This week, I’m going to depart a little from the usual insights into the world around Star Wars: The Old Republic
and talk about another studio that isn’t owned by LucasFilm
and certainly isn’t owned by Electronic Arts
. I’d like to talk about Fogbank Entertainment
Some people believe that a studio makes a game what is it. Others believe that it’s the IP that the studio carries that makes the video game unique. I think that IP and the studio name carry weight. I certainly would not play SWTOR as much as I do if it carried an IP like Valérian and Laureline. But one of the primary reasons that I believe that SWTOR performed as well as it did (or didn’t, depending on your opinion) was the quality of the people behind it. For me, some of the most integral people to making a good game are the writers. And many of the SWTOR writers have moved on from BioWare and have effectively started their own studio: Fogbank.
If you recognize names like Daniel Erickson, Alexander Freed, Drew Karpyshyn, and Hall Hood, then you will definitely want to see what they are up to at Fogbank Entertainment. If you don’t know who they are, then give me a moment to explain why they are superstars of the gaming and MMO industry.
Now that the fiddle is a playable instrument in Lord of the Rings Online
, the only question left is who will be cast to play Hobbit Tevye in the off-off-Broadway production?
While the addition of a new musical instrument might have gotten buried in all of the other patch notes for LOTRO’s Update 22, the fiddle arrives as a boon to the many player bands and minstrels who have pushed the limits of the music system for years now.
The instrument’s designer, Bill Champagne, wrote about the challenges of creating the authentic sound of the violin for the game: “When it comes to there being many different ways to play an instrument, the fiddle ranks right up towards the top of that list. As a composer I often marvel at the various amount of samples I get to play around with to create my music, and I wanted to give you that same feeling, that same ownership and control over the music that you can make in LOTRO.”
(We’ve updated below with MMOBomb’s detailed investigation into this Indiegogo – short story, don’t go handing over your dough.)
With Marvel Heroes dead and gone, most fans have moved on to other gaming pastures. After all, it would take a miracle to bring it back, right? Turns out that miracles are pretty expensive in this modern age, but there are always those who will take a shot at the near-impossible.
Enter Paragon Institute, a new non-profit that says it wants to purchase Marvel Heroes for $450,000 (or more) and form an indie studio to operate it. Even more interesting, this group says it wants to use Marvel Heroes and other titles as “learning labs” to train developers and preserve abandoned video games.
“Our goal is to establish ElderMage Studios as a learning lab to partner experienced professionals with aspiring game developers to help them gain the skills and hands-on experience necessary to work in the field,” the group posted on IndieGoGo. “This may include time spent supporting or enhancing existing titles to create entirely new ones. A secondary mission is to preserve games that are no longer supported so that those who have licensed them may continue using them and so others may learn from them.”
Diablo, Hellgate: London, and Marvel Heroes creator David Brevik has just announced his newest game — and it’s both similar and unlike anything he’s done before.
It Lurks Below is a 2-D lovechild of horror, Diablo, and Terraria, sending a lone player into a gloomy, pixelated world filled with terrors and spelunking. The game will make heavy use of procedural generation and randomization to create the maps on which players will explore, scavenge, loot, fight, and build. Brevik made the entire game by himself, including the art and music, and he promised fans that it will be coming out later this year with a limited closed beta starting this weekend (which is full, sorry to say, but you can watch Brevik stream it).
How much is too much?
To some, that might seem like a reasonable question. But I knew. I knew. There is no such thing as too much!
There was a question raised on Massively OP this past week about in-game hoarding. I answered… boy did I answer. I kept answering. It was just like my virtual bags: I filled the space to overflowing. And I just kept going. And now, it’s even spilling over to The Soapbox! It’s not my fault games make cool things I like and want to keep, or make getting stuff so much fun (searching through every box and barrel, anyone?). But there is much more to it than that. Yes, I admit I am a serial hoarder. But I am also an unrepentant hoarder! It’s not a problem. Others may think I have a problem.
I see it as item security.
Has the pace of news moved so quickly that we’ve already forgotten about Brendan “PlayerUnknown” Greene’s statement that video games lack any IP copyright protection? Because that was really ridiculous. Especially since what he was referring to was not actually even remotely related to copyright, but covered something that would be handled via patent. And even that wouldn’t have worked!
Of course, you can’t really blame him. By which I mean you can totally blame him, but it’s a common misconception that turns up time and again. People talk about copyright, trademark, and patent issues in the same general melange of “this company owns this,” and the thing is that they’re related terms and concepts that nevertheless mean very, very different things.
A couple of months ago, after we learned about the sunset of Marvel Heroes but before it actually happened early, we asked our local Marvel fans which MMO they planned to play next to fill the hole left by the end of the popular MMOARPG. DC Universe Online and Champions Online were offered as contenders, of course, with the bigger crowdfunded games – Ship of Heroes, City of Titans, and Valiance Online – all getting mentions too.
But since many of those games aren’t actually out yet, and two of them are on the older side, I’m wondering where you actually went – and if it’s outside of the superhero world, what was it that made you trade in your capes and tights. We asked this same question when City of Heroes closed down, for example, and a lot of folks had scattered to some surprising destination rather than the superhero games – Secret World and Star Trek Online, as I recall, led the pack.
Me, I just logged into and swooped around in the City of Heroes Paragon Chat a few times and got it out of my system for another few weeks.
Marvel Heroes players, where did you actually go?
Lies piss me off. I have had MMO developers look me in the eye and lie right to my face. I have had PR promise something and then intentionally break that promise with a shrug. I have had studios mail me statements that are not just playing loose with the truth but dropping it on the ground and driving their boot heel right into it. I’ve had studios claim they never said a thing right up until I produce the recording where they very clearly did (always save your recordings, folks). I’ve been doing this a long time, but nevertheless, just when I think I’ve seen everything, I’m confronted with even more shenanigans.
You folks see plenty too! Just last year, in the midst of what was apparently a furied license negotiation, layoffs, community team silence, missed patch dates, and sexual harassment scandal – some or all of which ultimately led to the abrupt end of Marvel Heroes – Gazillion reps claimed to us that “the company is functioning normally.” And don’t even start me on the “sense of pride and accomplishment” line.
Which MMO studio told the biggest fib last year, and what was it?
We named the sad death of Marvel Heroes the greatest MMO disappointment of 2017, and it appears it’s not even over yet. Redditors noticed that on January 4th, three creditors – Secret 6, Playchemy, and Caitlin Capes – filed claim against the assets of Gazillion, or rather, whatever is left to fight over following the company’s apparent collapse last year.
Secret 6 appears to be a multinational game dev studio known best for its art production (Ronald Schaffner is its president), while Playchemy is a mobile development studio. Caitlin Capes’ linkedin shows her as having been an associate producer on Marvel Heroes as well as on the multiplatform VR game Gazillion was reportedly working on. In total, MMO Fallout reports, the three are claiming nearly $700,000 in unpaid debt, the bulk of which is allegedly owed to Playchemy.
Whenever we write about the current crop of City of Heroes-inspired indie superhero MMORPGs, some of our commenters nearly always ponder whether it would be better for everyone if the three bigger studios pooled their resources, talent, and playerbases into one big game. Surely it would be better if they weren’t all competing with each other – or so the thought goes.
But following a pair of our articles earlier this week – one an exclusive from Ship of Heroes, the other a preview of Valiance Online’s map – key developers from those two games as well as City of Titans chimed in on Twitter to attempt to dispel the idea that they’re in any sort of competition to begin with.
“I wouldn’t call what we’re doing a race or battle personally,” Valiance Online tweeted out.
It’s true that we lost a lot of MMOs in 2016 — bigger and more important ones than in 2014 and 2015. 2017, however, has been a different sort of beast. The list is long, and while it’s painful for those whose games are gone, the genre didn’t lose many major MMOs this past year. And that startles me.
Marvel Heroes was surely the most dramatic of all the sunsets, given that it shut down early without notice. Earlier in the year, we saw Daybreak put an end to Landmark after less than a year of live operation, while Turbine let the Asheron’s Call franchise go, Firefall formally closed, Club Penguin’s sunset broke the internet, and NCsoft called it quits with Master X Master. A number of other MMOs simply halted development – Perpetuum, Sword Coast Legends, and SkySaga being the most prominent of those. And on a more positive note, there were a few sunsetted MMOs that were revivified, including Otherland, Uncharted Waters Online, and RaiderZ.
Farewell, old friends.
Ship of Heroes is super-jumping right into 2018 with two documents of note. The first is a retrospective of what the Heroic Games team learned from the community in the past year, including the fact that players want harvesting, crafting, and trading mechanics as well as crowd-control and pet mastery classes and Halloween. The team also says it understands the community’s desire for solid character creation and combat, details on character powers, and real gameplay video demonstrating development progress – particularly a mission video.
“A powerful character creator, and a positive community, are the two most important features of SoH, as judged by the voters in our polls,” writes the studio.
The second document, published here exlusively on Massively OP (not sponsored), is a reflection on the state of the MMORPG industry, particularly the superhero corner of it and how Ship of Heroes fits in, penned by Heroic Games’ Casey McGeever. We’ve included the whole piece below:
We’re taking a time-machine back through our MMO coverage, month by month, to hit the highlights and frame our journey before we head into 2018!
Blizzard took the month of November with huge announcements for World of Warcraft, specifically the Battle for Azeroth expansion and vanilla-flavored WoW Classic servers.
Meanwhile, we saw the sunset of Motiga, the sunset announcement for Master X Master, and the abysmally handled and abrupt end of Gazillion and Marvel Heroes.
In happier news, Kakao took the wraps off its next mega-MMORPG, Ascent: Infinite Realm, specifically targeting western players.
And lockboxes continued to drive conversations around the law, the cost of games development, the press, and gambling, and not just because of EA: Guild Wars 2’s mount lockboxes and Star Citizen’s land claims sales reminded MMO players that monetization problems aren’t just for mainstream gamers. Still, we doubt anyone will be forgetting the ol’ claim that lockboxes create a “sense of pride and accomplishment” any time soon.
Read on for the whole list!