virtual world

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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Massively Overthinking: What keeps you from playing mobile MMOs?

Earlier this week, we wrote about Black Desert developer Pearl Abyss’ IPO and its grand plans for the future – among them, four additional MMOs. Sounds great, right? Except that the suspicion, at least in our comments, is that Pearl Abyss will just follow in the footsteps of Nexon, NCsoft, and Netmarble in that the games will mobile MMOs and not “real” MMORPGs at all. That may or may not be true; the games have fairly fast turnaround for a full-scale MMORPG, but then the company talked up the BDO engine for future games and expressed great ambition in the MMORPG market in the west and on console.

But the suspicion seems to turn off so many of us — the stigma is real. So for today’s Overthinking, I wanted to dig into that. Do you play mobile MMOs, especially any of the modern crop that are popular in East Asia and then ported here? What keeps you from playing mobile MMOs, and what would you want out of an MMO for a mobile device that would actually make you consider it a home MMORPG?

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Maguss is a mash-up of Pokémon Go and Harry Potter

It might be the closest you will ever get to living out your Harry Potter fantasies without heading down to Universal Studios in Orlando. Maguss is a Pokémon Go-style ARG that draws heavy (but not copyright-infringing) inspiration from the Wizarding World — and it’s about ready to hit the public stage.

A shade more complicated than Pokémon Go, Maguss has player wizards use a phone and wand to interact with a virtual world overlaid on the real one. By casting spells, players can gather important ingredients, battle imaginary monsters, brew potions, and duel between one another. It is being made for iOS and Android, is coming out later this year, and doesn’t require a wand accessory to play. But seriously, if you’re going to do this, you might as well do it right.

On August 30th, the team indicated that the public beta is right around the corner: “We need approx. one more week to be done with monetization features […] There is still a lot left but we are making good progress each day and getting closer and closer to what we imagine public beta version will look like. Hopefully we can manage to add all we want before we release it for public and for you to enjoy. The next update will be huge!”

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One Shots: I think I’m turning Japanese

I’ve got your picture of me and you
You wrote “I love you,” I love you too
I sit there staring and there’s nothing else to do

We’ve all been there when a “good” Japanese demon of legend has a legit crush on one of the leaders of the Illuminati. How else to express that unrequited love than with a commissioned painting and some headless mannequins?

“In honor of Secret World Legends’ Kristen Geary,” posted reader Koshelkin. This is exactly how court restraining orders get started.

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Massively Overthinking: Female characters and gender-locked classes in MMOs

One of the reasons I gravitated to and stick by the MMORPG genre in spite of its many ups and downs (oh, so many downs) over the last two decades is the fact that I can play more or less exactly the character I want to play, which is usually female characters. Other genres, even RPGs, have been relatively slow to catch up to what we’ve had here in MMO land right from the start. The idea of a serious MMORPG launching without female toons of some sort is almost unheard of.

I bring this up because of Quantic Foundry’s latest blog post, which delves its Gamer Motivation Profile for data on how gamers feel about being able to play female protagonists. Unsurprisingly, three-quarters of female gamers and a third of male gamers, irrespective of age, consider that option very or extremely important!

For this week’s Massively Overthinking, I asked our mixed-gender staff three questions: what they think about Quantic’s findings, whether they stick to the gender they personally identify as when rolling toons in MMOs, and whether the lack of gender options — or in MMOs’ case, things like gender-locked classes — drive them as nuts as they drive me.

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The Game Archaeologist: Furcadia

Let’s face it: There isn’t really a huge pool of MMORPGs from the 1990s to explore in this column. By now I have done most of them, including some of the more obscure titles. Yet there has always been this one game that I have shied away from covering, even though it (a) was an actual MMO from the ’90s and (b) is still operating even today. And that game is, of course, Furcadia.

So why my reluctance? To be honest, I suppose it was my reluctance to tackle anything in the “furry” fandom without knowing how to handle it. I don’t quite get the fascination with wanting to pretend to be an animal, and some of the expressions that I’ve seen in the news and online from this community have made me uncomfortable. Thus I kept away because I was worried that a piece that I wrote on Furcadia would devolve into a nonstop stream of jokes to cover that personal disquiet.

But I’ve tiptoed around this MMO long enough, and I have come to realize that there is virtue in earnestly trying to understand a subculture that is outside of my bubble, even if I don’t end up appreciating or liking it. Casting off preconceptions and simple snark, let us take a look at this unique title and see what it has to offer for the larger genre.

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Darkfall: New Dawn releases state-of-the-game roadmap, says it’s 76% done

Darkfall: New Dawn, one of a pair of indie-led player efforts to keep MMO sandbox Darkfall going after original studio Aventurine abandoned it last year, has a gorgeous new roadmap out this week addressing the current state of the build. Studio Ub3rgames says it believes it’s more than three-quarters of the way done with the game since last summer, with most of the work going toward PvE, combat, PvP, quality-of-life upgrades, and performance. The economy and virtual world, the team admits, has seen the least focus so far. The active players seem pretty pleased!

Most recently, Ub3rgames released patch 3.13, “switching into a higher gear” with what it dubbed “the great magic overhaul.” It’s essentially a complete do-over for the magic system that revamps secondary spell effects as well as adds a preliminary king-of-the-hill village control system, guild perks, armor durability retooling, collision system updates, performance upgrades, and dynamic tombstones, which sound festive and might be worth a relook if you’ve been standing on the sidelines of development.

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Massively Overthinking: Alone together vs. forced grouping in MMORPGs

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.

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Investors pour $3.7M into MMO sandbox Dual Universe

Dual Universe just snagged a positively massive cash injection. According to a press release posted today, private investors have poured $3.7 million in funding into the sci-fi sandbox MMORPG. That’s in addition to the more than $630,000 the game raised on Kickstarter less than a year ago (a haul that at the time earned the game the title of third most funded video game on Kickstarter that year). Napkin math says the game picked up another $3M in between through on-site fundraising and possibly earlier investment.

Oh, and unlike a lot of games that snap up the “MMO” label, this one actually deserves it.

Dual Universe is a new type of massively-multiplayer online experience: it takes place in a vast Sci-Fi universe, focusing on emergent gameplay and content building, with player-driven in-game economy, politics, trade and warfare. The vision for Dual Universe is to create the first virtual online civilization. At the heart of Dual Universe is a truly innovative proprietary technology, which was developed to lay the foundations of the game. The CSSC (continuous single-shard cluster) manages one single universe with potentially millions of people interacting in it at the same time. A multi-scale voxel engine enables players to physically modify the world; dig a hole, carve up a mountain or build anything they want, from space ships to orbital stations, at any scale they desire. Novaquark is building a virtual world environment where they hope millions of people will be able to live exciting collective adventures within a vibrant and emergent universe where everything is possible. The company aims at creating a new form of entertainment, where participants are free to create their own stories and environment.”

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Massively Overthinking: How should MMOs make money in a world without lockboxes?

Earlier this week, MOP’s Justin expressed frustration over lockboxes, feeling especially provoked. “As both a player and a journalist, I find it insulting when an MMO studio wants me to get excited about its lockboxes,” he tweeted. “They are poison.”

MOP reader and gamer Iain (@ossianos) wants to hear more about poison! “I’d be interested to read an article on your thoughts, and those of the MassivelyOP staff, on how MMOs could otherwise make money,” he tweeted back.

Challenge accepted! And perfectly timed for this week’s Massively Overthinking topic. Imagine (or just remember) a world without lockboxes. How would MMOs and other online games survive without lockboxes here in 2017? What should they be doing instead, and what might they have to do when the inevitable gachapon regulation comes westward?

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Shroud of the Avatar’s Richard Garriott backs Neverdie’s ‘etherium blockchain gaming’ venture

I often joke with our readers that Massively OP is not an MMO uptime monitor, but darn if we don’t feel like a Richard Garriott uptime monitor lately — love him or hate him, the man is on one hell of a PR tour for his book and Portalarium’s crowdfunding. So what’s one of the founding fathers of the MMORPG genre and the current boss at Shroud of the Avatar doing today? Boosting Neverdie Studios.

So let’s back up. Remember back in 2005 when when a Project Entropia player bought an asteroid in the game for $100,000 and then flipped it a few years later for more than six times that, ultimately setting a Guinness record and claiming to be the “first gamer to make a million dollars inside a virtual world”? That player was Jon “Neverdie” Jacobs, and Neverdie Studios is his real-world secure bitcoin-like-trading venture promoting “Etherium Blockchain Gaming,” which amounts to peer-to-peer online money trading and is of particular to interest to online gaming studios. The company has apparently already raised $2 million in a pre-sale and has now launched an “initial coin offering” (ICO) whereby people can invest in the tech.

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Global Chat: Are MMO side quests worth it?

Apparently I am a pot-stirrer. On my side blog, Bio Break, I like to throw out conversation starters every now and then, and one such recent post concerned side quests. Namely, I mused about getting rid of them altogether in MMORPGs. This generated a lot of interesting conversation around the subject among other bloggers.

In An Age said that side quests are vital for pacing: “Pacing, meanwhile, is all about enhancing the main story. How do you enhance a story? By fleshing it out. Giving context to its development. Allowing breathing room in which to digest the latest narrative bombshell. Bringing the world in which the story exists to life.”

“I’m a fan of side quests if they’re done well overall. I don’t expect every single one to be breathtaking storytelling,” said Gaming SF. And Bhagpuss goes the other way: “I have to wonder whether, rather than putting side quests on ice, it isn’t the main quest itself that should be deep-sixed. If side quests add breadth and depth to the world, don’t main quests try to put that world in a box and close the lid?”

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