If you know one thing about indie MMORPG Camelot Unchained, it’s that CEO Mark Jacobs appears to dwell perpetually in internet comment sections amiably sparring with gamers and attracting loyal advocates.
But if you know two things, you also know that the game is late. Really late. The RvR-centric, PvM-free, anti-lockbox, sub-only MMO was supposed to enter beta three years ago, according to its successful 2013 Kickstarter, but studio City State Entertainment suffered admitted setbacks along the way – both hiring difficulties in the company’s Fairfax, Virginia, location and technical hurdles. Much of that has since been rectified; in 2016, the company launched a second studio in Seattle while continuing to hire engineers and spending the better part of a year completely refactoring its character ability code and polishing up its home-grown engine. But here we are in 2018, still mumbling beta when? at Jacobs and his dogged crew.
Well, we’re finally getting an answer to that question and more, along with a significant blast of hope for the future of the game, as CSE has just received a massive cash infusion to speed up development. I spoke to Jacobs at length – he’s infamous for being effusive – about what’s going on with the game and the studio in 2018. Read on for the executive summary!
Alien, quiet, and weird — that’s the Anarchy Online soundtrack for you in a nutshell. For the first episode of 2018, the ever-contentious Battle Bards are back to quibble about, gush over, and nitpick the score to one of the older sci-fi MMOs on the market today.
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 113: Anarchy Online (or download it) now:
This is, bar none, the column I hate doing most on a regular basis. None of the games I highlight in here is something that I actually like pointing to; they’re games that people like, games that may very well be someone’s absolute favorites, and yet they’re also games where the future looks difficult if not outright bad. A cloudy future is never a good thing, and this particular column does not make it all right.
But we’re still here in the early days of 2018, and that means it’s still the right time to look at the games we might not see around next year. For various reasons, these are the games that already look like they’re in trouble, instead of absolute face-shattering surprises like a couple of the shutdowns last year.
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 Rend, Sea of Thieves, The Black Death, Warframe, HEX, Fragmented, MU Legend, Final Fantasy XI, Monster Hunter World, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Dota 2, Wurm Online, Ultima Online, and Path of Exile, all waiting for you after the break!
You may not like it, but the vast majority of MMORPGs are free-to-play or buy-to-play as of 2018. EVE Online went free-to-play at the end of 2016, you’ll recall, and some of the last classic holdouts – Ultima Online and Dark Age of Camelot – will make the same move this year. That doesn’t leave many games to go free-to-play or alter their business models in a big way. World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV with their subscription-only models lead the way (and have been lauded accordingly).
Do you think any of the remaining sub-only MMORPGs – that are actually launched and live, that is – will yet go free-to-play? What MMO will be the next to change up its business model dramatically?
A comment on Reddit about the current size and viability of Kritika Online got me thinking about MMO playerbases in general lately. We all know that there’s a stigma attached to little games; the big games with big servers and millions of players feel safer, and nowadays people just assume a small MMO has one foot in the grave. But it isn’t always true. We could also rattle off some smaller MMOs that seem to be moving along just fine, with bills paid. Sure, they’d like to be bigger, but they’re holding steady and know how to work the playerbase they do have rather than constantly alienate their current customers in search of new customers. And some MMO gamers actually prefer those sorts of titles. After all, if the game has just a few thousand people, it’s much easier to get to know a large slice of them, plus have your voice heard by the developers and actually influence the gameworld.
For this week’s Massively Overthinking, I’ve asked the writers to reflect on the smallest MMOs they have played, and then consider how big an MMO has to be in terms of playerbase that they’d consider playing it now. What’s the smallest MMO you’re willing to play, and why?
Get ready to “juice your sq’irks,” whatever that means, because RuneScape is hitting 2018 at a dead run. Looking at the year ahead, Jagex had plenty to say about some of the content coming to the game over the next several months.
Upcoming events and patches include a giant eyeball dungeon, RuneScape’s 17th birthday (with cake!), a divination outfit, more use for gems, benefits from the bank rework, and an aura interface. And that’s just January.
“The move away from expansions bears fruit, and the fruits are juicy,” teased Mod Raven. More fun additions and changes are planned for the spring, such as a Robin Hood outfit, a clue scroll log, deep sea fishing, a group ironman mode, a minigame hub, a calendar of events, and the launch of RuneScape Mobile later this year.
Most MMORPGs have the core sandbox problem: Whoever gets there first, controls all the toys and has the power to drive everyone else away. Even in a themepark, the “richest” players, whether they control the gold or the dungeons or the gear or the PvP, eventually help kill the game.
That’s the subject of a Raph Koster blog that recently popped back up on my radar. Koster, known for ecosystem-oriented virtual world MMOs like Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies, is subtly making the case for MMOs that end, even if that end starts a new beginning. It’ll sound familiar to A Tale In The Desert players, surely, or anybody watching Koster’s latest MMO, Crowfall.
In the service of his argument, he references a blog post about the age of the world’s best tennis players, which just keeps rising. Is it because the olds are innately better at tennis? Nope. It’s because the “winners” are entrenched in a rich-get-richer situation that ensures “the typical person in the system ends up below average.” The more the winners win, the more money they have to ensure they win more, whether that’s with better coaches, better equipment, better medical treatment, or just plain more time to train, which makes it progressively more expensive (on all fronts) for newcomers to compete… until the newbies stop trying and the olds start retiring.
And then? The whole system collapses.
It’s the distant future. The high-tech battle armor you wear sharply contrasts with the ruins of civilization that you traverse. You spot an enemy and raise your pulse rifle, firing off shots as you strafe to cover. Technology hasn’t solved the issue of war; it’s just raised the body count.
PlanetSide 2? Nope — this is Neocron, the quite-forgettable MMOFPS from the way-back era. I like to call it “that game with the most regrettable cover art in the history of video games,” but that isn’t quite as snappy.
Going into this article, I have to admit that I previously knew absolutely nothing about Neocron other than the fact that it was a sci-fi MMO that vaguely reminded me of Anarchy Online. Oh, also the fact that nobody I know or perhaps ever will know played it. Was it just a myth? A practical joke to make us believe in an MMO phantom? Only sifting through layers of dust and grime would produce results, so I rolled up my sleeves and started digging.
With a couple of months to go before its official launch, Shroud of the Avatar has more than a few challenges to overcome to deliver a solid, full-fledged game that appeals to a crowd outside of the small-yet-loyal community that has been financially floating this title for years now. But challenges are what Richard Garriott is all about, and the video game creator is not shy about sharing his long history of overcoming these in the industry.
In a recent Ars Technica interview, Garriott shared his war stories about the creation of Ultima Online and the surprises that the community whipped up along the way. The story he tells here focuses on the automated virtual ecology that was made for the sandbox. This carefully fine-tuned system was destroyed virtually overnight when player hordes came into the game and slaughtered everything.
Out of this (failed) experiment came a funny story and some useful lessons that the team used to shape MMO sandboxes thereafter. Check it out after the break!
One of the frustrating bits about our end-of-the-year content rollouts is that sometimes predictions and story roundups can come across as negative. It’s way too easy to assume that if someone is predicting game X will flop, she wants it to happen and is gleefully steepling her fingers and cackling madly over its future demise. Which is just not so! I never steeple my fingers.
But all the same, for tonight’s Massively Overthinking, we’d like to take a moment to set aside our fears and expectations and just talk about our hopes and wishes for 2018 in an MMORPG context. That was what we think will happen. This is a summary of our most optimistic daydreams.
Believe it or not, but 2018 marks the fifth anniversary of the debut of Old School RuneScape, the 2007-era version of the MMO that has proved to be just as popular (maybe even moreso) than the regular edition. And kicking off the celebrations this year is a brand-new world-spanning quest that just so happens to be a sequel to one of the game’s most popular missions.
Dragon Slayer II is a story of “intrigue, unforgettable battles, and high-end rewards,” according to Jagex. The quest is designed to be challenging and for experienced player, utilizing both combat and puzzles in its design. Players who beat it will gain access to the highly useful Myths’ Guild.
“More than 16 years after the original Dragon Slayer quest launched and gave players their toughest challenge, we’re giving them an even grander challenge to overcome with Dragon Slayer II, one of our most memorable adventures yet!” writes Senior Product Manager Mathew Kemp. “2018 is a real milestone year for Old School RuneScape; in addition to celebrating our fifth anniversary next month, we’re of course looking forward to the launch of Old School on mobile platforms soon!”
Those of you who’ve been following Massively OP for a while know that many our writers have a fondness for old MMORPGs – that’s how we got into the hobby in the first place. My little secret is that I still maintain one of my original Ultima Online accounts with a house and gardens and a stable of toons (mostly bards!).
And yet come awards season, classic MMOs rarely win awards, which hardly seems fair. Yes, some of them have graphics that have fallen by the wayside, but most have mechanics that can stand toe to toe with anything made in 2017.
Thanks to commenter Agemyth, who suggested this topic last year, we’re going to put it to a vote, again this year including a wide range of “gracefully aging” MMOs that could reasonably be considered classics based on the era of their launch. No, we didn’t include blockbusters like World of Warcraft that are still winning awards in 2017, nor did we list any closed games (the Asheron’s Call games were sunsetted this year, alas). Onward to the future where the past lives on in the present!