Veteran MMO developer Brian Green is perhaps best known for his stewardship over Meridian 59, one of the oldest and long-running online RPGs in the genre. While he’s moved on to other projects, Green took some time recently to be interviewed about his time overseeing Meridian 59 and the legacy that it established.
“It set the standard for the flat rate subscription fee that MMOs and other games used for years afterward,” Green said. “I think that Near Death Studios was also an early pioneer in indie game development; we were just a bunch of developers trying to figure things out. We showed what was possible for a small, motivated team to do; this was important, especially since MMOs were seen as giant monstrosities requiring huge teams when we started Near Death Studios.”
Has enough time gone by to start erasing memories of Revival, that ambitious but troubled horror MMO that was canceled back in March 2016? While the project is dead, its developers have forged on — and one has made the jump to another indie MMORPG.
Chronicles of Elyria announced this past week that it picked up Adam Maxwell to become the game’s new lead designer. Previously, Maxwell worked on RIFT, Star Citizen, World of Tanks, and Revival (in addition to almost a dozen other titles). Hopefully this new berth will be a good fit for him and Soulbound Studios.
Maxwell says that it was an easy jump from Revival to Elyria: “Half my fun getting to know everyone here has been in asking questions like, ‘So how did you all handle…’ and then randomly picking a feature from Revival. Weather, NPC memory, narrative dynamics… every answer is different from Revival, but they always hit the same mechanical goal. I feel like the two projects are siblings separated at birth. It’s both awesome and eerie at the same time.”
This past weekend was not the first time I have attended a developer’s convention, but Frontier Expo 2017 was one of only a very few times when I have been able to attend the first one of its kind. Last weekend, I got to witness the birth of Frontier Developments’ fan convention, held in London, UK. At 1500 attendees, it may have been a relatively small gathering compared to conventions like PAX or other more established cons, but it was still great. In fact, it offered fans a few firsts of their own! Besides your classic meeting-and-greeting, game announcements with reveals, and after parties (including live entertainment by Jim Guthrie, the musician who created the Planet Coaster music), folks got to try their hand at the studio’s really old games on their original equipment in the Frontier Developments museum.
Even more than that, attendees got to meet and listen to world-renowned experts in the fields of paleontology and astrobiology. Not because these would sell the game, but just because they are subjects of interest to fans. How many studios have offered that?
Now there were understandably a few bumps and learning experiences in this first endeavor, but in all, I say the inaugural FX2017 was a resounding success! It was easily the most chill convention experience I have ever had, and I look forward to next year’s show (and hanging out with the space loach more!). Let’s dig in!
On this week’s show, Legends of Aria’s Derek Brinkmann returns for another interview about how the indie MMORPG is shaping up as it goes through its “final” alpha and heads toward beta and launch. We also dig deep into the mailbag to gripe about gambling!
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.
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When I spoke to Elite Dangerous’ devs at this year’s Frontier Expo 2017, the company’s first fan expo, they admitted that communication went dark for a time. But it wasn’t for any worry-worthy reason: No, it was because the devs were preparing for Beyond, the big update road map for 2018 that was revealed on stage at the con. And what a reveal it was! The crowd was quite excited about the announced features spanning four updates throughout the year, including squadrons, fleet carrier ships, a codex, new ships, improved mining, revamped planetary graphics, and more. As Lead Designer Sandro Sammarco said, “Elite is an ongoing project. It’s not finishing any time soon.”
Along with the big news reveal, I also spoke with Chief Creative Officer Jonny Watts and Producer Adam Woods about these updates that focus on three areas — core game, narrative, and new features. This is what I learned.
Spurred on by my excitement for Guild Wars 2
‘s second expansion, Path of Fire
, I reached out to ArenaNet
shortly before release to secure a post-launch interview to ensure all my most burning questions could be answered. I drafted my questions not long after launch, and while I most definitely wished to discover whether the initial launch hiccups affected the immediate uptake of the expansion, beyond that I sought more information on the development of such a decisively different expansion than Heart of Thorns
This launch diary installment will share ArenaNet’s responses to my PoF questions: Mounts, elite specializations, and the new maps were huge topics of discussion aside from the more general launch and development questions I had. Read on!
Pantheon and MMOs like it are bringing our dream future one step closer (or at least, Lt. Barclay’s dream future), Brad McQuaid suggests in a new interview this week. MMORPG veterans know McQuaid as a pioneer of the genre, first with EverQuest, then with the stalled and now sunsetted Vanguard, and now with the upcoming MMO Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen.
“I want to be immersed, I want to escape into a fantasy or sci-fi world. [MMO developers are] making the very, very early foundations of the Holodeck. Letting people recreate the 1930s or build new virtual worlds – that’s what MMOs are, they’re the genesis of that. Because they involve real people and that social aspect, because they’re so immersive – and will be even more so in the future, with VR coming – I lose myself in them. I don’t sit there thinking I’m playing a game; I’m really there. And that’s what interests me.”
McQuaid says the MMO is not dead and that he’s working to change that perception by catering to an “underserved” audience of virtual world gamers and “abandoned MMO fans.”
The folks at Procedural Worlds have a new interview-slash-testimonial from Crowfall Lead Environment Artist Jon O’Neal, in which he talks up that company’s enviromental design tools as employed in the service of building the Crowfall world, but he also talks a bit about the game’s 2015 Kickstarter and the point of the platform. O’Neal opines that the game’s Kickstarter was not about getting money and then making a game. “That’s not really what Kickstarter’s about; it’s to show interest to the real investors,” he says, since whatever Kickstarter brings in presumably won’t actually cover the game, just a “proof of concept.”
We reached out to ArtCraft about the statements for clarification, as we were unaware that the Kickstarter was intended to fund a proof-of-concept. That’s because it wasn’t. ArtCraft’s J. Todd Coleman told us that O’Neal simply misspoke on camera.
“The goal of the Kickstarter wasn’t a ‘proof-of-concept’,” he told us. “We already had a proof of concept: That is what we showed in the campaign’s video. The stated goal of our Kickstarter campaign was to build a ‘core module’ of the game. A proof-of-concept usually includes a fair amount of throw-away work, whereas the core module is the foundation of the actual game. It was created using parts of the PoC + a ton of new systems and content.”
Forbes has a new interview
out this week with ArenaNet
President Mike O’Brien all about the Guild Wars franchise, beginning with something most people have probably forgotten: Classic Guild Wars
was inspired as much by Magic The Gathering as by MMORPGs, specifically in the idea that card games allowed players to collect far more skills than they could use at a time. The strategy for playing such a game came in choosing which skills to tote along, not in how many skills you’d accrued.
Eventually, however, the team wanted to expand the world itself. “You can’t go halfway on a world,” he argues. “A world is such a powerful thing. It’s where your friends are. It’s the relaxing place where you hang out in the quiet moments between challenges. It’s the home that you grow to love, and that you’re ready to fight to defend when the story asks you to. We came to realize that the world wasn’t the setting; the world was the game.”
And that led ArenaNet to Guild Wars 2, with its focus on horizontal progression, character customization, and social systems. In fact, O’Brien suggests megaservers amounted to crucial tech for the development of the game and its social emphasis.
Over the weekend, the studio behind crowdfunded RvR MMORPG Camelot Unchained released a hefty chunk of its ongoing beta one document, revealing extensive insight into the way the game’s social systems will be laid out. Parts of those social systems will look familiar to MMO players, such as groups (Warbands), guilds (Orders), and raids (Battlegroups). But there are more layers to contend with, including perma-groups or mini-guilds (Permanent Warbands), as well as project-oriented raids (Campaigns), all designed in the service of an ambitious RvR-centered MMO that makes space for soloers and small guilds by not over- or under-privileging the largest teams in the genre. That’s the goal, anyway!
CU boss and MMORPG veteran developer Mark Jacobs, whom many of you know personally thanks to his ubiquity in our comments section, gamely answered about a thousand of my questions over the weekend, which we’ve compiled into an absurdly long interview about how to properly smush together all these groups into a social system sandwich that makes everybody happy. There’s even a Star Trek quote and a bonus question about Warhammer Online’s development and CU’s budget at the end!
I strongly urge you to check out the original doc first, as the interview assumes knowledge of the basic terminology and structure of the game. Fair warning: While Camelot Unchained’s document is almost 6000 words, this interview itself is close to 4000. You put Jacobs in a virtual room with me and my questions go on forever, and damn if he doesn’t answer them exhaustively. It’s a whopper, but it’s worth reading for a glimpse into what could be the future of MMO community planning.
You’re probably well aware that today is that holiest of geek holidays, Talk Like a Pirate Day. AdventureQuest 3D is certainly not ignoring it; the cross-platform MMO is getting into the spirit (and rum) of the season with the return of Captain Rhubarb.
Ol’ Cappy doesn’t have any quests to bestow, but his booty is overflowing with treasure with which he will part — for a price. If you’re rich enough, you can buy your way to a piratey outfit (or a naval commander, if you’re also more prim and proper).
The team also opened up about its harrowing experiences of operating in Tampa during the recent hurricane strike. AQ3D fell upon emergency plans to keep running and came through it just fine.
This past summer, ARK: Survival Evolved finally officially launched, ending its stint as an early access game just three days before PAX West, then promptly announced its second expansion on the first day of the convention. There wasn’t even a week between launch and the second expansion’s unveiling, and there will be fewer than two months between the two launches; Aberration is scheduled to launch in October.
While at PAX, I sat down with Studio Wildcard Senior Producer Navin Supphapholsiri, who thanked fans for supporting the game: “We really appreciate the support for the past two years. Just to see how far we’ve come along, it’s all thanks to the community.” Then we talked about the launch, about Aberration, and about the team’s focus going forward.
What is Chronicles of Elyria? We first learned about the game and its goal to redefine the MMORPG genre back in 2015. Since then, CoE has been developing steadily, especially after the huge influx of capital gained through Kickstarter and then on-site crowdfunding. Folks could follow the progress through numerous dev blogs, videos, and even the chance to test bits of gameplay at various PAXs. Some bits of that development, however, have raised questions; prospective players have voiced concerns about the pay-to-win and gankbox stigmas, the complex tribe system, and the admittedly broad scope of the game.
I sat down with Executive Producer Vye Alexander and CEO/Creative Director Jeromy Walsh at PAX West to discuss these issues and more.