virtual world

Chronicles of Elyria isn’t afraid to enter the ugly zone of character creation

It’s a no-brainer that a lot of your MMO audience is going to want to create good-looking, attractive, and physically fit characters. But if you’re a studio that’s attempting to represent a virtual world populated by a wide array of human races, you might also consider the odd and off-putting as possible options.

Simply put, Chronicles of Elyria has some ugly races. Maybe that will have its own counter-cultural appeal, especially among players looking for a different experience. The 12 races — or tribes — of the game span a range of skeletal structures and facial makeups, with options available to the player to customize each upon character creation.

In addition to showing some early prototypes of the character creation process, Soulbound Studio discussed how it’s trying out simple world interaction in its upcoming VoxElyria client, merging accounts in preparation for name reservations, and handling the different languages in the game.

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The Soapbox: Confessions of a serial hoarder (in MMORPGs)

How much is too much?

To some, that might seem like a reasonable question. But I knew. I knew. There is no such thing as too much!

There was a question raised on Massively OP this past week about in-game hoarding. I answered… boy did I answer. I kept answering. It was just like my virtual bags: I filled the space to overflowing. And I just kept going. And now, it’s even spilling over to The Soapbox! It’s not my fault games make cool things I like and want to keep, or make getting stuff so much fun (searching through every box and barrel, anyone?). But there is much more to it than that. Yes, I admit I am a serial hoarder. But I am also an unrepentant hoarder! It’s not a problem. Others may think I have a problem.

I see it as item security.

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VR Chat players aid seizure victim, shame trolls

Last year, we wrote about the extreme potential for griefing in virtual reality spaces as it’s one of MMORPG developer Raph Koster’s favorite talking points. “People who think ‘anonymity’ is ‘more authentic’ forget that we are social creatures; we are less human when masked and isolate,” he wrote last year in response to the rather idealistic outlooks on human nature pushed by start-up VR companies.

But of course, that’s not to say that nobody behaves well in virtual spaces. To wit: Kotaku has a piece out today on an incident that took place in VR Chat, an extremely popular virtual world akin to Second Life. A group of its players apparently put down their memes to help out a fellow human who appeared to have collapsed with a seizure. In the video provided by YouTuber Rogue Shadow VR, VR gamers broke character to offer medical advice and shame a handful of griefers in diapers and meme costumes.

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Chronicles of Elyria is dropping virtual world platform SpatialOS

Chronicles of Elyria’s latest dev blog is out, and it’s more than just a recap of 2017 and look ahead to 2018, although it has that too: It makes the announcement that the game will no longer be utilizing SpatialOS.

“In January of 2017 we began the long process of taking what was mostly an offline, single-player game – designed primarily to validate user experience and gameplay feel – and turn it into a MEOW [Multiplayer Evolving Online World],” says Soulbound Studios. That meant integration with SpatialOS and Unreal Engine 4. But as development progressed, Soulbound explains, it ran into game elements (non spatial systems) that didn’t quite fit the architecture. What’s more, Soulbound argues, the studio was concerned that the game’s large size would make SpatialOS too expensive for it (and therefore for players) long-term.

“Of course, we brought our concerns to Improbable, and over the last eight months they’ve done a fantastic job working with us to try and bring the price down. Unfortunately, it remains an expensive solution for us. To make sure we were prepared, we began looking for alternative technology that could fill any gaps left behind if we were unable to use SpatialOS for any reason.”

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Raph Koster on MMO ecosystems, the balance of power, and tennis

Most MMORPGs have the core sandbox problem: Whoever gets there first, controls all the toys and has the power to drive everyone else away. Even in a themepark, the “richest” players, whether they control the gold or the dungeons or the gear or the PvP, eventually help kill the game.

That’s the subject of a Raph Koster blog that recently popped back up on my radar. Koster, known for ecosystem-oriented virtual world MMOs like Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies, is subtly making the case for MMOs that end, even if that end starts a new beginning. It’ll sound familiar to A Tale In The Desert players, surely, or anybody watching Koster’s latest MMO, Crowfall.

In the service of his argument, he references a blog post about the age of the world’s best tennis players, which just keeps rising. Is it because the olds are innately better at tennis? Nope. It’s because the “winners” are entrenched in a rich-get-richer situation that ensures “the typical person in the system ends up below average.” The more the winners win, the more money they have to ensure they win more, whether that’s with better coaches, better equipment, better medical treatment, or just plain more time to train, which makes it progressively more expensive (on all fronts) for newcomers to compete… until the newbies stop trying and the olds start retiring.

And then? The whole system collapses.

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Trion ‘still in active discussions’ with Bluehole over Devilian

With the explosive success of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds in 2017, Bluehole Studio is rolling in media coverage, money, and popularity. But some of the studio’s players who are in another one of its games are genuinely concerned about the fate of their virtual world.

Devilian players penned an open letter to Bluehole after its subsidiary Bluehole Ginno Games was renamed as the PUBG Corp. back in September and the studio pretty much stopped all active development on Devilian shortly therafter. “From all indications, the entire Devilian franchise does not seem to have much support left for it at Bluehole,” the community wrote, asking Trion for further clarification on the future of the game going forward.

In response to MMORPG.com’s inquiry into this matter and an ongoing Windows 10 issue, a Trion rep said, “We are still in active discussions with Bluehole Ginno to resolve the Windows issue, but there’s unfortunately not be much I can say at this point. Talks regarding support for the game are ongoing, and we’re hoping to have more information for Devilian players soon. We’ll be sure to let you know when we can.”

So on that note of uncertainty, go pick some flowers already!

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The MOP Up: Osiris New Dawn’s terrifying space ghosts (November 19, 2017)

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 Dragon NestTERA MMabinogi MobileIcarus MSummoner’s WarStar Trek OnlineOsiris New DawnLord of Vermilion ArenaPUBGStardew ValleyWarframeOverwatchPath of ExileAstroneerKurtzPelRuneScapeDota 2Second Life, and Renaissance Kingdoms, all waiting for you after the break!

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Massively Overthinking: Is open-world housing really a ‘failed’ MMORPG experiment?

Massively OP’s Justin Olivetti has a provocative article on his personal gaming blog, Bio Break, this week on MMORPG housing.

“I once again wonder why open world housing is this holy grail that some players and developers seem hellbent on chasing,” he writes. “It’s an ideal, a beautiful mirage couched in the notion of players inhabiting the very world they play, allowing them to stroll through neighborhoods of fellow adventurer’s homes and basking in the connectivity of it all. Yet it’s a failed experiment, one that is proven time and again to have far more drawbacks than benefits.” After listing off his complaints with the mechanic, he ultimately concludes that “we simply don’t need fixed open world housing, even in sandboxes.”

But being Justin, he also asked for feedback on why the joys are worth the drawbacks – and how to fix the system so it works instead of running off the rails. That’s just what we’ll do in this week’s Overthinking. Is he right about not needing this type of housing? And if not, how would you fix open world housing?

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Virtual Earth Online looks like a Minecraft and Second Life mash-up

So you’re tired of visiting far-flung post-apoc space stations, fantasy ghost castles, underground slime lairs, and zombie grottos on Mars. What’s next? How about… Earth?

Aussie MMO Virtual Earth Online may be up to that challenge, at least if you can handle the graphic style. It looks like a mash-up of Minecraft and Second Life, with the whole world (even, apparently, your house) built out with voxels. Developer Gavin McDonald told us that building mats were on the docket for insertion over the weekend and the game has just gotten a new graphics engine after six years of development (it was Greenlit back when that was still a thing). While the original game is properly an MMORPG, or perhaps a massive online virtual world, a new single player survival mode is also rolling out (check out the video of that in action down below).

The game appears to be freely downloadable, but the trading post is offering microtransaction buildings and items for as little as 5 cents.

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Brad McQuaid: MMO devs are ‘making the very, very early foundations of the Holodeck’

Pantheon and MMOs like it are bringing our dream future one step closer (or at least, Lt. Barclay’s dream future), Brad McQuaid suggests in a new interview this week. MMORPG veterans know McQuaid as a pioneer of the genre, first with EverQuest, then with the stalled and now sunsetted Vanguard, and now with the upcoming MMO Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen.

“I want to be immersed, I want to escape into a fantasy or sci-fi world. [MMO developers are] making the very, very early foundations of the Holodeck. Letting people recreate the 1930s or build new virtual worlds – that’s what MMOs are, they’re the genesis of that. Because they involve real people and that social aspect, because they’re so immersive – and will be even more so in the future, with VR coming – I lose myself in them. I don’t sit there thinking I’m playing a game; I’m really there. And that’s what interests me.”

McQuaid says the MMO is not dead and that he’s working to change that perception by catering to an “underserved” audience of virtual world gamers and “abandoned MMO fans.”

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Happy 20th birthday, Ultima Online! Here’s how to get caught up on the OG MMORPG

Just about 20 years ago, my boyfriend and I were wandering through Media Play (heh) when he picked up this box for some new online subscription video game with a cheesy Hildebrandt cover. I was skeptical. He bought it anyway. The next morning, after I’d played all night and totally bogarted his new game, we figured we should probably get a second account. And so we did, in spite of being clueless teenagers who could barely afford one sub, let alone two.

That game was Ultima Online, and it’s the game that birthed the term MMORPG and quite literally dragged me into the realm of virtual worlds. Without it, I wouldn’t be right here where I am talking to you today, having married that dude in the interim. And as of yesterday, that game is 20 years old.

Last autumn, when the game was turning 19, I did a fairly in-depth video on the coolest parts of UO, the parts you can still play today, as I do frequently dive back in and am playing this month too! It’s Massively OP’s best-performing video to date, proving that the game is very much not dead and done. Pretty much everything in the video is still accurate, except for the part on the business model (spoiler: UO is kinda going free-to-play), so I’m going to include it below, but then I’ll recap some of the important bits from the last year and answer a few questions anybody reading is sure to have.

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The Daily Grind: What one lesson do you wish MMO developers would learn?

MMORPG veteran Raph Koster went on a glorious Twitter tear last week, and I’m sure some of you can relate. In response to a thinkpiece on augmented reality, Koster argues that AR developers are worried about the wrong things – they’re worried about the tech and not putting sufficient effort or research into social systems.

“The essay skates over this in one paragraph saying, ‘It’s sort of like an MMO,’ but that’s wrong. It is an MMO, in every single way. Make no mistake, a mirror world is just an MMO server with phones as avatars. That means every social pattern you ever saw in an MMO will be present, from the WoW plagues to the client hacks to the parties killing monsters to debates over who owns what slice of virtual land to yes, harassment reporting and godlike gamemasters who effectively police the space with panopticon level awareness of history. Those servers will swallow activity, not just point clouds, to a degree beyond what people fear now with stuff like maps apps tracking your location.”

“Frankly, just about no AR people I have met grasp that this is what they are building,” he concludes, suggesting it’s a “terrifying” notion that developers aren’t learning from the lessons taught by games like “Habitat, LambdaMOO, Ultima Online, EVE Online, Second Life, [and] Habbo Hotel,” which already laid the groundwork for how virtual worlds work (and don’t) when players run amok.

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EVE Evolved: How much toxic, antisocial behaviour should MMOs tolerate?

The EVE Online community is aflame this week after alliance leader gigX was permanently banned for making threats of real-life violence against another player following possibly the biggest betrayal in EVE history. Some players don’t want to accept that gigX crossed a serious line and deserves his ban, and others have been asking why The Mittani’s similar actions in 2012 resulted in only a temporary ban. CCP’s official stance is that its policies have become stricter since 2012, but it’s still not entirely clear exactly where the line is drawn.

Another side to the debate is that the internet itself has evolved over EVE‘s 14-year lifespan, and a lot of toxic behaviour that was accepted or commonly overlooked on the early internet is now considered totally unacceptable. Many of us have grown from a bunch of anonymous actors playing roles in fantasy game worlds to real people sharing our lives and an online hobby with each other, and antisocial behaviour is an issue that all online games now need to take seriously. The lawless wild west of EVE‘s early years is gone, and I don’t think it’s ever coming back.

So what’s the deal? Does EVE Online tolerate less toxic behaviour today, has the internet started to outgrow its lawless roots, and what does it mean for the future of sandboxes?

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