permadeath

Grimmwood’s village needs protecting (and beta testers)

In retrospect, it was probably not the brightest of ideas to settle in an abandoned village in the middle of a dark forest full of monsters. But what’s done is done, and now it’s up to you and 29 friends to try to make it work.

This is the premise of Grimmwood, a social multiplayer RPG that works in elements of survival titles, roguelikes, and city builders. It’s not a free-roaming 3-D title but rather a menu-driven experience that plays out a bit like a tabletop RPG. There are choices to be made during the day, including going on expeditions, crafting up tools, and re-enforcing the village. This is all necessary, because every night the monsters come and assail your small outpost.

There’s a really neat alternative 16th century vibe running through this title, and the fact that players have to manage limited action points, their characters’ sanity levels, and actions that could result in permadeath should make for tough choices.

Grimmwood is currently in open beta and can be played for free on Steam.

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Massively Overthinking: What we really mean when we talk about ‘difficulty’ in MMORPGs

Massively OP reader Steve wants us to revisit the Daily Grind on making death more meaningful without making it more annoying. His letter was long, so let me paraphrase a bit:

“It feels to me like underlying point was, ‘MMOs are too easy, so how do we make them harder?’ The question of video game difficulty is something that is seldom ever tackled head-on, as it tends to draw out a somewhat vocal minority. There are so many worthy topics about how people define difficulty, twitch skills vs. depth, easy vs. hard, difficulty vs. accessibility, easy vs. engaging, shallowness vs. depth, and so on. These are things I’d love to really see discussed more online, and very few sites will actually touch it. But I think that MOP’s community is overall mature enough to actually have some discussions about this without it devolving into a fist fight.”

I’m sure you’ll prove him right! Right, guys? Guys? So let’s talk about MMO difficulty in this week’s Massively Overthinking. What do we really mean when we talk about “difficulty” in MMORPGs? Are games easier than they used to be, and if so, is there something studios should do to change that?
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The Daily Grind: How could death be more meaningful in MMOs without being annoying?

Personally, I don’t think MMO developers should ever become complacent about game systems and copying them from other titles because that’s the way they’ve always been done. It’s healthy to reexamine why games do what they do and to be looking for better ways to do them.

So in that spirit, death systems. In most MMOs these days, the standard death penalty is a mild corpse run, a repair fee, or both. It’s not even something that I think about unless it sets me back in my advancement through a tricky area.

But is there a better and more meaningful way that character death could be handled in MMOs without being annoying? One interesting idea I had a while ago was that of a daily permadeath system: Every game day, each of your characters could only die once, and you’d have to wait until the next day to access them again. Yet players could continue in that game session by accessing other alts, encouraging a more diverse play between characters.

If you had to brainstorm up more meaningful death systems, what would you create?

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GDC 2018: Depictions of violence and war in video games and Destiny’s Sword

I love stories. Maybe it’s the teacher in me, but I love stories not just for their raw entertainment value, but for their ability to teach. It’s not heavy-handed like being in class, but stories teach culture, customs, and character. We visit the past, the present, the future. We experience things through stories we might never get to experience for ourselves. War, I hope, is one of those things.

Andrew Barron, Director of Design at Bohemia Interactive Simulations, has seen war. And war stories. He’s also been in the game industry for awhile, both before and after his time as a U.S. Marine in Afghanistan. He knows war, but he also knows war simulators. It’s actually his job to help build them. So when he says our games our violent, he knows what he’s saying, but the context for that may not be easily understood. However, once it is, you’ll see that not only do we have some games getting war “right,” but that there’s room for us to grow, and some people are already working on that in a way that sounds, well, fun.

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GDC 2018: A look at Funcom’s Mutant Year Zero Road to Eden

I didn’t play it, but I can’t be the only one who thought of the original tabletop when Funcom announced Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden. Well, if you haven’t heard yet, surprise! It’s based on the same IP.

However, I have some bad news, MMO fans: Apparently while there was a plan for Mutant Year Zero to have a multiplayer option, it got the axe. Good news, though: Developer and “First Lady” from The Bearded Ladies (the developers behind the game) David Skarin said nothing is stopping them from adding it in after launch. Normally CGI trailers without gameplay make the press side of me roll my eyes, but I have to admit that, after seeing some actual gameplay, I’d probably enjoy some hands-on time with the title.

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The Survivalist: Another year, another Survival Game guide

A new year, a new batch of survival games! Yes, the genre has become so popular that one guide, no not even two guides could contain all of the survival goodness. More keep cropping up. I certainly can’t say as I mind, since this is the style of game that has been giving me the feeling of having an impact on my environment. And it’s not all the same collection of zombies, although there is still plenty of that. It is interesting to see what new takes developers are bringing to the table. Want to do a survival reality show? There’s a game for that! How about living like a viking? Yup. What if you want to be the psychotic killer that survivors are trying to, well, survive? Got you covered. Fell like upping the ante and surviving via VR? There are a few of those available.

If you are looking for a new survival to sink your teeth into, here’s the addendum for some newer games in development as well as some newly discovered ones since the last mega double guide. Note: This collection will be a mix of multiplayer and single-player titles with some uniques thrown in.

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Path of Exile on the unstoppable monsters that almost made it into the game

Here’s an interesting peek into game development from the pens of Grinding Gear Games. The studio shared a story about one of Path of Exiles’ failed experiments in the spirit of enlightening players as to the choices and consequences that ambitious ideas create.

The story in question concerns a monster created for Act Three called the City Stalkers (later changed to The Undying). These were practically invincible undead mobs that dwelled solely in the shadows of buildings and couldn’t be killed until later in the act when players found a special support gem that would disable the mobs’ regeneration.

While the concept was cool, the implementation brought up numerous issues. The devs said that the lethal encounters were “too aggressive” considering permadeath modes, that the mobs could be kited to the edge of sunlight, the new gem would mess up players’ builds, and more.

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The Daily Grind: Would you be interested in a retro-styled MMORPG?

As it’s been about a year now, I know that pretty much nobody remembers John Smedley’s ill-fated Hero’s Song. For a while there, we were cheering it on pretty hard, even though it wasn’t a full-blown MMORPG. The retro stylings and promised agile development blossomed some excitement, especially for those of us who wouldn’t mind a modern MMO with a 16-bit aesthetic.

There certainly aren’t a lot of these types of MMOs out there, and those that do exist are pretty niche. Guild Wars 2 has its goofy Super Adventure Box sub-game, Realm of the Mad God makes the most of its permadeath world, and the upcoming Dragon of Legends has had my interest for a while now.

Would you be interested in a retro-styled MMORPG, one that would use pixel art, be presumably in 2-D, and yet have most of the features of modern games?

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The Soapbox: Evaluating gaming monetization through the lens of Nintendo’s mobile history

Bloggers and journalists throughout the online gaming industry have been talking about monetization a lot lately. It’s not just lockbox/gachapon scandals, or their relationship with gambling, but basic monetization and what we want from it. Games, after all, don’t make themselves; we have to pay for something to make that happen. But some gamers seem to view free-to-play games as a game that should be free, not one to be supported if it earns respect. And on the flipside of that, far too few game studios give off a vibe not of experimenting with monetization but of maximizing profits above all else while barely veiling their greed.

However, outside the MMO world, there is a company that’s been doing it “right” for a long time: Nintendo. The AAA developer/publisher is known for both innovation and hesitance, following in others’ footsteps with great trepidation, trying to figure out the ins and outs while entering the mobile market long after it’s been established. The company recently released a new mobile title, but what’s interesting is that it and the company’s last four games are all different genres with different monetization strategies. Exploring these titles and their relationship to their monetization plans will not only highlight the potential success of the models but hint at why they work and how they can be curbed into models gamers and lawmakers can better accept.

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Survived By arrives on Steam as its closed alpha progresses

The love child of bullet hell shooters and permadeath MMORPGs is now on Steam, and it’s taking no prisoners. That’s just not how it works.

The retro pixel art-styled Survived By made its Steam debut this Thursday, encouraging fans to sign up to become testers (there is an NDA in progress, for your information). While gamers can’t just pick up and play the game yet, the Steam page does offer a glimpse into the game’s looks and features. Plus, it tries to explain why permadeath isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“Permadeath is just the beginning,” the team writes. “Every time you die you’re survived by a new descendant, who carries a small part of your legacy with them. These legacies provide new buffs, stat boosts, and special abilities. ”

Meanwhile, the game is currently in its 11th week of closed alpha testing. We wince at the thought of how many unnecessary deaths have happened so far. Curious about this game? Check out our PAX West coverage of this unique title from this past September!

Source: Steam

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Massively Overthinking: Taking risks in MMORPGs

Last weekend, Brendan wrote a great column on how to stay safe from gankers in EVE Online, noting that the newbies are commonly given what he considers bad advice to just stay in high-sec; indeed, he smartly quoted Shedd: “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”

The article prompted a discussion in our work chat about risk-taking in MMORPGs. “After every one of Brendan’s (excellent!) tips, I keep mentally adding, ‘or alternatively, don’t play EVE,'” Eliot joked. And they’re both right. If you’re dead-set on being a “ship” in the risky gameworld of New Eden, staying in “harbor” defeats the purpose of playing EVE. But this is a real world where you don’t have to be a ship – you don’t have to play EVE. You don’t have to risk it all just for some pixel gratification.

For this week’s Massively Overthinking, I’ve asked the writing staff to dish on risk-taking, in EVE or elsewhere. Are they into it? What kinds of risks are they willing to take, PvE or PvP? What do they think about risk-vs.-reward in MMOs?

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Choose My Adventure: Not quite farewell to Guild Wars 2

I am not done with Guild Wars 2.

This may or may not come as a surprise to people, but it’s still the case regardless. I am done with this round of Choose My Adventure with it, of course, and that means I can put Ceilarene down if I so desire (which, to be fair, I probably will for a while, at least). But I am not actually done with the game, and I suspect it will remain in my “vacation” rotation for a while to come. Something to dive into as I feel like it, in other words.

It’s a somewhat surprising outcome to me, as I had expected a pleasant enough bit of reconnection followed by a rather untroubled separation. But no, I had enough fun that I’m not quite willing to announce myself as done with the title just yet.

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PAX West 2017: Life and death in Digital Extremes’ new MMO Survived By

While there were plenty of established games on hand at PAX West 2017, there were also a few new ones offering players a taste of the future. Survived By by Digital Extremes is one of those new games. Announced just two days before PAX began, it had stations set up allowing players to dive right into a dungeon and experience the 2-D pixel game. And that’s exactly what I did while talking to Producer Ryan Jackson about permadeath, classes, crafting, and the story.

Jackson told me that the game is actually set in a cross section of the world tree. The tree is sick, however, and can’t seem to heal itself anymore, and it’s being invaded. He said that the mystery of what is happening is what DE wants players to unravel as they play in the first act of the game. Closed alpha will be starting soon, and folks can sign up for it on the official site. I actually can’t wait to get back in!

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