Wisdom of Nym: Gauging predictions after the Final Fantasy XIV fanfests

It finally happened, folks; we're done with the fan festivals until next year. (Yes, I fully expect to hear about the next set when we're getting about halfway through 2018. This is not an unpredictable development team.) We know the big elements of what Final Fantasy XIV will be seeing with its next expansion. So I find myself sitting here and asking, more or less for my own edification, how was my aim?

I made my guesses about what we were going to see, after all. I did them publicly, so everyone could read them. And I think I did pretty well overall. You can read my predictions before the Las Vegas festival and this past weekend's Frankfurt festival; I didn't have a specific prediction for Tokyo, although the aftermath gave me the chance for some speculation.

So how did I do? And how cool was what we actually saw? Let's go over it.

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The Daily Grind: What's your favorite part of MMO gaming conventions?

The last of the pre-Stormblood fan festivals for Final Fantasy XIV has come to a close, and as with the prior two fan festivals, the bulk of my interest was satisfied after the keynote. There were a lot of other things happening, of course, lots of cool cosplay contests and interviews with the developers about what leads to creating the world... but the reality is that I'm mostly just interested in the actual information about the game. You could say that it's because of my job, but it's been the case as long as I can recall; once we're done with the information, my interest goes down, despite my respect for cosplayers and the developers.

I know some of you are the same way, doing your best Joe Friday impression and asking for just the facts. But I also know that's not universal; there are people for whom seeing cosplay contests or developer interviews are the main draw. Heck, there are people who mostly go for social interactions, and that's just as valid. So where do you stand, dear readers? What interests you about conventions for MMOs? Is it information about upcoming patches and expansions? Celebrating your fandom? Finding out what went into making the game? Something else altogether?

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EVE Evolved: What do we want from Drilling Platforms?

If you followed our EVE Fanfest coverage last year, you might remember CCP announcing plans to add a whole series of new deployable structures to EVE in the form of Engineering Complexes and Drilling Platforms. The Citadel expansion added new deployable space stations that players can put anywhere in space, with medium-sized Astrahus citadels for small corporations all the way up to the colossal Keepstars designed for massive military alliances. This was expanded on in the second half of 2016 with the release of Engineering Complexes as specialised citadels with bonuses to industry and research, but what ever happened to the Drilling Platforms?

Drilling Platforms were touted as an upcoming revolution in the way we collect resources in EVE Online, but the feature was still firmly in the early design stage when we discussed it with CCP at last year's Fanfest. There were general ideas floating around about automated mining structures that require different levels of player interaction and disrupting enemy resources by attacking their drills, but nothing concrete at the time. We've now been promised a solid development roadmap update at this year's Fanfest on April 6th and more information on Drilling Platforms in devblogs before then, and it's got me wondering what EVE's upcoming resource-gathering revolution might look like.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I speculate about what Drilling Platforms might be like, discuss the kinds of gameplay I'd like to see from them, and lay out a few of my dream features.

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The Daily Grind: What do you think about slavery as a concept in MMORPGs?

Last week, MJ and I were discussing a stream she was planning on Conan Exiles where she planned to help friends capture "thralls" to bring back to their bases and put to work. The term "thrall" is the game's way of softening what it really is: slavery. The slaves are NPCs, mind you, not other players, but honestly, the idea creeps me out a little bit anyway, far more than, say, Revival's long-ago proposed NPC prostitution design.

(But the mechanic is cool. Wouldn't it be nifty if player modders found ways to replace human slaves with elementals or automatoi or summoned spirits? That would basically negate my squeamishness entirely.)

Interestingly, as I reflect on why I find it mildly unsettling, I am thinking back to folks who roleplayed slaves, usually twi'leks, in Star Wars MMOs, and while I might roll my eyes, somehow that bothers me even less: Even though they were human vs. AI, there was a voluntariness about those storylines, play-acting instead of making an uncomfortable social statement via NPC. Conan actually rewards people for enslaving NPCs -- if you opt out on a server with the mechanic, you're at a disadvantage.

I don't know. I'm conflicted. What do you think about slavery as a concept in MMOs? Are Conan Exiles' slavery mechanics something you enjoy engaging in?

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LOTRO Legendarium: Checking out LOTRO's housing improvements

Like probably most of the population of Lord of the Rings Online, I was initially interested in player housing when it first came out, gave it the ol' college try for the first year or so to work within its limitations, and mostly forgot about it after that.

It was a sore point with the community, a subpar housing experience in a game that screamed for a robust feature on par with some of the genre's best. Year after year, a housing revamp was the top most-requested desire from players, and year after year, Turbine either ignored it, delayed it, or promised and then abandoned it.

Yet over the past year we've actually seen some movement on this front with two important changes: the addition of premium housing in Gondor and, most recently, Update 19.3's expansion of housing hook functionality. With these in mind, I turned my attention back to housing for the first time in so very long -- and found myself actually enraptured with creating a new home for myself. It's not the complete overhaul that we want and the game still needs, but it's far better than nothing and has actually revitalized the housing scene somewhat.

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The Daily Grind: What's the most boring part of MMORPGs?

While MMORPGs are supposed to be these giant buffets of entertainment options available at our fingertips, the truth is that there are always parts of these games that are... less exciting, shall we say, than the others.

I can think of a few that are usually systems I avoid because they're pretty boring. Crafting is unfortunately one of these. In concept, I love the idea of making your own gear and forging your economic destiny, but in practice, most MMO crafting interfaces are so dull and repetitive that I can't ever stick with them.

What is the most boring part of MMORPGs to you? And for bonus points, how would you fix it?

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Lost Continent: ArcheAge Revelation's fresh start servers aren't doing newbies any favors

It’s been over a month now since ArcheAge’s massive update 3.0 went live, adding oodles of new content to Trion’s expansive fantasy sandbox. The update, dubbed Revelation, is indeed monumental: It introduces two new races, the Dwarves and the Warborn—who join the Nuia and Harnya, respectively—and new starting zones for each; two massive new housing zones (one for each continent); new housing and social features such as housing-zone community centers and an overhauled family system; and an absolutely ludicrous number of adjustments and changes to almost all of the game’s existing systems.

On top of all the new content, Revelation also brought another new feature to ArcheAge’s proverbial table: brand-new "fresh start" servers, which are limited to players whose accounts were created on or after December 8th, 2016, and feature a modified version of the in-game cash shop that aims to limit the much-decried pay-to-win aspects of the game.

As someone who has always wanted to like ArcheAge but just couldn’t get past the pay-to-win stigma and the domination of the legacy servers by established players and guilds, I was intrigued by the prospect of starting the game with a blank slate, so I joined the flock of fellow fresh-starters to see if the experience might erase my former misgivings.

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The Daily Grind: Have you ever boycotted an MMORPG?

Blizzard Watch ran an editorial yesterday quoting former marine biologist and World of Warcraft Lead Systems Designer Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street on the subject of video game boycotts: "I would not advocate boycotting a game as a way to make a statement, especially if deep down you still love the game. You’re just not likely to drive change as a result."

It's not a new idea, but it's one worth revisiting whether we're talking about something as big as economic and political sanctions or something as small as quitting a video game with a big ol' flounce: Even if a whole crapton of people quit over something terrible in a game, it's unlikely to have much of an effect since the developers won't know why. There will always be exceptions -- like the NGE or monoclegate -- and they're such outliers that they have names. For the most part, games really can't react to a few thousand people quitting over a patch here and there. Boycotts just aren't specific enough.

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Massively Overthinking: Are MMOs designed for 'low-skill gamers'?

Ages ago on the MMORPG subreddit, a player made a bold statement: MMORPGs are designed for low-skill gamers.

"I remember being dazzled by EverQuest and Ultima as a child," he wrote, reminiscing about his memory of high difficulty old-school games. "I recently loaded up [Star Wars: The Old Republic] again, and I'm shocked. Piss easy. Everything. XP falling from the sky. Mobs dead in one GCD. Brainless. The same reason I quite every MMO. I never meet people, I never feel challenged. I just feel bored. 'Wait till endgame' isn't gonna cut it anymore. I'm over it. I'm done. I feel like I'm just hitting the 'Reward' button again and again and again, solitary and alone, like a stupid little rat in the cage." He then basically blames the perceived shift of the genre on people who don't want games to be "like a job": "The genre just seems to be fueled by mediocre, anti-social "consumers."

I wanted to pull this back out to see whether our staff and writers agree with the claims -- and whether we all have some advice for this fan, who concludes his rant by asking people to change his mind. Howsabout it, Overthinking fans?

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Chaos Theory: The Secret World predictions 2016 vs 2017

It's no secret that The Secret World had a rough year in 2016. I just really wish I could say differently. And it's especially sad because I had such hopes for my favorite game. Granted, I knew it wasn't going to miraculously get the funding and staff to give me all the story and things my heart so desired, but I did anticipate a bit more than what we actually got. When 2016 dawned, I pieced together our available clues to try and draw a map of where the year was going. A cartographer I apparently am not, and Google maps won't be hiring me anytime soon. Perhaps for this year I shall consult with the Magic Eight ball? Here's a look at the scorecard for my 2016 predictions, and a modest list of 2017 hopes, dreams, and predicted happenings. (We'll just have to wait to see how those ultimately pan out!).

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Perfect Ten: Terminology the MMORPG genre needs

MMOs, like any other hobby, have their own terminology. We have the term "newb" for new players, "noob" for players who aren't actually new but still make new player mistakes, and "n00b" if you want to sound like an insufferable weirdo from the aughts. But we also have a lot of terminology that just plain doesn't work any more for a variety of reasons, like "pay-to-win" and "hardcore" and so forth.

That does not, however, mean that we do not need our specialized terminology. Indeed, while some of our older vocabulary is not up to the tasks of modern games, I think a great deal could be accomplished just by adding some new words to our lexicon. So let's create some brand-new terms (or codify existing ones) so that we can, in fact, have shared words to describe scenarios that we encounter on a regular basis.

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The Daily Grind: Which games will be the big winners (and losers) from more MMOs on consoles?

I don't think that being one of the only fully featured MMOs on a console is what has made Final Fantasy XIV successful. I think there are a lot of other factors that have attracted and kept people playing. So I don't get worried for the title when, say, I see that Skyforge is heading to consoles. But for games like DC Universe Online, I do start worrying a little, because one of that particular title's biggest draws is "action-based combat MMO on a console," and every other title that checks those same boxes gives it a stiffer competition.

That's something we don't think about much, but as we're noticing more and more games moving to consoles in addition to their PC clients, I think it's worth considering. Which games will be the big winners (and losers) from more MMOs on consoles? We're no longer in the days when playing an MMO on a console meant you had two options at most, but which games will benefit from the console port and which ones will suffer when they are no longer one of only two options?

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Guild Chat: Pro tips for incentivising active MMO guild membership

Welcome along to another edition of Guild Chat, the column through which Massively Overpowered readers can have their guild-related questions or concerns addressed through both the articles themselves and the comments section from other readers, allowing for a broad basis of supportive advice to help the reader in need. In this edition, Wakfu guild leader Aio asks if setting up a schedule for high-level players to encourage them to run with low-level characters regularly is a good idea and wishes to find dome help with how to plan and populate such a schedule. At this point in time, Aio is almost solely responsible for looking after low-level players in the guild and would love to hear ideas of some fun activities that could help entice others into naturally interacting with lower level players.

See Aio's full submission below and don't forget to head on down to the comments section to leave your advice on guild scheduling and multi-level event planning.

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