A comment on Reddit about the current size and viability of Kritika Online got me thinking about MMO playerbases in general lately. We all know that there’s a stigma attached to little games; the big games with big servers and millions of players feel safer, and nowadays people just assume a small MMO has one foot in the grave. But it isn’t always true. We could also rattle off some smaller MMOs that seem to be moving along just fine, with bills paid. Sure, they’d like to be bigger, but they’re holding steady and know how to work the playerbase they do have rather than constantly alienate their current customers in search of new customers. And some MMO gamers actually prefer those sorts of titles. After all, if the game has just a few thousand people, it’s much easier to get to know a large slice of them, plus have your voice heard by the developers and actually influence the gameworld.
For this week’s Massively Overthinking, I’ve asked the writers to reflect on the smallest MMOs they have played, and then consider how big an MMO has to be in terms of playerbase that they’d consider playing it now. What’s the smallest MMO you’re willing to play, and why?
When we moved over here to Massively Overpowered, some of us transplanted our long-running columns to the new space. I perhaps felt most devastated that I was going to lose all of the Game Archaeologist articles that I had painstakingly researched over the years. So my mission with this space became two-fold: to rescue and update my older columns while continuing to add more articles to this series on classic MMOs and proto-MMOs.
I’ve been pleased with the results so far because TGA is a series that I really don’t want to see vanish. As MMORPG fans, we should consider it important to remember and learn about these older titles and to expand our knowledge past the more popular and well-known games of yesteryear.
Now that we have quite a catalogue of Game Archaeologist columns, I thought it would be helpful to end the year by gifting this handy guide to you that organizes and compiles our continuing look at the history of the genre. Enjoy!
So this is an unusual situation for me: I’ve never
actually played a game for Choose My Adventure
that I’ve disliked this much.
Those of you who have followed my writing for a while know that I’ve played some games I didn’t much like before, but that’s different. Lord of the Rings Online and Black Desert, for example, are games that were not my cup of tea but still had obvious merits I could praise. I’ve played games that I dislike or ones that deserved more criticism than praise when I played them (Ryzom, TERA, the beta period of The Elder Scrolls Online), but still had positive sides. (And in the last case, ESO turned itself around quite well and earned plenty of kudos from me.) Heck, I played Scarlet Blade with as open a mind as I could possibly have.
But not so DC Universe Online. No, this game deserves a pretty thorough drubbing. I can understand why it has fans, but it’s still just not a good game. I can only hope it’s an outlier rather than the norm on Daybreak’s overall catalog, because… wow. This is not fun.
Recently we had an interesting question come in from reader and Patron Rasmus Praestholm, who asked me to do a little investigating: “What (if anything of substance) exists in the MMO field that’s not only free, but open source? The topic of open source came up briefly in a recent column, where Ryzom was noted to have gone open source at some point. But have any serious efforts actually gotten anywhere starting out as open source?”
As some graphical MMORPGs pass the two-decade mark in video game history and are being either cancelled or retired to maintenance mode, it’s an increasingly important topic when it comes to keeping these games alive. Not only that, the question of open source MMOs involves the community in continued development, with the studio handing over the keys to an aging car to see what can be done by resourceful fans.
But has anything much been done with open source projects in the realm of MMORPGs? Is this something that we should be demanding more of as online gaming starts using more accessible platforms such as SpatialOS? Let’s dig a bit into this topic and see what we turn up.
Ragequitting. Most of us have probably done it once or twice from groups or single-player games or even MMO sessions in our time. My husband ragequit (disgustquit?) an Overwatch match the other night where his own teammates were spewing toxic slurs in voice chat, leading to a rating hit for him rather than the people poisoning the game (another problem for another column).
But what about ragequitting an MMORPG altogether? A game where you have time and money and friends and loot and achievements, sometimes years’ worth? Have you ever up and just walked out on an MMORPG? If so, what prompted it, and did you ever regret it or change your mind? I posed these questions to the Massively OP team for this week’s Overthinking roundtable!
As of May 31st, Ryzom (formerly Saga of Ryzom) has transitioned into a slightly different business model that will take a little explaining.
Essentially, the game is straddling the line between a freemium and free-to-play model, giving subscribers a chance to continue to access their account if they choose to let their sub lapse. Free players can enjoy the game, albeit with limitations on skill points, gear, and storage.
Meanwhile, premium (subscription) players will enjoy even more bonuses than before. These include double XP, many service account options, and no restrictions on skills, leveling, and gear. The subscription price is remaining the same, and the devs promised players that current and future game content would remain free for all.
We recently wondered what ever happened to Ryzom and did some investigating to find out.
Ever find yourself wondering, “Whatever happened to so-and-so? We never hear about that MMO in the news any more! Is it still running? Does it still have a loyal community? How will I find out about these things if I am too lazy to Google it?”
Well, that’s what I’m here for, gentle readers. The response back in March to the first column in this series was positive enough that it warranted a follow-up with a different trilogy of games to investigate. In today’s post, we’re going to see what’s going on (if anything) with Alganon, Ryzom, and Forsaken Legends, three titles that haven’t been in the spotlight for a while.
Have suggestions for future installments in this series? That’s what the comments are for, brah.
Have you ever noticed that while there’s an entire world out there, most all of the MMORPGs we discuss and play tend to either be ones crafted in the USA or imports from China or Korea? We even have a shorthand for this: “western” and “eastern” MMOs. We’re usually not talking about entire hemispheres with these references, but rather about categorizing three countries that are big into the MMORPG business.
But what about the rest of the world? Are all of these other countries so uncaring about this genre that they’ve never tried their hand at making an MMO? Of course not; as I’m about to show you, there are plenty of online RPGs that have been made in countries other than China, the USA, and South Korea. It’s just that for various reasons, those three countries ended up fostering concentrations of video game developers who knew how to create these types of games.
So let’s take a tour around the world and see if we can’t give some credit to other countries for their contributions to the MMORPG genre past, present, and future. Before you click the link, see how many you can name off the top of your head!
In third grade, my teacher sent home a report card with the note that “Justin is wonderfully strange.” Ever since then, I never found the terms “strange” or “weird” to be pejorative but rather a signpost pointing the way to interesting paths less traveled.
To be weird is to deviate from the safe and predictable and instead venture into the wild and woolly lands of the imagination. When it comes to MMORPGs, I feel that more devs would love for their games to be more strange while the risk-averse studios (and their publishers) pull hard to keep traditional tropes in play.
Still, every once in a while a game comes out that walk on the weird side. These MMOs don’t usually boast universal appeal, large numbers, or even great respect, but they do offer vivid imagination, hidden qualities, and a certain uniqueness that is rarely found elsewhere. Today, we will celebrate the wonderfully strange in online gaming with these 10 titles.
Earlier this week, Redditor maxpower888 started an epic thread on the /r/mmorpg sub asking everyone to chime in and name his or her top five MMORPGs of all time. I thought it was a nifty thread to skim to see how many times the same games kept popping up (and the same games turned up in combination with each other).
“You can tell how old people are by their lists,” one gamer objected, but I don’t think that’s necessarily true!
So for this week’s Overthinking, we’re going to join in the fun, then explain our choices and puzzle out what those choices say about us — don’t forget to click the entries to expand them for explanations! You should do the same down in the comments!
This week’s Massively Overthinking was inspired by a reader who decided to go by Sandboxless in Seattle when he penned this note of frustration to us.
I have been playing MMOs for more than half a decade now, and in that time, I’ve tried numerous MMOs — old and new, Western and Eastern — and developed what I would like to think is a very broad understanding and appreciation of the genre. However, I will confess to a blindspot. I have next to no experience with sandboxes. Most of them are just fundamentally unappealing to me — usually due to non-consensual PvP — but thanks to MassivelyOP’s trial key giveaway, I’m now giving Black Desert
a try. And I just don’t get it.
The general consensus among the MMO community seems to be that sandboxes are the superior breed of MMO. I’ve spent years seeing praise heaped upon the virtual world as the pinnacle of MMO design. I’ve yet to encounter a themepark that did not have a large and vocal group of players wishing it was more of a sandbox, but I have never once heard anyone (other than myself) wish a sandbox was more of a themepark.
Yet when I play Black Desert, I’m not feeling the magic. I see nothing special about the experience. Intellectually I understand the appeal of sandboxes. It’s usually something about player freedom and greater immersion. But I don’t feel any freer in Black Desert than in any other game (in fact I felt much more freedom to go and do as I wish in Guild Wars 2 and The Elder Scrolls Online). Nor do sandboxes seem any more immersive to me. Indeed, focusing on (often very complex) systems ahead of structured content is quite unimmersive to me. In a themepark, I can lose myself in the story and adventure and learn the game systems at my own pace along the way.
Yet clearly I am alone in feeling this way, so I throw myself upon the mercy of the Massively team: What’s wrong with me, and how do I fix it?
This is gonna be a fun one to unpack. Let’s talk sandboxes! Is Sandboxless broken beyond repair, or are sandboxes the problem?
Ryzom is really truly on the way to Steam — this week, in fact. May 6th is the big day.
The 2004 sci-fantasy sandbox MMORPG was greenlit in May of last year and is finally ready to go. Winch Gate says that it’s upgraded the game’s visual effects, rendering, textures, and security as well as implemented OpenGL 3D and support for 64-bit systems.
Winch Gate rather famously released the source code for the game in 2010, allowing other players and programmers to dabble with their own servers. In 2012, the company wiped Ryzom’s servers completely and started clean, which is a bold move for any MMO studio, never mind one with half a million registered players.
Looking to get caught up on the history of the game? Our very own Game Archaeologist covered it in full just a few weekends ago.
Every so often I get requests to cover such-and-such game in this column. These are often incredibly obscure titles, even to me, and when I get them they go into a queue along with my other wish list topics. One title’s popped up enough in the request space that I knew I had to tackle it before too long, and that game is Saga of Ryzom (or just Ryzom if you’re being informal, and we are).
Ryzom is an incredibly odd sandbox that’s been on my radar for two reasons. The first is that it was a beloved title by one of our former Massively colleagues, and the second is that this game had struggled to survive over the years as it switched hands, business models, and presumably alternate dimensions. In September, the game will have been operating in one form or another for 12 years, which makes it a candidate for investigation.
What is Ryzom, how did it come to be, and can you really own and run a copy of it yourself? We’ll answer these questions and more today!