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Investors pour $3.7M into MMO sandbox Dual Universe

Dual Universe just snagged a positively massive cash injection. According to a press release posted today, private investors have poured $3.7 million in funding into the sci-fi sandbox MMORPG. That’s in addition to the more than $630,000 the game raised on Kickstarter less than a year ago (a haul that at the time earned the game the title of third most funded video game on Kickstarter that year). Napkin math says the game picked up another $3M in between through on-site fundraising and possibly earlier investment.

Oh, and unlike a lot of games that snap up the “MMO” label, this one actually deserves it.

Dual Universe is a new type of massively-multiplayer online experience: it takes place in a vast Sci-Fi universe, focusing on emergent gameplay and content building, with player-driven in-game economy, politics, trade and warfare. The vision for Dual Universe is to create the first virtual online civilization. At the heart of Dual Universe is a truly innovative proprietary technology, which was developed to lay the foundations of the game. The CSSC (continuous single-shard cluster) manages one single universe with potentially millions of people interacting in it at the same time. A multi-scale voxel engine enables players to physically modify the world; dig a hole, carve up a mountain or build anything they want, from space ships to orbital stations, at any scale they desire. Novaquark is building a virtual world environment where they hope millions of people will be able to live exciting collective adventures within a vibrant and emergent universe where everything is possible. The company aims at creating a new form of entertainment, where participants are free to create their own stories and environment.”

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Massively Overthinking: Is the popularity of small-scale co-op games hurting MMORPGs?

Gamasutra has an unusual piece from an Ubisoft developer this week arguing that co-op gameplay is the industry’s rising midcore trend, one that he believes will ultimately outstrip team competitive games. “It’s all about all the big data and stats that are finally available and can be mined,” author Andrii Goncharuk says, “and no surprise that it’s showing that players who played co-op mode have much more play hours, and players who played co-op with friends have even more play hours.”

He may be right, though first you’d have to believe co-op ever went anywhere to begin with (and console players would probably tell you nope!). But as I read the article, I couldn’t help but see MMOs in most of the arguments he’s making about what makes co-op games sticky, and yet MMOs are being edged out all the same. And while I don’t like to think of the MMO genre’s space in the industry as a zero-sum situation, the reality is that when people tire of MMORPG baggage but still want social play, co-op is exactly the sort of game they retreat to.

For this week’s Massively Overthinking, I asked our writers to reflect on the rise of co-op PvE games outside the MMO label. Do we play them? Do we prefer them, and when? How can we learn from them? Is the popularity of smaller-scale co-op hurting MMORPGs?

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Blizzard memo indicates renewed focus on hiring diversity

Blizzard is doubling down on diversity and inclusion when it comes to its own hiring practices.

That’s according to a leaked internal memo from Blizzard President Mike Morhaime, which Kotaku excerpted in a report last night. Morhaime is apparently spearheading a “global diversity and inclusion initiative” intended to spur on the hiring of underrepresented people inside the company — specifically women, who make up only a fifth of employees, and other minority groups, who make up only 14%.

While Blizzard will not operate under strict hiring quotas, employees are being encouraged to seek out and recommend women and minorities who are traditionally overlooked in the male-dominated video games industry. Networking sessions, mentoring groups, diversity training, and gender summits are also on order, along with fostering a women-centered advisory council akin to the LGBTQ council that already exists.

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The Daily Grind: How long before an MMO or expansion launch do you want to know about it?

I admit to being worried about Guild Wars 2’s Path of Fire expansion release as the year wore on and we’d still heard nothing. While I tried to reassure myself that the devs were just holding onto as much as they could so as not to spoil the whole season, I also kept reflecting on the long period between Heart of Thorns’ announcement and launch — the better part of a year. Whereas with Path of Fire, we’re getting barely two months. Is that too short? Which one will turn out to be better for revenue?

That’s a question Gamasutra asked earlier this month too; game devs polled offered a number of factors that weigh into when release dates are announced, ranging from “when it’s done” and when it’s “shippable with only reasonable regrets” to when there’s “a big press opportunity” (like a convention) or “what other games are already set to release.”

Let’s poll the MMO audience: How long before an MMO or expansion launch do you want to know about it? What’s the “sweet spot” time frame for announcing an MMO release date?

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Overwatch League expands again with teams from London and LA

Blizzard continues raking in the big bucks for its fledgling Overwatch League, adding two new teams to its roster: a London team purchased by Cloud9 founder Jack Etienne and a Los Angeles team picked up by Stan and Josh Kroenke, well-known to sports fans here in the US for having their fingers in multiple meatpies, and by meatpies I mean actual sports teams like the LA Rams. Etienne and the Kroenkes will join venture capitalists including reps and owners of the New England Patriots, New York Mets, Immortals, Misfits Gaming, NRG Esports, Netease, and Kabam, which superficially secures the Leagues’ future on three continents.

We’ve previously reported on the structure of the League and its absurd $20M ante, which at least one gaming industry analyst firm has deemed unlikely to achieve much success, given its assessment that Overwatch is difficult to watch, unapproachable, expensive, in competition with Amazon’s Twitch, and on a collision course with antitrust law. Whee. Major League Baseball is also disputing Blizzard’s right to OWL logo.

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Paris Olympic committee considers e-sports for 2024

The AP is reporting that the leaders of the Olympic Games are at least considering bringing video gaming on board for the 2024 program in Paris.

The co-president of the Paris Olympic bid committee, Tony Estanguet, told the AP, “We have to look at [e-sports] because we can’t say, ‘It’s not us. It’s not about Olympics.’ […] The youth, yes they are interested in esport and this kind of thing. Let’s look at it. Let’s meet them. Let’s try if we can find some bridges. […] I don’t want to say ‘no’ from the beginning. I think it’s interesting to interact with the IOC, with them, the esports family, to better understand what the process is and why it is such a success.”

This shouldn’t come as too much of a shock; the 2022 Asian Games have already announced e-sports as a medal event, citing the inclusion of e-sports at the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, though as we reported last month, multiple countries had bailed out of this year’s AIMAG e-sports events, citing health concerns, poor regulation, and “governance concerns.”

Source: AP via Destructoid. Thank you, Sally!

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Albion Online offers proof that it is still being DDOSed by RMT blackmailers

It’s hard not to feel sorry for Albion Online.

As we’ve been reporting, the newbie sandbox has been absolutely plagued by a long series of nasty DDOS attacks since at least early last weekend, causing repeated server outages and extreme frustrations that have continued into today. Developer Sandbox Interactive has characterized the outages as the “result of a concerted effort to bring Albion Online down with a distributed denial of service attack (DDOS),” which the developers believe is retaliation for their actions against goldsellers who swarmed the game at launch. The RMT company or companies also reportedly served the studio ransom demands, but the studio declared it will not give into blackmail.

In the meantime, the servers are still up and down like a seesaw; the latest DDOS began less than an hour ago, and while Sandbox has already apologized (repeatedly) and told its fans it’s consulting with experts and working on defensive infrastructure, players have begun questioning the developers’ ability to solve the problems – some even questioned the DDOS and blackmail attempts themselves.

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Destiny 2 also has a line of scented candles

She enters your apartment and you stand ready to greet her, wearing your Destiny 2-branded bathrobe. “Come in,” you purr, offering her a sippy cup full of Destiny 2-themed energy drink with Destiny 2-themed ice cubes. “I’ve carefully planned our evening, darling. It should be special.”

“Ooh, I like my dates to have class,” she replies for no readily explainable reason, stepping carefully past the teetering pile of Destiny 2-branded Pop-Tart boxes. “What is that wonderful scent?”

“I’ve been burning these Destiny 2-themed scented candles,” you say, holding up your Ghost-shaped candle holder because your interactions have the air of a thinly veiled advertisement. “Tell me, darling, would you prefer the scents of Venus, or do you long for the musky odor of the Dreadnaught?”

“You choose, you astonishing portrait of seduction,” she cries. “Take me now.”

(Yes, all of these are real products for sale for actual money in the real world. Except, oddly, for the sippy cup.)

Source: Numskull via Gamespot

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Netmarble under scrutiny by government agencies in the wake of a crunch-mode death

You probably remember the sad news about a Netmarble employee who was, essentially, worked straight to death. That’s the bad news. The good news is that when something like that happens, it’s hard to really keep that under the rug for very long. The South Korean Justice Department and the Ministry of Employment and Labor are having discussions about Netmarble in particular and hiding the costs and demands of overtime work in general, which will hopefully lead to some positive changes in the long run.

In the short term, Netmarble is under pressure to settle delayed payments for overtime work as well as address duplicitous hiring practices “tricking” employees into working longer hours while waiving some overtime rights. It remains to be seen what the long-term impact will be on Netmarble’s bottom line, but hopefully this marks an ending to the sort of culture that made a young programmer die.

Source: MMO Culture

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Shroud of the Avatar raised almost $700K from investors, $67.5K from donors last night

Shroud of the Avatar’s equity crowdfunding campaign on SeedInvest has come to a close, with 518 investors having raised just shy of $700,000 in the round. It was over $700,000 at one point last night but dropped back down as someone apparently backed out.

Perhaps that person put money into the game’s latest telethon instead. As promised, Portalarium has switched over from quarterly to monthly fundraising telethons; last night’s even raised $67,500 and granted “oracle eye” themed stretch goals to players, including home decor, sparklers, and wings.

The telethon stream does feature a Q&A with the dev team on the past release in addition to a “world building tour”; we’ve included it below.

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Lineage Eternal delayed again, Guild Wars 2 mobile game teased

Steparu is reporting on a Korean-language piece today that suggests Lineage Eternal is once again in do-over mode. According to the report, NCsoft has gutted the game’s engine plans, switching from the Guild Wars engine originally used and porting over to Unreal 4. This follows the replacement of the team lead on the game back in March, all of which is delaying the game (again). The report also floats the idea that the game may launch as a mobile game, not as a full-fledged MMOARPG as originally envisioned.

Lineage Eternal has been floating around in our field of view for years. First announced in 2011, it saw its first closed beta almost exactly three years ago. But following several focus group tests in 2015, the game skipped G-Star that year and resurfaced with yet another beta just before Christmas last year. A global beta was planned for this year until the previous quarterly report, during which it was revealed that NCsoft had overturned the development leadership, suggesting that the closed beta failed to “reflect NCsoft’s characteristics.

Another interesting bit from NCsoft’s conference call? There’s a supposed Guild Wars 2 mobile game that may or may not go forward.

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Albion Online’s DDOS blackmail saga continues

I’ve more than once joked with our writers and readers that Massively OP is not an uptime monitor, but we’re making a special exception for the beleaguered Albion Online this week. As we’ve previously reported, the newbie sandbox has been suffering a series of nasty DDOS attacks since early last weekend, causing repeated server outages and extreme frustrations that have continued into today.

Sandbox Interactive has characterized the outages as the “result of a concerted effort to bring Albion Online down with a distributed denial of service attack (DDOS),” which the developers believe is retaliation for their actions against goldsellers plaguing the game. Furthermore, as we noted yesterday, Sandbox says that it’s been served with a ransom demand from the attackers, which the studio characterized as a “blackmail” attempt for money that it will not give into.

“It goes without saying that we will never give in to them. As every black mailer will know, it’s the worst thing you could ever do. Of course, every blackmail attempt and DDOS attack is being reported to the relevant law enforcement agencies, too, though realistically the chance to catch somebody is quite slim. Having said that, sometimes it does happen, and if it does, we will pursue every case to the fullest extend possible, no matter where the offender is based – above activities are a crime in every jurisdiction in the world and it’s always possible to find a local law firm to represent you.”

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The Daily Grind: What’s the best MMORPG for gamers who are sick of raiding?

In the middle of the conversation spawned by yesterday’s financial news that Guild Wars 2 had seen its worst revenue quarter since launch, several of our commenters sidetracked into discussion about raiding in Guild Wars 2 compared to the rest of the genre. One commenter suggested Guild Wars 2 treated non-raiders as second-class citizens (especially given that GW2 was originally sold as a game that eschewed traditional raiding). But the way I see it, pretty much every MMO with raiding treats non-raiders this way, and it’s a huge problem for that whole raid-centric segment of the genre. And Guild Wars 2 is no exception.

Some gamers suggested games without raiding (like Trove), older games with NPC aid (like classic Guild Wars), games with solo raiding (RIFT), and games with difficulty sliders (like City of Heroes). Several commenters offered up MMOs like World of Warcraft and Elder Scrolls Online and Final Fantasy XIV because they offer plenty of raiding (or raiding-adjacent) content for casuals, which is something GW2 still strangely doesn’t do.

So today’s Daily Grind is two-fold: What’s the best MMORPG for gamers who are sick of raiding period, and which MMORPG-that-has-raiding treats non-raiders the best?

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