editorial

Perfect Ten: Why Star Trek Online is an underrated MMORPG

I’m the type of player who has a stable of games that I return to from time to time, particularly when I’m looking for a dependable, enjoyable experience. I’ll stay with these games for a while until I can feel the fringe of burnout approaching and then let them go until they are needed once more.

Among these titles is a long-running favorite of mine — and an MMO that I feel is somewhat underappreciated by the larger community. The game is, of course, Star Trek Online. I was there at launch with my Del Taco cup in hand (there was a silly promotion that involved shuttles you could get from buying a soda), I’ve popped in for most of the anniversaries, and I’ve generally had a great time going through all of the featured episodes again and again while nerding out in my starship.

While I won’t argue that it is a perfect MMO or that it’s free from cash shop shenanigans, Star Trek Online does have a lot going for it that can get overlooked when players are hunting around for a reliable and slightly different gaming experience. Here’s why.

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Working As Intended: The best and worst of Guild Wars 2 Path of Fire (so far)

I’ve spent a chunk of the last week moving through the first part of Guild Wars 2’s Path of Fire, finishing up the Crystal Oasis zone into which a character is deposited right off the airship. Obviously, it’s far too early to give a formal stamp of approval until I’m fully through it, but so far, I’m pleased with my purchase. Very pleased. I’m already pretty sure the expansion is update-of-the-year material for the genre. But it’ll take a few months to see how it fully meshes with the existing game, and while the same was true with Heart of Thorns, my urge to stop writing and go back into Elona for the next zone as I type this already tells me that PoF has delivered on at least its basic promises.

So while we let the community savor the game until a fully informed consensus is reached, I wanted to dash off some quick thoughts based on this first week of midcore casual play. Consider it a top 5, bottom 5 list as we dig into the very best additions to the game – and the things that still annoy me.

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Elite Dangerous: A ground-pounding newbie’s perspective

Earlier this summer I wrote that Elite Dangerous community events were something the MMO community should watch. Watch. I never said play, and I never ended up pushing the “purchase” button when I saw it on sale. I’m not really a flight sim person. Heck, I’ve even mentioned several times that I prefer kart-racers to realistic racing games.

However, I recently snagged a review key for Elite Dangerous to try it out on the PlayStation 4. I even streamed my first experiences with the game. It was a rocky session to say the least, but I decided to stick with it for a few more hours after getting some support from viewers. I really wanted to be able to recommend the game as something to pick up, but honestly, I’m still in the “watch” category.

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First Impressions: Splatoon 2 is a lobby shooter for socializers

After my hands-on at E3 and experience with the first Splatfest demo, I was a little concerned about Splatoon 2. I loved Splatoon 1but something about the E3 Salmon Run fell flat, and after having experienced the full version of Splat 1, I thought that the demo of Splat 2 without customization felt too shallow.

So I was provided a review copy of the game prior to launch, and something still didn’t feel right. While it was good to get in time with the single player mode and prepare me for launch, I figured out what was missing: the real Splatoon community. It’s what gives Splatoon more of an MMO-y feel than most of Nintendo’s other titles.

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The Soapbox: Getting to the heart of toxicity in MMOs

So we’ve gotten another post from a developer saying that they’re going to really 100% be better about rooting out toxic players from their games. Seriously, we mean it this time. The latest one is from Blizzard, but let’s be real, this is something that’s always happened. We always get periodic statements from companies that this time they’re really going to address toxic behavior, someone links that inevitable Penny Arcade strip, nothing really changes, play laugh track, roll curtains.

I’d like to be happy about this, I really would, but it’s so much empty posturing, and it came out only shortly before the announcement that everyone who plays the game can now be signed to the Overwatch League. I think the two are pretty closely connected. And I think we need to actually start talking about this because this sort of darkly toxic problem is at the core of the designs of these games, even though on some level it’s entirely separate. The problem isn’t that these games are designed to be toxic; it’s that they’re designed to encourage toxicity.

Getting rid of individual toxic players, as Blizzard purports to do, is merely treating the symptom. We need to discuss the disease.

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The Soapbox: The disastrous Pokemon Go Fest was just Niantic being Niantic, and that has to stop

I know I complain a lot about Pokemon Go in my articles here, but there’s a reason for this. I’m a huge fan not just of the Pokemon series but of what Niantic is trying to do with its game on a basic level. The idea of getting games outside with the rest of the world instead of hidden in our rooms and offices is hugely appealing. I’ve even applied to work at Niantic before (though obviously I wasn’t selected), so for me especially it’s frustrating to see a company I want to succeed repeatedly making the same kinds of mistakes. These are mistakes that plagued the game’s launch, several events, feature reworkings, and now not one, but two birthday celebrations within the same year. 

I actually got sucked into the hype recently and even said that the events surrounding the festival might give people a reason to come back. I’ve finally removed my foot from my mouth after previously downing some crow, but I’ve realized that, now more than ever, Niantic needs some tougher love, and here it is.

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MMO Burnout: Nintendo’s ARMS and the Switch in public and private

It won’t surprise anyone who reads our WRUPs that a lot of my free time gaming has been mobile-based as of late, especially if it has local multiplayer. While I still prefer PC gaming for the most part, it’s hard for me to bring a mouse and keyboard with me to a convention and play while the line is moving. MMOs with local multiplayer are even harder. Recent conventions have made jumping into traditional MMOs harder, as has the summer heat that magnifies the heat I feel when playing on ol’ lappy (although that could just be a result of the airless storage space I call home!).

At any rate, I decided to bust out my Nintendo Switch a bit more, bringing it with me to try to recreate Nintendo’s questionable marketing ploy and so I can play in a room where open windows don’t pose a risk to my papers and electronics. My weapon of choice? ARMS.

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How I got married through World of Warcraft

I’ve mentioned a lot of times, in passing, how my wife and I connected in part through World of Warcraft. But I’ve never actually gone into any depth on the subject, and it didn’t actually happen because I wanted to be involved with her.

It happened because I needed a healer.

At the time, I had a collection of friends in the game who were all happy to play with me, but we also were all DPS. In the days before the dungeon finder, this meant that forming a party was more or less just something that was not going to happen. So I recruited my best friend at the time with the explicit statement that I wanted her to be our healer.

We’re now many years on from that, and pretty much 90% of the time she plays a tank. So from one perspective, that plan was an enormous failure.

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The Soapbox: Your favorite MMO is going to die

Your favorite MMO is going to die. Don’t take it personally, though; every other MMO is going to shut down, too. That includes my favorites and everyone else’s favorites.

Do you like Final Fantasy XIV? It’s going to shut down. WildStar? It’ll shut down. Ultima Online? Oh, yes, the shutdown is coming. The Secret World? Guild Wars 2? The Elder Scrolls Online? Destiny (yes, I meant to leave off the 2, I mean the original)? RIFT, Trove, Black Desert, Revelation Online, Crowfall? All of the above will shut down.

But don’t get up in arms about this. Seriously, relax, take a deep breath, maybe hum a little William Shatner tune. All of these games are going to shut down, but that’s just because every single MMO exists in one of three states: not yet launched, shut down, or waiting to be shut down. And as cynical as that may seem, I think accepting that truth is going to do wonders for all of us when it comes time for the next unexpected shutdown. Because it’s going to happen.

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Working As Intended: Why classic Guild Wars matters, 12 years in

The spring season always sees a deluge of MMORPG birthday celebrations: Lord of the Rings Online, City of Heroes, Allods Online, Free Realms last week and TERA and EVE Online this week. Lost in the din, however, is Guild Wars — classic Guild Wars, ArenaNet’s original MMO, which released in 2005 against World of Warcraft, performed brilliantly, and let up only once Guild Wars 2 itself was underway. Even though it’s now clinging to life in a permanent sort of maintenance mode, I still consider it one of the best MMORPGs ever made, in spite of the fact that it’s missing several things I’d normally consider vital for an MMO. And in this week’s video edition of my Working As Intended column, I’m going to tell you why.

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The Soapbox: Lessons Secret World Legends failed to learn from Final Fantasy XIV

I’ve mentioned many a time that I like Funcom quite a bit. I want to like Funcom quite a bit. Heck, I want to be excited about Secret World Legends, but every day or so I get reminded that such a course of action will be very difficult at the least. Because quite frankly, Secret World Legends seems to want me not to be excited about it, as evidenced by… oh, every single thing that Funcom is doing around it.

Which is odd, because Funcom literally has access to a playbook for a large-scale reboot.

Secret World Legends is coming off of The Secret World, which was a cult MMORPG classic with a mighty fan following. Final Fantasy XIV was coming off of… well, its initial version, which had a fan following full of people who admitted that it was halfway to Stockholm Syndrome. And yet that game managed to get people excited and earn fans, while Funcom seems dead-set on alienating people or making them just plain nervous.

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The Soapbox: Why is Pokemon GO still a tech demo?

I’ve been a bit frustrated with Niantic lately. I love some of its ideas, but I watched someone else play Ingress prior to Pokemon GO’s release, and I noticed very similar problems between the two games after release — problems that the company should have noticed and corrected in its followup.

Recently I decided to try out the former. Both are totally unintuitive. You have to search the UI for the tutorials, though Ingress’ can be accessed only near objectives. You’re asked to join a faction sooner there than in PoGO and with no context beyond 2-3 sentences. The game throws jargon with little to no context at you throughout the tutorial, making it difficult to follow. I walked around, clicking things and used items that I don’t fully understand, not because I’m too lazy to read but because I wanted to understand a game without consulting google. I saw portals get taken without anyone around me as I stood by an objective near a government-restricted area where standing still longer than it takes to read “No Trespassing” could trigger security. I couldn’t get into it, not just because it was simple but because it was poorly designed.

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Here’s why everyone’s pissed off about City of Heroes NPCs in NCsoft’s MOBA

Yesterday, NCsoft took the lid off a secret it’s clearly been working on for a while: The company means to introduce a notorious and well-known City of Heroes NPC as one of the characters in its upcoming MOBA, Master x Master.

Here’s the thing. Master x Master is actually pretty well-liked around here. The writers we’ve sent to test it out the past few years came away thinking it was an excellent hybrid PvE MOBA with a lot of MMO elements, a genuinely good entry to the market and something we’re happy to cover. So I don’t think anyone wishes it, specifically, harm.

But NCsoft? I don’t know who told you this was a good idea. It’s really not a good idea.

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