game design

Osiris New Dawn CEO to community grumping: ‘I will take these lashings and learn from them’

Fenix Fire CEO Brian McRae is “not having fun either,” according to his latest dev blog on the Osiris: New Dawn Steam page. His comments are in response to what he characterizes as the “recent negativity in the reviews and forums” regarding the survival sandbox’s messy and experimental early access development, which “breaks [his] heart,” especially when he agrees with the harsh feedback.

“One of the inside jokes in the AAA studios is ‘whatever mode the devs play on is nightmare mode to the general audience’. I think this is totally true for Osiris. We play the game a lot, myself for multiple years. Plus, I know where everything is because I put it there. That said, the last time I played the game I had a similar experience to what I’ve seen in the reviews and forums. I spawned near sunset in a dust storm. The dust storm when on for WAY too long, it’s a bug. Anyway, I made it to the continent and was attacked by 3 crabs, 2 gnats, and a couple more things. I was playing as Ranger and had no hope with my melee weapon (I play 3rd person usually). When I died my character had that weird ragdoll bug and my character turned to a spaghetti mess. Unity’s way of handling these ragdoll errors is to remove the object, meaning my character was not there when I spawned back in so I couldn’t raid my body and get my supplies. I felt lost, frustrated, hopeless. I thought, ‘I see the potential but this is crazy hard and not fun’. Sound familiar?”

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Valiance Online says its alpha is coming soon

Hearing that something is coming “soon” is the bane of every MMO player; it technically qualifies as a time frame, but it’s vague and unclear and could mean any point between “a few weeks” to “next year.” The good news is that the alpha test for Valiance Online will be starting sooner than that; the latest update from the development team explains that while the game’s update cadence has fallen behind briefly, that has more to do with getting everything properly ready for the alpha launch. And it’s almost there, even.

The team made a picture in June of the absolute cut-off point for what could make a July alpha release, and unfortunately subsequent testing revealed that there were still areas which needed some refinement before that alpha test could commence. As a result, the final polishes are being put on the test and the team is working hard to make sure that important systems like enhancement management and crafting are ready to go. Fans can look forward to learning more in the near future; for now, you’ll have to settle for reassurance that it’s not far off.

Source: Official Site. Cheers, MagmaFist!

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EVE Evolved: Does EVE Online need more conflict-drivers?

Of all the terminology associated with EVE Online, the one thing that’s always made me a bit uncomfortable is to hear players describe PvP as “generating content.” It’s an oddly sterile euphemism that seemed to surface years ago during the era of the blue donut when large alliances organised faux wars for the entertainment of their restless troops, and it doesn’t sit right with me. PvP in EVE is supposed to be about real conflict for solid reasons, not generating content for its own sake. It’s about smashing a gang of battleships into a pirate blockade to get revenge, suicide ganking an idiot for transporting PLEX in a frigate, or forcibly dismantling another alliance’s station because you just hate them so much.

EVE PvP can be visceral and highly personal, not just something fun to do or a game of strategy but a way to settle old grudges and punish people for whatever the hell you want. World War Bee was a brutal mix of Machiavellian politics and massive fleets of highly motivated players coming together, not just for some fun gameplay but to try and completely annihilate the goons. So what the hell happened? Why are so many people sitting in nullsec fortresses and farming ISK, building huge capital fleets and complaining about the “lack of content” in PvP today? Does EVE‘s conflict engine need a tune-up?

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at some of the factors limiting real conflict in EVE today and suggest three possibly controversial changes that would drive further conflict in New Eden.

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The Daily Grind: If you could reboot any currently operating MMO, which one would you pick?

It probably won’t surprise you to know that we spend a lot of time in work chat behind the scenes of Massively Overpowered discussing MMOs. Larry and I were talking the other day about Secret World Legends and comparing it to Final Fantasy XIV‘s wildly successful reboot, and that got me to thinking: are there other games out there with a need for that sort of reboot? But rather than just speculating about it privately, why not turn it over to the community?

That’s your exercise for today. If you could reboot any currently operating MMO, which one would you pick? Choose a game out there that is currently running in an official capacity (so that rules out games like Tabula Rasa or City of Heroes) and assume you have unlimited budget and rights. Reboot the game from the ground up. What would you change? What would you keep the same? And while we’re on the topic, why that game instead of any other?

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Overwatch reveals design mysteries, sends out League surveys, and struggles with e-sports

A world as intricate and fanatically followed as Overwatch is bound to spark a question or two about its mysteries and secrets. In a new Ars Technica video, the dev team tackled over 11 minutes of community queries about lore, game design, double-jumping, and which hero took the longest to make (that would be Genji).

Moving over to the competitive side of things, the Overwatch League commissioner announced that the studio is sending out a survey to some of the top teams and players to help with the preparations of the launch of the league this year. The recipients of this survey come from a “scouting report” of potential (but not assured) candidates for league participation.

This survey may come as a hopeful sign to players and professional teams that are seriously concerned about what they perceive as a stagnated and decimated e-sports scene around the game.

Learn about all of the “unsolved mysteries” of Overwatch after the break!

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Watch a documentary on the creation and destruction of Final Fantasy XIV

The end of Final Fantasy XIV came quite some time ago, but the game is still going. That’s because the launch of the game’s original version was an enormous disaster, one that could easily have shuttered the game for good. Instead, it got rebuilt and is now on its second expansion. How did we get from the disaster of launch to the present? A new series of documentaries from Noclip is chronicling the path of the game from its initial launch, the design decisions involved, and how it became a current hit after a launch disaster.

The first two parts of the documentary are below; part one covers the original launch and the reasoning behind the design, while part two covers the unprecedented decision to throw out the whole game and start over from scratch. Part three is due out on Wednesday, but with the documentary already running nearly an hour and a half, you should have plenty to watch until then.

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EVE Evolved: How much trust is too much in EVE Online?

Of all the headlines to come out of EVE Online over the years, the biggest and most far-reaching have been the stories of massive thefts and underhanded scams. The MMO community has grown up hearing these tales, from the embezzlement of EVE‘s first public bank in 2009 and the estimated $45,000 US Titans4U scam in 2011 to the trillion ISK Phaser Inc scandal and beyond. EVE has been embedded with this narrative of mistrust and betrayal for most of its life, the most famous example still being the Guiding Hand Social Club heist from all the way back in 2005.

Yet when a player recently stole three extremely rare ships using social engineering, the victims expressed only disappointment that they had lost a friendship they valued. The question for players and the wider MMO community today is simple: How much trust is too much to give someone in an MMO? To what degree should the game mechanics automatically protect your assets and privacy, and how much of that protection should you be able or expected to give up in order to make progress or join a group?

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World of Warcraft’s class design AMA examines the how and why of tuning changes

No matter what class you play in World of Warcraft, you’re probably certain that the developers hate your class in particular and love some other class that you don’t play. So why hasn’t your damage been tuned up? The recent class design AMA can be read in full on Reddit (or you can just pick through the answers), but the short version – as stated multiple times – is that class balance isn’t just a numbers problem but a scientific one. Developers have to look at available data and see if a job’s damage is, in fact, underperforming, and then they have to do their best to figure out why that may be. It could be poor gear secondaries, it could be bad play habits, it could be having less time to do damage for classes (like Windwalker) requiring a long ramp-up period.

Obviously, this is something that takes a lot of effort and work to get just right, and the developers also note that this is part of the reason why class adjustments are frequently announced only as they’re about to happen; it takes time to collect the data and decide on a course of action. The full discussion on Reddit is worth a read if you’re interested in more specifics, or you could just read about recruiting for a guild in-game on Tinder. That apparently works now.

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E3 2017: Monster Hunter World demo, difficulty, global appeal, and leaks

Monster Hunter World‘s reveal caught me completely off guard during its E3 2017 reveal. We’d already had a title announced for the Nintendo Switch, and I’d figured that was our usual non-spinoff MH entry for the year. I’ve admittedly not finished or heavily invested in the series since leaving Japan, but part of that is because the American mobile gaming culture doesn’t really have the fanbase Japan does. In fact, I got into Monster Hunter Tri in a bad way because it was a console title. While the portability of the series really helped me to explore Japan’s gaming scene and meet fellow gamers face-to-face, my gut feeling upon seeing MHW’s console and PC plans was that Capcom might really be able to catch the western audience this time. And that was before seeing Monster Hunter lead designer Yuya Tokuda play the game in real time.

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Wurm Online discusses upcoming changes to creature behavior

The animals in Wurm Online aren’t just there to be captured and/or killed by players. They’re meant to act in a plausible manner, avoiding players and looking for food, until players hunt and/or capture them. But as the latest development dispatch explains, some of that code is causing problem by giving animals small points of heavy clustering while restricting movement in other ways.

Essentially, as animals avoid settlements, it was possible for large groups of animals to wind up concentrated in very small spaces away from where players would encounter them. The game’s approach to pathing could also lead to certain animals being unable to move outside of a small corner of a pen, which is also undesirable. New systems will be rolling out to ensure that animals are more willing to spread out and able to path more naturally when confined; you can read about all of the technical details in the full entry.

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Global Chat: Why FFXIV is the most newbie-friendly MMO

What’s the most newbie-friendly MMO? According to Pete at Dragonchasers, it’s Final Fantasy XIV. He’s been pretty impressed by the support structure that the game has in place for new and returning players.

“I don’t usually interact with other players in MMOs (ironic, I know) but when I was randomly invited into the Novice Network I accepted,” he wrote. “It’s a pretty active channel and at least for the short time I’ve been in it, quite civil […] This experience drew me out of my shell a bit, and by Sunday afternoon I’d dug out a bluetooth keyboard so I could talk in the Novice Network more easily. Overall the way FFXIV welcomed me as a player kind of re-kindled my love of MMOs.”

In this week’s MMO blogger roundup, we have essays on LOTRO’s attention span, the thought behind soloing in online games, and first impressions of Black Desert. Read on!

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EVE Evolved: The controversy over EVE Online’s capital ship nerfs

EVE Online players have been up in arms this week over sweeping nerfs that are about to hit to high-end farming gameplay styles in the player-owned nullsec territories. It started when CCP Games announced that the Excavator drones used by Rorqual capital industrial ships would be getting a sizeable mining yield reduction and that a respawn delay would be added to ore sites in nullsec. As players were still reeling from that unexpected news, developers then announced a surprise general nerf to fighter damage with the goal of making carriers and supercarriers less effective in PvE and PvP. This significant balance change was just announced on Friday 9th June and goes live on Tuesday 13th, prompting outcry from the community over the lack of feedback-gathering on such a significant change to capital ship balance.

These nerfs both seem to be reactions to the latest few Monthly Economic Reports, which showed that the total money supply in the game economy is over a quadrillion ISK and rising rapidly. The detailed breakdowns of economic activity in the reports tell a more complex story, with ISK supply from bounty prizes roughly doubling over the past year and mining in the Delve region shooting off the scale in the past few months. It seems that a large number of nullsec players are spending more time farming and building up resources, and it’s the scale and efficiency of the top-tier farming setups that has CCP worried.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I discuss the upcoming Rorqual and fighter nerfs, look at the economics of farming, and explain why this trend could be a more serious indicator than CCP realises.

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The Game Archaeologist: Phantasy Star Online

The Dreamcast was a brief but shining aberration in the gaming world. Coming along years after Sega had fallen out of its position as a top-runner in the console market, it represented the company’s last-ditch attempt to reclaim its former glory. While it failed to succeed in that respect and ultimately closed up shop in 2001 (ending Sega’s interest in the console market), the Dreamcast became a gaming cult favorite responsible for some of the most innovative titles ever made. Games like Jet Grind Radio, Space Channel 5, and Shenmue have remained fan favorites long after the Dreamcast’s demise, which shows the legacy that these dev teams left behind.

But perhaps the Dreamcast’s greatest gift to the gaming world wasn’t crazy taxis or space dancing but a surprisingly forward-looking approach to online gaming. In 2000, the Dreamcast took the first steps to bringing an online console RPG to market, and while it wasn’t a true MMO, it certainly paved the way for titles like EverQuest Online Adventures and Final Fantasy XI.

It was bold, it was addictive, and it was gosh-darned gorgeous. Ladies and gentlemen: Phantasy Star Online.

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