The NGE, or new game enhancements, was a series of drastic gameplay changes made to sci-fi sandbox Star Wars: Galaxies in 2005.
Legacy, vanilla, classic, progression – call them what you like, but alternative server rulesets, particularly of the nostalgia-driven kind, are all the rage in 2018. Just since the dawn of the new year, we’ve gotten a new server type for Age of Conan, with RIFT’s on the way – not to mention World of Warcraft’s looming in our future. And those are just the new ones! Games like RuneScape, EverQuest II, and Ultima Online already run similar servers.
That said, does every MMORPG need one? Aren’t some MMORPGs already in pretty good shape without needing a spin-off for nostalgia’s sake? Is it in every MMO’s best interests to prioritize, on some level, the very older ideas it intentionally left behind? That’s the question I’ve posed to the writers this week: Are there any MMORPGs that should stay far, far away from legacy servers, and if so, why?
When we moved over here to Massively Overpowered, some of us transplanted our long-running columns to the new space. I perhaps felt most devastated that I was going to lose all of the Game Archaeologist articles that I had painstakingly researched over the years. So my mission with this space became two-fold: to rescue and update my older columns while continuing to add more articles to this series on classic MMOs and proto-MMOs.
I’ve been pleased with the results so far because TGA is a series that I really don’t want to see vanish. As MMORPG fans, we should consider it important to remember and learn about these older titles and to expand our knowledge past the more popular and well-known games of yesteryear.
Now that we have quite a catalogue of Game Archaeologist columns, I thought it would be helpful to end the year by gifting this handy guide to you that organizes and compiles our continuing look at the history of the genre. Enjoy!
Massively OP’s Justin Olivetti has a provocative article on his personal gaming blog, Bio Break, this week on MMORPG housing.
“I once again wonder why open world housing is this holy grail that some players and developers seem hellbent on chasing,” he writes. “It’s an ideal, a beautiful mirage couched in the notion of players inhabiting the very world they play, allowing them to stroll through neighborhoods of fellow adventurer’s homes and basking in the connectivity of it all. Yet it’s a failed experiment, one that is proven time and again to have far more drawbacks than benefits.” After listing off his complaints with the mechanic, he ultimately concludes that “we simply don’t need fixed open world housing, even in sandboxes.”
But being Justin, he also asked for feedback on why the joys are worth the drawbacks – and how to fix the system so it works instead of running off the rails. That’s just what we’ll do in this week’s Overthinking. Is he right about not needing this type of housing? And if not, how would you fix open world housing?
When Star Wars: The Old Republic
first released, an old Star Wars Galaxies
argument popped up, and the crux of that argument was this: “No one wants to be Uncle Owen.” If we say that SWG
pre-NGE was the Uncle Owen game, where players could successfully play a simple moisture farmer, and compare it to SWTOR
, where you can be a member of the Dark Council, then we would see that SWTOR
is clearly the winner if we are talking about the sheer number of players. However, SWG
was one of the founding MMOs; it helped kickstart the genre. There were just not that many people playing MMORPGs at that time, so comparing the raw numbers is a bit unfair.
The argument continues. If we look at the story in the upcoming Battlefront II game, we see a kind of Uncle Owen story. The main protagonist of the game is a Commander of a squadron of Imperial soldiers that we have never heard of until now. Her name is Iden Versio, and she is, for all intents, a faceless Stormtrooper. Star Wars fans are very excited about playing through this storyline. I’m one of them.
However, the biggest place where we see the Uncle Owen controversy is in the SWTOR roleplay community, and I believe that if we study their arguments for and against playing a powerful character, we will gain a greater understanding why some storylines work and others do not.
RIFT’s latest expansion is getting a name change from Starfall Prophecy to Prophecy of Ahnket. No, it’s not some veiled NGE; it’s just an attempt to reduce confusion with the Starfall Education Foundation charity, which seems a noble cause to us.
Perhaps the more important bit for would-be RIFT players is that the expansion is being offered for free to players who log in this weekend. Free stuff!
If you’ve already purchased the expansion, you’re not out of luck either; you’re getting a claimable Prophecy of Ahnket Cache with 2 Tenebrean Engines, 100 Phenomenal Sparkles, 10 Individual Reward Charges, 1 White Deer Companion Pet, and 1 Random Puzzle Box Dimension Item — that is, if you remember to log in and grab it before the timer runs down on May 14th. After the promo ends, the expansion will be $19.99.
Trion further notes it’s hard at work on the 4.2 update right now; it’ll include a normal mode for Tartaric Depths, big changes for the planar fragment system, and new Primalist souls.
I think I can speak for most of our staff in saying that in November when Funcom first promised a “major upgrade
to both retention and acquisition mechanics and content of the game to counter the declining revenues” in The Secret World
, no one expected this
Ditto in February, when Funcom said it was going “relaunch to broaden the appeal of the game through [a] redesigned new player experience, major improvements to gameplay including combat, [the] introduction of new retention systems such as daily rewards, [and] adjustments to the business model, including allowing access to the story content for free” — people murmured “NGE,” but no one even considered that the studio would dump MMO players overboard in pursuit of ARPG fans.
But in retrospect, the cagey language and lack of actual updates in the game were right there all along, as was the casual maintenance-moding of Anarchy Online and Age of Conan.
For this week’s Overthinking, I’ve asked our staff to consider Funcom’s plans here — not the rumors and leaks but the set-in-stone plans — and reflect on what they say about the studio, the game, and the genre on the whole. What do you think about Secret World Legends?
Last week, the MMO world was startled to learn that instead of getting an expansion, The Secret World is getting a complete relaunch as part of a big Funcom push of the game. At this point, there’s been plenty of time to speculate (and not a lot of info from the studio forthcoming, and yes, we’ve asked!). From the investor call, we know that the game is due for a newbie experience overhaul, a combat overhaul, daily login rewards, and a new business model that makes story content freely accessible, which suggests a lean away from buy-to-play.
So do you think we are looking at a game-crushing NGE — or a Final Fantasy XIV-style GOTY-quality do-over? And more importantly, do these sound like the kinds of adjustments that might entice you to return to The Secret World or play for the first time? Let’s find out in this week’s Leaderboard.
Blizzard Watch ran an editorial yesterday quoting former marine biologist and World of Warcraft Lead Systems Designer Greg “Ghostcrawler” Street on the subject of video game boycotts: “I would not advocate boycotting a game as a way to make a statement, especially if deep down you still love the game. You’re just not likely to drive change as a result.”
It’s not a new idea, but it’s one worth revisiting whether we’re talking about something as big as economic and political sanctions or something as small as quitting a video game with a big ol’ flounce: Even if a whole crapton of people quit over something terrible in a game, it’s unlikely to have much of an effect since the developers won’t know why. There will always be exceptions — like the NGE or monoclegate — and they’re such outliers that they have names. For the most part, games really can’t react to a few thousand people quitting over a patch here and there. Boycotts just aren’t specific enough.
In July of 2015, MMORPG fans were stunned to hear that John Smedley was stepping down from his post as president of Daybreak. After all, he had been in the captain’s chair at Verant, SOE, and now Daybreak for nearly two decades, helming the company as it handled some of the most influential MMOs of the early generation, including EverQuest and Star Wars Galaxies. Fans were curious to know both what happened and what Smedley was planning to do next.
They didn’t have to wait long for the latter. A month later, Smedley announced that he was starting up his own studio to work on a new game. Using his industry contacts and years of experience in game development, Smedley pulled together a solid team to craft Hero’s Song, an online fantasy survival game that would provide huge, customizable worlds. The team went into a flurry of activity, putting out dev blogs, holding fundraisers, and pushing early access out the door.
Yet by the end of 2016, the project was dead, refunds were being distributed to backers, and Smedley’s studio was dissolved. So what happened? Why did Hero’s Song fail when it had so much going for it? Now that a couple of months have passed, it might be time to step back and perform a post-mortem on this fascinating and doomed game. I posit that there are five key reasons why we’re not right now playing Hero’s Song and anticipating its official launch by the end of the year. Hindsight is 20-20, after all, so what could Smedley have done different?
Massively OP reader and frequent tipster Gibbins wants us to play match-maker.
“I love the wonderful world that Bethesda created with the Fallout franchise, not too bleak but very post apocalypse with a very kitsch ’50s feel from the time of duck and cover educational films, but I wish it were multiplayer. The huge volume of mods for Fallout is also is a massive bonus, giving the game great variety and replayability. On the other hand, I also love the satirical in your face style of GTA Online and its no-holds-barred multiplayer experience, but I wish there were more to the story and more support for mods. Both games offer so much, and I would love to see how each studio would add to the other’s game. Which two development teams would you like to see married… and which game would be their love child?”
Let’s complicate Gibbins’ request and say that the love child game must be an MMO! I’ve posed his question to the team for this week’s Massively Overthinking.
While it’s true that you can see a good share of Marvel Heroes’
mega January 2017 update for yourself on the test server, who could pass up a walkthrough and interview with Brian Waggoner, game designer at Gazillion? Besides, with such a massive change incoming to many of the systems (this may be one of the only times that BIGGEST UPDATE EVER is used legitimately), having a dev on hand to explain various alterations can be a definite plus. I took advantage of the opportunity, so if you haven’t had the chance to delve into the test center yourself, be it from lack of time, inclination, or even hard drive space, you can get a peek under the hood here. And then you can jump in and experience it all for yourself on Thursday, January 19th, when Marvel Heroes’s
latest update goes live.
The underground rebels of the Star Wars Galaxies community continue to fight to keep the MMO alive any way that they can. One group called Stella Bellum is doing its part by opening up a new emu server and inviting former SWG players to “come home” to their favorite playground.
The Stella Bellum emulator project is going live on December 16th and is focused on bringing back the NGE (New Game Enhancements) version of the game that was running before SOE shut it down a half-decade ago.
“We are a group of currently eight developers, some of us have worked on various NGE projects in the past, and we like to bring back Star Wars Galaxies for the players, as it was in the final days before shutdown,” the team posted on the forums. “Since many NGE projects the developers had their teams fall apart, ours decided to work in secret to finish the job. All trustworthy developers willing to work as a team were recruited and some have been working on the code for almost two years.”
Eleven years ago this week, the New Game Enhancements patch descended on Star Wars Galaxies, forever changing the trajectory of the game, SOE, and maybe even sandbox MMORPGs in general by completely uprooting the character development process of the MMO and gutting beloved professions, not to mention breaking essential pieces of the game’s crafting economy. The ensuing fallout caused a mass-exodus from the game, tarnished gamer trust in SOE, and guaranteed that we’d still be talking about it more than a decade later. And though I’ve long argued that the game that sunsetted in 2011 was as far removed from the NGE as the NGE was from the game that launched in 2003, I’m first in line to declare that the NGE implemented in 2005 was an unmitigated disaster.
For this edition of Massively Overthinking, I don’t want to talk about Star Wars Galaxies’ NGE. I want to talk about all the other NGEs in MMORPG history — all those other massive patches and updates and expansions that shattered or altered an MMO so fundamentally that gamers never looked at it the same way again and indeed considered it irreparably ruined. What’s the most brutal NGE (that wasn’t that NGE) that you can think of? That’s the question I posed to our writers this week.