When the NDA is away, the cats will play -- and take screenshots! Bless our dear community for documenting upcoming MMOs as they venture into these virgin territories.
ZulikaMiNam had some fun in one game that I haven't seen much from readers yet: "Since there are no NDA restrictions imposed for this alpha weekend kickoff over at Shards Online I will post some pics from there. I accidentally healed a skeleton while trying to heal myself. So my name turns grey and anyone can kill me now. Time to lay low for a bit."
Are you still laying low? You can... probably come out now. That skeleton owes you a life debt for that heroic action.
If you are looking for a bridge between you and the sometimes dense (but quite popular) works of J.R.R. Tolkien, then you could do no better than to sit at the feet of the Tolkien Professor. Dr. Corey Olsen
has been teaching about Tolkien and his collective works for years, providing understanding and fostering discussion in a way that is always interesting and accessible.
Recently, Olsen started up a new course at Signum University (where he is both the founder and president) called "Explore the Lord of the Rings on Location." This free, public course meets every week for a lecture through a chapter in Tolkien's famous trilogy, followed by a "field trip" in Lord of the Rings Online to locations mentioned. It's been a highly publicized event so far, with Standing Stone even creating a special lecture hall in Bree for the series. Interested parties can attend in person in the game, watch via Twitch, or catch up with afterward on the series' YouTube channel.
We caught up with Dr. Olsen to talk about the making of the course, the history behind his university, and his interaction with the long-running MMORPG.
One of the most requested and most delayed requests by the Lord of the Rings Online
community over the years is a revamp to the game's limited housing system. While a complete overhaul isn't happening right now, the good news is that Standing Stone
is starting to test some big improvements
that will allow players more freedom in placing housing decor.
The main change in this upcoming patch is an adjustable housing hook system that sounds similar to what's used in SWTOR: "You can now adjust the precise location of interior housing decorations once they are placed in a hook. The decoration hook UI now includes four scroll bars that allow decorations to be rotated as before, but also to be moved east/west, north/south, and up/down. Exterior housing decorations continue to only allow rotation."
The test server patch also includes additional chat channels and premium housing writs to facilitate the transfer of the newer houses.
While there are plenty of similarities among magic systems in MMOs (hey, how about you cast another fireball? There you go, champ!), there is a lot of variety as well. I'm always attracted to systems that put some though into their design, such as Guild Wars 2's illusion-based Mesmers, the mix-and-match Necromancers of Vanguard, and Lord of the Rings Online's wordy Rune-keepers.
At the very least, I have to applaud developers who at least put in the effort to gussy up the same mechanics in a new outfit. But when a team eschews the tired magic tropes and starts to get imaginative with spellcasting? That's when I perk up and pay attention.
What's your favorite MMO magic system and why?
It's been quite a month since Lord of the Rings Online
and Dungeons and Dragons Online
announced that they were breaking off from Turbine as part of a new studio
called Standing Stone Games
and being published by none other than Daybreak Game Company
. Players have had to deal with equal parts excitement and anxiety over this new course (with old developers). Does it bode for a brighter future, more of the same, or the beginning of the end for these beloved titles?
While Standing Stone has been communicative over the past month, we wanted to dig deeper into the decision to form the new studio, its relationship with Daybreak, and plans for both DDO and LOTRO going forward. To wit, we sat down with Standing Stone Executive Producer Rob "Severlin" Ciccolini, Lead Designer Ben "DrOctothorpe" Schneider, and Community Manager Jerry "Cordovan" Snook to discuss this major transition and its possible impact for these two MMO game worlds.
You know, if my first exposure to Elves had been in Lord of the Rings Online
, I would probably think that they were the most depressing species in existence because they're basically prepping for the most depressing road trip ever. Maybe for all of the right reasons, but still
For those of you who are even less aware of Middle-Earth as a setting than I, the gist of things is that the time of the Elves is nearly done, and they are soon to journey to the West. This is kind of a natural side-effect of the whole to-do about the eponymous Rings, where the Elves can't stick around without them; I'm not entirely clear on the details, there, but the short version is that this is the close of a cycle for the entirety of the race.
So most of your early stuff is based around the fact that the Elves are not, in fact, going out to party and enjoy themselves while Sauron is on the march. Instead, it's all about preparing for the most depressing road trip of all time.
Magic the Gathering and Dungeons and Dragons might be getting an online upgrade in the near future. In a letter written this week to the Wizards of the Coast community, President Chris Cocks told fans that the company under his new leadership would be pursuing "exciting moves" to deliver better digital experiences to its players.
To help with this, the company has formed a digital games studio led by former LOTRO Executive Producer Jeffrey Steefel and staffed with other MMO and games industry vets. The studio will handle Magic Online and other video game initiatives involving Wizards properties. Wizards is also building a publishing team to bring these games to "unexpected settings, genres, and platforms."
Cocks teased some possible projects that the studio might be creating: "What would it be like to throw fireballs as a Planeswalker in an MMO or quest for treasure with your friends in a D&D augmented-reality game?"
A little while back, I took a look at the healthiest games in the MMO space at this time. That was a nice, uplifting list, wasn't it? And all of those titles continue to do just fine, even if one or two might have had a few bits of shocking news along the way.
Unfortunately, this is not an industry in which health is assured. Games can be high-quality and beloved, but they can still be shut down by outside forces. And that's not counting games that just come out in the wrong time period or launch in an unrecoverable state.
That may sound grim, but we're already staring at the first two shutdowns of 2017 in the near future, and both of the titles being killed are surprises. One of them might have wound up on this list if it weren't being shut down, but at this point, it is. So let's look at the MMOs with the most unclear futures and start hoping for the best.
As I peruse a hundred or so community blog posts every day, it's fascinating to me to see what games the MMO blogosphere as a whole is playing and discussing. We sometimes end up flocking to certain titles based on recent announcements or because others are talking them up pretty heavily.
One game that's been getting a lot of mentions on blogs lately is Elder Scrolls Online, with players generally enthusiastic about how it's shaped up into a pretty decent MMO. "It's a really solid game that’s much better than the game that launched," writes Occasional Hero. "Visually, I would probably rank it second behind Black Desert Online for the best-looking MMORPG out there," touts Endgame Variable.
Elder Scrolls Online not your thing? No worries; we have articles covering The Secret World, LOTRO, RIFT, and more in today's community blog roundup!
Ever since I've been covering Lord of the Rings Online
for this site (dating back to 2010!), I've had a tradition of kicking off every year with a wishlist of some of my greatest desires for the game. I think I missed last year, but in the years previous, I would allow myself one wish for every year the game has been operating.
This year? The 10th anniversary means 10 wishes, baby!
It's shaping up to be quite an interesting and exciting year for LOTRO. I've seen friends coming back to the game thanks to the recent news and the promise of the expansion into Mordor. It's almost like we need periodic reminders that, "Oh yeah, that game is still running! And it's pretty darn good!"
But what would I like to see changed, added, or created for the MMO this year? Whether or not the devs ever get around to these, any of them would make my day.
If I had to guess which tabletop roleplaying game I was going to associate with Lord of the Rings Online
, I really wouldn't have guessed Call of Cthulhu
. There have been actual
tabletop games associated with this setting, after all. But no, it's that classic that's been in the back of my mind the whole time, which is something of a compliment.
To my surprise, the CE code that I had for the game from back forever ago did, in fact, work just fine, which meant that I started out with a fresh VIP subscription, a mess of coins, and all of the benefits that I otherwise would have unlock directly. Like the class which got selected for me, for example. After a bit of clicking through options, I created my newest incarnation of Ceilarene because why not her and got thrown into the game's opening sequence.
Which all happens a very, very long time ago, but the game doesn't communicate that terribly well. But that's not entirely its fault.
I usually like to bury my opinion behind a bit of measured fact-checking and the weight of opposing opinions, but Elder Scrolls Online hit all the right buttons for me with its new housing system. I have to sing its praises right now. Based on what I've seen on the public test server, Homestead will give us exactly what we are looking for in an MMO housing system.
Here comes the measured part: We won't really know exactly how the system will work in action until it hits live servers. Crafting and the horrid vendor system in ESO will likely make finding specific housing items unnecessarily difficult, but it's possible that it could be balanced by the crafting system and the Crown Store.
Despite some of the unknowns, I do really like what I've seen so far, and I'd like to give you my first impression of the Elder Scrolls Online housing system.
In a new interview with LOTRO Players
, Standing Stone Games
gave fans a sneak peek at the big projects that are coming for Lord of the Rings Online
as well as a bit of insight about the studio transition in late 2016.
The fun will begin next month with LOTRO's Update 20, which will feature precursor events leading up to Mordor. Speaking of which, the Mordor expansion might be coming as soon as Q2 or Q3 2017 (Cordovan indicated June or after as a possibility). "We've wanted to do Mordor for so long," he said.
The team has "really big" content and gift plans for the game's 10th anniversary, and will continue to work on shoring up the technical side and reducing lag. There are also plans for a post-expansion update for later this year.
So what was the reason behind the move from Turbine to Standing Stone Games? Cordovan hedged a bit, saying that it was a corporate decision in the works for a year. "It aligned with everyone's interests in a way that I think will be interesting for everybody involved. An opportunity came up and we were able to make this happen," he said.
Listen to the full interview (it's the first segment of the show) after the break.