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!
Players hoping for Phantasy Star Online 2 in the west have been holding onto a thin sliver of hope for five years now. Back in 2012, it seemed like a sure thing, but subsequently fans have basically been taunted and teased by the prospect of the game which has never, ever seemed to get any closer to releasing here. Heck, it’s never even been explicitly stated why it isn’t being released over here. But now, perhaps, the final indignity has been suffered, as the game’s official website has silently shut down.
Is there any hope remaining for the game? We’re going to go ahead and say “no,” because there hasn’t been much hope for a very long time now. The good news, such as it is, is that the game still has no region locks in place, but the reality is that it just seems to have been announced and then quietly forgotten. So long, PSO2’s website.
There’s a point when you know, culturally, that your choice of console meant that you supported the losing side in the ongoing console wars. A dearth of exclusive titles, for example. A general lack of sales information. Anything related to the Sega Saturn. Your platform finally getting exclusive content for another platform for Destiny with Destiny 2 already out and getting played by pretty much everyone. You get the general idea.
Yes, Xbox One owners can finally enjoy some of the PlayStation exclusive content, which was always meant to be time-limited but apparently kept being limited well past the effective end of life for the title. The content getting patched in wasn’t even announced; it was simply discovered by a player and posted on Reddit. But the important thing is that if you missed out on that content before and were hoping to see it on the Xbox One eventually… hey, it finally happened!
At the tail end of last year, Wargaming’s then-new publishing label, Wargaming Alliance, announced it was picking up SEGA’s Total War: ARENA, a “free-to-play, real time tactical strategy game featuring epic scale 10v10 multiplayer battles led by historical commanders from the past.” In fact, you’ll recall that we spoke to the studio about at E3, where we discussed its historical roots and what MMO players might appreciate in it.
While you could grab a founder pack to play right now, you might prefer to check it out while it’s in testing first, and that’s where the current closed beta test — and the beta keys Wargaming has kindly granted us for our readers — come in! This leg of the closed beta runs until October 20th and is open for accounts in North America only. Click the Mo button below (and prove you’re not a robot) to grab one of these keys!
On this week’s show, Justin and Bree saddle up for discussion on Wild West Online’s alpha, Star Citizen’s back-backlash on schedules, the miserable state of Phantasy Star Online 2, and more!
It’s the Massively OP Podcast, an action-packed hour of news, tales, opinions, and gamer emails! And remember, if you’d like to send in your own letter to the show, use the “Tips” button in the top-right corner of the site to do so.
Listen to the show right now:
At what point is Sega officially just taunting Phantasy Star Online 2 fans in North America? It’s hard to be sure, but the announcement that PSO2 is coming to the Nintendo Switch probably crosses that line. Because it’s true, the title will be playable on the Switch… in Japan. No American release, just in Japan.
The port announcement came as part of the most recent Nintendo Direct announcement, and it may very well put a lie to the speculation that Sega’s refusal to release the game was due to their PC-heavy strategy and business deals preventing a proper release on Steam. So why is it only in Japan? Who knows. The important thing is that Japanese players can use the Switch and you cannot. (Unless, of course, you’re reading this from Japan. If that’s the case, well, hi!)
Let’s begin with a little personal history. Back in 2008, I decided to get into the blogging scene by jumping on board the latest MMO hotness — in this case, Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. As I was growing increasingly tired of World of Warcraft, WAR seemed to offer a refreshing alternative: a darker world full of brutal PvP and awesome new ideas. So I joined the elite ranks of bloggers (hey, stop laughing so hard) and spent the better part of two years jawing about Mythic’s latest fantasy project.
And while Warhammer Online was, in my opinion, a solid product, it certainly failed to live up to the extremely high expectations held by both the development team and the players. No matter how it turned out, I really enjoyed talking about WAR, especially in the days leading up to its launch.
As with other IP-related MMOs like Star Trek Online and Lord of the Rings Online, Warhammer Online had its roots with another company and another vision. It’s a “what if?” tale that’s tantalizing to consider — an entirely different studio, Climax Online, creating a much darker version of Warhammer.
So what if Climax had brought its version of Warhammer Online to bear? Would it have eclipsed Mythic’s vision or been its own animal? Hit the jump and let’s dive into the pages of ancient history!
In the pantheon of SOE’s (now Daybreak) flagship EverQuest franchise, there used to be a whole family of MMOs gathered around the table every evening. There was Papa EverQuest, looking a little wrinkled and worn but also radiating fame and authority. Next to him was Mama EverQuest II, a powerful matron of entertainment. And EverQuest Next used to be a twinkle in their eyes before it was extinguished.
Then, in the next room over was a cabinet. The cabinet was locked. Inside that cabinet used to be a weird abnormality that certainly looks like a member of the family, but one that hadn’t seen the light of day in quite some time. This member subsisted on the scraps of an aging console and the fading loyalty of fans, hoping against odds that one day he’d be allowed out for a stroll or something. His name was EverQuest Online Adventures, the EverQuest MMO nobody mentions.
EQOA was a strange abnormality in SOE’s lineup. While it was one of the very first console MMOs and heir to the EverQuest name, it was quickly eclipsed in both areas by other games and left alone. Yet, against all odds, it continued to operate on the PlayStation 2 for the better part of a decade before its lights were turned off. Today, let’s look at this interesting experiment and the small cult following it created.
Usually when it comes to discussing world hemispheres of MMO game design, comments and observations are made about what western studios can learn from their eastern counterparts. MMO Bro, however, flipped that discussion recently to share four things that eastern MMOs can (and perhaps should) learn from western games.
“The problem, though, is that in most eastern games I’ve played, the story still feels like kind of a background element,” he writes. “There isn’t a lot of effort put into developing it or helping the player experience it in a dynamic way. It’s usually bland quest text. In the west, we’ve seen MMO games make great strides toward better storytelling in recent years.”
As we continue with our visits to MMO blogs, we’ll hear musings on Guild Wars 2’s direction, Standing Stone Games’ missteps, speed-leveling in World of Warcraft, and more!
How tolerant and forgiving are you of your friends’ missteps? Let’s hope a lot, because Barbaric is going to test your patience when it comes out on Steam in the fourth quarter of this year.
The newly announced co-op dungeon crawler will throw a team of four players (who each select one of eight classes) together into a procedurally generated dungeon. While you may think you know what comes next — kill, loot, repeat — the twist of this game comes in the form of friendly fire. So one “oopsie” from a teammate could end up killing you just as dead as that giant ogre over there.
The question is, will your team be able to coordinate efforts and get past “accidental” missteps to make it to the end? And when you get to the end, will your team devolve into a free-for-all to grab the single boss token and get that extra sweet loot?
Barbaric is being developed by Ignited Artists, a studio made up of former Activision and Sega developers. The team said that this game is “the most visually beautiful roguelike ever created.” You can get a first look at its alpha gameplay after the break.
Phantasy Star Online 2’s most advanced class to date is getting ready to break into the scene later this month. On July 26th, the Japanese servers will patch in the Hero class, which is reportedly the most challenging (and powerful) profession to date. The Hero can wield three weapons and swap between them at will, requiring a flexible mindset for combat encounters.
So why do we tell you this? Are we tormenting you with visions of a game that you can’t play? Well, actually you can. While PSO2 will most likely never get a western release, there is no IP block from outside countries (apart from SEA nations) to come in and play. To make matters better, there are fan-created English patches to help native speakers navigate and understand the game (you might want to read the FAQ if you’re doing this).
Check out the trailer and the new Hero class after the break.
The Dreamcast was a brief but shining aberration in the gaming world. Coming along years after Sega had fallen out of its position as a top-runner in the console market, it represented the company’s last-ditch attempt to reclaim its former glory. While it failed to succeed in that respect and ultimately closed up shop in 2001 (ending Sega’s interest in the console market), the Dreamcast became a gaming cult favorite responsible for some of the most innovative titles ever made. Games like Jet Grind Radio, Space Channel 5, and Shenmue have remained fan favorites long after the Dreamcast’s demise, which shows the legacy that these dev teams left behind.
But perhaps the Dreamcast’s greatest gift to the gaming world wasn’t crazy taxis or space dancing but a surprisingly forward-looking approach to online gaming. In 2000, the Dreamcast took the first steps to bringing an online console RPG to market, and while it wasn’t a true MMO, it certainly paved the way for titles like EverQuest Online Adventures and Final Fantasy XI.
It was bold, it was addictive, and it was gosh-darned gorgeous. Ladies and gentlemen: Phantasy Star Online.
Massively OP reader Francois recently pointed us to IGN’s Top 100 RPGs of All Time, which we thought was worth a nod since unlike many such lists, it includes several early MMORPGs: including EverQuest (100), EVE Online (81), Phantasy Star Online (63), and of course, World of Warcraft (5), plus other multiplayer games we’ve covered in the past, like Diablo II, Titan Quest, Torchlight II, Stardew Valley, Neverwinter Nights, and more Ultima, Elder Scrolls, and Final Fantasy franchise games than you can shake an ancient console cartridge at.
But I can’t help but feel as if the MMOs that were included were added more for their saturation and fame and ubiquitousness during a certain time period than for their actual quality as RPGs, especially once you apply IGN’s rubic, which mentions requirements like story, combat, and presentation. I bet gamers with more experience in the breadth of MMOs could come up with a few more examples — maybe even a few made sometime after 2004 too, yeah?
Which MMOs would you include among the greatest RPGs of all time?