vanilla

The Game Archaeologist: Where are all of the open-source MMOs?

Recently we had an interesting question come in from reader and Patron Rasmus Praestholm, who asked me to do a little investigating: “What (if anything of substance) exists in the MMO field that’s not only free, but open source? The topic of open source came up briefly in a recent column, where Ryzom was noted to have gone open source at some point. But have any serious efforts actually gotten anywhere starting out as open source?”

As some graphical MMORPGs pass the two-decade mark in video game history and are being either cancelled or retired to maintenance mode, it’s an increasingly important topic when it comes to keeping these games alive. Not only that, the question of open source MMOs involves the community in continued development, with the studio handing over the keys to an aging car to see what can be done by resourceful fans.

But has anything much been done with open source projects in the realm of MMORPGs? Is this something that we should be demanding more of as online gaming starts using more accessible platforms such as SpatialOS? Let’s dig a bit into this topic and see what we turn up.

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Perfect Ten: MMO zones I love to hate

Let’s be frank: Not every MMO zone can be a masterpiece of art, design, quest flow, and navigability. I mean, they totally should be, but that’s not how it shakes out in actual games. Sometimes regions get rushed, or the developers get a little too crazy with level design, or someone with a doomsday device in the office threatens to set it off unless an area made up of nothing but jumping puzzles is included.

The end result? “Those” zones we love to hate. We all have them. They’re the ones we seem to relish whining and complaining about to anyone who will listen, often instigating an echo chamber of like-minded grudges. We’ve been there, done that, and felt that our psyche took a hit as a result.

Today I want to look back at 10 MMOs I’ve played over the years to pick out a zone from each that, honestly, I really, really disliked. Perhaps the fact that I still remember them so vividly means that they were more important memories than the well-done zones that escape me at the moment, but I’m not going to think on that too much. Let the gripe session begin!

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New World of Warcraft emulator project takes players back to The Burning Crusade era

The muddy waters of emulators and the contentious conversation around World of Warcraft legacy servers is getting a whole lot more crazy this summer, thanks to a new emulator project on the scene.

As the name implies, Burning Crusade doesn’t seek to just replicate the vanilla WoW experience but everything up through the MMO’s first expansion. The emulator promises to take players on a journey to level 70 and the Outlands, complete with raid attunement and factional warfare. The free PvP server that has been in development at least since 2012 and recently went into open beta testing.

“Development for Burning Crusade has spanned years behind closed doors and is designed to emulate a World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade private server up to retail standards,” the dev team posted. “Using publicly available data, we have tackled the fundamental issues that remind players that they aren’t playing on official servers. Our software is the product of closed source development around clean professional programming standards. The goal of the project is to produce a complete and satisfying experience.”

See what this server looks like after the break!

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Em-8ER funds on Indiegogo and adds new stretch goals

If you were worried that Mark Kern’s Em-8ER (properly pronounced “eem-eight-er” for those willing to die upon snarky hills) wouldn’t fund on its latest Indiegogo push, good news! It’s already funded and looking toward stretch goals. Of course, one could argue that since the game has already had one successful Indiegogo campaign and is now having its second in a series of “serial crowdfunding” pushes, this is already a stretch goal, but let’s not split hairs. The point is that you can pay more money and get more stuff; that’s what the campaign is focusing on.

The newest stretch goals allow for model fights against a new beast, more emotes for players, and motion capture. “We will be modeling the ‘beast’ form of the Tsi-Hu aliens,” says the game’s newsletter. “This deadly creature is what Tsi-Hu can transform into for brutal melee combat. The next stretch goal is to animate it and have it fight the players! There are lots of great perks to unlock, including color changing CHROMA jumpjets, glowing Omniframe skins and even a full motorcycle. In response to player feedback, we also updated our $500 tier to include better rewards, like the Turret #2 Pet robot, and having NPCs salute and greet you by title.”

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NetEase soft-launches WoW-like mobile MMORPG Crusaders of Light today

Soft-launching today on both the iOS and Android markets is a new mobile MMORPG from Netease dubbed Crusaders of Light. It was originally released as Land of Glory overseas last month (and was tremendously popular in China), but it’s gotten a name-change and a spruce-up for the western market. You’ll notice immediately that it seems to have an awful lot in common with vanilla World of Warcraft, from its stylized graphics to its 40-man PvE raiding endgame. It boasts 25×25 battlegrounds, small-scale ranked arenas, guild ladders, mounts, and loot out the wazoo too.

As I write this, it’s not yet up for download publicly on either platform for me in the US; it looks to be trickling out to Oceania first today, then Europe, Russia, Brazil, and North America in time for the official launch this summer. You can preregister on the official site, and yes it’s free-to-play with plenty of stuff to buy on the side.

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Jukebox Heroes: Your favorite MMO themes, #12-7

It’s starting to get serious now.

As we well know, people are highly opinionated about everything, but when it comes to music, there seems to be a (pardon the pun) higher pitch to the passion of those arguments. I’ve been doing an MMO music podcast for over three years now, and believe me when I say that there have been countless times when myself and my cohosts were aghast when someone hated a tune we liked and vice-versa, even though we shouldn’t have been surprised.

So as we head into the top 10 of the best MMO theme songs, as voted on by the Massively OP community, expect a lot of opinions and controversies. You may not like the picks, the order, or the comments, but hopefully one or two of these will make you happy (and there’s always room to be pleasantly surprised by a track you never heard before!). Suck it up and jump with me!

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Jukebox Heroes: Your favorite MMO themes, #18-13

Last week we were off to a great start as we listened to the first batch of player-voted favorite MMO themes. As I said then, the results of the voting, in which I asked players to nominate up to 10 of their favorite main themes from online games, were both predictable and surprising. Nostalgia and familiarity obviously play a strong role in many of these votes, but no one was asking for objectivity here!

Today we’re going to continue our countdown to the top spot by looking at numbers 18 through 13 of your favorite MMO themes. I think there’s a good mix here, perhaps with tunes that I would have placed a little higher, but overall it’s gratifying to see each one of these make the list.

Enough jibber-jabber, let’s get to it!

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PAX East 2017: Introducing Rend, a three-way survival sandbox from Frostkeep Studios

I don’t really like survival games, typically — I understand why a lot of people do like them, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t care for them myself, for a whole forest of reasons. To make a survival game that I want to play, you have to really come at the genre from a side angle, which can be hard to do while retaining the things that people like about the genre.

At this early juncture, I can’t say that Rend (official site) will do all of that. But I can say that the groundwork is in place for something that might be worth getting excited about.

I was incredibly fortunate to be granted one of the first meetings with Frostkeep Studios and a first look at Rend itself, in a conspiratorial PAX meeting on the second floor of a fish restaurant on the Boston piers. It felt a bit as if I were being shown something that should not be seen, some artifact of great power that had been hidden away from prying eyes. Perhaps that’s as it should be.

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Mark Kern’s Em-8er lore combines Nazis, ghosts, and terraforming

“Welcome to the world of Ember, or as star charts designate it, Em-8ER (‘E-M-Eight-E-R’),” says a new dev blog from Mark Kern’s Em-8ER MMO shooter. Yes, it’s a lore blog, which is going to make teasing it for its ’90s leetspeak name that much harder. It turns out that Em-8ER is the code name for a newly discovered planet in a vast network of systems discovered through humanity’s use of D-shift travel gates — and Em-8ER is haunted by and home to a hostile and ghostly sentient species.

The lore piece is massive, clocking in at just under 7500 words, and worth a look if you’re into spooky sci-fi built atop WWII alternate history where the Nazis win (or just wanted some assurance there’s more to the game than navels and guns).

Kern is a decidedly controversial (his word) figure to MMORPG genre veterans thanks to his involvement with Firefall and the vanilla WoW community, among other internet movements. He has previously discussed his plans for this shooter, including “serial Kickstarting” and a Firefall-esque foundation that doesn’t “drift over to ‘WoW with guns’ again.” Studio Crixa has raised $23,000 to date through crowdfunding and last month offered Firefall players credit toward the new game.

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The Elysium WoW emulator community is in total meltdown

The Elysium World of Warcraft private server community is in total meltdown, so popcorn at the ready.

Most MMORPG players would probably have never heard of Elysium but for Nostalrius, the WoW emulator that was C&D’d by Blizzard last year and then went on to agitate for official vanilla servers, blowing its momentum after BlizzCon by handing its source code and characters over to Elysium to run from the Ukraine, only to then change its mind last month and ask for the code back.

Elysium agreed to Nostalrius’ requests, but things have gone south for its own game this past week when an emu YouTuber and concomitant agitators accused the top echelons of the Elysium team of everything from manipulating loot tables and unbanning hackers for under-the-table cash to participating in Chinese gold selling and botting schemes and being shadow-run by (former) network partner Crestfall. They probably also did Watergate, I don’t know.

(Incidentally, Crestfall has already cut ties with Elysium as of this afternoon, citing “strong evidence of corruption in high-ranking members of [Elysium’s] staff.”)

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Choose My Adventure: Reconsidering WildStar, from pre-launch to now

In order to talk about WildStar, we kind of have to talk about Firefly. And no, not in the obvious way where we talk about how dearly the game wants to be able to claim the heritage of Firefly for its own.

There’s a thing dubbed the Firefly Effect (I’m not linking TV Tropes here; y’all know where it is, look it up if you want to) that describes a kind of vicious cycle. You see something new and interesting previewed. However, you also see that it’s on a network that is unlikely to allow that interesting thing enough run time to really finish working itself out. So, to spare yourself any heartache when it gets cancelled, you don’t watch it. Later, it gets cancelled… because no one was watching it because everyone expected it would be cancelled.

The reason I bring that up is that WildStar is currently waist-deep in the Firefly Effect. Sure, it’s not a show, but the same operating principles are at work. People are afraid to commit for fear that it’ll be canned, and that makes any forward momentum for the game incredibly difficult.

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Global Chat: Get over the lockbox debate already

One of the largest and most enduring arguments of the MMO genre is the purpose, legality, and profitability of so-called lockboxes in games. We’ve certainly railed against them pretty hard here on the site.

MMO Bro takes an interesting position this week by saying that, yes, lockboxes are annoying, but we need to move on from grousing about them: “If I may play devil’s advocate here for a moment, I think the time may have come for us to take a step back and examine whether all the furor over lockboxes is really productive. It’s clear that lockboxes are here to stay, so perhaps it’s time for us to learn how to live with them.”

Agree? Disagree? That’s why we have the comments section. Now that you’re fully awake, why not check out the rest of our roundup from the MMO blogosphere, including essays on early access stumbles, costumes, multiplayer mounts, and — everyone’s favorite — geography!

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Hearthstone: Lost Secrets of Un’Goro expansion possibly leaked

The next expansion or adventure for Hearthstone might have been spotted, thanks to eagle-eyed fans who apparently spend their free time combing through resumes of voice actors.

Indeed, in the resume for Lani Minella is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it mention of a Hearthstone expansion we have yet to see: Lost Secrets of Un’Goro. Minella lists previous work on Hearthstone and is credited with voicing several dinosaurs and beasts for the possible upcoming release.

If true, this means that Hearthstone will be diving into one of the more famous (and infamous) locales from vanilla World of Warcraft. Un’Goro Crater was a jungle zone filled with primeval creature, including one aspiring T-Rex who liked to jump out of the shadows and bite your head off when you were just trying to quest in peace.

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