If you are looking for a bridge between you and the sometimes dense (but quite popular) works of J.R.R. Tolkien, then you could do no better than to sit at the feet of the Tolkien Professor. Dr. Corey Olsen
has been teaching about Tolkien and his collective works for years, providing understanding and fostering discussion in a way that is always interesting and accessible.
Recently, Olsen started up a new course at Signum University (where he is both the founder and president) called "Explore the Lord of the Rings on Location." This free, public course meets every week for a lecture through a chapter in Tolkien's famous trilogy, followed by a "field trip" in Lord of the Rings Online to locations mentioned. It's been a highly publicized event so far, with Standing Stone even creating a special lecture hall in Bree for the series. Interested parties can attend in person in the game, watch via Twitch, or catch up with afterward on the series' YouTube channel.
We caught up with Dr. Olsen to talk about the making of the course, the history behind his university, and his interaction with the long-running MMORPG.
It's been quite a month since Lord of the Rings Online
and Dungeons and Dragons Online
announced that they were breaking off from Turbine as part of a new studio
called Standing Stone Games
and being published by none other than Daybreak Game Company
. Players have had to deal with equal parts excitement and anxiety over this new course (with old developers). Does it bode for a brighter future, more of the same, or the beginning of the end for these beloved titles?
While Standing Stone has been communicative over the past month, we wanted to dig deeper into the decision to form the new studio, its relationship with Daybreak, and plans for both DDO and LOTRO going forward. To wit, we sat down with Standing Stone Executive Producer Rob "Severlin" Ciccolini, Lead Designer Ben "DrOctothorpe" Schneider, and Community Manager Jerry "Cordovan" Snook to discuss this major transition and its possible impact for these two MMO game worlds.
Path of Exile
is coming to Xbox One in 2017
, Grinding Gear Games
"The Xbox One version is also free-to-play and will contain all the content from the PC version, including the upcoming 3.0.0 expansion that includes Act Five," says the studio. "Xbox One players will play on their own realm, separate to the PC realm. This is due to small gameplay differences between the two versions, such as the number of Flask slots and how some skills are targeted. We intend to follow the same content and league release schedule on both the Xbox One and PC versions of Path of Exile."
GGG says the port "represents over a year of work from a small strike team within [the] studio - the guys who also created [the game's] DirectX 11 version."
Did not see that one coming! Trailer tucked down below.
For the last five years and more, Star War: The Old Republic
told the story of Tenebrae, a Sith of humble origins who rose to great power and ultimately corruption. Of course, there were other great stories along the way -- the eight player stories, and ultimately, the Outlander's story -- but even the story of Revan revolved around this hidden but powerful figure who was eventually unveiled as the Sith Emperor.
At the end of last year, I talked to Producer Ben Irving and Creative Director Charles Boyd about the past five years of SWTOR and about what the future holds for the game. It turned out to be a wonderful, frank interview. I learned many things that I didn't know about Irving and his introduction to BioWare, which I mentioned a post last year. But I also learned some fun facts about the future of the SWTOR story.
Without spoiling too much, I think it's safe to mention that Tenebrae's story wraps up in a nice little bow at the end of Knights of the Eternal Throne. I spoke to Boyd about the challenges of closing up a long, pivotal story and where the writers go from there. And one of the things he mentioned is a "new adversary."
What happens when a group of dislodged City of Heroes fans attempt to bring back the spirit of their favorite MMO while marrying it to another favorite geek pastime (in this case, Star Trek)? You end up with Ship of Heroes, an in-development title that's holding a torch for the popular superhero MMO... in space. We sat down with Heroic Games CEO Casey McGeever to find out more about this potential game.
Massively OP: For those a little unfamiliar with the project, can you give us your quick elevator pitch for what Ship of Heroes is?
Casey McGeever: Ship of Heroes is a new MMORPG in development, which is a spiritual successor to City of Heroes. We're combining the best elements of hero and sci-fi games in a setting 500 years in the future.
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.
Identity is an open-world, cops-and-robbers sandbox, and it isn't asking you for money. That's because it was already Kickstarted to the tune of almost $150,000 back in 2015. It's a real-world MMORPG with a focus on roleplay, economy, and yes, the dark side of human nature.
Developer Asylum Entertainment sat for an AMA on Reddit Friday -- here are a few of the highlights:
- Custom server admins can enforce a "new life rule" -- when you die and return, it's as a new character -- but the official servers won't. NPC police won't patrol the world, but players will be somewhat restricted, such that players can't raid each other's homes. "On official servers, we have a stress system in place to discourage random attacks or griefing. [...] You won't be able to shoot from inside your vehicle. We want to discourage random acts of violence for the sake of roleplay." There will also be safe-zones for player gatherings.
- "Identity's prison is very much a game within a game." Players will join factions, attempt prison escape, create weapons, undertake a trial, or just chill out and chat until their time is served. There are no player prison guards (they said they couldn't make it fun).
- Character customization will be limited to facial features, tats, jewelry, piercings (and presumable gender, skin color, etc.) but not physique, at least not for launch.
"Don't waste your time learning Klingon, it ain't no use," Luna sang way back in 1996, but clearly, they had never met Britton Watkins, a man who's made a career out of learning, creating, and teaching made-up alien languages and is now working on Star Citizen.
In fact, that's what this week's Around the Verse is all about. The series is back, kicking off its first episode of the year with a special edition featuring veteran Hollywood conlang linguist Britton Watkins, who's putting his fluency in Na'vi and Klingon to work creating the written and spoken languages of the Xi'An and Vanduul (the latter of which is portrayed by Andy Serkis above) in the Star Citizen universe.
"You’re doing motion capture with live actors, so they need to be able to pronounce everything, so the phonologies of these languages are pronounceable by human beings, 100%, and they will be pronounceable by talented game players and other people who want to learn to make those sounds," Watkins explains.
One of best parts of attending conventions is talking with the devs. And during my trip to Hi-Rez Expo 2017, I spoke with a number of them about a variety of topics, learning more about the games as well as witnessing their contagious exuberance for their projects first-hand. I spoke with lead designers AJ Walker, Rory Newbrough, and Scott Zier about SMITE's Season 4 changes, Paladins' Season 1, and SMITE Tactics' possible PvE mode respectively. President Stew Chisam also added a tantalizing tidbit, sharing news about the upcoming addition of more limited-time adventures in SMITE. Let's dive in!
If you enjoyed the variety of the one-off arenas Xing Tian's Mountain and Fafnir's Winter Wonderland as I did, this next announcement should make you happy: New adventures will be a regular occurrence! Did you catch when devs mentioned them in previous notes? If not, you are in good company; Chisam noted that these new events were pretty much a hidden line announcement. But he elaborated on the topic for us.
Early this afternoon, ArtCraft Entertainment's J. Todd Coleman and Gordon Walton answered investor questions about Crowfall's equity crowdfunding venture, which closes out on Monday. We've collected some of the highlights.
Coleman says investors are "making a bet" that there's an "eventual win" in terms of an IPO or buyout or some other way. In the gaming business, he says, most companies that have a win, "get acquired." He wouldn't say that's even remotely in the works, but it's a possibility for companies like ArtCraft and is one way investors might profit from their investment.
When asked whether the raise was initiated because the company needed money, Walton explained that the company didn't realize they'd be able to do a raise like this (because it was enabled by a brand-new law last fall); in fact, ArtCraft ended a different raise to open this one and had run one prior to the Kickstarter as well.
"Do [we] need more money? Yes, we do," Coleman says, but he stressed that every company needs and wants more money. He said he now believes the game will cost in the $11M-12M range, up from the original $8M estimate, thanks to mistakes, new features, design changes, and the Travian localization partnership, among other things.
Past, present, and future. While the totality of a game studio encompasses all three aspects, we often focus on only one or two at a time. Over the last week, we heard a great deal about Hi-Rez Studios' present during Hi-Rez Expo 2017, from the tournaments (congrats to all the winners!) to what's immediately in the works for its roster of games. But there are still the two other sides to the studio to consider. And these are the sides I explored in interviews with President Stew Chisam and VP Brian Greyson. Specifically I wanted to learn if the company had plans to connect its past with its future in regards to Global Agenda. I was also curious as to what other directions the SMITE franchise might take.
Join me as we delve into the past and the future of Hi-Rez Studios, the possibility of a Global Agenda 2, and the expansion of the SMITE universe.
In a new interview with LOTRO Players
, Standing Stone Games
gave fans a sneak peek at the big projects that are coming for Lord of the Rings Online
as well as a bit of insight about the studio transition in late 2016.
The fun will begin next month with LOTRO's Update 20, which will feature precursor events leading up to Mordor. Speaking of which, the Mordor expansion might be coming as soon as Q2 or Q3 2017 (Cordovan indicated June or after as a possibility). "We've wanted to do Mordor for so long," he said.
The team has "really big" content and gift plans for the game's 10th anniversary, and will continue to work on shoring up the technical side and reducing lag. There are also plans for a post-expansion update for later this year.
So what was the reason behind the move from Turbine to Standing Stone Games? Cordovan hedged a bit, saying that it was a corporate decision in the works for a year. "It aligned with everyone's interests in a way that I think will be interesting for everybody involved. An opportunity came up and we were able to make this happen," he said.
Listen to the full interview (it's the first segment of the show) after the break.
By now, it might be apparent that I am a bit enamored with the upcoming cross-platform SMITE Rivals. (Hey, it's the only game I active seek out PvP in!) I've certainly really enjoyed playing the game; it is fun and not just a little addicting. But I have also enjoyed talking with the Project Lead Brian Greyson, Producer Randy King, Lead Designer Chad Wilson, Tech Designer Colter Cvach, and Designer Sean Watson throughout Hi-Rez Expo 2017 about the game. From formal interviews to informal conversations to quick chats between matches, we tackled topics like the copycat concerns, design decisions, tactics, and the future. I even tried to learn more about monetization -- a hot topic in the online gaming community right now. Read on!