Everybody saw NCsoft’s financials last month, I’m sure – Guild Wars 2 bouncing back thanks to Path of Fire, Lineage M driving revenue, and Blade & Soul outperforming almost everything, pretty good news all around.
What we didn’t cover was the associated conference call and Q&A, which has only recently been fully transcribed in English and has a few nuggets worth highlighting
- CFO Jae-Soo Yoon told listeners the company is working on 13 new titles, of which the largest are Blade & Soul II, Aion Tempest, and Lineage II Mobile, all mobile titles, and Project TL for PC.
- To make those happen, the company’s hired “around 1000” new employees over the last two years. One analyst was skeptical about those numbers, suggesting that NCsoft is overspending on labor compared to an unnamed smaller company launching far more games; Yoon counters with some polite shade by suggesting NCsoft is going to for quality over quantity.
So… it looks like NCsoft is really sticking with the “Project TL” name, huh? The game developer replaced the old Lineage Eternal site with a new Project TL teaser page, further cementing the name and game direction change into its public vision.
Last week, NCsoft announced that Lineage Eternal was going back to the drawing board to receive a new Unreal 4 engine, add more MMO mechanics, and change its name in the process (TL stands for “The Lineage,” which just stumbles off the tongue).
Lineage Eternal has been in the works for years now, but it seems that NCsoft is playing it as safe as possible with the third main installment of its flagship MMORPG franchise. Steparu reports that current and previous Lineage Eternal testers will receive some sort of compensation from NCsoft for the delay and change-up.
Here’s this week’s test of age: When you see the title of Closers Online, is your first thought along the lines of “help me, I’ve torn apart my insides” or “four years, no call, now you’re looking pretty in a hotel bar”? It really doesn’t matter either way; the game just entered closed beta, so you can buy a founder’s pack to get in whether you want to growl about losing yourself in bed or sing about stealing mattresses from roommates.
Meanwhile, we bid farewell to Mu Legend as it moves into open beta, which rhymes with “soft launch” in this case.
Other beta news? Not a whole lot, but it’s still there if you know where to look! Specifically, toward games in testing. That’s where to look.
- After ages of tests and rumors, Lineage Eternal is being rebooted as Project TL, which is… we’d like to say a step closer to release? It’s not actually even in consistent testing, see.
- The second week of early testing for Prosperous Universe apparently felt a lot slower than the first one in terms of gameplay. But that’s still providing lots of technical data, so it counts as a net win.
- The plans are set for OrbusVR’s early access schedule once December rolls around, but it’s still in a beta state for the rest of November. There’s a plan, and that plan is important.
While the week may have been quiet (read: while the week was totally quiet), there’s still a whole list of games on the testing docket just below. If you’re curious, you can jump on down there and check them out, but you can also let us know about the tests you’ve personally been checking out down in the comments. And if you’ve seen a game on the list that seems to have changed states without us noticing? Do let us know with specificity, that helps us yank things from the list.
NCsoft tipped its hand on its upcoming Project TL/Lineage Eternal do-over, Blade & Soul 2, and Aion Tempest, but it’s far from the only East Asian company pumping out new games.
As Steparu chronicles, Bluehole is indeed still working on Project W. We don’t know a whole lot, but there are a few snippets in the company’s G-Star trailer showing this MMORPG’s decidedly steampunk aesthetic.
ChangYou, which I still can’t forgive for killing off Zentia in the west, has a codenamed MMO of its own on the way: Project Z Online. According to Steparu, it’s a classic tab-target PC MMORPG that eschews gender-locked characters.
Finally, there’s God Slayer Online, also from ChangYou, which we’ve covered before during its looooooong beta testing and in its current iteration is much more focused on combat and customization.
We’ve tucked the relevant videos down below. Anything you’re looking forward to porting westward?
Remember Lineage Eternal? It seems as if we’ve been watching the gorgeous MMOARPG sequel to the Lineage franchise for half of forever, as NCsoft has moved it into and out of testing over the last several years, finally admitting last summer that it was gutting the game and starting over with Unreal 4 following the replacement of the team lead. Maybe the more upsetting news at the time was the rumor that it was switching from MMOARPG to just another mobile title.
And now we know just a little bit more: Lineage Eternal is now being called Project TL (“The Lineage”) and is indeed a do-over using the U4 engine, although as MMO Culture points out, plenty of other assets and the entire character system has been replaced with a more MMORPG-like customization mechanic, which is great news! It doesn’t sound like a mobile MMO as rumored, as NCsoft is hinting at consoles. Closed beta is expected next year. The trailer is down below!
When Lost Ark was first announced back in 2014 as basically the next generation of Diablo-clone in an MMO, I remember being straight-up grabby-hands about it. But Smilegate’s splashy isometric MMO, like its soulmate Lineage Eternal, has been delayed significantly, with a beta landing last year (a year behind schedule) and continuing even now. Fortunately, this summer we’ve had a trickle of news crossing the Pacific thanks to the translation efforts of Steparu, who today has another update.
And it’s got boats.
Steparu reports that the game has improved significantly since the first round of closed beta testing. The new screenies demo sailing content, islands, treasure chests (looks like they’re being hauled up from the depths of the sea from a boat crane), an ocean storm, marine life — it’s gorgeous. Even if you aren’t an isometric viewpoint fan, it’s worth a look.
Steparu is reporting on a Korean-language piece today that suggests Lineage Eternal is once again in do-over mode. According to the report, NCsoft has gutted the game’s engine plans, switching from the Guild Wars engine originally used and porting over to Unreal 4. This follows the replacement of the team lead on the game back in March, all of which is delaying the game (again). The report also floats the idea that the game may launch as a mobile game, not as a full-fledged MMOARPG as originally envisioned.
Lineage Eternal has been floating around in our field of view for years. First announced in 2011, it saw its first closed beta almost exactly three years ago. But following several focus group tests in 2015, the game skipped G-Star that year and resurfaced with yet another beta just before Christmas last year. A global beta was planned for this year until the previous quarterly report, during which it was revealed that NCsoft had overturned the development leadership, suggesting that the closed beta failed to “reflect NCsoft’s characteristics.”
Another interesting bit from NCsoft’s conference call? There’s a supposed Guild Wars 2 mobile game that may or may not go forward.
NCsoft’s first quarter financials for 2017 have released, and… well, let’s get the bad news out of the way. While sales dropped only slightly since the preceding quarter and in line with last year, the company’s operating profits and incomes fell sharply, in the -60 to -77% range both quarter over quarter and year over year. The company says that’s “due to incentives paid on the back of record-high earnings last year.” In particular, Lineage 1’s sales were down significantly on the quarter and the year (“due to the early sales recognition in 4Q and weaker traffic from anticipated Lineage M demand”). Aion’s and Lineage II’s sales dropped ever so slightly, as did Guild Wars 2’s, which has fallen by more than half following the late 2015 launch of Heart of Thorns.
The good news? Blade and Soul saw a small boost.
During the conference call, NCsoft announced that it has overturned the development leadership working on Lineage Eternal, suggesting that the closed beta failed to “reflect NCsoft’s characteristics” and promising a retooled dev schedule in the months ahead.
On the surface, fourth quarter 2016 financials
for MMORPG giant NCsoft
look solid. Yesterday, the company released its investor report, highlighting hefty year-over-year and quarter-over-quarter growth in sales and operating profit, both setting records for the studio.
Among NCsoft’s chief games, Lineage as always drives performance, significantly so this quarter, but Lineage II, Aion, Blade and Soul, and Guild Wars 2 held more or less steady over their previous quarters too, though Aion and GW2 are down year-over-year.
Of note, WildStar’s performance is no longer being reported separately, so we can no longer track its downward trends; it’s now bundled unceremoniously into “other sales” — not a good sign, but presumably better than the alternative.
One of Lineage Eternal’s unique selling points that sets it apart from most other ARPGs is its multiple character system. This allows you to easily amass and field several characters instead of merely focusing on a single one during your career.
Steparu penned an article to explain how this works. As it stands right now, players will be able to collect, gear, and level multiple characters during their adventures. You can only typically have one character out at a time, but you can set four characters to hotkeys for easy on-the-go swapping. This will allow you to pull out a character for specific situations when you come to them.
It gets really interesting in certain dungeons where you are able to field an entire party of four characters at once. While you will only directly control one character as the computer handles the other three, it’s still your own pocket small group on the go. Steparu notes that you can collect more than four characters, but you’ll have to choose which four you want to feature via the menu.
One of the frustrating bits about our end-of-the-year content rollouts is that sometimes predictions and story roundups can come across as negative. It’s way too easy to assume that if someone is predicting game X will flop, she wants it to happen and is gleefully steepling her fingers and cackling madly over its future demise. Which is just not so! I never steeple my fingers.
But all the same, for tonight’s Massively Overthinking, we’d like to take a moment to set aside our fears and expectations and just talk about our hopes and wishes for 2017 in an MMORPG context. That was what we think will happen. This is a summary of our most optimistic daydreams.
Right now we are in a strange place in MMORPG history. Following the backlash of WoW clones and several high-profile titles that underperformed, major studios are becoming extremely risk-averse to creating big-budget titles the way that we saw not five years ago. Many former MMO teams are diversifying with shooters, MOBAs, and other safer and trendier titles.
Yet all is not lost! MMO features continue to ripple out into all types of game genres and new titles continue to be produced — just not from the usual suspects. Instead, most of what is on our immediate horizon comes from either crowdfunded indie teams or eastern giants. The good news is that 2017 should see the culmination of many of these long-brewing projects and adaptations, hopefully resulting in a bumper crop of interesting online RPGs for us to play.
So let’s run down the list of games that either are or possibly could be coming to you in 2017. We will provide an overview of each title, why you should care about it, and our best guess at the odds of its officially launching during the calendar year. If an upcoming MMO is not on the list, then it is our opinion that while we’ll see it eventually, a 2017 release isn’t happening.
The upcoming Lineage Eternal is going to feature player killing. That’s kind of the nature of the game; it’s part of the franchise, after all. So what do the mechanics look like for fighting players and trying to take their belongings in the closed beta? There are two videos from Steparu outlining the experience just below, although you should be fairly warned that you’re not necessarily going to have the easiest time partaking in the “loot other people’s stuff” process.
In short, you can turn on the option to kill other players any time you want, but you can only loot items from players if they also have this mode turned on. Any dropped items will come randomly from the characters in your first several character slots, so you can’t be sure what you’re losing until it happens. There’s a fair amount of risk involved, as a result, and it’s not really worth killing other players unless you have a chance at getting some items… or unless you just really, really want to ruin someone’s day for no reason. Check out the footage past the break.