Portalarium is going all out for Shroud of the Avatar’s formal launch next week – March 27th, for those of you keeping count. Last night, the studio held its launch party in conjunction with SXSW (we’ll have much more on that event when Massively OP’s MJ returns from it!). In the meantime, Portalarium and EU publisher Travian Games pushed out a press release that bizarrely dubs the game a “multiplayer RPG” and releases two brand-new videos. The first is clearly intended to introduce the Ultima Online spiritual successor to newcomers, while the second shows off just how far combat and co-op play have come over the last couple of years.
When we covered Shroud of the Avatar’s newsletter yesterday, one of the tidbits we mentioned was the plan for craftable housing. In response to a question from a player, Starr Long essentially announced that in the launch patch next week, Portalarium is planning to tweak that system, which has long provoked claims of pay-to-win.
“Yes we are going to be expanding the number of craftable houses soon. In R52 in fact we are adding a craftable inn.”
So what exactly does housing entail? A helpful Redditor linked to a helpful thread on the official site just a few weeks ago breaking down how exactly you can buy property without handing over your credit card because you definitely can – that’s the good news. If you’re not a crafter yourself, you just need a specific currency, Crowns of the Obsidians, which you can buy with gold.
A few months ago, we ran a Leaderboard poll asking players what kind of live studio-led events they want out of MMORPGs. By way of example, I compared the types of GM-run live events I saw in Ultima Online and EverQuest. In Ultima Online, we often saw long-running plotlines, mysterious NPCs, decorated special locations, dungeon crawls, and weddings galore. In EverQuest, I saw weddings, yes, but also GMs running around massacring newbies to get the highbies to come take them out (which wasn’t such a grand time as you lost experience on death). In Asheron’s Call, well, don’t take my word for it – just listen to Andrew talk about some of the biggest MMO events that ever took place in the genre.
Such GM events – the good ones, at least – are the subject of Saga of Lucimia’s weekly dev blog, which ought to make the majority of you who voted for plot, roleplaying, and activities other than endless murder in your event happy.
“Over the years, that type of interaction faded away as it became too ‘cost prohibitive’ for companies to maintain the type of staff required to create such unique events, and these days you are hard-pressed to find a GM logged into any game, much less get customer support to answer your emails in a timely fashion,” Lucimia Creative Director Tim “Renfail” Anderson maintains. “Cash shops and loot boxes are the name of the game these days. Game masters? What are those?”
In an earlier Daily Grind on peripherals, I mentioned how I used to fold up a piece of paper into a triangular prism, write down my keybinds, and prop it up on my keyboard in old school Ultima Online. That was because the game really didn’t have much of an interface. Things like healthbars and paperdolls and bags and spells were ad hoc; you could pull them out and drag them around your screen (that was ahead of its time!), but there wasn’t even a trace of the rudimentary hotbar that EverQuest would later introduce to the genre. You set your macros in options and that was that.
Since then, UO has come a really long way in the UI department thanks to multiple client upgrades. The current top-shelf UI for the game is in the “enhanced client” that about half the playerbase reportedly uses, and it’s much more like the sort of UI modern players are used to, complete with endless hotbars, API support, and on-the-fly configuration. If I dropped that UI onto a screenshot for a different game, I bet most of you wouldn’t bat an eyelash. (I was going to do that for this post, but I decided to use the brand-new F2P login screen instead – does that take you back, vets, or what?)
Anyway, that’s just one example of an MMO with a vastly improved UI. Which MMORPG do you think has most improved its UI over the years?
The MMO industry moves along at the speed of information, and sometimes we’re deluged with so much news here at Massively Overpowered that some of it gets backlogged. That’s why there’s The MOP Up: a weekly compilation of smaller MMO stories and videos that you won’t want to miss. Seen any good MMO news? Hit us up through our tips line!
Maybe you’ll discover a new game in this space — or be reminded of an old favorite! This week we have stories and videos from War of Rights, Blade and Soul, Lineage 2 Revolution, Darwin Project, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Closers, Elder Scrolls Online, Bless, Soulworker Online, Skyforge, The Black Death, Saga of Lucimia, Dungeon Fighter Online, Mu Origin, Prosperous Universe, Legends of Aria, Battlerite, and Aura Kingdom Mobile, all waiting for you after the break!
It seems as though some players’ attention has shifted back to Elder Scrolls Online this spring, especially with the recent Dragon Bones DLC drop. Telwyn over at GamingSF documented a bit of fun in which he enjoyed infiltrating a camp in disguise versus having to do it in stealth mode.
“I find ‘disguised’ gameplay is more relaxed and better paced (since stealth is slower movement),” he wrote. “It’s especially nice in ESO when you need to take time out of fighting-all-the-things in a hostile to read the many books and quest-related texts – having a pause in the action makes it more enjoyable to read these.”
It isn’t all rainbows and puppies, however. Roger from Contains Moderate Peril expressed some frustration at ESO’s leveling gear, or lack thereof: “The One Tamriel Update removed the level restriction on content, scaling everything according to the player, which obviously didn’t help the gear situation. With delves and story quests scaling to your level, there isn’t the surplus of gear generated by content fixed at a specific level. The lack of a server wide auction system is also a major contributor.”
Massively OP is heading to GDC this year, which means we’re being deluged by PR from techware and software companies that’ll be on site. One of them cracked us up: It’s called Lexip, and its claim to fame is that it’s a mouse with two joysticks embedded in it. It’s being promoted as a tool for everything from Kerbal Space Program to World of Warcraft. It sounds bizarre, but it actually looks pretty neat, which is probably why it’s raised 10 times its ask on Kickstarter so far. Heck, I’d buy one if I weren’t 99% sure it’ll be way too big for my weirdo tiny hands.
That got us thinking about peripherals for MMOs in general. My first peripheral was actually a piece of paper folded into a long triangular prism shape, propped up on my keyboard above my F keys to remind me where the heck I stashed all my Ultima Online macros (the game back then had no hotkey bar). Since then, I’ve picked up all sorts of weird gaming objects for my MMOs, including attachments to make mobile gaming less a chore, but I’ve never had a mouse with two joysticks attached.
What’s the weirdest MMO peripheral you’ve ever seen or used?
Before the free-to-play conversion for Ultima Online launches this spring, Broadsword is hard at work updating the early game experience for the newbies and returnees they hope will flock to the 20-year-old isometric sandbox. Some of that work launches on the test server today in the form of publish 99.
For starters, a brand-new newbie-oriented area has been added to Britain in Trammel in a spot that I think is currently the artist’s guild or possibly that weird open space near the archways and steps (the patch hasn’t landed on TC1 as I type this). “This open space makes for the perfect meeting place and offers nearby access to essential city services such as a pub, stable master, and crafting stations,” says Broadsword.
Meanwhile, the studio has overhauled the town crier system; now, players will be able to access the town criers for actual shard information, new player quests, wiki entries, messages from elected player governors, and events from large guilds.
Remember last week when we covered how the Entertainment Software Association is fighting a proposal to amend the DMCA that would help preserve online games, including MMOs, for future generations? MMORPG developer Raph Koster has since thumbed his virtual nose at the ESA’s jerk move.
“Speaking as a designer, I’d rather my game be played for free than never be able to be played ever again,” the Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies designer wrote on Twitter. “Much of my work is basically gone and what survives is all altered. Preservation matters.”
He points out that the ESA’s claim that putting sunsetted games back online would create a “loophole to let the public flood” in is absurd, since the lack of a flood is generally why the game closed down to begin with.
If you found last week’s community discussion on whether (good) bots could help save dying MMORPGs fascinating, then the video hereunder will suit you too. Last year we wrote about gamer and professional artist Andrea Fryer – you probably know her best as KatsPurr in the Massively OP community. She’s been working on a spectacular “Ultima Nostalgia” project to meld the worlds of Ultima Online and Wurm Online by recreating the former as a 3-D map inside the latter.
The project and server have come a long way since then, as her 10th episode shows; this particular one covers the creation of the isle of Nujel’m (one of my favorites as my guild used to use “Nuji bank” as our headquarters for a time). And during the episode, she discusses how empty some of these old sandboxes can feel.
Another week, another grab bag community Q&A with the Dark Age of Camelot development team. This edition’s pressing issue was the promise of more frequent RvR events — and what these would look like when they arrived.
“It will be a combination of existing and new events,” the team said. “We aren’t ready to start talking about the details of the new events quite yet, but the big picture idea is a system that utilizes in-game leaderboards. These events would likely run for 1-2 weeks on a rotating schedule and would incentivize various aspects of the game (mostly relating to RvR).”
Other topics discussed included pet-class adjustments, a server select button, and a change to the damage potential of the Mercenary.
On this week’s show, Bree and Justin overdose on candy hearts as they look at Valentine’s Day in MMOs — as well as the Lunar New Year. From expansion alpha testing to a new MMO launch to unifying a game globally, it’s a pretty upbeat and positive week of podcast chatter.
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.
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One of the advantages to computer RPGs, I’ve always thought, is that you don’t need a friend who you can alternately sucker or bribe into taking on 80% of the work that’s involved in making a tabletop RPG fun. You just turn on the game and it goes. The downside, of course, is that you also don’t have the advantages of having a GM in charge of the game, so you don’t get that personal connection and that sense of familiarity.
Except that’s not entirely accurate, is it? Yes, these games do not have a person eagerly perched behind a screen explaining how your characters have screwed everything up forever, but you still do get the same sense of a specific GM guiding the game over time. Because there are certain quirks, certain constants, and over time a feel to the game that informs what sort of GM you’ve got running the game. So let’s talk about the GMs running some games.
I warn you that if you’ve never played any sort of tabletop game, this column may not make a whole lot of sense. But if you’ve never played any tabletop RPGs I don’t understand how you live and thus cannot promise to target you reliably. Sorry.