E3 is drawing to a close, with its reveals over and done with — all that’s left is processing our interviews and hands-on pieces. But in the meantime, we decided to take this week’s Overthinking to consider the field. MMORPGs haven’t shined brightly at E3 in a long time, so our expectations are usually low — the con is interesting to us more for what’s happening on the multiplayer front.
So that’s what we asked our staff: What’s the most interesting or grabby-hands MMO or MMO-ish thing from E3 this year? Which game would get your best in show and why? There’s also an extra bonus section on the con itself courtesy of our writer on the floor.
An RPG based on Magic: the Gathering is one of those things I have both long wanted and long assumed was just never going to happen. Now it’s happening, and it’s happening at the hands of Cryptic and PWE. That doesn’t necessarily make me enthusiastic about the business models, but it does mean (based on the studios’ other games) that it’ll be good solid fun to play just the same.
It makes me especially happy because it’s possible to play a lot of MtG without ever knowing anything about the setting, too. Now you sort of have to.
My time with MtG as an active player is definitely in my rear-view mirror, but it’s possible to have a passing familiarity with the game but not really get what in the world is there to base a non-card game upon. Since I tend to absorb this stuff, though, my mind was immediately set aflame with visions of teleporting between planes, summoning creatures, and collecting artifacts. So let’s take a look at the lore behind the cards and speculate a bit on systems, shall we?
At this point, Cryptic Studios has a stable of games based off of existing IPs, most notably Star Trek Online, Neverwinter, and the upcoming game based on Magic: the Gathering. A new interview on GamesIndustry.biz with CEO Stephen D’Angelo discusses working with the IP and making a successful game out of it, noting that first and foremost it’s a matter of finding the core element of the IP that makes it interesting and designing the game around that.
D’Angelo explains that the studio’s core goal is to expand beyond the existing audience for the IP by exploring new directions, rather than trying to solely cover the same material as the original; he notes that the expansion into Magic: the Gathering made sense due to a strong working relationship with Wizards of the Coast and the desire to not simply make an online version of the same card game. The studio wants to explore the world from another angle, just like Neverwinter doesn’t simply plug the stats of the tabletop game into digital form. If you’re interested in the mechanisms of making an IP-based MMO work, the full interview is worth a read.
One of the largest and longest-running collectible card games is about to become a brand-new role-playing video game, courtesy of Cryptic Studios. Cryptic and Perfect World Entertainment announced today that it is ramping up development on a Magic: The Gathering MMORPG in partnership with Wizards of the Coast.
The untitled game is being made “from the ground up” for both PC and console as a top-tier release and is part of Wizards of the Coast’s Magic Digital Next initiative. According to the press release, the RPG will allow players to “fully immerse themselves in the Multiverse.”
“Everything from the graphics to the gameplay is being targeted for a truly unique AAA game,” said Cryptic CEO Stephen D’Angelo. “We’re thrilled to provide Magic fans with an opportunity to explore the game’s worlds and characters through an entirely new lens. Get ready to embark on a brand new journey.”
For years now, we have been pondering what “top secret” project might be in development over at Cryptic Studios. Well, the studio isn’t talking — yet — but there are indicators that suggest that Cryptic might be working or collaborating on an MMO set in the Magic: The Gathering universe.
PCGamesN connects a few sparse dots to point to such a project, noting that Cryptic ex-devs have gone over to work for Wizards of the Coast and that a new Cryptic job posting for an art director on the unnamed title mentions that the game will be “based on an extremely exciting, well-known fantasy IP.”
“We’re very excited about what we’re working on,” Cryptic has had posted on its top secret project page. “Our top secret work represents our continued commitment to diversify and reach beyond the boundaries of traditional MMORPG gaming.”
You may not play Magic: the Gathering Online, but if you play any sort of free-to-play online card game, you owe some of your history to it. Which is notable, because it’s always been the poor cousin to the classic paper card game, despite being the way to play the game online with others. Traditionally, it’s also gotten its releases of the sets a bit behind the actual hard copy releases, but for the game’s latest set, the digital and cardboard pre-releases happened simultaneously… and a card ban took two days instead of weeks.
How did this happen? Well, normally the delay between the physical release and the online release has been two weeks, but this time they were simultaneous. By having the set immediately available, there was immediate hard data about the prevalence of an infinite damage combo that was more or less everywhere right away. In two days, the designers were able to see, evaluate, and issue a ban to break up the combo, thus preventing it from dominating the game’s environment for more than a two-day stretch. Whether or not that’s a good thing depends on your love of infinite damage on turn four (it’s more lovable when you’re dealing the infinite damage, we should note), but it certainly provides an interesting look at how the online community shaped the environment of the game.
MOP reader Kastaguro sent us an interesting question last month about MMORPGs, board games, and a possible playerbase shift.
“I was wondering if any of you play board games? I have noticed that all the people I know who used to play MMORPG have stopped playing them. We are all older and have been playing MMORPGs since the late ’90s, and they all give the same reason for quitting MMOs: They just don’t like the direction they are going and can’t stand the communities anymore. Instead, they have massive get-togethers with hardcore roleplaying board games, and I have to admit they are really fun. What do you guys think about this? Do you know anyone who quit MMOs for board games that can last for hours at a time?”
MOP’s Andrew proposed that we expand the question to include tabletop pen-and-paper games too, so that’s exactly what we’ll do as we tackle Kastaguro’s Massively Overthinking topic. Do you hardcore MMORPG writers and gamers also play board games or pen-and-paper games? What’s your favorite? Do you think there’s been a shift among online RPG players to more local or personal party games, and if so, is it because of changing lifestyles or something significantly wrong in the MMORPG market itself?
Hands up: Are any of you out there Magic players? Have you ever dabbled in Magic Online? Well if you’ve been hoping for a game that isn’t as advanced as Magic Online yet isn’t as simplified as Magic Duels, then you might be interested to hear that Hasbro is working on a new title under the umbrella of Magic Digital Next.
Magic Digital Next is meant to bridge the accessibility gap between Duels and Online and is still years away from release. It’s aiming for the casual player and competitive player market, perhaps in the hopes to siphon off some of that Hearthstone crowd that has to be a burr in Magic’s side.
“The greatest opportunity for Magic is to create a new digital experience leveraging contemporary technology to create a seamless digital experience that meets all the players needs from new players to pro players,” Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner said at an investor event. “This is what we are investing in and we have a team in place to deliver the first new Magic Digital Next product in the next few years.”
Ever wish you could play Hearthstone but with a sci-fi feel instead? Apparently the people at ZiMAD Games felt that way, as they’re behind the recent early access online CCG Star Crusade. I admit that during the first few games, the game could easily be mistaken for an HS clone in space. However, little differences start to add up to create something that at least proved to me the game immediately has a different meta-game than what I’d find in Hearthstone. Oh, and the idea of a 2v2 co-op mode is something we’ll probably not see in HS for awhile, so I figured I’d talk to producer Alex Rechevskiy about where the game is right now and where it’s going.
I first saw MMOTCG HEX
at E3 2013 at the same time the Kickstarter was revealed to the public, which was actually after it had been cancelled during its initial development. I was immediately impressed with the idea, but not always the execution. Why put PvP in first? Where’s the unique PvE? Where are the guilds? I sympathize with befuddled players: We hear a vision, we like it, and we want to see it too. We just have trouble visualizing the path there and sometimes get impatient.
At E3 2015, I have seen HEX anew. HEX Entertainment CEO and President Cory Jones summed up the bizarre development process:
“HEX is unique. I had to roll out features as they come. Most big companies have enough money to say, ‘No no, we’ll wait till the cake’s baked, and then we’ll put it out.’ I’ve had to go, ‘Oh, this part’s baked; I’ll peel this off and serve it. Here’s some frosting on the side!’ I’ve had to piecemeal you this cake, which is not a good way to serve cake.”