As RPS reported this week, Valve has taken the relatively unusual step of making your Dota 2 and CSGO report cards semi-public – that is, players can see reports made against their accounts, and the rationales given, even if Valve took no action on them. The author was bemused to find that he’d been reported for “intentional feeding” when in fact, he just sucked that match. Hey, it happens.
But I wonder whether the reports are useful to actual toxic players who’ve been actioned to teach them where they went wrong; it’s certainly an idea League of Legends clung to for years. MOP reader TomTurtle recently suggested something similar in terms of forum moderation too. “I’d like to see how viable it’d be to have moderators give an infractor a chance to edit their post to be constructive in an attempt to have them learn why their initial language was against the rules” in the service of “informing players why they were infracted in the first place,” he wrote to us.
Even if we agree that moderators’ and gamemasters’ jobs should include not just protecting the community from toxicity but actually attempting to – as Raph Koster puts it in his new book – “reform bad apples,” I wonder whether it’s even worth the trouble, never mind the expense. Does knowing what they did wrong actually help toxic players become less toxic? Or does it just cause them to double down to save face? Is the industry just wasting time and money trying to reform players who aren’t just poorly socialized or clueless but willfully destructive?
When Radical Heights launched, I was inspired to put together a whole Perfect Ten about why trend-chasing doesn’t work for online games. Obviously, my chief focus was on games that wind up being developed at a rushed pace to cash in on trends and then run face-first into problems with chasing momentary trends, which… you know, you can just read the article; it’s linked right there. But it also prompted a follow-up question by longtime reader Sally Bowls asking why, with all of these issues, why the same rules don’t apply to MMOs.
The answer? Well, there isn’t one answer. There are three answers, all of which are part of the same set of considerations. For one thing, there’s the difference of development time and depth. For another, there’s the time before grinding. And last but not least, well… they do apply, really. But let’s take this piece by piece to talk about why trend-chasing for MMOs doesn’t quite provoke the same immediate reactions as it does for, say, MOBAs.
If you thought the Bless Online community was in meltdown after two days of early access headaches, wait until you see the reaction to the actual MMO once people started playing.
Reddit is currently aflame over several topics. For starters, the first players are already hitting level 45 and finding that the endgame content they expected based on what’s in the other regional versions of the game simply isn’t there. One poster rattles off an immense list of missing content, including arenas, battlegrounds, the PvP ranking system, hard mode dungeons, daily dungeons, and honor point system.
(Worth pointing out here is that we became suspicious about the state of PvP ourselves when no PvP was shown at the day-long press event a few weeks ago, despite studio claims that PvP was one of the game’s three pillars.)
If you’ve ever had the desire to send in hordes of minions to fight at your command, yet you also felt anguished about causing so much human suffering, then The Maestros has a kinder, more technological solution. The PvP team battler puts players in charge of creatures and robots as technology faces off against nature.
Who will win? We might find out this weekend, when The Maestros kicks off a three-day closed beta test from May 25th through the 27th. It’s a perfect time to figure out whether or not this title, which the devs describe as “League of Legends meets Pikmin,” is for you.
“The Maestros is a team-vs.-team action-strategy arena about transforming cute animals and clunky robot minions into battle-ready beasts and bots,” the team described. “Pick a commander and beat down leafy monsters to build up your squad, then mutate them into a walking wombo combo your enemies won’t soon forget.”
Last week, Guild Wars 2’s Crystin Cox gave a monetization interview to Gamasutra during which she made one specific argument I wanted to pull out and re-examine. She was trying to explain why lockboxes can provide a “value” to players that they can’t get any other way.
“When we talk about cosmetics, there’s a demand for every individual cosmetic. Like maybe I love cowboy hats, I just want to buy cowboy hats. But there’s also a demand, and a lot of players feel this way, for just cosmetic options. I like cowboy hats sure, but I also like bandanas, and I like clown hair, I like everything. I don’t really have a super strong preference. I just want more things to put in my dress-up box. That demand can be satisfied a lot better sometimes with just giving you a random thing because that can be done a lot cheaper. If you don’t care about which one you get and you just want one, you can get it for a lot cheaper. When you’re talking about games that have rarity, and rarity’s a big part of that game, then lootboxes can be done to distribute something on a small scale, so that not everybody has access to it but some do, as sort of a jackpot item. And then that gets into a little more complexity around the economy and your game, and whether not this is an enjoyable part of your game for people to play, play with the economy of some such. But if it is, then you can use lootboxes to be a pretty good distribution for something that’s very rare.”
Fortnite had another record month of revenue in April, according to SuperData’s latest global revenue report. “Epic’s Battle Royale shooter made $296 million in April across Console, PC and Mobile, up from $223 million in March,” says the firm.
But the more interesting story is SuperData’s assertion that “Grand Theft Auto V is finally showing its age.”
“GTA V Online revenue declined 9% year-over-year, ending an impressive streak of 12 consecutive months with year-over-year growth. GTA V Online has declined sequentially every month since the start of the year, likely in part due to the continued rise of Fortnite as well as a dearth of significant content updates from Rockstar.”
really needs to be given some credit for striking out in a different direction when the rest of the PvP scene was shamelessly copycatting League of Legends
and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds
. The turn-based strategy game had more in common with Advance Wars and chess than your typical MOBA and remains rather unique in the genre space.
Well now the Chinese can experience that unique flavor, as Trion Worlds announced that Atlas Reactor has arrived in that country and is available through Steam. The free-to-play game is the second (after Trove) that Trion launched in the region and brings the full game up through the current start of Season Six.
“Atlas Reactor’s exciting and competitive take on the turn-based strategy genre as well as its compelling cast of characters make it a great fit for China,” said CEO Scott Hartsman. “Chinese players have fully embraced Trove and have been asking for a fully localized version of Atlas Reactor as well, and we couldn’t be happier to bring it to them.”
Gosh, isn’t it just the worst when you’ve got those friends for whom everything
just ties back to their deals? We get it, Karen, you have kids. Yes, Joel, you do crossfit, that’s not what we’re talking about right now. Fine, Pyke, you’re the newest character in League of Legends
and you’re a drowned revenant seeking revenge against the crew who abandoned you
. Can’t we all just sit and have a nice lunch and talk about other things
Ugh, here he goes. Look, there’s nothing to be done about it, we’ll just have to listen to Pyke ramble on about how he’s going to stealth his way up to his targets before surfacing and killing them with his other abilities, including a paralyzing shot and a special capturing harpoon. And now he’s putting the trailer for his thing just below instead of just, like, talking to us about it. Seriously, Pyke? This is almost as boring as hearing about Karen’s kids.
You heard me, Karen.
Still don’t think we should take e-sports seriously? Doesn’t even matter because it’s happening anyway. To wit:
Riot Games has partnered with UC Berkeley to boost esports in the California university system and launch an intramural e-sports league for League of Legends this fall. There are new scholarships for e-sports “student-athletes” too.
“The recently announced UC Berkeley esports community center will open in the campus’s Foothill complex in fall 2018. The University’s unique esports approach will provide support for educational and professional development programs for esports athletes and incorporates multiple aspects of the student experience, focusing on five overarching pillars: community, competition, social responsibility, wellness, and lifelong learning. Centering on inclusivity and community, a new Women in Gaming initiative will be headed by two female leaders among Cal’s student gamers.”
E-sports programs and scholarships at universities stopped being newsworthy years ago once they were a dime a dozen, but a new one from Ohio’s Ashland University has caught the mainstream media’s eye because it’s reportedly the very first to include Fortnite.
“Ashland’s esports team, which will begin competition next fall, will arrange four-player teams that practice regularly and compete together,” says the university. “AU is at the forefront in adding Fortnite to its offerings, which already include League of Legends, Overwatch, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Rocket League. Eventually, [head coach Josh] Buchanan’s hope is that collegiate leagues will be set up for official Fortnite competitions.”
Open tryouts will begin for the 2018-2019 school year. The best players can snag “up to $4,000 based on player skill level and academic requirements” in scholarships.
Things are looking slightly grim for Valve’s MOBA, as SuperData reports that DOTA 2’s playerbase is in decline as the game continues to lose its population.
The average player base, which peaked at 709,000 back in February 2016, is now down to 437,000 as of last month. Peak players have declined from 1.2 million down to 733,000 over the same span of time.
While the MOBA is still boasting respectable numbers and is active in the e-sports scene, it doesn’t even break onto the top 10 charts for Superdata’s monthly PC rankings (where competitor League of Legends continues to sit comfortably at the top).
The MOBA pushed out its Feast of Abscession update earlier this month, adding the Pudge Arcana for the butcher and lots of new voiceovers.
Video games have always been a remarkably insular field; that’s the nature of development. Someone produces Super Mario Bros, and a few years later Sonic the Hedgehog sounds like a really good idea for some reason. But then you have games like The Great Giana Sisters, games that don’t try to just copy parts of what made the inspiration good but just copy the whole thing with one or two changes.
For normal video games, this can work out decently; a game that just doesn’t get much traction still sells some copies, hopefully. Just because Croc wasn’t Spyro didn’t mean that no one bought the former. But for online games, these trend-chasing games are almost always dramatic failures that litter the landscape. Why is that? Well, there are pretty good reasons, and today seems like a good time to talk about that.
Games alone won’t make the world better. They won’t even make gamers better. We publish some articles that certainly seem pretty pro-games, but we’re very upfront about the catches. One big one is on us, the players, and how we game. However, game designers can do a lot to help us.
“But that’s hard, expensive, and/or boring!” some of you may be thinking. And yeah, sometimes that’s true. But for both indies and AAA companies, not only are there organizations able to help, but there’s the potential for government aid in unlikely places. Games for good isn’t just a pipe dream, either. Some of the most (deservedly) vilified gaming communities have not only helped with their time but their wallets as well. Even before going to GDC this year we knew this, but a few panels I watched really helped it click.