industry

EA drops the costs of heroes – and reward payouts – in Star Wars: Battlefront II by 75%

Don’t be too proud of the barrier to entry you’ve constructed; the ability to make in-game unlocks incredibly expensive is insignificant next to the power of angry consumers. An update after the latest furor over Star Wars: Battlefront II’s hero unlock prices sees the prices for these characters slashed by 75%, bringing Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader down to 15,000 credits, while Palpatine, Leia, and Chewbacca will run 10,000 credits and Iden will cost only 5,000 credits.

What EA doesn’t note in its blog post is that it also reduced reward payouts commensurately.

We’re sure the cost is one that’s still meant to provide a sense of pride and accomplishment, somehow. Whether or not this mollifies players who were rather justifiably miffed about the whole thing remains to be seen; what is already quite obvious is that this is not something that the target audience is taking lightly, so the next move is on Electronic Arts – and that move appears to be an AMA?

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Asta Online prepares to shut its doors… again

Alas-ta, poor Asta Online. We were pretty surprised when the game got its third lease on life earlier this year, but it appears to have been sadly abortive, as it will be shutting down once again on December 8th of this year. Cash shop items have already been made unavailable for purchase, with no words on any sort of farewell celebration before the shutdown. (We would not hold our breath on that one.)

Players who have purchased cash shop items are directed to contact Steam support regarding any sort of refunds, which seems a little unexpected under the circumstances. Installation of the game is already disabled as well, but if you’ve already got it installed, you can continue to play until the servers go off. Our condolences to players affected by the closure, although we can’t help but wonder if it’s not going to come back yet again.

Source: Steam page; thanks to Gaz for the tip!

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PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds reaches 20 million copies sold

Congratulations are due to PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, which has now reached the milestone of 20 million copies sold. That is a lot of people who want to be dropped into an arena and then shoot at one another. You could celebrate with a golden arches-style counter at the title screen, but that might wind up seeming a little gauche.

The tweet announcing the milestone also acknowledges that issues with the game have been frustrating players, but the developers are working hard at fixing those issues and delivering the best go-shoot-everybody-or-watch-someone-streaming-that experience possible. The important takeaway is that a lot of people like the game, and if you’re unhappy with it, just bear with it a bit longer.

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Former Blizzard executive Rob Pardo thinks we’re a long way off from VR MMOs

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.

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Cliffy B on LawBreakers: ‘As far as I’m concerned, [the press] can fuck off’

Here at Massively Overpowered, we generally try to avoid cursing, but there really are no two ways to put the Cliff Bleszinski quote from his latest interview on LawBreakers’ post-launch struggles. Let’s provide the whole thing, for context:

[The gaming press is] just looking for clicks, man. They’re just looking for ad revenue. We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing, and they’re welcome to print whatever they want – but as far as I’m concerned, they can fuck off. We’re going to keep making our game for our fans.

Bleszinski stresses that the game’s struggle is simply to get its concurrent user counts high enough to make matchmaking reliably and enjoyable, with repeated statements that the studio is focused on building the community over time and engaging with them. He also claims that any perception problems are a result of people being overly negative, citing the game’s high number of positive reviews on Steam.

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Stephan Frost’s Nexon project gains former Amazon gameplay engineer

The handrubbing intrigue over Stephan Frost’s mysterious project at Nexon ramped up this week with the announcement of another member that has signed up with the untitled game.

“Senior Gameplay Engineer Gabe Paramo joined the crew at Nexon OC today. I’m excited to get to work with this guy again,” Frost announced on Twitter yesterday.

According to Paramo’s LinkedIn profile, he came to Nexon from Double Helix Studios at Amazon where he had been working in various roles since 2008.

Frost raised a few eyebrows last month when he left his seemingly cushy position as a World of Warcraft senior design producer to take up shop with Nexon as the creative and game director of a new and unannounced title.

Source: Twitter

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The Daily Grind: Do you grade MMO studios on a curve?

Here’s a non-surprise that came out of a discussion between Bree and me: We totally grade MMO studios on a curve. That curve is determined by giving a damn. All else being equal, we tend to be a bit more forgiving of studios that give the impression of at least caring about what they’re doing, even if it’s care in horribly misguided directions or in service of awful design choices.

It makes a lot of sense to me; a lot of my own fondness for Funcom comes from a sense that even while the studio was struggling and/or making awful decisions, it’s still a team of people who care about what they’re doing. By contrast, there are companies that really don’t seem to give a toss about anything beyond the current big ticket. Part of my own uncomfortable feelings about World of Warcraft come from the sense that Blizzard has long since stopped giving a damn.

That doesn’t mean that we’re unwilling to be harsh when studios we like screw up badly; it just means that the sense of effort and genuine care gets a bit more leeway. What about you, dear readers? Do you grade MMO studios on a curve, and if so, what determines the adjustment?

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Digital Extremes to open a new studio in Toronto

The studio behind Warframe is riding the success of that game until it runs out of rail, because why would they not? A new Digital Extremes studio is opening up in Toronto next month, just two hours away from its existing headquarters in London, Ontario. That might seem like it’d almost be easier to just make the London studio larger, but considering that there’s a great deal of development talent already in Toronto and it’s easier not to commute two hours on a daily basis, this way might work better.

We know for a fact that the new studio will be focused on game development, although it remains to be seen if the focus will be on further Warframe content or the recently announced The Amazing Eternals. Keep your eyes peeled for more developments and further news as events warrant.

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The Daily Grind: Do veteran gamers help or hurt MMOs?

You may recall that just yesterday, Justin was asking whether dinosaurs help or hurt MMOs. When I first saw the topic, though, my assumption was that he wasn’t talking about the animals that give ARK: Survival Evolved 80% of its appeal; I thought he was talking about, you know, players who are dinosaurs. Olds.

This doesn’t mean that they’re the evolutionary ancestor to birds; it means that they’ve been playing MMOs for a long damn time and thus have a whole lot of perspective on the genre. I have experiences and backstory that stretches back more than a decade. It’s hard for me to find major released titles that I’ve never played at all, and when most of my friends talk about playing a game, I can chime in with a “me too” and mean it.

The bright side is that we dinosaurs know a lot about the genre, but the downsides are many. We get calcified in our ways and can be inflexible, we can sometimes suck the air out of the room by having endlessly repeating stories, and we tend to have lots of opinions about MMOs. Not all of them might even be good ones. So tell us, readers: Do player dinosaurs help or hurt MMOs?

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Uncharted Waters Online picks up a new publisher, plans October relaunch

Lash the sails, there be rough sailing ahead for Uncharted Waters Online! But beyond that? It could be a voyage of unimaginable bounty for this seafaring MMORPG.

This past week, Uncharted Waters Online announced that it has picked up a new publisher in the form of Papaya Play, having ditched the previous operator, OGPlanet. Current service is scheduled to end on September 29th, leaving the game offline for a couple of weeks. Then, on October 18th, UWO will be relaunched on Papaya Play’s global game portal.

The new handlers said that once it gets the title up and running on its service, it has plans to release more content for the current Age of Revolution expansion cycle.

The Battle Bards podcast recently gave Uncharted Waters Online’s soundtrack a listen and covered it in a full-hour episode. Avant garde podcasting, that.

Source: Uncharted Waters Online, press release

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Final Fantasy XIV makes both Sleipnir and financial earnings fly

Players have long awaited the chance to make Sleipnir, the mount of the Dark Divinity Odin, soar through the skies in Final Fantasy XIV. Sure, the horse in question is just a regular horse, but he also happens to be a horse for a primal. So it’s good news for owners of the mount that he will take to the skies with the release of patch 4.1, while the Witch’s Broom will once again be able to cast spells on the ground as it could during its first holiday appearance. Who doesn’t like more ways to play with mounts?

But FFXIV isn’t just making horses fly; it’s also making numbers fly. The latest Square-Enix financial report notes that sales of Stormblood have massively increased income and profits, with the game reaching an all-time subscriber high following release (exact numbers are not disclosed). So everything gets to fly on upward, and you can rest assured that big expansion releases do, in fact, result in more sales.

Source: Official site, investor report; thanks to Sally for the tip!

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Steam changes review scores to histograms in an effort to fight review bombing

If you’ve never heard of “review bombing” on Steam, we envy you. The process goes something like this: Something causes a certain group of users to get very angry about something related to game, which could be the actual content of the game, the content that’s not in the game, or something entirely outside of the game like takedown orders being filed against a streamer who won’t stop spewing racist hate speech. The users then flood the game’s Steam reviews with negative feedback, downvote all positive reviews, and upvote all negative reviews in an effort to reduce the game’s overall positive rating.

This is, needless to say, a bad thing. A new post from Valve explains the tools the team used to look at this trend and how to possibly solve the issues.

In short, Valve doesn’t necessarily want to lock people out from reviewing for a period of time, especially since there’s no hard-and-fast rule to follow and pretty much any review-bombed game reverts back to its original rating over time. However, the developers do want to make it clear when this is happening, and thus they’re changing how reviews are shown into a histogram displaying the trend over time. So if a game is receiving a usual stream of positive reviews and then a sudden negative spike, you can hopefully tell what’s going on, at least.

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PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds passes 10M sold

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.

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