Hey! Hey you! Yeah, you the I’m-so-bored-with-all-of-these-MMOs gamer! You’ve been grousing about for years how MMOs never take risks, never innovate, and are merely content to rehash the same-old fantasy tropes that were stale even back when World of Warcraft launched, right? Yes, we at Massively OP saw your poorly spelled Reddit post on that subject, thank you.
Well, what if I were to tell you that there’s an MMO that bucks the clichés? It’s true! Imagine an MMO that exists in a post-apocalyptic fantasy setting that’s unlike anything you’ve seen before. Imagine that combat isn’t merely hotbar button mashing but tactics mixed with positioning. Imagine that you can create your character to look any way you want from the onset instead of having to collect certain pieces of gear. Imagine an immersive world that is a delight to the eyes and ears.
Got all that? Want to play it? Well, you can’t. That game was The Chronicles of Spellborn, and since you and pretty much everyone else on the planet ignored it, it tanked in 2010 after less than a year of operation. Yet for its lackluster run, Spellborn has been strongly mourned by those who saw tremendous potential in it and who keep creating internet petitions to bring it back. Because petitions change everything. Today we’re going to take a look back at an MMO that took the path less traveled.
Almost a year ago, SAG-AFTRA issued a strike against a round of video game companies following a year and a half of failing negotiation on behalf of the voice actors in our games. Activision, Electronic Arts, Disney, and WB Games were just some of the largest studios selected as targets for the strike, which was at least ostensibly focused on better working conditions and proper compensation, in particular for residual bonuses based on the sales of a title. It got pretty dirty along the way as game companies launched a deceptive spoof guild website intended to confuse actors and acclaimed actors like Jennifer Hale called studios’ obstinance a “war on the middle class.”
Now it appears that strike will finally come to an end, as multiple sites report that SAG-AFTRA and the 11 companies have reached a tentative agreement as of last weekend. It still has yet to be reviewed and signed, but it’s looking likely, as the actors got most of what they wanted, including proper medical care, transparency about the nature of the roles they were being asked to take (if not about the games themselves), and a secondary payment structure based on the number of sessions worked for a game – not based on sales, as originally demanded.
According to Polygon, it was the longest strike in the history of the 84-year-old guild.
Let’s face it: There isn’t really a huge pool of MMORPGs from the 1990s to explore in this column. By now I have done most of them, including some of the more obscure titles. Yet there has always been this one game that I have shied away from covering, even though it (a) was an actual MMO from the ’90s and (b) is still operating even today. And that game is, of course, Furcadia.
So why my reluctance? To be honest, I suppose it was my reluctance to tackle anything in the “furry” fandom without knowing how to handle it. I don’t quite get the fascination with wanting to pretend to be an animal, and some of the expressions that I’ve seen in the news and online from this community have made me uncomfortable. Thus I kept away because I was worried that a piece that I wrote on Furcadia would devolve into a nonstop stream of jokes to cover that personal disquiet.
But I’ve tiptoed around this MMO long enough, and I have come to realize that there is virtue in earnestly trying to understand a subculture that is outside of my bubble, even if I don’t end up appreciating or liking it. Casting off preconceptions and simple snark, let us take a look at this unique title and see what it has to offer for the larger genre.
We’re not going to argue that MMORPGs are the dominant form of media entertainment these days, but they do have endurance and a devoted following among gamers. And whenever a crowd of players have been paying into a game for a long time, it will attract the attention and interest of marketers who start wondering what else they could do to siphon off a few more bucks.
Enter “transmedia synergy,” a stupidly awesome term that represents links between two or more forms of media that are connected through the same IP. The thinking here is that fans of one of these forms of entertainment will cross over into the related media and vice-versa, growing an audience together.
Today we’re going to look at 10 experiments in transmedia synergy, for better or for worse, that have attempted to cross over from MMORPG to something else entirely. To make things more challenging, we’re not going to include novels, since we’ve already done that.
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 Villagers and Heroes, Aion, Dark and Light, Pokemon Go, Guild Wars 2, Defiance, Wurm Online, DC Universe Online, Champions Online, Dark Age of Camelot, Elder Scrolls Online, SMITE, and Dota 2, all waiting for you after the break!
On this week’s show, Justin and Bree talk about a beloved MMO going mobile, the end of Guild Wars 2 (in a manner of speaking), the start of Dark and Light, LARPing at Disney World, and more!
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.
Listen to the show right now:
If you love to hate on brightly colored cartoony-stylized graphics of games like World of Warcraft, League of Legends, and even Wildstar, know that the tide’s against you.
So goes the argument of Motiga’s Vinod Rams, who compares MOBA Gigantic’s graphics to candy during a recent Gamasutra livestream. The idea, he says, was to combine styles popularized by Disney and Hayao Miyazaki with bright plastic toy looks rather than photorealism — and consequently, that Gigantic is in the Nintendo ARMS/Splatoon family of games because it looks like candy.
“You wanna reach in and grab one of these guys and just pop ’em in your mouth. Like… candy is completely engineered to entice you to pick it up. It’s an unnatural color sometimes. Why would I want to eat something that’s bright green?”
But of course, we do because it catches our attention.
The design conversation begins around 15 minutes into the video and resumes again around 35 minutes if you’d like to hear the whole thing.
Following Disney’s announcement of the Star Wars Hotel in the Galaxy’s Edge Disney subpark this weekend, my MMO guildies were joking about using the location for a guild meet-up in a few years. (Well, they were joking; I was serious! Teenage Bree would literally be shrieking incoherently over this thing. I practically still am.) The new bit is basically a Star Wars LARP hotel where you walk around in costume (and presumably in-character).
“It’s unlike anything that exists today. From the second you arrive, you will become a part of a Star Wars story! You’ll immediately become a citizen of the galaxy and experience all that entails, including dressing up in the proper attire. Once you leave Earth, you will discover a starship alive with characters, stories, and adventures that unfold all around you. It is 100 percent immersive, and the story will touch every single minute of your day, and it will culminate in a unique journey for every person who visits.”
So basically, it’s an MMORPG that skips right past VR and into real life. Will it be awesome? It’s going to cost a fortune, so probably — although if Westworld is any guide, people will still pay fortunes to show up and be idiots. My guildies will probably just spend all their time playing sabacc in the cantina, so we may as well just stay home and save the dough.
But Star Wars is my particular obsession; I’m sure you folks can think of other IPs, specifically MMO IPs, that would work even better for a bajillion-dollar vanity LARP. Which MMO IP should Disney themeparkify next? (Points to whoever says Revival first!)
Over the past year I’ve nearly been bested by the unclimbable mountain that is the RuneScape soundtrack. With well over 1,200 tracks currently existing in the game, it’s sheer folly to try to listen to it all straight through. That, of course, is exactly what I’ve been attempting, yet with new tracks coming out all of the time, I feel that there’s no end in sight.
If I’m to be forever working my way through an MMO soundtrack, RuneScape is a great place to be. As I’ve been discovering, there is such a sheer variety of interesting and catchy tunes on display covering a wide swath of biomes, races, events, and situations. What I perhaps like best is how RuneScape’s score isn’t in the slightest self-conscious with being silly and bizarre. In fact, it seems to revel in it!
So today let’s take an odd musical interlude to listen to six goofy and weird RuneScape tracks before we all get serious again about our video games.
MMORPG fans know well the name Bill Roper: He’s the former Blizzard developer who went on to helm Flagship’s Hellgate: London and Cryptic’s Champions Online before landing the gig at Disney Interactive. Now, he’s moving on to Improbable and SpatialOS, the distributed computing platform that seems to pop up in our feeds constantly nowadays and is allegedly worth a billion bucks.
Roper told Gamasutra that he’d been interested in SpatialOS for a few years but became a convert during this past GDC before accepting the role of Chief Creative Officer. “The possibilities for not just massive worlds, but highly detailed and truly persistent worlds built on SpatialOS are exciting. I believe the games that will define AR and VR are yet to be realized, and the type of simulation that can be achieved with our platform can be an integral part of these new experiences,” he explains.
Improbable’s tech is being used as a base for multiple incoming MMOs, including Chronicles of Elyria and Worlds Adrift. Most recently, CEO Herman Narula revealed that his long-term goal is to “literally create other worlds” and rescue to MMO industry from what he called “nuclear winter.”
Everybody’s doing sandbox MMOARGs these days — including Disney.
Disney World in Orlando has been working on a new Star Wars ride, glad news for anyone who barfed on the old one over the last couple of decades. But Disney is getting more than an updated ride: The Star Wars expansion land part of the park nabbed an extensive panel reveal during this past weekend’s Star Wars Celebration, and it definitely shares a bit in common with live-action MMOs.
“We wanted to build new Star Wars stories, new Star Wars destinations,” Disney Creative Exec Scott Trowbridge says, echoing thousands of giddy game devs before him, “but this time you can be in the story.”
To that end, Disney is setting the new area on a new-to-the-franchise planet, within the new trilogy timeline. Attendees will fly the Millennium Falcon as one of the “rides,” and what they do during one trip will affect the trip of the next batch of guests, with “total immersion” as the goal. You’ll also be picking… a faction.
The fallout over The Secret World’s reboot into Secret World Legends has spread far and wide over the MMO blogging community, with many expressing dismay while others signal intrigue.
“This is bad in pretty much every way that it possibly could be,” laments Superior Realities, while Through Wolfy’s Eyes said that the reboot “seems like a solution that isn’t doing a great job of communicating its intent too well, which makes me feel a tiny bit worried.” GamingSF doesn’t know if he has it in him to repeat all of the content, saying that it is “too big of an ask at the moment.” And Inventory Full calls the move “an act of desperation” on the part of the studio.
“I am also really hoping that stripped of MMO shackles that this title can truly excel,” I Has PC notes on the other hand, and Endgame Viable comments that Legends “sounds like a good thing.”
We’ve got more MMO blogger essays to share with you this week, including a requiem for Club Penguin, a judgment on SWTOR’s galactic command, and a summation of the average LOTRO player.
has just put out a pair of monthly newsletters for its 101
games — heads-up to any lost Club Penguin peeps
that there are some non-mobile MMOs still catering to your tastes!
While Pirate101’s community letter is more of the social sort, Wizard101 is currently in the midst of plotting a new update for players.
“Please download the Test Realm and join us in Testing the Monstrology system, three new Skeleton Key Bosses, the level 118 school pet quests, Aquila fishing, and much more,” the Wizard101 crew says.
There’s a teaser video too down below so you know just what to expect.