So this week, you get to choose the column you want to read. There are two spoiler warnings below: one covering my thoughts of playing the game from a strictly game-based perspective, the other one being my thoughts of playing the game from a comic book fan’s perspective. Read one! Read the other! Read both! Theoretically you could read neither, I suppose, but then you would have clocked out before you were done with this introduction.
Elite Dangerous’ David Braben has a big spread in Rolling Stone’s Glixel blog this week, and it’s fun read as he zips around discussing Trappist-1, Roman slavery, Star Wars, ant society, Shakespeare, Ursula Le Guin, computer science jobs, and the future of humanity. It’s a whirlwind, but he does eventually get around to talking about Elite itself, admitting that while the game will never achieve “perfection,” it’s “definitely approaching” his ideal space game, as “accurate as we can possibly make it.”
“When we first greenlit Elite: Dangerous, there were no other major space games since Freelancer,” he says. “Now, there are dozens. So, I think we’ve succeeded. We’ve brought the genre back to life. And we’ve proven there’s quite a lot of demand for this sort of game. Yes, it’s niche, but it’s quite a big niche. And we’ve got [Star Citizen’s] Chris Roberts coming along now, and so many other games that look interesting. No Man’s Sky, even.”
He also argues that free-to-play is a “challenge” to online communities and instancing in MMOs.
In an epic-length livestream this past weekend, the Valiance Online team showed off its development alpha test and discussed some of the systems and features that are going into this superhero MMO.
One of these topics was superhero origins, which the team said was a daunting task to incorporate as there are tons of backstories behind all of the caped crusaders out there. So the team created three main origin categories — magic, science, and natural — for now that should cover the broader spectrum.
Even better is a lot of footage of actual gameplay, which takes place in a colorful city and shows off combat, movement, and even a day/night cycle.
Settle in for the nearly four-hour livestream with goofy and easily distracted developers after the break. The actual stream begins at the 22-minute mark; it discusses superhero origins at 1:34:00, powersets at 1:42:00, and gameplay at 2:46:00.
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!
This week we have stories and videos from TERA, Master X Master, Eternal Crusade, Warface, Portal Knights, MapleStory, Crash Force, Drone, Neverwinter, Elsword, EVE Online, Warframe, Final Fantasy XIV, EverQuest II, World of Warships, Path of Exile, and Eternal Crusade, all waiting for you after the break!
MMORPG players just love it when somebody declares the MMORPG dead, right? All those games you’re playing, all the games we’re writing about and sustaining us? Zombie games! You’re imagining it all! Thanks, mainstreamers!
Today’s somebody, admittedly, is Ramin Shokrizade, an economist and author well-known for his career and expertise in gaming monetization specifically, and he doesn’t mean literally dead in today’s piece on Gamasutra, in spite of its title. “What Killed the MMOG?” is an excerpt of an unpublished paper he penned in 2009 on RMT: real-money trading/transfer and gold farming, a problem developers told him “had no solution.”
Shokrizade describes the “industrialization” of RMT in factories run by massive organizations in China dedicated to making black market botter cash off the burgeoning MMO market in the 2000s. “Since the accounts are optimized for profitability, they tend to bring in perhaps ten times as much coin per hour as a maximum level account played for entertainment purposes, and hundreds of times as much as an account at half the level cap or less,” he wrote. Consequently, paying for in-game cash from RMT companies was just a logical move for buyers.
The highlight for everybody else is the next phase of Project Discovery, CCP’s latest pro-science initiative, in which players will basically play EVE to help real-world scientists in the search for actual exoplanets. (Thank you, CCP and EVE players.)
The studio is also touting new Firewall Breach skins, improved NPC battlestation visuals, and updated designs for the Rupture, Muninn, and Broadsword.
In essence, players are tasked with sifting through the data and noting when a star’s luminosity dims (because a planet just passed in front of it), which means sifting through data and providing important analysis. Analyzing these light curves awards players with ship skins, character outfits, and even some new ships along the way. So you’ll be doing science in the real world and looking scientific in-game. What more could you ask for?
Dr Richard Bartle, best known to MMORPG players for establishing the research that ultimately led to the admittedly flawed but widely quoted “Bartle test,” spoke at Gamelab Barcelona 2017 last week with research of continuing interest to gamers: a new model for non-player types, floated by him publicly for the first time.
His original model was “insular,” he argues. “It tells you why people do play, but not why they don’t, which is often more useful.” The new matrix covers what is essentially the developer’s quest for accessibility, the “sweet spot where the game’s depth matches the player’s insight,” on a quadrant of easy vs. hard mapped over shallow vs. deep. Like Bartle, I’m not sure “rock babies and opera zombies” will catch on, but he manages to apply it convincingly to explain who buys what and why in free-to-play MMOs.
The whole slideshow is worth a look (doesn’t load in Chrome, note), though I suggest you choose to read that font ironically! With luck we’ll get a video of the whole talk at some point.
When BioWare’s newest IP finally arrives on your computer screen next year, don’t expect a hard sci-fi approach in the vein of Mass Effect but rather something with more general, blockbuster appeal.
“[Anthem] is in a genre we call science-fantasy,” said BioWare General Manager Aaryn Flynn in an interview with CBC, “very much like Star Wars, very much like the Marvel Universe, where you see a lot of amazing things happening, but we don’t worry too much about why they’re happening, or how they’re happening, the science of it.”
Flynn said that he hopes families will enjoy playing Anthem together as a cooperative experience. “This game is much more about having fun in a game world that is lush and exotic and sucks you right in,” he said. Anthem is the first new IP for BioWare since 2009.
I sat down with Elite Dangerous Senior Designer Sandy Sammarco again at E3 2017, and while the information I’ve got in terms of game info may be a bit old hat for hardcore Elite players, I want to be clear on something: MMO players should take note of how Frontier is doing community events. Even if you aren’t interested in the game itself, the design strategies and execution are things that are reminding this jaded MMO-enthusiast about what got me into the MMO genre in the first place. I don’t really do space sims, and haven’t touched my VR for months (though I could probably hop on normal PC or PS4 versions), but my time with Sammarco has gotten me closer to hitting the “buy” button on the game.
This week’s episode of Star Citizen Around the Verse sees Cloud Imperium’s Chris Roberts and Eric Kieron Davis bookending Foundry 42, Ship Shape, and solar system segments. From the Foundry 42 Frankfurt office, Development Director Brian Chambers checks in to discuss new hires, level design work, landing zones, atmosphere mapping, buddy AI, enemy reactions, planet surfacing, outpost lighting, environment art, and multiplayer persistent universe gameplay testing (yay!), while Ship Shape is aimed at you motorcycle lovers.
“Being able to see your footsteps in the snow or have your vehicle kick up dust while speeding across the desert are those little details that’ll make you believe that you’re really in those environments and be much more immersive, and you know me – I love immersive,” Roberts chimes in.
The best bit is easily the solar system segment, but I’m biased – I married an astrophysicist. The devs explain how they use the Solar System Ed (SolEd) to build out the parts of their galaxy in the service of the Star Map, making use of volunteer astronomers and other scientists to vet their ideas for scientific plausibility. Fun!
A new event that’s running from today through June 23rd revolves around a giant Phytonide that was downed, spilling out all manner of secrets. Players are tasked with lending their skills at xenobotany and xenobiology to assist in the discovery of this alien race.
In exchange for the assistance, the XTN Agency is prepared to reward helpers with credits, medals, premium subscriptions, a Hurricane special assault glider, and a full set of scout battle armor. Sounds like a good deal to us!
Next week Joe and Jane Gamer can secure their own ticket to the moon itself — granted that they are playing Overwatch. Blizzard is opening the airlock to its Horizon Lunar Colony on June 20th, and the team couldn’t be more excited about it. It’s the first map that the studio has built for the game that is 90% indoors.
Citing both a strong character hook and story hook, the devs said that the lunar colony was at the top of their most-desired locations list. The map allows players to visit the origin of Winston, the super-intelligent gorilla, and get some insight into what went on at this remote science facility. Of course, how much lore you’re going to soak up while bunny-hopping your way at lightning speeds down corridors is debatable.
“We were always inspired by the fact that Overwatch was a universe future enough and expanded enough that there could be a colony on the moon,” said Game Director Jeff Kaplan. Get a full map preview after the jump!