Really, when you think about it, MMOs are our grown-up toy chests. They have all of these attractive and fun toys to keep us occupied and happy as we pretend that we are heroes on great adventures while making a pit stop to play Barbie’s dream house. And that’s OK — we need to blow off steam and relax somehow, and this beats HALO jumping in the safety department.
This week, the Massively OP readership was all-too-eager to show off the toys within their toy chests, starting with Hirku’s trip to an amusement park. In a theme park MMO. There are layers upon layers of meta in today’s column, folks!
“World of Warcraft’s Darkmoon Faire is my favorite toy, and this week I get to play!” Hirku posted. “Wheeee!”
Legacy, vanilla, classic, progression – call them what you like, but alternative server rulesets, particularly of the nostalgia-driven kind, are all the rage in 2018. Just since the dawn of the new year, we’ve gotten a new server type for Age of Conan, with RIFT’s on the way – not to mention World of Warcraft’s looming in our future. And those are just the new ones! Games like RuneScape, EverQuest II, and Ultima Online already run similar servers.
That said, does every MMORPG need one? Aren’t some MMORPGs already in pretty good shape without needing a spin-off for nostalgia’s sake? Is it in every MMO’s best interests to prioritize, on some level, the very older ideas it intentionally left behind? That’s the question I’ve posed to the writers this week: Are there any MMORPGs that should stay far, far away from legacy servers, and if so, why?
Although the Asheron’s Call series has now been dead for exactly one year today, it’s far from forgotten by fans. It was admittedly a cult classic, and as the youngest of the “Big Three” graphical MMOs, it was the easiest to ignore, especially as it used an original sci-fi/fantasy setting rather than, well, something with elves.
MMO AC converts I’ve met regularly said the game was more solo-friendly and more story-driven than Ultima Online and EverQuest, receiving monthly updates that felt like downloadable content before DLC was a common industry term. These weren’t simply automated addons but events that were often curated in a fashion that is similar to Game Masters in tabletop RPGs, meaning that those who built the scenario sometimes participated as their own lore characters, placing themselves at the mercy of their own game and community. While several events in both AC1 and AC2 made use of this kind of interactive story-telling style, none is better recalled than the first event: The Shard of the Herald.
A comment on Reddit about the current size and viability of Kritika Online got me thinking about MMO playerbases in general lately. We all know that there’s a stigma attached to little games; the big games with big servers and millions of players feel safer, and nowadays people just assume a small MMO has one foot in the grave. But it isn’t always true. We could also rattle off some smaller MMOs that seem to be moving along just fine, with bills paid. Sure, they’d like to be bigger, but they’re holding steady and know how to work the playerbase they do have rather than constantly alienate their current customers in search of new customers. And some MMO gamers actually prefer those sorts of titles. After all, if the game has just a few thousand people, it’s much easier to get to know a large slice of them, plus have your voice heard by the developers and actually influence the gameworld.
For this week’s Massively Overthinking, I’ve asked the writers to reflect on the smallest MMOs they have played, and then consider how big an MMO has to be in terms of playerbase that they’d consider playing it now. What’s the smallest MMO you’re willing to play, and why?
It has already been a year since one of the oldest graphical MMOs, Asheron’s Call, was shut down unceremoniously following Turbine’s decision to jettison MMOs and focus on mobile titles (how’s that working out for you, by the way?). But have you ever wondered where all of the players went after they were exiled from their virtual home?
PCGamesN did, and one author started investigating and interviewing former Asheron’s Call players to see where they immigrated. While some left MMOs altogether, others drifted toward emulators or other titles like Elite: Dangerous. But it seems like many of these refugees may have found a new home in Project Gorgon.
Guild leader Sasho is one of several who transferred his community into the upcoming MMO: “From a certain point, people didn’t log into Asheron’s Call to play the game, we logged on to see each other — the game was just the excuse. The spirit of the AC community never died, so when looking for a new place to hang our coats, the question wasn’t ‘which MMO is best?,’ but ‘where can I find my old friends?.’ And, honestly, Project Gorgon is an amazing game.”
Massively Overpowered’s end-of-the-year 2017 awards continue today with our award for Biggest MMO Industry Disappointment, which was awarded to EverQuest Next’s cancellation and No Man’s Sky’s lack of multiplayer in a tie last year. Disappointments can be games, launches, patches, trends, stories, sunsets, all manner of topics in the MMORPG genre and orbiting sub-genres. Don’t forget to cast your own vote in the just-for-fun reader poll at the very end.
The Massively OP staff pick for Biggest MMO Industry Disappointment of 2017 is…
MOP reader Sally Bowls is on a roll with the good questions lately! She lobbed us one this past weekend that seems a good follow-up to a comment thread discussion about the problems inherent in unregulated three-way factional PvP/RvR (and how a game like Camelot Unchained will regulate it). By way of example, she noted that a certain MMO griefer famously argued in favor of strategy that basically made the opponent not want to log in, using tactics like creating timesinks and hassles in a sandbox. “Should the dominant faction on a RvRvR server ‘camp’ the smallest to try to drive them off?” she wondered.
“If it’s about fair PvP, then that is anathema. But if you see the game as being about your faction being at war with other factions, then not doing your utmost to win that war is incompetence. Neither is bad design per se, just a conflict in understanding of the goals. And will Camelot Unchained really be RvR, doing everything legal for your realm to win? Or will it be about PvP battles, with the RvR rhetoric being more marketing fluff than von Clausewitz and Machiavelli? If camping a mine hurts your kill/death ratio but makes the opponent weaker due to hassles or crafting, is that winning or losing? Is an RvR game really about realms vs. realms or is it just another BG?”
I’ve pitched Sally’s comments to the team for consideration in this week’s Massively Overthinking. Is RvR just a more carebear-friendly way to market FFA PvP? Do you play RvR or factional PvP to win or to have fun, and how does that differ from a more open FFA sandbox? How would you design three-way factional PvP to keep people from quitting and stop griefing before it starts?
What are lawyers good for? Pouring lemon juice on the open wounds of an MMO community desperately trying to hold on to the remnant of their closed game, apparently.
The closure of at least one Asheron’s Call emulator earlier this month was confirmed this week to be what many assumed: a cease-and-desist letter from Warner Bros. One of the main forces behind the emulator projects, a player named Pea, posted an account stating how he initially wrote to WB about the game’s closure and his growing involvement in the emulator scene.
Pea noted that prior the game’s shutdown, Turbine had released some information about the client that made creating emulators “significantly easier” from fans. He also assumed that WB did not care about the Asheron’s Call franchise and had abandoned it, which fed into the emulator projects taking root.
Just this week, a long-running Star Wars: The Old Republic
fan-made website mentioned that it was shutting down
, one among many that have come and gone since the launch of SWTOR
. I was just mentioning the other day to a friend how Darth Hater pretty much faded into nothing and how many of the old fan-shows and websites no longer exist. It seems to be a rare thing for creators to make content since the launch of the game, and it’s even rarer for them to have created it before
the game launched.
And now SWTOR-RP is shutting down, one of the last sites to have been reporting on SWTOR for over seven years. I know this because I was one of the three founders, and now the three of us remaining have decided it’s time to move on and let the site go.
So where does a SWTOR fan get content now? Are there still fansites that report on the latest news coming from BioWare Austin? I can hear Massively OP readers now: “Larry, your content is great and all, but I need more than a thousand words in Hyperspace Beacon every week.” And I hear you; I need more than that, too. So that’s why I’ve compiled another list of 10 podcasts, YouTube channels, and websites where I get my SWTOR information.
When Asheron’s Call shut down last winter following the spinoff of Standing Stone Games from Turbine, one of the few hopes the community had to cling to was the player-run emulator. Now, it appears those hopes have ended too.
Last night, Redditors began reporting an outage of what is known as the Megaduck emulator following a brief and unexplained system blast. Lest you suspect it’s merely tech issues or someone forgot to turn it back on again, players have further reported that the two administrators of the emulator have vanished and apparently deleted the websites and file hosting for the emulator as well.
It’s all led players to suspect a Turbine-emitted cease-and-desist order, although we cannot confirm that rumor. As we’ve previously pointed out, it’s still not clear exactly why the Asheron’s Call franchise wasn’t part of the spinoff deal; neither Turbine nor Standing Stone would comment at the time. Turbine has moved increasingly into the mobile space but nevertheless renewed the Asheron’s Call domains through 2022 in May – months after the sunset.
There is another emulator for the game, Fenntide, though it’s apparently struggling under the influx of newbies too.
Next Games, the company behind The Walking Dead: No Man’s Land, recently announced an AR game based on the Walking Dead IP.
What’s interesting is that unlike Pokemon Go, the Walking Dead’s AR seems to be a key feature of gameplay, not an add-on, and it’s being marketed as such. Players will need to follow AR clues to find survivors and physically move around to find and combat zombies which may surround them. While that does seem highly engaging, I know I’ll have to worry about non-gamers reacting to AR weirdness in meat space, sort of like in Pokemon GO raiding situations in high-traffic areas.
In addition, comparing the demographics of The Walking Dead TV series to Pokemon GO player demographics reveals quite the overlap in terms of gender and age. Both have nearly equal appeal between the genders and primarily seem to attract people in their 20s and 30s. This means Niantic might actually have competition from another AR game based on a strong IP. It’ll be interesting to see how the community responds once The Walking Dead: Our World arrives.
I sat down with Elite Dangerous Senior Designer Sandy Sammarco again at E3 2017, and while the information I’ve got in terms of game info may be a bit old hat for hardcore Elite players, I want to be clear on something: MMO players should take note of how Frontier is doing community events. Even if you aren’t interested in the game itself, the design strategies and execution are things that are reminding this jaded MMO-enthusiast about what got me into the MMO genre in the first place. I don’t really do space sims, and haven’t touched my VR for months (though I could probably hop on normal PC or PS4 versions), but my time with Sammarco has gotten me closer to hitting the “buy” button on the game.
It’s weird to think that it’s already been a few months since Asheron’s Call and its sequel were shut down by Turbine. Yet there’s a hint of a glimmer that the studio might not be done with its proprietary franchise, as Turbine renewed the Asheron’s Call domain name in April to stretch through June 2022. The registration was about to expire come this June.
OK, so before we get a little too giddy about a possibility for an Asheron’s Call resurrection or continuation of sorts, it’s much more likely that this is simply to protect the domain name that belongs to the studio’s only original IP. In other words, Turbine wouldn’t want someone else snagging Asheronscall.com and doing… something with it (currently, the website is down and the old URL doesn’t do anything).