If you trekked back into Ultima Online earlier this month when it converted into a free-to-play game, maybe to check out your old account, you were probably startled to realize that your entire bank was frozen by the gods. Welcome back; oh and by the way, you can’t access any of your stuff! What, you didn’t need any of your gold, runes, gear, or reagents, did you? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Needless to say, it annoyed even me when I was swapping between my subbed account and my husband’s freebie account.
Broadsword had said it was still working on the situation, and as of Monday night, a partial fix was on the test server and has since rolled out to the live servers as of today, though it won’t please everyone:
“All Endless Journey accounts will receive a base amount of 20 items (bank expansions can increase the max item count to 28). Any account over the max limit will be able to view their full banks but will not be able to remove any items at this time. In the near future we will be adding the ability to remove items from the bank that are over the set max limit. Please check it out and give us your feedback, if all goes well we will be putting this out to Origin tomorrow and WW by Wednesday.”
The first wave of invites have been sent out for Old School RuneScape’s mobile closed beta, and the test has begun.
While both versions of RuneScape will eventually come to mobile, it’s the 2007-era Old School RuneScape that is going to launch first. With 5,431 players invited into the CBT, it’s good to see movement on this front. Jagex said that the title will come to mobile devices some time in 2018.
“The appetite for #OSRSMobile is extreme,” the studio said, “and we’re quite keen to make sure that you know what to expect from us. We’ll be collating feedback, and distributing surveys to the testers, over the week of the test. We’ll then look to report our findings to you as soon as possible. We’ll have a better idea of what to expect next in terms of testing, and we’ll keep you informed as and when we’re able.”
So, yes, I did actually play some Ultima Online. Or I tried to play some Ultima Online, at least. I’m not sure that most of what I did was actually something that I would call “playing,” although it involved me being in the game and ostensibly interacting with it. And it’s times like this that I particularly dislike my job, because this puts me in something less than a comfortable position.
I don’t know how many of you reading this right now are fans of UO, and as I established in my first column, I don’t really feel as if I’m equipped to critique the game as a whole because this is where everything started. This is the original of the species. It’s like that gag in Dr. McNinja wherein Ben Franklin is mentioning that inventing things during his original lifespan was easy because all you had to do was pay the slightest bit of attention.
Earlier this month, Pantheon’s community team tweeted out a question that keeps coming back to me: “What motivates you to play an MMORPG for long periods of time, as in months, sometimes, years?” My first reaction was a pretty common one I bed and was true for me for a long time: friends and guildies! I certainly played some games far longer than I would have otherwise because I wanted to hang out with friends (EverQuest in particular is coming to mind).
But in recent years, when I already “see” my friends and guildies every day in external chats, I’d found games need some other draw too. Housing is probably the biggest one. I don’t usually get sucked in for dailies or anything like that, but give me a house that I love and want to keep up – that I’ll not only log in for but pay for, as my continuing Ultima Online fees prove.
What keeps you logging into MMORPGs over a long period of time?
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?
We’ve all been there. We’re playing our favorite MMORPG and then self-appointed professors of game history start arguing in world chat about firsts — usually, which MMO was considered to be the “first.”
As much as we all like to feel and be right about something, the truth is that history is messy and often ill-defined, even history as recent as that of video games. If you go looking for clear-cut facts and definitions, you might end up with an assortment of maybes, possiblys, and who knowses.
So when it comes to “firsts” in MMOs, there’s a lot of debate over, well, pretty much everything. One thing that I have noticed while covering The Game Archaeologist for many years now is that studios do love claiming to be first in various aspects. Whether or not these firsts are legitimate or can be challenged is debatable, but I thought it would be interesting to compile these claims into a list for your enjoyment and future world chat arguments.
It’s hard to believe that summer is right around the corner, but RuneScape has its eyes on the ball and is already preparing many big changes for the months ahead.
Ripping off the Band-Aid of bad news first, Jagex announced that subscription prices will be increased starting on June 4th, with the new monthly rate going up to $11. Fortunately, all current subscribers will be able to maintain their current subscription rate indefinitely as long as they don’t drop the service.
Past that, it’s all pretty cool stuff for the summer months. Plans include adding elite dungeons, player farms, master skillcape perks, and the big, bad boss of Solak. The farms sound quite involved: “We’re planning for lots of rewards that plug into farming and other skills (magic beans are our current favourites), and you will be working towards building up the farm to its full potential and unlocking everything it has to offer.”
If we judged MMOs by their numbers alone — and I’m not suggesting we do so — then the original Lineage would be the crowing rooster strutting about the hen house. It’s also been one of those games that I’ve always intellectually acknowledged was a huge hit for some reason but never gave much attention. I think it’s because, contrary to many western MMOs, Lineage is primarily an Asian phenomenon. That doesn’t mean it should be shunned, of course, but just that it may be difficult to understand when you’re on the outside of it.
So let’s back up the memory truck to September 1998, when a then-fledgling NCsoft rolled out a Diablo-style isometric MMO and struck virtual gold in South Korea. At the time, gaming rooms were becoming a huge thing in the country. A recession had hit, giving people a lot of time with nothing to do, and the government was rapidly expanding the broadband network. In the face of this perfect storm, titles like StarCraft and Lineage became overnight household fixtures — and remained so for decades to come.
Even if you haven’t played Lineage and you don’t know anyone who does, trust me: Millions and millions of players have. As former Senior Producer Chris Mahnken once said, “Lineage keeps going because it’s just plain fun.”
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!
The interesting thing about this installment of Choose My Adventure is that it’s probably the only time I could ever do this particular title. Not because it’s going away anytime soon, by all indications, but because there’s little to no way that you can actually talk about Ultima Online in the present.
If you don’t know anything about Ultima Online, it behooves you to do some research. This is really the origin point of MMOs as a whole, the game upon which all other graphical MMOs were based in no small part. You can quibble as much as you want about whether or not something else might have been a little bit further along or deserves a bigger nod, but at the end of the day it’s not an argument that actually matters. This is the starting point.
Which means discussing it at all can, at times, feel rather silly.
If there’s one thing I can’t do in Ultima Online, it’s start fresh with new eyes. That’s something that became abundantly clear to me over this weekend as MJ beat her head against the login system on stream and I waited almost four days until my husband’s account – i.e., the one I am not currently already paying for – was properly flagged to try the game’s new free-to-play mode. And honestly, once we got in, I was disappointed. There’s nothing fun about logging into an old toon only to find that you can’t even access your bank (or any of the stuff on your paid account’s house).
According to a Broadsword post today, the team is fixing that, slightly, as F2P accounts will get bank boxes, albeit very limited ones. Returning players will be able to access their banks but not pull anything out if they’re over the limit, for now, which is… weird and not that helpful. Either way, currently it’s really limiting! All it made me do was want to go back to my “real” account, my paid account, and tinker with my plants and potions and maybe go treasure hunting on my boat.
But of course, a real newbie is going to have a completely different experience, seeing not all the things he can’t do but all the things he can. Such is the case for Massively OP reader Grimjack, who’s chronicling his first steps into the 20-year-old sandbox.
If your preferred sort of RuneScape is the older variety of schools, we’re sorry to inform you that the price is going up. On the bright side, you’ll be happy to know that it’s not going up to anything approaching unreasonable levels; the cost of a one-month subscription will be $10.99 for US subscribers, which is still a fair bit cheaper than the industry standard for subscription prices.
You know, to the extent that an industry standard exists any longer, what with everything having a free option these days.
The game last had a price hike in 2015, so it’s been relatively stable for some time (that was, to be fair, the “current” version of the game). On the bright side, you won’t have to worry about the price hike if you’re already subscribed; the changes only affect new players and those who have been unsubscribed for at least 14 days. The FAQ clarifies this along with explaining some of the world economic factors like Brexit that have spurred the change, so at least it doesn’t come without warning.
One of the great things about MMORPGs is how their worlds can change over time and be impacted by stories. For RuneScape, the time has come to rebuild what once was destroyed, and players are being called to help in the effort.
The town of Edgeville saw partial destruction a while back, but now it looks like Jagex is open to putting it back together. Players can enlist in the effort by undertaking jobs and possibly earning themselves a new pet in the process. The studio also added a special NPC and a lore book to the town that were designed by players.
RuneScape’s April 9th patch smoothed out a whole host of issues for the game and threw in some “ninja fixes” to improve the game experience.