It’s fair to say at this point that Steam is an enormous part of the PC gaming market. It’s also fair to say that Valve has demonstrated very little interest in moderating the platform in any way, preferring algorithms to actually walking in and stopping review-bombing efforts (among other abuses). There’s no real way to program in algorithms to prevent hate groups forming, but it does appear that Valve has gone through the Steam Groups and done one of its most aggressive banning passes to shut down hate groups.
Successful? Well, you won’t find a bunch of hate groups by searching for “school shooter.” You can, however, still find them; you just have to work a little bit harder at it. At this point, it seems that the only way these groups are really going to be removed from the platform altogether is if Valve really makes an aggressive project of moderating the platform, and that seems unlikely. But it’s a step in the right direction.
It’s really unusual to see publishers outright booted off of Steam, but Valve has done exactly that to Insel Games following reports of review manipulation. It started with a Reddit post yesterday posting an alleged email from the company’s CEO lamenting the lack of a proper review score for Wild Buster and asking all employees to purchase a copy of the game along with leaving a positive review on the game page. Apparently whatever Valve found behind the scenes was enough to convince the company that the accusations were legitimate and terminate the relationship.
Players who already own copies of Wild Buster, Guardians of Ember, or any other Insel Games titles will still be able to play the games, and they can still be purchased through other sources, but new copies cannot be obtained through Steam. We’ve reached out to Insel Games for comment on the matter and will update this post with any response we receive. [Update: We’ve included the statement made to MOP via email below.]
The past few weeks have not been kind for fans of MOBAs. In a short span of time we’ve lost Paragon, Master x Master, and Gigantic; it wasn’t so long ago that the not-quite-a-MOBA-but-close-to-it Breakaway got put on indefinite hiatus by Amazon. Off the top of my head I can think of a lot of other MOBAs that arrived, failed to make any significant impact, and then shut their doors without a whole lot of fanfare.
Of course, this also prompts a question of whether or not the bubble has burst or if there was ever a bubble in the first place. I’ve always found it kind of odd that the genre exploded as it did in the first place, because it’s already fundamentally a genre based on a mod for one very specific game. There are only four titles that have really taken off in a significant fashion, and two of those are somewhat debatable depending on who you ask.
So what do you think, readers? Has the MOBA bubble burst? Was there never really a bubble in the first place, just a bunch of games rushed out with no real sustainable market? And how does it make you personally feel either way?
On Monday of last week, we reported that a video of the anticipated and rather mysterious New World from Amazon had been leaked… and the game’s Amazon landing page vanished at the same time, sending out missives to everyone who’d registered to follow it. In what is probably good news, it turns out the page is back again and none the worse for wear. So now you get to pick your own explanation for what happened to it.
- It was never supposed to go down at all and was entirely an accident, and the timing of that and the video is pure coincidence.
- The removal and replacement represents a big shift of some sort behind the scenes and the leaked video was before the change, thus meaning that the leak may not bear much resemblance to the final product.
- It was already cancelled but somehow the page got turned back on by mistake.
- Someone thought it was Breakaway.
Which one is correct? We don’t know yet! Perhaps keeping our eyes on the page will produce some answers.
When is it appropriate to send verbal abuse to someone you don’t know personally? When is it appropriate to tell someone that you hope they lose their job or suffer significant personal injury? The obvious answer to these questions should all be “never,” and yet a new article by small indie developer Morgan Jaffit points out that in the game industry, dealing with vicious targeted abuse is part of the cost of doing business. Development across the board is dealing with people who feel that there is a point when all of this is appropriate, even if they differ on the circumstances when it’s appropriate.
Needless to say, this has a pretty huge impact on development, and it spills over to related fields. (Is it appropriate to say awful things to a community manager over a feature you don’t like when the community manager is not a developer and had nothing to do with it?) The article cites the omnipresence of social media and the popularity of personalities who “tell it like it is” (read: spew invective and curses at top volume), and it’s the sort of thing that everyone who cares about the future of games should read and consider.
Remember Activision’s rather skeezy matchmaking patent from last year? That one was pretty straightforward in how it worked, if unpleasant: You buy something from the cash shop, and the game then makes an effort to match you up in a place where that cash shop purchase was a super great idea. Turns out that Electronic Arts has a similar but distinct patent filed from 2016, and it should get your hackles up just as much as its predecessor.
This one, at least, is not going to validate your every cash shop purchase directly; instead, it’s a matchmaking system dubbed Engagement Optimized Matchmaking that links you up based on play style, sportsmanship, skill, and willingness to spend money. The bright side you could point to is that it’s less explicitly about reinforcing cash shop purchases; the down side is that it’s still a matching system based on keeping you playing rather than providing a fair match, and at this point EA does not exactly have the goodwill of players. You can watch a whole video breaking it down piece by piece below.
Also worth noting is that the patent was filed in 2016, but it has not yet been approved. So it doesn’t appear to be live in the wild yet, but it’s on track to be.
Here’s the good news for Nexon’s Q3 2017 investor call: The company had a good set of third-quarter results overall, and it has a strong lineup of titles in the pipeline, including the long-awaited and largely unrevealed Final Fantasy XI mobile incarnation. Here’s the bad news: LawBreakers was the weak link in its lineup. Not only was it responsible for the majority of the company’s losses during the quarter, but company CTO Shiro Uemura stated that the game would acquire no further losses, meaning that it had functionally been written off altogether.
What does that mean for the future of the game? Nothing positive; companies don’t tend to write off games they plan to continue supporting. Your speculation is welcome, but it should run toward darker possibilities. On the bright side, it looks like the future is bright for Nexon as a whole, so based on player numbers the fate of LawBreakers is not so much cloudy as it is unpleasant.
Also worth noting is that Nexon has merged its Nexon RED and NDOORs subsidiaries, both with a roster of successful games under their belts. The merge is aimed at providing more consolidated and skilled mobile game development.
There’s a title under development at Blizzard that’s been hiring for a while now, but no one actually knows what it is. So when a new job opening goes up looking for people familiar in working with vehicles, the assumption that the title has vehicles in it seems… well, rather natural. Another job listing is just looking for a software engineer, which doesn’t suggest much about the content of the game.
The current speculation is that the title is some sort of Overwatch spinoff, although nothing has been confirmed or stated about that; it just matches the first-person design requirements, some job listings have mentioned familiarity with character sheets in existing Blizzard properties, and there’s more than enough material to mine out for more games. But what does it actually entail? We won’t know until these positions are filled and something is actually announced, sadly.
If you’ve never played Clicker Heroes, you can pick it up for your phone or on Steam right now; it’s a lightweight little idle game like Cookie Clicker, except with MMORPG-inspired classes, leveling, and zones. It’s pretty great. And it has a sequel in development, Clicker Heroes 2, which is not going to be free and use a microtransaction model. That’s kind of a swerve in the other direction, and the developers have taken the time to explain why a studio with a successful free-to-play game would develop a pay-to-play sequel.
The letter explains that while the free-to-play model always worked, it also led to some people spending thousands of dollars on the game, which led to concerns about people spending money they couldn’t afford to spend on the game. It also meant that no changes could be made to invalidate real-money purchases, which meant sometimes awkward patches on the game’s systems over time. While no changes will be made to the original, Clicker Heroes 2 will have a box price that the studio hopes can also support mods and enjoyable gameplay.
All of this talk about the price of making games and the price of playing games thanks to Star Wars: Battlefront II has meant getting a pretty decent peek behind the curtain. Case in point: a lengthy discussion and explanation by Raph Koster about how expensive games really are. While Koster outright says that it’s wrong to say games are “too expensive to make,” he also points out that it’s undeniable that costs on making a game have risen hugely while box price has proportionally fallen. And as he points out, that’s because there’s no real market for second best.
The key thing to understand is that the public doesn’t buy B games. A game with stellar gameplay and less than state of the art graphics is generally simply left on the shelf. Yes, indie games with distinctive art have managed to break through so everyone will cite counterexamples, but looked at statistically, it’s something like 99.9% don’t.
Steam has been doubling down on addressing review problems lately, starting with its attempt to counter review bombing. This has been a good thing, but it has led to a new sort of bombing, flagging several reviews as “helpful” or “not helpful” to afford extra weight to the positive or negative readings. So the storefront is bringing out new adjustments to help make reviews more fair, starting by affording less weight to users who flag huge numbers of reviews for a single game “helpful” or “not helpful.”
How the reviews are displayed on the store page will also change; rather than showing the highest-rated reviews, the overall proportions shown will match the overall rating of the game. So if the title has a 70% Positive rating, seven of the helpful reviews will be shown on the page. The hope is that this will, again, prevent players from launching personal crusades just to diminish a game’s presence; time will tell how successful these measures are.
Did you know that PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is up for a Game of the Year award? Probably not, because… like, there are a lot of those. Every publication has its own game of the year awards. We have our own game of the year awards. It’s only a matter of time before Cat Fancy starts publishing one, and we can only pray the market reaches critical cat-related mass by that point. But the important thing is that it’s up for one, and Brendan Greene (aka PlayerUnknown himself, the person who owns the battlegrounds) doesn’t think it deserves one.
Is that because the game is still technically clinging to early access and has not actually launched? No, in this case it’s apparently just that he thinks better games have been released over the past year. Whether or not the judges agree remain to be seen, although we’re relatively certain that the game will win at least a couple of awards. And if not, he can always start up his own game of the year awards. Everyone’s got some now.
Rob Pardo is no longer with Blizzard, but he can still count World of Warcraft‘s success as a big feather in his cap. So it seems natural that after a recent speech at View Conference in Italy someone would ask him when we could expect VR to start hosting MMOs in the future. Pardo isn’t enthusiastic, at least in the short term; he stated that we’re a long way off from seeing VR tech supporting a full-fledged MMO experience.
I just think it’s going to be a really long time until we see something as complex as an MMORPG in VR. But one day, I’m sure one day we’ll see the Holodeck – I just don’t think it’s any time soon.
He elaborated by explaining that for such a title to really work, you need the technology to be fair lighter and more accessible, advanced to the point where it’s not going to make people sick, and also develop input devices that really work well for navigating an MMO within that space. And all of those hurdles come before you start designing a fun game. It’s an interesting point of view to consider, especially when we’ve already got a VR MMO on the way.