A comment on Reddit about the current size and viability of Kritika Online got me thinking about MMO playerbases in general lately. We all know that there’s a stigma attached to little games; the big games with big servers and millions of players feel safer, and nowadays people just assume a small MMO has one foot in the grave. But it isn’t always true. We could also rattle off some smaller MMOs that seem to be moving along just fine, with bills paid. Sure, they’d like to be bigger, but they’re holding steady and know how to work the playerbase they do have rather than constantly alienate their current customers in search of new customers. And some MMO gamers actually prefer those sorts of titles. After all, if the game has just a few thousand people, it’s much easier to get to know a large slice of them, plus have your voice heard by the developers and actually influence the gameworld.
For this week’s Massively Overthinking, I’ve asked the writers to reflect on the smallest MMOs they have played, and then consider how big an MMO has to be in terms of playerbase that they’d consider playing it now. What’s the smallest MMO you’re willing to play, and why?
The Battle Bards are always up for a musical bargain, and on today’s episode, they’ll deliver two MMORPGs for the price of one (sitting)! It’s a look at two rather obscure eastern MMOs, Cabal Online and Cabal 2, both of which have some surprisingly good music tucked away. So expand your video game musical horizons with this 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 111: Cabal Online 1 and 2 (or download it) now:
Massively OP’s Justin Olivetti has a provocative article on his personal gaming blog, Bio Break, this week on MMORPG housing.
“I once again wonder why open world housing is this holy grail that some players and developers seem hellbent on chasing,” he writes. “It’s an ideal, a beautiful mirage couched in the notion of players inhabiting the very world they play, allowing them to stroll through neighborhoods of fellow adventurer’s homes and basking in the connectivity of it all. Yet it’s a failed experiment, one that is proven time and again to have far more drawbacks than benefits.” After listing off his complaints with the mechanic, he ultimately concludes that “we simply don’t need fixed open world housing, even in sandboxes.”
But being Justin, he also asked for feedback on why the joys are worth the drawbacks – and how to fix the system so it works instead of running off the rails. That’s just what we’ll do in this week’s Overthinking. Is he right about not needing this type of housing? And if not, how would you fix open world housing?
When I spoke to Elite Dangerous’ devs at this year’s Frontier Expo 2017, the company’s first fan expo, they admitted that communication went dark for a time. But it wasn’t for any worry-worthy reason: No, it was because the devs were preparing for Beyond, the big update road map for 2018 that was revealed on stage at the con. And what a reveal it was! The crowd was quite excited about the announced features spanning four updates throughout the year, including squadrons, fleet carrier ships, a codex, new ships, improved mining, revamped planetary graphics, and more. As Lead Designer Sandro Sammarco said, “Elite is an ongoing project. It’s not finishing any time soon.”
Along with the big news reveal, I also spoke with Chief Creative Officer Jonny Watts and Producer Adam Woods about these updates that focus on three areas — core game, narrative, and new features. This is what I learned.
It is kind of impossible to stroll around the MMO blogging community as of late and not trip and fall into a pool of Guild Wars 2: Path of Fire
impressions and opinions. So why not dive in and see what lies under the surface of these experiences?
GamingSF suffered from technical issues that kept him from getting into the expansion initially, but when he did, he recognized that it had some “really nice features.” Why I Game concurs with this sentiment, noting that there are “a lot more nods to exploration this time around.”
“Story is okay, nothing amazing, some funny bits help, and I find it gets better as it progresses onward,” ECTmmo.com wrote. “The actual places you get to travel to and explore in this expansion are what makes it shine, well, that and the mounts.”
We’ve got even more Path of Fire impressions after the break, as well as a look at Star Trek Online, Elite Dangerous, and Ultima Online!
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.
Good news for the Elite: Dangerous crew; according to the Frontier Developments Twitter account, Elite: Dangerous and the Horizons expansion have passed a grand total of 2.75 million sales. The phrasing is slightly ambiguous, as it could mean the combined total of each one’s individual sales is 2.75 million or that the game has sold 2.75 million copies altogether. Both are impressive, certainly, especially as the last sales data we had was from January 2016 when the base game had sold 1.4 million copies.
If you’re part of the crowd and plan to be out for PAX West in the near future, you can take part in the studio’s planned Frontier meet-up for fans and community on August 31st, 2017. The event is first-come-first-served and does have limited capacity, so you should make your plans soon, but it’s there if you want to go. The rest of us can sit back and relish the days when 825,000 sales was a major milestone.
It makes sense, sort of, that in an MMO where you can dress up as a dragon year-round that Halloween might be a favored holiday. In any case, Istaria is certainly getting the jump on the ghosts and ghouls of the fall holiday by staging a fall festival contest right now.
Players are being encouraged to put their artistic skills to work with the theme of “things that go bump in the night.” Short stories, mural designs, and mask paintings are all needed, and it sounds like the team might incorporate the best of these into the fall festival itself. The winners will get a special title and perhaps something more.
The contest will run through September 16th, with the winners declared on September 30th. Curious what this MMO’s been up to over the past year? We recently investigated what’s been happening with Istaria and found out a few interesting results.
Ever pause during your day and find yourself wondering, “What ever happened to that game?” With hundreds upon hundreds of online titles these days, it’s surprisingly easy for MMOs to fall through the cracks and become buried as more aggressive or active games take the spotlight.
Well, every so often we here at Massively Overpowered find ourselves curious what has transpired with certain MMOs that we haven’t heard from in quite a while. Have we missed the action and notices? Has the game gone into stealth maintenance mode? What’s the deal? What has it been up to lately?
That’s when we put on our detective hats and go sleuthing. Today we look at whatever happened to PlanetSide 2, A Tale in the Desert, and Istaria (witness protection program name: Horizons).
We are on a roll with the epic questions for Overthinking lately! “The recent article about monetization got me thinking about just how much most modern MMOs are still trying to replicate real-world capitalist economies,” MOP Patron Avaera begins.
“Virtual currency is usually earned proportional to various measures of virtual effort that are intended to be wealth-generating activities – selling loot earned from skillful PvE hunting, selling crafted goods made from resources gathered over time, owning items or land that generates tradeable material over time. However, virtual effort doesn’t have the quite the same limitations, scarcity, and creativity as real-world effort, and these systems seem prone to exploitation by users/bots that can easily outmatch casual players in terms of how much virtual effort and time they can expend, leading to various RMT problems and artificially distorted economies. How would you go about avoiding this problem, if you had the god-like powers of a game designer? Is there a way to set up a virtual economy so that it isn’t prone to exploitation by bots or gold-farmers, and will we ever see a virtual game currency that can truly be exchanged with a real one?”
I posed Avaera’s question to our staff to mull over.
PlayStation 4 players can flock to the Elite Dangerous universe beginning today, thanks to the game’s official launch on that console, complete with adjustments for touchpad controls and even a “fast headlook” mode for wireless controllers.
“Elite Dangerous and the Elite Dangerous: Horizons season pass are now available digitally on the PlayStation Store as standalone products or together as part of the Commander Deluxe Edition, complete with the bonus Commander Paint Pack. Elite Dangerous is also available at physical retail stores for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in the Elite Dangerous: Legendary Edition, featuring Elite Dangerous, the Elite Dangerous: Horizons season pass and a bonus 1,000 Frontier Points for purchasing in-game cosmetic items.”
Meanwhile, players have made yet another discovery in the Thargoid storyline. We’ve embedded the launch trailer and new lore bits below!
I sat down with Elite Dangerous Senior Designer Sandy Sammarco again at E3 2017, and while the information I’ve got in terms of game info may be a bit old hat for hardcore Elite players, I want to be clear on something: MMO players should take note of how Frontier is doing community events. Even if you aren’t interested in the game itself, the design strategies and execution are things that are reminding this jaded MMO-enthusiast about what got me into the MMO genre in the first place. I don’t really do space sims, and haven’t touched my VR for months (though I could probably hop on normal PC or PS4 versions), but my time with Sammarco has gotten me closer to hitting the “buy” button on the game.
For a good long while, it seemed as though Elite Dangerous players were all alone in their gigantic galaxy playground. Then came the discovery of alien remnants and evidence of life, suggesting that the devs had more up their sleeve. But little did players know that first contact was about to become second contact with one of the franchise’s most notorious enemies.
Frontier announced this week that with Horizons 2.4, the Thargoids would arrive in the game after a long absence from the series. The truly alien race that hails from an ammonia world made its debut in the original 1984 game as a threat that players encountered and had to overcome.
The Return update is coming in Q3 2017 and will bring the Thargoids and their eight-sided spaceships into the modern era with story events and inevitable battles. The dev team cautions players that if they fail to stand up to the aliens, they could see the galaxy slowly consumed by the Thargoids.
“What happens next will be decided by every Elite Dangerous player,” said Frontier CEO David Braben. Check out The Return trailers after the jump!