Sandboxes are a type of MMO that emphasize player freedom and expression. They frequently include mechanics for building, crafting, trading, character customization and development, roleplaying, destruction, and significant interaction with the world and other players. A sandbox that is dominated by an open-PvP or free-for-all ruleset is sometimes pejoratively called a gankbox. Contrast with the themepark.
At the start of this month, we reported on a massive new war that was kicking off in the north
of EVE Online
. The words “The Imperium Strikes Back!” rang across the game as one of the game’s largest military coalitions moved thousands of capital ships north in preparation for what it called a “dirty war.” The group planned to dump hordes of capital ships on the enemy aggressively and with little regard of the financial cost, using its vast economic wealth to spread pain and misery. This was going to be The Imperium’s great return to nullsec warfare after a year of farming ISK and building up resources, and that narrative was used to get thousands of players on board.
The reality hasn’t been quite so dramatic, but it’s been very interesting on a strategic level. We’ve seen the narrative of this war change substantially over the past few weeks and watched as every victory or loss is quickly spun into propaganda. The Imperium has lost several key battles and appears totally outmatched by the combined supercapital forces of the north, but has also destroyed a few enemy citadels and is already claiming victory over its primary strategic objective. TEST Alliance has seen its own share of victories and defeats in the region against Northern Coalition and Pandemic Legion too, but is now in the process of packing up to go home.
In this edition of EVE Evolved, I examine the major strategic goals during this war, the apparent change in The Imperium’s narrative, and the effect on the average alliance line member.
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 Neverwinter, Elder Scrolls Legends, Elite Dangerous, SWTOR, MapleStory, Hyper Universe, SMITE, Travian Online, Diablo III, Figureheads, Pokemon Go, Heroes and Generals, Rappelz, Ultima Online, Soulworker Online, Black Desert, and Gigantic, all waiting for you after the break!
Roads! You use them to get from place to place. The same is true in Wurm Online, where the latest patch has added a whole new highways system to the game on PvE servers. Players can use the highways to link multiple locations with paved tiles that cannot be destroyed, ensuring that you can travel hither and yon freely rather than wandering in the wilderness and getting eaten by a bear.
So this is good news for everyone other than the bear. Bears are probably less happy about this.
The patch also adds in new fences and parapets and a new crate rack feature, along with some new creature movement fixes for avoiding water (which may or may not mollify the bear contingent). There are also the usual bug fixes and client improvements, so that’s all good even if you have an ethical opposition to highways. The new system should make highways easier to craft and use, though, so go ahead and make your highway and call yourself Eisenhower.
Combat is the primary focus for this week’s update to The Black Death. The not-at-all-depressing sandbox decided to jettison parrying in favor of blocking, saying that the latter felt more fun and responsive. Depending on the weapon or shield used to block, a certain amount of damage will continue on through to the player.
Due to this change, the team discovered that some weapons were causing one-shot kills even though blocking, which wasn’t desirable. So the devs tackled that, ensuring that there would be at least “some back and forth” in each fight.
Another aspect of combat that was addressed dealt with tagging players on the noggin: “To reward skilled players, headshots are even more essential to winning a fight. A player wearing full plate but no helmet can be killed with a low tier weapon in a few strikes to the head, so be careful and remember to craft or buy the best helmet possible when dealing with other skilled players.”
MMORPG players know Kakao chiefly as the publishing and localization giant behind Pearl Abyss-developed Black Desert, but over in its native South Korea, the company is a massive conglomerate of multiple companies and mergers with internet subsidiaries covering everything from chat programs and blogging to fashion and an Uber clone.
And of course, one of its biggest businesses in recent years is its gaming sector, which Business Korea says Kakao is currently consolidating into a single holding company dubbed Kakao Games Holdings. According to the company, the goal is to increase efficiency in its main “cash cow,” focus on internal development, and ultimately increase the value and desirability of its planned IPO.
In addition to MMORPG Black Desert, the company runs multiple mobile games and has apparently secured a deal to publish PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds in Korea.
Star Citizen’s Sandi Gardiner and Forrest Stephan helm this week’s episode of Around the Verse as the team treks along toward the 3.0 release.
In the Burndown segment, the devs say they’re, well, burning down the bugs, touching on the shopkeeper, usables, mission givers, item highlighting, the UI, and ship doors that are “fleeing the nest,” something any environment modder will immediately recognize (doors suck). As of film time, Eric Kieron Davis says, the team has resolved 54 of last week’s issues, but it added 46 to the must-fix list, so there are 88 issues blocking the release: “Across all of our internal branches, we’ve checked in over 2052 updates this week alone.” The dev team has also moved to the 3.0 branch.
And in the system deep-dive, CIG covers surface outposts, specifically the detailing of the interior — from concepting to prop placement to lighting — as well as the exterior placement and weathering that’s specific to the location. The whole episode is below; it’ll be the last one for a bitsy while the team is in Cologne for Gamescom.
With the release of Conan Exiles on Xbox One’s game preview program, there are plenty of questions from this new audience about the rollout of the survival sandbox. Funcom’s team was on hand yesterday for an AMA that ranged from crafting to crashes (“our number one priority”) to camel punching.
Funcom revealed that it is working on creating voice chat (in a similar fashion to ARK: Survival Evolved). It also hinted that PC and Xbox players may one day be able to share the same servers: “That is something we are still considering. Crossplay is complicated.”
The team also addressed the controversial omission of nudity on the console: “There is a nudity DLC for European territories (it’s free), but this DLC is currently unavailable due to a last minute issue with the Xbox Store. Microsoft is currently investigating a solution to this issue. In the meantime, all territories will be limited to partial nudity.”
Were you not appeased by the 13 minutes of Wild West Online gameplay footage earlier this week? What can we do to make you happy, pard’ner? What will ever satisfy your craving of previews for this western MMO?
Let’s try this: How about five additional videos, showing more gameplay, an excursion through a town, lockpicking, treasure hunting, and mining. Is that enough? Please say that it is.
In speaking with IGN, the developers said that WWO is “a place for people to role-play in the towns, prospect for gold, build a homestead. [We’re] trying to find that balance between the PvP players and the role-playing/PvE type of stuff, resource gathering, exploration, building, etc.”
On Tuesday, Daybreak formally announced that the neglected PvE half of H1Z1, Just Survive, would be shedding its H1Z1 branding once and for all. The reveal couldn’t help but remind me of the way Daybreak did the same thing for Landmark, deleting the “EverQuest Next” and then the EverQuest IP altogether from the title and marketing before ultimately scrapping the entire game not long after launch.
I don’t think Just Survive is necessarily doomed without the branding, however. In fact, I can think of several MMOs that I wish could have dumped their IPs or changed their names to rid themselves of the proverbial albatross ’round their necks. Star Wars Galaxies leaps immediately to mind.
What MMO would you like to see dump its branding or IP?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that everyone has at some point seen the xkcd called Isolation, but if not, there it is. No matter what the age and era, someone’s always preaching that people were more sociable in the long long ago. In this comic, however, Randall Munroe isn’t even contesting that. His point is basically no duh and so what. Yes, we become less sociable with random people in our immediate vicinity as we gain more and more access to ideas, entertainment, and people not in our immediate vicinity thanks to technology. Ultimately, replacing impromptu stranger interaction with the amusements of our choice appears to be what a lot of people wanted all along.
MMORPG players surely see where I’m going with this because we have the same eternal struggle when it comes to in-game socializing, grouping, community, and stickiness, the tug-of-war between the people who want to play alone together and the people who think that forced grouping is the only true path to enlightenment.
For this week’s Massively Overthinking, I’ve asked our staff to reflect on the alone together vs. forced grouping spectrum, to talk about where they stand on it, whether that position’s changed through the years, which games are addressing the divide the best, and how the two sides can move forward in a dynamic MMO genre.
Is there any shame in throwing a birthday party for yourself? Not if you invite everyone and make it hecka fun, we say! Ultima Online has kicked off its 20th anniversary event this week, welcoming everyone to celebrate the 1997 MMORPG and all that it’s accomplished over the past two decades.
The event arc is called The Shattered Obelisk, and it will be rolled out in five parts over the next two months. It should be noted that once the fifth part arrives on September 28th, you won’t be able to access the previous four — so don’t dally!
“The Shattered Obelisk includes activities for group and solo play, challenging quests and puzzles, new areas of the world to explore and a continuation of the saga that is Ultima Online,” the team posted. “Along with the in game features and fiction that are part of Publish 98, we have exciting new fiction that will be posted on UO.com as well as support events held by our event moderators.”
We’re in the midst of a sort of sandbox renaissance, with numerous sandbox titles under development and more seeming to scuttle out of the woodwork on a regular basis, all vying for the attention of the masses of gamers weary of the World-of-Warcraft-inspired theme park formula that has dominated the market for so long. Among these contenders is Gloria Victis from indie developer Black Eye Games, a medieval, low-fantasy title that aims to meld an open-world sandbox MMO with the frantic swordplay action popularized by games like Mount and Blade and Chivalry.
Gloria Victis, like many of its compatriots in this new wave of sandbox MMOs, is still in development, but players can get a look at the current state of the game through Steam’s Early Access program. But if you’re one of the many who are (justifiably) wary of dropping money on unreleased games, don’t fret: I’ve taken the plunge in your stead to take a look at how things are shaping up.
Daybreak is a whirlwind this week: First it broke up the H1Z1 party and got Just Survive its own apartment, and now it’s bringing PlanetSide 2 up to speed. The studio is unveiling what it’s calling Critical Mass, an update planned for later in August that overhauls the game’s victory point system.
“Previously, the VP system acted as a sort of checklist where factions would complete various objectives which then rewarded points to that faction,” Daybreak explains. “Earning these points was somewhat removed from the moment to moment experience, and would often reward factions for what they’ve done in the past, instead of painting a picture of the current state of a continent. This was especially noticeable toward the end of the process, where continents would lock abruptly, often interrupting high-intensity battles in a dissatisfying or anticlimactic way.”
To fix that, the team is removing random alerts, nuking the “checklist goals” from the system, changing how continent locking works, and providing scaling rewards. Expect it on the test server “soon” ahead of the PC/PS4 launch later in August.