game design

The Repopulation’s next patch is on the way, and so is more visual lore

Fans of The Repopulation have been waiting for the game’s next patch for a little while, but it shouldn’t be much longer now. A new post on the official forum explains that it was ultimately a matter of custom scripts executing in just the wrong ways, creating way more files to be saved and bundled with patch revisions. That’s hopefully been fixed by the new management at Idea Fabrik and is being addressed, but that’s also the reason for all of the delays.

The game’s developers are also looking to the next stage of development by revamping the game’s existing map and giving more distinct visual identities to each faction’s individual architecture. The game’s extant lore isn’t being well-conveyed visually, according to the same post, so the goal is to help reinforce and emphasize the lore and worldbuilding that’s already in place.

Last but not least, the post also notes that backer rewards are being worked on, with the important caveat that funds for those backer rewards have not actually gone to the new management in charge of the title. But they’re still a priority.

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Wisdom of Nym: Deep-diving Final Fantasy XIV’s leveling structure

I do a lot of leveling in Final Fantasy XIV. This is, in part, because I am stupid; for several dumb reasons I have my main character and six alts, which is not seven only because Balmung is currently locked. (As soon as that changes? Seven.) I also have a spreadsheet tracking my progress across every character that currently has me finishing up – as in, bringing a single job for each alt and every class for my main – in early November. So I spend a lot of time thinking about leveling. And I think the game is better than it’s ever been in Stormblood, in leveling as well as other departments.

Of course, there are people who aren’t as happy about it, for understandable reasons. There are dead spaces for every job in the current leveling setup, levels where you get either nothing or no impactful additions. (A trait boosting your primary stat is definitely important, but it doesn’t really change what you’re doing.) It’s even prompted some people complaining about how late certain jobs get their core mechanics and how the level sync works.

So let’s talk about all of this. And more to the point, let’s start by explaining why a lot of the staggering of abilities amounts to, in fact, a good thing.

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MMO Mechanics: Material storage and the Guild Wars 2 economy

Guild Wars 2 launched its second expansion, Path of Fire, a few days ago, and as you might expect, a new expansion means some immediate priority shifts will deeply affect the game’s economy. New materials are added, which are required by the newest recipes and are thus highly sought after, and other materials will fluctuate in value depending on their usefulness within the new content’s scope. Players typically react to this short period of market turbulence by keeping the materials that they farm until they are absolutely sure of their uses and worth: There’s nothing worse than selling a big pile of a rare material you thought you didn’t need only to realise your error later.

However, ArenaNet decided to temporarily keep a “handful of items” off the list for the game’s material storage system in an attempt to force players’ hands: The company is attempting to combat the shockingly high prices seen for expansion materials back at Heart of Thorns’ launch by discouraging player warehousing of valuable yet abundant materials. The news has caused quite a splash in the game community and it’s exceptionally interesting mechanically speaking, so I just had to dedicate an edition of MMO Mechanics to the topic.

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This week in survivalboxes: Valnir Rok, Hellion, Next Day Survival, and ARK

It’s time for another survivalbox roundup! What’s new in the world of eternal building, unbuilding, ganking, ganking buildings, and consuming adequate food and water so you don’t keel over dead from all the fun you’re having?

Valnir Rok

Viking-themed survival sandbox Valnir Rok is currently conducting closed alpha rounds, having opened up new servers in Asia, South America, and Russia for this weekend’s test event.

“Looking back, it was a good decision to make another closed alpha weekend before the launch,” wrote the devs this week. “Although the player’s feedback was very positive overall, we found several bugs and some serious problems. We managed to fix some issues over the weekend and patched a few performance problems. Now our task is to fix severe bugs, which influence gameplay, to have a successfull launch. Nevertheless, we are looking forward going in Early Access by the end of September.”

What else have we got here…

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World of Warcraft Senior Producer Stephan Frost leaves Blizzard

One of the MMORPG industry’s more prominent designers is leaving one of the MMORPG industry’s more prominent games. On Friday, World of Warcraft Senior Design Producer Stephan Frost announced that he is departing from the title and the studio for an unnamed opportunity.

“Bittersweet day ahead of me today, it’s my last day at Blizzard,” Frost tweeted. “There’s a big opportunity I felt I had to take, but I’ll miss the people.”

Frost worked his way up to prominence at Carbine Studios, where he eventually became WildStar’s game design producer. He left in 2014, spent less than a year at Amazon Game Studios, and then joined up with Blizzard in 2015 where he became a senior producer on World of Warcraft.

In addition to game design, Frost is a voice actor (he did the WildStar “dev speak” videos) and the creator of a comic book called Mortifera.

Source: Twitter

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EVE Evolved: How much toxic, antisocial behaviour should MMOs tolerate?

The EVE Online community is aflame this week after alliance leader gigX was permanently banned for making threats of real-life violence against another player following possibly the biggest betrayal in EVE history. Some players don’t want to accept that gigX crossed a serious line and deserves his ban, and others have been asking why The Mittani’s similar actions in 2012 resulted in only a temporary ban. CCP’s official stance is that its policies have become stricter since 2012, but it’s still not entirely clear exactly where the line is drawn.

Another side to the debate is that the internet itself has evolved over EVE‘s 14-year lifespan, and a lot of toxic behaviour that was accepted or commonly overlooked on the early internet is now considered totally unacceptable. Many of us have grown from a bunch of anonymous actors playing roles in fantasy game worlds to real people sharing our lives and an online hobby with each other, and antisocial behaviour is an issue that all online games now need to take seriously. The lawless wild west of EVE‘s early years is gone, and I don’t think it’s ever coming back.

So what’s the deal? Does EVE Online tolerate less toxic behaviour today, has the internet started to outgrow its lawless roots, and what does it mean for the future of sandboxes?

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Seed explains its AI-driven design and its 2018 test plans

The bad news for fans eagerly looking on with Seed’s development is that the game isn’t going to be opening up for external testing until 2018, so you shouldn’t be expecting it any time soon. Heck, the most likely date is around summer 2018. The good news, though, is that once it does arrive players will have a new world to explore that’s driven far more by AI than anything else, according to the most recent development outline on the official site.

While the game had an initial prototype already build, the development team has gone back to basics and is building from the beginning, with the current focus on actionable objects to help guide AI entities through the game world. From there, it’s time to work on feelings and relationships to let things develop organically over time. Read through the whole document if you’re curious; it won’t make the wait any shorter, but it will possibly get you interested in waiting.

Source: Official Site; thanks to Kinya for the tip!

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Choose My Adventure: Many kinds of lost in Shroud of the Avatar

One of the first things I did in Shroud of the Avatar was get kind of lost. The last week’s activities were largely similar. Only now, it was a different kind of lost.

It wasn’t just that I didn’t have much of anywhere to go; that was how the vote went, after all, and while it might not have been my first choice that’s kind of the purpose behind voting instead of just letting me decide everything. It wasn’t just that the areas afforded me little to no guidance about points of interest. It was that I kept asking myself “why?” as I worked, fought things, explored, and so forth.

No answers were forthcoming. And perhaps that’s missing the point, but it also struck me that this is part of the reason why a guild may have made a major difference here. Albeit not necessarily for the best, but let me get into that as I go.

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Magic: The Gathering announces new online game, still no word on Cryptic’s MMO edition

Remember how former Turbine President Jeffrey Steefel was snapped up by Wizards of the Coast this past January to head up a digital games studio for the studio’s IPs? Now we know the big project that his team was making: Magic: The Gathering Arena, a F2P digital card game that’s coming soon.

Made for PC and mobile, Magic: The Gathering Arena is a full-fledged Magic game with “full rules and ongoing content support for new card sets.” It sounds as though Arena might well be a replacement for the creaky and faulty Magic Online, although the studio wasn’t saying if this will be the case.

“We want to create the deepest, richest digital card game on the market, and for it to be as much fun to watch as it is to play,” said Steefel in a press release. Magic: The Gathering Arena is taking beta signups and will begin testing Constructed play from the Ixalan set later this year.

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Final Fantasy XIV’s Naoki Yoshida on Stormblood’s release, AI issues, and MMO history

After all this time, I’m sure some of you forgot that my original E3 2017 interview with Final Fantasy XIV’s Naoki Yoshida was supposed to have a part two. That’s OK, since, well, the team’s been a bit busy since then. With the expansion out and some fires smothered, the much loved game director finally was able to get back to some of my questions.

Naturally, the first question I had to ask was how Yoshida is feeling about Stormblood following early access, launch, and the release of the first content patch updates. For now, he said (through translators) that he’s relieved but that the expansion had “an unexpectedly high number of new and returning players [who] came back to the game, which caused some issues and frustration.” One of them was the DDOS attack, for which he again offered apologies.

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Massively Overthinking: Alone together vs. forced grouping in MMORPGs

I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that everyone has at some point seen the xkcd called Isolation, but if not, there it is. No matter what the age and era, someone’s always preaching that people were more sociable in the long long ago. In this comic, however, Randall Munroe isn’t even contesting that. His point is basically no duh and so what. Yes, we become less sociable with random people in our immediate vicinity as we gain more and more access to ideas, entertainment, and people not in our immediate vicinity thanks to technology. Ultimately, replacing impromptu stranger interaction with the amusements of our choice appears to be what a lot of people wanted all along.

MMORPG players surely see where I’m going with this because we have the same eternal struggle when it comes to in-game socializing, grouping, community, and stickiness, the tug-of-war between the people who want to play alone together and the people who think that forced grouping is the only true path to enlightenment.

For this week’s Massively Overthinking, I’ve asked our staff to reflect on the alone together vs. forced grouping spectrum, to talk about where they stand on it, whether that position’s changed through the years, which games are addressing the divide the best, and how the two sides can move forward in a dynamic MMO genre.

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Global Chat: What Asian MMOs can learn from the west

Usually when it comes to discussing world hemispheres of MMO game design, comments and observations are made about what western studios can learn from their eastern counterparts. MMO Bro, however, flipped that discussion recently to share four things that eastern MMOs can (and perhaps should) learn from western games.

“The problem, though, is that in most eastern games I’ve played, the story still feels like kind of a background element,” he writes. “There isn’t a lot of effort put into developing it or helping the player experience it in a dynamic way. It’s usually bland quest text. In the west, we’ve seen MMO games make great strides toward better storytelling in recent years.”

As we continue with our visits to MMO blogs, we’ll hear musings on Guild Wars 2’s direction, Standing Stone Games’ missteps, speed-leveling in World of Warcraft, and more!

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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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