On this week’s show, Bree and Justin roll up their sleeves and take on projects left and right. It’s a look at the announcement of Project C and the imminent early access launch of Project Gorgon, among many other exciting developments this week!
It’s the Massively OP Podcast, an action-packed hour of news, tales, opinions, and gamer emails! And remember, if you’d like to send in your own letter to the show, use the “Tips” button in the top-right corner of the site to do so.
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This week in Massively Overthinking, I want to talk about something out on the fringes of our genre: battle royale games. We’ve been watching BR take off, first with H1Z1, then the explosion of PUBG last summer and fall, and now Fortnite has taken the crown, becoming even more popular and raking in even more money, at least on console and potentially overall. And yet less than a year ago, we were embracing Fortnite as a PvE building game – see how blazingly fast Epic pivoted to catch this trend? I remember when PUBG started to plateau in the west even as it continued it climb in China, and I wondered then whether anything could ever dethrone it – and I have to say, I didn’t think it would be Fortnite.
So let’s talk about battle royale. Is it bleeding an online subgenre – MMOs, shooters, MOBAs, or survival sandboxes, or is it just something everyone’s tacked on top of existing gameplay? How will mobile keep up? And most importantly, is it a fad that’s destined to eventually fade away, or is it here to stay?
You know what I like? Hearing about a new game for the first time that I can actually buy right now. Of course, this one’s in Steam early access, so maybe you’ll want to hold your wallet. I’m talking about Staxel, which dropped on my radar this week thanks to a couple of my favorite readers. To me, it looks like a cross between Stardew Valley and Trove, with that voxel Minecraft look but sandboxy content that’s more focused on farming, fishing, and growing out the village with your own customizations than on mass-murdering mobs.
“Put down your roots and settle into life as a newcomer to the village. Starting out with a run-down, old home and farmland reclaimed by the wilderness, it’s up to you to turn the place around. Plant seeds, carefully tend to your crops, take care of your animals, and expand your farm. Don’t forget: take care of your farm, and your farm will take care of you!”
It’s not a formal MMORPG, but the Steam page says it was “designed with multiplayer in mind from day one,” hence custom online servers and online multiplayer capability. Anybody tried this one out?
Minecraft developer Mojang revealed this week that it will be shutting down its online card game Scrolls on February 13th. This shouldn’t come as a huge shock to the community, as the studio announced back in 2015 that it was ceasing development for the game but keeping the servers on for a while.
“The game has reached a point where it can no longer sustain continuous development,” the studio said then. Before next week’s sunset occurs, there will be a final community tournament on Saturday the 11th.
This doesn’t mean that Scrolls will go away for good, however. The team also said that it has plans to allow the players to host their own game servers within the next few weeks or months, but not as open source.
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).
So you’re a Minecraft kind of soul. You like that sort-of-pixelish-but-not-really look. Your friend is an ARK: Survival Evolved junkie. She’s more about dinosaurs and that flavor of survival. You both want some character creation and character progression and fantasy touches. Where can you both be happy? Why, PixARK, of course. It’s like ARK and Minecraft had a baby, and that baby has lots of jagged edges and monsters roaming around.
It’s an unusual baby.
Yes, PixARK has just been announced for a planned March Early Access kickoff, with full release taking place later this year. We don’t know a whole lot about the game just yet, but you can get some sense of what it’s aiming for with the trailer and some screenshots below. If you’d like the survival sandbox elements with a bit more craft and a bit less stabbing others in the face, this might be something to keep an eye on.
Last year, my husband deployed the requisite accessibility tools to the college science lab he runs to accommodate a bright student who happened to be blind, which opened a window for us into how people who are blind navigate tech. It’s flipping amazing what’s available in terms of searching and communication, and I don’t just mean phones!
So you might be wondering how video games have skirted regulation when it comes to accessibility; after all, the Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 should apply to our industry too, right, particularly online games with chat tools? Turns out it’s because the Federal Communications Commission has been granting waivers for years at the request of the Electronic Software Association, and in fact, it’s just granted another.
As Gamasutra explains, the FCC has now extended the existing waiver again, exempting games released before 2019 from the CVAA requirement that “any communication functionality like in-game chat and any UI used to navigate and operate communications functionality must be accessible to people of varying sight, motor, speech, cognitive, and hearing ability.”
Remember Warspear Online? It’s a 2-D fantasy MMO out of Russia from 2008, when it debuted on mobile devices. (This should make you feel super old.) The devs say that in bringing the game to Steam this week, they hope to “expand [their] audience by attracting desktop gamers who are lacking nostalgic MMORPGs.”
Valnir Rok is also new to Steam this fall. This week it dropped a good-sized patch, updating the “Viking-inspired online roleplaying adventure” game with a new PvP arena, an ability system, an NPC employment system, new experience mechanics, character idles, and a bunch of bug fixes.
Finally, there’s Broke Protocol, the cops-and-robbers voxelbox that’s a mash-up of GTAO and Minecraft, and it trickled out to Steam quietly a few months back, to mostly positive reviews (though no updates since). We’ve tucked trailers down below if there’s anything that strikes your fancy!
Whether or not you have forgotten that Boundless (formerly Oort Online) even existed, this voxel-based building MMO has been steadily churning out updates in its early access program. In fact, Boundless just came out with Update 181 with no signs that its team is willing (or able!) to slow down. Well, actually Update 181 is all about signs, but you know what we mean.
The sandbox recently “re-re-balanced” its XP and progression systems and still features regular wipes and resets due to testing needs. Other updates over the past few months revolved around chisels, beacon permissions, initial support for multiple characters, creature threat, the tutorial, build progression, and about a billion other things.
This Minecraft-inspired title might be worth a closer look at this point, especially as it’s sporting many positive reviews on Steam. We’ve put up a couple of guide videos to help you familiarize yourself with Boundless after the jump.
The MMO industry moves along at the speed of information, and sometimes we’re deluged with so much news here at Massively Overpowered that some of it gets backlogged. That’s why there’s The MOP Up: a weekly compilation of smaller MMO stories and videos that you won’t want to miss. Seen any good MMO news? Hit us up through our tips line!
Maybe you’ll discover a new game in this space — or be reminded of an old favorite! This week we have stories and videos from Project Gorgon, Star Trek Online, Bless, Skyforge, Wakfu, Roblox, War Thunder, Aion, Elite: Dangerous, New Dawn, Travian, Astroneer, and World of Warcraft, all waiting for you after the break!
So you’re tired of visiting far-flung post-apoc space stations, fantasy ghost castles, underground slime lairs, and zombie grottos on Mars. What’s next? How about… Earth?
Aussie MMO Virtual Earth Online may be up to that challenge, at least if you can handle the graphic style. It looks like a mash-up of Minecraft and Second Life, with the whole world (even, apparently, your house) built out with voxels. Developer Gavin McDonald told us that building mats were on the docket for insertion over the weekend and the game has just gotten a new graphics engine after six years of development (it was Greenlit back when that was still a thing). While the original game is properly an MMORPG, or perhaps a massive online virtual world, a new single player survival mode is also rolling out (check out the video of that in action down below).
The game appears to be freely downloadable, but the trading post is offering microtransaction buildings and items for as little as 5 cents.
Game Designer Raph Koster continues to ponder the significance of Ultima Online on this, the 20th anniversary of the MMORPG’s historic release. In a recent blog post, he answers a question from a fan who asked how UO pushed the industry forward.
To address this, Koster takes readers back to 1995, when the internet was mostly accessed over slow dial-up modems and the gaming landscape was much more different than it is today. After outlining a brief history of MMOs to that point, he lists several groundbreaking features that Ultima Online attempted, including:
- “Pure scale” with up to 2,500 players in the world at once
- Dyeable gear
- A world simulation that was varied in behavior
- A massively interactive world
- Widespread player killing, housing, and shopkeeping
- An actively managed community
- A flat monthly fee to subscribe
- A world where you could live and not just fight
All the time through playing Shroud of the Avatar, I found myself wanting to like the game a lot more than I did. And my brain kept turning back to Minecraft, which seems like a worthwhile comparison to make.
Much like SOTA, Minecraft is a game strongly based on the concept of making your own fun. You are definitely making your own adventure in the game. But at the same time, it seems very relevant to point out that the game starts by giving you a clear set of parameters to work within. Monsters will spawn at night, there are resources under ground, you break things to get better things, and then combine those things to make still better things. From there on out, much of the game is devoted to figuring out how these various elements play off of one another.
So they’re both sandbox-ish titles in which you make your own fun. Except that one of them starts by showing you the fun that you’re supposed to be having and giving you a goal, and it does so with absolutely no story to guide you along that route. It shows you exactly the sort of game it’s trying to be and lets you start working at meeting it halfway. But SOTA never quite got there, at least for me.