I’ve been playing a lot of Ultima Online the past few weeks, but so many times I’ll be doing something that is objectively tedious (like taming or shuttling boxes of junk loot to the community trash box to turn in for points) and realize it and think to myself there is no freakin’ way that anyone who started playing MMOs in the last decade would put up with some of the quirks and conventions of the game. That’s no judgment on gamers, just the realization that it’s probably way too late to get into now if you’ve grown up under altogether different game design systems.
It’s not the only MMO I feel that way about; I’ve often felt that EverQuest II was too opaque and convoluted to return to, and oddly enough World of Warcraft has felt that way to me since Draenor.
Are there any MMOs you think are just too late to start playing?
If you’re looking for the authentic classic MMO experience, shouldn’t a rough launch be part of it? That’s kind of the sour joke you hear being said concerning the start of EverQuest’s Agnarr progression server. Agnarr opened its doors yesterday to a crowd eager for a time-arrested experience, and yet was immediately besieged by crashes, broken character creation, zone lockouts, queues, and an allegedly rampant duping situation.
The dev team continued to post updates on the forums concerning some of the issues: “The enormous number of players attempting to create characters on Agnarr is straining our systems. We are currently managing the heavy load with a reduced maximum population cap, which we are increasing manually as players get through character creation and into the world.”
If you happened to miss it, MJ and I jumped to the island of Vvardenfell on Monday because early access for the Elder Scrolls Online chapter of Morrowind started this week. Unlike other times that we’ve streamed together when most of what we did was questing, we just explored the island this time. Although part of that time was spent just figuring out my mic situation, it was a fun way to see the island and a very interesting way to play the game.
When MMOs and I were young, I hopped into Ultima Online not having a clue how to play the game. I saw miners running around naked supposedly because ore was heavy (and the threat of ganks was real). I saw people standing just outside the city carefully poking each other with low-level knives to help them gain experience. I also saw people standing around the bank barking, attempting to sell their wares. None of this was actually questing, but all of it was a legitimate way to play the game.
Elder Scrolls Online is a unique game, far apart from your standard themepark-style MMO. I would still call it a themepark, but it veers from the standard World-of-Warcraft-style themepark in many ways, chiefly in that you don’t have to follow a singular path to get a lot out of the game. In fact, have come up with some alternative ways to enjoy the content of Morrowind without following the main questline.
Just when you think the MMO industry is predictable, it jukes and jags all over the place, tossing out surprises left and right in an attempt to shake you off its tail (or to pull you in, we haven’t decided on that one yet). Marking one of the most unpredictable news weeks of 2017, Bree and Justin ride out westerns, space operas, and fantasies with aplomb.
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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Improbable keeps popping up in news stories relating to MMOs lately — that’s thanks to SpatialOS, what the company is calling a “distributed computing platform for building large virtual worlds for gaming.” The platform is now in use on MMOs from Identity and Worlds Adrift to Chronicles of Elyria and Metaworld; its most recent partnership was announced last week with RuneScape studio Jagex, and it’s already working with Google to bring the tech to “hundreds” of developers.
GI.biz has a great interview out with Improbable CEO Herman Narula today that illuminates what the team worth over a billion bucks (an extrapolation based on the fact that Japan’s SoftBank’s half a billion dollar investment bought less than a 50% stake in the company) is focused on. It turns out it’s mostly video games — but it’s also bigger than video games.
“Our long-term objectives, and it is long-term, is to literally create other worlds,” explains Narula. “Not just in the context of gaming, but in the context of being able to solve really important problems. This core problem of massive distributed systems and engaging large-scale virtual worlds, is as important and significant as AI or space travel. It is just as important for the future of what our experience will be like as human beings in the world, and how we are going to solve some of the most pressing problems that we have. […] A lot of people just can’t believe that we think games are important. They are incredibly important and they’re going to be more important. Hypothetically, one day, if 100m, or 1bn, people entered simultaneously into a virtual world, that would cease to be a game, that would be a country.”
Just because RuneScape’s standard skill cap is set at 99 won’t stop the team from busting through that ceiling when next month’s expansion arrives.
On June 5th, Menaphos The Golden City will launch in the game, bringing with it a brand-new slayer dungeon experience (among other features). This slayer dungeon is not for greenhorns; characters need level 88 in the skill to enter it. The crazy news is that with the expansion, the slayer skill will raise its cap to 120 to accommodate all of the action that this instance will get.
The dungeon sounds pretty neat: “The path into the depths of the dark dungeon will take players from the burial tombs near the surface deep underground, where the corrupted monsters and worshippers of the gods dwell. In a shift from typical slayer dungeons, loot dropped by vanquished enemies can be automatically sent to a brand-new loot chest during the course of the adventure, allowing players to focus on combat whilst knowing you’ll be able to pore over all your gained treasures at the end.”
Source: Press release
You don’t need to be a brand-new and modern MMORPG to suffer major cheating scandals, something the nearly 20-year-old Ultima Online has reminded us this week.
In its most recent newsletter, UO studio Broadsword explains that an Event Moderator — one of the studio contractors paid to run live events for the game’s production shards — was caught cheating, generating what appears to have been large amounts of rare-dyed cloth and an unknown quantities of unique items, which were then circulated into the already beleaguered player economy. In UO, the so-called “rares market” involves the sale and display and items that exist only in tiny batches thanks to these types of customized events, and a large part of the game (and its bloated gold economy) revolves around trading legitimate rares. It goes without saying that mass-creating those types of items for personal gain is the worst offense for a studio contractor.
“The Event Moderator program has been going strong nearly 8 years now, and we have all worked hard to ensure its success,” Producer Bonnie “Mesanna” Armstrong told players in the newsletter. “Please know that this situation has not been taken lightly, nor is this behavior tolerated.”
Add another gaming studio partnership to Improbable’s file: RuneScape developer Jagex announced today that it’s teamed up with the tech company to deploy SpatialOS in “future game production.” SpatialOS, you’ll recall, is a “distributed computing platform for building large virtual worlds for gaming.”
Improbable has been showing up in our feeds a lot lately. Earlier this month, the company picked up a cool half-billion bucks in investment from a Japanese telecommunications corporation. SpatialOS is being used on a number of up-and-coming MMO-related projects, including Identity, Worlds Adrift, Chronicles of Elyria, and Metaworld. Oh yeah, and it’s partnered with some company called Google for cloud distribution – probably no big deal, right?
The PR doesn’t directly say that RuneScape itself will make use of the tech, just that it’ll be used as a platform to “bring new levels of depth and scale to Jagex’s future creations.”
Earlier this week, a studio rep apparently accidentally leaked a stream slide with the logo for something called “Next Gen,” which also may or may not be RuneScape-related as we outlined Monday.
Source: Press release
I have always found this part of the development cycle to be the worst part. Right now, we are sitting at the point in Elder Scrolls Online when you really don’t want to move forward progressing your character because some of the endgame or character progression, in general, will change next week. However, you are very excited about what is to come in the next expansion, and you really want to play ESO at the same time.
It’s a strange phenomenon, and one that is unique to MMOs. When Skyrim was about to release Dragonborn a few years back, it had been a little bit since we had visited Skyrim. For me personally, I had a little game called Star Wars: The Old Republic that I had been playing, so when Dragonborn came out, I replayed Skyrim to refresh my memory before jumping into that expansion. However, MMOs are meant to be played all the time, and well, we’ve been playing ESO this whole time leading up to Morrowind. How do we do to channel our excitement?
Well, I have some fun suggestions for every Elder Scrolls fan. These are my five suggestions for things to do while waiting for ESO: Morrowind to release.
Conan Exiles performed beautifully for Funcom, at least during the first part of this year, the company’s investor report for the first quarter revealed today. The survival sandbox’s early access launch in February helped propel Funcom’s once-beleaguered revenues to five times their state this time last year, making it the “most profitable quarter ever” in the history of the studio. The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 releases are on track for Q3 2017 and Q1 2018, respectively.
The company reiterates that the reboot of The Secret World as Secret World Legends will make its recently announced June 26th debut, but the Steam launch will be delayed until July 31st as a result of “crowded market conditions with multiple MMO releases in May/June on Steam” — those being Black Desert’s Steam launch, Elder Scrolls Online’s Morrowind launch, and Final Fantasy XIV’s Stormblood. Seriously, nobody else should even try launching that month.
“The Company expects the majority of players after launch to be newcomers to the game, but is also working to make it worthwhile for as many veterans of The Secret World as possible to continue playing Secret World Legends. Due to the high uncertainty regarding a Free to Play business models the Company expects the development team to need to tweak the monetization mechanisms of the game in the months following launch. Paid User Acquisition will gradually be tested and introduced in tandem with the monitoring and tweaking of the game’s monetization KPIs.”
During a weekend stream of RuneScape, Jagex Community Manager Shaun “Shauny” Akerman appears to have let slip a logo for an unannounced Jagex project called “Next-Gen.” The community is more or less united behind Shauny, who expresses concern on the video that he may be fired. He won’t be, by the by; another mod posted,
“Don’t worry, Shauny! Honest mistake, we all make them. This was a slide from an internal company livestream, so there must have been something leftover from that. God bless you Shauny – we just have to teach you to cut feed when a stream is over!”
Other folks on Reddit are a bit more cynical, suggesting that the whole thing was an intentional leak by the studio in the service of starting up the rumormill on whatever Jagex is working on next.
So what the heck is it? It could be RuneScape Remastered, which Jagex confirmed last year. It could be the VR tech for RuneScape the company hinted at earlier this spring. It could be just a throwback to RuneScape 3’s internal name. Or it could be a new property altogether, though it hasn’t had the best track record there (RIP, Stellar Dawn and Transformers Universe).
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!
This week we have stories and videos from MapleStory, Heroes of the Storm, Ingress, Wurm Online, DCUO, Hellion, Life is Feudal, Skyforge, Overwatch, H1Z1, Final Fantasy XI, all waiting for you after the break!
It seems that it really wasn’t too long ago that I was filling in the time between night classes by boning up on video game news. I was drinking up all of the hot up-and-comers, such as Age of Conan and Warhammer Online, when I caught word that the maker of Diablo was trying to do the same thing again, only more online, in 3-D, and with a cool modern-day/futuristic/horror vibe.
There’s no better way to put it than to say that from the start, Hellgate: London looked all kinds of cool. Oh sure, you can scoff now with your perfect 20/20 hindsight, but I’m betting that more than a few of you thought the same with me around that time. Diablo but with guns and an online persistence — how could we not be intrigued? One of my most vivid memories was being torn between the idea of buying a lifetime subscription deal for $150 or not (again, this was before the free-to-play era, but also before the era of us spending the same money on alpha access. I’m just saying that you can’t judge me.).