Last week, I trekked out to Baltimore to visit ZeniMax Online Studios and get a first glimpse at Elder Scrolls Online's upcoming chapter/expansion, Morrowind. After all, it's been fifteen years since anyone explored the island of Vvardenfell; it would have been extraordinarily dumb of me to turn down the offer. The press event also afforded me the opportunity to speak personally to the ESO developers, including Game Director Matt Firor and Creative Director Richard Lambert, so believe me, I took advantage of every opportunity that I had to get our readers questions and concerns addressed.
During my visit, Lambert and Firor gave a presentation about Morrowind story, the new Warden class, and battlegrounds. Later this morning, I'll have articles about the Warden and battlegrounds, but in this piece, we're tackling the Morrowind story and what's happening on Vvardenfell some 700 years before The Elder Scrolls III.
In a new interview with Glixel, World of Warcraft Game Director Ion Hazzikostas opened up about the creation and use of WoW Tokens in the Blizzard ecosystem, especially in light of last week's expansion of the tokens' functionality. Hazzikostas said that the demise of Diablo III's RMT auction house paved the path for WoW Tokens.
"One of the original purposes for the token, and something that it’s served very well, is undercutting the illegal gold selling market that exists within the game," he noted. "The way that gold is acquired is by compromising the accounts and using various methods that are harmful to players. Anything we can do to make those things harder is a net gain for us."
Hazzikostas said that only a small segment of World of Warcraft players actually buy or sell tokens: "We were very satisfied with the fact that it was harmless, that it was not having any negative external effects on the economy or the game, and was just making people happier."
ARK: Survival Evolved Co-Founder Jeremy Stieglitz has posted to Reddit an unreleased interview he did for Eurogamer, which apparently won't be published there. In it, he addresses some of the criticisms the game has received, specifically the Scorched Earth expansion -- paid DLC for a game that hasn't technically launched yet.
"We should have messaged it sooner and explained our goals with it before launch, rather than at the last-minute of release. In the long-run though, it’s been good for ARK’s gameplay: the new metagame-expanding feature called 'Cross-ARK Travel' which allows players to dynamically travel their characters, items, & creatures between servers is entirely due to the technical work done for the launch of Scorched Earth, which was the intent: to get our key technical & design systems to support expansion ARKs down the road."
He also says that he was surprised the game ever made back its original $2M budget and that the console launch is a necessity.
Valve's Gabe Newell and Erik Johnson have confirmed that the company is working on a trio of VR-centric games, not cheapie experiments but full-scale games built in Unity and its own proprietary Source 2 engine. The discussion came as part of a press briefing in Seattle last night.
Newell also commented at length on the U.S. government's travel ban, which was once again blocked by the courts yesterday. He explained that Valve employees have been directly affected by the ban, people who've "been here for years" and "pay taxes" but can't leave the country to visit relatives or attend events overseas lest they become unwittingly entangled or trapped far from home.
Newell and Johnson further said that the ban (and the threat of its return in one form or another) also affects their ability to hire and their ability to host international e-sports competitions, as many pro players already had difficulty securing work visas. Consequently, the duo say they'd consider hosting the big-money Dota 2 The International tourney out of the U.S. if necessary.
Gamespot has a new interview out with four members of the "300 strong" World of Warcraft live team this week, and while the quartet bring up micro-holidays -- kind of a lot -- there's also a bit of insight on what the team has learned over the years. Unsurprisingly, they don't like the word "drought."
"We know and remember well the narrative or the sentiment from Warlords, where people were very happy at the start and then after that, there were the concerns we heard, that you described, about droughts," Class Designer Jay Gill says. Senior Designer Paul Kubit explained that the team is trying to address those criticisms with content.
"When working on WoW, we constantly learned from the past expansions--we learned things from Cataclysm going into Pandaria, Pandaria into Warlords, and so on. The big one that we learned from Warlords is we just need to do more patches. We need to keep the game vibrant with content, and the way we do that is by making sure, every couple months or so, we have something new to do. And that's the point of these .5 patches--it's to have, even if it's not the giant raid tier and outdoor farming zone, something new that you can play."
Depending on your level and direction of nerdiness, you may be interested in this interview with Niantic's Director of Software Engineering Edward Wu. Wu talks about how Pokémon Go grew out of the success of Ingress and Google's cloud services but ended up being a much, much larger beast than even the team anticipated.
"So just to give you the sheer sense of scale-- I mean, it's almost beyond comprehension, you know, the collective effort that people have put into not only playing this game. But actually when you think about all that walking, is the exercise and exploration, and meeting of new people that they've done in the midst of it. From a more technical perspective, to give you an idea of how much bigger this was than what we expected, it was roughly 50 times greater than the capacity that we actually had planned for at launch," Wu said.
Wu said that over 88 billion Pokémon have been caught so far, with the playerbase collectively walking far enough to shoot past Pluto. Rumor is, Mewtwo is hanging out there and can be caught by the most determined player astronauts.
Have you had a chance to pick up and read Richard Garriott's memoirs yet? Whether or not you have, you might want to check out this interview that the Shroud of the Avatar creator did on his life adventures to date.
Speaking of the in-development MMO, the interviewer pointed out some of the bad reviews that Shroud of the Avatar has garnered so far and asked if the project might not be going as hoped. Garriott replied by saying, "I don't think so at all. We've had naysayers since the beginning. But I think what you're seeing is a side effect from open development from day one [...] Everything was pretty hunky dory until we went up on Steam. Then we found a different type of customer who hadn't been with us from the beginning. They see that the game looks unfinished, unpolished, with only a few weapons and an obtuse UI and we get a backlash."
Garriott said that Shroud of the Avatar should officially launch by the middle of 2017.
We are a couple days early with the Hyperspace Beacon
this week for a reason you're going to love: We had an exclusive conversation with Creative Director Charles Boyd
about the Star Wars: The Old Republic
update releasing tomorrow, and we wanted to give you some insight into what Defend the Throne might offer you. Even though you won the day at the end of the latest expansion Knights of the Eternal Throne
, there are still factions that have problems with you and your Alliance. There are still uprisings all over the galaxy.
The new group content called Uprisings (pretty on the nose there, right?) is the focus of the next update. We'll see five more four-player, intense instances launch tomorrow, along with changes to the Command XP system and (of course) a new Cartel Market Pack.
I talked to Charles Boyd on Friday to get his input on the new content and a breakdown of each new Uprising and the overarching purpose behind them all.
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.