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PAX East 2017: The Elder Scrolls Online's battlegrounds are exactly that

My absolute first appointment at PAX East 2017 was to stop by The Elder Scrolls Online display to check out the new battlegrounds coming up with the game's Morrowind expansion. This should not have been difficult to do, but it was made quite difficult by unnecessarily awful traffic. Seriously, it was bumper-to-bumper through long stretches of the Mass Pike, despite the fact that there was barely any snow falling and no road accumulation. I was a little bit late, in fact.

Why am I telling you this story? Because the reality is that it's the most interesting story that I have beyond the title line.

I don't mean to imply that I was disappointed by The Elder Scrolls Online's battleground gameplay because I wasn't. It was solid! I would go so far as to say it was exactly what your mind pictures when you put the game's title and "battleground" into the same sentence. The problem with describing it is just... well, again, it's exactly what your mind pictures. It is a battleground, and it is in The Elder Scrolls Online. That's it.

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The Daily Grind: What were you disappointed to not hear about from PAX East?

As the man on the ground at PAX East this year (and every year), I bear the brunt of your displeasure if there was something I straight-up did not attend or cover. If you were really hoping to hear about Quake or Mass Effect: Andromeda or Whatever Other Non-MMO Games Were On The Floor I Wasn't Keeping Close Track from me, all I can do is shrug and apologize for disappointing you. I had the appointments I had, and I did the best I could with what I could actually be told.

Of course, this is more about what you were disappointed about that specifically swirled around the soul. Were you disappointed by the lack of an on-hand demo for TERA's console version? The non-presence of DC Universe Online? A dearth of new announcements for Conan Exiles or The Secret World? What were you disappointed to not hear about from PAX East? Were there specific games or studios that you feel didn't offer enough if anything to convention-goers?

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PAX East 2017: Introducing Rend, a three-way survival sandbox from Frostkeep Studios

I don't really like survival games, typically -- I understand why a lot of people do like them, don't get me wrong, but I don't care for them myself, for a whole forest of reasons. To make a survival game that I want to play, you have to really come at the genre from a side angle, which can be hard to do while retaining the things that people like about the genre.

At this early juncture, I can't say that Rend (official site) will do all of that. But I can say that the groundwork is in place for something that might be worth getting excited about.

I was incredibly fortunate to be granted one of the first meetings with Frostkeep Studios and a first look at Rend itself, in a conspiratorial PAX meeting on the second floor of a fish restaurant on the Boston piers. It felt a bit as if I were being shown something that should not be seen, some artifact of great power that had been hidden away from prying eyes. Perhaps that's as it should be.

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PAX East 2017: Citadel Studios on Shards Online's switch to Legends of Aria

Big changes for MMOs frequently involve giving up almost as much as you gain. Not so with Legends of Aria, the not-actually-new title from Citadel Studios. Legends of Aria is Shards Online, you see, but it's also not Shards Online. It's everything you liked about Shards Online, but it's also placed into a larger context in which the ideas behind the game can have more space to develop and grow. If you liked the game before, you'll like it now, but if you didn't like the game before, you might think a bit more fondly of it once you see the changes.

The short version is that Legends of Aria has a robust "main" server set up. That means a large-scale map, plenty of things for players to go find, and a variety of different regions with different environmental effects. It is, in other words, a full-scale MMO which you can play as much as you'd like. But it's also a full-scale MMO that allows you to look at what the developers have done and say that you don't like it... and then make your own version of the game server.

We spoke to the folks from Citadel at this year's PAX East. Read on!

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PAX East 2017: Hands-on with the surprisingly fun Kritika Online

It's pretty much a rule of nature that at least one game is going to be far better and more fun to play than I expected on the PAX East show floor. This has been true every year, and while the past couple of years have involved my spending a bit less time on the show floor overall, I've still walked away with some surprises. This year, it was Kritika Online.

What I expected from Kritika Online was... well, nothing particularly impressive. I didn't expect it to be bad, but that was because I didn't expect much from it at all. It was a game that En Masse was bringing over that sounded, at a glance, like the sort of game which fades from memory shortly after you play it. What I actually got was a game that has a clean purpose and remarkably fun mechanics, like the pure product of an MMO marrying a Dynasty Warriors clone.

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PAX East 2017: Jumping and climbing through Chronicles of Elyria's pre-alpha

I admit to my weakness: Despite years and years of games using it again and again, I still enjoy the simple gameplay benefits of jumping between ledges. I like parkour. Admittedly, I like it in a purely academic sense, as my actual vertical mobility is somewhere between "no" and "hell no," but I like games that allow you to dash hither and yon, springing from wall to wall, running along things, all of that fun stuff.

The pre-alpha build of MMORPG sandbox Chronicles of Elyria on display at PAX East did not feature that. It featured parkour that was more on the level of God of War's process of mantling ledges, jumping between them, and so forth. Still, that's a welcome change from the fact that far too many MMOs don't even grant you that degree of mobility. Even in games that encourage you to move about with jumping puzzles and the like, how many MMOs allow you to actually use your hands to grasp a ladder?

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PAX East 2017: Final Fantasy XIV's Q&A panel

At the time of this writing, there's just over a hundred days until Stormblood launches, expanding the world of Final Fantasy XIV for the second time. We'll no doubt learn more about the expansion before that launch happens, but the second day of PAX East gave players a chance to ask about the game directly from the producer and director himself, Mr. Naoki Yoshida. He's kind of a big deal.

Much as the team has done with previous PAX East events, Yoshida took both pre-written questions from fans on the show floor and live questions taken directly from the audience in attendance. While there were no huge revelations, there were plenty of tidbits for players to chew on as the game moves along through the remaining months until the launch of the second expansion. And, of course, there's plenty of stuff to speculate about, but isn't there always?

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PAX East 2017: Talking Conan Exiles on the show floor with Funcom

If you're a fan of Funcom and the games it makes, Conan Exiles probably has you breathing a bit easier than you have in a while. It's an indisputable success for the developers, who have been in a difficult financial situation for the past several years. Now they've got a pretty big hit on their hands, big enough to take out a sizable booth on the PAX East show floor to demonstrate the harsh survival of the game.

I had a chance to chat with some of the Funcom staff on site as well as an opportunity to play the game a bit myself. (Although that was mostly an exercise in getting gored by rhinos and eaten by alligators, so MJ is probably the better source of information on the game mechanics.) They revealed to me just how big of a success the game has actually been for Funcom, hitting its twelve-month sales goal in 30 days. That's significant however you slice it, especially when you're discussing a buy-to-play game rather than a subscription setup.

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PAX East 2017: En Masse tells us all about TERA's console port

Putting TERA on consoles seems like it's the most obvious combination of games and platforms ever conceived. Even more than Super Mario Bros. and the NES controller, or Star Wars and awkward dance sequences. I was happy to get a chance to talk a bit about the recent announcement of the console port with En Masse at this year's PAX East, and the obvious question that sprang to mind wasn't about why it is getting a port but why it is happening now instead of earlier.

In a word? Timing. When TERA originally launched, it was the middle of the life cycle for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and neither console was really a perfect match, according to the studio. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, on the other hand, are both more powerful systems and systems designed from the ground up to be suited to online connectivity and interaction. The result was that it was the right opportunity for the team to make the port happen, with all of the stars aligning perfectly.

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PAX East 2017: Naoki Yoshida on Final Fantasy XIV's new jobs, old jobs, and future patches

It would be fair to say that Final Fantasy XIV fans treat Naoki Yoshida like a rock star, and he carries himself like one: not with unnecessary swagger but with the smooth confidence of someone who has a lot going on beneath the surface and knows exactly what he's doing. This is part of why it's always a joy to interview him, as few other developers can (or will) provide such thorough answers to even the most incidental questions.

Obviously, sitting with Yoshida meant that I had to ask him a fair number of questions about Stormblood and what's coming with the expansion, but I also had to ask about the last patches of Heavensward and quality-of-life improvements. So there's a lot to chew on, some of which has been rumored before now, some of which has not, and all of which is highly relevant before the game's community Q&A panel takes place at PAX later today.

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E3 2016: Master X Master might be the most MMO-like MOBA around

Despite Eliot's positive experience with Master X Master at PAX East back in April, I went into my demo at this year's E3 expecting very little. While I'm far from a MOBA master, I've sunk some time into several non-mainstream titles hoping to spice up the genre and rarely stick with them for long. Happily, though MXM may suffer the same fate for me personally, I'm already feeling confident that I can recommend the title to Massively OP readers.

Don't call it a mascot fighter

One thing I think that might be best for the game from a sales perspective is this emphasis on calling it a mascot fighter. Think of it like Who Framed Roger Rabbit?: There are cameos from famous people, but most of the movie revolves around original characters. MXM is much the same, so when you read character introductions outside of the game and don't have a clue which NCsoft title they're from, just assume they're an original. There's nothing intentionally misleading about this, as apparently my guide didn't realize the out-of-game press made no emphasis to highlight this distinction (even the Asian websites lack this information on the character pages).

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Massively OP Podcast Episode 62: EVE Fanfest and PAX East

There was not one, but two big gaming conventions this past weekend, and Massively OP reporters were on the ground at both PAX East and EVE Fanfest! Join us for a lively and informative hour of con reports from Eliot and Brendan. What can they glean about the future of MMOs from these shows? Find out!

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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PAX East 2016: Hands-on with NCsoft's Master x Master

Master x Master might very well be the MOBA that I learn to love in spite of any and all preconceptions.

I am not, categorically, a fan of MOBAs. This is not news. It's not a moral stance of any sort; the genre, as a whole, just holds very little appeal. Master x Master had that to overcome right from the starting gate, along with the reality that the game's very nature didn't sound to appealing. A mascot-based MOBA based on NCsoft properties, most of which have very little resonance for me in the first place? I can live without that.

Walking away from the demo I had with the game, I'm humming an altogether different tune. The game actually exists in an odd hybrid space between MOBA gameplay, twin-stick shooters, and cooperative ARPG gameplay in more ways than one, and its "mascot" nature has been vastly overstated. What I've seen and played thus far is smart, fun, and almost everything I would have asked for from a genre that I normally don't have much interest in.

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