For MMO players, Improbable brought some interesting ideas to GDC this past spring. It also brought some games I wasn’t expecting, and the ones I was expecting were kind of downplayed. On the ground floor, developers from some of our favorite MMOs hadn’t heard of SpatialOS, a platform that allows games to be “bigger” by running multiple game engines in an innovative way, with a few developers being exceptions. I was set up for a meeting with Improbable CCO Bill Roper to help figure things out, but soon into our physical meeting he was pulled away and we had to follow up with emails, which rarely goes as well.
Fortunately, Roper had time to sit and chat again with me at E3. With SpatialOS’s first game out in the wild and more on the way, I felt like there was a lot Roper could explain about SpatialOS, MMOs, and Improbable’s role in it all.
We’ve finished rolling out all of our E3 2018 content this year, save a few last stragglers coming this weekend, so now we’ve chosen our favorites out of what we got to see in person and from afar. Read on, then vote for your own best-in-show!
Fallout 76 wasn’t the only Interplay throwback at E3 2018: Descent, one of the games that defined the six degrees of freedom genre, is no longer underground. That is, the former title has changed because Interplay’s embraced the game and given the developers full support.
Descendent Studios team is hard at work on launch, Little Orbit CEO Matt Scott met with us to discuss what’s been going on in the past several years of development. Nostalgia aside, I went in expecting the worst: long-abandoned IP, Kickstarted game, indie team, extended public development, and fairly quiet presence on social media. However, I came out very pleased. While the game may not be an MMORPG, what I saw and heard makes me think that this may be the space experience I’ve been waiting for.
Remember how we learned that Perfect World would be showing off some new games at E3? Well, things happen at conventions like this – they don’t always go to plan. My FarSide didn’t materialize, for example. However, ReEvolve did happen, just not without setbacks. Our PR contact, Michael Meyers, did his level best to help me understand what was up with the game, despite the realization that PWE’s Chinese branch hasn’t pushed much information westward just yet. All this could have ended with my not writing anything, but despite it all, enough of the game showed through, and I’m definitely intrigued.
If a sandbox version of something like Adventure Quest 3D exclusively on mobile sounds like your thing, read on.
While I’ve had kind words to say about the potential for mobile in the past – particularly MMOARGs – I just haven’t been able to get into mobile MMORPGs. The point of view, the auto-follow, the lack of chat, and a generally cheap feeling leave me feeling a bit ill. However, I was fortunate enough to get my hands on Black Desert Online’s mobile port this year at E3, which might just change my mind.
Now, let me preface this by saying I am not an active player of the PC version of the game, and my brief time with the console version of the game only confirmed to me that Pearl Abyss has competently adapted controls and UI for console, but oddly enough, the work on the mobile client stood out to me as particularly superb. And as Pearl Abyss CEO Kyungin “Robin” Jung told me during our interview, the company is indeed considering porting the title to the Switch. While it sounded interesting (and a bit odd considering Nintendo’s general status as an online-outsider), it wasn’t until I personally played BDM that I seriously started to consider the possibility.
Apparently, GDC was good to Funcom, The Bearded Ladies, and Mutant: Year Zero. The teams had originally thought to skip E3 this year, but after the reveal led to even one developer’s mail attendant in Sweden fanning out a bit, it became clear that an appearance at the Expo might be in order (and to maybe not wear developer t-shirts in public).
The Bearded Ladies developers said that they’ve received nothing but positive comments so far, and I can’t say I’ve been able to give them more critical feedback either. Part of that is because my tactical RPG experience is limited to super casual Fire Emblem outings that never end with my finishing the game. Admittedly, I also didn’t have a ton of questions to bring with me this time because the guys were just so open at GDC. It’s probably for the best, though, as I was finally able to get my hands on the game. Spoiler alert: Not only did I fail my mission, but so did almost everyone else!
GDC 2018 back in March was good to Defiance 2050, at least in terms of making people aware of the goals of the game. It doesn’t necessarily mean people like what they’ve seen or heard, but Social Influencer and Community Manager Scott “Mobi” Jasper and Community Specialist Coby West feel that particular reveal has done the best for the game.
At this year’s E3 followup, there wasn’t any huge new reveal, aside from the launch date itself – just more tweaks. There certainly seems to be a bit of a disconnect between the overall MMO sphere and the 2050 fandom the devs are used to, with the devs somewhat understandably being more connected to their fans. After all, those are people who are willing to pay to play, and especially for a free to play game, that’s what you need. I got my hands on the game for the second time this year, and while it’s a solid play experience, I worry that, created in a vacuum, its potential for growth beyond the original Defiance experience is limited.
So, you want to be a pirate, but Sea of Thieves isn’t your cup of tea? If the issue was PvP, well, you’re probably out of luck, as Ubisoft Producer Karl von der Luhe emphasized at E3 this year that one of Skull and Bones‘ chief strengths is that it lets you decide what kind of pirate you want to be: the kind who backstabs and murders his fellow buccaneer, or a wolf running with a pack. There’s no room for pacifists who just want to share Earl Grey and crumpets, alas.
While von der Luhe admits that Ubisoft admires what Rare’s done with SOT, it’s been clear for a long time that the two games are different enough to co-exist. They’re different takes on the pirate lifestyle. Even with the new hideout system for off-ship… um, town interaction, my demo of the open PvPvE area, the hunt grounds, further confirmed my feeling that Ubisoft’s game is more about the ship than it is about the pirate, something that surely has its own audience.
When I met Frostkeep Studios’ CEO Jeremy Wood and crew at GDC earlier this year, I walked away impressed. I finally felt like I understood why other MOP staff are so excited about this flying-under-the-radar title. And this year at E3, I not only saw a more finished build of Rend but got some hands-on time with the game. I can’t say the floor demo did the game any justice, but what I heard from Wood and co-founder Solomon Lee sounded like the kind of forward thinking that only comes from developers who know the history of the genre and their playerbase.
Although I think I could start a hype train, I’m going to try to try to reserve judgment for a little longer. Rend may not be an MMO (it’s a moddable survival game with factions), but it has the potential to feed that MMO hunger we know you’re craving.
You know with my being the one at this year’s E3 that this would happen. A console Pokemon game that also connects to Pokemon Go? The possibility for a way to include trading in Niantic’s game in an indirect manner, a wider connection to the main series, its online storage system that helps give the games some semblance of persistence – altogether, it seemed for a moment as if Nintendo was indirectly building another pillar in its overall Pokemon world.
Sadly, from what everything we’ve learned, we’re no closer to a true (official) Pokemon MMO. However, my hands-on experience did hint at some really cool immersion for Go players who want to pick up Pokemon Let’s Go for a new mix of the core series’ gameplay.
With all the online talk about Nintendo this year, it feels only fitting to give Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros Ultimate a little time. We’ve talked recently about the unbundling of MMOs and why the market seems primed for a big title yet goes unanswered. Readers and writers all noted that other genres help meet the demands for this, from MOBAs to even social media.
In fact, we even covered an online fighting game last year because it included customizable characters (both appearance and abilities), quests, loot, guilds, and even guild quests that involved more than two people. An MMO it was not, but it certainly had enough overlap that it turned a few heads. The last Smash Bros included several of these components but restricted them to mostly offline play. However, one interesting note was that the Mii-fighter, a highly customizable character in the Smash-verse restricted to “fun” and “casual” play off and online, is being prepared for online battles. Whether that means in a new form or its customizable form matters, as one might hint at Nintendo’s aim for this title: another try for sanitized online fighter, or embracing the full spectrum of Smash fans. I’m leaning towards the latter.
One thing Trion Senior Producer James Karras drove home during my meeting with the team at this year’s E3 is that with Trove’s Geode
update, the team is experimenting
. Yes, Battle Royale is happening, but it’s no threat to the main gameplay. Geode’s new world and its playstyle alone should allay those fears.
Specifically, the team wanted to introduce non-combat gameplay into Trove with planet Geode. It’s about exploration. It’s about helping small animals that are cold, injured, or hungry. It’s about rewarding everyone nearby you when you do good. While the game might seem more grindy, the idea is to give crafter and exploration types something that’s engaging for them, though clearly going out and killing will still be an option. I’m not even a Trove player, but I was quite excited to hear about the team’s design choices this time around.
Bohemia Interactive, the developer behind DayZ, knows what it does well, and it’s going to continue to create games within its specific field of expertise. The studio just announced its next title at E3 this week called Vigor, and yup, it’s a multiplayer survival shooter.
Vigor takes place in a post-war 1991 Norway where players have to grab everything that’s not nailed down and attempt to survive. There’s prooooobably going to be some snow here, considering the country, so pack your long johns.
“Turn a shelter into your home. Fight, run or hide. Take risks, claim rewards. Survive this cut-throat experience,” the official website said.
The big bummer here? Vigor is exclusive to the Xbox One, so you’ll either have to access it through that platform or look wistfully at some screenshots for the rest of your life. Early access signups are currently open through the website.