blogging

Elder Scrolls Online’s Summerset includes inquisitors, actors, and academics

When Elder Scrolls Online’s Summerset chapter launches next month, it’ll introduce a number of new groups and factions to the game. The Psijic Order has already been well-documented as an ancient monastic order that studies the magic of Tamriel in a secretive way – very different from the traditional Mages Guild. But you may not know about the other groups, even if you’re a die-hard Elder Scrolls fan. A new dev blog today outlines a few more.

First, there’s the Divine Prosecution. They’re more than just provincial cops, as it turns out; they’re also supposed to hunt down heresy and stamp out Daedra worshippers. What could go wrong?

Next up? The Sapiarchs. They’re basically an elite college with experts on everything, the keepers of all knowledge.

Finally, we’ve got the House of Reveries, a group of troubadours who perform only in masks.

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Impressions of Project Gorgon from an Asheron’s Call player

It’s finally time for me talk about Project Gorgon as a released product. As you might have guessed, I was avoiding the game prior to launch. I’ve spoken out against early access a lot and have realized that, at this point in my gaming/career, playing games I’m passionate too early can be a threat to both work and play. I wanted a relationship with PG, but I didn’t want to rush into anything pre-release. I wanted it as complete as possible.

MJ’s streamed it a bunch of times, including the day before launch. Eliot’s comments from his pre-release CMA feel spot on still post-release. However, as the resident old-man Asheron’s Call fan with a review copy, I think I can add a few comments about how Project Gorgon compares to AC1&2, plus how developer Eric Heimburg’s infused PG in AC-esque ways.

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Bless Online outlines key changes for its Steam release

When Bless Online launches on Steam early access next month, the version that western players experience won’t be identical to the client that is already running in Korea and Japan. This is because Neowiz is making a few important changes to tailor the game to a different audience, and in a new dev blog, the developer explains exactly what those changes will be.

Bless’ combat system has received the most attention in the transition. Neowiz revamped how rhythmic combat works, giving players a choice of skills to make up their combo rotation. Generally, combat will be more action-oriented and become “more difficult.”

Other adjustments include restructuring how skill acquisition and leveling works, adding more ways to obtain skill-leveling gems, choosing party benefit buffs to incentivize grouping, adding newbie friendly tutorials, giving monsters special skills, and improving the content pacing.

Source: Bless Online. Thanks Brother Maynard!

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The Daily Grind: How much MMO game info should be hidden from the players?

A blog post on The Psychology of Video Games blog a few weeks ago seems relevant to our interests: It explores the “pleasure paradox,” which basically suggests that humans crave certainty, but once we get it, we’re bored. Experiments showed that subjects “said they would prefer to be less uncertain, but the results show that their happiness would have been diminished” if they actually were. We like a good mystery!

Consequently, author Jamie Madigan argues, games should take advantage of this human quirk – say, by rewarding us based on some hidden modifier but not telling us what we did to earn it.

In a weird way, that’s something ancient MMORPGs did by accident: Information was so obfuscated that playing was as much trial and error as anything, and game mechanics were an unintentional mystery. And something like, oh, websites publishing every single mage spell combo in Asheron’s Call? It killed the magic. So does every elitist in your group spamming DPS meters in chat in the modern era.

How much MMO game info should be hidden from the players? And is the “pleasure paradox” the reason?

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EVE Online gives love to planetary interaction, looks back at an all-female pirate gang

Creating and maintaining planetary colonies in EVE Online isn’t exactly new, as the system dates back to 2010. But the developers have deemed it high past time that they give this creaky system some love with the upcoming Into the Abyss expansion.

“Most of the changes are aimed at making setup and maintenance of your colonies less painful, especially when it comes to all the clicking that is currently involved in setting up a colony,” CCP said in a dev blog on the system. Lots of changes to planetary interaction are in the works, including a new planetary colonies window to help you keep track of your projects.

And while things get ordered down on the surfaces of planets, out in space it’s still the anything-goes sandbox that EVE has always been. One interesting piece of the game’s history that was recently documented by PC Gamer was the story of the Hellcats, an all-female fleet that pushed back against the notion that the MMO is strictly a game for men. The fleet only ran for two-years, but its legacy still lives on today.

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Crowfall improves its time-based skill leveling

Similar to how skill training works in EVE Online, Crowfall uses a time-based skill-up system that accrues points whether or not the player is online. The dev team took some time recently to evaluate how the system was working out in testing and decided that it could benefit from some improvements.

While a dev blog goes into depth on the minutiae of the tweaks, the gist is that the entire system will accrue points in a “time bank” for players to spend on skill nodes when they log in each session. Many of the skill trees have been streamlined as well.

VIP players are going to have an advantage over regular players with this system, as they will get a much larger time bank (30 days vs. three days) and the ability to train two types of skill trees at once instead of one.

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Massively Overthinking: What we really mean when we talk about ‘difficulty’ in MMORPGs

Massively OP reader Steve wants us to revisit the Daily Grind on making death more meaningful without making it more annoying. His letter was long, so let me paraphrase a bit:

“It feels to me like underlying point was, ‘MMOs are too easy, so how do we make them harder?’ The question of video game difficulty is something that is seldom ever tackled head-on, as it tends to draw out a somewhat vocal minority. There are so many worthy topics about how people define difficulty, twitch skills vs. depth, easy vs. hard, difficulty vs. accessibility, easy vs. engaging, shallowness vs. depth, and so on. These are things I’d love to really see discussed more online, and very few sites will actually touch it. But I think that MOP’s community is overall mature enough to actually have some discussions about this without it devolving into a fist fight.”

I’m sure you’ll prove him right! Right, guys? Guys? So let’s talk about MMO difficulty in this week’s Massively Overthinking. What do we really mean when we talk about “difficulty” in MMORPGs? Are games easier than they used to be, and if so, is there something studios should do to change that?
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Battle Bards Episode 119: Skyforge

Believe it or not, it’s the Battle Bards’ fifth anniversary! From its weirdly humble beginnings back in 2013 to our arrogant ramblings here in 2018, coverage of MMO music must continue! In today’s episode, we’ll be listening to a surprisingly good soundtrack: Skyforge. Yes, that Russian sci-fi MMO from the Allods team that lets you grow into your ego as a god. Groove on these tunes and see if there’s a new sleeper soundtrack waiting for you!

Battle Bards is a bi-weekly podcast that alternates between examining a single MMO’s soundtrack and exploring music tracks revolving around a theme. MOP’s Justin co-hosts with bloggers Steff and Syl. The cast is available on iTunesGoogle PlayTuneInPocket CastsStitcher, and Player.FM.

Listen to Episode 119: Skyforge (or download it) now:

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Elder Scrolls Online’s new video summarizes the snobby elves of Summerset

Just as Morrowind was much more than elves, so is Summerset, but it’s hard for the elves in this elven kingdom not to take center stage. ZeniMax is demonstrating just that with its latest Elder Scrolls Online video and dev blog, which describes the Altmer as stereotypically pretentious, vain perfectionists who are traditionally isolationist. In other words, they aren’t all going to welcome your outlander self just because their Queen has opened the borders.

“When building Summerset, the primary thing that we were trying to show was the history of the people who live there,” ZeniMax explains. “Players can explore the ruins of ancient Elven architecture throughout the zone, and see in the cities how the more recent High Elf civilization has continued to build on top of those ancient foundations.”

You can check out that video down below, then hit up today’s earlier piece, which includes some of the new bits that just hit the test server!

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SuperData examines the lootbox controversy’s effect on EA and the gaming industry

How big a deal with the lootbox controversy that finally hit the mainstream last year? Pretty big, SuperData argues. In a new blog post, the analytics firm argues that “the loot box controversy hampered Star Wars Battlefront II out of the gate” as shown by the game’s monthly active users compared to its predecessor’s, and that the resulting dumpster fire has caused publishers to rethink lootboxes and self-regulate or at least modulate their greed – an effect we’ve already seen in the MMO industry too.

“At the upcoming E3, we’re likely to see presenters announce ‘no loot boxes’ or that paid content is ‘cosmetic only’ in order to get on the good side of creators and hardcore gamers,” SuperData predicts. “Loot boxes won’t disappear anytime soon given their success in games like Overwatch (over $600M of loot boxes sold through February 2018). In the short term, though, ‘No loot boxes’ will be the game industry’s own ‘gluten free water’ — and we’re likely to even see this slogan used to market titles where loot boxes would not make sense such as adventure games.”

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Saga of Lucimia defends Star Citizen’s slow progress, Shroud of the Avatar’s transparency

One of the challenges for indie and crowdfunded MMORPGs is surely the nature of their development: plugging along without much fanfare, with players seeing only one part of the equation. Saga of Lucimia has a piece out meant to show what that behind-the-scenes iteration looks like in the construction of an in-game asset as it travels from art concept to 3-D model to textured asset to something that’s added to the world by a different team entirely. But then what might be a mundane art blog takes a sharp turn to talk about other MMORPGs and their communities and expectations.

“There’s a major disconnect with some players when it comes to the misconceptions regarding iterations over the course of the game’s development,” argues Lucimia Creative Director Tim “Renfail” Anderson. “We see a lot of anger around the ‘net in regards to how things change over time with almost every MMORPG’s development, with many claiming the developers lied about how something was going to work, or how something was perceived as being a certain way, and then when it doesn’t work out quite the way players perceived, they claim that the developers deceived them, and that the launched product isn’t anything like what was initially discussed during the development process. The perfect example of this is Star Citizen/Squadron 42.”

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Global Chat: Giving Project Gorgon a try

With Project Gorgon now out on Steam early access, many first-time visitors to this strange game are feeling out the world and its systems. So what are they discovering?

Tales of the Aggronaut said that he was “hooked” when he put in a good weekend: “Part of the charm of this game is that it plops you into the game with no real warning or advisement about what you should be doing.”

“There’s never any doubting the sheer personality evident in every aspect of the game,” recommended Inventory Full. “The enthusiasm and good nature of the tiny development team sweeps all cynicism away.”

Project Gorgon not your cup of tea? Join us after the break for blog essays on Second Life, RIFT Prime, Shroud of the Avatar, and even Dungeons & Dragons!

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Massively Overthinking: The best of PAX East and GDC in 2018

The past couple of weeks has been wild as we dispatched writers to GDC in San Francisco and PAX East in Boston to gather up and bring back everything they could on the MMORPGs large and small on the spring convention circuit. In fact, as I type this, we’ve got Brendan in Reykjavik for EVE Fanfest too! So for this week’s Overthinking, we’re rounding up our coverage and then reflecting on the best and worst as we pick out what most excites, surprises, and disappoints us: First the roundups, then our thoughts. Read on!

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