Haven’t you ever wished that you could bring your favorite Overwatch characters on a grand tour of every Blizzard game? Because… well, you sort of can in the upcoming Blizzard World map when it launches on January 23rd, but you’ll mostly be dealing with actual map objectives. Sadly, there is no game mode where you can place an order for food at Snaxxramas, which should be a sign that Overwatch has failed us all in development.
You can also dress up your favorite Overwatch characters as other Blizzard characters, some of whom can fight alongside these same characters in other games. None of those skins includes a serpent eating its own tail, but we’re sure it’s just a matter of time. (Seriously, that isn’t a Nova costume for Widowmaker. That’s just Nova. It’s just straight-up Nova.)
The first week of the Overwatch League also apparently drew over 10 million viewers, which means that technically you could consider playing the game yourself to be like a touch football game in the backyard. Check out the skins and the old trailer for Blizzard World just below.
When I think back about the ways in which MMOs have improved over the 15-ish years I’ve been playing them, my thoughts invariably turn to one of the biggest tools in your MMO arsenal. I speak, naturally, of the honorable map. Humble in stature yet great in impact, the map is how you know where you’ve been, where you’re going, and where you need to sell your garbage after you’ve gotten to your destination. Or they do now, anyway; for a long time I remember MMOs having maps that were only marginally better than “utterly useless.”
Seriously, I think I got more navigational help out of the pack-in fold-out map for City of Heroes than the actual in-game map for a disappointingly long stretch of that game’s lifespan. This is not the way a map should be.
Fortunately, maps are generally a fair bit better at this point, but several of them could still use improvement. World of Warcraft still lacks good labeling on the overall zone map as opposed to the minimap for things like vendors, and an awful lot of maps lack elements like Final Fantasy XI’s user-defined labels (which were a nice feature of some overall terrible maps). So what do you think, readers? What live MMO has the worst possible maps?
The maps in Crowfall are assembled in a combination of procedural and hand-crafted generation. Individual bits are hand-crafted, but the maps as a whole are put together using these linking pieces. Players have seen plenty of the stronghold parcels of maps (places where you can build things) and the wilderness parcels (places where you can harvest materials to build things), but the maps also contain adventure parcels, filled with dangerous critters to hunt for valuable materials.
These parcels are also constructed from several smaller parts, but they allow players to feel guided through rough terrain in a different way, complete with cosmetic layers and different possible layouts to ensure that while the parts might be recognizable, the overall map never becomes repetitive. You can check out all of the details in the recent dispatch about how these parcels guide you through danger; there’s also an article about handling your graphics settings in the game’s newest test builds if you just want to improve your performance or the look of the game.
Hunting down bugs in a video game is not the same as hunting down enemies. That’s true even if the bug is a severe one, like the one that Valiance Online is currently trying to fix up wherein sometimes the client crashes when projectiles strike an enemy. This is a rather significant bug in a game where you expect lots of characters to fight with eye beams, hand beams, and other forms of beam as necessary; the developers are hard at work tracking it down.
But herein lies the problem: Since it isn’t like tracking down enemies, the developers cannot use the previewed in-game map to go to the zone where all of the bugs are located and killed them. Game development does not work that way. You, however, can check out the map and get a gander at the street layouts, which will help you significantly if you’re in the current alpha test or just look forward to signing on later. Although perhaps you should just stick with good old-fashioned super strength if you do.
Remember Kingdom of Loot? It’s cute, it’s pixelated, and it’s Secret of Mana meets Diablo in early access. So how is that working out? Well, the most recent video from the team shows off the game’s upcoming world map system, which is almost ready. Not quite ready, no, and you can see some framerate stutters due to the video being from a development machine, but the important thing is that it’s recognizably world-map-ish.
This particular video is devoted to showing off the world map, entering and exiting from various points, and so forth, so there’s no combat to speak of. It should, however, give you a navigational preview before the update goes live. Check it out just below if you feel like you haven’t had quite enough pixel-based artwork in your life recently.
Inconvenience is not immersion.
This strikes me as something rather ridiculous to type; to mildly paraphrase Dan Harmon, it seems like should be one of the more automatic things to tell people, like “I am a human being” or “I have skin” or “I breathe oxygen.” And yet I see this coming up, time and again, the idea that accessibility is somehow a boundary to immersion. Or that you need this sort of tedium in order to have genuine roleplaying or some other tribute to broken mishmashes and unnecessary inconvenience.
Except that, as mentioned, inconvenience is not immersion. They mean two different things. If you’re conflating the two, you’re pushing two unrelated concepts together in a way usually seen in clueless movie executives. (“This movie about young adults with a love triangle did well, so every movie with young adults probably needs a love triangle.”) You are, I assume, smarter than that.
As I level up my many jobs on my main in Final Fantasy XIV, I feel compelled to take on all of the sidequests meant for leveling from 60-70. This is not, strictly speaking, necessary. Heck, it’s entirely unnecessary at this point; I can just do Alliance Raid roulettes and Kojin quests. But I feel as if I should close out these quests, pick up these little extra bits of story along the way before they become perfunctory.
Some games reward completionist tendencies, of course; Guild Wars 2 maps are designed to be cleared out, to use an obvious example. But none of that changes the simple reality of whether you’re into it or not. So what about you, dear readers? Are you a completionist in MMOs? Are there things you feel compelled to clear out in your game of choice? Or do you take a strictly utilitarian approach and assume that any quests/objectives/whatever that you’ve outleveled can just remain forgotten?
In Final Fantasy XI, my first MMO, maps were few and far between, often blindingly unclear, and offered as many opportunities to be hopelessly lost as they did for finding your way. Pretty much nothing important was marked on the map even if you had one. Being lost was the default state.
This is unusual now. City of Heroes and Guild Wars both surprised me by how resistant they were to letting me get lost, and World of Warcraft now makes it nigh-on impossible. And on some level, this is undeniably a good thing, because it means I spend less time trying to find where the Thing is and more time actually interacting with the Thing.
But then, some people really do prefer that sense of not knowing where the next objective might be. So today I ask, dear readers: do you like being lost in MMOs? Is part of the excitement of the genre for you when you don’t know where to go? Or do you consider better maps and more efficient guidance to be a boon to the genre?
After some major mechanical changes, it’s possible that a lot of maps in Armored Warfare just don’t have the pop they used to. But you needn’t worry about the Ghost Field map, because that map has recently undergone an extensive overhaul for both PvP matches and Global Operations encounters. And these changes are all made with the recent mechanical revisions in mind, so you can be sure that things like foliage and cover are arranged accordingly.
In addition to new objectives for the Global Operations encounter, players will also note that tank commanders are no longer required to pay for ammunition or repairs. This allows you to focus more on controlling key points and deploying NPC assistance to take control of the map as a whole. Check out some screenshots and a video preview of the map just below. We should note that despite the name, the redone map still does not feature any ghosts; whether this is a positive or not will depend on your personal attitudes about fighting ghosts in tanks.
It’s a great big world out there, full of opportunities for adventure. It’s also a great big world in Gloria Victis, made even bigger when you consider that the most recent patch has added more than 50% more world on to the existing… er, world. That means more land and more regions to explore, ranging from mountain villages to houses scattered through the wilderness. You’ll also have more animals to hunt, more resources to gather, and more overall world to explore and tame.
That in and of itself is cool, but players can also look forward to the game’s long-awaited major combat upgrade taking place next month. There’s even another world expansion being planned, along with a new culture for players to explore. So the game is getting bigger, the combat is getting more satisfying, and the space to roam is getting wider. That’s going to give you some opportunities for adventure right there.
Hector is coming! That’s not a person’s name; it’s the name of an update in Albion Online, so you can spare yourself getting a cake ready and all of that. But there’s still a fair bit to do with the update, since Hector brings the introduction of the game’s Black Market as well as revised Hellgates and Outlands for players to explore. The Black Market allows you to sell items which will then be resold to enemies around the world as drops, so you can get rid of that unwanted sword and let someone else pick it up unexpectedly after fighting a beetle.
Outlands are seeing their harbors and cities removed (which means players will need to retrieve items stored there before the patch), replaced with portals that allow quick travel in and out. Resources and watchtowers are being tweaked to allow all players access to the region while maintaining a sense of danger. Hellgates, meanwhile, have a new map layout, new minions and mechanics, and new tiers of difficulty for various players. You’ll be able to try all of this yourself on June 7th, so make sure to grab items from the Outlands settlements before then.
When it comes to sequels, the general philosophy is to go bigger and better than the original. For the zombie-filled State of Decay 2, this means not only offering multiplayer co-op for the first time but also tripling the game world size over its predecessor.
In a new dev blog this week, Undead Labs said that the game will launch with three maps, each around the same size as the original game’s landscape. The maps will offer a variety of locations and layouts, lending themselves to different strategies for teams. Players will be able to take their gear and some resources with them when they hop areas.
Undead Labs said that the multiple map setup offers more fun and the potential for future expansion: “It really feels like you’re moving from one small town to another, and creates a tremendous sense of immersion. And perhaps counter-intuitively, it makes the world feel even bigger.”
So at the risk of being dinged for spoiling the current World of Warcraft expansion, let me say this: Azeroth is not going to be destroyed or completely overtaken by the Burning Legion. That’s a given. The threat certainly feels real, and I hope more than anything that when our victory comes it feels like a natural outgrowth of the story rather than an arbitrary “well, the story says you win right now so the Burning Legion just got dumb,” but it’s pretty much a given that we’re going to win out in the end. The basic premise of the game doesn’t work otherwise.
The question, of course, is where we go next.
A lot of people have been speculating whether Legion is meant to be the final expansion for the game for precisely that reason, and while I think that’s obviously wrong on the face of it (it’d be silly to turn down that money, after all), the point stands that from a narrative perspective, this is it. This is the big confrontation that has been built up since Warcraft III, and if you have no doubt that there will be a next expansion, it still raises the question of “where does it go?”
Let’s explore the possibilities.