On Tuesday, NCsoft announced that it plans to introduce Statesman
, from the long-sunsetted City of Heroes
, as a playable character in its MOBA, Master x Master
Complications ensued, as anyone familiar with the history of MMORPGs can probably imagine.
For this week's Overthinking, I asked our team of writers -- both those who loved CoH and those who never much played it -- what they think about the whole ordeal. Are gamers right to be angry? What exactly is NCsoft thinking? Have we seen the end of any hope of the game being resurrected or sold, or should we infer just the opposite?
Last week we were off to a great start as we listened to the first batch of player-voted favorite MMO themes. As I said then, the results of the voting, in which I asked players to nominate up to 10 of their favorite main themes from online games, were both predictable and surprising. Nostalgia and familiarity obviously play a strong role in many of these votes, but no one was asking for objectivity here!
Today we're going to continue our countdown to the top spot by looking at numbers 18 through 13 of your favorite MMO themes. I think there's a good mix here, perhaps with tunes that I would have placed a little higher, but overall it's gratifying to see each one of these make the list.
Enough jibber-jabber, let's get to it!
Last week, I asked the Massively OP readers whether World of Warcraft needed another class (I want the Bard, obviously). But one Facebook fan proposed something different entirely: Why not "retire a few classes" to "keep it fresh?"
I suspect that nearly everyone reading is recoiling in horror at the thought of deleting classes from MMOs, which is exactly why I wanted to stare the concept full in the face to sort out why. MMO developers seem to have few qualms about retooling classes -- your characters -- to be almost unrecognizable from their original versions, applying band-aid after band-aid to make them functional and keep them around. Would it really be so bad to nuke them entirely and start from scratch with something built from the ground up?
Yes, say thousands of Star Wars Galaxies Bio-Engineers and Creature Handlers. I hear you. But what if they'd done it more gracefully and replaced them more immediately with something, as the commenter put it, "fresh," as opposed to nuking them overnight and replacing them with nothing?
Should MMOs ever retire classes? Can you think of acceptable circumstances for such a thing?
Blogger Tobold recently wrote a provocative piece on social play in MMOs, as pointed out to us by our dear tipster Sally. In a piece cheekily titled "Why I can live without other players in my games," he writes that far from being the foundation or glue of MMOs, guilds are actually one of the worst bits of the genre, being platforms for selfishness and drama.
"Guilds were never designed for positive social interaction, they were always a means to an end of individual character progress. You needed those other people to get the most powerful gear in the game. And the way there wasn't exactly a constant stream of friendship and happiness. Look at what MMORPG blog posts have been mostly about when talking about their guilds: First people complain if others aren't investing as much as they do and become a hindrance to killing raid bosses, and then when the raid boss is finally dead they complain that somebody else got the loot."
"The people most loudly complaining about the lack of other players being forced to play with them," he finishes with a zinger that resonated most for me, "are the kind of people with the most predatory play styles."
I've presented Tobold's piece to our writers for this week's Overthinking. Do they -- and you -- agree with his thesis? Let's Overthink it.
Even if you can overlook the expense, the current lack of games, the potential for nausea, and the annoyance of wearing a clamshell on your sweaty face, virtual reality has a looming problem: trolls.
Turns out that the same internet jerks who ruin online spaces and games via text and avatar show up to do the same in virtual reality too.
As MIT Technology Review wrote yesterday, part of the point of socializing in virtual worlds is to feel the "presence" of other people -- but the very benefit that makes "virtual reality so compelling also makes awkward or hostile interactions with other people much more jarring," such as when people invade your private space or try to touch your avatar without permission.
The publication highlights AltSpaceVR, a startup building tools to help people deal with trolls. The company has some of the basics already -- like a way to make obnoxious people invisible with a block -- but it's also working on a "personal space bubble" to stop people from groping your virtual self without permission, which they would otherwise do because people are gross and have no shame.
Sometimes even the most die-hard MMORPG player finds him or herself a little tired of constantly looking at the back of a head and a running butt. We yearn to slip the surly bonds of the world to explore the cosmos in our very own rocket ship to see what is out there. E.T., are you taking house calls? Can we hang for a little while? I brought Reese's Pieces!
Getting this experience isn't quite as easy as, say, finding an MMO that caters to the dragon-slaying crowd. It's well-known that sci-fi MMORPGs are in the minority, and only a fraction of those center around or contain some element of space flight and combat. However, over the years we've seen online games here and there allow us to live out our fantasies of being a space jockey, whether in the form of a trader, a fighter pilot, or an explorer.
Today, let's look at 10 MMOs, past and present, that helped us get our spaceship on!
Blizzard Watch ran an editorial yesterday quoting former marine biologist and World of Warcraft Lead Systems Designer Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street on the subject of video game boycotts: "I would not advocate boycotting a game as a way to make a statement, especially if deep down you still love the game. You’re just not likely to drive change as a result."
It's not a new idea, but it's one worth revisiting whether we're talking about something as big as economic and political sanctions or something as small as quitting a video game with a big ol' flounce: Even if a whole crapton of people quit over something terrible in a game, it's unlikely to have much of an effect since the developers won't know why. There will always be exceptions -- like the NGE or monoclegate -- and they're such outliers that they have names. For the most part, games really can't react to a few thousand people quitting over a patch here and there. Boycotts just aren't specific enough.
In July of 2015, MMORPG fans were stunned to hear that John Smedley was stepping down from his post as president of Daybreak. After all, he had been in the captain's chair at Verant, SOE, and now Daybreak for nearly two decades, helming the company as it handled some of the most influential MMOs of the early generation, including EverQuest and Star Wars Galaxies. Fans were curious to know both what happened and what Smedley was planning to do next.
They didn't have to wait long for the latter. A month later, Smedley announced that he was starting up his own studio to work on a new game. Using his industry contacts and years of experience in game development, Smedley pulled together a solid team to craft Hero's Song, an online fantasy survival game that would provide huge, customizable worlds. The team went into a flurry of activity, putting out dev blogs, holding fundraisers, and pushing early access out the door.
Yet by the end of 2016, the project was dead, refunds were being distributed to backers, and Smedley's studio was dissolved. So what happened? Why did Hero's Song fail when it had so much going for it? Now that a couple of months have passed, it might be time to step back and perform a post-mortem on this fascinating and doomed game. I posit that there are five key reasons why we're not right now playing Hero's Song and anticipating its official launch by the end of the year. Hindsight is 20-20, after all, so what could Smedley have done different?
T minus 11 days and counting. That's all the time Landmark has left. That's not a lot of time. If you haven't built all your intricate ideas yet, chances are you won't be able to bring them to completion in such a short span. I've resigned myself to never seeing some of mine come to life. And if you want to try to visit and experience all the great creations out there, you're going to be hard-pressed to pull that off. There just isn't enough time; it is all going away much too soon.
You may not want to do anything at all as the sunset creeps closer. Perhaps you feel you have done all you can do in the game, and you feel secure with closing this final chapter. Perhaps it just pains you too much to log in knowing it will all be gone in less than a fortnight. I know some folks that have even uninstalled the game already. Me? Thanks to a video card fire, I am actually installing it now! I am getting it on my new laptop so I can enjoy every last minute I can squeeze out of my favorite building game because even if I can't do all I want to do as far as creations, there are still things to do.
What are they? I'll tell you: Here are 10 things you really should experience in Landmark before it's gone. And if you have already done these, do them again to relive the experience -- because once those servers shut off, it's lights out for good.
Massively OP reader and frequent tipster Gibbins wants us to play match-maker.
"I love the wonderful world that Bethesda created with the Fallout franchise, not too bleak but very post apocalypse with a very kitsch '50s feel from the time of duck and cover educational films, but I wish it were multiplayer. The huge volume of mods for Fallout is also is a massive bonus, giving the game great variety and replayability. On the other hand, I also love the satirical in your face style of GTA Online and its no-holds-barred multiplayer experience, but I wish there were more to the story and more support for mods. Both games offer so much, and I would love to see how each studio would add to the other's game. Which two development teams would you like to see married... and which game would be their love child?"
Let's complicate Gibbins' request and say that the love child game must be an MMO! I've posed his question to the team for this week's Massively Overthinking.
Traditionally, in this Tamriel Infinium column, I have been extremely critical of The Elder Scrolls Online, and I promise you, I'm sure I'll lob criticism at the game in the future too. But I also like to give proper praise to video game developers when they do something extremely right, and that’s the case with Homestead.
My first MMO experience with housing was probably very similar to every other old-school MMO gamer's experience with housing: Ultima Online. But I didn’t really play UO for a very long time, only a month or so. My first real experience was in Star Wars Galaxies. Unfortunately, that game is shut down now, so I can’t show you just how powerful and creatively flexible that housing was. Since then, I’ve experienced housing in a number of different MMOs. I’ve seen EverQuest II, Lord of the Rings Online, WildStar, and of course, Star Wars: The Old Republic.
Although some of these housing systems have elements that I really like, I don’t think any of them reach the level that ESO reaches. And to help illustrate what I mean, I’ve compiled a list of four reasons that Homestead is better than those other MMO housing systems.
Just before Christmas, we learned the sad news that Turbine would not be transferring Asheron's Call and its revivified sequel to Standing Stone as part of its Daybreak deal. No, Turbine planned to sunset both games on January 31st along with their forums, which provoked outrage, attempts to save the games, and open distress from players and developers alike.
But now it's done, and no last-minute reprieve or sale has materialized.
While it's still fresh in our minds, I wanted to collect our streams, retrospectives, and community efforts all in one place. Enjoy.
Veteran MOP reader and tipster Nordavind is going to break your immersions. Just kidding. He does have a question for us all on that topic, however:
"After the discussion about the recent Worlds Adrift article, I started to think about what my limit is when it comes to plausibility in games. I do not need a game to be realistic; I can easily accept no fall damage 'because strong,' shooting flames from your fingertips 'because magic,' and faster-than-light travel 'because sci-fi,' but things like those serial turbines in the article's image [shown above] just utterly shatters the little immersion I bring to games. Don't mess with the physics! Where do you guys draw the line? What odd things do you accept 'because' and what pet peeves can break your immersion in even the most fantasy world of them all? (And the answer "other players" does not count!)"
We're gonna hold you all to that! We posed Norda's question to the MOP staff for this week's Massively Overthinking.