Are we witnessing the death throes of EverQuest II? Of the whole EverQuest franchise? These questions have been at the forefront of my mind lately. Today’s EverQuesting started as a guide to EQII’s expansion prelude event, but I kept coming back to these questions. (The guide will come next week!)
Yes, I know that there are folks who have cried that EQ and EQII have been dying or all-but dead for years — and Next and Online Adventures are already deceased and buried. Yet during those years we’ve still seen some life in the first two games. They have persevered!
But now, I feel like I am witnessing the franchise’s final breaths. Me, the eternal optimist; me, who subsists on hope. And I started losing that hope because Daybreak’s actions lately appear to indicate that there’s no love left for one of my all-time favorite games, EQII. Between less dev interaction, less content, less communication, and just less enthusiasm for these two titles — yet a preponderance of attention on others — it’s hard to hold onto hope. At no other time has it felt as if Daybreak was turning its back on and all but abandoning the IP that gave it life more than it does right now. The IP that still has many fervent fans. My final two straws? The lack of any exposure at PAX West and the lack of enthusiasm for this year’s expansions.
Epic Games announced this morning that Fortnite’s upcoming PvP mode will essentially be free-to-play.
The game was originally touted by Epic as a PvE survival title without direct PvP and has taken heavy criticism over its punishing business model and progression system. Nevertheless, Epic announced earlier this month that its next patch will introduce PvP in the form of a battle royal-style mode, rather upsetting its early buyers. That update is due out on September 26th, and today, the studio’s issued an addendum: While the original “Save the World” PvE part of the game will remain in “paid early access,” the PvP-oriented, 100-man “Fortnite Battle Royale” map will instead be “free for everyone on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Mac.”
PvE players on Reddit, who bought the game in early access when it launched just a few months ago based on its PvE-centricity, are not pleased at all, arguing that it will split the playerbase as well as distract from the original PvE goals of the game. “It’s now a free PvP game with a $40 PvE mode,” one noted. “I continue to be concerned for the state of PvE in this game.” (They may not even be wrong. Just ask H1Z1: Just Survive players how this story goes.)
If you’ve been away from H1Z1 for a long time, you need to known that Daybreak’s been making it easier to get back into the game, both for former players and for newbies.
I spoke with Daybreak Lead Systems Designer Tony Morton at PAX West about the recent combat update, and he showed off the upcoming combat practice feature.
“What we’re doing is system by system and segment by segment,” he told me. “We’re kind of gutting it; we’re starting over from scratch in a more systematic standpoint.”
During this week’s MOP podcast, Justin and I remarked on Funcom’s spectacular 2017 financial showing, particularly in light of the fact that its numbers were so poor back in 2015 that it was asking creditors to defer its debts. Most of us didn’t really think the company would make it through way back then, but here we are — it came up with some hits just in time.
That got me thinking about other MMO companies and how they’ve fared. Trion, for example, just faced down a seemingly malicious and misleading rumor that it was in financial trouble. Daybreak was once in such dire straits that it was sold to an investment company and downsized considerably in terms of staffing and new game production, though now it seems H1Z1 is keeping it all afloat.
Consider the whole field of studios we watch around here: Which MMO studio’s finances worry you the most right now?
Names and titles fascinate me. While sometimes they have no deeper meaning than to sound pleasant and be memorable, a label can indicate purpose, history, and connection. MMORPG names are, of course, as varied as the stars in the sky, with many of them slapping “online” or “age of” somewhere in there to designate their category. But every so often, we witness a game that changes its name as part of its development and business evolution.
Today I wanted to run down 10 MMOs (well, nine MMOs and one expansion) that received notable name changes over the years. I’m not going to talk about games that created a weird rebrand for a business model shift but mostly stuck with the original title afterward (such as DDO Unlimited or WildStar Reloaded), but instead games that had vastly different names than what they ended up using.
This year’s online juggernaut is not, surprisingly enough, anything made by Valve, Blizzard, or Riot, but instead one stemmed from the mind of a modder. Of course, we are speaking of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, the multiplayer battle royal that’s started to edge out contemporaries like H1Z1.
For proof of just how big and massively popular this title is, consider that since its launch on Steam early access in late May this year, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds sold an astounding 10 million units to trigger-happy gamers. And those games are being put to good use, with a peak concurrency of 970,000 set during Gamescom last month.
PUBG is set to launch on PC and arrive on Xbox One game preview later this year. Curious what this game is about and why it’s sweeping the PC landscape? We’ve got an informative video to share with you about that after the break.
Matches in H1Z1: King of the Kill are about to get faster, according to Daybreak’s latest roadmap for the game. “Our vision is for H1Z1 to be the dominant fast-paced, action packed game in the genre,” writes the studio. “This is what sets H1Z1 apart from its competition. PUBG is very clearly a slow paced, tactical experience. And they have certainly delivered on that vision. But ours has always been and will continue to be based on fast paced & action packed moment to moment gameplay.”
To make that happen, Daybreak aims to “keep players on the move” by removing emphasis from “tedious” things like looting and putting more focus on power progression and vehicles.
“Here’s how we envision a typical match of H1Z1 would play out: As the match starts to ramp up, multiple supply crates are airdropped into the arena at the same time. These airdropped crates are loaded with upgraded variants of the weapons found around the arena to give you an edge over the competition. You’ve got a choice: Get aggressive and hit these airdrops before your opponents, or try to outmaneuver your opponents and let them make the first move. Supplies will airdrop in waves with more powerful weapons coming in as the game goes on. Action in the end-game is intense, so you’ll build up your arsenal from airdrops and downed players if you want to be the last one standing.”
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?
On Tuesday, Daybreak formally announced that the neglected PvE half of H1Z1, Just Survive, would be shedding its H1Z1 branding once and for all. The reveal couldn’t help but remind me of the way Daybreak did the same thing for Landmark, deleting the “EverQuest Next” and then the EverQuest IP altogether from the title and marketing before ultimately scrapping the entire game not long after launch.
I don’t think Just Survive is necessarily doomed without the branding, however. In fact, I can think of several MMOs that I wish could have dumped their IPs or changed their names to rid themselves of the proverbial albatross ’round their necks. Star Wars Galaxies leaps immediately to mind.
What MMO would you like to see dump its branding or IP?
Daybreak is a whirlwind this week: First it broke up the H1Z1 party and got Just Survive its own apartment, and now it’s bringing PlanetSide 2 up to speed. The studio is unveiling what it’s calling Critical Mass, an update planned for later in August that overhauls the game’s victory point system.
“Previously, the VP system acted as a sort of checklist where factions would complete various objectives which then rewarded points to that faction,” Daybreak explains. “Earning these points was somewhat removed from the moment to moment experience, and would often reward factions for what they’ve done in the past, instead of painting a picture of the current state of a continent. This was especially noticeable toward the end of the process, where continents would lock abruptly, often interrupting high-intensity battles in a dissatisfying or anticlimactic way.”
To fix that, the team is removing random alerts, nuking the “checklist goals” from the system, changing how continent locking works, and providing scaling rewards. Expect it on the test server “soon” ahead of the PC/PS4 launch later in August.
On this week’s show, Justin and Bree break down the big Guild Wars 2 news, celebrate FFXIV’s momentous milestone, muse about Dual Universe, and more! We also have a special interview with H1Z1: Just Survive Creative Director Ben Jones about the massive overhaul to this survival sandbox.
It’s the Massively OP Podcast, an action-packed hour of news, tales, opinions, and gamer emails! And remember, if you’d like to send in your own letter to the show, use the “Tips” button in the top-right corner of the site to do so.
Listen to the show right now:
Remember the survival version of H1Z1? If not, we can’t say that we blame you: Since Daybreak split the game in two, the bulk of development and attention has gone to the last-man standing tournament mode. Just check out how many patches and tournaments H1Z1: King of the Kill has seen! Those wanting to focus on the survival side of things were just out of luck as those servers seriously languished.
But all that changes today. No longer will H1Z1 Just Survive be lost in its sibling’s shadow; from here on out, Just Survive is its own game. And the name isn’t the only thing changing; beyond a rebranding, the entire game has gotten quite an overhaul.
I sat down with Creative Director Ben Jones for a tour of the many changes that go live today. We traveled the new map, investigated new POIs, visited the new safe zone respawn points (a few times!), met NPCs, checked out the new economy, and peeked at the new stronghold system. Jones also assured me that with its own development team, Just Survive will be receiving regular updates going forward. Will it be enough to bring players back? It worked for me. I had stopped playing the title quite a while ago (as I had no interest in KotK), but what I’ve seen now has me excited to give it another go.
Did you forget H1Z1 is still in early access? We did not! The King of the Kill half in particular is still getting heavy updates rolled out to the PTS, including the combat-centric one profiled in Daybreak’s most recent producer’s letter.
“The Combat Update improves many facets of the game to provide the best combat experience yet, spanning from how your character responds to your inputs, to shooting mechanics, all the way down to the specifics of where each weapon excels in a gunfight,” Daybreak says. Beyond combat, this update includes some new Points of Interest on the map, and revisions to game pacing. We will be testing this update in phases, starting with a focus on ‘solos.’ Once we’re satisfied that we’ve gotten the feedback we need for solos, we’ll announce the next phase of testing.”
Expect huge changes and additions in the form of weapon ballistics, recoil, animations, the firing reticle, retuned weapon range, shinier rifles, the new dynamic camera, more responsive player movement, improvements to thrown weapons, a ton of new points of interest, bleed mechanic tweaks, vehicle buffs, and functional footwear. I am not making that up.