Automaton Games CEO James Thompson came along with Improbable, Bill Roper, and Mavericks to this year’s E3, where I got a second chance to see how everything in the battle royale/MMO hybrid is doing since GDC. I know battle royale is a hot topic around here, and the reaction we saw at GDC did have me worried about Mavericks’ potential audience.
Thompson was quite eager to talk about Mavericks, especially its battle royale side, but as someone who’s much more of an MMORPG player, I felt the one key thing we found common ground on was that Mavericks is aiming to be less of a simple genre game and more of a “platform” to build on, not because of any strength of the BR or even MMO genre but because of its ability to run a simulation. For virtual world fans, this is something I feel we should be paying more attention to.
Alas, poor PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, we’ve entered the second phase of your musician biopic when the fans start leaving. Sure, the game was riding high in January with 3.2 million concurrent players on Steam. But we’re six months away from that now and the game is now down to 1.7 million concurrent players. These are clearly not numbers to scoff at, but they’re also easy to see as a sign that the game hits its peak and then has started turning downward.
What’s caused the drop? Lots of factors are obvious culprits, including the success (and free-to-play nature) of Fortnite and the simple decay of interest over time, but there’s no obvious magic bullet. Feel free to speculate about it whether you play or not. The game clearly isn’t about to die, but if you thought there was no upper limit on its playerbase, it looks like that’s been proven false.
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!
On this week’s show, Bree and Justin get a little bit crazy and weird as they date MMO NPCs, throw themselves into the middle of studio fights, take a ride on the delay/launch whiplash train, and more!
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Sony’s managed to piss off a whole lotta gamers over its unwillingness to play ball on Fortnite. As we covered last week, the PlayStation 4 giant has refused to allow cross-platform play between the PS4 and the other big consoles, notably the Xbox One and the Switch, which has led YouTubers to blast the policy, as you basically need to run multiple accounts (and potentially buy all your cosmetics twice) if you like to move between devices.
Last night, John Smedley – MMORPG players know him best as the former President of Sony Online Entertainment and then Daybreak – gave his own take on why Sony used to be so stubborn about console crossplay in response to a GameOverGreggy tweet about Fortnite.
“When I was at Sony, the stated reason internally for this was money,” Smed tweeted, referring to his time at the company prior to 2015. “They didn’t like someone buying something on an Xbox and it being used on a Playstation. Simple as that. Dumb reason, but there it is. […] If we keep the pressure up this problem goes away.”
Add “accidentally creating Nazi symbols” to things you probably don’t want your popular video game to do.
Fortnite players recently discovered that one floor tileset, if lined up in a certain way in the builder mode, creates a swastika. Obviously, this was an unintended oversight, and Epic Games said it will deal with it. “This was unintended and will be addressed ASAP by adjusting the metal piece art,” the studio said.
As swastikas depart the game, stink bombs enter it, thanks to today’s Patch 4.4. The bomb delivers damage over time to anyone who lingers inside (but why would you?). As players have fun smelling up the place, they can also engage in a limited time mode where teams of 20 fight it out.
This week’s showing at E3 should have been a victory lap for one of gaming’s hottest titles, but Sony seems bound and determined to rain on Fortnite’s parade.
The problem here is that players who were trying to use the same account to play Fortnite on both the PlayStation 4 and the Nintendo Switch or Xbox One will find that they can’t, thanks to Sony’s limitations. The company has blocked any crossplay or progression sync between its console and any others. It should be noted that there are no problems with players using the same account between the Switch and Xbox One, by the way.
Sony has come under fire for these restrictions but remained quiet for several days. Finally, the studio gave a rather lame response, saying that it is “always open to hearing” what the community has to say and noting that it does support crossplay between the PS4 and computers and mobile platforms.
You remember Save the World, right? The mode of Fortnite wherein you build a base and defend against zombies? The one that was supposed to be the entire focus of the game at one time? Because apparently it’s not in the latest port for the Nintendo Switch. The port only includes the battle royale portion of the game, and according to the developers there are no plans to change this.
So, you know, if you had been harboring any misapprehensions about the core focus of the game at this point, it may be time to let go of those illusions. It’s not a matter of the game just surprise-launching yesterday. In related news, the game reportedly has 125 million players, so it’s not hard to trace a line covering why the developers decided that porting the battle royale mode was the part that matters. Oh, well.
It seems weird to me now that the game we were preciously calling “Crowfall for PvE fans” at last year’s E3 has changed so drastically in that time that right now it’s leading the battle royale pack as one of the biggest games in the entire world.
But here we are at another E3, and Fortnite is all grown up, blazing ahead along Epic Games’ vector to get it on what seems like every platform known to man in an attempt to bedazzle the competition.
And that now includes the Nintendo Switch, as announced at the Nintendo presser at E3 today. As this post goes live at 1 p.m. EDT, the game will arrive for Switch players through the eShop, free-to-play as always. Yes, today. Right now.
Catch ’em if you can.
“Naughty players” who are dragging down Fortnite’s gameplay with griefing or frequent AFKing could now land themselves in some hot water, thanks to the first iteration of the game’s new player reporting system.
The devs are being cautious with this feature, as they don’t want it to be abused or create a whole mess of false positives. It will be handled manually by the team at first until it is confident that it’s useful enough to fully automate.
Today’s Patch 4.4 also includes the much anticipated ability to place traps on ramps and a helpful buff to melee fighters. But wait! There’s more! “The Thermal Scope Assault Rifle also makes its debut in Battle Royale, so be careful where you hide. Fight alongside a mysterious new mythic hero in the next installment of the Blockbuster quadrilogy, Blockbuster Part 3: The Cloaked Star.”
Massively OP reader ichi_san has a burning question about the state of the industry.
“Lots of people seem to be looking for an MMO they can get into – consider the rush into Bless as an example. Lots of games are being released, but most (or even all) have some glaring issues, like pay-to-win, lockboxes, ganking, poor optimization, heavy cash shop, horrible gameplay, and so on. There’s the WoW model and other semi-successful formulas, and a lot of unexplored territory. The market seems hungry, and there is a bunch of history to build on and new territory to explore, but either gaming companies don’t understand their customers or greed/laziness/expediency get in the way, such that we see release after release that fails to scratch the itch. Am I missing something – are there fun MMOs with good graphics and fair monetization that I’m missing? Or is there a gaping hole in the MMO scene, and if so, why isn’t someone filling it?”
I’ve posed his question to the writers for their consideration in Overthinking this week. We’re long past bubble-bursting here when all of the still-major MMORPGs are four years older. What exactly are we looking at? Why is the obvious demand for MMOs not being met?
Do you like being hit with a shotgun in Fortnite? Of course not; weapons inflict damage and tend to make you dead. Shotguns in particular have been inflicting a bit too much damage, so they’re getting taken down a peg in the latest patch; damage is dropping about 12% and headshot damage is down to 2.0x damage instead of 2.5x damage. So it’ll hurt less to be shot in the head, a phrase that… seems about as video game-related as any possible arrangement of words.
Of course, players who hated shotguns but loved flight will also be sad; the patch also announces the impending removal of jetpacks once more, with the flying backpacks returning to the vault as of June 11th. They were always meant as a limited-time item, and now that time limit is up. You will be stuck on the ground once more, but don’t stare into the sky tearfully. Someone with a shotgun will hit you.
When Radical Heights launched, I was inspired to put together a whole Perfect Ten about why trend-chasing doesn’t work for online games. Obviously, my chief focus was on games that wind up being developed at a rushed pace to cash in on trends and then run face-first into problems with chasing momentary trends, which… you know, you can just read the article; it’s linked right there. But it also prompted a follow-up question by longtime reader Sally Bowls asking why, with all of these issues, why the same rules don’t apply to MMOs.
The answer? Well, there isn’t one answer. There are three answers, all of which are part of the same set of considerations. For one thing, there’s the difference of development time and depth. For another, there’s the time before grinding. And last but not least, well… they do apply, really. But let’s take this piece by piece to talk about why trend-chasing for MMOs doesn’t quite provoke the same immediate reactions as it does for, say, MOBAs.