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.
The other day, Bree was complaining about how so many screenshots from modern MMORPGs suffer from a bland and monochrome palette. Coming to the rescue, then, is our team of expert One Shotters, scouring online games for vibrant looks and colors!
Zulika Mi-Nam kicks us off with this delectable piece of Portal Knights scenery: “The last few days I have been playing Portal Knights. I guess it is like a Stargate/Minecraft combo? It scratches the same itch that EQ Next did for me, not that I was a builder. I just like exploring and some type of progression. This is more combat oriented though.”
How’s that doggy going to get down, Zulika? Throw that dog a bone already!
How’s The Repopulation coming along? Well, it’s coming. Last week, the newly installed Idea Fabrik developers discussed how the planned May update is progressing with bug fixes and a smoother pipeline for actually identifying, reporting, and correcting issues. The big news, however, is the new shaders that provide a big visual upgrade to the game world (though the team notes flora isn’t in — you can check out the before and after shots below).
“The lore team is looking at shoring up a few things, getting a consistency and looking at future ideas,” Hobble writes. “A new launcher is being built, this may or may not make 15.10.1, but there are a few inconsistencies to do with Steam/Stand Alone that we wish to sort out.”
And Hero Engine also brought back online the EU server, which was taken down for database issues yesterday.
On this week’s Around the Verse, Star Citizen’s Chris Roberts and Sandi Gardiner bookend two key segments. The first is a studio update with Foundry 42 checking in from Frankfurt; Brian Chambers describes the team’s efforts on procedural planets, spawning, moons, performance capture, the conversation system, NPC AI, and missions headed into Squadron 42.
The moons “are getting cooler every week, and they’re actually a really great test example where we’re sort of pushing our tech for the planets, which will also pay off on the more involved planets like Hurston or ArcCorp or Microtech and beyond,” Roberts says. “So it’s a great test bed, and it’s kinda fun for me, and we share it with you guys, but I sort of see the progress weekly in it, and it gets cooler and better. So this universe is going to be awesome.”
How do you merge a survival sandbox game with a magic system? This is the challenge that Dark and Light’s team has been grappling with as it rebuilds the game into a new vision. The solution that emerged was to make spells as item-dependent as anything else in the game rather than inherent abilities rooted in characters’ innate talents.
The team put out another one of its awkward self-interviews to try to explain how Dark and Light’s magic system differs from what you normally see in online games. The gist is that you’ll need to craft special items and catalysts in order to use spells, and those spells will aid with surviving and crafting in the world. Eventually, players will start to specialize in certain types of magical crafting, enabling them to bring something unique to a group setting.
Deep in the comments of the MMOs-vs.-survival-sandboxes thread from last week, reader miol_ produced a beautiful comment about how MMO players have become a minority in their own genre, which he then expounded upon for us in this provocative email.
“I’ve reached the opinion, that since the launch of WoW and its clones, the ‘original’ MMO-playerbase became a minority in their own genre. Before, we were but hundreds of thousands of MMO players, but then came Blizzard with WoW and its legions of fans in the dozen of millions at its peak, starting to dictate what the new success of MMOs should look like. Even if we others tried to vote with our wallet and feet, we became a minority, having only a fraction of our initial influence, while many devs tried desperately time and again to find ways to get at least a portion of the new Blizzard playerbase.
“Am I wrong with that perception of history? Am I totally missing something? Or are ‘we’ are slowly becoming a majority again, now that WoW and its clones are seeing steadily declining numbers (instead of us winning more players to ‘our side’)? How do we lobby better for ‘our cause’? Or can we only wait and see, until the genre is small enough again? Or is it too late? Have we ourselves grown too far apart into our even more niche corners of personal taste since SWG, while production costs and our demands for production value have skyrocketed at the same time? How could we come closer again?”
Let’s tackle miol_’s questions in this week’s Massively Overthinking.
Remember the big ol’ underwater-themed ARK: Survival Evolved earlier this month that sent PC players into a tizzy over the big bird nerf? (Not the Big Bird nerf — that’s something else entirely.) That selfsame patch has landed for console players this week — without all the nerfs, mind you, as many (though not all) of those have been sorted out on PC in the meantime:
“This huge new patch (v256) arrives bursting with new content, including vacuum-sealed underwater bases and aquatic creature breeding, TEK teleporter pads and wireless generators, and four powerful creatures. Today also brings to console players the first major menu redesign of ARK, as the Inventory UI receives a complete visual and functional overhaul – introducing a modernized and streamlined new look. This is a huge upgrade that makes inventory management a breeze.”
Want more survival sandbox coverage? Check out our new column, The Survivalist, which covers ARK and the now dozens of other titles in this subgenre, and don’t miss our weekly ARK: Survival Evolved streams, which take place on our streamer’s very own ARK server (which you’re invited to join if you wanna)!
Heads-up, Black Desert fans: Kakao just let its players know that their account security may be in jeopardy.
“We recently received a report that account security may have been compromised on a third party website. In response, we have reset the password for any related accounts. We strongly urge any user whose password was reset to contact customer support in order to change your e-mail address. Additionally if you used the same or a similar password on any other services, it should be replaced.”
The studio hasn’t clarified how exactly the compromise came about or what the third-party website entailed, but we’re guessing that if you’re affected, you’ll be getting a personal password reset email soon. Just make sure it’s from the studio and not hackers, eh?
An unexpected environment and a shocking revelation about a key character lays in wait for adventurers who continue to scale Wakfu’s Mount Zinit.
The team posted a dev blog about the next stage of ascent up the monumental mountain. “In Mount Zinit part two, we decided to finish one aspect of the narrative before you even had time to explore the whole mountain,” the devs said. “Acting as if this is all totally normal, we arrive at the end of the main quest!”
To finish their ascent, players will need to explore other zones and gear up even further. In other news, a small patch yesterday added rewards for Wakfu’s leaderboard. So what are you waiting for? Go earn, son!
Despite my best efforts, I walked away from my trading attempts in Black Desert
having been wholly unsuccessful. I consider this a good thing, and it left me with a very positive impression of the mechanics involved, with maybe one exception.
This may sound weird and almost nonsensical, but additional context sheds some light on that statement. One of my repeated points which I harp on over and over is that I want systems to have complexity equal to the amount of time you’re expected to devote to them. If you want me to work hard at establishing trade routes, I want that system to be as complex as clearing out high-level dungeons or engaging in siege warfare.
In other words, it shouldn’t be something I can master or even do much more than brush against while I’m on a high-speed tour of the game and what it has to offer. And while I was a bit disappointed with the game’s gathering mechanics, the trading system seems to offer exactly what I wanted to see.
Update: The strike has ended — see the end of the post for details.
Move over, voice actors guild: Elite Dangerous gamers are going on strike today. Specifically, it’s developers of a large number of Elite Dangerous third-party tools and websites, who have taken their services offline beginning today through Sunday, striking to attempt to force Frontier to better support them.
“Our third-party websites and tools are used on a daily basis by many tens of thousands of players, and they generate millions of pageviews every month. We believe that our tools greatly enhance the game playing experience, and yet we often feel that Frontier does not actively encourage the effort that goes into supporting their game with these tools. We believe they can and should improve on this situation by maintaining clear and open communication with the third-party developer community. There is currently no easy way for us to request features and support that will benefit the community as a whole, and there is often no warning from Frontier when a game update will alter or break existing APIs that we rely on. This places a significant extra burden on third-party tool makers to work around these issues and to fix our tools. Repeated requests for support and bug fixes are made, but there is frustration caused by an apparent lack of progress on those.”
The strikers have apologized for the inconvenience, but the timing couldn’t be worse for the players affected by the outages in light of the massive event planned this weekend, during which players will be participating in a roleplaying event whose outcome will affect the game’s upcoming novel.
“Magic can be ANYthing!”
The forces of magic run deep within MMORPGs, casting shadows of wonder wherever we look — and listen. In today’s show, Syl sparks a musical revolution as her fellow Bards struggle to rise to the challenge of defining what, exactly, constitutes a “magical” track and evokes that particular feeling. Did we nail it? You’ll have to join us for the journey to find out!
Battle Bards is a bi-weekly podcast that alternates between examining a single MMO’s soundtrack and exploring music tracks revolving around a theme. MOP’s Justin co-hosts with bloggers Steff and Syl. The cast is available on iTunes, Google Play, TuneIn, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, and Player.FM.
Listen to Episode 97: The sound of magic (or download it) now:
“Your choice of weapon will have a big impact on your play-style in Rend, from using massive ballistae to assault your enemies, to launching a spirit-world stealth bombing run — there are many choices for players to make.”
With its PvP focus, Rend is stocking up on plenty of weapons for players to use with impunity upon their competitors. A new dev diary talks about the “blasters and bombs” that can be chosen for the fight. Due to its survival sandbox nature, players will begin with crude weapons (such as throwing sticks) and work their way up to portable high-tech death.
The path of progression goes from stone age to medieval (crossbows, bows) to industrial (spike-launchers, bombs). There’s even a super-powerful ballista, which comes in several varieties and has to be mounted upon your fortress or club house.
Mars-themed survival sandbox ROKH is inching closer toward release, a new post on Steam announced today, as early access is now planned for May 16th.
“Playing on persistent servers, you will experience a truly sandbox experience. No mission or quest here, define your own goals according to your own needs! And to succeed, find your own way to play with the many game systems available. As a newcomer on ROKH and its Mars Colonization Program, you must find ways to survive by exploring Mars in your basic astronaut suit, looking for resources. Oxygen, food, water – all your life support systems will have to be cautiously managed.”
We first heard about ROKH back in 2015 when it released its teaser to the world. Just about a year ago, developer Darewise Entertainment launched a Kickstarter for the game seeking over $100,000, but that crowdfunding attempt was canceled when it achieved only about a fifth of its goal. Since then, the early access launch has been kicked around a few times — first to September 2016, then January 2017, and now to next month. Stay tuned for more on the game as it’s one of the titles we’ll be covering in our nascent survival column!