So, yes, I did actually play some Ultima Online. Or I tried to play some Ultima Online, at least. I’m not sure that most of what I did was actually something that I would call “playing,” although it involved me being in the game and ostensibly interacting with it. And it’s times like this that I particularly dislike my job, because this puts me in something less than a comfortable position.
I don’t know how many of you reading this right now are fans of UO, and as I established in my first column, I don’t really feel as if I’m equipped to critique the game as a whole because this is where everything started. This is the original of the species. It’s like that gag in Dr. McNinja wherein Ben Franklin is mentioning that inventing things during his original lifespan was easy because all you had to do was pay the slightest bit of attention.
The next big update for The Repopulation has not arrived just yet. It’s the same reason as before; Idea Fabrik wants to use the HeroEngine Live Push system, the game as it’s built right now causes errors with that, and so the team is hard at work hammering at the game until it will work with that system. Lest you say “just don’t use that system,” the developers also reassure fans that the work being done now would have had to be done sooner or later regardless:
Though we have another option to do a full push, this would not help us nor you in the long run. At some point we have to do this clean up so we can begin using the HE Push system as is done for other games.
On the bright side, the latest development update contains a peek at the new art coming with the new tutorial island (which will have no new content, just new art) and improvements to the game’s combat system such as fixing persistent line-of-sight issues and not swapping your target mid-combat. More of the team is apparently working on future content as well, so once the wait for this patch is over, you can hopefully expect more frequent updates. The team is also looking for feedback on the hardware owned by players for future development.
What’s the fastest way to ruin your house? Throw a free party to people with no inhibitions, of course. So what’s the fastest way to break an online video game? Drop the price to zero for a weekend and throw the doors open wide.
This is the current plan of Lazarus, the early access space shooter with a Groundhog Day complex. From today through Sunday the 15th, the game is running a stress test with the intent to “break the game” so that the team can prepare it for a global launch in the future.
It might be a challenge to break Lazarus, as the team has made significant server improvements to handle the load. Other recent changes include upgrades to the NPC AI, a streamlined tutorial, and an anonymous data logging tool to help diagnose connection issues.
If there’s one thing I can’t do in Ultima Online, it’s start fresh with new eyes. That’s something that became abundantly clear to me over this weekend as MJ beat her head against the login system on stream and I waited almost four days until my husband’s account – i.e., the one I am not currently already paying for – was properly flagged to try the game’s new free-to-play mode. And honestly, once we got in, I was disappointed. There’s nothing fun about logging into an old toon only to find that you can’t even access your bank (or any of the stuff on your paid account’s house).
According to a Broadsword post today, the team is fixing that, slightly, as F2P accounts will get bank boxes, albeit very limited ones. Returning players will be able to access their banks but not pull anything out if they’re over the limit, for now, which is… weird and not that helpful. Either way, currently it’s really limiting! All it made me do was want to go back to my “real” account, my paid account, and tinker with my plants and potions and maybe go treasure hunting on my boat.
But of course, a real newbie is going to have a completely different experience, seeing not all the things he can’t do but all the things he can. Such is the case for Massively OP reader Grimjack, who’s chronicling his first steps into the 20-year-old sandbox.
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.
The early access days of Conan Exiles are coming to a close. In less than a month, the survival sandbox will launch. At that time players will get to explore two new regions, experience the new combat, farm, dive into two new dungeons, worship a new god, and summon her avatar on the live servers. But luckily for me, I didn’t have to wait! I joined Creative Director Joel Bylos in the game for few hours of hands-on experience with the new features, then got to keep playing for the evening.
After a farming demonstration and a quick tour of the volcano, I got to witness a Purge, watch the brand-new starter cinematic, wander around the swamp and climb into treehouses, participate in a siege, look over the new attributes and perks, parade around in new armor, and test out the new combat with all the weapon types. My impressions in a nutshell? Most of the additions really up the fun factor and improve the game (the jury is still out on the eating-to-heal mechanic). I’m pretty excited for these features to go live, and not just because I want to build a treehouse base! While there I can’t offer an elaborate play-by-play of everything I experienced during this lengthy play session, I do have additional details for those who want more than one nutshell’s worth of impression.
As this year’s GDC coverage is winding down, I am finally coming to the topic I saved for last: community. MMOs are more than just multiplayer. We attract the “alone together” people more than the “FPS hero” crowd in our comments section for a reason; MMOs are virtual worlds. They’re a digital space inhabited by other people. We may not talk to them, but we watch and listen. Maybe we engage, maybe we group, maybe we guild. We do stuff in a shared environment because we think, or hope, we’re part of a larger system.
And this is why we need to talk about cross-platform communities and the strength of in-game, embedded community tools. As social media rises and mobile crashes against our PC fortress, increased console cross-play should be a reminder that we’re all gamers, and (some) developers are finally getting that.
Elder Scrolls Online: Summerset
during GDC 2018
, which may or may not
have surprised you, depending on how many spoilers you’d already seen. As I still haven’t gotten back into ESO
, I didn’t mind the spoilers; I knew I was going to talk to the game’s Creative Director, Rich Lambert, so I’d need to be prepared. After consulting a bit with Larry
and discussing how hard to push the anti-elf agenda, I was released into the wild… but had that information gagged until today.
Perhaps that was for good reason, though, as not only did I get some hands-on time with Summerset, but ZeniMax provided us with capture cards so we could show you what we saw and did. It’s very much an early look. Yes, there are elves, but also mind traps and a new tutorial for those just entering Tamriel. It’s just hard to say much more, though, since the demo felt like it was aimed more at press/streamers completely unfamiliar with ESO. Don’t worry, lorehounds, I know enough to help you avoid spoilers (so maybe avoid the first 10 minutes of the video).
I love stories. Maybe it’s the teacher in me, but I love stories not just for their raw entertainment value, but for their ability to teach. It’s not heavy-handed like being in class, but stories teach culture, customs, and character. We visit the past, the present, the future. We experience things through stories we might never get to experience for ourselves. War, I hope, is one of those things.
Andrew Barron, Director of Design at Bohemia Interactive Simulations, has seen war. And war stories. He’s also been in the game industry for awhile, both before and after his time as a U.S. Marine in Afghanistan. He knows war, but he also knows war simulators. It’s actually his job to help build them. So when he says our games our violent, he knows what he’s saying, but the context for that may not be easily understood. However, once it is, you’ll see that not only do we have some games getting war “right,” but that there’s room for us to grow, and some people are already working on that in a way that sounds, well, fun.
It’s no surprise that Ready Player One was constantly being referenced at GDC 2018, especially in VR, AR, and MMO panels. It’s not just because of the movie’s release but because the tech involved is seeing a surge of interest. That doesn’t mean we’re on the cusp, in my opinion, but it may be a thing we should start talking about.
And talking about it we did. As Bill Roper of Improbable and SpatialOS recently told me, “The next generation of online games isn’t going to behave like current-generation MMOs. […] We don’t know what a billion-person game might look like, but it’s likely to include a wide variety of playstyles, to reflect the diversity of its playerbase.” Even if you’re a cynic and don’t think SpatialOS will play any part of this future, Roper’s very much on the mark: Billion-person gaming isn’t going to be like our current MMOs.
As you may recall, I was given just a little time to hit up Snail Games’ ARK Park a few days before I left for GDC 2018. I was able to make it to the games’ launch party, but as I’d already played the game, it was mostly useful for talking to people involved in its creation between speeches/demos. However, afterwards, I was allowed to pass some questions on to Snail Games Vice President Tianqi “Sky” Wu about bugs, science, and the future of ARK. We have some exclusive information about that last tip, but don’t worry, no chief engineers, computer programmers, or lawyers were harmed in the making of this game. Well, not physically, at least.
Plenty of panels at GDC are recorded and uploaded to the internet weeks after the event, including this one. It’s not quite the same as being there, as you miss a few things. For example, this year’s Ultima Online Post-Mortem panel was packed. It was international. It was fun, gross, nostalgiac, and sometimes groan-inducing.
And I’d hate to just summarize the talk, especially since some of you vets have heard these stories before, but since ya’ll couldn’t make it, I’ll do it. For you. But for this particular panel, not only will I try to summarize what was said before the panel will be viewable online in a few weeks, but I’ll dish out on the after-panel chat with Richard Garriott, Starr Long, Raph Koster, and Rich Vogel, including comments from the team on bad bans, kingslaying, VR, and the state of the MMORPG.
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 Destiny 2, Scum, Pokemon Go, OrbusVR, Dauntless, Heroes of the Storm, Skyforge, Elsword, Old School RuneScape, MapleStory Blitz, Destiny 2, The Elder Scrolls Legends, Prosperous Universe, Final Fantasy XIV, MU Legend, Wakfu, and Dark and Light, all waiting for you after the break!