When you think of MMORPGs, I wouldn’t blame you if your mind stayed rooted firmly in the past decade or so, perhaps taking a brief vacation to 1997 before returning to today’s 3-D polygonal glory. But it’s not like people just woke up in the late 90’s, looked at each other, and said, “Hmm. Online multiplayer RPGs. Let’s make it happen!”
On the contrary, history had been building up to that moment for quite some time. Tabletop RPGs and computer MUDs (multi-user dungeons) were both important ancestors of modern MMOs, just as was a mostly forgotten piece of software lore: the bulletin board system, also known as the BBS.
In layman’s terms, BBSes were like pocket internets — host computers that allowed anyone to dial up and use special programs remotely. While BBSes weren’t (initially) tied together like the world wide web, they featured a lot of the elements that would make the world wide web so popular, such as email, forums, and, yes, online games.
Today’s special Game Archaeologist will take a brief look at the history of the BBS, as well as a couple of its games that could be considered “MORPGs” (the “massively” part would be a while in coming). Dial up, gentle readers, and make your hissing modem noises!
When the toxicity topics just keep piling up in the news room and nobody wants to cover them, you get the Toxicity Roundup, your weekly report on who’s being a jerk in gaming this week! (We’re kidding. This is not really a thing. We don’t really want this to be a thing. Please don’t make this a thing.)
Let’s start with Overwatch. Kotaku has a report out on a stream sniper who was hassling popular streamer TimTheTatMan. The troll would show up in the streamer’s matches, refuse to play anything but Symmetra, and proceed to suck – meaning the team always lost. Apparently, TimTheTatMan wasn’t the only person this jerk had griefed. “To be clear this player is being banned, not for their hero choice, but rather for systematically ruining Overwatch games for thousands of players,” Blizzard wrote on Reddit. “We recognize that not finding this player faster is an unfortunate failure of our ever-developing reporting system and we’ve already taken steps to quickly eliminate outliers like this in the future.” So one down, how many more to go?
What else have we got here…
Everyone’s talking about RIFT’s new Prime server idea — and whether or not it will get us playing Trion Worlds’ fantasy MMO once again. Naturally, the blogosphere had a few thoughts about this.
Stargrace said that it was “highly unlikely” that she’d return for this: “While I am drawn into progression servers for EverQuest and EverQuest II due to a heavy nostalgia factor, I don’t get those same warm fuzzy feelings about RIFT.”
“If anything induces me to give RIFT Prime a try it will be the extent to which the experience doesn’t accurately replicate the original,” Bhagpuss said. And Endgame Variable takes a look at it from the perspective of a former player: “Do I want to pay a subscription to play old content in RIFT — a game I’ve already played to death — or pay a subscription to play new content in FFXIV or WoW?”
Back in 2013, when Linda “Brasse” Carlson still fronted SOE’s community branch, she made headlines for making SOE’s anti-toxicity policies very clear. “If we know who you are and you’re abusing somebody on Twitter, we will ban your game account and we will not accept you as a customer ever again,” she told trolls. “It’s not always possible to identify people [in that way], but we take that seriously.” At the time, MMORPG players were divided on whether that was an overall plus for online game communities or a creepy invasion of privacy.
But it’s 2018 now. Times and sentiments have changed, and Blizzard is trying a similar approach now in Overwatch, where toxicity has taken root and blossomed in spite of Blizzard’s apparent efforts to prune it.
In Overwatch’s latest developer update, Jeff Kaplan says fighting toxicity is still a “major initiative” for the studio and that recent additions – like console reporting and suspension warnings – have cut chat toxicity by 17%. Another effective tactic? They’re watching toxic players on social media, particularly in video.
Hawaiian politicians are getting some company on the lockbox front from a compatriot in Washington state.
State Senator Kevin Ranker has introduced legislation there that forces the gaming industry and state gambling officials to determine whether lootboxes/lockboxes in video games constitute gambling under state law – and whether they target minors. According to the Tacoma-based News Tribune, Ranker is pushing specifically for regulation that results in the publication of odds for lockbox mechanics in video games.
“If (parents) realized how predatory these game are then they wouldn’t want them under their Christmas tree, they wouldn’t want them going to their kids,” he reportedly said.
Should the provisional bill pass, the determination must be made by December of this year.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds isn’t giving up on performance optimization and cheater crackdowns, you’ll be glad to know. In its most recent Steam post, Bluehole says it’s helped performance by introducing “multiple areas where players gather before the match start” so that everyone’s not swarming together at the spawn point. Likewise, the studio says it’s “testing a new security (anti-cheat) measure that is still under development.”
Of course, if you scroll down the Steam page there, you’ll see a zillion people begging for PUBG to just region-lock China, as western gamers believe loverseas players using VPNs jack up the game – never mind the argument that Chinese players use hacks with impunity. As we’ve previously reported, PUBG is still in early access in China while partner Tencent sanitizes it for its government-approved release.
Players are currently reporting that the test server, at least, is now subject to a ping lock, which is blocking at least some players from joining servers if their ping is over a set limit, which appears to be around 175ms. It is not clear whether this is a tweak that will migrate to the live game.
What’s Ashes of Creation been up to since that confusing alpha zero rollout back in December, the official class matrix, and the fan Q&A? Working, of course. And that’s on display in a video published last night exploring the world’s UnderRealm. It’s a spooky, glowy, psychedelic, bio-luminescent forest sort of biome that may have those of you with kids humming Trolls.
“We are happy to show a first iteration of our UndeRealm in Ashes of Creation! The team is hard at work and in full production on the world of Verra. This is a first look at the pre-alpha UnderRealm and the difference of look and feel that this area will have from the world above ground. Enjoy, and see you in game soon!”
We’ve tucked it down below.
I am a huge advocate for guilds that can remain friendly to the under 18 crowd. One of my favorite Star Wars: The Old Republic
guilds, Unholy Alliance
, is open to everyone. They have rules in place that make the guild friendly and fun for both adults and those under 18. Of course, I wouldn’t recommend any MMO for those under 13 that wasn’t specifically made for children unless they are accompanied by a trusted individual over 13. If you’re a guild leader, I believe it’s in your best interest to keep your guild friendly to those under 18. It gives you a greater opportunity to grow the guild, and teenagers are some of the best advocates for the game.
On the other hand, many guilds are 18+ and with good reason. Some have even gone so far as to say they don’t want members under 21. Granted, the guilds I’m talking about are usually roleplay guilds. In fact, SWTOR has the most 18+ guilds per capita over any other game from my perception. It’s tough to find a roleplay guild in on Star Forge that accepts players under 18. Although I don’t believe that every guild should be this way, I can understand some of the reasons why, and not all of them have to do with erotic roleplay — although that’s in there. What are the mature-themed guilds that you will find in SWTOR? And do they have to be mature-themed? Let’s answer that below.
If you thought Epic Games was being too rough on cheaters in Fortnite by smacking kids with personal lawsuits, wait until you hear what Tencent is up to. The Chinese gaming giant is preparing to (officially) launch PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds there (yes, it’s already playable there via Steam, but in early access). And ahead of that, it’s going after cheaters, specifically the cheat vendors – hard.
Bloomberg reports that the company has worked with Chinese police to arrest 120 people as part of 30 different cases involving cheat programs for the game. According to the publication, the company is trying to crack down on the hacking that pervades its games, specifically PUBG; those convicted under Chinese law could be sentenced to several years in prison, in addition to fines (and yeah, it’s happened before). So maybe don’t be a hacker targeting a megacorp’s video game in China.
On this week’s show, Bree and Justin dig into the allied races that are coming soon to World of Warcraft, the non-race of the City of Heroes spiritual successors, meaty early 2018 patches, 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:
It’s time to take a diversion to play — and listen — to the minigames tucked inside of our MMOs! The Battle Bards haul out their last show of 2012 with an eclectic and fun assortment of minigame soundtracks. While minigame-specific music might be hard to hunt down, this trio did their best and are reasonably satisfied with the result. Which is good, because no refunds on this podcast!
Battle Bards is a bi-weekly podcast that alternates between examining a single MMO’s soundtrack and exploring music tracks revolving around a theme. MOP’s Justin co-hosts with bloggers Steff and Syl. The cast is available on iTunes, Google Play, TuneIn, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, and Player.FM.
Listen to Episode 112: MMO minigame music (or download it) now:
Oh, I can hear all of you out there, mewing with frustration that Massively OP hasn’t yet announced the truly important awards yet this season. Well whine no more, because the 2017 Online VGM Awards are here (here are 2015 and 2016 for educational purposes)!
Not only are these the only awards that you’ll find on MOP that deal with the greatness that is MMO video game music, but these are also the only awards that are chosen solely by me. It’s a total power trip that Bree allows me once a year, and I do not squander it. Sure, perhaps I go overboard with the heralds and the flinging of glitter in the faces of my coworkers, but I need it. Oh how I need it.
Without further ado, here are the six awards that I will be handing out from my throne of speakers and keytars. Get your amazed faces ready now to save you the effort later.
Don’t agree that lockboxes, lootboxes, and gambleboxes were the biggest story of the year? We’ve collected so many news tidbits just on that over the last few days that we’re resorting to rounding them up rather than spamming. To wit:
First, Merrill Lynch analysts have now lowered their expectations and profit estimates for EA thanks to the performance of Star Wars Battlefront 2, which the analysts believe will fall short of the 14M sales estimate by 2.5M. At least in big box stores, the game also performed relatively poorly on Black Friday.
On point: I Can’t Believe It’s Not Gambling is under $1 on Steam. “Do you love opening loot crates, but hate the tedious gameplay sessions in between? Our marketing department has the game for you! Unbox random items! Get stuff, but not what you really want! Skate legal and ethical lines! Remember kids, it’s only a video game, so grab your parents’ credit card!”