user interface

The Soapbox: Lessons Secret World Legends failed to learn from Final Fantasy XIV

I’ve mentioned many a time that I like Funcom quite a bit. I want to like Funcom quite a bit. Heck, I want to be excited about Secret World Legends, but every day or so I get reminded that such a course of action will be very difficult at the least. Because quite frankly, Secret World Legends seems to want me not to be excited about it, as evidenced by… oh, every single thing that Funcom is doing around it.

Which is odd, because Funcom literally has access to a playbook for a large-scale reboot.

Secret World Legends is coming off of The Secret World, which was a cult MMORPG classic with a mighty fan following. Final Fantasy XIV was coming off of… well, its initial version, which had a fan following full of people who admitted that it was halfway to Stockholm Syndrome. And yet that game managed to get people excited and earn fans, while Funcom seems dead-set on alienating people or making them just plain nervous.

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Armored Warfare launches its Tanks Reloaded balance patch and previews its immediate followup

It’s been a while since Armored Warfare first discussed its upcoming “Balance 2.0” adjustments for the game’s mechanics, but the first pass has been added to the game with patch 0.19. The patch adjusts tank gameplay extensively while simultaneously adding 26 new tanks to play. But that’s not all the patch includes; there’s also a new PvP map, two new PvE missions, a new Skirmish mode, and a new Global Operations match. That’d be enough for a patch even without all of the balance changes.

Also, that isn’t the end of the story; the game is already previewing its next major update, which will include more balance changes, a new Garage interface, another new PvE mission, and new UI elements. So the big stuff just keeps rolling along. You can check out a trailer for the most recent patch just below, and you already know what to look forward to after you’ve finished up with that.

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Take a peek at the development of Crowfall’s winged fae assassin class

OK, so “minimum viable product” is pretty much the worst thing an MMO dev can say about her game. But how about “minimum viable powers”? That’s the descriptor for the philosophy underpinning Crowfall’s power development, a new dev blog by ArtCraft Design Lead Thomas “Blixtev” Blair explains today.

“We have been building each archetype with what we think would be a ‘minimum viable power’ kit for that archetype to be useful and fun in combat,” he says. “We are leaving ourselves room on the powers tray for the player to eventually slot additional combat powers (i.e., the ones that the player will acquire via disciplines, advantages or class promotions). In other words, don’t freak out about anything at this stage.”

As his chief example, he uses the Fae Assassin, a “stealthy, quick-attacking, stabby-stab type that utilizes poisons and has positional-based attacks,” to assure backers that the team didn’t accidentally forget about stealth and illuminate the game’s wing and poison mechanics. There’s also a dive into the Sin’s UI, which demos passive and active skills, the power bar, and modes like stealth. Definitely worth a look if you’re the type of gamer who prefers stabbing from the shadows (or, y’know, running away from people like that).

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Crowfall has big changes in store for its alpha UI

An MMORPG with a crappy user interface doesn’t last long in 2017. ArtCraft has this lesson memorized and has put it to good use in Crowfall, if today’s dev update is any measure.

UX Design Lead Billy Garretsen grants game-watchers a tour of the evolution of the PvP MMO’s alpha login screens, kingdom selection screens, heads-up display, and tooltips. The first thing you’re going to notice? It’s very white, reminiscent of the sort of look capitalized on in 2011 by Dragon Age 2 and 2012 by Guild Wars 2. Inside the game, though, the HUD and tooltips are relatively dark and flat — an extremely popular look for everything from World of Warcraft mods to smartphone operating systems.

“Long ago we established a brand guideline that carried us through the Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign and development of our website and social media,” Garretsen says. “Over time, the UX presentation in the game has deviated and lost some of its brand identity” — and that’s what the latest revisions are meant to fix.

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‘Single-player MMO’ Tanzia coming to early access this month

Cast your mind back to February, during which we introduced you to a single-player RPG called Tanzia that was structured eerily similar to an MMO — just without all of the other players. Well, now Tanzia is preparing to move into a new stage in its testing as it targets April 27th for its debut on Steam early access.

Tanzia won’t be in early access for long, only about eight weeks as the team puts the final touches on the endgame chapters. The title is an open-world fantasy RPG with many elements familiar to MMO players, such as tab-targeting combat, hotbars, and the whole combat loot cycle. Much of the setting looks to take place on a tropical and jungle island, with the player controlling an odd-looking (but cute!) humanoid.

The team explained the move to early access at this junction: “We feel like at this point the first chapters of the game are nearly finished, the game runs well, streamers and testers are having fun with it, so we want to let you enjoy it early while we finish the later stages.”

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The Game Archaeologist: SOE’s The Agency

The graveyard of Sony Online Entertainment and Daybreak Game Company is certainly full enough to be considered a threat if there was ever a zombie uprising among MMORPGs. From PlanetSide to Free Realms, there are plenty of live games that were disposed of in this grim fictional burial ground. But there are also those stillborn titles that never had the change to make or break in a live environment. EverQuest Next might be the most fresh in our minds, but go back a handful of years and you might have seen players lamenting the loss of a different promising SOE game: The Agency.

The Agency seems like a natural fit for the studio’s focus on first-person shooters and a willingness to branch out from strictly fantasy territory. Instead of dragons or stormtroopers, players in this game were to face off against terrorist organizations and dastardly spy agencies, all in the pursuit of living out the ultimate James Bond fantasy.

But instead of sitting on our desktop, The Agency exists only in a forgotten corner of this imaginary cemetery. Today, let us tenderly brush off its worn tombstone and remember what we can about this canceled spy shooter.

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Hellion wants its systems to be breaking down more

Hellion has a systems problem, in that its in-game systems are just too darn functional and well-maintained. That would be terrific news if you were a homeowner or a sane spaceship captain, but for a survival sandbox, it makes the “surviving” part insultingly easy.

This is why the team announced that it will be doing a full systems rebalance in the near future in order to gum up the works somewhat. “One of the problems at the moment is that most systems are something that you just switch on and then forget about,” the team said. “We aim to change this in a meaningful way. We want players to feel the difference between a ‘fully working’ and a ‘barely operational’ system, as well as how multiple systems function together and how problems with one system can cause a cascade that affects multiple parts of the ships and stations.”

The trick for the team is to have things decay and break down enough so that maintenance is a challenge and not a chore. Other projects on the team’s list include a UI revamp, making station modules feel more useful, and programming items to respawn in logical (and not random) locations.

Source: Hellion

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Star Citizen Around the Verse on the Javelin and weekend free-fly

Cloud Imperium’s Sandi Gardiner and Forrest Stephan return this week for another episode of Star Citizen’s Around the Verse. The highlight of the show is meant to be the lengthy Javelin creation walkthrough, but I’m more impressed watching Erin Roberts rattle off the five million things the UK studio is working on, from ongoing work on the shopping interface and item placement system and conversation system to “new gameplay elements like suit punctures, oxygen recharging, and depressurization,” among a few dozen other features.

Gardiner and Stephan also allude to a free-fly weekend for the holiday, along with new rewards for referrals and a ship sale. “I don’t want to spoil the official announcement but all I can say is ‘Pink Dragonfly,'” Stephan says. The whole episode is tucked down below.

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SWTOR changes up producers, teases 2017 road map

Over at BioWare, the frisky employees have tagged in a new producer to handle the title. The result is that Ben Irving is out and Keith Kanneg is in as the new Star Wars: The Old Republic game producer.

Kanneg announced the changeover yesterday in his first producer’s letter, saying that Irving has moved to “a great new opportunity” in the company while Kanneg himself moved up from his previous job as director of live services.

SWTOR’s newest producer gave out his professional and gamer cred résumé: “I’ve been with BioWare/EA and SWTOR for the past six years, where I’ve held a variety of positions, and have always been a very active player with nearly 10,000 hours of gameplay, 28 plus characters and tons of achievements.”

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Choose My Adventure: Learning to appreciate Black Desert

First and foremost, I’d like to thank the many people who informed me about how to hide the UI in Black Desert. I shouldn’t have needed to be told that, it seems, but I did, and I really do appreciate the insight; in this case, I’d rather be thought a fool and get the answer to my questions than deny it and continue on in ignorance. So now my only real problem is my usual inattentiveness about when I should take screenshots, not failing to understand how.

This coincides nicely with starting to appreciate the game a little bit more. The first week felt rather unclear, but now that I’ve spent a bit more time with the game I’m starting to grasp what it’s trying to do. I’m still not entirely sure if I like all of it, of course, but at least I feel that I’m able to determine that based on the actual game rather than my confusion over what the game wants from me.

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One Shots: Eight-bit vista

One of my favorite MMO April Fools of all time is Guild Wars 2’s playable Super Adventure Box. It’s so brilliantly designed and executed that it goes far beyond mere joke territory and became an institution. A fun game-within-a-game.

Reader Little Bugbear took advantage of an initial foray into SAB to take what I consider to be a very arresting picture. It’s almost a silhouette of a character lounging against an 8-bit skybox. “Sometimes it’s nice to just sit back and enjoy a nice day of gaming,” Little Bugbear said.

Before we get into the rest of this week’s lineup, I want to share the news that we’ve made some further improvements to our comment system that should allow you to share your screenshots in bigger and bolder glory, especially when you post one at a time!

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Camelot Unchained focuses on particles, trees, and the beta interface

I know most of you come to these Camelot Unchained posts hoping to hear about beta one. I can’t wait to write that post, believe me, and I’m pretty sure CSE can’t either. In the meantime, we’re digging into another weekly update from the team, whose highlight is the fact that the weekend tester build has been updated with a proper particle rendering system, the better to make your spells sparkle.

“This is the system we have been talking about for months. Included in today’s code-drop are almost a dozen new features, as well as some added functionality for existing parts of the particle/lighting system. The next step is for Mike and the art team to update/change existing VFX as test cases of the system. Like the animation system, this is a WIP, and will serve as the basis for our next major improvement, which will happen during Beta 1. In the meantime, the new system will allow our world to feel more alive, magical, and interesting. And more performant, as well!”

CSE has also uploaded some new images — some psychedelic ones showing off the lighting systems on water, some gorgeous blossom-draped foliage, and a first pass on bits of the beta UI. Don’t miss Mark Jacobs’ end-of-the-week summary vid below either.

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Ask Mo: Work progresses on the comment system

Earlier this week, Massively OP reader Sally asked us for an update on what’s changed with the comment system recently. Since then, I’ve been able to put together a solid list of some bits and bobs that we’ve finally knocked off the to-do list. Most of them revolve around things we didn’t like about the native media embedding system. Here’s what’s new down below the bylines.

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