Massively Overthinking: The future of a global MMORPG industry

Massively OP Patron Duane's done the math on what is becoming, more and more, a truly global MMORPG industry. His question for Overthinking this week is a simple one:

"Devs in over 27 countries have released MMOs as of 2017. What country which is NOT your own would most excite you with a future MMO release?"

Now this is an unusual one! I posed his query to the team, and when we're done, we'd love to hear from the rest of you.

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Choose My Adventure: The most depressing road trip in Lord of the Rings Online

You know, if my first exposure to Elves had been in Lord of the Rings Online, I would probably think that they were the most depressing species in existence because they're basically prepping for the most depressing road trip ever. Maybe for all of the right reasons, but still.

For those of you who are even less aware of Middle-Earth as a setting than I, the gist of things is that the time of the Elves is nearly done, and they are soon to journey to the West. This is kind of a natural side-effect of the whole to-do about the eponymous Rings, where the Elves can't stick around without them; I'm not entirely clear on the details, there, but the short version is that this is the close of a cycle for the entirety of the race.

So most of your early stuff is based around the fact that the Elves are not, in fact, going out to party and enjoy themselves while Sauron is on the march. Instead, it's all about preparing for the most depressing road trip of all time.

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Touring Marvel Heroes with Gazillion before January 19's big update

While it's true that you can see a good share of Marvel Heroes' mega January 2017 update for yourself on the test server, who could pass up a walkthrough and interview with Brian Waggoner, game designer at Gazillion? Besides, with such a massive change incoming to many of the systems (this may be one of the only times that BIGGEST UPDATE EVER is used legitimately), having a dev on hand to explain various alterations can be a definite plus. I took advantage of the opportunity, so if you haven't had the chance to delve into the test center yourself, be it from lack of time, inclination, or even hard drive space, you can get a peek under the hood here. And then you can jump in and experience it all for yourself on Thursday, January 19th, when Marvel Heroes's latest update goes live.

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Choose My Adventure: Starting my journey in Lord of the Rings Online

If I had to guess which tabletop roleplaying game I was going to associate with Lord of the Rings Online, I really wouldn't have guessed Call of Cthulhu. There have been actual tabletop games associated with this setting, after all. But no, it's that classic that's been in the back of my mind the whole time, which is something of a compliment.

To my surprise, the CE code that I had for the game from back forever ago did, in fact, work just fine, which meant that I started out with a fresh VIP subscription, a mess of coins, and all of the benefits that I otherwise would have unlock directly. Like the class which got selected for me, for example. After a bit of clicking through options, I created my newest incarnation of Ceilarene because why not her and got thrown into the game's opening sequence.

Which all happens a very, very long time ago, but the game doesn't communicate that terribly well. But that's not entirely its fault.

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Tamriel Infinium: Elder Scrolls Online's Homestead player housing blew my mind

I usually like to bury my opinion behind a bit of measured fact-checking and the weight of opposing opinions, but Elder Scrolls Online hit all the right buttons for me with its new housing system. I have to sing its praises right now. Based on what I've seen on the public test server, Homestead will give us exactly what we are looking for in an MMO housing system.

Here comes the measured part: We won't really know exactly how the system will work in action until it hits live servers. Crafting and the horrid vendor system in ESO will likely make finding specific housing items unnecessarily difficult, but it's possible that it could be balanced by the crafting system and the Crown Store.

Despite some of the unknowns, I do really like what I've seen so far, and I'd like to give you my first impression of the Elder Scrolls Online housing system.

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Tamriel Infinium: Elder Scrolls Online juggles making money and making content with Crown Crates

I think it's fair to say that the $15 subscription model just isn't cutting it for MMORPGs anymore. I understand that. The $15 pricetag dates back at least 15 years, and even if we were to factor in inflation alone, the cost of that subscription would be worth about $19 today. Teams creating the content were a lot smaller then, and frankly, players were satisfied with less than perfection. (Think about the number of incomplete MMOs that launched at that time.) There has to be a new way for developers to make more money. There has to be a way for developers to give players what they are looking for and at the same time bring in enough income to support its engineers, producers, and investors.

I believed that Elder Scrolls Online had that system down. The developers created content like the Thieves Guild DLC, then sold that as a package or allowed players to subscribe to get content as it released. Single-player games have done similar for years and have even adapted a type of subscription model with season passes. Unfortunately, it's becoming clear that the DLC with optional subscription just isn't enough, at least for the beancounters at ESO. Like many MMORPGs before it, ESO has now adopted lockboxes, gambleboxes, in the form of Crown Crates.

I've spent some time and more than a few of my own Crowns to attempt to discover how worthy these crates are and if they are actually worth it from a player's perspective -- with an understanding that ESO needs money to continue to thrive as a company.

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Hyperspace Beacon: What to expect from SWTOR's Knight of the Eternal Throne

After some of the major flaws with Knights of the Fallen Empire, I wasn't expecting much from Star Wars: The Old Republic's latest expansion Knights of the Eternal Throne. It was more than clear, given the last two chapters of KOTFE, that the previous expansion was a setup for the current expansion. In fact, that's probably the biggest flaw for KOTET: It doesn't stand on its own. However, BioWare has taken lessons from its previous mistakes and made an expansion that not only is entertaining as a story -- which BioWare has never had a problem with -- but features mechanics that are interesting and a vast improvement over the boring murder-tunnels of the last expansion.

Games ultimately prompt us to ask the question, "Is it worth the money?" I don't have an exact quantifiable measurement for fun had in a game versus its cost, but if we took my typical judgment that one fun hour should equal to one dollar spent, then at the cost of $15 dollars for a month's subscription (which earns you the expansion), it's a steal. I did have a couple of hours of interruptions, but I started playing the expansion when it first launched at 9 a.m until about 3 a.m. last night. I could have given my first impression on the first few chapters of the expansion, but the truth is that I didn't want to stop playing.

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Hyperspace Beacon: Analyzing SWTOR's Uprising group content

Star Wars: The Old Republic dropped a treat this week by allowing fansites to tour Knights of the Eternal Throne. Although we can now see the first chapter of KOTET on YouTube, that's not the story that I want to learn about now. Don't get me wrong; the story of KOTET is very important to me, and I really want meaningful and impactful choices. But seeing someone else play through the chapters at this point is only going to set me up for spoilers and disappointment, especially since there is only one story for every player and every character.

Group content is far more important at this stage because it's part of what makes the game feel bigger, and it's been a weak point for BioWare for the last year. So let's take a look at some of the fansites that released playthrough videos of both the story mode and veteran modes of the Crimson Fang Uprising: SWTOR Central and Kid Lee. They don't offer much commentary on what was happening during the gameplay. They did mention if things were more or less difficult but offered little in the area of why or how certain things worked. I don't fault them for that; it's difficult to make commentary while fighting for your character's life. Today, I will dive deeper into the Uprisings and the things we can glean from the video playthroughs.

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First impressions of Guild Wars 2's A Crack in the Ice episode

ArenaNet gave us all word of a seasonably frosty addition to the Guild Wars 2 Living World story last week: The third instalment of season 3 is upon us right now just in time for Thanksgiving and is unlockable for anyone who logs in over the next few weeks. A Crack in the Ice will take players on a journey into the Far Shiverpeaks as we track the activity of Jormag after Taimi's bombshell about his recent activity levels. I was left expecting plenty of references to old Guild Wars: Eye of the North content and also noticed the trailer's music called back to Living World season 1, which has had the desired effect of piling me onto the Season 3 hype train once more.

I managed to fit in a guided tour of both the new (but distinctly familiar!) fractal and the new zone in the short window between the episode's announcement and its launch today, and while it's difficult to follow the impressiveness of episode 2, I'm no less excited to bring you my early thoughts on A Crack in the Ice. I played through one chapter and had a good toddle around in the new zone over the weekend, but as ever with these launch day impression pieces, I deliberately tried not to spoil too much of the story for myself and will be keeping the write-up fairly spoiler free as well. Anything at all questionable has been placed behind spoiler tags for your reading convenience.

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Chaos Theory: First impressions of Funcom's Hide and Shriek

Have you been hiding and shrieking? I have! Hide and Shriek, the 1v1 Secret World spinoff that pits the much-loved Innsmouth Academy against the newly introduced Little Springs High in a PvP scare off, is now out for players to test their spook skills. Who doesn't love a good scare, especially this time of year?

Like The Park, Hide and Shriek was an exercise in learning to program a game on the Unreal engine, except this time it was for the US-based Funcom office. Upon completion, the fruits of those labors were offered up to us to enjoy; I've been playing matches all week myself. So how is it? What do I think of the game? Is it worth the price tag (currently $4.79, going up to the full price of $5.99 November 1st). I say a resounding yes! Believe it or not, it is going to be encroaching on my Samhain event play time. The game isn't for everyone, but I am finding it fun. Want to see more of the game for yourself? Tune into OPTV tonight at 9:00 p.m. EDT as Justin and I square off. (You could also win a copy of the game!)

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Revelation Online tours a pair of closed beta dungeons

Revelation Online has a mini preview out today on half of the dungeons -- that's two out of a total of four -- that will be available when the game's closed beta kicks off next week.

Trial of the Four Kings is actually a solo dungeon with multiple different parts, though only the one for level 20 characters and the one one for level 40s will be open during the test phase. Darkfall, on the other hand, includes a solo mode for level 20, a 5-man easy mode for level 20, and a 5-man hard mode for level 30s. Says the studio,

"Darkfall used to be a vivid forest, home to the Palace of the King of Beasts. However, Thousands of years ago, things changed at one night. People heard loud thunders at that night, and soon the trees in Darkfall died, and the palace disappeared. Later, bounty hunters found treasures on the ruined land of Darkfall, and they believed the Palace has not disappeared, but buried underground. A huge search for the Palace started, but all of them failed. Some of the explorers never came back. People forgot the Darkfall gradually, left the ruined land undiscovered. Now only some brave adventurers are still hunting for the secrets and treasures hidden in the Darkfall."

The closed beta begins October 25th and is supposed to be a "technical test" to stress the server infrastructure and client distribution, but it'll clearly have plenty of playable content too.

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Working As Intended: A tour of 19-year-old Ultima Online

Wanna feel old? Three years ago, I wrote a Second Wind piece for Massively-that-was on Ultima Online, which had recently been turned over to Broadsword and was celebrating its 16th birthday. "The 'old things suck' snobs can scoff all they want," I concluded, "but feature for feature, UO surpasses far too many modern games to be ignored."

Now the game has just turned 19, and I'm back in the grand-daddy of MMORPGs poking around for the readers who've requested another look and listen. I'd call it a third wind, but for me, it's probably more like my 103rd wind, as I've gone back so many times I've lost count. This round, I'm going to give a little tour of some of my favorite features, like housing, runebooks, boats, and combat, plus talk about some basic mechanics and highlight cool community hot spots on Atlantic, then wind down with some opinions on UO's place in the genre and the lessons we can learn from its long and glorious sandbox development history even here in 2016. Enjoy!

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Launch impressions of Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade, part two

On Monday, I delivered to you the first part of my impressions of the newly launched Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade, laying out both the basics of the game and whether it measures up as an MMO. Today, I'll answer the second set -- maybe the more important set -- of questions my piece posed: Is the game finished, and is it fun?

Is Eternal Crusade finished?

Not even close. I mean, let's say we set aside for a moment the previously-mentioned pushing back of the open-world elements of the game – elements that I consider to be core to the (ostensibly) planned vision of the game – which of course means that the game is by definition unfinished. Let's say we set aside the fact that we are (ostensibly) talking about an MMO which, by the industry-standard principle of regular post-launch development and updates, are arguably never “finished.”

Even with those allowances, Eternal Crusade is, by almost every criteria, objectively unfinished. The idea that someone, presumably a person in a position of authority within the studio -- or publisher, as the case may be -- took even a cursory look at the current state of Eternal Crusade and said, “Yeah, that's ready for launch,” is frankly inconceivable.

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