Just because an MMORPG’s development has been put into suspended animation doesn’t mean that profit still can’t be made! To wit, check out Funcom’s can-do spirit, which doesn’t take “maintenance mode” for an answer when it comes to holiday sales.
For whatever reason, the studio is holding a sale on Funcom Points for both Anarchy Online and Age of Conan. These titles, you might recall, joined the original Secret World earlier this year in having their active development canceled while nominally keeping the servers running.
Anyway, both games are throwing in bonus points when you buy certain tiers of bundles. Additionally, Anarchy Online has a luxury armor set that it would like to sell you as part of a multi-month membership package.
The significance of Vanguard’s development, release, long-running drama, second chance, and eventual closure should be of great interest not just to game historians but to everyone who plays MMOs, period. What happened with this game caused a huge fallout in the industry, and we are still feeling some of its effects even today.
As our own Bree once put it in her blog, “Vanguard’s implosion was a big deal at the time and marked the beginning of the post-World of Warcraft destruction of the industry that hobbled Age of Conan and Warhammer Online a few years later.”
While the crash and burn of Vanguard was a very well-known tale several years ago, I’m wondering if today there might be many who are quite unfamiliar with what happened to this unassuming title back around 2007. Let me put on my old fogey glasses and we shall begin!
One thing you can say for the MMO industry: It never ceases to surprise all of us. No matter what predictions we may make at the beginning of a year, by December we will all be proven fools who lack vision and foresight.
Although 2017 isn’t quite over yet, we here at Massively Overpowered wanted to count down the biggest news stories that crossed over into our neck of the woods so far this year. We witnessed controversies and delights, shockers and sadness. We saw launches and shutdowns, expansions and bugs.
So before we move into 2018, let’s take a look at the year that was and remember the biggest stories that dominated headlines.
Oh, Secret World Legends
. What are you? Are you a Frankensteinian change forced upon an existing beloved game that sucked some of the life and character out from your original source? Are you a relaunch that was billed as being something bigger than you actually were? Are you a new game that inherits the theme and setting of your nominal predecessor? Are you a good witch or a bad witch?
As I have mentioned, I don’t have history with SWL. I do, however, have history with The Secret World. And the fun thing is that said history informs my attitude going into this title as well as the reasons behind the remake-slash-rebranding, so it’s worth examining that along the way. Just as it’s also worth noting that The Secret World has also long been a victim of Funcom’s slow-running financial implosion.
Hey, you. Yeah, you, dude leeching candy from the bucket you bought “for the neighborhood kids.” And you, lady still trying to decide between “Princess Leia” and “lazy zombie” for your costume (go Leia, duh). Put all that aside and get into some MMOs instead! Halloween is only one night in real life, but in MMORPGs, it goes on for days or even weeks. Some studios will probably even forget to turn it off! Others will let you run around with a flaming pumpkin head mask for all eternity!
Here’s what we’re looking at this year for Halloween across the MMORPG verse.
In one of our recent Daily Grind discussions about MMORPGs that might make it to 20 years of live operation, some of our commenters pointed out that despite Age of Conan continuing in maintenance mode, Funcom had ceased to honor its ongoing subscription loyalty reward program for players pushing two years or more.
The same day, Funcom (purely coincidentally, we have no doubt) posted its 720-day loyalty reward information. The good news for loyal subbers is that the two-year mark will net you five royal treasure chests and a free character boost to level 80.
Age of Conan was officially put into maintenance mode back in February as Funcom chose to instead pursue Conan Exiles, Secret World Legends, and other upcoming projects.
Longtime Funcom watchers and MMORPG veterans already knew that Funcom was working on multiple games as part of its Conan franchise push, but some Conan Exiles players newly come to the studio’s games were hearing the news for the first time following Funcom’s quarterly financial report last week, leading to confusion and panic.
“We’re planning another Conan game, but full production won’t start until after Conan Exiles,” Funcom reassured followers on Twitter. “Our plans are to continue supporting Conan Exiles after launch, but first we need to concentrate on having the best launch possible. Exiles is set for full launch in Q1, 2018. We will make sure it is good and ready before we do anything else.”
“We have an additional six months of Early Access, and no resources will be pulled from Conan Exiles until it’s finished,” the company confirmed, repeating the messages in multiple replies.
Mere days after the exciting news about Secret World Legends
being made into a television show
, we finally hear about the game’s long-awaited Aurum conversion
. Only it wasn’t especially great news — not all of it. Instead of the Funcom Points just transferring over to Aurum (which ends September 4th by the way), there are limitations and restrictions that essentially have a number of folks feeling cheated out of money they spent with every intention to use on The Secret World
After speaking up in dismay, players were told they could still spend the nontransferrable Funcom points in Age of Conan or TSW. No. Just, no. There are people who bought those points long ago specifically to use for new content in The Secret World. It is not the player’s fault there was no new content to spend it on for so long! Those points should absolutely be able to benefit players in SWL as it is the only real game going forward.
Just in case you weren’t clear on the point that Funcom considers Conan Exiles to be the wave of the company’s future, this should drive it home for you. The studio announced that it has signed a deal with Koch Media to bring the survival sandbox to physical game shelves in the future.
This means that when Conan Exiles officially releases early next year on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4, it will also be showing up in retail stores, giving the title extra presence and (hopefully) additional sales. Koch and Funcom previously partnered to sell box copies of Age of Conan back when that was the current golden child of the studio.
Funcom CEO Rui Casais expressed confidence in Koch Media: “Their experience as a world-leading publisher combined with their extensive retail network will help bring Conan Exiles to an even wider audience. The fact that they know and understand Conan is also a huge benefit that will ensure all aspects of publishing the game will be executed in the true spirit of the Conan the Barbarian brand.”
Motherboard has a fun-slash-depressing piece out this week on an unnamed hacker who claims he’s been cheating at MMORPGs to make a living for almost two decades.
Prior to his recent Def Con hacking conference talk, the hacker dubbed “Manfred” seemingly demoed via video a hack performed in WildStar, one he used to help him accrue nearly 400 trillion gold, which he then allegedly sold to players through various black markets. He argues he wasn’t hacking — he was providing a service by “finding unintended features in the protocol.”
At least some of his claims don’t even seem particularly outlandish, especially if you’ve been around in MMORPGs for a long time and have an understanding of how rampant duping and RMT markets have been over the last 20 years. Manfred claims he got his start in Ultima Online illegally deleting other players’ houses and selling his own on Ebay, funding his days in college. Since then, Motherboard says, he cheated and duped his way through the “wild west” of Lineage 2, Shadowbane, Final Fantasy XI, Dark Age of Camelot, Lord of The Rings Online, RIFT, Age of Conan, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and Guild Wars 2.
Warning: This column will contain GRAPHIC and EXPLICIT references to film auteur Michael Bay. You may find yourself cutting away in excitement every two seconds and subject to unnecessary explosions and pixelated cleavage. Try to remain calm.
Siphaed had “super fun” in Citadel: Forged With Fire lately and wanted to share a vista from his new house. But what’s the best part? “Explosions!” he wrote. “Michael Bay would be jealous of the graphical fidelity of Citadel. And yet still aesthetically pleasing to the eye.”
Now that we’ve gotten our gratuitous Michael Bay reference out of the way, let us push forward and try to forget the man who single-handedly ruined two 1980s franchises. We are not bitter.
The one thing that I thought we could all count on forever was that the MMO life cycle was pretty easy to understand. A game is launched, then it runs for a certain amount of time, then it shuts down. That last part kind of sucks, but the point is that you know when it’s time to move on. The life cycle is clearly one of creation, then life, then death, like a potted ficus or a cheap desk chair you get at Target.
But then sometimes you have a cheap desk chair that breaks in a crucial way, but you manage to screw the right sort of braces together so you can keep using it for another year after it should have been thrown out. And sometimes an MMO is born, and then it lives, and then it… doesn’t live, but it’s not actually shut down or in maintenance. Or it isn’t clear what’s going on with it, due to what seems to be total abandonment. Or it updates more than games which are supposedly live.
That’s what this column is all about. MMOs in a weird sort of limbo, where some facts are clear, but the results or the overall trajectory make no sense. Sometimes it’s not even clear if the game has actually launched or not. It’s weird.
Funcom is apparently keeping itself busy with a new partnership and game. The company’s investor relations site has a brief press release with the announcement:
“Funcom N.V. has entered into an agreement with Bearded Dragon International LTD regarding the development and publishing of a new game. The game is in the ‘tactical turn-based strategy’ genre and is planned to be released during 2018. Initial platform will be PC, with consoles to be evaluated after the PC launch. More information about the game will be revealed when PR and Marketing activities are initiated prior to release. This activity is part of Funcom’s strategy of releasing multiple game titles per year, providing significant activities more often and building a larger portfolio of products.”
Funcom is best known to MMO players for its long-running The Secret World, Age of Conan, and Anarchy Online, as well as sunsetted MMO LEGO Minifigures Online and early access survival sandbox Conan Exiles. AOC and AO were seemingly maintenance-moded earlier this year, while The Secret World has been back-burnered in favor of Secret World Legends, which has formally launched today.