Hope you haven’t booked that summer vacation just yet, because Legends of Aria would like to interest in a fantasy holiday. The studio announced this week that it is a patch or two away from open beta, which it hopes to start in June.
The wider testing base is necessary, Citadel Studios said, in order to “start addressing the issues we can only find with lots of people.” So there’s a pretty good chance you’ll be in and enjoying this Ultima Online spiritual successor before too long, assuming that you are interested.
Following June’s open beta, Legends of Aria will go into an early access soft launch through its own client. Citadel is still holding back on its plans for going live on Steam and rolling out a marketing campaign as it evaluates how the next few months progress. However, the studio said that in all likelihood these events will happen this autumn.
The past couple of weeks has been wild as we dispatched writers to GDC in San Francisco and PAX East in Boston to gather up and bring back everything they could on the MMORPGs large and small on the spring convention circuit. In fact, as I type this, we’ve got Brendan in Reykjavik for EVE Fanfest too! So for this week’s Overthinking, we’re rounding up our coverage and then reflecting on the best and worst as we pick out what most excites, surprises, and disappoints us: First the roundups, then our thoughts. Read on!
When I saw Legends of Aria last year, right after it had dropped the Shards Online name and expanded to be a full-fledged MMORPG, it looked pretty good. Not spectacular, perhaps, but it definitely looked like something you could point to and agree that it was ready for the prime time. I was reasonably impressed with what the team had on display in terms of graphics, especially considering the size of the team behind the game.
This year, though, the game is looking significantly better than it did before. Where before I thought it looked good for an indie title, now it’s looking pretty nice for a title, period. And it’s still just as indie as it’s ever been.
Obviously, there isn’t a long stretch of time between what the team discussed at this year’s GDC and PAX East, so most of the talk that MOP’s Andrew had with the team still applies and I won’t rehash that here. The centerpiece of the team’s presence at PAX East was about showing off the game’s improved demo, by which I of course mean “the actual game running on live servers,” because the stuff that was there for the demo stations was also on the live version of the game. Which is, again, to the team’s credit.
One thing I love about GDC compared to other conventions I cover is how many actual developers I get to talk to, especially without PR and Marketing handlers. Everyone has his or her job, I understand that, but my job as press it to cut through those two departments to get what the actual product is. Nothing helps that more than understanding the thoughts behind design decisions, and that can rarely come from people who aren’t keyboard deep in code and design docs.
My talk with Citadel Studios’ Founder and CEO Derek “Supreem” Brinkmann and Lead Designer Jeffrey “Miphon” Edwards felt like the right kind of interview for just that. I’m not someone who backed their project, and I’m not sure if Legends of Aria (formerly Shards Online) is my type of game, but after checking it out for myself, I feel like the game is in capable hands.
The next big patch for Legends of Aria does not signal the start of the next beta phase. Instead, it signals moving to a more robust version of the game ahead of the game’s demo stations at this year’s PAX East convention at the beginning of April. After all, it’s better to give players a demonstration of the real game than a potemkin village (a comparison drawn by the developers, even), and why not give actual players more fun stuff when it’s the same amount of work?
As for what’s in the update itself, players can look forward to tinting their armors with various hues, a new pass of optimization, and a greatly improved starting experience for new players. That last one means making it clear that the game is completely without classes, adding more character creation options, and providing better guidance at the beginning. The patch is due out for March 30th, so please look forward to it sooner rather than later.
If you’ve been following the MMO industry for a while, chances are you’ve seen the name Sanya Weathers pop up from time to time. Weathers has been both an MMO reporter and a community manager for various studios, including Undead Labs, Metaverse, and Mythic Entertainment. Now she has a new job at Legends of Aria’s Citadel Studios, and she’s bringing her experience and energy to this indie MMO.
It sounds as if Weathers is pretty stoked to be back working on an MMO: “Being part of a world like Legends of Aria is like coming home for me. This is going to be amazing, y’all. There is a lot going on behind the scenes, and I’ll be able to share some of it soon.”
She did say that she’s spending a lot of time right now preparing for Legends of Aria’s appearance at PAX East next month, where the game will have a small booth.
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 War of Rights, Blade and Soul, Lineage 2 Revolution, Darwin Project, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Closers, Elder Scrolls Online, Bless, Soulworker Online, Skyforge, The Black Death, Saga of Lucimia, Dungeon Fighter Online, Mu Origin, Prosperous Universe, Legends of Aria, Battlerite, and Aura Kingdom Mobile, all waiting for you after the break!
Don’t go taking any time off work in April with the hopes of playing Legends of Aria’s early access program. In an Ask Me Anything session on Wednesday, Project Lead Derek Brinkmann said that the team is evaluating the progression of the game’s closed beta and may not be able to make the April target for early access.
“There is a very good chance that our Steam release date will slip,” Brinkmann said. “It is really important to the team that we deliver the absolute best experience possible on that day of the final wipe because we only get one shot at it. Expect an announcement about our release date in the coming weeks with a more specific answer.”
Planning on dropping a shiny dime (plus several hundred additional dimes) on one of the founder’s packs for Legends of Aria? You’ll gain access not only to closed beta testing and the promised seven-day headstart when the game launches but several in-game rewards as well.
Founder’s packs and their associated rewards are now available for purchase. These begin at $30 for the “noble” package and scale up to $90 for the “lord” bundle. Each of the three packs contains a different type of cloak, with the higher tiers containing niceties such as crowns, thrones, and furniture. Just the thing to correct the oversight that no one has made you a king yet.
Legends of Aria is currently in closed beta testing and is working on expanding the team and packing in more features for launch, such as better mob AI and a new player tutorial.
“We have lots of great features in the pipeline and we are making strides in adding depth to our core sandbox features which really set us apart,” the team said.
If studio job postings get your blood pumping with the thoughts of what could be, here are a couple of tantalizing tidbits that perhaps hint at future development.
Legends of Aria developer Citadel Studios posted a job listing for both a digital marketing specialist and a game programmer. By the way, if you happen to be testing Aria right now, you should know that the NDA was lifted earlier this week.
Nexon — which you may have heard of — put out a notice with the hopes of recruiting a game director for its Nexon OC Studio. The specific game in question was not mentioned, although the description does ask for candidates that have worked on previous AAA titles.
If that last post sounds a little familiar, perhaps it is because you are remembering that former WildStar and World of Warcraft developer Stephen Frost went to work as a game director at Nexon OC last year.
While Legends of Aria prepares to wind down its first closed beta test on February 11th, it doesn’t mean that the party has to end. The dev team announced that it will keep the server up and running for founder’s pack owners until the final beta arrives. The only downside here is that from the 12th on, the server will go back under NDA status for its players.
Before this happens, however, there are some adjustments that the team is making to the beta test. The newest update includes a new allegiance system, fixes to beast mastery and taming, and a “karma flag” to prevent players from accidentally hurting their karma rating.
The team also invites its testers to a Friday Night Fight on February 9th. During this, teams of two players will compete against each other in a tournament.
Sad news this morning: Linkrealms is sunsetting, today if our read of the letter sent to players yesterday is correct, since today is the end of the month. Players posted the email up on the Steam forums:
“Here we are at the end. I suppose everyone had a sense that this announcement was coming: the Linkrealms servers will be shutting down at the end of the month. Linkrealms was the result of endless hours of hard work and investment, creativity and dedication, but it never achieved any traction in the real world market. The game has been coasting down for a year and now there’s nothing left to fund the servers – reality has caught up with us all. We developers have truly enjoyed working on the game and hope you all had fun in the Linkrealms world. Below you can find a couple games that we think you might like now that Linkrealms is gone. Goodbye, and thank you for being with us in this long, exciting journey!”
Linkrealms was an isometric, indie sandbox plainly inspired in part by Ultima Online; it first hit beta in 2011 and made its way to Steam in 2016.
Welcome to the Beta Club, Legends of Aria! Enjoy the full benefits of membership, such as free snackies, the comfy couch, and increased attention from players.
Legends of Aria – that’s the game once known as Shards Online – started its first closed beta test today, and this one is hitting all the right notes with a continuation of alpha player characters and a lack of NDA. The studio is also selling founder’s packs for those who want to secure some extras prior to launch.
The CBT adds a lot of content and balance tunning as well. There’s a new region (Eastern Frontier), two additional cities (Helm and Pyros Landing), the Contempt world dungeon, the return of the Catacombs dungeon, the new Karma and Conflict system, and a more minimalistic user interface.