Waaaay back in 2015, a group of ArcheAge players filed a lawsuit against Trion Worlds over the Patron perk mess. Veteran MMO players will recall that Trion’s original pitch for founder packs included a 10% discount for cash shop buyables. That discount never happened – specifically because in 2014 Trion “determined that the time to develop this perk would be significant.” After launch, the studio instead swapped the discount over to past and future credit packs.
That prompted players Aaron Van Fleet, Paul Ovberg and James Longfield to lodge a class action suit against Trion for, among other things, false advertising and violation of consumer laws. The original lawsuit also muddied the waters by wedging in a lockbox gambling issue and has since been tangled up in determinations over the game’s EULA and TOU, which Trion had sought to use to force arbitration out of court. Last year, the suit was turned over to First District Court of Appeals as Trion appealed the lower court’s ruling against arbitration.
Video games have always been a remarkably insular field; that’s the nature of development. Someone produces Super Mario Bros, and a few years later Sonic the Hedgehog sounds like a really good idea for some reason. But then you have games like The Great Giana Sisters, games that don’t try to just copy parts of what made the inspiration good but just copy the whole thing with one or two changes.
For normal video games, this can work out decently; a game that just doesn’t get much traction still sells some copies, hopefully. Just because Croc wasn’t Spyro didn’t mean that no one bought the former. But for online games, these trend-chasing games are almost always dramatic failures that litter the landscape. Why is that? Well, there are pretty good reasons, and today seems like a good time to talk about that.
SpatialOS: You’ve probably been seeing this name pop up more and more in the MMO sphere. Worlds Adrift, Mavericks, Fractured, Seed, MetaWorld, and Identity are just some of the titles we’ve mentioned that have sprung up to use Improbable’s platform. The company picked up more than half a billion dollars from Japanese company SoftBank, roped in MMO veteran Bill Roper, and got Jagex to announce its intention to use it in a future project. However Chronicles of Elyria recently noted it’s dropping Improbable’s baby, and both on and off the record, developers I spoke to at GDC 2018 had mixed reactions – assuming they’d even heard about SpatialOS at all.
What’s the big deal about the platform? What does it do? Why should developers care? Why should MMO players care? I attended a panel by Improbable and briefly sat down with CCO Bill Roper to try to figure it all out.
Yesterday, Star Wars: The Old Republic
launched the delayed Update 5.8: Command Authority
to the servers. BioWare
now offers its first complete operation since Shadow of Revan
. For those keeping score at home, SoR
was launched way back in December 2014. We also see some much-needed improvements to the guild questing system that was originally launched with Strongholds expansion earlier in June of 2014, although BioWare has been adding to and improving strongholds since then. And lastly, we are introduced to some of new interactions companions Arcann and Ashara.
It’s only been a day since the launch, but I’ve had a chance to take a long look at most everything BioWare introduced in this expansion. And overall, I’m glad to see an update, but it’s just kind of… there. I have to wonder whether it was really necessary to make the bulk of what was introduced into a major update at all – or the developers could have placed the individual pieces into a much more impactful update. Let me explain what I mean by breaking apart the major pieces.
This week, The Ancient Gaming Noob posted up an image of RIFT Prime, where Trion asks people to… play nice. “Just a neighborly reminder that 1-29 chat is for RIFT chat, ideally things relevant to level 1-29 gameplay,” the UI HUD reads. “Please be good to each other. We’ve muted some and shall mute again. Have a great evening!”
Meanwhile, over in Trion’s Trove, I’ve had to report-and-block dozens of fellow players just in the last few days for disgusting slurs in multiple languages, stuff the filter doesn’t catch. For a free-to-play game that’s also on console, yeah, I guess I expect no better from the playerbase. But but but RIFT Prime is subscription-based. Surely that means a strong community, where such polite warnings from developers aren’t necessary? Yeah, not so much, as anyone who played old-school MMORPGs can tell you. This is a problem even in games whose devs prioritize community and care a whole lot.
So this week, let’s talk about in-game chat. Do you use it? Do you watch it? Do you turn it off? Is it really terrible everywhere, or just in some games? Which one is the worst and the best, and what should developers do about chat specifically?
SuperData continues to express confidence in the future of virtual reality – however you want to label it. Last week, the analytics firm updated its paid paper on its expectations for the industry, saying it has “nowhere to go but up.”
“Driven by augmented reality and mixed reality and successful titles, the XR market will reach a combined $7.6B in 2018 across hardware and software,” the firm argues. Revenue from VR software in 2017 was just over half a billion dollars – 55% of which was from games, with Bethesda’s Fallout and Elder Scrolls franchisea earning the most. And that other 45%? “Developers are focusing most on fields like design, retail, and manufacturing despite an overwhelming demand for education and healthcare solutions,” says the firm, pointing out that the big VR money isn’t in making people smarter or healthier.
Readers will recall that SuperData called VR the “biggest loser” of the holiday gaming sales at the end of 2016; that was followed by a NYT piece calling for “a reality check for virtual reality” just a year ago. Nevertheless, as of April 2017, SuperData was predicting a “steep rise” in VR adoption and $40B in revenue by 2020. The current report, however, suggests a combined consumer revenue for virtual, augmented, and mixed reality of just under $40B by 2021.
When you think of MMORPGs, I wouldn’t blame you if your mind stayed rooted firmly in the past decade or so, perhaps taking a brief vacation to 1997 before returning to today’s 3-D polygonal glory. But it’s not like people just woke up in the late 90’s, looked at each other, and said, “Hmm. Online multiplayer RPGs. Let’s make it happen!”
On the contrary, history had been building up to that moment for quite some time. Tabletop RPGs and computer MUDs (multi-user dungeons) were both important ancestors of modern MMOs, just as was a mostly forgotten piece of software lore: the bulletin board system, also known as the BBS.
In layman’s terms, BBSes were like pocket internets — host computers that allowed anyone to dial up and use special programs remotely. While BBSes weren’t (initially) tied together like the world wide web, they featured a lot of the elements that would make the world wide web so popular, such as email, forums, and, yes, online games.
Today’s special Game Archaeologist will take a brief look at the history of the BBS, as well as a couple of its games that could be considered “MORPGs” (the “massively” part would be a while in coming). Dial up, gentle readers, and make your hissing modem noises!
We named the sad death of Marvel Heroes the greatest MMO disappointment of 2017, and it appears it’s not even over yet. Redditors noticed that on January 4th, three creditors – Secret 6, Playchemy, and Caitlin Capes – filed claim against the assets of Gazillion, or rather, whatever is left to fight over following the company’s apparent collapse last year.
Secret 6 appears to be a multinational game dev studio known best for its art production (Ronald Schaffner is its president), while Playchemy is a mobile development studio. Caitlin Capes’ linkedin shows her as having been an associate producer on Marvel Heroes as well as on the multiplatform VR game Gazillion was reportedly working on. In total, MMO Fallout reports, the three are claiming nearly $700,000 in unpaid debt, the bulk of which is allegedly owed to Playchemy.
You know the lockbox thing is reaching saturation when there are so many things to cover we have to resort to a roundup. Nevertheless, for those of you who want to stay on top of developments and arguments, here we go.
Polygon has an explainer piece up on Destiny 2’s Eververse fallout and why everyone is still rioting over the game’s monetization. Of note for this discussion is the publication’s note that if Destiny 2 is hell-bent on having lootboxes, it ought to adopt Overwatch’s lootboxes, as they’re relatively tame and haven’t produced a Reddit in full meltdown.
Gamasutra has a roundup of MMO developer quotes from studios that believe they’re doing lockboxes “elegantly,” including Trion (for Defiance), PWE (for Star Trek Online), Wargaming (for World of Warships). In this particularly case, that means either being easily accessible through in-game play (not just in the cash shop), making lockbox drops tradeable to other players, creating systems of accruing lockbox rewards, or offering a choice of lootbox type.
The significance of Vanguard’s development, release, long-running drama, second chance, and eventual closure should be of great interest not just to game historians but to everyone who plays MMOs, period. What happened with this game caused a huge fallout in the industry, and we are still feeling some of its effects even today.
As our own Bree once put it in her blog, “Vanguard’s implosion was a big deal at the time and marked the beginning of the post-World of Warcraft destruction of the industry that hobbled Age of Conan and Warhammer Online a few years later.”
While the crash and burn of Vanguard was a very well-known tale several years ago, I’m wondering if today there might be many who are quite unfamiliar with what happened to this unassuming title back around 2007. Let me put on my old fogey glasses and we shall begin!
It has been quite the journey through SWTOR’s Knights of the Fallen Empire
for Massively OP’s MJ and Larry, and they couldn’t have done it without you, the audience. No, really: You’ve made all the important decisions! But it’s all about to come to an end; the duo starts the final chapter today, discovering the fallout of SCORPIO’s actions. Join us live at 2:00 p.m. to help wrap this story up. (But don’t worry, there’s a whole other expansion to dive into for Choose My Alignment after this one!)
What: Star Wars: The Old Republic
Who: Larry Everett & MJ Guthrie
When: 2:00 p.m. EST on Wednesday, November 29th, 2017
Most often, MMO Mechanics
articles focus on the gameplay mechanics that both make the MMO genre unique and those that diversify MMOs from one another, but this time I’m focusing on the mechanics that drive profit for the modern development studio and will discuss the lootbox phenomenon. Although the lootbox is by no means a new topic in the world of online gaming, the purchasing method has been under fire more than ever recently and has seldom faced the same scrutiny from the playerbase and wider media before now.
Recently it has been ArenaNet under fire for the particular way randomisation factors into purchasing Guild Wars 2 mount adoption licence skins. A unique combination of a highly requested and anticipated extension of a likewise highly requested and successful new game feature and the employment of lootbox mechanics has caused quite a stir in the game community, despite the fact that Guild Wars 2’s Black Lion Chests already employ RNG lootbox mechanics. In this article, I’m going to discuss why the skins were such an issue in the first place, evaluate ArenaNet’s response to the player outrage the skins caused, and ponder on the reasons why studios rely on lootbox mechanics in the first place.
Marvel Heroes players are dealing with the fallout of yesterday’s announcement that the superhero MMO is being shut down by Disney and will officially sunset on December 31st. At least before this happens, the community will have the opportunity to play or wear anything they want.
This is thanks to Gazillion’s decision to dish out 1,000 Gs — Marvel Heroes’ premium currency — every singe day from now to its closure. Even better, all store options are now 50Gs across the board. “This is the best current solution we have with limited resources and technical limitations of the PC, and wanted to make sure this got out to you,” the studio said.
Former Creative Director Jeff “Doomsaw” Donais popped back up on the forums yesterday to praise the work that the team did on the game and urge other studios to hire those laid off: “The actual people who worked in every department on Marvel Heroes were the definition of epic. They accomplished an amazing amount of work with a relatively small budget and an approval process that made everything a little tougher.”