Last September, the internet was buzzing about Amazon Game Studios’ big reveals, including Breakaway, which the company teased for weeks ahead of time. It turned out not to be an MMO — we’ve got New World for that fix — but a “mythological sport brawler,” a 4v4, third-person MOBA-lite built from the ground up for streaming. Since then, the game’s run a few alpha tests and put the feedback to work, overhauling the characters one by one. Jarra was first up among the warriors, and now AGS has a huge dev blog out detailing changes to the rest.
For starters, several of the warrior-archetype characters got renames (Spartacus to Argus, Anne Bonny to Kyra, and Morgan Le Fey to Korryn) and style buffs; the studio tweaked power ranges, control, strafing, buildables, text chat, replays, the relic running system, and the gold economy.
“Don’t worry – Breakaway’s still about fast action, strategic teamwork, and dunking on fools,” AGS says. “We listened to your feedback and made changes we believe only refine what makes Breakaway great.”
Back in February, we learned the fate of MMORPG industry veteran John Smedley: He’s heading up a new game for Amazon Game Studios.
Smed is well known for his 20-year reign at SOE and then Daybreak, which he departed in 2015, and most recently for Hero’s Song studio Pixelmage Games, which closed down last year ostensibly for financial reasons.
While Smed wouldn’t speak about the game on the record back then, Amazon did cite his MMO experience when telling gamers that his game is “an ambitious new project that taps into the power of the AWS Cloud and Twitch to connect players around the globe in a thrilling new game world.” We might have a clue today as he’s tweeted about PC shooters, soliciting opinions on gunplay.
Amazon Game Studios continues to lure talented developers away for its new multiplayer projects. Sebastian Strzalkowski became the latest to defect to the new studio, saying that he is joining the San Diego team after 13 years of work at SOE and Daybreak.
Strzalkowski’s portfolio covers a wide swath of Daybreak projects, including being art director for H1Z1 and having worked on Free Realms, EverQuest Next, and Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures.
“Grateful for 13 rewarding yrs at SOE/Daybreak, honored to work with such talented folks,” Strzalkowski posted on Twitter. “Starting new job @AMZNGameStudios later this month!”
This time last year, I polled the Massively OP writers for their opinions on which MMOs had had the best year, or half year, up to that point in 2016 — which games were the most influential and important specifically in that time period. I was pretty surprised at the spread of answers too. Since we’re nearing the midpoint of 2017, I thought we should renew that question and see whether anything’s changed. So as last time, I’m asking everyone to pick three games that represent the MMORPG zeitgeist, using whatever combination of criteria they wish – revenue, playerbase size, hype, anticipation, update cycle, and so forth. What should we be paying attention to? Which games are a sign of the times? And just who is dominating now in 2017?
Here’s the million-dollar question of the day: What is John Smedley making for Amazon Game Studio’s San Diego branch? Ever since being handed the reins of a new sub-studio back in February with a bulk of his Pixelmage team, we’ve been intensely curious about whether Smedley is staying close to his MMO roots in his new project.
Perhaps we might glean a few details from the job listings on Amazon’s site. The studio is looking for several positions for art, combat systems, and engineering, and there are a few bullet points in the job descriptions that hint at the project in question.
One of the job descriptions has the best hint yet, with the position being tasked to “architect and develop the real time combat system for a cutting edge action multiplayer game.” Another intriguing entry mentions a “real time terrain deformation system based on physics simulation.”
A job listing for a player relations specialist may be inadvertently giving us a glimpse of a few details concerning Amazon’s upcoming New World MMORPG.
Tucked inside the job posting is a description of New World:
New World is a massively multiplayer, open-ended sandbox game that allows you to carve your own destiny with other players in a living, hostile, cursed land. How you play, what you do, and whom you work with or against is up to you. Live on your own amidst the supernatural terrors or join with others to build thriving civilizations. In this evolving world that transforms with the changing of the seasons, weather, and time of day, the only limit is your own ambition.
Cast your mind back to Christmas carols and unfortunate egg nog binges of late 2016, and you might recall that Amazon Games Studios was running its first title, Breakaway, through a short alpha test.
Clearly it was a beneficial test for the studio’s 4v4 brawler, as the devs said that they received a load of useful feedback for the game’s direction and development. “We identified four opportunities where we could tangibly change the gameplay for a better experience,” AGS said. “Give players better movement options, more options for combat capabilities, refine the buildable experience, and revisit the balance of gold in the game.”
As the team works on all of that, a new warrior steps onto Breakaway’s battlefield. This would be Jarra, the shadow huntress, a stealth assassin with low health and high burst DPS against single targets. The team announced her on a recent livestream, which you can watch below.
Hands up: Any Massively OP readers play the crap out of Command & Conquer back in the day? In the ’90s, Westwood Studios was a legend for that series (and how awesome was Red Alert? Here’s the Hell March theme for your Thursday listening pleasure) before the studio was purchased by EA and shuttered.
Well, one of the co-founders of Westwood, Louis Castle, is being given another chance at widespread glory. Castle was recently hired by Amazon Game Studios Seattle to head up the company’s sci-fi multiplayer title Crucible.
Castle told Games Industry that he’s thrilled to get to work on a brand-new IP: “I don’t know too many game developers who would prefer to pursue licensed IP over the chance to create something. The new IP problem space is wide open and the possibilities are endless. I’ve personally had about equal amounts of success in both adapting and building IP.”
Ever since last September’s surprise announcement that Amazon Game Studios was actually building a sandbox MMORPG called New World, we have been dying to know more about it. As the relative lack of coverage on this site might suggest, the studio hasn’t really been promoting it past that initial press release.
However, a sharp-eyed fan noticed that the company did put two new screenshots for the game some time recently on the Amazon Lumberyard page. The first picture shows a lush forest setting while the second gives an idea of what a settlement might look like in those early colonial days.
Recently, Amazon put ex-Daybreak CEO John Smedley in charge of a new studio and different mystery project in San Diego. Check out the screenshots after the jump and let us know what you think in the comments!
This week saw one of the biggest MMO industry shakeups in recent memory, with big-name developers leaving long-term posts and Amazon giving Smedley a shot at redemption. Add in revelations about two major upcoming expansions, and it’s all we can do to bottle up the news and deliver it to you before it explodes all over the place!
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.
Listen to the show right now:
This week in MMO crowdfunding, we did a retrospective on why crowdfunded MMOARPG Hero’s Song failed. It’s almost as if Justin knew (cue spooky music) because two days later, Hero’s Song’s John Smedley and most of the Pixelmage team showed up at Amazon, announcing a new studio and a new game for the shopping giant’s games division. In other words, don’t expect Smed back on Kickstarter any time soon.
Meanwhile, Star Citizen’s alpha 2.6.1 went live, we poked around TUG’s status, Elite Dangerous demoed its upcoming “Holo-Me” character creator, The Exiled prepped for next week’s launch, Ruin of the Reckless entered its backer test phase, and Camelot Unchained hinted at beta.
Read on for more on what’s up with MMO crowdfunding over the last few weeks and the regular roundup of all the crowdfunded MMOs we’ve got our eye on.
Amazon Game Studios announced yesterday that it had picked up MMORPG genre veteran John Smedley to helm one of its up-and-coming online game studios. Today, it published a blog post with a photograph of the team, which appears to show that Smed brought along with him several familiar faces from Pixelmage Games. Well, more than several — it looks like the bulk of the team, minus some of the artists and AI expert Dave Mark.
Shown in the photograph is Smed (hiding in the back!), along with Scott Maxwell, Steve Freitas, Andy Skirvin minus a beard (nice try, Skirvin, but we’re canny), Michael Hunley, Jay Beard, Bill Trost, Toby Brousil (pretty sure), Matt McDonald, Jim Buck, Steve George, Paul Carrico, and Michelle Butler. Which is almost all of ’em. No need to worry about whether those guys landed on their feet after their studio folded seven weeks ago– Smed’s new Amazon studio is basically Pixelmage Games, though to be fair, we don’t know what its name is or the particulars of the game it’s working on.
If you wondered what John Smedley was up to following the death of Pixelmage Games and Hero’s Song in December, now you have an answer: Amazon Game Studios picked him up to run a sub-studio in San Diego.
“We’re excited to announce an all-new Amazon Games Studio based in San Diego and led by industry veteran John Smedley,” says a PR blast from AGS today. “John’s pioneering work helped define the modern MMO, and his influence can be felt in thousands of games that followed. He helped create the blueprint for fusing massive game worlds with vibrant player communities, a vision that we share at Amazon Game Studios. That’s why we’re excited to announce that John has joined Amazon Games Studios to lead an all-new team in San Diego.”
Apparently, Smed and his team are “already hard at work on an ambitious new project that taps into the power of the AWS Cloud and Twitch to connect players around the globe in a thrilling new game world.”