It’s no surprise that Ready Player One was constantly being referenced at GDC 2018, especially in VR, AR, and MMO panels. It’s not just because of the movie’s release but because the tech involved is seeing a surge of interest. That doesn’t mean we’re on the cusp, in my opinion, but it may be a thing we should start talking about.
And talking about it we did. As Bill Roper of Improbable and SpatialOS recently told me, “The next generation of online games isn’t going to behave like current-generation MMOs. […] We don’t know what a billion-person game might look like, but it’s likely to include a wide variety of playstyles, to reflect the diversity of its playerbase.” Even if you’re a cynic and don’t think SpatialOS will play any part of this future, Roper’s very much on the mark: Billion-person gaming isn’t going to be like our current MMOs.
SpatialOS: You’ve probably been seeing this name pop up more and more in the MMO sphere. Worlds Adrift, Mavericks, Fractured, Seed, MetaWorld, and Identity are just some of the titles we’ve mentioned that have sprung up to use Improbable’s platform. The company picked up more than half a billion dollars from Japanese company SoftBank, roped in MMO veteran Bill Roper, and got Jagex to announce its intention to use it in a future project. However Chronicles of Elyria recently noted it’s dropping Improbable’s baby, and both on and off the record, developers I spoke to at GDC 2018 had mixed reactions – assuming they’d even heard about SpatialOS at all.
What’s the big deal about the platform? What does it do? Why should developers care? Why should MMO players care? I attended a panel by Improbable and briefly sat down with CCO Bill Roper to try to figure it all out.
Let me be upfront: I’ve never gotten into a superhero MMO. I love comics; outside of work, it’s probably the only fiction I willingly read these days. It’s just the people I play with never got into hero MMOs, even when some of us finally tried DC Universe Online.
But I read all about them. And I know you superhero MMORPG players have been kicked around.
Heroic Games President and CEO Casey McGeever’s passionate about the need for the genre because of that, and that’s precisely why MMO Ship of Heroes was conceived. We’ve got superheroes everywhere these days, but as hot as the Avengers are, we’re largely given steaming piles of brown from their gaming-ignorant parent companies. So I sat down with McGeever to talk MMOs, tech, and a ship full of heroes during GDC 2018.
The MMO industry moves along at the speed of information, and sometimes we’re deluged with so much news here at Massively Overpowered that some of it gets backlogged. That’s why there’s The MOP Up: a weekly compilation of smaller MMO stories and videos that you won’t want to miss. Seen any good MMO news? Hit us up through our tips line!
Maybe you’ll discover a new game in this space — or be reminded of an old favorite! This week we have stories and videos from Conqueror’s Blade, MapleStory Blitz, Darkfall: Rise of Agon, Skyforge, Path of Exile, Armored Warfare Assault, Aura Kingdom, and MechWarrior Online, all waiting for you after the break!
What do you get when you mash up Rimworld, The Sims, and EVE Online? Probably a big mess, but adjacent to that mess somewhere is Seed. Developed by Klang Games and using Improbable OS, Seed is a colony simulator in which players will make high-level management decisions about a fledgling settlement while their villagers go on living and working even while the player is offline.
It is an unusual and different sort of MMO than players are used to seeing, which is why it might be prudent to watch this short interview by PC Gamer to understand the full sales pitch for this sci-fi title.
“What we’re doing is a game that’s about simulating life. That isn’t a space that’s been explored before. We think we’re pretty early movers in simulation-based MMOs,” said Klang Co-Founder Mundi Vondi. Check out the interview below!
Chronicles of Elyria’s latest dev blog is out, and it’s more than just a recap of 2017 and look ahead to 2018, although it has that too: It makes the announcement that the game will no longer be utilizing SpatialOS.
“In January of 2017 we began the long process of taking what was mostly an offline, single-player game – designed primarily to validate user experience and gameplay feel – and turn it into a MEOW [Multiplayer Evolving Online World],” says Soulbound Studios. That meant integration with SpatialOS and Unreal Engine 4. But as development progressed, Soulbound explains, it ran into game elements (non spatial systems) that didn’t quite fit the architecture. What’s more, Soulbound argues, the studio was concerned that the game’s large size would make SpatialOS too expensive for it (and therefore for players) long-term.
“Of course, we brought our concerns to Improbable, and over the last eight months they’ve done a fantastic job working with us to try and bring the price down. Unfortunately, it remains an expensive solution for us. To make sure we were prepared, we began looking for alternative technology that could fill any gaps left behind if we were unable to use SpatialOS for any reason.”
Its team might be miniscule, its alpha more than a year away, and its funding still unsecured, but Fractured is powering ahead as best it can to lay down the foundations for this sandbox MMO.
Fractured’s first state of the game was posted on Monday to bring fans up to speed on what’s been done since the title was announced earlier this year. While some systems (including many sandbox elements) have yet to be initiated in development, the two-person crew has already pulled together a core of this MMO, including movement, action combat, backend infrastructure, an authentication system, pathfinding, and a prototype of the Knowledge system. The devs attribute their quick progression on the project of the use of Improbable’s SpatialOS platform.
The team said that over 5,000 fans have registered accounts so far from 100 different countries. “We’re glad of how far we’ve gone in barely over three months with such a small team of coders, and we’re excited to think of how fast we’ll become once the project receives proper funding and our devs at least double in number,” the devs said. “Looking at our development speed so far, the fact there’s still one year left to the planned start of Alpha 1, and the fact a Kickstarter and subsequent team expansion are going to happen in between, we’re confident we’ll deliver all that’s been promised.”
While it will be a while before fans can try out the game for themselves, the dev team did promise to release some actual screenshots and in-game footage to give people an idea of what Fractured looks like.
MMORPG fans know well the name Bill Roper: He’s the former Blizzard developer who went on to helm Flagship’s Hellgate: London and Cryptic’s Champions Online before landing the gig at Disney Interactive. Now, he’s moving on to Improbable and SpatialOS, the distributed computing platform that seems to pop up in our feeds constantly nowadays and is allegedly worth a billion bucks.
Roper told Gamasutra that he’d been interested in SpatialOS for a few years but became a convert during this past GDC before accepting the role of Chief Creative Officer. “The possibilities for not just massive worlds, but highly detailed and truly persistent worlds built on SpatialOS are exciting. I believe the games that will define AR and VR are yet to be realized, and the type of simulation that can be achieved with our platform can be an integral part of these new experiences,” he explains.
Improbable’s tech is being used as a base for multiple incoming MMOs, including Chronicles of Elyria and Worlds Adrift. Most recently, CEO Herman Narula revealed that his long-term goal is to “literally create other worlds” and rescue to MMO industry from what he called “nuclear winter.”
Last week we reported that Klang Games is making an interesting-looking colony survival game called Seed that is utilizing SpatialOS to create this expansive virtual world. Now Seed might be in a better position than ever to make it across the launch line, thanks to additional funding secured by its developer.
“The Berlin-based developer Klang Games has secured additional funding to power the creation of its AI-driven strategy MMO, Seed. The undisclosed amount comes way of Greylock Partners’ Discovery Fund, David Helgason of Unity, and the investor Joi Ito,” Gamasutra notes.
Klang has also hired a Harvard law professor to help shape Seed’s political structure. What, you thought you’d be able to create your own little utopian colony without having to resort to elections, voter fraud, and Twitter mishaps? That would be just straight-up covfefe.
Not to be confused with the extremely short-lived 2006 sci-fi title of the same name, Klang Games’ Seed is an upcoming MMO where players will guide and nurture small colonies of people attempting to settle on a strange world.
While there isn’t much revealed about the game so far, we do know that you will be in charge of multiple characters, more reminiscent of an RTS game with survival mechanics than a straight-up RPG.
“Seed utilizes Improbable’s SpatialOS,” the studio said, “which allows Seed to be a persistent, continuously running simulation, with all Seed-Universe game logic running and living on the technology’s powerful server.”
So what is up with all of these development studios flocking to use Improbable’s SpatialOS in their online titles? Check out a recent GDC talk where multiple dev testimonies are given about the platform and its appeal after the break.
Improbable keeps popping up in news stories relating to MMOs lately — that’s thanks to SpatialOS, what the company is calling a “distributed computing platform for building large virtual worlds for gaming.” The platform is now in use on MMOs from Identity and Worlds Adrift to Chronicles of Elyria and Metaworld; its most recent partnership was announced last week with RuneScape studio Jagex, and it’s already working with Google to bring the tech to “hundreds” of developers.
GI.biz has a great interview out with Improbable CEO Herman Narula today that illuminates what the team worth over a billion bucks (an extrapolation based on the fact that Japan’s SoftBank’s half a billion dollar investment bought less than a 50% stake in the company) is focused on. It turns out it’s mostly video games — but it’s also bigger than video games.
“Our long-term objectives, and it is long-term, is to literally create other worlds,” explains Narula. “Not just in the context of gaming, but in the context of being able to solve really important problems. This core problem of massive distributed systems and engaging large-scale virtual worlds, is as important and significant as AI or space travel. It is just as important for the future of what our experience will be like as human beings in the world, and how we are going to solve some of the most pressing problems that we have. […] A lot of people just can’t believe that we think games are important. They are incredibly important and they’re going to be more important. Hypothetically, one day, if 100m, or 1bn, people entered simultaneously into a virtual world, that would cease to be a game, that would be a country.”
Add another gaming studio partnership to Improbable’s file: RuneScape developer Jagex announced today that it’s teamed up with the tech company to deploy SpatialOS in “future game production.” SpatialOS, you’ll recall, is a “distributed computing platform for building large virtual worlds for gaming.”
Improbable has been showing up in our feeds a lot lately. Earlier this month, the company picked up a cool half-billion bucks in investment from a Japanese telecommunications corporation. SpatialOS is being used on a number of up-and-coming MMO-related projects, including Identity, Worlds Adrift, Chronicles of Elyria, and Metaworld. Oh yeah, and it’s partnered with some company called Google for cloud distribution – probably no big deal, right?
The PR doesn’t directly say that RuneScape itself will make use of the tech, just that it’ll be used as a platform to “bring new levels of depth and scale to Jagex’s future creations.”
Earlier this week, a studio rep apparently accidentally leaked a stream slide with the logo for something called “Next Gen,” which also may or may not be RuneScape-related as we outlined Monday.
Source: Press release
It’s time to play catch-up on another interesting indie MMORPG, Identity. You may remember this as the contemporary life simulator sandbox that has raised over a half-million dollars in funding and promises to let people inhabit a virtual world not unlike our own.
The team at Asylum Entertainment has been chatty over the past few weeks, announcing some big developments for the project. The first piece of news is that the team behind Identity is partnering with Improbable to use SpatialOS to become a “scope-changer” for the project.
“The Identity team has been testing the waters with SpatialOS for a couple of months now and we’re incredibly excited about what it’s going to mean for Identity,” the team said. “Identity can now be what we all hoped it would be, a true MMORPG in scale. SpatialOS is going to power Identity behind the scenes, allowing absolutely enormous scale for our world and the people playing in it.”