I remember years ago when then-Massively-columnist Rubi Bayer let loose with a blistering rant on the state of faux beta MMOs. She helmed Betawatch back then, see, and she was fed up with (mostly imported) MMOs claiming to be in beta when in fact they’d soft-launched. A lot of readers didn’t understand her fury at the time, but boy have things changed, right? Now, every game’s in on that very old trick, only they call it early access now, while some are still pushing the boundaries, charging $1000 for pre-alpha.
MOP reader Pepperzine proposed a topic for this week’s Massively Overthinking that’s right on point. “I was thinking it would be interesting if we could discuss when people consider a game to be in alpha/beta versus a final launch as a topic,” he wrote to us.
“Back in the day, this was easy to determine. Selective testers were extended invites into beta who were experienced testers who had the computer hardware to handle the software. The primary purpose of being in the testing phase was exactly that, to test and bug report. When the game was made available to the public at a price, a game was considered launched. Now, players are granted access to pre-launch titles by ‘donating’ or purchasing access. For the most part, the primary purpose of participating in the pre-launch experience for these players is not testing or bug reporting but rather to experience and play the game. The division of purchasing a game and donating to test has become so blurred that it is no longer a valid way of determining if a title is at a state to where it is launch ready. These titles can stay in this pre-launch phase for as long as they deem necessary, easily deflecting criticisms by reiterating it is still in development. So when do you consider a game to be launched? Is it when the producers declare it is? Is it when there is no longer the possibility of wipes? Is it when cash shop monetization is implemented? Is it as soon as the company begins selling access?”
Where’s the line in 2017? Let’s dig in.
With all of the influx of survival shooters on the market, it might be easy to forget the game that started them all. Due to its slow pace of development, DayZ has found itself struggling to remain as prominent as it once was, but the online shooter’s situation could be improving soon as the game heads into beta.
The team is enthused to talk about the upcoming 0.63 patch, which will be making some significant changes to improve DayZ’s look and core functionality. Some of these improvements include helping characters to move better, tweaking the animation system, keeping eye zoom removed from the build so that players will engage in closer firefights, and nixing “zigzagging” while running, all big steps toward separating DayZ from its Arma 2 base.
It sounds as though the team has figured out a way to be more agile in its development process: “This means that we are no longer tied to larger technology changes and can focus on the stuff that’s important to us and players alike: things that tackle immediate concerns that have troubled the game for a very long time. The approach we chose is based around priorities that carry through to other features, so we spend less time going back and redoing stuff over and over.”
DayZ’s Dean Hall says his new sci-fi survivalbox Stationeers is launching early access in September, and he isn’t sugarcoating the game’s difficulty.
You might remember Stationeers from its rather casual reveal back in March, hot on the heels of the apparent cancellation of Dean Hall’s other big sci-fi game, Ion, an EVE Online-inspired MMORPG that dissolved in a puddle of cagey and contradictory statements from the studios and platforms involved.
Stationeers, however, isn’t an MMO; it’s a sandbox, and it hates you, so don’t be fooled by the adorable graphics. “This is not a casual game,” Hall’s studio, RocketWerkz, says.
“Easy to start but hard to master. Well, kind of easy. Maybe not really. This game has been designed for the hardcore players who want games that are very systems oriented. This is a game about complex systems and how you optimize them. The game presents a variety of science-based survival problems that you have to solve yourself, and then try and optimize your solutions over time. For those not seeking a very intensive and hardcore experience, this game is not for you.”
After some ups and downs this afternoon — everybody loves the “try again later” message, right? — Valve’s summer Steam sale is finally underway and stable. Here’s what we’re looking at in our corner of the gaming world.
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 Black Death, Hellion, Astellia Online, Overwatch, DayZ, Pirate101, Armored Warfare, Aion, Elder Scrolls Online, Path of Exile, Dungeon Fighter Online, Wurm Online, Revelation Online, Osiris: New Dawn, Dark Age of Camelot, Age of Wushu 2, all waiting for you after the break!
Stationeers, an upcoming multiplayer survival sim, marks Dean Hall’s (DayZ) third attempt to create a space station title. In a recent interview with PC Games N, Hall seems confident that this one will make it across the finish line.
“The other day we set a record of 28 players playing, with excellent bandwidth usage,” he says. “It was fantastic. It was the first time we’d run a playtest with a large number of players that had no major errors, so that’s putting us on the road to release.”
Hall talks about the features that are going into the game, the ones being adjusted, and the ones being left out due to resource limitations. He’s hoping that trading between stations will make its way into the game at some point, but Hall is more concerned with creating a “great core game loop” that was present in other successful early access titles like Prison Architect and Rimworld.
Stationeers is slated to come to Steam early access some time this year.
Remember back when DayZ creator Dean Hall was building ambitious sci-fi full-scale sandbox MMO Ion, inspired by EVE Online and Space Station 13? Remember a few weeks ago when it came out that it’s probably a dead game since, y’know, no one is actually working on it and everyone involved is giving weirdly vague statements about its status?
OK. Now fast-forward a couple of weeks to EGX Rezzed in London, where Hall is apparently in the midst of demoing yet another new space game inspired by Space Station 13. It’s called Stationeers, and Hall really doesn’t want people to think it’s Ion, even though it plainly has quite a bit of Ion in it.
“Inspired by the beloved Space Station 13, Stationeers puts you in control of the construction and management of a space station either by yourself in single-player, or online with your friends. Complex systems around atmospherics, power generation, medical, agriculture, food, and gravity require your thought and management at all times.”
Welcome to The Survivalist! Ya’ll might have noticed that I have gravitated a bit from my happy home of deep, immersive virtual worlds (possible due to the lack of them!) and have been tinkering about and enjoying time in various survival games. This isn’t as odd as you might think! One thing I love about sandbox worlds is the ability for your actions to matter in terms of shaping the world and carving out your place in it. Survival games have been allowing me just that with opportunities to build the world, from the society on it to structures in it to the even the physical world itself. And decisions definitely matter, bringing satisfaction and reward or disappointment and destruction.
I’m not alone in this appreciation of the survival genre, either. Many MMO gamers have joined mainstreamers by flocking to it lately as seen by the explosion of the available games. Those of you not on board yet might be wonder just what is so alluring about a genre that has many elements of MMOs but on smaller — and oft times privately managed — scale. As the weeks and months wear on, The Survivalist is going to explore all the nooks and crannies of the survival sandbox genre (and likely die many, many times in the process!), but today, we’re going to look at what players can jump into to test their survival skills. So here’s a guide to many options in the newest genre to take over our gaming sphere.
EVE Online has practically dominated the sci-fi sandbox MMO niche for nearly 14 years, with its harsh PvP-oriented gameplay and massive single-server universe combining to provide something that’s remained compelling in an ever-changing industry. From its humble foundation as a mostly empty sandbox with a smattering of people and limited resources has sprung political intrigue, war, espionage, charity, theft, and economics that often mirrors the real world in startling detail. In over a decade of virtual history, we’ve seen the rise and fall of massive empires, the birth and collapse of industries, the emergence of heroes and villains, and the forging of thousands of real life friendships.
While EVE‘s long-term success can be attributed partly to the absolute persistence of a single-shard universe, I often wonder what would happen if a fresh server opened today. What could players achieve with a level playing field and blank slate for all, and what would the EVE universe even look like without 14 years of accumulated wealth and skillpoints behind it? A tantalising hint of what that gold rush might look like comes from survival sandbox games such as RUST and DayZ, which have hundreds of small servers and very little focus on persistence. It’s got me thinking about what a shorter-term survival sandbox game with EVE‘s core gameplay would be like, and I honestly think it could be amazing.
In this edition of EVE Evolved, I make the argument for an EVE Online survival sandbox game and the massive gameplay opportunities that periodic server wipes can present.
Do you have any money left after all of that holiday shopping, travel, and dining out? Steam would very much like to have what remains, if you please, and is willing to trade you some discounted games in return.
Yes, the annual Steam Winter Sale is up and running, which means all sorts of deals for the frugal MMORPG player. We’ve compiled a huge list of all of the deals — including discounts of up to 90% off! — to help you navigate the holiday promotion. The sale ends on January 2nd. Hope it helps!
After all of the talk about how this was to be the year of virtual reality, the actual reality does not seem to be bearing that out. Why is that? There are lots of reasons, but RocketWerkz CEO and DayZ designer Dean Hall took to Reddit to post about some of the realities that aren’t evident from the other side of the screen. In short: Making VR games isn’t profitable. Not in the “no one gets a new summer home” sense, but in the “well, this game actually lost us money to make” sense.
Several factors contribute to this, although the incredibly low installed base is a major reason for this; there just aren’t enough people buying VR games to make good sales enough for a game to recover its money. Instead, developers have to rely on incentives from specific platforms, which means exclusivity… which is something that most gamers aren’t willing to accept. The full post is well worth a read if you’ve got any interest in the future of VR and the realities of game development.
The announcement of a new sandbox MMORPG last week — New World, by none other than Amazon Game Studios itself — has had both the Massively OP community and the broader MMORPG community chattering with excitement followed by calls to temper that excitement before it runs away with us. Where one person sees the salvation of the entire genre and the investment of a major tech company as a sign that MMOs are still feasible, another whispers the word gankbox and points to Amazon’s heavy Twitch integration as a certain sign of doom.
So for this week’s Overthinking, I polled the Massively OP staff on their thoughts, hopes, and fears about the game. Is a sandbox the right move for Amazon? Does Amazon really understand what MMO players want to play, pay for, and watch? Is Twitch going to be a problem? What about the “murderous player bandits” line that has everyone in a tizzy? Is New World the sandbox we’ve always wanted or the sandbox we deserve? Let’s talk about the New World order.
Rare is still feeling out the “emergent world” of Sea of Thieves as the game nears its closed beta testing phase. In an interview with AusGamers, the studio expressed how it’s trying to strike a balance between allowing players to be proper pirates without robbing the game of a sense of community and fun.
“We wanted a game that wasn’t overly punishing like a DayZ or EVE Online [where] you’ve got these shared roles where there’s a lot of loss and it’s permanent,” said Design Director Gregg Mayles. “So we’ve [been trying] to find the balance; the world needs to feel like there’s peril and you can lose your ship and you can die, but it’s not the kind of loss where [you’re punished unfairly].”
If you were hoping that Sea of Thieves would allow you to turn on your fellow crewmates, then this isn’t the game for you. Rare disabled friendly fire once it saw how it negatively impacted early tests, and instead the studio worked on adding incentives for teams to work together.
Rare also posted its very first episode of its “Tales from the Tavern” podcast for the upcoming game. You can listen to it after the break!