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PSA: Get your free Discovery uniforms in Star Trek Online

Did you get a chance to watch the debut of Star Trek: Discovery over the weekend? It is pretty exciting to see the first new Star Trek TV show since 2001 make it to the airwaves (or, more accurately, the streaming subscription waves).

Naturally, Star Trek Online players are no doubt wondering how and when Cryptic will be integrating Discovery’s looks and stories into the space MMO. And the answer to that, at least for right now, is that all players can dress up their characters with the new uniforms from the show — for free.

From now through October 6th, PC players who log into the game can grab a free Star Trek: Discovery uniform package from the C-store. Console players, don’t fret: This promotion should be coming your way soon enough.

Source: Star Trek Online. Thanks Flatline4400!

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The Daily Grind: Should MMOs get rid of levels?

I would like to say that when I was a kid playing my first MMORPGs, I was impervious to the grind, that I embraced taking many months to level a skill or hit a level cap. But that would be a lie. I stuck a rock on my keyboard to AFK macro overnight in Ultima Online, and a friend of mine would log into my EverQuest account sometimes while I slept to catch me up in levels. I hated it. I have always hated it. Oh, I’d spend hours per day in those early games, but I wanted to chill with friends, make stuff, run dungeons with people without worrying about level discrepancies and gear and all the obnoxious mechanics designed so transparently to slow me down and make me pay to grind. And I’ve felt this way for 20 years.

This is why a recent tweet of Raph Koster’s, quoting Elder Scrolls Online’s Matt Firor, resonated with me:

“Removing levels as a gameplay factor was the best decision for retention ever made in Elder Scrolls Online.” -Matt Firor

It’s affirmation that I’m not alone: A huge portion of the MMORPG playerbase will pay for content that pushes us together by invalidating level grinds rather than keeps us apart. Is it not time? Can we just be done with the old canard that people “need” leveling make-work to feel achievement or investment in a game, when metrics prove otherwise? Should MMOs get rid of levels?

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One Shots: Drop. Your. Sword.

“It’s possible, pig, I might be bluffing. It’s conceivable, you miserable, vomitous mass, that I’m only lying here because I lack the strength to stand. But, then again… perhaps I have the strength after all. DROP… YOUR… SWORD!”

Can’t imagine why this screenshot of Secret World Legends from Winterskorn has me thinking of The Princess Bride. It’s inconceivable. Also, that sword doesn’t look like it can cut very well, just saying!

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20-year-old Ultima Online is going free-to-play (kinda) and getting player-generated quests

In preparing tomorrow’s birthday piece for Ultima Online, I confidently wrote that Ultima Online was not going free-to-play because that’s what the devs always say, so stop asking. Turns out that’s not quite accurate, as during the game’s real-life 20th anniversary celebration yesterday, the Broadsword team announced that Ultima Online is getting a free-to-play mode.

The mode is called The Endless Journey, and according to players in attendance, players who take advantage of it will find it’s somewhat similar to the existing trial for the game, only it’s usable on existing accounts. You’ll have a (extremely) limited trial-only banking inventory with no access to your “real” bank, no access to housing placement, and several other limitations, including not being able to use ghosts to spy in certain high-PvP areas and being forbidden to multi-box. It is not clear how vendor purchases will affect freebie players.

It does seem players who decide to upgrade their accounts will still be expected to subscribe (and presumably purchase future expansions), just as the game is played right now, which makes it F2P only in the limited style of EVE Online. As one UOSS moderator put it, it looks like “the equivalent of a very limited F2P, but probably wouldn’t meet the standard definition of a ‘real’ F2P+purchases game,” chiefly because you can’t do much in the game without both a home and full bank access. (I tend to agree – it’s actually worse than the existing free trial accounts, only it also works on existing accounts.)

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Amazon continues to flesh out its Lumberyard engine

As it will be powering MMOs like New World and Star Citizen, Amazon’s Lumberyard game engine deserves attention as it continues to be built and improved. Amazon released a development update to shed light on just how far Lumberyard has come and what is being worked on for the future.

“Simply put, our focus for the next few releases is to make Lumberyard easier, more powerful, and more modular,” the company said. “A lot has changed since we first launched the beta: We’ve replaced over 60% of the original codebase, switching out older, redundant systems (e.g. CryEntity) for more modern, performant ones (e.g. Component entity systems).”

Improvements on the way for Lumberyard include a new visual scripting language, a revised animation system, more integration with Amazon’s other tech (like Lex and Polly), the ability to store games in any location, better optimization, a new shader system, and Mac support.

Source: AWS

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Star Citizen is down to only 7 must-fix issues before alpha 3.0 goes to the Evocati

What’s that sound? That’s the sound of Star Citizen’s alpha 3.0 creeping ever closer, as the teams say they’ve made “substantial progress.”

In the latest edition of Around the Verse, Chris Roberts says the dev team is focused on “clearing out the remaining blockers,” while “the dev-ops team is going through the process of preparing the build for distribution.” They’ve cleaned up 19 more must-fix issues, with 7 more to go.

The feature for this episode centers on air traffic control, which sounds like a weird and boring thing my kids would play, but nope – it’s actually pretty important to landing ships in an open-world MMO, as it’s critical to help players land in a spot that’s actually big enough and actually empty. Otherwise, you’d be landing Serrenity II on top of my Millennium Falcon IV, and we can’t have that. The whole episode is below.

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Massively Overthinking: How will Star Citizen make money after launch?

During this week’s Massively OP Podcast, Justin and I attempted to tackle a question sent in by commenter and listener Sally Bowls – specifically, she wanted us to speculate on what a post-launch monetization plan for Star Citizen might look like.

“Assuming they have a lot of overhead and expense, are they going to fire most of their employees at launch? Keep them and support them with subscriptions? DLC? Cosmetics? A stream of new ships would be my first guess – but new ships good enough that people spend $50M-$100M per year withouth causing old customers to think the new shiny invalidates their previous purchase? That seems to me a non-trivial tightrope to walk.”

Put away your instinct to joke that it won’t matter because Star Citizen is never coming out. Let’s just reasonably assume that it does eventually launch into something the studio will call more or less ready. How do you think Star Citizen will make money after launch? That’s the question I’ve posed the Massively OP team for this round of Massively Overthinking.

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Discover actual exoplanets and earn EVE Online rewards – without ever leaving the ship dock

Have you heard in passing this “Project Discovery” thing in EVE Online and wondered what it is all about? CCP put together a new tutorial video that explains the purpose behind Project Discovery, how players can help, and what they will earn for their troubles.

Project Discovery is a collaborative, crowdsourced effort to reward players in-game for helping out on what are effectively “citizen science” projects. Last year’s program tasked players with identifying cell structures to assist the Human Genome Project. This particular leg of the program, first revealed at last spring’s EVE Fanfest in Iceland, sets players to work hunting for exoplanets in other solar systems. Players have the option of analyzing a star’s luminosity to see if there are any dips, signifying that a planet has crossed between the star and the telescope. The more accurate a player is in his or her analysis (compared to the rest of the EVE community), the more experience points will be doled out for a special reward track.

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Star Trek Online launches a new feature episode with LeVar Burton and prepares for Season 14 on October 3

It’s time to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation, so it would be weird if Star Trek Online let that milestone pass by without comment. The latest featured episode, Beyond the Nexus, is a very specific celebration of the show as players seek out a stranded Galaxy-class starship with the help of Captain Geordi LaForge, voiced (as is only appropriate) by the inimitable LeVar Burton.

Burton will also be making an appearance in the upcoming Season 14 patch, where he’ll star in another featured episode alongside Captain Kuumaarke (Kipleigh Brown) at a unified colony for the Lukari and Kentari peoples. The patch will also feature a new fleet holding, new Tzenkethi alerts, a new colony map, and a new primary specialization for players. If you’re one of the man fans who started appreciating the franchise with the voyages of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D, it’s a good day to celebrate and a better day to look forward to the future.

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Massively OP Podcast Episode 136: Westward ho!

On this week’s show, Justin and Bree saddle up for discussion on Wild West Online’s alpha, Star Citizen’s back-backlash on schedules, the miserable state of Phantasy Star Online 2, and more!

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:

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EVE Online thieves produce propaganda music video, auction off ill-gotten gains

If betrayals, heists, coups d’état, and threats aren’t enough to pique your interest in EVE Online’s metagame, maybe memes will do the trick.

As PCGN points out, EVE Online players are rushing to fill the vacuum left by last week’s theft of in-game property worth $20,000 (and subsequent banning by CCP of one of the victims for issuing multiple real-life threats to maim the perpetrator). Indeed, the winning cohort, if you want to call any of this “winning,” has now produced a taunting propaganda video set to Johnny Cash’s God’s Gonna Cut You Down and begun auctioning off some of the in-game property its members stole. I’d link to the pun thread as well, but as of press time, there are racist comments in it, so suffice it to say that EVE’s Reddit community has squeezed every imaginable hand- and mittens-related pun out of the whole mess.

Massively OP’s Brendan “Nyphur” Drain, who’s been covering the EVE universe for over a decade, has written extensively on this topic over the last week, discussing the particulars of this arm of the war, the fallout over the real-life threat, and most recently, the shift in what’s considered acceptable toxicity inside the game since its launch in 2003.

Source: YouTube via PCGN

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EVE Evolved: How much toxic, antisocial behaviour should MMOs tolerate?

The EVE Online community is aflame this week after alliance leader gigX was permanently banned for making threats of real-life violence against another player following possibly the biggest betrayal in EVE history. Some players don’t want to accept that gigX crossed a serious line and deserves his ban, and others have been asking why The Mittani’s similar actions in 2012 resulted in only a temporary ban. CCP’s official stance is that its policies have become stricter since 2012, but it’s still not entirely clear exactly where the line is drawn.

Another side to the debate is that the internet itself has evolved over EVE‘s 14-year lifespan, and a lot of toxic behaviour that was accepted or commonly overlooked on the early internet is now considered totally unacceptable. Many of us have grown from a bunch of anonymous actors playing roles in fantasy game worlds to real people sharing our lives and an online hobby with each other, and antisocial behaviour is an issue that all online games now need to take seriously. The lawless wild west of EVE‘s early years is gone, and I don’t think it’s ever coming back.

So what’s the deal? Does EVE Online tolerate less toxic behaviour today, has the internet started to outgrow its lawless roots, and what does it mean for the future of sandboxes?

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The Daily Grind: Do you feel crowdfunded MMOs ‘owe’ you something?

My husband and I were chatting about the whole Chris-Roberts-is-fed-up-with-trolls-and-date-estimates-that-everyone-knows-aren’t-going-to-stick thing from last week when he said something that struck me. “It reminds me of how people harangue George R. R. Martin (of Game of Thrones fame) about his next book,” he observed. “They believe he owes them something for being his loyal fans,” which you’ll recall once prompted famed author Neil Gaiman to declare, “George Martin is not your bitch.”

The difference, of course, is that George R. R. Martin can do whatever the heck he wants while he rolls around in his well-earned piles of money because his books aren’t crowdfunded. He quite literally doesn’t owe us anything, even if people who’ve been his fans for multiple decades might feel otherwise.

Crowfunded MMOs like Star Citizen aren’t quite in that position. Technically, you knew when your credit card number hit the screen that yours was a donation toward an idea. Some of the games we Kickstart? They fail. Or they drift in limbo. Or they don’t meet the vision. They aren’t all Path of Exile and Elite Dangerous is what I’m saying. But when those campaigns masquerade as pre-orders, people can be left with the idea that, well, they’re owed what they think they paid for.

Do you feel the MMO you’ve crowdfunded owe you something? Or are you content knowing you donated toward a vision of a better genre?

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