This week’s Massively Overthinking topic comes to us from Steve, and it’s a frustration for our team as well, I promise.
“If the following statistics industry execs and analysts put out are true – that online multiplayer games are most profitable, that the average age of gamers is 35, that over 40% of gamers are female, and that ‘women’ and ‘over 35’ are two of the fastest growing demographic segments – why are virtually all major online multiplayer games designed primarily (in fact, almost exclusively) for males aged 15 to 35? I can’t speak for women, because as a straight, white male, I am aware 97% of the world exists to obey my whims and desires. However, as someone in my 40s, I notice that video games increasingly tend to be the exception, and it’s pissing me off more daily. So I can only imagine how frustrating it must be for women (40% of gamers, but just one Overwatch pro, for example, has to be infuriating). For an industry that wants every cent it can get its hands on, ignoring these groups (particularly the affluent 35+ age group) seems like a massive oversight.”
Yep! Let’s dig in.
When I look back at last year, the most surprising turn in my MMO gaming career was staging a successful return to Dungeons and Dragons Online
. Initially I had only planned to revisit this old flame for a couple of runs and a quick blog post, but before I knew it, I had been sucked back in to this unique and flavorful MMO.
Over the past four months I’ve been slowly progressing through the early and mid game, taking my scrappy Gnome Artificer up to level 10 and through more odd stories than I ever recall being a part of the game (to be fair, the last time I had played regularly was 2010).
Now that I’ve had time to experience and reflect upon playing Dungeons and Dragons Online in this day and age, I wanted to share with you 10 observations that I’ve gleaned from this fantasy roleplaying game.
You’d think that figuring out how to squeeze loot from a battle royale clone wouldn’t be all that complicated, but in Fortnite, you’d be wrong. Epic Games has a new dev blog out this week on its Battle Pass system ahead of the switchover from season 2 to season 3, and it’s reminded me just how convoluted Buying Stuff has become.
Essentially, you pay for the Battle Pass, which gets you some loot. And then with that unlocked, you can play and level up the tiers to unlock even more loot. Or you can just buy tiers and skip all that playing stuff. In fact, there are more tiers this time around.
“Even though we added 30 tiers, you’ll still be able to complete the Season 3 Battle Pass in the same amount of time as the Season 2 Battle Pass (typically 75-150 hours),” Epic says. “Don’t have the time? You can always purchase tiers for 150 V-Bucks each.” That’s about $1.50, if you’re wondering. $28 will get you the pass and 25 tiers at a discount.
In other words, there’s barely even a pretense that you’re paying for a game or gameplay; you’re paying for the ability to get loot. Detachment ensues. Shrug.
More chunks of EVE Online
are on the chopping block this week, as CCP announced today that it’s sunsetting EVE Voice
with the March patch. And less than one-hundredth of the playerbase will care, as the studio explains only 0.4% of active players used it instead of Discord, Mumble, and their ilk. The good news is that it paves the way for 64-bit client development and a chat system overhaul.
“With the March release, we’ll be updating the chat system in EVE Online, moving from the custom solution we’ve been using since EVE was initially designed, to an industry standard XMPP chat server that will offer better performance and flexibility for the future. There’ll be more information on the new chat system in the coming days and weeks, so be sure to keep your eye on this section of the EVE Online website for more news and Dev blogs about it.”
CCP’s never been a studio to shy away from shutting down APIs, community sites, offices, games, ventures, and in EVE, even whole systems, like Walking in Stations, which was decommissioned last year.
Does it matter how many people are playing your MMO? For some, yes, it does. It’s at least of passing interest to others, especially if players are looking for a “healthy” title or want a large number with which to impress their friends and argue that this MMO is besting another.
So don’t be too surprised that there is an effort to figure out what Guild Wars 2’s (undisclosed) population is at the moment. In An Age challenges one community estimate of 3.3 million players by looking at the available evidence and financial reports.
“Here’s my gut check: Guild Wars 2 probably has about 1.5 million monthly ‘players’ and many times less people who actually log on when there isn’t a holiday event/Living Story taking place,” he argues. “Ultimately though, I think Guild Wars 2 is actually uniquely well-positioned to survive regardless of whether it consists of a million actives or three million tourists.”
Diablo III’s 13th season is kicking off next week. If you’re hoping for something revolutionary and thrilling for lucky number 13, this… isn’t that. In fact, the dev blog previewing the season actually uses the word “traditional.” But hey, if you like comfortable predictability, you’ll be pleased as punch.
Participants in the seasonal run will pick up more pieces of the Conqueror’s set (helm and shoulders), new Imperius portraits, and a new teddy bear pet (covered in blood, thus reducing its cute factor). Folks without four stashes can work toward an extra, and currency toward class sets is also on order.
Funcom is forging ahead with its plans to launch Conan Exiles for real and for true on all the things come May 8th. And, as the latest dev blog explains, to make that date, the company’s probably going to cut some features from that launch build.
“In the past couple of months, we’ve had to make some serious decisions as to what will be in for launch,” says the studio. “We’ve been going through every aspect of the game (including things still in development) and we have evaluated everything based on a range of criteria. Some features or content simply ended up not being good enough, some things have ended up not making sense for the game, some things have been replaced with other features and content, while some things just turned out to be out of reach from a technical or development capacity standpoint.”
Last week, a reader named Chris, who is writing a paper on the MMO industry and revivifying sunsetted games, dropped an intriguing question into my inbox. It’s about bots – but not the sort of bots EVE Online is constantly fighting. The good kind.
“Do you think people would be interested in coming back to ‘closed’ MMO games if they were populated with AI bots instead of real players (to make them feel alive/populated)?” he asked me.
Let’s ponder that for today’s Overthinking. Certainly we’ve seen bots put to work in games like Camelot Unchained, which uses them to test massive numbers of players on the battlefield. Would you want to see them in live play? Would they help the feel of the world in ways that default NPCs simply would not? Is the AI even doable? Could AI bots take our place to make MMORPGs even better – or even to keep them viable and save them from destruction?
Forgettable ambient noise or entrancing space sounds? This is the debate that’s at the core of today’s episode, as the Battle Bards take on EVE Online’s beloved and perhaps misunderstood soundtrack. It’s a journey that goes far beyond our galaxy to one full of intrigue, industry, and space discotheques!
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 iTunes, Google Play, TuneIn, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, and Player.FM.
Listen to Episode 115: EVE Online (or download it) now:
World of Warcraft and e-sports go together like coffee and donuts! Macaroni and cheese! Bubblegum and walking! Yeah maybe more like that last one. And Blizzard is not giving up making the two work. In a new stream and dev blog out today, the company discusses just how season of the Mythic Dungeon Invitational is going to work.
Like last season’s showdown, this season’s will begin with two weeks of proving grounds beginning February 27th and March 6th. “During the two-week Proving Grounds period, you’ll form a group of five friends and tackle the highest difficulty Mythic Keystone dungeons you can handle,” Blizzard explains. “Your goal is to complete a total of five level 23 Mythic Keystone dungeons over those two weeks.” Duplicate runs don’t count, you can’t swap out characters, and you’ve got to beat the timer. Then you’ll register your team and await your invitation for stage 2. It’s an invitational, after all.
If you’ve been paying any attention at all to EVE Online
over the past few months
, you know that the playerbase’s anger over the botting problem in the game – which has been a factor for much longer than the past few months – is reaching a fever pitch. Last week, CCP Peligro vowed CCP
was “coming for the bots
” and told players not to take his word for it, to “just wait and see.”
Now CCP’s Team Security is trying to make good on that promise. A new dev blog out today claims that CCP banned over 1800 accounts in January for botting – mostly mining bots, followed by ratting bots. A third of those were repeat offenders receiving permanent bans, while the rest were merely temp-banned. In March, the botting policy will be updated to inflict a mandatory 3-day temporary ban on the first offense, with permabans on the second.
Just in time for the Olympics, Kakao is bringing east and west together in Black Desert. In the game’s latest dev letter, the studio explains that up until the latest patch in Korea, attack efficiency for Korean players was different than on western servers. Recent patches, however, brought them into parity.
“Effectively, with the aforementioned patch for the KR server, all regions now have the same balance systems applied,” says the studio. “We aim to develop Black Desert Online as a Single Global Build. By doing so, we believe that it will benefit both our players and us, as developers. It will allow the latest patches to be applied to all regions more quickly than any other game, and enable us to quickly reflect even the tiniest detail of valuable user feedback. Anyone who enjoys Black Desert Online will always have the same optimal experience from any region.”
There’s more to the plan than optimal experience, however: The company is also looking ahead to global PvP.
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?