I'm certain I'm not alone in having been ill and injured several times over my life, once when I couldn't walk without considerable effort and crutches for many months thanks to a busted ankle -- and online games were a window to the world for me during each of those times, even more so than they are now.
Now imagine that you're permanently disabled -- or maybe you already are. That's the topic of a Backchannel article published last week on 2003 virtual world Second Life. Author Kristen French dug into the apparently large -- estimates begin at 20% of the game's 800,000 monthly active users -- disabled community in the "hugely profitable" Second Life world, where activists run social groups and events for people with everything from mobility issues to speech and hearing disorders and even autism.
Of note, one of the players profiled in the piece is getting more than comfort.
A few weeks ago, the Massively OP writers were hanging in the news room on a tear about mohawks. We're not against mohawks. Mohawks are cool. But when we open up a character creator and see 50 different types of mohawks and little else? Not cool -- just lazy.
So it's with excitement that I pass along this City of Titans forum piece that profiles Hunter Robins, the 3D developer working on the indie superhero game's hairstyles, who says he got into game design after catching the team's eye with his self-taught Sims modding, which he eventually turned into a revenue stream in Second Life, and then into ARK: Survival Evolved modding.
"My job is to deliver a set of quality hairstyles to give the player a variety to choose from, hoping to guarantee at least one they will really enjoy," he writes.
Protests in the real world dominated this past weekend's news, and while I surfed around for an in-game equivalent to cover, I couldn't find much of one (though I found people selling themed accessories in Second Life!). That said, protests in MMORPGs aren't unheard of, and I mean actual protests, not memorials and vigils. World of Warcraft players will remember multiple protests throughout that game's history, mostly against the design of the game, but sometimes against Blizzard's policies. How about the Million Gnome March, for example, which caused game outages and threats from the studio claiming protests were "griefing"? Or the 2006 protests against Blizzard's stance on LGBT guilds -- which the studio reversed? How about the multiple Occupy SAB protests in Guild Wars 2, which ArenaNet allowed to transpire without much fuss?
I've never been to an in-game protest that I recall [Edit: I'm wrong. I have! See comments!], but I did stage my own one-woman protest in Star Wars Galaxies, where following the pronouncement that "no one wanted to play Uncle Owen" because moisture farmers were boring, I promptly rolled a character whose primary role was moisture farming on her permanently installed moisture farm. I made a lot of credits and had a lot of fun selling water on that character, right up until the day the servers were sunsetted. Silly? Maybe, but it gave me some life to prove that the suits were full of shit and didn't really understand the first thing about their own playerbase.
Have you ever participated in a protest in an MMORPG?
"Two things I did on Hallows Night: / Made my house April-clear / Left open wide my door / to the ghosts of the year." ~ "All Hollows Night" by Lizette Woodworth Reese
Is your door open to the ghosts and ghouls of MMORPGs this season? They are definitely shambling up your walkway, looking to tell you of the grim delights of the holiday in your favorite online games. Indeed, Halloween season is upon us, which means that MMOs have an excuse to break out their favorite yearly festivities.
With so much to look at and do, you might be in a terrible fright trying to figure out what to do first. We consulted our Massively OP gravedigger Bram (he's on retainer), who offers surprisingly good advice for sorting out the Halloween season in MMOs and getting the most out of the holiday. We recorded his words in this guide, although beware to the soul that reads them all -- Bram might be seeing you before the week is up. MUAHAHAHA.
There are always going to be differences in opinion about what should be done with an IP based upon a franchise. That's just natural. The same core universe could be used to make a sprawling sandbox with weak combat but a robust non-combat market and profession system, or it could be used to make a combat-focused experience that focuses on energetic fights, nifty story moments, and little else. In both cases, even if you don't like the end result, you can understand exactly why the IP was used for this.
Our column today is not about those games. No, this is about games that completely failed to make use of their licenses to IPs, produced totles that did not in any way logically follow from the license that was given, or otherwise took pure gold and turned it into something... less than gold. There's room to debate whether some of these IPs would ever make good MMOs, but boy, the uses we have were pretty bad.
Chances are that you're unfamiliar with Active Worlds. It was a virtual world created in 1995 with the ability for players to create their own content. Kind of a predecessor to Second Life, if you will.
So our story today begins with a YouTuber named Vinny who was checking out this largely deserted game for his video series. During his explorations, he came upon a figure named Hitomi Fujiko, who Vinny first assumes to be an NPC due to the repeated statements by the character. However, Hitomi Fujiko reveals that he's a player (possibly roleplaying) and starts following Vinny around and saying incredibly creepy things, such as "Human... I didn't want to tell you this... but this land it is empty" and "Please tell me I exist."
The stranger finally says, "I can't even feel pain" and then (seriously) transforms into a werewolf, yelling at Vinny to run. Now, this could be a total set-up between two players, but if not, it's definitely one of the more disturbing things you'll see all day. You can watch the edited and subtitled encounter between Vinny and Hitomi Fujiko after the break.
"You're in the middle of a vast hall stretching out of sight to the east and west. Strange shadows play across the high vaulted ceiling. The floor is set with smooth rectangular stones. The walls feel slightly cold to the touch, and damp with condensation. A copper plaque, slightly green with age, is set into one wall."
Old-school gamers are probably quite familiar with text adventure paragraphs such as the one above. Emerging from the '70s, text adventure games offered computer players a way to explore detailed virtual worlds before technology advanced enough to substitute words with graphics. Searching locations, picking up items, solving puzzles, discovering mysteries, and advancing to new areas kept many adventure gamers playing long into the night.
While most adventure games were static and home to only one player at a time, one college student in 1988 decided to change the rules and make a title that would be a living, breathing beast. He called it Monster.
Even the grimdark world of Diablo III has a cute, rainbow-colored side... and reader Zulika is the one to take us through the wardrobe and into that magical world.
"In Diablo III there is a hidden land called Whimsydale in which you are attacked by pink & purple unicorns, flowers, and teddy bears," he said. "Here I am battling Evil Oliver, an elite teddy bear produced by the Happy Company, so that I can get to that loot piñata hanging from the nearby tree. Smiley rainbow clouds look on as my minion splits the last unicorn into flying bits. For my efforts of clearing this eye-bleeding map, I received a dagger that looks like a hamburger. Eight out of 10, would burgle again."
Oculus Connect 2, a VR conference hosted by the folks behind Oculus, is set for just a few weeks from now. You probably didn't know that, and that's because we don't cover the VR scene heavily, and that's because VR appears to go over like a ton of bricks with MMO die-hards unless we're talking about the Zenimax/Oculus lawsuit (save some popcorn for me, guys).
But a few of you can't stop dreaming about what a future of VR-enhanced MMOs might look like. Massively OP Kickstarter donor Revek is one such dreamer; for today's Daily Grind, he asks, "How do you think virtual reality like Oculus is going to change MMOs?"
Did you know that Linden Lab is hard at work on a sequel to its Second Life virtual world? Yep, it is, and Recode has published a lengthy piece that not only looks at Linden's Project Sansar but also at a handful of other companies who hope to create some sort of metaverse in the vein of Stephenson's Snow Crash over the next decade or two.
Original Second Life creator Philip Rosedale is also in the mix thanks to his firm High Fidelity which has raised $17.5 million in venture capital to date, as is a company called Altspace VR that has $15.6 million and counts evil cable empire Comcast and Chinese MMO publisher Tencent among its investors. Those are just a couple of the companies profiled, and then of course there's Facebook which famously acquired Oculus Rift in 2014.
The Sims Online was one of the odder entrants into the MMO genre, an online iteration of an immensely popular game franchise that promised deeper social interaction. With Electronic Arts at its back and the Will Wright name affixed to the front, TSO (not to be confused with Cryptic's STO) had a solid shot at cracking the big time.
It did not. It went over as well like a fish flopping out of water to make a go for it on dry land, eventually realizing that it was both going nowhere and dying slowly. The end result? It stunk.
And yet it was an interesting failed experiment in MMO gaming, especially considering that the concept wasn't as off-base as we once thought. With social "dress up" games like Second Life and Habbo Hotel that have proved there's interest in such activities, The Sims Online could be seen as a prophet of the future, mistreated in its own time. Return with us to the days of pixelated 2-D isometric glory, as the I interpret the Simlish of ancient tomes to uncover a forgotten history.
Wow, it's Star Citizen and Derek Smart in the same post! OK, now that I've stopped laughing (again), you can call me crazy because I remain optimistic about Cloud Imperium's space sim opus. Yes, I'm still optimistic despite the verbal stylings of Battlecruiser's creative lead and the dozens of MOP commenters who agreed with him about Star Citizen's supposed fast-track to failure.
And frankly, optimism isn't usually my thing. Why the happy face, then? I'm so glad you asked!
In the ongoing, neverending sandbox-vs.-themepark MMO debate, the folks on the side of sandboxes want one thing: more. Actually they want a lot more. They want more to do, more to see, more to experience. They aren't content with linear, level-based, content-poor design tracks scrambling to be the next floundering WoW-killer. They definitely want more than just another online murder simulator. They want to cook and dance and explore and smelt and fish and argue and build and teach and fly and age and discover.
But there's one thing almost no sandbox junkie asks for.
Almost no one asks for sex.