You don’t need to be a brand-new and modern MMORPG to suffer major cheating scandals, something the nearly 20-year-old Ultima Online has reminded us this week.
In its most recent newsletter, UO studio Broadsword explains that an Event Moderator — one of the studio contractors paid to run live events for the game’s production shards — was caught cheating, generating what appears to have been large amounts of rare-dyed cloth and an unknown quantities of unique items, which were then circulated into the already beleaguered player economy. In UO, the so-called “rares market” involves the sale and display and items that exist only in tiny batches thanks to these types of customized events, and a large part of the game (and its bloated gold economy) revolves around trading legitimate rares. It goes without saying that mass-creating those types of items for personal gain is the worst offense for a studio contractor.
“The Event Moderator program has been going strong nearly 8 years now, and we have all worked hard to ensure its success,” Producer Bonnie “Mesanna” Armstrong told players in the newsletter. “Please know that this situation has not been taken lightly, nor is this behavior tolerated.”
The latest SMBC comic is going to have my fellow MMO fans nodding enthusiastically: In response to the first man, who says we need to find the “next big thing” after gamifying work, a second man suggests workifying games — something the author dryly remarks was obviously the catalyst for the first MMORPG.
And I’m not sure he’s wrong at all. A tremendous amount of my MMO gameplay consists of activities I suspect an objective observer would classify as work rather than a game. Unpaid work. The only real difference is that some of it is work I enjoy — like crafting in a sandbox with an immersive and rewarding economy. Quest hubs, though? I’m over that.
How much of your MMORPG play amounts to “work”? Has that changed since you first began playing MMOs?
Last week, Blizzard Watch published a post discussing the problem with grinding — but maybe not the problem you’re thinking. Matt Rossi explained that he had returned to World of Warcraft, or tried to, anyway, but felt overwhelmed by the amount of catch-up required in the grind department, from rep grinds to artifact knowledge. Blizzard is pretty good about helping returnees get caught up on experience, but not so much on the rest — and the experience is the fun part!
And boy do I know this feeling. There are so freaking many MMORPGs I enjoyed once, but going back… well, there’d be the compelling part of re-absorbing all the game knowledge, but that enjoyment would be totally wrecked at the realization that the economy, cosmetics, and meta had long since passed me by, never mind the grind itself. I’ve found that those are the kinds of MMOs I just don’t go back to.
How about you? Is there an MMORPG you find too daunting to return to?
During last week’s podcast, Justin and I bumped into a tangential topic about competitive PvE and how relatively rare it is in MMORPGs, which seems weird, right? It was once the nature of MMOs to make us scuffle with other guilds in open-world dungeons, but with the dawn of instanced PvE content, devs didn’t replace that type of content the same way they’ve embraced raiding and PvP. You’ve got achievements, sure, and gear show-offs, but outside of Guild Wars-esque challenge missions and WildStar PvE leaderboards, it’s just not something most MMOs bother with.
Why is that? Should they? And how do you want to see it done? I posed all these questions to the Massively OP team this week for Massively Overthinking!
What can one man do with four years of spare time, a computer, and a fondness for video games? If you’re Hank Newman, you throw yourself into making your very own sandbox fantasy MMORPG called Realm Zero.
Billing itself as “an evolving online world,” Realm Zero’s focus seems to be on a player-created and -driven environment. Player houses and guild castles are a big part of this, as is the economy, agriculture, and crafting. There are also some expected MMO features, such as developing a character’s broad skillset, dungeon diving, and even treasure hunting.
While the game is currently in closed beta testing, Newman has launched his own Kickstarter campaign to raise $80,000 so that he can expand development and even hire others to help complete Realm Zero. “This project was originally started 4 years ago and has only been developed in my free time, totaling roughly 2,000 hours. The reason for the limited development time is due to maintaining a full-time job, in addition to finding time to spend with friends and family,” he said.
As promised, Ashes of Creation’s Kickstarter has just gone live
— Intrepid Studios is seeking $750,000, and it’s already racked up $190,000 of that as I type this. Unlike most games that claim the MMO moniker these days, AoC
is all about the massive, thanks in no small part to the MMORPG pedigrees of its team, with an emphasis on player-governed territory, economy, world building, and consequential PvP.
“Ashes of Creation is a new MMORPG that aims to bring the Massive back to Massively Multiplayer,” declares the Kickstarter preamble. “It takes everything we love about the genre and brings it boldly into the future as a truly next generation title. We’ve all wanted a world that lives and breathes and reacts, where our decisions matter, where the world changes because of what we’ve done. Ashes of Creation is that game: The rebirth of the MMORPG.”
Here’s something we rarely see: a promise to refund in case the whole project goes belly-up. “And finally, in the case that Ashes of Creation does NOT launch, we promise to refund all backers in full.”
Despite my best efforts, I walked away from my trading attempts in Black Desert
having been wholly unsuccessful. I consider this a good thing, and it left me with a very positive impression of the mechanics involved, with maybe one exception.
This may sound weird and almost nonsensical, but additional context sheds some light on that statement. One of my repeated points which I harp on over and over is that I want systems to have complexity equal to the amount of time you’re expected to devote to them. If you want me to work hard at establishing trade routes, I want that system to be as complex as clearing out high-level dungeons or engaging in siege warfare.
In other words, it shouldn’t be something I can master or even do much more than brush against while I’m on a high-speed tour of the game and what it has to offer. And while I was a bit disappointed with the game’s gathering mechanics, the trading system seems to offer exactly what I wanted to see.
I’m always wary nowadays when a game bills itself as a massively multiplayer sandbox gaming world, especially one that says it’s akin to “old school RPG games with modern quality,” but Arcfall appears to deserve the label.
The new MMO is currently listed on Steam as an early access title still in pre-alpha, but it isn’t formally launched or buyable just yet. Developer Neojac says it’s a “social” game, with open world non-instanced housing, a player-driven economy, crafting and farming, mounts, banking, resource harvesting, a classless skill-based progression system, and an incomplete map. Guilds, factions, dungeons, ships, player islands, and PvP (to complement the full-loot death) are still on the way, though there are apparently PvE-only zones too.
Early access is expected to last “the better part of this year,” with beta by the end of 2017. Founder packs are available on the official site; Neojac says that early buyers can access the game through that portal while Steam’s rollout continues.
Neojac should sound familiar to hardcore MMO fans; that’s the studio building MMO Neo’s Land on the Atavism platform, also of its own design. Neo’s Land’s last public update was in December of last year.
With less than a month to go before flipping on the switch to its live servers, the Darkfall: Rise of Agon team must be crunching pretty hard to get everything ready for the launch.
In last Friday’s recap post, the team ran down a checklist of some of the last-minute projects that it is working on to prepare for release. One of these is getting new server tech into place: “Our new server hardware is currently on order and is getting set up by our supplier. Once the hardware is ready to go we will be configuring them with what is needed for launch. We plan to open up the servers for a short stress test before launch and will provide more details on this at a later date.”
The team said that it’s planning on rolling out a public test server post-launch and is striving to get player vendor stalls in place for release or shortly thereafter. Other countdown projects include scattering wilderness portals throughout the game world, getting the new task system into the game, revamping the economy and loot tables, and preparing a marketing campaign.
Massively OP reader Suikoden wrote this great question to the podcast — too good to let just Justin and me answer it. It’s a two-parter!
“Back when I used to be a hardcore MMO gamer circa 2000-2010, I felt that MMOs of that era were designed more toward the hardcore gamer and even catered to us more. Within the last 5 years, I’ve had to develop into more of a casual player. However, I now feel that games once again cater to me and my current playstyle. Did the MMO genre evolve alongside me, from a more hardcore-centric genre to a more casual playerbase? Or is it the same as it always was and I just feel that it caters to me because it’s designed to feel like it caters to all playstyles? And if there was a change, do you feel it is for the better or for the worse for the genre?”
I posted Suikoden’s questions to the team for this week’s Massively Overthinking!
One of the more alarming trends in MMORPGs from the past few years, to me anyway, is the weakening of in-game economic systems, and not just from themepark shortcuts.
My first MMORPG was Ultima Online, where personal trading and vendor malls were ubiquitous, where you could drop dead and see everything you’d held looted and carted away by players and mobs alike. And I remember the MMO community outage when EverQuest introduced “no drop” and “no trade” items as, it was understood, an attempt at combating gold and item farmers. Most of you probably know that concept better as “soulbound.” It’s commonplace now, but at the time, it was the kind of decision that literally forks genres.
We’ve come a long way down that themepark fork since then, it seems to me: We now have many MMOs where you can’t drop stuff, games where you can’t hand items directly to other players except by mail (if at all), games whose devs cap item values to interfere with the market, games that refuse to consider an auction hall, and games whose auction halls are basically toys for well-connected guilds and no one else, never mind the multitude of MMOs where corpses can’t be looted or crafting exists as a useless minigame to keep crafter types from noticing they’ve been demoted to second-class citizens.
Albion Online isn’t letting up on the updates in the window of time from now to July when it launches for real, nope. Today, the studio’s put out its plan for some of the big changes it’s working on. Economy is first up on the list as Sandbox Interactive hopes to make almost all of the gear in the game player-made — even the drops. You know how Trove’s mob drops are actually player-crafted items? So too will it be in Albion once the team has its way.
“The way this works is that all items that can drop from mobs need to be supplied to an NPC black market first. The black market in turn creates demand based on mobs being killed. If the black market’s demand is not met for certain items, prices will increase, until a player is willing to sell the requested item to the NPC. Items sold to the NPC will then enter the drop pool, i.e. mobs can drop them based on the usual loot tables. However, the black market NPC is somewhat corrupt, and some items sold to him will be ‘lost’, hence creating a nice item sink which will be very important at the lower tiers. If we can make it work, you’ll even be able to see which player originally crafted the item that just dropped from the mob you killed!”
Last week, we covered CCP’s
new plan to change EVE Online’s
30-day sub currency, PLEX, by effectively breaking it into smaller chunks
and turning it into more of a cash shop currency that’s more easily fungible and tradeable.
It was an announcement not without its detractors, as Massively OP’s EVE columnist Brendan Drain explained over the weekend: Some players were miffed that PLEX will be transportable without the risk of ship-to-ship movement, while others grumbled about the short-term effect on the market and poor conversion rates for the secondary currency, Aurum, and the lack of conversion for players with fewer than 1000 Aurum. And as is common with such in-game economies, still others are up in arms over apparent market corruption, as it appears that players with insider information began trading ahead of the announcement to manipulate the economy — as Brendan suggests, likely a CSM (player council) member privy to information ahead of the embargo lift.
Today, CCP posted an update meant to assuage some of the concerns about the new program.