A comment on Reddit about the current size and viability of Kritika Online got me thinking about MMO playerbases in general lately. We all know that there’s a stigma attached to little games; the big games with big servers and millions of players feel safer, and nowadays people just assume a small MMO has one foot in the grave. But it isn’t always true. We could also rattle off some smaller MMOs that seem to be moving along just fine, with bills paid. Sure, they’d like to be bigger, but they’re holding steady and know how to work the playerbase they do have rather than constantly alienate their current customers in search of new customers. And some MMO gamers actually prefer those sorts of titles. After all, if the game has just a few thousand people, it’s much easier to get to know a large slice of them, plus have your voice heard by the developers and actually influence the gameworld.
For this week’s Massively Overthinking, I’ve asked the writers to reflect on the smallest MMOs they have played, and then consider how big an MMO has to be in terms of playerbase that they’d consider playing it now. What’s the smallest MMO you’re willing to play, and why?
It’s the distant future. The high-tech battle armor you wear sharply contrasts with the ruins of civilization that you traverse. You spot an enemy and raise your pulse rifle, firing off shots as you strafe to cover. Technology hasn’t solved the issue of war; it’s just raised the body count.
PlanetSide 2? Nope — this is Neocron, the quite-forgettable MMOFPS from the way-back era. I like to call it “that game with the most regrettable cover art in the history of video games,” but that isn’t quite as snappy.
Going into this article, I have to admit that I previously knew absolutely nothing about Neocron other than the fact that it was a sci-fi MMO that vaguely reminded me of Anarchy Online. Oh, also the fact that nobody I know or perhaps ever will know played it. Was it just a myth? A practical joke to make us believe in an MMO phantom? Only sifting through layers of dust and grime would produce results, so I rolled up my sleeves and started digging.
Polls are a quantitative sort of magic that we don’t often get from our other articles – at least when they aren’t being brigaded – which is why I love our Leaderboard column.
Let’s take a look back at our best MMO polls of the year! And if you want a few more, you can look back at our polls from 2016 and 2015 too.
With 2017 drawing to a close and 2018 rushing up to meet us, the Massively OP team has regrouped for another round of bold and goofy predictions for the year ahead. We’re feeling pretty good after our fairly successful predictions from last year! What’s in store for the MMO genre next year? Here’s what we think.
Birthdays and bombs go so well together… if you are PlanetSide 2, that is! The MMOFPS turns five years old today, and Massively OP’s MJ is diving back into the fray to celebrate the milestone. As part of the festivities, the official site is offering the promo code 5YearsPS2 to receive a special decal commemorating the game’s 5th anniversary (redeem on your Daybreak account). In game, there will be plenty of fireworks/explosions going off, so tune in live at 8:00 p.m. to join the fun. Even with no cake the Death Counter is sure to feed well.
What: PlanetSide 2
Who: MJ Guthrie
When: 8:00 p.m. EST on Monday, November 20th, 2017
The use of the word “toon” to describe MMORPG characters is a contentious one, with fans divided over its annoyance or acceptance. But when it came to one MMORPG, it was nothing but proper terminology to call all characters just this.
Toontown Online was one of those “kiddie MMOs” that you probably ignored unless you happen to fall within its demographical clutches back in the day. While it lasted for about a decade, the game’s operation would be notable for its repeated transformation and uncertain status.
With a silly, cartoon-like look and theme, this MMO attempted to bring a levity to a genre that was often marinating in deep fantasy lore and statistical theorycrafting. But when you wanted to eschew dragon fighting for slapstick pie throwing, there was no better game out there. Let’s take a look!
MOP reader Sally Bowls is on a roll with the good questions lately! She lobbed us one this past weekend that seems a good follow-up to a comment thread discussion about the problems inherent in unregulated three-way factional PvP/RvR (and how a game like Camelot Unchained will regulate it). By way of example, she noted that a certain MMO griefer famously argued in favor of strategy that basically made the opponent not want to log in, using tactics like creating timesinks and hassles in a sandbox. “Should the dominant faction on a RvRvR server ‘camp’ the smallest to try to drive them off?” she wondered.
“If it’s about fair PvP, then that is anathema. But if you see the game as being about your faction being at war with other factions, then not doing your utmost to win that war is incompetence. Neither is bad design per se, just a conflict in understanding of the goals. And will Camelot Unchained really be RvR, doing everything legal for your realm to win? Or will it be about PvP battles, with the RvR rhetoric being more marketing fluff than von Clausewitz and Machiavelli? If camping a mine hurts your kill/death ratio but makes the opponent weaker due to hassles or crafting, is that winning or losing? Is an RvR game really about realms vs. realms or is it just another BG?”
I’ve pitched Sally’s comments to the team for consideration in this week’s Massively Overthinking. Is RvR just a more carebear-friendly way to market FFA PvP? Do you play RvR or factional PvP to win or to have fun, and how does that differ from a more open FFA sandbox? How would you design three-way factional PvP to keep people from quitting and stop griefing before it starts?
Daybreak went all-out in PlanetSide 2 this week with a massive new update, though you probably wouldn’t know it unless you play the game. Let’s change that now: The update is called Critical Mass, and it constitutes “a major revision of the way continents are fought over and conquered” in the form of a continent locking revamp.
“One of the driving motivators of revitalizing the continent locking system is to encourage more strategy and competitive spirit in PlanetSide 2,” Daybreak explains. “Prior to this update, locking a continent was not only confusing for many players, but also happened abruptly, and often times without direct influence from the players fighting on the front lines. The new system intends to create a climactic end-of-continent encounter that challenges players not only as individuals, but as squads, platoons, and outfits. We want players to feel the rush of a hard fought victory, and reward them for partaking in it.”
There’s plenty more to the update, including new armaments, weapon adjustments, refreshed archetype interactions, adjusted vehicle and armor certs, a la carte cosmetics, and bug fixes. Let us know if you’re playing!
Even an old dog can find itself a fresh young pup in the right circumstances. Battleground Europe, originally known as World War II Online, finally made the jump to Steam last week as one of the newest full-scale MMOFPS games on the platform. This, despite the title being over a decade and a half old at this point.
It looks as though the title has reverted back to the original World War II Online title for the Steam launch. As of September 22nd, the game saw an increase of 45,000 players sign up for new accounts, which is no doubt sorely needed for this aging MMO. The small indie team is using this momentum as an opportunity to push out more improvements, such as newer art models and a streamlined tutorial.
“Population levels remain substantially higher than we have seen in years, routinely around the clock,” the team posted. “We’re very happy to report this progress and these production items coming (more not listed here) are intended to help bolster that success even further.”
Every MMO tells a story through the run of its life. A lot of those stories are pretty happy, too. Ultima Online may not be the most happening place in the world right now, but its story is about launching a genre and then running for two solid decades. That’s a pretty great story. However much it’s become a tale of mismanaged expectations, World of Warcraft kind of became the most popular thing for a long while and brought in tons of new people to the hobby. Even titles with sad endings often have bright stories; the end bit for City of Heroes sucks, but everything leading up to that was a gas.
And then you have these 10 titles. These are titles where the whole story is a tragedy, start to finish, and in many cases the tragedy isn’t necessarily over, but the story is still just plain sad. There are reasons, of course, maybe even good ones, but the result is that the narrative for these titles is pretty sad all the way through.
Daybreak is a whirlwind this week: First it broke up the H1Z1 party and got Just Survive its own apartment, and now it’s bringing PlanetSide 2 up to speed. The studio is unveiling what it’s calling Critical Mass, an update planned for later in August that overhauls the game’s victory point system.
“Previously, the VP system acted as a sort of checklist where factions would complete various objectives which then rewarded points to that faction,” Daybreak explains. “Earning these points was somewhat removed from the moment to moment experience, and would often reward factions for what they’ve done in the past, instead of painting a picture of the current state of a continent. This was especially noticeable toward the end of the process, where continents would lock abruptly, often interrupting high-intensity battles in a dissatisfying or anticlimactic way.”
To fix that, the team is removing random alerts, nuking the “checklist goals” from the system, changing how continent locking works, and providing scaling rewards. Expect it on the test server “soon” ahead of the PC/PS4 launch later in August.
Massively OP’s MJ has played sandboxes set in space, in prehistoric times, in apocalyptic wastelands, and in fantasy worlds. But until now, she hasn’t played one set in the world war eras! Foxhole has hit early access, and she is heading in to check it out. Unlike many games of these eras that are lobby-based, Foxhole is a persistent world. MJ’s not feeling especially keen on the combat side of things, but she can also participate in the other strategy elements like resources, supply lines and base building. Join us live at 6:00 p.m. as OPTV‘s infamous Stream Team brings you a first look at…
Who: MJ Guthrie
When: 6:00 p.m. EDT on Saturday, August 12th, 2017
Enjoy the show!
In the pantheon of SOE’s (now Daybreak) flagship EverQuest franchise, there used to be a whole family of MMOs gathered around the table every evening. There was Papa EverQuest, looking a little wrinkled and worn but also radiating fame and authority. Next to him was Mama EverQuest II, a powerful matron of entertainment. And EverQuest Next used to be a twinkle in their eyes before it was extinguished.
Then, in the next room over was a cabinet. The cabinet was locked. Inside that cabinet used to be a weird abnormality that certainly looks like a member of the family, but one that hadn’t seen the light of day in quite some time. This member subsisted on the scraps of an aging console and the fading loyalty of fans, hoping against odds that one day he’d be allowed out for a stroll or something. His name was EverQuest Online Adventures, the EverQuest MMO nobody mentions.
EQOA was a strange abnormality in SOE’s lineup. While it was one of the very first console MMOs and heir to the EverQuest name, it was quickly eclipsed in both areas by other games and left alone. Yet, against all odds, it continued to operate on the PlayStation 2 for the better part of a decade before its lights were turned off. Today, let’s look at this interesting experiment and the small cult following it created.