What’s going on in the online video games business this week? Let’s dig in.
Steam, toxicity, and Kartridge
The Center for Investigative Reporting (via Motherboard) has a scathing piece out on Steam toxicity this week. Valve has traditionally maintained a hands-off approach with Steam groups, which means that the groups can easily become a toxic cesspit. The platform is accused of being loaded with hate groups, many of which support racist agendas or promote school shootings. Motherboard notes that Valve has refused to respond to questions on this topic since last October.
Meanwhile, Kongregate is launching Kartridge, a potential Steam competitor that says it will embrace indie “premium” titles and small-fry developers. “Our initial plan is that the first $10,000 in net revenue, one hundred percent will go to the developer,” Kongregate’s CEO says. “We’re not coming in just to build another store. No-one needs that. This is about building a platform that is focused on creating a very fair and supportive environment for indie developers” – as well as on social and community tools.
It’s probably not the best idea to start shouting racial abuse in the middle of a live stream if you’re public figure with a pro gaming career.
That’s the lesson to learn from Toronto Esports player Matt “Dellor” Vaughn, who apparently started shrieking the N-word repeatedly (“for 26 uninterrupted seconds while his teammates sat in stunned silence,” PVP Live writes) over voice chat during an Overwatch stream, which one of his viewers then uploaded to YouTube for posterity.
The diatribe caused Toronto Esports to end Vaughn’s contract:
“Toronto Esports is an organization built on inclusivity, and we have always had a zero- tolerance policy for any forms of discrimination. Immediately upon learning of the incident, the player was interviewed, admitted to the offence, and was notified that his contract with the organization was being terminated.”
In case you had forgotten since yesterday’s news that RuneScape had to ban players for running around in-game wearing KKK costumes and shrieking racial slurs, some gamers are still racist idiots. The topic is getting attention from Blizzard now too, as horrific racially motivated harassment toward Terrence Miller, an African-American player, engulfed the live chat panel of the Twitch stream of his Dreamhack Austin Hearthstone matches earlier this month.
Polygon reported at the time that the moderators working during the stream said they were completely unprepared for the deluge of nastiness; though they brought on more in a hurry, some of them were part of the problem themselves.
Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime issued a press statement yesterday, suggesting that the company, alongside Twitch, plans to adapt to make sure garbage like this doesn’t happen again at gaming events with his games’ name attached to them. He put it more politely, of course:
Back in 2011, our former corporate overlords at Massively-of-old noticed that games like League of Legends were getting pretty damn popular and asked us to work them into the site. In order to incorporate them into an MMO blog without disrupting the existing MMO news coverage, we decided to put all of the news on games that may not fit the MMO definition into a new roundup-style column called Not So Massively. In the years that followed, the column kept track of dozens of online games in various stages of development, watched the MOBA genre mature, saw many games plod slowly into an early grave, and witnessed the e-sports explosion on a weekly basis.
It’s no secret that online gaming has been trending away from the persistent online universes of MMOs and into the shorter session-based gameplay of MOBAs, action RPGs and first person shooters. With gaming preferences changing, it wasn’t long before Not So Massively became oversaturated with news each week and began drawing more traffic than some of the MMO news. Naturally, we’ve now adapted and started rolling MOBAs and other online games into our everyday news coverage. As we hit the end of 2015 and approach almost a full year since Massively was reborn independently as MassivelyOP, I’d like to look back at the past year and highlight the top ten most surprising and controversial Not So Massively stories of 2015 in no particular order.
This past week, news about Black Desert’s IP blocking has reminded me once again how IP-blocking, region-locking, and the resulting isolated MMO communities are becoming far too normal and making it harder than ever to meet and team up with people around the world, which is part of the magic that brought so many of us to the genre in the first place.
It’s also brought some community ugliness to the fore.
Some people argue that IP blocking and the ensuing regionalization of MMORPGs is necessary because it ensures that groups can communicate in the same language and aren’t forced to suffer the side-effects of low pings from groupmates far away. And others… well, there’s no other way to put it: Some people are openly, proudly xenophobic in their desire to keep servers free of one specific nationality or other.
Are you as weary of IP blocking as I am, or do you think there are cases when it’s justified and more of a help to an MMO community than a hindrance? These are the questions I posed to the MOP writers in this week’s Massively Overthinking.
Tickets for the Dota 2 world championship, The International, sold out in a record 10 minutes and are now being resold by scalpers for up to $400 each. Bungie defended its lack of matchmaking tools by highlighting the benefits of self-organised communities in Destiny. Blizzard released a new video and interactive map detailing Heroes of the Storm‘s new Tomb of the Spider Queen game mode. World of Tanks scheduled a $300,000 competitive tournament in Poland next month, and Star Citizen passed the $77 million US crowdfunding mark.
An update to popular online survival game Rust gave each player a random and uneditable skin colour this week, prompting an increase in racist remarks within the community. Recently released online RTS Grey Goo looked back on its first month of release, with the game now suffering from rapidly declining player populations. Sins of a Dark Age added match replays and additional music in its latest update, and League of Legends deployed patch 5.6 with a series of small buffs for over 20 champions. And as thousands of players are completing the challenges in Path of Exile‘s Torment and Bloodlines race events, developers have rounded up a few videos of hardcore players getting stomped into the ground.
Read on for a detailed breakdown of the stories above and links to a few other stories from the wider world of online gaming.