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The Daily Grind: Why is MMORPG server downtime still a thing?

Massively OP Kickstarter donor John has a very simple question to kick off our morning: Why the heck is server downtime still a thing?

“How can any modern MMO still have server downtime after something like Guild Wars 2? Are we bad consumers? Do we not care? Obviously doable and I work for a company with a web frontend and plenty of places easily have the same without (planned) planned downtime.”

I’ve always found that curious too. I can understand why pre-Guild Wars 2Guild Wars 1, really — games would be locked into their server downtime/uptime paradigm, but new MMOs? What’s your excuse? Why don’t all MMORPGs have a rolling patch system like GW2’s? Why is MMORPG server downtime still a thing?

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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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Black Desert warns players of possible account breach

Heads-up, Black Desert fans: Kakao just let its players know that their account security may be in jeopardy.

“We recently received a report that account security may have been compromised on a third party website. In response, we have reset the password for any related accounts. We strongly urge any user whose password was reset to contact customer support in order to change your e-mail address. Additionally if you used the same or a similar password on any other services, it should be replaced.”

The studio hasn’t clarified how exactly the compromise came about or what the third-party website entailed, but we’re guessing that if you’re affected, you’ll be getting a personal password reset email soon. Just make sure it’s from the studio and not hackers, eh?

Source: Official forums.
Cheers, Greaterdivinity!

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Neverwinter claims 15M registered players across all platforms

Neverwinter has cause for celebration today: PWE has officially announced that the D&D MMORPG has counted over 15 million registered players on PC, Xbox One, and PS4. The game is playable in 110 countries (presumably excepting China, where it sunsetted earlier this year) and has seen 11 large expansiony updates since its formal release in 2013.

That’s up another three million since last autumn, when PWE reported 7 million on PC, 3 million on Xbox One, and 2 million PlayStation 4. It’s been live on PS4 only since July of last year. And yeah, it’s registrations, not actives, but still — that’s a big wide MMORPG audience. Celebratory trailer tucked down below!

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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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Pantheon studio Visionary Realms finds firmer financial footing

Looking at Pantheon today, you almost wouldn’t know it flopped its Kickstarter way back in 2014. That’s because the team kept at it and has been raising money from investors and gamers to keep the dream alive for the past three years.

“Visionary Realms today announced that Series A funding for their upcoming Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG), Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, is now complete,” reads this morning’s press release. “Series A funding allows the company to expand the team in almost every department and bring the game into a semi-private pre-alpha state where external testers and focus groups can begin sampling the game.” This funding round is typically venture-capital-oriented and follows seed funding like the capital the studio raised back in 2015.

In March, Visionary Realms’ Brad McQuaid told gamers the team now counts 15 people. Public testing (pre-alpha) is planned for later this year.

Source: Press release

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RuneScape DDoS hacker gets two years in U.K. prison

Ever hear that expression, “His name is mud?” It applies on every level to the incarceration of one Adam Mudd this week, who received two years of jail time in the U.K. for his hacks and attacks on Minecraft and RuneScape.

When he was 16, Mudd created a distributed denial of service (DDoS) program called Titanium Stresser that he then sold to other hackers to the tune of nearly a half-million dollars. Hackers then used Mudd’s program to perform 1.7 million DDoS attacks on games like RuneScape, programs like TeamSpeak, and other Sony and Microsoft products.

Defense for Mudd said that he had been bullied at school and was looking for online notoriety rather than financial gain. Mudd, who is now 20, was convicted of facilitating 17 million hacks, laundering money, and personally carrying out 584 DDoS attacks. He was sentenced to serve three simultaneous jail sentences (two for 24 months each and one for nine months).

Source: Gamasutra

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Massively OP Podcast Episode 114: Moving to the big city

What does a week where the news douses us in a shower of smaller stories look like? Bree and Justin wring out of their clothes, shaking loose tales of metropolises in the planning, console features, anniversary parties, and dance studios. Maybe it won’t flood the world of MMOs, but it definitely waters the lawns of our interest!

It’s the Massively OP Podcast, an action-packed hour of news, tales, opinions, and gamer emails! And remember, if you’d like to send in your own letter to the show, use the “Tips” button in the top-right corner of the site to do so.

Listen to the show right now:

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What’s John Smedley building for Amazon Game Studios?

Here’s the million-dollar question of the day: What is John Smedley making for Amazon Game Studio’s San Diego branch? Ever since being handed the reigns of a new sub-studio back in February with a bulk of his Pixelmage team, we’ve been intensely curious about whether Smedley is staying close to his MMO roots in his new project.

Perhaps we might glean a few details from the job listings on Amazon’s site. The studio is looking for several positions for art, combat systems, and engineering, and there are a few bullet points in the job descriptions that hint at the project in question.

One of the job descriptions has the best hint yet, with the position being tasked to “architect and develop the real time combat system for a cutting edge action multiplayer game.” Another intriguing entry mentions a “real time terrain deformation system based on physics simulation.”

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RuneScape’s Jagex flourishes under Chinese ownership

Following Jagex’s sale to China’s Fukong Interactive Entertainment back in 2016, there’s been some concern and curiosity over the fate of the studio and its flagship MMO RuneScape. In an interview with Games Industry, Acting CEO Phil Mansell revealed that the transition to this new era has been a “relief” and resulted in growth for both Jagex and RuneScape.

Mansell said that the new ownership has been a net positive for the company: “[Fukong] want us to grow, of course, and they’re being supportive. But they are not looking for some crazy, transformative, risky things. They want us to focus on what we’re good at. They’ve looked at RuneScape and said you can do more with that. Can you make more games? Yeah, we can. Can we work on multiple platforms? Yes. It is a measured approach and the right things to be doing.”

Mansell said that Fukong is setting itself up to be a global entertainment powerhouse with Jagex forming the hub of its western arm. While RuneScape 3 and Old School RuneScape remain at the core of the business, Jagex is branching out into other ventures, such as looking at other studios to acquire, VR tech for RuneScape, adding new games teams, and prototyping ideas dreamed up by the team during designated brainstorming time. No matter what, however, he said that the company under his leadership will see projects driven by player desires and feedback.

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Neverwinter makes a big to-do about its newest lockbox mount

In lockbox vernacular, there’s usually something called a “chase” item. This is the ultra-rare, ultra-desirable reward that just about no one will ever see unless an obscene amount of money is spent on tons of lockboxes. Neverwinter is making a big production about its latest chase item, a Celestial Stag mount, in not one but two new blog posts on the subject.

Made out of stars and dashed hopes, the Celestial Stage is among the fastest mounts in the game and offers a huge bonus to regen and recovery while raining the heavens down on its enemies. The May 2nd lockbox will also have a (tiny) chance of paying out an artifact that summons the spirits of the nine founders of the city to attack foes.

In other Neverwinter news, Cryptic has partnered with game rewards site Uproar to feature its fantasy MMO as one of the titles in which players can earn free goodies. There’s allegedly a “free gift” for Neverwinter that can be claimed by players who sign up to the service.

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Academics and addiction experts weigh in on ‘pay-to-loot’ gambleboxes and lockboxes:

“Pay-to-win” is old news now — game designers’ new plan for hoovering all the cash out of our wallets is “pay-to-loot.”

According to IGN’s Nathan Lawrence, who dives into the topic today, that’s the term game psychologists are using to describe what online gamers have been derisively referring to as gambleboxes and lockboxes for years: You’re essentially buying chances at a thing, paying to roll the dice and let the RNG gods determine your reward, padding the game’s coffers all the while.

The gambling references aren’t accidental; one expert calls lootboxes a “poker machine-like experience,” while another points to the phenomenon as an exploitation of human nature:

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