electronic arts

Megacorp known to MMO gamers primarily for its ownership of BioWare’s Star Wars: The Old Republic. EA has previously been the steward of Mythic Entertainment (which in turn once controlled Ultima Online and Dark Age of Camelot) as well as The Sims Online, Warhammer Online, and Dawngate.

One Shots: A sense of place

Why do you play MMORPGs? What keeps you questing through these ever-growing worlds? I think a lot of us might answer like Zyrusticae in Blade and Soul here, as we enjoy inhabiting and exploring virtual fantasy worlds.

“See, this is the sort of thing I play MMORPGs for,” Zyrusticae writes. “That sense of ‘place.’ Being somewhere else, even if it’s only behind a computer screen. Old shots, yes, but still some of my favorites just for that. It’s a very pleasant feeling, really.”

Will you find your sense of place in the following player screenshots? Let’s find out!

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The Game Archaeologist: Warhammer Online

When it comes to notable years in the MMORPG genre’s history, 2008 stands out as one of the most significant. World of Warcraft’s debut onto the scene in 2004 caused an upheaval in ways far too numerous to go into detail here. Suffice to say that its overwhelming popularity drew the attention of game designers who looked at the staggering numbers of players and found themselves envious of the potential to grab a slice of that money pie.

Many projects went into high gear following WoW’s launch, with plenty of them trying to copy the formula and structure that Blizzard established in the hopes of making it at least partially as big as that game. So-called WoW clones began to pepper the market and there was a sense that gamers were ready to move on from World of Warcraft to the next generation of MMOs. In many players’ minds, this would be either 2008’s Age of Conan or Warhammer Online, two big-budget MMOs with strong IPs that carried a lot of the weight of expectation.

Little did anyone realize that 2008 represented a bubble that was about to burst on the industry and the WoW clones that followed — including Warhammer Online. Today, we’re going to take a look at “bears, bears, bears,” the high hopes of Mythic Entertainment, and how WAR became a casaulty on its own battlefield.

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Massively Overthinking: On slavery mechanics in MMOs

Polygon recently had an interview with Conan Exiles creative director Joel Bylos focused on the game’s slavery mechanics, a “feature” I had entirely forgotten about, probably because the game calls such NPCs – whom you are encouraged to capture and enslave – “thralls.” Bylos likens thralls to the ‘bots of Westworld: They serve multiple purposes, from dancing for entertainment to manning base defenses as “intelligent turrets.” Essentially, he argues, they’re a mechanic that allows a single human player to build out and staff a mini empire.

I thought it would be interesting to explore the subject of slavery in Massively Overthinking now that Conan is back in the headlines (and getting good reviews). Should slavery exist in MMOs and other online games? Does it get a pass because it’s NPCs, or does it make you uncomfortable to see your player potentially cast as a heroic slaveholder?

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Hyperspace Beacon: The SWTOR Summer roadmap might get you back into PvP

Star Wars: The Old Republic producer Keith Kanneg just dropped the next roadmap earlier today, outlining the features upcoming before September and a little bit beyond. Although he didn’t give much detail about the future of the story for the game, he gave us enough hints that we can speculate about the direction it’s headed.

At the very top of the roadmap post, Kanneg thanks everyone for such a great first year as producer of SWTOR and hopes that everyone enjoyed the traitor storyline. The story ends with a lot of questions unanswered, but unfortunately, those questions will not be answered until sometime after September according to the post. However, it’s possible that some of the setups this summer are pointing toward what the developers have planned.

Kanneg said the devs have been listening to players and “as a result, [they will] be making a lot of changes based on your feedback, beginning with our PvP plans this summer.” 2018 will be the summer of PvP for SWTOR, so let’s break down everything that the developers are doing.

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Snag a Eudemons Online newbie pack in time for today’s Goddess update

I didn’t know much about Eudemons Online before the folks at 99.com reached out to us about this giveaway, but apparently this game has been around for half of forever and was one of the earliest MMOs to succeed in the free-to-play market in the west, with its anime stylings and isometric, almost Ultima Online-ish old-school flavor. Yeah, it’s one of those games I’d normally judge for the boob ads on the cover, but MMOHuts has a great video from way back in 2010 that actually shows off the real gameplay pretty well, so yep, there’s a real game under there.

Of course, that was 2010, and in 2018, the game is still getting updates, including the one live this week. Patch 2009, dubbed just Goddess, introduces four new dungeons, a new map, summonable servants, and the awakenable goddesses themselves. And if you’re in the mood to try the game out for the first time, you’ll want to take advantage of the free newbie pack the studio has set up for our readers.

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The Stream Team: Out of the vault in SWTOR’s Chapter VII

Into the Void just became Out of the Vault! Massively OP’s Larry and MJ are trapped in a SWTOR vault and need to find a way out before the now-smiling Valyn finds them. Yah, no one wants to see that! The KOTET’s Chapter VII journey continues, so join us live at 6:00 p.m. to make all those big decisions in our Choose My Alignment adventure.

What: Star Wars: The Old Republic
Who: Larry Everett & MJ Guthrie
When: 6:00 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, May 16th, 2018

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Global Chat: The MMO expansion lifecycle

With the ever-developing, ever-growing nature of MMORPGs, the expansion truly has a life of its own. By now we are well acquainted with the cycle that runs from gestation to obsolescence and can usually point to where any particular expansion is on this chart.

The Lazy Goldmaker outlined the typical progression of MMO expansion packs with a six-step cycle that focuses heavily on the economy and raiding: “After the final raid of the expansion we will enter the last content drought. This is typically the longest period with nothing exciting added to the game. We are in the middle of this phase of Legion currently. Most of the markets from the live expansion will still be viable, but profit margins will be decreasing, as will prices on all goods.”

Read on for more MMO blog essays, including ones that cover EVE Online, Wizard101, SWTOR, and LOTRO!

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The Daily Grind: Is it possible for an MMORPG to offer an optional sub that isn’t pay-to-win?

Last week, in the comments under the Bless optional subscription brouhaha article, I made an offhand comment that apparently got MOP commenter Sally’s gears grinding. I was trying to sort through why Bless fans are mad, and I wrote, “Neowiz has been promising no P2W for months, but it’s really hard to have an optional sub that isn’t pay-to-win.”

Sally didn’t disagree but said it was a “shock” to see it spelled out on Massively OP of all places: “In the current free-to-play climate, I see [the MOP] community as one of the last bastions for subscriptions. So a shot at subs from here struck me as ‘et tu, Brute?'” And Sally’s right! A lot of MMORPG vets enjoy F2P and B2P games but also hate double-dipping, and the subscription, or at least a mandatory sub without the usual gamblebox and pay-to-win trappings, is one way to guarantee healthy game design for the players.

On the other hand, if I’m honest, I truly cannot think of an MMORPG with an optional subscription that isn’t pay-to-win in some way. They’re trying to incentivize you to sub, after all, so they have to make the perks worthwhile, and very rarely do they stop at cosmetics. My Trove sub makes experience and drops fall from the sky. My Ultima Online sub lets me own a house and run vendors and hoard most everything. I’d say that games like Elder Scrolls Online, which hands out generous amounts of cash-shop credit for subbing, are on the better end of this argument, but then there’s that pesky crafting bag to contend with.

What do you think: Is it possible for an MMORPG to offer an optional sub that isn’t pay-to-win in some way? Got a contender in mind?

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Ultima Online preps a bug push, gives a voice to town cryers

Bugs, you better live it up, because your days are numbered. Ultima Online is preparing a big bug push (squash?) with June’s Publish 100. The long-running fantasy MMO will indeed hit triple digits on its publishes next month, and the devs are encouraging players to submit any bugs they’d like to see fixed in the patch.

One recent feature that the team promoted in this month’s newsletter was the new and improved Town Cryer. This system was “completely revamped” to spread news and upcoming events across the entire server.

“Even in the midst of Publish 100, we have our eyes on Publishes 101 and 102. There are host of new features to fit the seasonal nature of those publishes, including Halloween and the holidays,” Broadsword said. “We also have some really exciting items coming to the Ultima Store in the coming months including the Virtue Shield, new hair and horn styles, beards, a new mount, and more!”

Source: Newsletter

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Choose My Adventure: Ultima Online, we didn’t need to do this

Yes, this is going to come in as the shortest Choose My Adventure series, but I feel it’s got a good reason to be so. I went into Ultima Online with a very simple question: Is the game worth playing now as a free-to-play title for the curious? I very quickly got the answer to that question: No. Definitely not. And writing a whole lot more on it is just going to continue to harp on that point.

That’s not to say that there aren’t at least a few more words to be spared on the subject, of course. There are a lot of games with a free-to-play option that players have said don’t feel like free-to-play titles; you can technically play without paying, yes, but the game doesn’t seem to want you there and keeps hitting you with paywalls. That wasn’t the problem I ran into with Ultima Online, though. If anything, it seemed like the game didn’t want me there at all. Not as a free player, but as a new player.

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BioWare’s Anthem will let you be ‘the hero of your story’ even in multiplayer

What began as a general vision statement for BioWare quickly turned into a treatise on how the studio is going to handle Anthem’s multiplayer mode.

General Manager Casey Hudson returned for another dev blog in which he attempted to reconcile the studio’s focus on players being the “hero of your story” while participating in Anthem’s multiplayer environment.

“We’re taking this problem head-on and structuring the entire game design to provide a specific solution for this,” Hudson wrote without going into detail on said solution. “We think it creates a unique experience where you have control over your own story, but your story is set in an ever-changing multiplayer world. And yes, even though Anthem is meant to bring out the best parts of playing as part of an online community, you can choose to play through the story with only your friends, or even on your own.”

Hudson said that BioWare has other teams working on envisioning future games and different experiences. He also confirmed that Anthem will be shown live before an audience at EA Play (June 9th through 11th).

Source: BioWare

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EA quarterly financials: Anthem due March 2019, record profits, and lockbox-gambling denialism

EA’s quarterly financial report and investor call turned out to be a doozy this year with quite a bit of useful news. To wit:

BioWare’s Anthem is set to ship “in the last quarter of the year, and in the last month of that quarter,” so if we’re counting by fiscal quarters, that’s March 2019, and no wiggling out of this latest delay, EA. According to PCGN, multiple execs inflated the hype, arguing it’s a “stunning and ambitious” game with a “fundamentally social experience.”

Also, in spite of industry interviews to the contrary, it appears that EA learned basically nothing from the Star Wars Battlefront II fiasco that drove the ancient lockboxes-are-gambling argument out of weary corners of the online gaming market and into mainstream politics. The plan going forward appears to be fighting the perception – now codified in Belgium – that lockboxes are gambling in the first place. “We don’t believe that FIFA Ultimate Team or loot boxes are gambling firstly because players always receive a specified number of items in each pack, and secondly we don’t provide or authorize any way to cash out or sell items or virtual currency for real money,” CEO Andrew Wilson said during the call.

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Perfect Ten: You got your MMORPG in my tabletop RPG

Tabletop games and MMORPGs seem like they would go well together, but remarkably they often don’t. That’s true for several reasons, but one of the main reasons is that we have a lot more games adapting different source material separately. You can certainly run a Star Wars: The Old Republic-themed game with a Star Wars tabletop system, but neither one is based on the other. (Technically there was a supplement published for it, but that was covering the first two single-player games, which themselves were based on that tabletop system.)

But there have still been incursions from MMOs into the tabletop space, and MMOs which pluck that fertile ground for the seeds of inspiration. So let’s spend today looking at these games, when you can log off of your favorite MMO, gather around a table with your friends, and keep playing your favorite MMO. More or less.

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