It has become a long-standing tradition as Massively OP and our former site that we like to end the year by creating a list of titles that we anticipate for the coming one. It has always been a devilish list to create, full of loose dates and fast guesswork about which titles will and won’t be releasing during a 12-month window (just read last year’s list to see how spot-on I was).
This year we’re changing things up a bit by tossing out the qualifying factor of “will see a hard launch in 2018.” Instead, I drafted up a list of 20 MMOs that have the potential to do or be really interesting next year, whether that be a launch, a long-anticipated beta test, or some other significant development. Plus, hey, you get 20 for the price of 10, so no complaining now!
As an aside, this list isn’t going to cover some other exciting-looking multiplayer games that are arriving in 2018, like Sea of Thieves, The Crew 2, Monster Hunter World, DayZ, Red Dead Redemption 2, Stardew Valley, Conan Exiles, and State of Decay 2. And you old school fans won’t want to forget that Ultima Online has a new free-to-play option coming this spring.
It’s a big day for indie MMORPG Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, as it’s the first day the gates open to external pre-alpha testers to help test the game.
“Our testers are starting off in Thronefast, but not a complete, fully-polished, ready-for-shipping Thronefast,” Visionary Realms wrote this morning. “They’ll get to literally see the game grow around them as they help us squash bugs, offer feedback and be a part of the development of this grand MMORPG, arguably earlier than public has ever been invited into an MMO – while there’s still grayboxing!”
As we’ve previously covered, you do need to have purchased the Originator’s package to get into this stage of testing; it’s currently a thousand-dollar package, so it’s not for the casual tester but rather the hardcore backer. “Originator’s packages are still available until December 20th, after which they will no longer include Pre-Alpha access,” warns Visionary Realms.
The significance of Vanguard’s development, release, long-running drama, second chance, and eventual closure should be of great interest not just to game historians but to everyone who plays MMOs, period. What happened with this game caused a huge fallout in the industry, and we are still feeling some of its effects even today.
As our own Bree once put it in her blog, “Vanguard’s implosion was a big deal at the time and marked the beginning of the post-World of Warcraft destruction of the industry that hobbled Age of Conan and Warhammer Online a few years later.”
While the crash and burn of Vanguard was a very well-known tale several years ago, I’m wondering if today there might be many who are quite unfamiliar with what happened to this unassuming title back around 2007. Let me put on my old fogey glasses and we shall begin!
If you wanted to catch the newest Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen stream live, we’re sorry to inform you that you’re too late. It already happened. But luckily, you can watch the archived video down below, and it should provide you with nearly an hour of viewing pleasure. Assuming that you derive pleasure from watching a city get put together, but let’s face it, who wouldn’t find that pretty cool?
Yes, the stream brings together the creative director (Chris Perkins), the lead concept artist (Jared Pullen), and of course the director of communications (Ben Dean) to explore the process of making the capital city of Thronefast. The city in the video is in an early state, but that’s part of the enjoyment; you get to see the concept art and see the initial models for areas that will later be filled with rushing water (instead of blocky gray masses). Check out the full video just below.
Patch 4.22 Passage to Egypt
is live in SMITE
this week. Its headlining feature? A new “nightmare” difficulty mode for the freebie co-op RPG content that’s still relatively new to the MOBA.
“In the Trials of King Hercules, the Champion of Rome brought forth challenges for mortals and gods alike to test their mettle. Millions braved the dungeon, and few slew the great Nemean Lion and reveled in the spoils. Even fewer mustered the strength to journey beyond the cave and eventually slay the final beast, the Hydra and its many heads. But now, the demigod is missing – and, once again, you must heed the call to face the challenges laid before you. This time, the villainous Loki travels through the various realms of the Norse Pantheon.”
In fact, the first team to defeat Loki in Nightmare mode was already rewarded with $100 in gems and skin codes to boot, though the community site lists a bundle of additional challenges. Players should also expect the new themey Egyptian questline and an item balancing pass aimed at tuning endgame strats.
It took a convention to bring together a development team.
Visionary Realms shared in its November newsletter that many of Pantheon’s team members — some of whom work remotely across the country — met for the very first time at the recent TwitchCon 2017. As a bonus, Executive Producer Chris Rowan allegedly made a convert to the game out of a disgruntled streamer who stopped by to badmouth MMOs but changed his tone when Rowan shared Pantheon’s challenging, class-interdependent structure.
The studio reported that the convention was a huge boost to the team’s morale and the game’s visibility: “The highlight of the weekend was our presentation on Saturday at the indie stage that culminated with the announcement that pre-alpha testing will begin in time for the holidays this year! Fueled by the excitement of our community over the announcement, we dug deep in our energy reserves and burned the midnight oil with an impromptu meetup at a local restaurant, where we reminisced and looked forward to the coming shared experiences in store for us all.”
Pantheon’s Brad McQuaid has another new blog post up – he’s on a roll this week – this one on alternate rulesets in MMORPGs and the MMO’s multi-server structure. “I really think the idea of alternate rule-set servers/realms, while dabbled with, have never (yet) reached their true potential,” he says, arguing that there’s a “fine line” between managing to stick to what gives the core game its identity and being willing to experiment with “variations on a theme” that enhance rather than “threaten or violate that core, that magic, that x factor.”
He also downplays the desire for single-shard MMOs, citing the desire to create communities that are “not too small and not too big” with plenty of content for the number of players accessing them on each individual server out of many. In fact, he throws a little bit of shade on devs who are “bragging about world size, or creating a truly seamless world, or using CPU and memory to create virtual mega-cities is all at odds with our objectives.”
One of the most interesting things to cover when it comes to Pantheon’s development has been its reconciliation of two superficially opposing ideas for social systems in MMOs: the old-school, hands-off, organic approach that leaves socializing entirely up to the players vs. modern contrivances that proactively group players together. The goal, however, is one and the same, and that’s to create a truly social community and “forging true relationships.”
Indeed, that’s what Pantheon’s Brad McQuaid attempts to explain in a new dev blog today focused on matchmaking and the LFG. Because… there will be a LFG tool — “or, really, set of tools. A suite a completely optional tools and mechanics that help people find real friends, help them group with those friends, help keep those friends together in a group.” McQuaid explains that the game is embracing a more “proactive” stance than what players might recall from EverQuest, using “positive reinforcement to rewards players” who make community happen.
Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen fans viewing the team demoing the game at TwitchCon this past week were delighted to hear one surprise announcement: the confirmation of a pre-alpha test coming by the end of this year.
“We’re happy to announce today that pre-alpha will be here in time for the holidays,” the team said. However, don’t get too excited thinking that this will open up the game to a large group of players. The buy-in for Pantheon’s pre-alpha is a $1,000 minimum purchase as of right now.
The team spent most of the stream showing off the gameplay and finding new and horrific ways to wipe. “It’s a new game, lot of new features, lot of new ideas,” said Brad McQuaid. “But we’re trying to bring back the social element, the challenge. Most of the content is built around grouping.”
Hi-Rez’s turn-based strategy card game Hand of the Gods — you might recall it better as SMITE Tactics or even its internal name, Hotgods — formally launches closed beta on console today, arriving on both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
“The beta for Hand of the Gods kicks off by offering special bundles for PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold members–including FREE access to the Closed Beta for those members! Starting today, PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold members can receive the Hand of the Gods promotional bundle for free! Each bundle features a unique Leader Skin and also includes an Exclusive Card Back and Player Icon. In addition, the bundle includes five Core Packs to give new players a jump start in building their decks.”
Want even more stuff? Hi-Rez has granted us codes for the Legendary Greek God Medusa, redeemable on either console (but not PC). Click the Mo button below (and prove you’re not a robot) to grab one of these keys!
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 Project Gorgon, Star Trek Online, Bless, Skyforge, Wakfu, Roblox, War Thunder, Aion, Elite: Dangerous, New Dawn, Travian, Astroneer, and World of Warcraft, all waiting for you after the break!
The MOP team tricked me into taking this post. They promised me gnomes. They aren’t gnomes at all. They’re halflings!
We’re talking, of course, about Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, which this week released its October newsletter, the star of which is the newly revealed playable halflings. The Visionary Realms devs say the halfling will look familiar but not identical to what’s become a stock fantasy race.
“It was a real challenge to be sure, owing to how extensively the Halfling trope has been explored in popular culture,” Senior Concept Artist Jared Pullen says. “There are so many preconceived notions of what a halfling is, a good deal of which has been based largely on Tolkien’s Middle Earth Halflings; the Hobbits. The unique lore set in place by our talented writer and loremaster Justin Gerhart became the pivotal point of difference for us. While still being deep lovers of nature as one expects of this trope, Pantheon Halflings have a wild edge that sets them apart. They embrace a very literal and visceral affinity with nature, wearing furs and hides with plant and animal adornments both. As such they carry into the game with highly tribal design sensibilities, very different to the Halflings we’ve come to expect from books and film.”
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.”