We’ve all been there. We’re playing our favorite MMORPG and then self-appointed professors of game history start arguing in world chat about firsts — usually, which MMO was considered to be the “first.”
As much as we all like to feel and be right about something, the truth is that history is messy and often ill-defined, even history as recent as that of video games. If you go looking for clear-cut facts and definitions, you might end up with an assortment of maybes, possiblys, and who knowses.
So when it comes to “firsts” in MMOs, there’s a lot of debate over, well, pretty much everything. One thing that I have noticed while covering The Game Archaeologist for many years now is that studios do love claiming to be first in various aspects. Whether or not these firsts are legitimate or can be challenged is debatable, but I thought it would be interesting to compile these claims into a list for your enjoyment and future world chat arguments.
I’d like to think that I’m kind of a healthy gamer. While MMOs take a lot of time, the nice thing is that their downtime can lead to forming bonds, or give you time to exercise. Augmented reality games can give you both at once, especially Pokemon Go, since it’s the best-known ARG we have (and the mountains of merchandise make it easier to stand out as a fellow player).
However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, and I’m not just talking about game mechanics that have plagued Niantic games since at Ingress. I remember playing that title and thinking, “Man, this game is dangerous! There’s no way they’ll just clone this for POGO, right?” And yet, here we are. But I can’t put all the blame on Niantic, especially after my time with ARG competitor Maguss. Some things just seem inherent to the genre.
With Project Gorgon now out on Steam early access, many first-time visitors to this strange game are feeling out the world and its systems. So what are they discovering?
Tales of the Aggronaut said that he was “hooked” when he put in a good weekend: “Part of the charm of this game is that it plops you into the game with no real warning or advisement about what you should be doing.”
“There’s never any doubting the sheer personality evident in every aspect of the game,” recommended Inventory Full. “The enthusiasm and good nature of the tiny development team sweeps all cynicism away.”
Project Gorgon not your cup of tea? Join us after the break for blog essays on Second Life, RIFT Prime, Shroud of the Avatar, and even Dungeons & Dragons!
If we judged MMOs by their numbers alone — and I’m not suggesting we do so — then the original Lineage would be the crowing rooster strutting about the hen house. It’s also been one of those games that I’ve always intellectually acknowledged was a huge hit for some reason but never gave much attention. I think it’s because, contrary to many western MMOs, Lineage is primarily an Asian phenomenon. That doesn’t mean it should be shunned, of course, but just that it may be difficult to understand when you’re on the outside of it.
So let’s back up the memory truck to September 1998, when a then-fledgling NCsoft rolled out a Diablo-style isometric MMO and struck virtual gold in South Korea. At the time, gaming rooms were becoming a huge thing in the country. A recession had hit, giving people a lot of time with nothing to do, and the government was rapidly expanding the broadband network. In the face of this perfect storm, titles like StarCraft and Lineage became overnight household fixtures — and remained so for decades to come.
Even if you haven’t played Lineage and you don’t know anyone who does, trust me: Millions and millions of players have. As former Senior Producer Chris Mahnken once said, “Lineage keeps going because it’s just plain fun.”
Long after players had tried and moved on from the gravity-defying Lawbreakers, its studio has conceded defeat.
Boss Key Productions put out a statement today saying that the game was not able to draw and retain much of an audience, was generating no money, and was not worth the resources to switch it over to free-to-play. And while the studio said that it was moving on to other projects, it did hint that it was working on something to give Lawbreakers “the second life it deserves.”
“Between now and then, we cannot sit idle,” Boss Key said. “We will continue to support the game in its current state, but we also need to focus on other projects with fresh creative leaders. We have been working on something new and we can’t wait to share more about it! It’s a passion project that we’re in complete control of.”
It’s no surprise that Ready Player One was constantly being referenced at GDC 2018, especially in VR, AR, and MMO panels. It’s not just because of the movie’s release but because the tech involved is seeing a surge of interest. That doesn’t mean we’re on the cusp, in my opinion, but it may be a thing we should start talking about.
And talking about it we did. As Bill Roper of Improbable and SpatialOS recently told me, “The next generation of online games isn’t going to behave like current-generation MMOs. […] We don’t know what a billion-person game might look like, but it’s likely to include a wide variety of playstyles, to reflect the diversity of its playerbase.” Even if you’re a cynic and don’t think SpatialOS will play any part of this future, Roper’s very much on the mark: Billion-person gaming isn’t going to be like our current MMOs.
The plot of the novel and upcoming film Ready Player One is that you can win total control of a virtual world by having watched the original Ghostbusters film enough times. (Or something to that effect.) You cannot win total control of Entropia Universe by remembering enough about Voltron, but you do have an opportunity to take part in a big scavenger hunt across the game’s world with its newest event. And the reward is 50,000 Project Entropia Dollars, which can be cashed out for $5,000, as well as land deeds to bring in more revenue.
Of course, you are going to have to answer a series of fiendish riddles to obtain all of the three keys hidden in the game, so don’t expect to be able to just roll in and get $5,000 for knowing what Indiana Jones is afraid of (ferrets). But hey, if the idea of an in-game scavenger hunt across worlds is what you’re into, you’ll be able to fulfill exactly that desire when the riddles start on March 29th.
Plenty of panels at GDC are recorded and uploaded to the internet weeks after the event, including this one. It’s not quite the same as being there, as you miss a few things. For example, this year’s Ultima Online Post-Mortem panel was packed. It was international. It was fun, gross, nostalgiac, and sometimes groan-inducing.
And I’d hate to just summarize the talk, especially since some of you vets have heard these stories before, but since ya’ll couldn’t make it, I’ll do it. For you. But for this particular panel, not only will I try to summarize what was said before the panel will be viewable online in a few weeks, but I’ll dish out on the after-panel chat with Richard Garriott, Starr Long, Raph Koster, and Rich Vogel, including comments from the team on bad bans, kingslaying, VR, and the state of the MMORPG.
One thing I love about GDC compared to other conventions I cover is how many actual developers I get to talk to, especially without PR and Marketing handlers. Everyone has his or her job, I understand that, but my job as press it to cut through those two departments to get what the actual product is. Nothing helps that more than understanding the thoughts behind design decisions, and that can rarely come from people who aren’t keyboard deep in code and design docs.
My talk with Citadel Studios’ Founder and CEO Derek “Supreem” Brinkmann and Lead Designer Jeffrey “Miphon” Edwards felt like the right kind of interview for just that. I’m not someone who backed their project, and I’m not sure if Legends of Aria (formerly Shards Online) is my type of game, but after checking it out for myself, I feel like the game is in capable hands.
Can you smell it? The sweet scent of spring is in the air — and free-to-play trials as well! Ultima Online is on the verge of offering its “Endless Journey” option for new and returning players who don’t want to pony up for a full subscription cost.
The long-running fantasy MMORPG started testing the second version of its Publish 99 last week, resolving some issues and adding specific restrictions for free-to-play accounts.
Endless Journey players cannot claim veteran rewards, holiday gifts, or place housing, for starters. There are a lot of limitations on carving out a space for yourself in this virtual world, so don’t expect F2P accounts to own homes, place vendors, create guilds, or access mailboxes. F2P gamers will also be forbidden from rolling up toons on the Siege Perilous and Mugen servers.
It began with an exploitable glitch. It exploded into an uncontained nightmare of death. It established a meme as strong as Leeroy Jenkins. It even saved lives.
One of the most notorious events in World of Warcraft’s history didn’t emerge from the design of Blizzard’s controlling developers, but rather from players looking to grief the community. In a prank that briefly grew out of control, a pandemic was set loose upon the game’s world that decimated the population and changed the landscape overnight.
This was the Corrupted Plague incident, and it would go on to leave a mark upon World of Warcraft that remains to this day.
Let us make an already interesting MMO news day a bit more so, shall we? How about the introduction of a brand-new, full-fledged MMORPG in development with AAA credentials and some notable game industry vets at the helm?
The game in question is code-named Project C, a sci-fi MMO that takes place on a single-shard hostile world. It sounds incredibly intriguing and not afraid of to embrace the massively multiplayer experience:
Project C invites the players to explore, conquer and dominate a massive hostile persistent sci-fi world. The game offers players genuine innovation in game design with emphasis on emergent memorable gameplay moments: a single-shard virtual world, continuously updated with new chapters of the game’s story, containing a fully simulated ecosystem of creatures and resources, in which player choices create permanent changes.
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.