Just when you think the MMO industry is predictable, it jukes and jags all over the place, tossing out surprises left and right in an attempt to shake you off its tail (or to pull you in, we haven’t decided on that one yet). Marking one of the most unpredictable news weeks of 2017, Bree and Justin ride out westerns, space operas, and fantasies with aplomb.
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Massively OP’s MJ created her Funcom account exactly nine years ago for the launch of Age of Conan. And for the anniversary, she’s dusting off her Priestess of Mitra to poke around the lands. Or maybe she’ll bring out her Khitan Ranger. Either way, it will be fun to explore Hyboria again. Tune in live at 6:00 p.m. as OPTV‘s infamous Stream Team brings you an anniversary stroll through the harsh lands of…
What: Age of Conan
Who: MJ Guthrie
When: 6:00 p.m. EDT on Saturday, May 20th, 2017
So, Age of Conan players. Let’s talk. I know this year has been kinda rough on you. You found out, as we did, that your game was going to be maintenance-moded just a few months ago in a tiny aside in a financial letter to corporate investors. That hurt. And your baby brother, Conan Exiles, has sucked up all of dad’s attention. And money. You could rant at the unfairness of it all, or you could be grateful that at least you’re not being sunsetted like so many great MMORPGs before you. I won’t judge you for either.
But if you are playing, or think you might someday again, maybe take a peek right now as the elder Conan game turns nine years old. Yes, nine years ago this very month, we all logged into Tortage… no, actually, let’s not talk about Tortage. It’s birthday time. And Funcom is trying to make it worth your while with a free level 80 character boost and a free character slot, as long as you had an account before today, and as long as you log in before May runs out.
Conan Exiles performed beautifully for Funcom, at least during the first part of this year, the company’s investor report for the first quarter revealed today. The survival sandbox’s early access launch in February helped propel Funcom’s once-beleaguered revenues to five times their state this time last year, making it the “most profitable quarter ever” in the history of the studio. The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 releases are on track for Q3 2017 and Q1 2018, respectively.
The company reiterates that the reboot of The Secret World as Secret World Legends will make its recently announced June 26th debut, but the Steam launch will be delayed until July 31st as a result of “crowded market conditions with multiple MMO releases in May/June on Steam” — those being Black Desert’s Steam launch, Elder Scrolls Online’s Morrowind launch, and Final Fantasy XIV’s Stormblood. Seriously, nobody else should even try launching that month.
“The Company expects the majority of players after launch to be newcomers to the game, but is also working to make it worthwhile for as many veterans of The Secret World as possible to continue playing Secret World Legends. Due to the high uncertainty regarding a Free to Play business models the Company expects the development team to need to tweak the monetization mechanisms of the game in the months following launch. Paid User Acquisition will gradually be tested and introduced in tandem with the monitoring and tweaking of the game’s monetization KPIs.”
It seems that it really wasn’t too long ago that I was filling in the time between night classes by boning up on video game news. I was drinking up all of the hot up-and-comers, such as Age of Conan and Warhammer Online, when I caught word that the maker of Diablo was trying to do the same thing again, only more online, in 3-D, and with a cool modern-day/futuristic/horror vibe.
There’s no better way to put it than to say that from the start, Hellgate: London looked all kinds of cool. Oh sure, you can scoff now with your perfect 20/20 hindsight, but I’m betting that more than a few of you thought the same with me around that time. Diablo but with guns and an online persistence — how could we not be intrigued? One of my most vivid memories was being torn between the idea of buying a lifetime subscription deal for $150 or not (again, this was before the free-to-play era, but also before the era of us spending the same money on alpha access. I’m just saying that you can’t judge me.).
Have you ever noticed that while there’s an entire world out there, most all of the MMORPGs we discuss and play tend to either be ones crafted in the USA or imports from China or Korea? We even have a shorthand for this: “western” and “eastern” MMOs. We’re usually not talking about entire hemispheres with these references, but rather about categorizing three countries that are big into the MMORPG business.
But what about the rest of the world? Are all of these other countries so uncaring about this genre that they’ve never tried their hand at making an MMO? Of course not; as I’m about to show you, there are plenty of online RPGs that have been made in countries other than China, the USA, and South Korea. It’s just that for various reasons, those three countries ended up fostering concentrations of video game developers who knew how to create these types of games.
So let’s take a tour around the world and see if we can’t give some credit to other countries for their contributions to the MMORPG genre past, present, and future. Before you click the link, see how many you can name off the top of your head!
Just because you happen to be a humanoid frog doesn’t mean that you’ve lost at the lottery of life. On the contrary, you have all sorts of advantages, such as being able to install and replace light fixtures very high in your underground cavern. Also, you can eat flies.
Reader Finyar starts us out this week with a stunning interior location from a fan-favorite MMO: “I’m currently playing Guild Wars 2 again and I’m always impressed with how beautifully crafted the game world is.”
Art matters, people. Also, why can’t we play more frogs in online games?
After over a month of voting and counting down, we’ve arrived at the final six picks for your favorite MMORPG theme songs of all time. It’s been absolutely illuminating seeing the formation of this list and the placement of certain tracks, and I’m glad that everyone who wanted to got to participate.
Before I reveal the top six themes, here are a few honorable mentions:
Are you ready? I know I am! Here we go!
I think I can speak for most of our staff in saying that in November when Funcom first promised a “major upgrade to both retention and acquisition mechanics and content of the game to counter the declining revenues” in The Secret World, no one expected this.
Ditto in February, when Funcom said it was going “relaunch to broaden the appeal of the game through [a] redesigned new player experience, major improvements to gameplay including combat, [the] introduction of new retention systems such as daily rewards, [and] adjustments to the business model, including allowing access to the story content for free” — people murmured “NGE,” but no one even considered that the studio would dump MMO players overboard in pursuit of ARPG fans.
But in retrospect, the cagey language and lack of actual updates in the game were right there all along, as was the casual maintenance-moding of Anarchy Online and Age of Conan.
For this week’s Overthinking, I’ve asked our staff to consider Funcom’s plans here — not the rumors and leaks but the set-in-stone plans — and reflect on what they say about the studio, the game, and the genre on the whole. What do you think about Secret World Legends?
When you push a player too far, commit too many crimes, and flaunt your evil with one of those tacky pre-battle speeches, you’re going to get a face full of avenging angel.
Tyler, take it away! “No matter how many of The Secret World’s world bosses I fight (and I have fought a lot; I may have a problem), I never get tired of seeing the swarms of players that rush in to take them down, the riot of different outfits and ability effects, the massive bosses withering away under the combined fire, the sheer epic mayhem of it all. Add the spectacular effects from ultimate abilities, and you have an endless source of amazing screenshot fodder.”
Welcome to an all-email submissions edition of One Shots! Remember kids, when you email a screenshot and a story, you get to cut to the front of the line!
If you’re a fan of Funcom and the games it makes, Conan Exiles probably has you breathing a bit easier than you have in a while. It’s an indisputable success for the developers, who have been in a difficult financial situation for the past several years. Now they’ve got a pretty big hit on their hands, big enough to take out a sizable booth on the PAX East show floor to demonstrate the harsh survival of the game.
I had a chance to chat with some of the Funcom staff on site as well as an opportunity to play the game a bit myself. (Although that was mostly an exercise in getting gored by rhinos and eaten by alligators, so MJ is probably the better source of information on the game mechanics.) They revealed to me just how big of a success the game has actually been for Funcom, hitting its twelve-month sales goal in 30 days. That’s significant however you slice it, especially when you’re discussing a buy-to-play game rather than a subscription setup.
From the land, the sea (stream), and the air — danger in Conan Exiles comes from everywhere! There really aren’t any safe spots in the exiled lands; the only refuge you might find is if you take over some territory and build one. Massively OP’s MJ continues to battle the wildlife in her quest to claim her own little space. Will she win the fight for survival this time, or will she be chomped into bloody bits? Tune in live at 9:00 p.m. to see who survives: MJ or beast.
What: Conan Exiles
Who: MJ Guthrie
When: 9:00 p.m. EST on Friday, March 10th, 2017
As it stands right now, players in Conan Exiles may stride across the land with mighty swords or short stabbing implements held high in the breeze, and also you can pick up a sword if you want to. But it appears that players on Xbox One (commonly shortened to “Xbone” because sometimes life loves irony) will be unable to thrust forward into the unknown. According to creative director Joel Bylos, the team was told outright that there were to be no rods dirtying up this game of filthy, scrabbling violence.
Bylos is unsure whether the ladies will still be able to go tits out for being exiled in a wasteland and trying to kill other people, but he knows that the dongs will be gone as surely as they are omitted from LEGO games. There’s also no word about whether or not PlayStation 4 players will be able to enjoy the simple joys of having their digital bits flapping in the breeze. Of course, you can enjoy that in the PC verson, so if that’s a selling point, you needn’t feel limp and weak.