want to hire moderation staff” and “we want money more than we want players to be happy” as you desire.

It’s true that Conan Exiles isn’t a full MMORPG. It’s also true that there are official servers with Funcom’s name on them, which means that there’s a legitimacy there. And it raises the interesting question of what obligations studios have to the players in this particular environment.

What qualifies as “griefing” can have a wide scope and cover a lot of things, and some of that is part of the game at its core; after all, there’s plenty of griefing behavior beyond PvP that makes a game like EVE Online what it is. And that’s not even counting servers that aren’t officially run by the development team. So what obligations do studios have to provide a griefing-free MMO environment? Does it apply only to official servers? Only to MMORPGs? Only to sufficiently large servers? When is moderation no longer the problem of the game’s owners?

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Otherland’s developers are in the middle of switching transmission protocols

The worst part of MMO development is when you have to put a great deal of work into something important but fiddly that most of your players aren’t going to understand. Case in point, one of the big things being changed for Otherland’s next update is the network communication standard being used by the game. This is no doubt a large amount of work, and for most people it is completely impenetrable. You don’t know the difference between TCP and UDP; you know that you connect to the wifi on the Internet Box and then you can do what you want to do.

Of course, the post explaining this change does outline why the change is being made and why it’s relevant. In short, UDP (what the game currently uses) often gets put at a lower priority than TCP (what’s being put into the game) which can result in lag and disconnections, so changing it now is a way of heading off more widespread problems later. And you don’t need to know the technical details in full. Just know it’s being worked on, and the end result will be better for players. This is rather important, as it’s part of the rather comprehensive effort to improve and revitalize the game.

Source: Facebook

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Skyforge answers player questions about future plans

So what’s in the cards for the future of Skyforge? Players always want to know, and the most recent set of community questions and answers is covering exactly that. For example, the future does not appear to include new Invasion opponents or new divine form upgrades; while there are new enemy groups planned, they’re planned for a new form of challenge rather than more invasions. Nor are the developers willing to reveal any of the brainstorming about the next class to enter the game, although player requests for more support classes are being heard.

What is confirmed for the future at this point include new stories about the familiar areas of the game world, new improvements to the UI to make it easier to figure out how your character is progressing, and new class balance passes. There are also plans to keep a close eye on gear upgrading and areas where Elder Gods can be used, as both are part of the fun of the game. Check out the full Q&A if you want to know more about what happens next for the title.

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DC Universe Online opens testing for the third part of the Death of Superman

Superman has died. Bereft of life, he’s gone to meet his maker. But of course DC Universe Online isn’t leaving it there, and players will soon have to deal with the fact that Superman’s body has gone missing from the Fortress of Solitude. This leads Supergirl to conclude that someone used the Phantom Zone Projector to steal it, which makes sense to somebody. Regardless, the third part of the story will see players heading out to find that corpse, and it’s available on the game’s test server right now.

Players can take on new feats, pick up new reward items, and take on one more mission in the latest update on the test server; the patch is also meant to address a number of minor bugs and fix various quality-of-life issues. Check out the full rundown from the early patch notes, or just jump in and start testing the update now.

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Battle Bards Episode 122: Happy town

In peaceful villages and bubbly burgs, you just know that there’s bound to be an abundance of happy music! Whenever the Battle Bards regroup to lick their wounds and drink the terrors away, they often find that happy town music is perfect to soothe jangled nerves and re-center one’s heroism. There’s plenty of those tunes in today’s episode, so recoup with them as they listen to the songs of the common folk.

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 iTunesGoogle PlayTuneInPocket CastsStitcher, and Player.FM.

Listen to Episode 122: Happy town (or download it) now:

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