Is this a real game? Did this happen again? Wild Buster added Serious Sam alongside Duke Nukem. We must acquiesce, neither is in the first alpha test; this is a small test, runs through October 9th with a little map, little squads, lots of guns, the lore is odd. If you want to play it, there’s an IndieGoGo that’s on. Now that’s done.
Readers! We have more news. We put it in a list, read it now, you can’t resist.
Now that we’ve gotten Queen references out of our system and shared some other news with you, we feel comfortable showing you a list of games in testing. If something in here has soft-launched without us noticing, please, let us know down in the comments. Things get missed sometimes, you know how it is.
Last year, almost three years after SOE shut down Free Realms for good, a group of players announced that it was resurrecting the title in emulator form. Last March’s alpha test came and went, and now a second test is on the way, expected to include character creation and customization, NPCs, female toons, and a new spawn location. The player devs are also celebrating 5000 members organizing on Discord.
“This Discord server has reunited a decent portion of the community that was nearly lost after the game closed. The continued support from both the FRS staff team who work as volunteers, and the community makes it apparent that the sunset of Free Realms was not left ignored. All the community support for the revival of Free Realms really motivates us as a team to keep moving forward! Things have been a bit quiet lately, but don’t fret. We are still hard at work preparing Alpha 2, and once that happens, we’ll open the game up to a lot more people! We would like to thank everyone here who is supporting this project and being patient with us while we continue to develop the game.”
It doesn’t appear Daybreak has given its legal blessing on the project, but the studio has traditionally turned a blind eye to emulators for all of its games and indeed has endorsed one for the EverQuest franchise.
Probably my greatest and most constant gripe about fantasy MMORPGs is that for all of the freedom and imagination that this genre supposedly boasts, game designers keep going to the same boring well of tropes and limit themselves instead of exploring possibilities.
Nowhere do you see this more than in races. Dwarves and Elves? We’ve got bushels and barrels of them, all on sale at discount prices. There are regular humans, of course, and Slightly Bigger Humans, and Half-Sized Humans, and Blue Humans. But what about getting outside of this been-there-played-that cookie cutter design to offer some interesting playable choices?
Like fairies, perhaps?
I could never understand why we don’t see fairies more in MMOs. They are widely recognized in the fantasy genre, they seem to have popularity, and they even share some cross-over with Elves. But the poor fae have been unrepresented, so much so that it took a lot of digging to come up with a mere 10 MMOs that allow you to play as one, whether it be as a race or class. Let’s take a look!
A few weeks ago in Massively Overthinking, the team discussed the resurgence in popularity of small-scale co-op games and whether that has impacted the MMORPG genre negatively or positively — if at all. This week, I’d like to aim that same question at the survival genre, so everything from ARK: Survival Evolved to Citadel Forged With Fire.
The question was sparked in part by a VentureBeat piece that points out SuperData’s numbers: Non-massive survivalboxes pulled in $400 million in the first half of the year. This is a lot of money that is not going into MMOs and MMORPGs that could be, which was the same thing we suggested about online co-op RPGs — only this subgenre is attracting builders and PvPers. Is it attracting them away from MMOs directly? I’ve asked our writers to reflect on the rise of survivalbox games: Do we play them? Do we prefer them, and when? How can we learn from them? Is the popularity of smaller-scale co-op hurting MMORPGs?
Is it even possible for pure joy to be derived from MMORPG music? Whether or not, the Battle Bards are going to take a serious stab at it in today’s episode! Each piece is hand-picked and home-brewed to distill joy for the listener, coated in sparkling hopes and drizzled with fond memories. No matter what, you’re in for an uplifting show!
Battle Bards is a bi-weekly podcast that alternates between examining a single MMO’s soundtrack and exploring music tracks revolving around a theme. MOP’s Justin co-hosts with bloggers Steff and Syl. The cast is available on iTunes, Google Play, TuneIn, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, and Player.FM.
Listen to Episode 102: Pure joy (or download it) now:
Amazon Game Studios continues to lure talented developers away for its new multiplayer projects. Sebastian Strzalkowski became the latest to defect to the new studio, saying that he is joining the San Diego team after 13 years of work at SOE and Daybreak.
Strzalkowski’s portfolio covers a wide swath of Daybreak projects, including being art director for H1Z1 and having worked on Free Realms, EverQuest Next, and Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures.
“Grateful for 13 rewarding yrs at SOE/Daybreak, honored to work with such talented folks,” Strzalkowski posted on Twitter. “Starting new job @AMZNGameStudios later this month!”
The graveyard of Sony Online Entertainment and Daybreak Game Company is certainly full enough to be considered a threat if there was ever a zombie uprising among MMORPGs. From PlanetSide to Free Realms, there are plenty of live games that were disposed of in this grim fictional burial ground. But there are also those stillborn titles that never had the change to make or break in a live environment. EverQuest Next might be the most fresh in our minds, but go back a handful of years and you might have seen players lamenting the loss of a different promising SOE game: The Agency.
The Agency seems like a natural fit for the studio’s focus on first-person shooters and a willingness to branch out from strictly fantasy territory. Instead of dragons or stormtroopers, players in this game were to face off against terrorist organizations and dastardly spy agencies, all in the pursuit of living out the ultimate James Bond fantasy.
But instead of sitting on our desktop, The Agency exists only in a forgotten corner of this imaginary cemetery. Today, let us tenderly brush off its worn tombstone and remember what we can about this canceled spy shooter.
On Tuesday, NCsoft announced that it plans to introduce Statesman
, from the long-sunsetted City of Heroes
, as a playable character in its MOBA, Master x Master
Complications ensued, as anyone familiar with the history of MMORPGs can probably imagine.
For this week’s Overthinking, I asked our team of writers — both those who loved CoH and those who never much played it — what they think about the whole ordeal. Are gamers right to be angry? What exactly is NCsoft thinking? Have we seen the end of any hope of the game being resurrected or sold, or should we infer just the opposite?
Were you there when they turned the lights out on Free Realms? The title went dark on this family-friendly MMORPG back in March 2014, but some fans have held a torch for it ever since. A few are going further than that by attempting to resurrect the game in an emulator for PC, though it’s unlikely that Daybreak has given its blessing.
Last December, Free Realms Sunrise announced that it was trying to bring back the MMO in some way, shape, or form: “Our developers have been working on this project for countless hours trying their best to make this a reality and get Free Realms back into your hands. While before we were unsure if it was possible, we believe now that with a enough time and effort, we can bring back a decent portion of the game. We unfortunately can’t guarantee that everything that was in the original game will become available. However, there is still a lot of discovery to be had. This is only the beginning.”
Things have progressed since then to the pre-alpha point.
Did you play Free Realms in its day? Would you give an emulator a go?
In July of 2015, MMORPG fans were stunned to hear that John Smedley was stepping down from his post as president of Daybreak. After all, he had been in the captain’s chair at Verant, SOE, and now Daybreak for nearly two decades, helming the company as it handled some of the most influential MMOs of the early generation, including EverQuest and Star Wars Galaxies. Fans were curious to know both what happened and what Smedley was planning to do next.
They didn’t have to wait long for the latter. A month later, Smedley announced that he was starting up his own studio to work on a new game. Using his industry contacts and years of experience in game development, Smedley pulled together a solid team to craft Hero’s Song, an online fantasy survival game that would provide huge, customizable worlds. The team went into a flurry of activity, putting out dev blogs, holding fundraisers, and pushing early access out the door.
Yet by the end of 2016, the project was dead, refunds were being distributed to backers, and Smedley’s studio was dissolved. So what happened? Why did Hero’s Song fail when it had so much going for it? Now that a couple of months have passed, it might be time to step back and perform a post-mortem on this fascinating and doomed game. I posit that there are five key reasons why we’re not right now playing Hero’s Song and anticipating its official launch by the end of the year. Hindsight is 20-20, after all, so what could Smedley have done different?
Sometimes there’s news that just makes you go, “Huh?” At times it happens because said information makes no sense whatsoever; other times it surprises you so thoroughly you have no words as you look around wondering where on earth it came from. Last week we got smacked with the latter. Turbine’s
announcement that Lord of the Rings Online
and Dungeons & Dragons Online
were breaking off under a new independent studio
wasn’t so far-fetched, especially with Turbine’s professed focus on turning into a mobile studio. I heard that and didn’t really bat an eye, I just nodded my head and thought, sure, that makes sense
. What was a jaw-dropping surprise was the announcement that Daybreak
would be the new publisher. Who ever would have envisioned Norrath and Middle-earth (and Eberron!) becoming family, romping together in the same backyard and sharing a swingset? You never thought they would actually meet. No, we certainly didn’t see that
But once I had a moment to digest the news and think about it (and after we finished with a few jokes, like Justin’s query on whether we should combine our columns to make EverLording), it made sense. And I can see it as a good thing for both parties. (Talking about the pairing of companies, not the columns!) Standing Stone Games and Daybreak both stand to benefit here, meaning their games benefit. Thankfully I don’t see any cross-pollination between the IPs, but I do see two studios growing and see two games continuing on instead of being shut down.
There are two things to know about Halloween and MMOs. The first is that just about every online game in the known universe puts on a festival or seasonal promotion of some sort, because devs can’t resist the urge to indulge in a return to their childhoods. The second is that pretty much every said event involves some sort of pumpkin-headed scarecrow, because that is apparently the mascot of the holiday now.
Oh, and one more thing to know? Not every MMO Halloween returns from years past due to the sinister and often premature demise of the game. When an MMO goes down, it takes all of its holidays with it, leaving players with only memories of seasonal activities in those games.
In the interest of preserving the efforts that the developers poured into these events and the fondness that some players had for them, today we’re going to take a tour through six holidays from, ahem, buried MMOs.
Hardcore perma-death MMORPG Wizardry Online just can’t catch a break: MMO Culture reports today that the game is shutting down in Japan, five years after its launch there.
Over in the west, the game ran just a year and a half under SOE’s pre-Daybreak MMO umbrella; it was shut down here almost exactly two years ago along with Vanguard, Free Realms, and Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures (though there were rumors last year that Suba Games might try to revive it).
Gamepot, the Japanese publisher, says its version will close in December thanks to poor “market conditions.”