interviews

World of Warcraft’s Hazzikostas on content creep and the future of the game

Hey, it turns out that designing long-term MMORPGs that aren’t pump-and-dump schemes is hard!

That’s the takeaway from a new PC Gamer interview with Blizzard’s Ion Hazzikostas, during which the World of Warcraft game director admits to what the developers of the dozens of MMOs that came before WoW could’ve told Blizz had it, y’know, ever considered asking.

“We are becoming increasingly aware of the cost of any change we make that has ongoing maintenance and the risk of design bloat,” Hazzikostas says. “If we keep adding and adding with every expansion, eventually what we end up with becomes very unwieldy. It’s an issue that we weren’t cognizant enough of early on because we were in uncharted territory, but we are now.” Yeah, he said uncharted territory.

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RuneScape’s Jagex flourishes under Chinese ownership

Following Jagex’s sale to China’s Fukong Interactive Entertainment back in 2016, there’s been some concern and curiosity over the fate of the studio and its flagship MMO RuneScape. In an interview with Games Industry, Acting CEO Phil Mansell revealed that the transition to this new era has been a “relief” and resulted in growth for both Jagex and RuneScape.

Mansell said that the new ownership has been a net positive for the company: “[Fukong] want us to grow, of course, and they’re being supportive. But they are not looking for some crazy, transformative, risky things. They want us to focus on what we’re good at. They’ve looked at RuneScape and said you can do more with that. Can you make more games? Yeah, we can. Can we work on multiple platforms? Yes. It is a measured approach and the right things to be doing.”

Mansell said that Fukong is setting itself up to be a global entertainment powerhouse with Jagex forming the hub of its western arm. While RuneScape 3 and Old School RuneScape remain at the core of the business, Jagex is branching out into other ventures, such as looking at other studios to acquire, VR tech for RuneScape, adding new games teams, and prototyping ideas dreamed up by the team during designated brainstorming time. No matter what, however, he said that the company under his leadership will see projects driven by player desires and feedback.

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Guild Wars 2’s new art director talks about continuing the legacy of his father

As we reported back in February, long-time ArenaNet artist Daniel Dociu left the studio after many years of helping to shape the distinctive visual style of the Guild Wars franchise. The baton of art director was passed down to his son Horia, who has worked off and on with studio since 2003.

Horia Dociu sat down with Rock Paper Shotgun for an interview last Friday to talk about the challenge of succeeding his father. “I think we share a lot of ideas,” he said. “It’s easy to say that I learned it all from him, but the truth is, I learned from seeing his methods work over the years […] I certainly am not trying to fill my dad’s shoes. That’s the first thing I had to tell myself — it’s impossible to be someone else, so just be yourself.”

Dociu said that under his direction, Guild Wars 2 will not be stagnant but will innovate and embrace “constant change” as it always has without ruining the foundation that’s been built: “I love the world of Guild Wars, and it’d be equally a crime for me to force a change in it arbitrarily as it would be for me to try and rehash anything we’ve done before. ”

Source: Rock Paper Shotgun. Thanks Bryan!

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Funcom’s Joel Bylos on the difference between MMOs and survival sandboxes

Funcom’s Joel Bylos features in a Twitch interview on Gamasutra this week talking up Conan Exiles and explaining the core difference between server-based survival games versus Funcom’s “old MMOs,” as the interviewer put it. Bylos’ answer actually makes a lot of sense.

“[In] The Secret World, we focused very strongly on making really cool and interesting content and story, and the idea was to make it interesting to play. The thing is, with an MMO, a lot of focus goes into repeatable content. A lot of focus goes into things like ‘I’m gonna run this dungeon six times’ or 20 times or 200 times, right? So we need reward systems that give you tokens, that let you build or buy better items. There’s a lot of itemization discussion in MMOs. In a game like Conan Exiles, people are going to lose stuff, and we know that. We need to make it so that they can keep rebuilding stuff, keep creating stuff, keep progressing in the game, but not necessarily wanting them to go, ‘Oh, I want you to go grind this dungeon 50 times so that you can do the next dungeon – slightly harder.’ So [Conan Exiles] is not so much about this very small percentage of power increase to increase your character’s progression. That’s what I would say is a big difference in these type of games.”

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Tamriel Infinium: Why I changed my mind about Elder Scrolls Online

When I took the trip to ZeniMax Online Studios to check out Morrowind a couple of months back, I was sitting at a table with other games press and a handful of ZOS developers, including Creative Director Rich Lambert and Lead PvP Designer Brian Wheeler. The conversation wasn’t exactly off the record, but it wasn’t really an interview setting either. We were just talking, mostly about our lives: how Brian had to leave soon because he might get in trouble with his girlfriend and how Rich spent many overnights at the same hotel that the press had been staying in because he was at the office late and had to be there again early the next day.

During the course of the conversation, we ended up talking about how the press had originally received the Elder Scrolls Online and how it received it since the console launch. It’s not a big secret that I said some pretty critical things about ESO shortly after its PC launch. Rich pointed out during the conversation, possibly not knowing the outlet I was from, that he was surprised at how the opinions had turned around, especially Massively’s. And when he said “Massively,” I don’t think he realized that it was specifically my opinion that had that changed, drastically, since I’ve been the site’s ESO columnist since before the game’s launch.

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Video: Everything you need to know about Star Wars: The Old Republic’s 5.2 War for Iokath, live today

After a week-long delay, Star Wars: The Old Republic launches its first major patch to the Knights of the Eternal Throne expansion as Update 5.2: The War For Iokath today. The update continues your story directly where Eternal Throne left off and reintroduces classic companions Malavai Quinn and Elara Dorne.

Creative Director Charles Boyd spoke at length and answered a few of our most pressing questions about the update — everything from Quinn and Galactic Command ranks to raiding dynamics and win trading. Boyd doesn’t shy away from addressing any of them. Watch our interview with him in the video below to get caught up on everything coming in the update — plus check out the update’s official trailer!

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Pokemon Go interview appears to confirm gym raids this summer

Just a week ago, Niantic told Pokemon Go players that “all new cooperative social gameplay experiences” were on the way, which led to speculation — backed up by datamining — that the content was gym raids. Now a Japanese blog has an interview out appearing to confirm that rumor.

K-Tai Watch spoke to Niantic’s Yoshiji Kawashima and Kenji Suka, who confirmed that a “huge” event “unlike anything we’ve seen so far” is coming this summer, complete with brand-new mechanics to support it. Pokemon Go Hub, which translated the interview from Japanese to English, says that “PvP, Trading and Raids are in development, but the release dates for these features are not yet finalised” and reiterated that “Niantic confirmed that cooperative gameplay is coming this spring.”

“I hope you are looking forward to this huge event this summer,” Kawashima is quoted as saying (translated to English). “Please look forward to it. Engineers are working hard now so that new functions can be implemented.”

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EVE Evolved: Video highlights from EVE Fanfest 2017

For a few days each year, hundreds of EVE Online players from across the world flock to a frozen volcanic rock at the top of the world for the annual EVE Fanfest. I was on the ground at EVE Fanfest 2017 last week in sunny Reykjavik to get the latest on what’s ahead for EVE and CCP’s other titles, and it was a thoroughly enlightening experience. We learned all about CCP’s amazing plans to roll out adaptive AI-driven PvE across the game world, talked to players and developers, and heard about the next stage of Project Discovery that will let players search for real exoplanets in space.

We also got hands-on with CCP’s immersive VR sport game Sparc, looked at Valkyrie‘s new Groundrush game mode that has players fighting inside huge structures on a planet’s surface, and confirmed that DUST 514 successor Project Nova is still in development. There were talks at Fanfest that we just didn’t get a chance to go to, and others that really have to be seen first-hand. Thankfully, CCP has recorded most of the event and has begun uploading talks to the EVE Online YouTube channel.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I’ll be running down some of the highlights of the official videos from EVE Fanfest 2017 for those who missed the event.

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The Game Archaeologist: SOE’s The Agency

The graveyard of Sony Online Entertainment and Daybreak Game Company is certainly full enough to be considered a threat if there was ever a zombie uprising among MMORPGs. From PlanetSide to Free Realms, there are plenty of live games that were disposed of in this grim fictional burial ground. But there are also those stillborn titles that never had the change to make or break in a live environment. EverQuest Next might be the most fresh in our minds, but go back a handful of years and you might have seen players lamenting the loss of a different promising SOE game: The Agency.

The Agency seems like a natural fit for the studio’s focus on first-person shooters and a willingness to branch out from strictly fantasy territory. Instead of dragons or stormtroopers, players in this game were to face off against terrorist organizations and dastardly spy agencies, all in the pursuit of living out the ultimate James Bond fantasy.

But instead of sitting on our desktop, The Agency exists only in a forgotten corner of this imaginary cemetery. Today, let us tenderly brush off its worn tombstone and remember what we can about this canceled spy shooter.

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EVE Fanfest 2017: EVE Online plans amazing new PvE gameplay

Today’s EVE Online is a far cry from the empty but hopeful sandbox released back in 2003, having constantly re-invented itself for over 14 years and put together some incredibly ambitious visions for the future. Executive Producer Andie “CCP Seagull” Nordgren shared one of these visions in her Fanfest keynote speech four years ago, laying out the long-term goal of having players build their own stargates, explore deep space and colonise previously undiscovered star systems. This trajectory has brought us Citadels, Engineering Complexes, and soon Upwell Refineries, but it isn’t the only plan for evolving EVE and it may not even be the most impressive one.

Last year we heard from CCP Burger and CCP Affinity on some amazing advances that had been made in NPC AI for the powerful roaming Drifter ships, and broad plans to integrate parts of that more widely into the game, possibly even creating something CCP Burger called “PvPvE.” We got our first taste of the end result after EVE Vegas 2016 when NPC mining operations began appearing in certain star systems and mimicking the activity of real player mining ops — They had mining barges hoovering up rocks in the belts, haulers picking up the ore, and even combat ships using PvP setups and strategies modelled on real players that would chase attackers around the star system. This first iteration of the feature was impressive, but at EVE Fanfest 2017 we discovered that an even more incredible future awaits EVE players.

Read on for a breakdown of the next stage in EVE‘s PvE gameplay and an interview with CCP Seagull on how this feature will be rolled out over high-security space and beyond.

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Dark and Light’s world is an explorer’s dream come true

Recently, the Dark and Light team posted an interview with… itself, which is a totally normal thing to do. It’s actually a pretty interesting read about the tack that the team is taking with its worldbuilding design, particularly in the first section of the game.

Players will begin their journey in Dark and Light in a 20-area region called The Sacred Path. Here they’ll enjoy protection and resources of one of three capital cities before venturing off to create their own houses and outposts. The devs said that there are plenty of places to explore and secrets to uncover, particularly those floating about in the sky. With about 70 to 100 people per server, the devs expect that everyone will have enough elbow room to explore and build without worrying about the crush of crowds.

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LOTRO Legendarium: Playing second fiddle to the Fellowship

Back when Lord of the Rings Online was being developed as Middle-earth Online in the late 1990s, the original concept was to plop players into the Fourth Age after the fall of Sauron and the destruction of the One Ring. The idea was that this would allow for a lot more flexibility and world manipulation once the game escaped the direct influence of Tolkien’s narrative.

LOTRO, on the other hand, went a different way. The devs obviously felt that more players would want to adventure during the events of the books, especially since the story offered more details, characters, and conflicts. But that left the team with a different problem, which was how to insert player characters into a narrative that was rigidly defined by the trilogy. The solution, as we all well know, was to have the player be “a” hero, just not “the” heroes of the books. And this hero would go off on a story of his or her own that would in many ways parallel the Fellowship’s struggles but not slavishly stick by Frodo’s side as the invisible 13th member.

So how has LOTRO handled this concept of the player as a “second fiddle” over the years? I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, particularly as we turn the bend into Mordor.

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City of Heroes-inspired MMORPG Ship of Heroes has canceled its Kickstarter bid

The team behind Ship of Heroes has just announced that it’s canceling its Kickstarter. Since the crowdfund’s launch on April 4th, it had raised only $35,138 of its $400,000 goal.

“We’ve had a very successful first day of fundraising, and then a slowdown,” Heroic Games’ Casey McGeever told backers in today’s update. “It does not look to us like we will reach our current goal of $400,000. So we did what we usually do, we listened to you, our supporters, to see what you are thinking. And we have drawn some conclusions. We went to Kickstarter too early. Our goal was high, and surprisingly many potential donors are only hearing about Ship of Heroes for the first time right now; they are understandably confused about some aspects of the game, and hesitant to support it just yet.”

Consequently, the team has vowed to cancel the Kickstarter and return to development while “raising awareness of the game.” A donation option will eventually be available on the game’s website for those who want to chip in.

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