Names and titles fascinate me. While sometimes they have no deeper meaning than to sound pleasant and be memorable, a label can indicate purpose, history, and connection. MMORPG names are, of course, as varied as the stars in the sky, with many of them slapping “online” or “age of” somewhere in there to designate their category. But every so often, we witness a game that changes its name as part of its development and business evolution.
Today I wanted to run down 10 MMOs (well, nine MMOs and one expansion) that received notable name changes over the years. I’m not going to talk about games that created a weird rebrand for a business model shift but mostly stuck with the original title afterward (such as DDO Unlimited or WildStar Reloaded), but instead games that had vastly different names than what they ended up using.
If you’ve had an interest in Shards Online but wanted something bigger and more MMO-y, we’ve got someone we’d like you to meet. Well, a something really. MMO fan, meet Legends of Aria. What is the game all about? Let’s take a look, shall we? Massively OP’s MJ is jumping in to discover just that, and she’s inviting you along. Join us live at 6:00 p.m. for a first look inside the closed beta, as well as your chance to win access for yourself! (And don’t forget you can also enter our raffle for a key, which ends tonight!)
What: Legends of Aria
Who: MJ Guthrie
When: 6:00 p.m. EDT on Saturday, May 27th, 2017
Legends of Aria’s alpha launched yesterday, setting loose the new and more MMORPG-like vision for the game formerly known as Shards Online. While normally the only way into the game in its current stage is to buy a founder pack, Citadel has granted Massively OP a slew of keys to get our readers in for a trial of the game right now. Better still, there are no regional restrictions on the keys. Read on to enter to win!
Back at PAX East, MMO players were startled but pleased at the revelation that Shards Online was getting a massive revamp as well as a new name: Legends of Aria. The key to the switcheroo is the shift from being “just” small-scale player-run shards to a full-scale MMORPG with a heavily expanded map hosted by the studio as well.
Today, after a few minor delays this spring and a combat overhaul, the game’s alpha is officially live.
“The land mass of the game has been increased by 10-fold, mounts have been added, combat reworked, the UI overhauled, archery has made it in the game, and so much more. 2 of the 8 new regions have been unveiled, with more to come as Alpha and Beta progress this summer. […] Basically, this gives fans of Shards Online what they’ve been asking for – a bigger, bolder, truly MMORPG version of the game.”
Citadel Studios has an interactive world map as well as a PvP killboard online if you just want to gawk, but you can actually play right now too with the purchase of a $40 founder pack.
You don’t need to be a brand-new and modern MMORPG to suffer major cheating scandals, something the nearly 20-year-old Ultima Online has reminded us this week.
In its most recent newsletter, UO studio Broadsword explains that an Event Moderator — one of the studio contractors paid to run live events for the game’s production shards — was caught cheating, generating what appears to have been large amounts of rare-dyed cloth and an unknown quantities of unique items, which were then circulated into the already beleaguered player economy. In UO, the so-called “rares market” involves the sale and display and items that exist only in tiny batches thanks to these types of customized events, and a large part of the game (and its bloated gold economy) revolves around trading legitimate rares. It goes without saying that mass-creating those types of items for personal gain is the worst offense for a studio contractor.
“The Event Moderator program has been going strong nearly 8 years now, and we have all worked hard to ensure its success,” Producer Bonnie “Mesanna” Armstrong told players in the newsletter. “Please know that this situation has not been taken lightly, nor is this behavior tolerated.”
The Game Formerly Known As Shards Online (which can also be represented by an abstract symbol or its new name, Legends of Aria) announced a slight delay in the start of its next alpha test to finish getting all of its digital ducks in a row. Alpha 2 has been rescheduled for May 12th, although the team will be streaming a demo of the game on Monday, May 8th, for those who find that the waiting is the hardest part.
In the meantime, discussion is swirling about concerning the game’s first prestige class, the Knight. Prestige classes offer more specialization and complexity for those who want a more focused character, and the Knight is keen on becoming a damage mitigation expert with the ability to stun his opponents.
Gaining access to the Knight will require some work: “In order to access The Knight, a player must meet certain prerequisite skills and obtain the Knight Prestige Scroll. Once unlocked, the prestige skill will be added to your skill list and occupy the equivalent of 1 skill at Grandmaster level (100 points of your total skill cap). All prestige classes begin at first level and progress via an experience system. Players may then unlock advanced abilities as they progress to subsequent levels.”
Broadsword has been putting the final touches on Ultima Online’s 97th publish all month, and as of yesterday, the release is on the guinea pig shards, which means the full launch isn’t far away, though Broadsword is still saying “later this month.”
The core of the update is a massive overhaul of the animal taming system, which has been one of the dominant skill sets in the game since its original launch. Expect 20 new tameable creatures (some of which are new to the game), new hues for existing critters, a new quest, and tons of new options for training pets in different skills and schools. The downside is that all the extra damage output will be met with a hefty nerf for pets in PvP.
Ultima Online turns 20 this autumn and will celebrate with a real-life party near Washington, DC. Since someone’s gonna ask: The studio has said repeatedly that it has no plans to go free-to-play. The planned Steam launch, however, was held up by EA’s “final approval” and at this point looks unlikely.
A small patch that’s going out to EverQuest II’s servers today is correcting one slight issue that players have had on the time-locked expansion shards. Apparently, auto-attack damage had been reduced on those servers, a problem that the patch will correct.
There are a few other adjustments in the patch, most concerning the Realm of Despair and Ruins of Kaesora raids. You might want to give the patch notes a once-over to see if any of this affects your gameplay.
In other EverQuest II news, right now there’s an event going on that is awarding double ascension scrolls until Thursday midnight. So if you’re working on fleshing out your ascension class, take advantage of this bonus while it’s running!
When Legends of Aria emerged from Shards Online, it changed more than just the name. In the first Aria-era dev diary, the team explains that the combat system for the upcoming MMO has evolved since its previous version.
“Our conclusion at the end of our Shards Online Alpha was that we had taken combat many interesting places and stretched the possibilities within our engine,” the devs wrote. “Our systems had become overly complex as a result of years of ongoing live development. To realise the combat dynamics and the relationships between skill choices that we desired, we needed to engage in substantial change.”
Join us in welcoming today Citadel Studios’ Project Lead Derek Brinkmann from Legends of Aria (fka Shards Online) for an hour-long interview about the game’s rebranding, new MMO focus, and upcoming alpha tests!
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I don’t get super angry in MMORPGs anymore — if something really upsets me, there are 20 other solid games waiting for my attention. But I can think of specific instances that really upset me over the years, like when I spied exploiters I’d reported half a dozen times continuing to exploit, or when I realized a dev studio still hasn’t fixed basic problems like ganking the opposite faction’s spawn point a decade later, costing me hours of time waiting for wackadoodles to get bored and leave. I definitely still shout at my screen when I see terrible players fighting on the road and not the node, lemme tell ya, but I’ve probably been the most angry at people I thought were friends who turned out to just be using me or my guild for some benefit.
I have not, however, ever been so angry that I rammed my head into a monitor causing it to shatter and my friends to have to extract my bleeding face from its shards. Like this guy.
Nope, nowadays, I just walk away, find something else to do or play. My time is too precious to waste on leisure activities that tick me off. Plus, I like my monitor. And my face.
How about you? Have you ever become extremely angry in an MMO? Why? And how do you channel your anger in MMOs?
Legends of Aria is shaking things up from the old Shards Online paradigm. In addition to the name change and broader focus, the fantasy title announced that it is going to adopt a “more conventional MMO testing platform” going forward.
“Future play-tests will now be conducted in phases of focused testing, geared towards specific areas of gameplay in preparation for final implementation,” Citadel Studios said in this week’s newsletter. “To accommodate the need for extra testing periods, our Steam launch will coincide with the release of the Legends of Aria Beta instead of Alpha 2.”
The current Alpha 1 test will conclude on March 26th, to be followed by Alpha 2’s start on April 28th. The team said that its taken a shine to the concept of a single large official server (in addition to the private ones) and that it will start to talk about all of the changes in store for Legends of Aria on March 31st in a new development blog.
We’ve finished rolling out all of our PAX East content this year, and we’ve put our MMORPG-addled noggins together to try to choose our favorites out of what we got to see in person and from afar. Read on, then vote for your own best-in-show!