It’s almost the end of the month, and you know what that means: Shroud of the Avatar’s monthly update. R46 is due out this Thursday, a day after the current free trial period ends. Portalarium has posted a top 10 list of priorities for updates, the current version of which highlights load times, client FPS, loot rewards, story polish, AI, UI, the newbie experience, locatlization, launch prep, and improved player direction, something our own Eliot Lefebvre isolated as a problem during his recent CMA series with the game. As the studio put it,
“Currently we rely on some very subtle and ‘immersive’ indicators for information in the world (ex. piles of skulls to indicate scene difficulty). We are going to provide much clearer indication of information. For example, on the overworld all towns will have clear indicators of their town type (POT, NPC, etc.). We will also indicate whether you have a quest in a scene, a clearer label of the scene’s difficulty, perhaps even an indicator of what services a scene might provide (bank, mail, blessings, etc.). We will also start providing more on screen indicators of this information, so that while you are in a scene you will better know what kind of scene it is, what difficulty it is, whether you have quests in the scene, etc. We will also work hard to polish the maps and compasses to better guide you to and from your quests, homes, services, points of interests, scene exits, etc.”
Last week, following Epic’s announcement that PvE-centric Fortnite would be getting a PvP-centric battle royal mode its paying PvE players apparently didn’t want (but that’s OK because it’s free?), we all rolled our eyes at the transparent attempt to capitalize on the runaway success of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Developer Bluehole, however, did more than that: In a press release, it all but accused Epic of ripping off the mode and suggested it’d be contemplating some sort of action against the company, causing a market run on virtual popcorn as everyone watched two massive video game companies prepare for a possible legal war over what seemed to many gamers to be a pretty old game trope.
But in a new PC Gamer interview, Bluehole has since clarified its position: It’s not about the games’ shared ideas but about Epic specifically.
“This is not about the battle royale game mode itself,” VP/EP Changhan Kim told PC Gamer. “There were other BR gamemodes earlier this year that were released, like last man standing or GTA 5’s battle royale game mode, and we never raised an issue. […] Battle royale is just about last man standing, it’s a simple game mode, and we’re not claiming any kind of ownership over the game mode or genre itself. It’s not for us to even comment.”
Hey, remember the MMO Book Club? That’s the Reddit-and-Discord group that allows members to vote on a game to play, then organizes a guild and events inside that game over the allotted time period, ensuring that folks who want to try out an MMORPG have a ready-made community of likeminded casual people who aren’t going to immediately scamper off to greener pastures. You scamperers, you.
To date, the Club has dipped into Lord of the Rings Online (which we streamed!), WildStar, The Elder Scrolls Online, and TERA, the reigning champ. As the group enters its second half-year, it’s opened the voting once again; that takes place in Discord to avoid brigading.
“The shortlist of games you can vote on to play with the Bookclub now are: Guild Wars 2, Secret World Legends, DC Universe Online, EverQuest, RuneScape, ArcheAge, World of Warcraft and TERA.” (Voting for TERA extends the current cycle another month instead of moving the crew to a new game.)
In one of our recent Daily Grind discussions about MMORPGs that might make it to 20 years of live operation, some of our commenters pointed out that despite Age of Conan continuing in maintenance mode, Funcom had ceased to honor its ongoing subscription loyalty reward program for players pushing two years or more.
The same day, Funcom (purely coincidentally, we have no doubt) posted its 720-day loyalty reward information. The good news for loyal subbers is that the two-year mark will net you five royal treasure chests and a free character boost to level 80.
Age of Conan was officially put into maintenance mode back in February as Funcom chose to instead pursue Conan Exiles, Secret World Legends, and other upcoming projects.
Daybreak has quietly shifted one of the aspects of its free-to-play business model for EverQuest II. In response to a query as to when the studio would be making any previous expansions free as it has done in the past, Daybreak said that it “will not be adding anything further to the F2P lineup.” This means that free players can no longer hold out hoping that they will one day get to enjoy the newer expansions (unless, of course, they pony up for them individually).
While there is a new expansion to anticipate, this particular move doesn’t seem to be in the community’s favor. Massively OP’s MJ recently pontificated on the question of whether or not EverQuest II was in a downward spiral.
Over at EverQuest, things look a little brighter, especially if you’re a subscriber. Daybreak announced that it is handing out free Sarnak skeleton illusions to all members who log into the game between now and October 15th.
I would like to say that when I was a kid playing my first MMORPGs, I was impervious to the grind, that I embraced taking many months to level a skill or hit a level cap. But that would be a lie. I stuck a rock on my keyboard to AFK macro overnight in Ultima Online, and a friend of mine would log into my EverQuest account sometimes while I slept to catch me up in levels. I hated it. I have always hated it. Oh, I’d spend hours per day in those early games, but I wanted to chill with friends, make stuff, run dungeons with people without worrying about level discrepancies and gear and all the obnoxious mechanics designed so transparently to slow me down and make me pay to grind. And I’ve felt this way for 20 years.
This is why a recent tweet of Raph Koster’s, quoting Elder Scrolls Online’s Matt Firor, resonated with me:
“Removing levels as a gameplay factor was the best decision for retention ever made in Elder Scrolls Online.” -Matt Firor
It’s affirmation that I’m not alone: A huge portion of the MMORPG playerbase will pay for content that pushes us together by invalidating level grinds rather than keeps us apart. Is it not time? Can we just be done with the old canard that people “need” leveling make-work to feel achievement or investment in a game, when metrics prove otherwise? Should MMOs get rid of levels?
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 Lawbreakers, Hyper Universe, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Pokemon Go, World of Tanks, DC Universe Online, Crossout, Monster Hunter World, Runes of Magic, Atlantica Online, Revelation Online, League of Legends, Crossfire, Heroes of the Storm, Overwatch, Path of Exile, and Dungeon Fighter Online, all waiting for you after the break!
Earlier this year, popular streaming platform Twitch – with whom we are a partner – introduced what probably ought to have been a controversial feature called Drops. Essentially, a game’s devs can set up the game to grant in-game items and bonuses (i.e., drops) to those who watch and stream the game through the platform, presumably hoping that’ll drive community engagement or some other buzzword.
One of the MMOs we cover that got in on the ground floor of the Drops system was MMOTCG Elder Scrolls Legends, and apparently, Bethsoft has decided to make some changes to its integration – and not all players are pleased.
For starters, the studio is tweaking the rate of Drops to better consider “their effect on the overall in-game economy” and whether the experience is “meaningful and rewarding,” which apparently includes reducing the number of Drops streamers themselves receive.
Guild Wars 2
launched its second expansion, Path of Fire
, a few days ago, and as you might expect, a new expansion means some immediate priority shifts will deeply affect the game’s economy. New materials are added, which are required by the newest recipes and are thus highly sought after, and other materials will fluctuate in value depending on their usefulness within the new content’s scope. Players typically react to this short period of market turbulence by keeping the materials that they farm until they are absolutely sure of their uses and worth: There’s nothing worse than selling a big pile of a rare material you thought you didn’t need only to realise your error later.
However, ArenaNet decided to temporarily keep a “handful of items” off the list for the game’s material storage system in an attempt to force players’ hands: The company is attempting to combat the shockingly high prices seen for expansion materials back at Heart of Thorns’ launch by discouraging player warehousing of valuable yet abundant materials. The news has caused quite a splash in the game community and it’s exceptionally interesting mechanically speaking, so I just had to dedicate an edition of MMO Mechanics to the topic.
“It’s possible, pig, I might be bluffing. It’s conceivable, you miserable, vomitous mass, that I’m only lying here because I lack the strength to stand. But, then again… perhaps I have the strength after all. DROP… YOUR… SWORD!”
Can’t imagine why this screenshot of Secret World Legends from Winterskorn has me thinking of The Princess Bride. It’s inconceivable. Also, that sword doesn’t look like it can cut very well, just saying!
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.)
It always seems a bit unfair, a bit impatient, and a bit premature to be asking that eternal question of an MMO: “What’s next?” This, perhaps, is doubly true when a recent meaty expansion is still providing an (exploded) mountain of content with an instance cluster on the way. You can almost hear the developers’ eyes roll and their exasperated sighs as they say, “Can’t you be content with where you are right now?”
No, not really. Speculating about the future is one of the exciting hallmarks of MMO fandom, and I feel it’s entirely possible to be both content with where you’re at while wondering what’s to come. So with that caveat out of the way… what’s next for Lord of the Rings Online when Mordor is said and done?
Before we dig into the possibilities (six of them, to be precise), we should acknowledge that Mordor itself will no doubt be the central focus of LOTRO through the end of this year and probably most of 2018 as well. There is a great deal of landscape left undeveloped and unexplored, and I have no doubt that the Black Book of Mordor could be expanded into a fat volume when all is said and done.
Mark Jacobs and City State Games have a big surprise for Camelot Unchained followers in this week’s dev blog: a major update to the beta one document focused on guilds, groups, and all the social organizations in between. And bigger. Really, this game is going to have a lot of different types of groups, with every niche from soloers to small crews (Warbands) to big guild-like crews (Orders) and even some formations that are more like raids, but nothing so big that little guilds or lone wolves need to panic. The document is lengthy (nothing new there, right?), but no matter what kind of group you’re in (or aren’t in), it’s worth a deep-dive to understand how the game’s community will be structured in a PvE-less RvR MMO because while it shares a lot on common with games like Dark Age of Camelot, it’s also got a few tricks I’ve never seen done before (like permanent groups that aren’t quite guilds and specialty mega-groups that are more about project management than fighting).
The dev blog also has some work-in-progress renders of character faces, super-detailed, down to the freckle — we’ll include some of those down below.
Want more social systems info? Mark Jacobs sat for what I can legitimately call a massive interview with us on this topic and a few others, so stay tuned for Monday, when we’ll be publishing the goods!