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.
In Andrew's retrospective of Asheron's Call 2 last week, he mentioned that the game had a music system, something I'd long since forgotten, if I ever knew it at all. "It was pre-formed, multiple choice stuff and didn't provide any stat benefit, but it was something you could do for fun, any time, anywhere," he explained.
That got me thinking about other MMORPGs with music systems (not just clicking an instrument in combat, as many classic games had). Star Wars Galaxies, Lord of the Rings Online, and ArcheAge are all lauded as games with player-made music of one form or another, though there are plenty more. Their differences highlight the themepark/sandbox spectrum: Is it better to allow players some musical and embellishment freedom within a structured songlist, as in SWG, or should we agitate for fully free-form music systems, as in LOTRO, where some afternoons there's a dude with a lute running an ABC file for Hey Jude or Don't Fear the Reaper on every corner in Breetown?
Take that into consideration, then tell me: Which MMORPG has the best music system?
You might want to keep politics out of gaming, but politics has a way of forcing itself in the door no matter what.
Multiple MMO developers and video game convention organizers have now spoken out against Friday's so-called "Muslim ban" and ensuing national and international crisis promulgated by the current U.S. government. The long-running Game Developers Conference (GDC) denounced the executive order in a tweet promising refunds for developers now barred from attending the late February event in San Francisco due to their nation of origin.
On the left in the screenshot above is a windmill in the town of Cragstone in Asheron's Call. On the right is, well, the same windmill, but in the ruins of Cragstone hundreds of years later in Asheron's Call 2's. The latter game's post apocalyptic setting is quite fitting, all things considered. The sequel was a mechanical departure from the original in many ways, but built on the same lore fans still crave. Not all Asheron's Call fans would come along for the ride, but the sequel did find fans who never touched the original. AC2 also is about to go offline twice, so, well, there's that. But there is a reason a sequel was made, and I'd wager the reason it went offline has more to do with the game's broken past than its innovations.
Join me today as I take a look back through the history and highlights of Asheron's Call 2. (The original game was the subject of a similar piece earlier this week, so don't miss that either.)
In March of last year, MOP's Justin wrote a detailed guide to the most common death penalties in MMORPGs. Last September, Gamasutra pulled seven game developers together to discuss the most effective gaming "fail states," several of which involve death. Both articles came rushing back to me this week when Crowfall revisited the subject of its own death penalty, which involves a brief ghost period and a fast-track trip to the temple for resurrection.
This week, I've asked the MOP writers to consider MMOs and non-MMOs and propose their own favorite death penalty. Is it an old one, a new one, or one no one's done at all? What's the best way to implement death in a modern MMORPG?
My.com announced today that it's once again seeking to fill out the ranks of Skyforge's Elder Guardians. The EGs are sort of a cross between EVE Online's council of stellar management, Star Wars Galaxies' old senate, and Ultima Online's counselor crew. Their mission? "To break down communication barriers between the developers and the community while assisting the community managers in Skyforge related issues and the forums."
"Elder Guardians are the bridge between players and the My.com Team. Elder Guardians can help mediate issues in-game, provide guidance, and help prevent conflicts from escalating. Additionally, the can help the My.com Team test bugs and provide player perspective insights about Skyforge. Elder Guardians are generally good individuals to go to for advice on game play and for questions. Elder Guardians have also a direct link to the Skyforge Team and have therefore the ability to alert the My.com about any critical issues that need immediate attention. You can recognize Elder Guardians by their [EG] tags within the game and within the forums by their forum title. This group of players will have no affiliation with My.com and will directly help the community team in the cause of everything Skyforge. Elder Guardians are normal players that express special interest in Skyforge and its Community."
My.com is hunting for such players among community leaders, Discorders, and forum participants; all you've got to do is fill out the form. The studio chooses from there.
Imagine a game where magic was actually rare, complicated, and often underwhelming in terms of time vs. efficiency -- a game where players actually needed to study a language to figure out how to casts spells and magic words were often kept secret.
Imagine a game with little to no fast travel, a game where you need to raise your jump skill in order to get into certain locations, where death meant losing your gear. Imagine a game where you might actually have to ask another player for help, not only retrieving your corpse full of lost items from a physical space, but to kill the monster that'd repeated gained levels as you futilely tried to do it yourself.
Imagine a game where quests start as rumors from barkeeps, scraps of paper found on corpses in the wild, or just something you stumbled on in a random dungeon; a game where lore knowledge was needed just to find a newly released quest; a game where the developers and game masters took control of lore characters and during monthly updates would interact with players to help guide them through the game world's narrative.
Now realize that this game existed, exists. That game is Asheron's Call, not just at launch but for months and even years afterward.