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The MOP Up: SamuTale’s massive new world (July 23, 2017)

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 AstroneerHearthstoneOverwatchClosers OnlineDragon’s Dogma OnlineMu LegendRagnarok OnlineSoulworker OnlineOrbusVRSkyforgeAge of WushuSamuTale, and Crossout, all waiting for you after the break!

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No, exploitative gacha mechanics are not a good idea for western devs

We’ve been talking about exploitative gacha games and related business models on Massively OP for a long time, most recently and notably in depth earlier this year when we covered how Japan, Korea, China, and Singapore have all passed laws to take the model down a peg. In fact, China’s newest anti-gacha laws have since been used to target MMOs, card games, and even Overwatch’s skins. So given all the crackdowns, you’d think that the trend would be to avoid it, right? That industry analysts and watchers on this side of the pond would be wary?

But no. Bizarrely, there’s a new GamesIndustry.biz article this week in which AppLovin Managing Director Johannes Heinze advocates that western developers start including gachapon mechanics, even citing Pokemon Go as a good example of how well it works. He argues that gacha requires:

  • A large, varied set of content
  • A strong desire from the player to collect as many items as possible
  • A game where gacha content is necessary for players to progress
  • An effective mechanic for duplicate content (to prevent player churn from pulling too many duplicates)

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Pokemon Go: Global summer events and which country spends the most

If you’re looking for something to do this summer and you live in a big city, Pokemon Go — or at least gawking at Pokemon Go die-hards — should be on your agenda. This week Niantic released a length overview of some of the global events it has planned in Copenhagen, Prague, Stockholm, Amstelveen, Oberhausen, Paris, Barcelona, Yokohama, and of course, Chicago, whose sold-out and heavily scalped Pokemon Go Fest is now just a week away. But even if you can’t attend in person, there’s something in it for you:

“During the day, there will be three Challenge Windows in which Trainers everywhere will work alongside those in Chicago to unlock global rewards. During the Challenge Windows, Trainers in Grant Park will attempt to unlock perks for Pokémon GO players around the world by catching certain types of Pokémon. Each Pokémon- type will be tied to a different perk, so Trainers at the park will need to carefully choose which Pokémon they catch. […] Meanwhile, Trainers outside of Chicago will attempt to catch as many Pokémon as possible during the Challenge Windows to extend the duration of the bonuses unlocked by those attending the event. If Trainers around the world catch enough Pokémon, a mystery challenge will be unveiled in Grant Park that, once completed, will unlock an extra-special bonus across the globe.”

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Massively Overthinking: Do MMORPGs aspire to pro-social mechanics?

Massively OP reader and Patron Avaera has a thoughtful question for the team and readers this week. “I wish more virtual world games thought deeply about what impact they can have for the better,” he writes.

“It seems to me we are living in a time when tribalism, intolerance, and lack of empathy are increasing, with online trolling, harassment and simple nastiness on the rise even before considering where real-world politics seems to be heading. Yet research continues to show that immersive virtual worlds (including MMOs) have significant potential to change us through the type of experiences they offer, with recent examples being that a VR out-of-body experience can reduce fear of death and that social exclusion in a game environment carries a negative effect on real-world emotions. Do you think any MMOs are already using this incredible power to change us as people through pro-social mechanics, activities or narratives? Can you think of any examples where you have been moved or changed by game experiences, for better or worse, and do you think this was a deliberate act by developers? As our genre continues on a trajectory away from massively social roleplay towards cliquish competitive skirmishing, are there any signs that there are still companies willing to test whether virtual world games can be more than just moment-to-moment fun or entertainment?”

I posed Avaera’s question to the whole team for an intriguing Overthinking.

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Massively Overthinking: Forced socializing in MMORPGs

Massively OP Patron Jackybah has a question for this week’s Massively Overthinking that’s probably going to kick up some dust. He wonders whether MMO developers recognize and “serve” a particular subgroup of their players enough — specifically, the group of players that do not want to actively participate in social grouping (for dungeons) or social banter (in guild chat) but still want to contribute to and participate in an online world.

“In quite a number of games I feel that the game forces a player to group up to be able to see content and/or get higher-level gear,” he writes to us.

There’s a lot of layers to unpack here — non-social gamers in social spaces, the current state of MMO group content, and even the fundamentals of MMORPGs. Is our Patron right, and if so, is it a problem studios should be addressing? Let’s get to it.

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E3 2017: Hands-on with mobile MMOs Lineage 2 Revolution and Durango

With Pokemon Go trying to avoid explicitly calling itself an MMO, Massively OP once again has room for a top contender in the realm of mobile MMOs. There’s just one problem: We’ve got mostly Western readers for a genre that seems to appeal much more to the East. I was given the opportunity to see top global mobile MMO Lineage 2 Revolution and up and coming dino-sandbox Durango at E3 2017. I can see the appeal of both games, but also some limitations. Let’s dig into both.

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E3 2017: Monster Hunter World demo, difficulty, global appeal, and leaks

Monster Hunter World‘s reveal caught me completely off guard during its E3 2017 reveal. We’d already had a title announced for the Nintendo Switch, and I’d figured that was our usual non-spinoff MH entry for the year. I’ve admittedly not finished or heavily invested in the series since leaving Japan, but part of that is because the American mobile gaming culture doesn’t really have the fanbase Japan does. In fact, I got into Monster Hunter Tri in a bad way because it was a console title. While the portability of the series really helped me to explore Japan’s gaming scene and meet fellow gamers face-to-face, my gut feeling upon seeing MHW’s console and PC plans was that Capcom might really be able to catch the western audience this time. And that was before seeing Monster Hunter lead designer Yuya Tokuda play the game in real time.

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E3 2017: Final Fantasy XIV’s Naoki Yoshida on Stormblood, design, and themeparks

Since there were so many early access issues with Stormblood, I figured I’d try to give you Final Fantasy XIV players a little something to chew on while Square-Enix smooths out the rough edges and handles today’s launch. Building on Massively OP’s Eliot Lefebvre’s recent interview with Naoki Yoshida/”Yoshi-P” at May’s Final Fantasy XIV event, we sat down again with him for a chat at this year’s E3. And while I haven’t personally spent nearly as much time in the game as a vet like Eliot, I’d heard that Yoshida was very much a gamer’s developer, so I was looking forward to talking with him about not just the game, but game design.

He did not disappoint.

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Shroud of the Avatar adds East Asian-themed town, kicks off Q&A

Fancy a bit of the Far East in your MMORPGs? Shroud of the Avatar is making that wish come true with its unclone of the town of Celestis, as explained in Portalarium’s latest newsletter.

“The terrain is heavily influenced by Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in China, while the cultural decor is influenced by feudal Japan,” writes Level Designer Chris “Seawolf” Wolf. “It will feature a new town center and harbor, several gardens including a rock garden, several koi fish ponds, and a Noh/Kabuki stage which can also double as a dance floor. There are also a few Easter-eggs throughout the scene which pay tribute to some of my favorite chambara (classic samurai films).”

Richard Garriott and crew are running an Ask Me Anything on the /r/SotA_Official subreddit beginning at 11 a.m. EDT today (just as this post goes live). The discussion is intended to focus on the SeedInvest equity crowdfunding campaign currently live for the company.

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E3 2017: Elder Scrolls Online’s Matt Firor on Morrowind, nostalgia, and PvP

The Elder Scrolls Online released its first expansion, Morrowind, shortly before E3 2017. MMOs rarely come up with mainstream media, but with Morrowind’s nostalgia power, I heard the name mentioned a few times off the showroom floor. While I’d heard of Morrowind, of course, I didn’t personally get on the Elder Scrolls train until Skyrim — it’s been one of those games making “best of” lists for as long as I could remember. However, some of the things I’d read about the upcoming expansion gave me pause, so I brought them up with ZeniMax Game Director Matt Firor during our conversation at E3.

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The Game Archaeologist: Phantasy Star Online

The Dreamcast was a brief but shining aberration in the gaming world. Coming along years after Sega had fallen out of its position as a top-runner in the console market, it represented the company’s last-ditch attempt to reclaim its former glory. While it failed to succeed in that respect and ultimately closed up shop in 2001 (ending Sega’s interest in the console market), the Dreamcast became a gaming cult favorite responsible for some of the most innovative titles ever made. Games like Jet Grind Radio, Space Channel 5, and Shenmue have remained fan favorites long after the Dreamcast’s demise, which shows the legacy that these dev teams left behind.

But perhaps the Dreamcast’s greatest gift to the gaming world wasn’t crazy taxis or space dancing but a surprisingly forward-looking approach to online gaming. In 2000, the Dreamcast took the first steps to bringing an online console RPG to market, and while it wasn’t a true MMO, it certainly paved the way for titles like EverQuest Online Adventures and Final Fantasy XI.

It was bold, it was addictive, and it was gosh-darned gorgeous. Ladies and gentlemen: Phantasy Star Online.

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Pokemon Go Fest unleashes summer events in the US, Europe, and Japan

Can you believe Pokemon Go is almost a year old? Remember back when there was so much PoGo news that we gave up and went to a daily roundup of all the nonsense and vandalism and accidents and lawsuits and government security freakouts? Good times, good times. Niantic also remembers and is ramping up to celebratory summer events — plural. If you still play, here’s what you’re looking at during Pokemon Go Fest:

  • There’s a Pokemon Go celebration in Chicago’s Grant Park on June 19th. (You have to buy tickets, note.) The studio says other US cities may get their own version of this meet-and-greet.
  • Unibail-Rodamco shopping centers across Europe will play host to multiple celebrations over the next four months. No details yet.
  • Yokohama, Japan, will suffer a “Pikachu Outbreak,” which sounds scary but is said to be a “unique experience.”
  • Finally, everyone can take part in the Solstice Event:

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Massively Overthinking: 2017’s MMORPG zeitgeist

This time last year, I polled the Massively OP writers for their opinions on which MMOs had had the best year, or half year, up to that point in 2016 — which games were the most influential and important specifically in that time period. I was pretty surprised at the spread of answers too. Since we’re nearing the midpoint of 2017, I thought we should renew that question and see whether anything’s changed. So as last time, I’m asking everyone to pick three games that represent the MMORPG zeitgeist, using whatever combination of criteria they wish – revenue, playerbase size, hype, anticipation, update cycle, and so forth. What should we be paying attention to? Which games are a sign of the times? And just who is dominating now in 2017?
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