Ultima Online spiritual successor Legends of Aria is preparing to go through a major transition over the new year as it winds down its crowdfunding campaign and gears up for closed beta testing.
The team announced that it will stop selling founder’s packs on December 29th and transition to selling pre-orders instead. Fans are advised to buy into the packs now if they want any of the crowdfunding tier rewards, especially physical items.
Far more exciting is Legends of Aria’s 2018 development roadmap, which kicks off with Closed Beta 1 on January 15th. This first test will add a new adventure area, two cities, re-open the catacombs, and add in a notoriety system.
Past that is March and Closed Beta 2, which will focus on the new player experience and a whole lot of polish. Then, if all goes well, Steam early access will follow in April 2018. Exciting times we live in for sure!
Welcome back to our intermittent series on MMOs and other multiplayer games you you’ve never heard of! Let’s run down five more floating to the top of the pile this month.
First up is a Russian indie MMO called Rogalia that I first heard of thanks to former Massively columnist Jeremy Stratton (heya Jeremy!). It’s cute and cartoony and will definitely appeal to old-school isometric sandbox players with its crisp cartoon graphics and detailed UI. Combine all that with the gameplay and it’ll remind you more of Ultima Online than most games that namedrop it! It’s currently $12 on Steam, though it’s set to launch out of early access at some point this month, when the price will likely increase.
December is a time for sitting with friends and family, toasting to the new year, and most importantly, not doing any actual work. Thus, the developers behind Shroud of the Avatar are heading home early this month, and that means you get the next major patch of the game earlier than usual. But it’s still an update filled with polish, as it’s focused on exactly that in anticipation for launch. Higher frame rates, better optimization, and UI improvements for everyone!
The update also includes polish to the game’s main storyline and improvements to the game’s NPC behaviors, so enemies and helpful NPCs alike should behave more intelligently in this patch. Check out the full patch notes to see everything that’s changing in the latest release, and enjoy a more polished version of the game as you play over the holidays. (If you weren’t planning on playing over the holidays… well, you can still enjoy it, in theory.)
When travelers wander in to Shroud of the Avatar’s Release 49 later this week, they’ll find that one watering hole looks much improved than before. The team has been busy remodeling the Soltown inn to make it “cozier and more pleasant” for visitors.
Release 49 has a lot more than just a better-looking rumpus room; players will experience improved framerate, revamped wetlands, the new Elysium Mines, more ore nodes, UI polish, and winter recipes.
The team also notes that it is improving and experimenting with the free trial system (the next of which starts on December 20th). Free players will be marked as visitors, be moved over to the Path of Courage, have a level 50 skill cap, and restrict trade with others.
“Making these changes will allow us to leave the free trial up almost continually therefore maximizing the ability for players to try the game before they buy,” Portalarium said. “We feel firmly that giving players this no obligation opportunity is great for the health of the game and a fair business practice that we wish to pursue.”
It has become a long-standing tradition as Massively OP and our former site that we like to end the year by creating a list of titles that we anticipate for the coming one. It has always been a devilish list to create, full of loose dates and fast guesswork about which titles will and won’t be releasing during a 12-month window (just read last year’s list to see how spot-on I was).
This year we’re changing things up a bit by tossing out the qualifying factor of “will see a hard launch in 2018.” Instead, I drafted up a list of 20 MMOs that have the potential to do or be really interesting next year, whether that be a launch, a long-anticipated beta test, or some other significant development. Plus, hey, you get 20 for the price of 10, so no complaining now!
As an aside, this list isn’t going to cover some other exciting-looking multiplayer games that are arriving in 2018, like Sea of Thieves, The Crew 2, Monster Hunter World, DayZ, Red Dead Redemption 2, Stardew Valley, Conan Exiles, and State of Decay 2. And you old school fans won’t want to forget that Ultima Online has a new free-to-play option coming this spring.
If you fall into the trap of thinking of every fantasy mine as a dark cavern full of Temple of Doom-style trolley tracks, then Shroud of the Avatar would like to disabuse you of this assumption. The devs are hand-crafting the game’s Elysium mines, which is about as far from tropeville as you can get.
“The visual inspiration for this mine comes from the Minoan City of Knossos in Crete,” the devs wrote, “where the original Labyrinth from Greek mythology was said to have been. The glowing river is partially inspired by the river Styx, and is closely associated with the spirits wandering the labyrinth.”
The team is getting ready to head out for the holidays, but before that happens, there is one last release (on December 14th). Portalarium raised $75,000 for the game through a December 1st telethon and got $2,889 to donate for last month’s Movember.
Checking out Shroud of the Avatar during one of its free trial periods this month? The studio is pointing newbies to the New Player Welcome and Player Created Resources forums to get them off to a good start.
Last weekend, Brendan wrote a great column on how to stay safe from gankers in EVE Online, noting that the newbies are commonly given what he considers bad advice to just stay in high-sec; indeed, he smartly quoted Shedd: “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”
The article prompted a discussion in our work chat about risk-taking in MMORPGs. “After every one of Brendan’s (excellent!) tips, I keep mentally adding, ‘or alternatively, don’t play EVE,'” Eliot joked. And they’re both right. If you’re dead-set on being a “ship” in the risky gameworld of New Eden, staying in “harbor” defeats the purpose of playing EVE. But this is a real world where you don’t have to be a ship – you don’t have to play EVE. You don’t have to risk it all just for some pixel gratification.
For this week’s Massively Overthinking, I’ve asked the writing staff to dish on risk-taking, in EVE or elsewhere. Are they into it? What kinds of risks are they willing to take, PvE or PvP? What do they think about risk-vs.-reward in MMOs?
The Battle Bards are quite familiar with the power of the strummed guitar and lute, knowing that such simple instruments can bring down walls, devastate armies, and dethrone monarchs. But on their off days, acoustic guitars are simply pleasurable to hear and are sprinkled throughout many a-MMO’s soundtrack. It’s six-stringed serenity in the 110th episode of this podcast!
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 110: Acoustic Guitar (or download it) now:
It’s been a hot minute since we heard from El Somni Quas, the indie sandbox from a Czech studio that cut its teeth on Ultima Online emulators and is porting its ideas into its own game with 3-D sensibilities. There are two reasons for that, as developers Jiří Wallenfels and Zbyněk Juračka explain.
“We have promised to produce a functional alpha test till the end of the year, so we are trying to finish off individual steps needed for launching the first gaming client,” the team says. “Secondly, regarding the world, not that many things are being built to create new scenes. We’re trying to perfect the scenes already built; the roads, rivers and most of all, we are trying to maximize FPS. Right now, we’re writing from our ESQ team meeting in Prague, trying to optimize the next steps.”
Wallenfels has kindly granted Massively OP another exclusive dev diary that’s a sneak peak into the current state of the game. We’ve included the whole piece down below!
Wetlands are an important part of the ecosystem, and not just because they are chock-full of stinging insects, biting snakes, and muddy bogs. They also are important quest locations in MMOs, which is why it’s so important to preserve them as nature intended.
Thankfully, organizations like SOTA (Swamps of the Alliance) exist to save the unique qualities of the wetlands from becoming generic, cloned entities. The digital eco warriors are rebuilding the East Longfall Wetlands for (catch and) Release 49 as part of the Paths of Truth and Courage. We assume that those are national forestry trails.
The SOTA team has also been busy this month creating “hordes of barbarians and cannibals,” although we cannot for the life of us understand why they would do this. Perhaps a dare.
If you missed it, Shroud of the Avatar pushed out its November update pretty early this month due to the Thanksgiving holiday (an action that the team will repeat next month as well).
Before the team takes a break to feast on the carcass of an oversized bird, it wanted to go into greater depth on some of the big changes with Release 48. Some of the updates this time around included improvements to artifacts, virtue gear, and enchantments.
“Release 48 is chock full of stuff,” said Starr Long. “We got more work reducing the load times, we got a new lighting model in there, more side quests, more story polish, more unique components, audio polish, video effects polish, UI polish, holiday items, and the long-awaited tree and grass mover.”
There’s an hour of dev chat waiting for you after the jump, so get started already!
On this week’s show, Justin and Bree bid a sad farewell to Marvel Heroes (and Master X Master while we’re at it). It’s not all depressing news; Secret World Legends is killing it, there’s a new Path of Exile expansion, and Guild Wars 2’s fourth living world season is on its way.
It’s the Massively OP Podcast, an action-packed hour of news, tales, opinions, and gamer emails! And remember, if you’d like to send in your own letter to the show, use the “Tips” button in the top-right corner of the site to do so.
Listen to the show right now:
Last week, I mentioned experience-loss-on-death in EverQuest that was particularly irritating when caused by so-called GM events. Yes, that was in the long long ago, and even annoying stepping stones like vitae penalty are far in the past. Even Ultima Online penalizes only your title of nobility when you fall. Modern MMORPGs simply don’t diminish your character that way when you die anymore. It’s obnoxious and silly in a gameworld where you have little control over things like lag, trains, and flaky group members.
And yet something my husband mentioned last night reminded me that other games do still punish you for failure, including games like Overwatch, where your rank (and your recent wins and losses) determine your future placement. As he pointed out to me, when he loses enough to slip down a tier numerically, the game gives him five more losses before stripping his rank entirely. This annoys me, and I don’t even play.
It sounds incredibly antiquated, but for ranked non-MMO games, I suppose it makes some sense. But maybe it’s just me. Would you want to see the return of experience-loss-on-death in MMORPGs?