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 Neverwinter, Elder Scrolls Legends, Elite Dangerous, SWTOR, MapleStory, Hyper Universe, SMITE, Travian Online, Diablo III, Figureheads, Pokemon Go, Heroes and Generals, Rappelz, Ultima Online, Soulworker Online, Black Desert, and Gigantic, all waiting for you after the break!
I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that everyone has at some point seen the xkcd called Isolation, but if not, there it is. No matter what the age and era, someone’s always preaching that people were more sociable in the long long ago. In this comic, however, Randall Munroe isn’t even contesting that. His point is basically no duh and so what. Yes, we become less sociable with random people in our immediate vicinity as we gain more and more access to ideas, entertainment, and people not in our immediate vicinity thanks to technology. Ultimately, replacing impromptu stranger interaction with the amusements of our choice appears to be what a lot of people wanted all along.
MMORPG players surely see where I’m going with this because we have the same eternal struggle when it comes to in-game socializing, grouping, community, and stickiness, the tug-of-war between the people who want to play alone together and the people who think that forced grouping is the only true path to enlightenment.
For this week’s Massively Overthinking, I’ve asked our staff to reflect on the alone together vs. forced grouping spectrum, to talk about where they stand on it, whether that position’s changed through the years, which games are addressing the divide the best, and how the two sides can move forward in a dynamic MMO genre.
Is there any shame in throwing a birthday party for yourself? Not if you invite everyone and make it hecka fun, we say! Ultima Online has kicked off its 20th anniversary event this week, welcoming everyone to celebrate the 1997 MMORPG and all that it’s accomplished over the past two decades.
The event arc is called The Shattered Obelisk, and it will be rolled out in five parts over the next two months. It should be noted that once the fifth part arrives on September 28th, you won’t be able to access the previous four — so don’t dally!
“The Shattered Obelisk includes activities for group and solo play, challenging quests and puzzles, new areas of the world to explore and a continuation of the saga that is Ultima Online,” the team posted. “Along with the in game features and fiction that are part of Publish 98, we have exciting new fiction that will be posted on UO.com as well as support events held by our event moderators.”
Heading into Shroud of the Avatar for the first time was a bit of a strange experience for me, right from the start. Usually, when I start playing a new game, I start forming impressions and then spend the next few weeks refining those impressions in either direction. This time, I am utterly unsure of how I feel about the game, and I suspect that the next few weeks are going to make that more complex, not less.
And part of me can’t help but wonder if some of that is just a matter of missing vital reference points.
I don’t mean that in the sense of the game being actually impenetrable; it’s just that I find myself constantly asking if something that bugs me is, in fact, exactly the way it’s supposed to be for fans of the genre and Garriott’s prior work. Which is a trip, let me tell you that. I’m staggering through dark woods, getting my throat chewed on by a wolf, and I’m seized with the urge to ask the wolf if this is, in fact, an intended portion of design. You know, between bites of my trachea.
One of the fun things about this hobby is that certain tropes repeat themselves constantly. And they’re usually weirdly specific tropes, too. Poop quests, for example. So many MMOs have one quest or another that make you dealing with poop. Someone has a fixation that is probably not entirely healthy, and that someone keeps getting hired to design quests.
But sometimes you try to come up with a trope that’s so specific that it has to be unique. Or at least rare. “MMOs that feature a zone full of floating islands requiring flight to travel around.” At least one zone, and it is traveled around via flight. That cannot be common, that has to be…
Wait. How did I not only get a full list but actually have to decline some entries? How the heck did this happen? There are this many MMOs using this astonishingly specific trope? How did this happen and why?
If you haven’t been aware of it, Shroud of the Avatar is currently running yet another extended trial for the remainder of the month. That means that even if you haven’t purchased the game, you can still jump in and try it out between now and August 30th.
Of course, it is to be expected that a trial will come with limitations, and Shroud of the Avatar’s program is no different. There’s a long list of restrictions that freebies will have to accept, such as being denied trade privileges, property ownership, and open PvP flagging. Trial users also cannot play in the game’s offline mode and are limited to the Path of Love for the game’s story.
It should also be noted that if you get attached to your trial character, you’re going to want to pony up some money to keep it: “Character data may be deleted after free trial test is over if not upgraded to a paid account.”
MOP’s Eliot is exploring Shroud of the Avatar in this month’s Choose My Adventure series.
While Ultima Online these days allows players to own only a single house on a production shard per account, that rule will be broken for six lucky winners of a new giveaway. For the game’s 20th anniversary this year, Broadsword is awarding six “grandfathered” castles — likely worth hundreds of dollars each — as additional premium homes to a half-dozen fortunate recipients on the shard of their choice.
So how can you get one? “Three of these castles will be raffled off live and in person at the 20th Anniversary party in September, and for those of you who cannot attend, three will be raffled off via a raffle stone on Test Center 1 that has been placed today at the New Haven Bank!”
Meanwhile, the game’s newest update, Publish 98, has begun its rollout with a worldwide release happening on August 15th. The update contains a 20th anniversary arc, special rewards, pet adjustments, and the return of the Halloween event. Seriously, what’s with MMOs bringing Halloween into August this year?
I really know pretty much nothing about Ultima.
This is only partly my fault. Way back when the Ultima games were a big deal on PC, I was still decidedly locked to consoles, where the options for getting into the series were rather limited. Aside from that, it was years before I really acquired much of a taste for the Western style of RPGs as opposed to the Japanese style… and considering that the roots of that style are half-buried in Ultima (along with Might & Magic and Wizardry, to be very broad and avoid overburdening this header), you can see why I’d kind of give things a pass.
All of this is pretty relevant when it comes to Shroud of the Avatar because you kind of can’t separate the two. No, Shroud of the Avatar is not an Ultima game, but it’s Richard Garriott building the game and inserting himself into the proceedings. It’d be like George Lucas making a new movie based off of Buck Rogers and Akira Kurosawa’s filmography; it might not bear the title, but you know you’ll wind up with something pretty close to wars what are waged across the stars.
Shroud of the Avatar’s equity crowdfunding campaign on SeedInvest has come to a close, with 518 investors having raised just shy of $700,000 in the round. It was over $700,000 at one point last night but dropped back down as someone apparently backed out.
Perhaps that person put money into the game’s latest telethon instead. As promised, Portalarium has switched over from quarterly to monthly fundraising telethons; last night’s even raised $67,500 and granted “oracle eye” themed stretch goals to players, including home decor, sparklers, and wings.
The telethon stream does feature a Q&A with the dev team on the past release in addition to a “world building tour”; we’ve included it below.
Shroud of the Avatar’s latest newsletter has plenty of business business business, but the highlights are always the developers’ diaries on various locations and scenes being worked on in the game. Case in point: Today’s newsletter features a wagonload of screenshots of Etceter and South Paladis.
Etceter is referenced in the Tracy Hickman novel attached to the game; it needed more Greco-Roman ruin influences, the roads and walls mentioned in the book, natural paths and hidey-holes, and the general feeling of hard times and post-invasion “developed decay.” South Paladis, on the other hand, is getting two new original scenes in release 45 later this month: Middle Downs, with its burial mounds and abandoned villages, and South Broken Road, with its crumbly, rocky river and creepy quest. We’ve collected all the images down below.
There’s just one more day left to invest in Portalarium’s SeedInvest campaign; the fund broke the $600,000 mark not long after hitting $500,000 earlier this week.
So this is an unusual situation for me: I’ve never
actually played a game for Choose My Adventure
that I’ve disliked this much.
Those of you who have followed my writing for a while know that I’ve played some games I didn’t much like before, but that’s different. Lord of the Rings Online and Black Desert, for example, are games that were not my cup of tea but still had obvious merits I could praise. I’ve played games that I dislike or ones that deserved more criticism than praise when I played them (Ryzom, TERA, the beta period of The Elder Scrolls Online), but still had positive sides. (And in the last case, ESO turned itself around quite well and earned plenty of kudos from me.) Heck, I played Scarlet Blade with as open a mind as I could possibly have.
But not so DC Universe Online. No, this game deserves a pretty thorough drubbing. I can understand why it has fans, but it’s still just not a good game. I can only hope it’s an outlier rather than the norm on Daybreak’s overall catalog, because… wow. This is not fun.
Shroud of the Avatar’s equity crowdfunding venture has gone rather well: Portalarium declared last night that it has “exceeded [its] SeedInvest target and [is] now reaching new heights,” meaning it’s raised $570,913 toward its original $500,000 target minimum ($465,000 from small-scale investors and $105,000 from higher-end accredited investors), with a potential round size of $2M. There are just over three days left for investors of all stripes to jump in. Don’t miss our interviews with Richard Garriott and Starr Long if you’re still on the fence!
Meanwhile, Portalarium has announced that with the release of R44 last week, it plans to “experiment with extended postmortems that are also Mini-Telethons.” If it proves popular, it’d potentially mean a switchover from the exhausting 12- or 24- hour telethon stream the team does quarterly to a monthly 4-hour fundraising session as the team delivers its release recap and Q&A.
Motherboard has a fun-slash-depressing piece out this week on an unnamed hacker who claims he’s been cheating at MMORPGs to make a living for almost two decades.
Prior to his recent Def Con hacking conference talk, the hacker dubbed “Manfred” seemingly demoed via video a hack performed in WildStar, one he used to help him accrue nearly 400 trillion gold, which he then allegedly sold to players through various black markets. He argues he wasn’t hacking — he was providing a service by “finding unintended features in the protocol.”
At least some of his claims don’t even seem particularly outlandish, especially if you’ve been around in MMORPGs for a long time and have an understanding of how rampant duping and RMT markets have been over the last 20 years. Manfred claims he got his start in Ultima Online illegally deleting other players’ houses and selling his own on Ebay, funding his days in college. Since then, Motherboard says, he cheated and duped his way through the “wild west” of Lineage 2, Shadowbane, Final Fantasy XI, Dark Age of Camelot, Lord of The Rings Online, RIFT, Age of Conan, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and Guild Wars 2.