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See: CCP Games

20-year-old Ultima Online is going free-to-play (kinda) and getting player-generated quests

In preparing tomorrow’s birthday piece for Ultima Online, I confidently wrote that Ultima Online was not going free-to-play because that’s what the devs always say, so stop asking. Turns out that’s not quite accurate, as during the game’s real-life 20th anniversary celebration yesterday, the Broadsword team announced that Ultima Online is getting a free-to-play mode.

The mode is called The Endless Journey, and according to players in attendance, players who take advantage of it will find it’s somewhat similar to the existing trial for the game, only it’s usable on existing accounts. You’ll have a (extremely) limited trial-only banking inventory with no access to your “real” bank, no access to housing placement, and several other limitations, including not being able to use ghosts to spy in certain high-PvP areas and being forbidden to multi-box. It is not clear how vendor purchases will affect freebie players.

It does seem players who decide to upgrade their accounts will still be expected to subscribe (and presumably purchase future expansions), just as the game is played right now, which makes it F2P only in the limited style of EVE Online. As one UOSS moderator put it, it looks like “the equivalent of a very limited F2P, but probably wouldn’t meet the standard definition of a ‘real’ F2P+purchases game,” chiefly because you can’t do much in the game without both a home and full bank access. (I tend to agree – it’s actually worse than the existing free trial accounts, only it also works on existing accounts.)

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Massively Overthinking: How will Star Citizen make money after launch?

During this week’s Massively OP Podcast, Justin and I attempted to tackle a question sent in by commenter and listener Sally Bowls – specifically, she wanted us to speculate on what a post-launch monetization plan for Star Citizen might look like.

“Assuming they have a lot of overhead and expense, are they going to fire most of their employees at launch? Keep them and support them with subscriptions? DLC? Cosmetics? A stream of new ships would be my first guess – but new ships good enough that people spend $50M-$100M per year withouth causing old customers to think the new shiny invalidates their previous purchase? That seems to me a non-trivial tightrope to walk.”

Put away your instinct to joke that it won’t matter because Star Citizen is never coming out. Let’s just reasonably assume that it does eventually launch into something the studio will call more or less ready. How do you think Star Citizen will make money after launch? That’s the question I’ve posed the Massively OP team for this round of Massively Overthinking.

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Discover actual exoplanets and earn EVE Online rewards – without ever leaving the ship dock

Have you heard in passing this “Project Discovery” thing in EVE Online and wondered what it is all about? CCP put together a new tutorial video that explains the purpose behind Project Discovery, how players can help, and what they will earn for their troubles.

Project Discovery is a collaborative, crowdsourced effort to reward players in-game for helping out on what are effectively “citizen science” projects. Last year’s program tasked players with identifying cell structures to assist the Human Genome Project. This particular leg of the program, first revealed at last spring’s EVE Fanfest in Iceland, sets players to work hunting for exoplanets in other solar systems. Players have the option of analyzing a star’s luminosity to see if there are any dips, signifying that a planet has crossed between the star and the telescope. The more accurate a player is in his or her analysis (compared to the rest of the EVE community), the more experience points will be doled out for a special reward track.

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Massively OP Podcast Episode 136: Westward ho!

On this week’s show, Justin and Bree saddle up for discussion on Wild West Online’s alpha, Star Citizen’s back-backlash on schedules, the miserable state of Phantasy Star Online 2, and more!

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:

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EVE Online thieves produce propaganda music video, auction off ill-gotten gains

If betrayals, heists, coups d’état, and threats aren’t enough to pique your interest in EVE Online’s metagame, maybe memes will do the trick.

As PCGN points out, EVE Online players are rushing to fill the vacuum left by last week’s theft of in-game property worth $20,000 (and subsequent banning by CCP of one of the victims for issuing multiple real-life threats to maim the perpetrator). Indeed, the winning cohort, if you want to call any of this “winning,” has now produced a taunting propaganda video set to Johnny Cash’s God’s Gonna Cut You Down and begun auctioning off some of the in-game property its members stole. I’d link to the pun thread as well, but as of press time, there are racist comments in it, so suffice it to say that EVE’s Reddit community has squeezed every imaginable hand- and mittens-related pun out of the whole mess.

Massively OP’s Brendan “Nyphur” Drain, who’s been covering the EVE universe for over a decade, has written extensively on this topic over the last week, discussing the particulars of this arm of the war, the fallout over the real-life threat, and most recently, the shift in what’s considered acceptable toxicity inside the game since its launch in 2003.

Source: YouTube via PCGN

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EVE Evolved: How much toxic, antisocial behaviour should MMOs tolerate?

The EVE Online community is aflame this week after alliance leader gigX was permanently banned for making threats of real-life violence against another player following possibly the biggest betrayal in EVE history. Some players don’t want to accept that gigX crossed a serious line and deserves his ban, and others have been asking why The Mittani’s similar actions in 2012 resulted in only a temporary ban. CCP’s official stance is that its policies have become stricter since 2012, but it’s still not entirely clear exactly where the line is drawn.

Another side to the debate is that the internet itself has evolved over EVE‘s 14-year lifespan, and a lot of toxic behaviour that was accepted or commonly overlooked on the early internet is now considered totally unacceptable. Many of us have grown from a bunch of anonymous actors playing roles in fantasy game worlds to real people sharing our lives and an online hobby with each other, and antisocial behaviour is an issue that all online games now need to take seriously. The lawless wild west of EVE‘s early years is gone, and I don’t think it’s ever coming back.

So what’s the deal? Does EVE Online tolerate less toxic behaviour today, has the internet started to outgrow its lawless roots, and what does it mean for the future of sandboxes?

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The Daily Grind: Do you feel crowdfunded MMOs ‘owe’ you something?

My husband and I were chatting about the whole Chris-Roberts-is-fed-up-with-trolls-and-date-estimates-that-everyone-knows-aren’t-going-to-stick thing from last week when he said something that struck me. “It reminds me of how people harangue George R. R. Martin (of Game of Thrones fame) about his next book,” he observed. “They believe he owes them something for being his loyal fans,” which you’ll recall once prompted famed author Neil Gaiman to declare, “George Martin is not your bitch.”

The difference, of course, is that George R. R. Martin can do whatever the heck he wants while he rolls around in his well-earned piles of money because his books aren’t crowdfunded. He quite literally doesn’t owe us anything, even if people who’ve been his fans for multiple decades might feel otherwise.

Crowfunded MMOs like Star Citizen aren’t quite in that position. Technically, you knew when your credit card number hit the screen that yours was a donation toward an idea. Some of the games we Kickstart? They fail. Or they drift in limbo. Or they don’t meet the vision. They aren’t all Path of Exile and Elite Dangerous is what I’m saying. But when those campaigns masquerade as pre-orders, people can be left with the idea that, well, they’re owed what they think they paid for.

Do you feel the MMO you’ve crowdfunded owe you something? Or are you content knowing you donated toward a vision of a better genre?

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Massively Overthinking: What keeps you from playing mobile MMOs?

Earlier this week, we wrote about Black Desert developer Pearl Abyss’ IPO and its grand plans for the future – among them, four additional MMOs. Sounds great, right? Except that the suspicion, at least in our comments, is that Pearl Abyss will just follow in the footsteps of Nexon, NCsoft, and Netmarble in that the games will mobile MMOs and not “real” MMORPGs at all. That may or may not be true; the games have fairly fast turnaround for a full-scale MMORPG, but then the company talked up the BDO engine for future games and expressed great ambition in the MMORPG market in the west and on console.

But the suspicion seems to turn off so many of us — the stigma is real. So for today’s Overthinking, I wanted to dig into that. Do you play mobile MMOs, especially any of the modern crop that are popular in East Asia and then ported here? What keeps you from playing mobile MMOs, and what would you want out of an MMO for a mobile device that would actually make you consider it a home MMORPG?

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Storybricks CEO shares early EverQuest Next proposal documents

It has been a while since the dust settled on late, lamentable EverQuest Next, and even longer since the sandbox MMORPG acquired and then ditched Storybricks for one of its core game systems. Recently, Storybricks CEO Rodolfo Rosini rediscovered a couple of early documents of his company’s work on EverQuest Next, and as these were produced in 2012 before an NDA was signed, he decided that they were fair game to share with the internet at large.

“The first document is the initial pitch after we were told the scope of the game that is now public and it wasn’t clear how many features we would have to develop for the final product,” Rosini said. “As you can see magic was a huge influence on the prototyping stage. The second document was our proposal for a demo of the AI combat system, and that was what helped us advance the discussion for our involvement in EQN.”

It’s certainly interesting to get a glimpse into the fabled MMORPG’s development from Storybricks’ perspective and to once again tantalize our minds with the thought of “what if it had happened this way.” The documents talk about Storybricks creating the “illusion of life” with its flexible scripting program, especially in combat, and how it would be used to adapt and counter players’ fighting styles.

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EVE Online political betrayal results in record-breaking theft

The EVE Online twitterverse exploded late last night with the news of a political twist so enormous that it’s become the largest recorded theft of in-game assets in the game’s history. In the middle of the night and without warning, major EVE military alliance Circle of Two (or CO2 for short) was betrayed by its diplomatic officer, a player with the ominous name of The Judge. In addition to cleaning out the alliance war funds and assets to the tune of over a trillion ISK, The Judge also transferred ownership of CO2’s 300 billion ISK keepstar citadel in its capital star system of 68FT-6 to a holding corporation, effectively stealing the alliance’s home space station.

News of The Judge’s betrayal trickled out of EVE all through the night, and it wasn’t long before the full extent of the incident was known. The 68FT-6 keepstar was sold to enemy alliance Goonswarm Federation, while CO2’s smaller citadels throughout Impass are now in the hands of TEST Alliance. The theft combined with the value of the citadels is estimated at over 1.5 trillion ISK, easily beating the 2011 trillion ISK Phaser Inc scam to become the highest-value theft in EVE‘s history. The actual damage done is even more extensive, injecting a huge dose of chaos into CO2 alliance and throwing fuel on the fire of the southern war.

Read on for a detailed breakdown of last night’s record-breaking theft, the reasons behind the betrayal, and the political situation that led us here.

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Notorious EVE Online player banned for threatening to cut off someone’s hands in real life

Yes, you’ve read that headline correctly. It’s been an insane day for EVE Online, as players awoke to the news that powerful military alliance Circle of Two had been betrayed by one of its top people. A player named The Judge stole over a trillion ISK worth of assets from the alliance and gave away all of its space stations to its enemies in one of the biggest political betrayals the game has ever seen. We’ll have a full report on the record-breaking theft and the current political situation in EVE later tonight, but this story has already taken an unusual turn.

Circle of Two’s leader, a notorious player named gigX, was so furious to learn of The Judge’s betrayal that he went into full meltdown mode in the alliance chat channel. Not content to keep his rivalry in-game, gigX asked his alliance to give him The Judge’s real name and home address. He followed up the request by writing “The Judge feel free to use your hands by typing here” before adding “while you can” to make a pretty serious threat.

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EVE Online: Lifeblood will kick ship balancing into high gear

One of the things that players will notice when EVE Online: Lifeblood arrives this October is a whole slew of balance changes for frigates, destroyers, and cruisers. This is because the team responsible for such tweaks feel that it is time to accelerate such efforts while still being as careful as possible not to throw the game out of whack.

“The Council of Stellar Management (CSM) has been advocating heavily for more rapid and consistent balance changes, and we agree that it’s a good time to put more focus on this area,” CCP said. “We are also allocating more time to experiment with totally new mechanics and concepts for ships and modules.”

The ships to receive an array of buffs, nerfs, and changes include the Rifter, the Dragoon, the Corax (no relation to the Lorax), the Arbitrator, the Bellicose, the Omen, the Stabber, the Tristan, and the Vexor. Past these, the balance team has its sights set on Tech I and Tech II tiers of ships like battlecruisers and assault frigates.

Source: EVE Online

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PAX West 2017: Hands-on with Amazing Eternals (and more beta keys!)

If I had to pick a PAX West booth to give an award to for sheer fun factor, it would go to Digital Extremes’ new board/card/computer game combo The Amazing Eternals. (I’m not alone: The booth also got an award from a magazine!) The retro bowling alley vibe — complete with bowling shirts, orange shag carpet, and wood paneling — combined with the awesome old TV console frames on the monitors just screamed funky and fun.

Did that same vibe translate into the game? Yup. It was prevalent when I got to dive in and try a couple of matches. Admittedly, the first one was less fun, but that’s because I jumping in totally blind; the enjoyment spiked up quite a bit more after talking with Lead Game Designer Allen Goode and actually learning about the game. And now you, too, will have that same info so you can have a blast in your matches — or at least know better what’s going on!

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