This week in Massively Overthinking, I want to talk about something out on the fringes of our genre: battle royale games. We’ve been watching BR take off, first with H1Z1, then the explosion of PUBG last summer and fall, and now Fortnite has taken the crown, becoming even more popular and raking in even more money, at least on console and potentially overall. And yet less than a year ago, we were embracing Fortnite as a PvE building game – see how blazingly fast Epic pivoted to catch this trend? I remember when PUBG started to plateau in the west even as it continued it climb in China, and I wondered then whether anything could ever dethrone it – and I have to say, I didn’t think it would be Fortnite.
So let’s talk about battle royale. Is it bleeding an online subgenre – MMOs, shooters, MOBAs, or survival sandboxes, or is it just something everyone’s tacked on top of existing gameplay? How will mobile keep up? And most importantly, is it a fad that’s destined to eventually fade away, or is it here to stay?
The MMO industry moves along at the speed of information, and sometimes we’re deluged with so much news here at Massively Overpowered that some of it gets backlogged. That’s why there’s The MOP Up: a weekly compilation of smaller MMO stories and videos that you won’t want to miss. Seen any good MMO news? Hit us up through our tips line!
Maybe you’ll discover a new game in this space — or be reminded of an old favorite! This week we have stories and videos from Vendetta Online, Worlds Adrift, Monster Hunter World, Hellion, Rust, Skyforge, Blade and Soul, Portal Knights, Final Fantasy XI, Dreadnought, PUBG, Hyper Universe, Crossout, Black Desert, Dark and Light, H1Z1, Dauntless, Robocraft, Fortnite, War of Rights, Cosmos Invictus, Ultima Online, and Vendetta Online, all waiting for you after the break!
This week in MMO crowdfunding, Camelot Unchained devs say they’re getting really close to finalizing the date for beta one. This week, in addition to fiddling with the beta calendar, CSE says it’s been working on poses, rocks, casting and UI animations, new armor and weapon textures, container permissions, and performance for buildings, as well as training up the new tech producer.
Meanwhile, Shroud of the Avatar pushed out R50, Elite kicked off the beta for its next big update, we continued our tour of Project Gorgon, Dual Universe teased new concept art, War of Rights got a wee patch, ROKH patched up (devs say they’re still “looking for the best way to make [their] come-back,” and Fragmented admitted it’s essentially in maintenance mode.
Read on for more on what’s up with MMO crowdfunding over the last week and the regular roundup of all the crowdfunded MMOs we’re following.
It was foretold, and then it happened. Sea of Thieves hit its closed beta this week with play anywhere functionality fully intact. The bad news is that beta hit back with some bugs, one of which has a workaround of requesting a refund and then re-purchasing the game. Hopefully extending the beta until January 31st provides a bit more time to fix these issues?
Ah, well. Let’s see if other games are navigating their betas decently. What have you got for us, magic list (it’s not actually magic)?
- Remember Rust? It’s leaving the comforting warm blanket of early access for launch on February 8th. You can decide for yourself if that’s because the game is ready for launch or if it’s just a matter of needing some new source for outrage after people got angry about no character creation.
- The closed beta for Closers ends on February 6th, bringing the game formally into the launch world. The only other thing I can add to this is that when I was trying to work up an extended song lyric spoof for this, I called it a “shoot-brawler,” which seems… apropos.
- The Repopulation has plans for 2018. Big plans, the biggest plans. It’s going to be so big, you’ll see. We would all like to see.
- The mobile client for Albion Online is currently in testing, which is pretty cool. It’s only on Apple devices, which may be less cool if Android devices are your mediums of choice, but it’s one before the other.
- Speaking of sandboxes where you kill other players, Darkfall: New Dawn is launching today out of beta. Let’s see how well this revival does!
- Last but not least, survival box SOS apparently has the official Snoop Dogg seal of approval as it heads into early access. Look, have him do the stream alongside his good friend Martha Stewart, and we’ll talk.
It’s nice to see that 2018 is both replete with beta news and with stories that are just plain weird (it’d be sad if we couldn’t call back to Steven Seagal on a boat, after all). So what about other beta stuff? We’ve got a list down below! Let us know if something on it is inaccurate, like a game that’s tacitly launched or something that we may have missed. It’s appreciated.
Remember Rust? It was a survival sandbox and – wait, no, this one was actually one of the first ones! It made people angry because you didn’t get to choose stuff like race or gender or whatever, you just got dropped into the game naked and primed to be axed in the face by some guy. See, it’s different because most games start you with clothes and let you make your character before the face-axing stage. Anyhow, it’s leaving early access on February 8th.
If you thought that this meant the online game was going to be done updating forever… well, for one thing, that’s a heck of a theory you have going there, and for another thing you’re wrong. The shift mostly means that the game is switching to a more monthly update cadence for more stable releases. If you’ve been fond of early builds but wanted to wait for release to really play the game for a while… well, you’ll get your chance soon.
I remember years ago when then-Massively-columnist Rubi Bayer let loose with a blistering rant on the state of faux beta MMOs. She helmed Betawatch back then, see, and she was fed up with (mostly imported) MMOs claiming to be in beta when in fact they’d soft-launched. A lot of readers didn’t understand her fury at the time, but boy have things changed, right? Now, every game’s in on that very old trick, only they call it early access now, while some are still pushing the boundaries, charging $1000 for pre-alpha.
MOP reader Pepperzine proposed a topic for this week’s Massively Overthinking that’s right on point. “I was thinking it would be interesting if we could discuss when people consider a game to be in alpha/beta versus a final launch as a topic,” he wrote to us.
“Back in the day, this was easy to determine. Selective testers were extended invites into beta who were experienced testers who had the computer hardware to handle the software. The primary purpose of being in the testing phase was exactly that, to test and bug report. When the game was made available to the public at a price, a game was considered launched. Now, players are granted access to pre-launch titles by ‘donating’ or purchasing access. For the most part, the primary purpose of participating in the pre-launch experience for these players is not testing or bug reporting but rather to experience and play the game. The division of purchasing a game and donating to test has become so blurred that it is no longer a valid way of determining if a title is at a state to where it is launch ready. These titles can stay in this pre-launch phase for as long as they deem necessary, easily deflecting criticisms by reiterating it is still in development. So when do you consider a game to be launched? Is it when the producers declare it is? Is it when there is no longer the possibility of wipes? Is it when cash shop monetization is implemented? Is it as soon as the company begins selling access?”
Where’s the line in 2017? Let’s dig in.
One of the reasons I gravitated to and stick by the MMORPG genre in spite of its many ups and downs (oh, so many downs) over the last two decades is the fact that I can play more or less exactly the character I want to play, which is usually female characters. Other genres, even RPGs, have been relatively slow to catch up to what we’ve had here in MMO land right from the start. The idea of a serious MMORPG launching without female toons of some sort is almost unheard of.
I bring this up because of Quantic Foundry’s latest blog post, which delves its Gamer Motivation Profile for data on how gamers feel about being able to play female protagonists. Unsurprisingly, three-quarters of female gamers and a third of male gamers, irrespective of age, consider that option very or extremely important!
For this week’s Massively Overthinking, I asked our mixed-gender staff three questions: what they think about Quantic’s findings, whether they stick to the gender they personally identify as when rolling toons in MMOs, and whether the lack of gender options — or in MMOs’ case, things like gender-locked classes — drive them as nuts as they drive me.
Have you ever wondered how many copies of any particular game players return for refunds on Steam? In the case of the popular survival sandbox Rust, we now know the answer — and it may astonish you.
The game’s developer revealed this week that nearly 330,000 copies of the game were submitted for refunds through Steam, totaling over $4.38 million handed back to players. Of those, the majority reason for refund requests was that Rust was “not fun.”
These numbers don’t mean that Rust is a failure; the game has sold over 5.5 million copies to date, and the lead developer doesn’t begrudge those who aren’t satisfied.
“I put that down to people using the refund system as a demo,” Garry Newman said to PCGamesN. “I think in the long run, people knowing the refund system is there probably gained us more sales than it lost us.”
Welcome to The Survivalist! Ya’ll might have noticed that I have gravitated a bit from my happy home of deep, immersive virtual worlds (possible due to the lack of them!) and have been tinkering about and enjoying time in various survival games. This isn’t as odd as you might think! One thing I love about sandbox worlds is the ability for your actions to matter in terms of shaping the world and carving out your place in it. Survival games have been allowing me just that with opportunities to build the world, from the society on it to structures in it to the even the physical world itself. And decisions definitely matter, bringing satisfaction and reward or disappointment and destruction.
I’m not alone in this appreciation of the survival genre, either. Many MMO gamers have joined mainstreamers by flocking to it lately as seen by the explosion of the available games. Those of you not on board yet might be wonder just what is so alluring about a genre that has many elements of MMOs but on smaller — and oft times privately managed — scale. As the weeks and months wear on, The Survivalist is going to explore all the nooks and crannies of the survival sandbox genre (and likely die many, many times in the process!), but today, we’re going to look at what players can jump into to test their survival skills. So here’s a guide to many options in the newest genre to take over our gaming sphere.
EVE Online has practically dominated the sci-fi sandbox MMO niche for nearly 14 years, with its harsh PvP-oriented gameplay and massive single-server universe combining to provide something that’s remained compelling in an ever-changing industry. From its humble foundation as a mostly empty sandbox with a smattering of people and limited resources has sprung political intrigue, war, espionage, charity, theft, and economics that often mirrors the real world in startling detail. In over a decade of virtual history, we’ve seen the rise and fall of massive empires, the birth and collapse of industries, the emergence of heroes and villains, and the forging of thousands of real life friendships.
While EVE‘s long-term success can be attributed partly to the absolute persistence of a single-shard universe, I often wonder what would happen if a fresh server opened today. What could players achieve with a level playing field and blank slate for all, and what would the EVE universe even look like without 14 years of accumulated wealth and skillpoints behind it? A tantalising hint of what that gold rush might look like comes from survival sandbox games such as RUST and DayZ, which have hundreds of small servers and very little focus on persistence. It’s got me thinking about what a shorter-term survival sandbox game with EVE‘s core gameplay would be like, and I honestly think it could be amazing.
In this edition of EVE Evolved, I make the argument for an EVE Online survival sandbox game and the massive gameplay opportunities that periodic server wipes can present.
Mark their words: 2017 is due to be a major year for Worlds Adrift. Now that the alpha NDA is lifted, the ball is rolling faster toward early access, which should happen in the first quarter.
Bossa Studios listed all of its (impressive) achievements from the year past in a dizzying parade of mentions before going on to pump its fans up for what’s to come in the near future. The studio said that biomes with their own flora and fauna are coming next, along with objects that deteriorate and rust.
“That’s when a new chapter in the story will begin: During early access we’ll be kicking off a bunch of awesome features we’ve been hinting at for a while,” the developers wrote. “Regular content and feature updates will flesh the game out, expand the world, and make Worlds Adrift the full experience we have in our heads.”
While RUST has amused us plenty this year, thanks to the character gender via Steam ID thing and the hobo simulator (and don’t forget penis size last year!), hardcore players are getting bored, and can you blame them? The survival sandbox has been lingering in early access since December 11th, 2013 — that’s three years for those of you who don’t do math over Christmas break.
If you’ve among the many gamers fed up with early access periods that seem to drag on, you probably don’t want to be told “too bad” when you voice those complaints, but that’s pretty much what happened in the RUST community last week, when Facepunch Studios’ Garry Newman basically recommended that complainy Redditors just stop playing.
“We’re stuck in ping pong loop,” he wrote. “We release an update, you love it for a month, you get bored, blame the system, bitch for a few months, then we release another update – and the same thing happens.”
Star Citizen’s Around the Verse is back this week with a peek into what the UK team is working on: the notorious Polaris, the camera system revamp, and the Ursa Rover. But the highlight of the video is the behind-the-scenes look at Homestead demo, including the art and sound design process behind crashing a Javelin into the desert and tearing it apart in a believable and organic way. Cloud Imperium says that it was inspired by moodboards of abandoned military ships and cargo liners — plus Star Wars Episode VII and Max Max — when creating the setting.
“We had to think how the sand would build up on the surfaces and how you get it to look as though the ship is no longer pristine and clean and it’s been out in the sun for years, kind of rusting away. So we made use the blend shaders in CryEngine to kind of blend from the originally paneling that was already there on the Javelin and blended that into either rust or into sand, and the way we approached it was the exterior hull of the ship, that was kind of sandy and as though the exterior of the ship would be treated so it would withstand the elements as it were, but then everything that was exposed from the interior, that was just rusting away and decaying and that was the way we approached it. So that as you revealed the innards of the ship you could see it kind of dying over time.”
The nifty part starts around 17 minutes in, but the whole episode is below.