Fans that might look at Valiance Online’s development chart and wonder when, oh when alpha will ever arrive are being treated to a pep talk from the team today. A reality check was posted on the official forums for those finding that patience with this project is in short supply.
“Game development is not a science, especially for a small indie team,” the Valiance Online devs wrote. “The unexpected happens, like Unity suddenly deciding to make major changes to the engine with no warning, or members of the team being unavailable due to their ‘day job’ or family/medical issues and when you have a small team, just one member being ‘AFK’ affects progress a lot. This is why we have decided to not post dates for when things will be done because ‘stuff’ happens and we don’t have the resources like a larger studio might have to deal with it as quickly. That’s just how it is.”
The good news? Progress is being made, and the team is just as excited about getting to alpha status as its fans. “Regardless of whatever challenges or setbacks we face, we keep moving forward,” promised the team.
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.”
MMORPG blogger and MOP commenter Isarii (@ethanmacfie) recently published an excellent video positing that the MMO industry is facing a “massive identity crisis.”
“The MMO genre has sort of walked away from the things that made it unique and has faced an identity crisis since then as MMOs have reinvented themselves as these big giant titles trying to appeal to as many people as possible,” he argues. “As a result, you end up with MMOs that try to do things that smaller scale games tend to do better while not doing any of the things that make MMOs themselves unique.”
The whole video is worth a look-and-listen as he pins down what exactly does make MMOs unique and which MMOs have excelled as actual MMOs (protip: It’s everything from EVE to SWG to WoW, so don’t think this is about subgenre elitism at all). What do you think? Is Isarii right? Is the genre facing an identity crisis? And how do we solve it? That’s what our writers will be debating in this week’s Massively Overthinking.
Raise your hand if you’re a superhero MMORPG fan who really, really wants to see good mission maps. None of this office building #3457225 stuff. That’s all of you, right? Good. City of Heroes-inspired indie superhero MMORPG Ship of Heroes has a new video out today demoing one such mission map. In a normal city on Earth, the area would be the sewer — the area directly under the city. But since Ship of Heroes is set on a domed city on a gargantuan spaceship, the area below Apotheosis City is just… spaceship corridors.
“The Justice has twenty ship levels, each of which can have above ground and below ground playable areas. This video illustrates the Sci-Fi themed environment that is below the surface of the first level, called Apotheosis City. Multiple rooms and corridors are shown, including the first layer of a deep section directly underneath the Arch in the center of the city. In addition three classes of crew are shown: security guards in the Arch room, plus scientists and crewmen, in their work clothes. A major control hub is also shown, as is a security room with a mysterious item kept under lock and key. While all of the art, layout, lighting, arrangement of assets, and special effects shown in the video are preliminary, they do provide insight into the current state of development and the intended art style of the Ship of Heroes. AI for the civilian NPCs in the video has been coded by the devs from Ship of Heroes. This setting is the most current example of an instanced mission map for the game.”
Back in April, Silverhelm Studios told players it was instituting “big changes” in the way it was rolling out information for City of Heroes-inspired indie MMORPG Valiance Online, with a renewed emphasis on transparency. So far it’s delivered on that promise, as over the course of just the last few weeks, it’s begun posting development roadmap snapshots, mulled over sidekicking, previewed in-game buildings, and posted a map of the game world.
This week, it’s posted another look at the city hall of Skyeline, a tiered building with more lore than you can shake a cape at.
“The final structure that stands today is as glorious in appearance as it is in capability. Made from an amalgam of composite and newly generated Haelan brand synthetic metals, City Hall is a bastion of gleaming silver, mirrored glass and alabaster stone. It has multiple floors that begin on the lower second tier of Skyeline’s layers and proceeds twenty stories tall to end above the third tier. The building’s bowed hexagonal arch shape allows visitors to the city to walk under city hall to the Prisma Celeste and Memorial grounds beyond. A series of white marble and bronze accented stairs leads up either side of the main entrance to the many offices of the various departments contained within.”
Indie MMO Pantheon’s latest newsletter recaps the past month, so if you’re paying plenty of attention to the game, you’ve already seen the featured Monk stream. But Visionary Realms has also put out a bit more information on both the new class and the acclimation system. The studio is damn proud of acclimation in particular:
“Acclimation is a method of dealing with the harsh environments you will find in the world of Terminus. By using various infusions on different parts of the body, characters can help mitigate the external forces that may impact them. These infusions are on a tier based system, with lower tiers being more common and the highest requiring more advanced gameplay to attain. As with most of the systems planned for Pantheon, a measure of player interaction will be present in the form of craftable infusions. Another level of complexity is achieved by allowing more than one environmental system to be active simultaneously. Players will be able to use multiple infusions at once to help counteract their effects.”
Pantheon’s Monk is also on display; old-school EverQuest players are going to feel right at home with the class, which designed “not as just a fantastic pulling class, but also as capable melee DPS, short term crowd control and as a suitable offtank.”
Hardcore sandbox Darkfall: Rise of Agon officially launches this afternoon. The story of the game is a victorious one, as it’s one of two games being built by player-organized studios out of the ashes of Aventurine’s original Darkfall, which vanished without much of a goodbye just about a year ago. But don’t take our word for it: The Big Picture Games team has a 13-minute video out today taking gamers through the history of its development.
In conjunction with the launch, the Rise of Agon team joined up with OriginPC for a rather large giveaway for this type of indie game:
“We’re giving 1 fan a grand prize of an ORIGIN PC CHRONOS gaming desktop valued at $2,400, featuring an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti, 30 Days of Game Time in Darkfall: Rise of Agon, and a $50 Domino’s Gift Card! 2nd and 3rd place winners will receive 30 Days of Gametime in Darkfall: Rise of Agon, and a $25 Domino’s Gift Card! Seven runner-up winners will receive 30 Days of Gametime in Darkfall: Rise of Agon!”
The giveaway ends on May 18th, so go enter!
It’s been a while since we checked in with El Somni Quas, the indie sandbox from a Czech studio that cut its teeth on Ultima Online emulators and is porting its ideas into its own game with 3-D sensibilities. We’ve already run multiple exclusive dev diaries on the game’s arena design, its free-for-all PvP and sandbox features like housing, and how the game has been built from scratch for modern players.
Today we’re getting a listen rather than a read, as the studio’s principals have lined up for a vidcast and player Q&A on the game. The conversation of the vidcast is in Czech, but the team has kindly translated the whole thing into English for us; just make sure you turn on subtitles!
Have you ever noticed that while there’s an entire world out there, most all of the MMORPGs we discuss and play tend to either be ones crafted in the USA or imports from China or Korea? We even have a shorthand for this: “western” and “eastern” MMOs. We’re usually not talking about entire hemispheres with these references, but rather about categorizing three countries that are big into the MMORPG business.
But what about the rest of the world? Are all of these other countries so uncaring about this genre that they’ve never tried their hand at making an MMO? Of course not; as I’m about to show you, there are plenty of online RPGs that have been made in countries other than China, the USA, and South Korea. It’s just that for various reasons, those three countries ended up fostering concentrations of video game developers who knew how to create these types of games.
So let’s take a tour around the world and see if we can’t give some credit to other countries for their contributions to the MMORPG genre past, present, and future. Before you click the link, see how many you can name off the top of your head!
This past weekend I was watching a new video by The Hive Leader in which he was discussing some lessons that MMOs might learn from the wider video game industry. Of particular interest was a segment in which he compared the extreme difficulty of Demon’s Souls against the cakewalk progression of most modern MMORPGs. He bemoaned that we had lost the risk and challenge of old school games.
The kneejerk reflex, I think, is to say that we need to go back to the design of those old days with hardcore elements (full-loot PvP, XP loss on death, long travel times, etc.), which is certainly what some indie projects are attempting right now. But many of those things were hated and proved to be exclusive back then, which is why I’m hesitant to return to them.
Instead, are there better and more forward-thinking ways to incorporate challenge and difficulty in MMORPGs without making them appeal to an incredibly narrow and masochistic segment of gamers? How would you like to see your game get “hard” while still being fun?
Don’t judge a book by its cover, they say, and certainly don’t go making assumptions about the difficulty levels of MMORPGs by how gritty or cutsie its graphics are.
This is a good lesson for us today as we look at Tale of Toast, an upcoming indie MMO that might look like a chibi version of World of Warcraft, yet it has the beating heart of a hardcore, old-school MMO. The two-man development team (including one former Blizzard dev) is attempting to create an online game in the spirit of the original RuneScape, sprinkling in open-world PvP and loss upon death to keep the challenge level high.
One of the game’s interesting concept is its combat system: “When you initiate melee combat with a player or enemy, both players are locked for three rounds of fighting before they are able to run or stay fighting. Rounds are handled automatically by the game, and the decision you as a player have is what type of combat stance you want to fight in during the fight.”
Tale of Toast was recently greenlit on Steam and should be headed to early access by the second quarter this year.
Deep in the comments of the MMOs-vs.-survival-sandboxes thread from last week, reader miol_ produced a beautiful comment about how MMO players have become a minority in their own genre, which he then expounded upon for us in this provocative email.
“I’ve reached the opinion, that since the launch of WoW and its clones, the ‘original’ MMO-playerbase became a minority in their own genre. Before, we were but hundreds of thousands of MMO players, but then came Blizzard with WoW and its legions of fans in the dozen of millions at its peak, starting to dictate what the new success of MMOs should look like. Even if we others tried to vote with our wallet and feet, we became a minority, having only a fraction of our initial influence, while many devs tried desperately time and again to find ways to get at least a portion of the new Blizzard playerbase.
“Am I wrong with that perception of history? Am I totally missing something? Or are ‘we’ are slowly becoming a majority again, now that WoW and its clones are seeing steadily declining numbers (instead of us winning more players to ‘our side’)? How do we lobby better for ‘our cause’? Or can we only wait and see, until the genre is small enough again? Or is it too late? Have we ourselves grown too far apart into our even more niche corners of personal taste since SWG, while production costs and our demands for production value have skyrocketed at the same time? How could we come closer again?”
Let’s tackle miol_’s questions in this week’s Massively Overthinking.
One shouldn’t forget that Crowfall’s various campaign worlds will be populated by more than just irate players looking to make the world burn (and loot your corpse while they’re at it). There are plenty of hostile critters roaming around, such as the hellcat.
This week’s bestiary entry looks at the powerful sabertooth cat-like beast… from the hellcat’s own point of view. A brief lore entry highlights the intelligence of this hunter as well as its playful side. Still, we’d probably give it a hard pass if someone offered one to us as a pet.
ArtCraft’s Gordon Walton is making an appearance at a panel today in Austin, Texas, to talk about the challenges and strategies in making money for indie games. To date, Crowfall has raised over $12.23 million in equity, licensing, and fan pledges.