Lore! Huh! What is it good for? Understanding why you’re standing in the middle of a pack of angry people with fangs in MMOs, of course. It’s the thin line dividing your actions from being reckless, indiscriminate mayhem and discriminating, careful mayhem. Lore is how you know what the world is like beyond your front door, and it’s the difference between understanding that you face Ragnaros, lord of flame or just knowing that there’s a dude here made out of fire, so you should probably use water spells on him.
All lore, however, is not created equal. There’s lore that creates a detailed, vibrant world full of people with their own hopes and dreams, and there’s lore that creates a game where you know what you’re supposed to be doing but have no idea what people do for fun afterwards aside from waiting to die. So today, we explore the tiers of lore, arranged in a numbered list because that’s the entire premise of the column. It’s not Perfect Vague Assortment of Concepts. That’s not even a column.
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!
If you were hoping that another title would pick up the idea of a voxel world and run with it, you’re getting your wish. I met with Jean-Christophe Baillie, the president and founder of NovaQuark, at PAX West. He showed off the pre-alpha build of his company’s voxel sandbox, Dual Universe. After zooming across the planet, building a ship, terraforming, and then blasting off to the moon to do it all again, I believe this subscription-based game (which begins its pre-alpha for backers on September 30th) may very well be the home that players who’ve been wishing for a voxel-based world have waited for.
Baillie defines Dual Universe: “We give more creativity freedom to the players: They can build the ships they want, the environment they want, the houses they want. It’s about freedon to create anything you like.”
During this week’s Massively OP Podcast, Justin and I wondered whether any MMORPGs with ongoing in-game costs and timers might disable them because of Hurricane Harvey — specifically, we were thinking of how SOE famously and generously turned off all in-game maintenance fees and timers for Star Wars Galaxies during and after Katrina, ensuring that a catastrophe in real life that cost some players their real homes wouldn’t also result in a virtual disaster inside the virtual world.
Maybe Ultima Online was listening because Broadsword just announced that it’ll do effectively the same thing.
“We are turning off housing decay for the whole month of September starting today (9/1/2017) to try to help any of our players that are having to go through the disaster occuring in Texas at this time. Our hearts and prayers go out to you and your families.”
One of the reasons I gravitated to and stick by the MMORPG genre in spite of its many ups and downs (oh, so many downs) over the last two decades is the fact that I can play more or less exactly the character I want to play, which is usually female characters. Other genres, even RPGs, have been relatively slow to catch up to what we’ve had here in MMO land right from the start. The idea of a serious MMORPG launching without female toons of some sort is almost unheard of.
I bring this up because of Quantic Foundry’s latest blog post, which delves its Gamer Motivation Profile for data on how gamers feel about being able to play female protagonists. Unsurprisingly, three-quarters of female gamers and a third of male gamers, irrespective of age, consider that option very or extremely important!
For this week’s Massively Overthinking, I asked our mixed-gender staff three questions: what they think about Quantic’s findings, whether they stick to the gender they personally identify as when rolling toons in MMOs, and whether the lack of gender options — or in MMOs’ case, things like gender-locked classes — drive them as nuts as they drive me.
was very likely a great boon for The Elder Scrolls Online
. Although ZeniMax Online Studios
hasn’t released any solid numbers, the staff has over and over proclaimed just how great things have been since the launch of that expansion. In fact, I recently sent some questions to Creative Director Richard Lambert
, and when I asked him to quantify the success of Morrowind
, he reiterated its success:
“Morrowind has been really great for us and a huge number of players are exploring the new content, class, and battlegrounds. We’ve seen an influx of new players and returning players and our existing player base has really enjoyed the addition so far. It’s been a pretty gratifying experience for us.”
But even Lambert would tell you that this upward climb for ESO started long before the launch of Morrowind. And with the launch of the latest update Horns of the Reach, I was able to ask Lambert some questions about how ESO built up to the game it is now and also talk about some of its future — specifically, the Clockwork City update.
After all this time, I’m sure some of you forgot that my original E3 2017 interview
with Final Fantasy XIV’s
Naoki Yoshida was supposed to have a part two. That’s OK, since, well, the team’s been a bit busy since then
. With the expansion out and some fires smothered
much loved game director finally was able to get back to some of my questions.
Naturally, the first question I had to ask was how Yoshida is feeling about Stormblood following early access, launch, and the release of the first content patch updates. For now, he said (through translators) that he’s relieved but that the expansion had “an unexpectedly high number of new and returning players [who] came back to the game, which caused some issues and frustration.” One of them was the DDOS attack, for which he again offered apologies.
MMORPG designer Raph Koster has a fun piece out today, ostensibly about what he’s dubbing “consent systems” in multiplayer games that include roleplaying — the rules that govern free-form roleplaying, like who gets to do what to other characters and whether consent is necessary. As most roleplayers surely know, it’s generally considered inappropriate to act something out on another character without consent. You can shoot a gun at someone, but it’s up to that someone to decide whether she’s been shot or dodges out of the way. You open your arms to try to hug someone, but you never treat the response to your action as a foregone conclusion — you wait for the recipient to acknowledge and respond. You attempt, but you never assume success.
The part that’s of interest to MMORPG players specifically is where Koster talks about formal emote systems in MMOs and how they can break that roleplayer’s consent code. For example, he criticizes World of Warcraft’s MUD-inspired emote list, which include things like massaging someone’s shoulders and slapping another player — none of which leaves open a response from the recipient.
Why does World of Warcraft go that route, eschewing the lessons learned from MUDs and MUSHes? Part of it’s down to improved graphics, specifically the desire to animate emotes.
On Tuesday, Daybreak formally announced that the neglected PvE half of H1Z1, Just Survive, would be shedding its H1Z1 branding once and for all. The reveal couldn’t help but remind me of the way Daybreak did the same thing for Landmark, deleting the “EverQuest Next” and then the EverQuest IP altogether from the title and marketing before ultimately scrapping the entire game not long after launch.
I don’t think Just Survive is necessarily doomed without the branding, however. In fact, I can think of several MMOs that I wish could have dumped their IPs or changed their names to rid themselves of the proverbial albatross ’round their necks. Star Wars Galaxies leaps immediately to mind.
What MMO would you like to see dump its branding or IP?
When Star Wars: The Old Republic
first released, an old Star Wars Galaxies
argument popped up, and the crux of that argument was this: “No one wants to be Uncle Owen.” If we say that SWG
pre-NGE was the Uncle Owen game, where players could successfully play a simple moisture farmer, and compare it to SWTOR
, where you can be a member of the Dark Council, then we would see that SWTOR
is clearly the winner if we are talking about the sheer number of players. However, SWG
was one of the founding MMOs; it helped kickstart the genre. There were just not that many people playing MMORPGs at that time, so comparing the raw numbers is a bit unfair.
The argument continues. If we look at the story in the upcoming Battlefront II game, we see a kind of Uncle Owen story. The main protagonist of the game is a Commander of a squadron of Imperial soldiers that we have never heard of until now. Her name is Iden Versio, and she is, for all intents, a faceless Stormtrooper. Star Wars fans are very excited about playing through this storyline. I’m one of them.
However, the biggest place where we see the Uncle Owen controversy is in the SWTOR roleplay community, and I believe that if we study their arguments for and against playing a powerful character, we will gain a greater understanding why some storylines work and others do not.
Is it even possible for pure joy to be derived from MMORPG music? Whether or not, the Battle Bards are going to take a serious stab at it in today’s episode! Each piece is hand-picked and home-brewed to distill joy for the listener, coated in sparkling hopes and drizzled with fond memories. No matter what, you’re in for an uplifting show!
Battle Bards is a bi-weekly podcast that alternates between examining a single MMO’s soundtrack and exploring music tracks revolving around a theme. MOP’s Justin co-hosts with bloggers Steff and Syl. The cast is available on iTunes, Google Play, TuneIn, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, and Player.FM.
Listen to Episode 102: Pure joy (or download it) now:
launched, I was one of those who was brutally harsh about its mind-numbingly stupid housing system
, a more or less open-world system that incentivized land rushes, greed, gold sinks, and cheating. As far as I could tell, even back in 2014, the game’s handlers had learned absolutely nothing from the previous 17 years of MMORPG housing buffoonery. One of my complaints? Not thinking ahead to server merges.
“Balance your server populations carefully and never add more servers than you’ll need after the three-month slump because if you think server merges spell doom for themeparks, know that they’re even worse for open-world housing sandboxes (Vanguard, SWG), only slightly worse an option than ignoring the problem and expecting your players to pay to move themselves and lose their land in the process (UO, LOTRO).” [This was before LOTRO’s free transfers.]
And now here we are again, seeing server merges so bad MOP’s MJ Guthrie, whose pixel home narrowly survived the last round of merges, intimated she was done this time once her house is nuked and she’s forced into yet another land rush. It’s too late for ArcheAge, I fear, but there has to be a way out of this — maybe it’s not too late for the next MMO with housing. How would you solve the housing server merge problem?
Wednesday, my husband and I were chatting about the big stories of the day, including the Star Citizen piece that racked up a bajillion comments, not counting all the deleted ones. I was explaining that some people have put thousands of dollars into this hope of a game, which skews how setbacks are perceived, when he remarked, “Oh, it’s their retirement.”
He didn’t mean people were investing their retirement savings into CIG, of course, although I’m sure somebody is doing just that. He meant they’re investing their retirement dreams in virtual spaceships. Those future players don’t really care that the game isn’t finished now and probably isn’t going to be feature complete for many more years. They’re thinking long-term: This is the game they want to “retire” to in a more vague and distant future, and it’ll be ready for them when they’re ready for it. Star Citizen is their cabin by the lake, their shack by the sea, their tent on Tatooine.
I’m most of a lifetime away from retirement, so I’ve never really thought about what I might want to play if I ever get to be a kid again only with money, outside of joking about wanting VR in the old folks’ home. But I have my weak spots: If someone promised me SWG 2 would be ready in a couple decades, I’d start planning my character now.
Have you got a “retirement MMO” picked out? What’s your ideal retirement MMORPG?