I have vague memories of ArenaNet talking about Guild Wars 2 taverns prior to its launch and how these spaces would be more than window dressing. Maybe that was a dream or something, but I’ve always respected the effort to make one of the most iconic of RPG locations — the tavern meeting place — more useful and engaging. Warhammer Online, too, was touting tavern brawls that would take place as public events.
We’re so conditioned to run in and out of such places that unless we are roleplaying for some reason, chances are we never stay for more than a few seconds. And that’s kind of a shame, because I like the idea of players spending some time in bars unwinding. I heard a myth of a dead MMO that used to put such an emphasis on this, but it was probably all bunk.
What could MMO taverns do to get you to stick around? Would you hang out for minigames, gambling, special events, or special buffs?
Video games have always been a remarkably insular field; that’s the nature of development. Someone produces Super Mario Bros, and a few years later Sonic the Hedgehog sounds like a really good idea for some reason. But then you have games like The Great Giana Sisters, games that don’t try to just copy parts of what made the inspiration good but just copy the whole thing with one or two changes.
For normal video games, this can work out decently; a game that just doesn’t get much traction still sells some copies, hopefully. Just because Croc wasn’t Spyro didn’t mean that no one bought the former. But for online games, these trend-chasing games are almost always dramatic failures that litter the landscape. Why is that? Well, there are pretty good reasons, and today seems like a good time to talk about that.
With the insane success — both in terms of popularity and finances — that Dota and League of Legends spawned, you can easily understand why game studios latched onto the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) as a relatively quick cash grab. After all, with players providing the ongoing content (through PvP matches), developers were freed up to focus on balance tweaks and churning out new skins and characters to sell.
In a relatively short span of time, the market became flooded with many imitators that sought to grab that slice of the profitable pie. And while some, such as Hi-Rez’s SMITE, have endured, many games discovered the one key danger with this approach: If you could not generate and sustain a large, active playerbase, you were as good as dead. A critical mass was needed, and when it was not achieved, games started folding up left and right.
In today’s Perfect Ten, we’re going to look at a dozen MOBAs that tried and failed to make it. Perhaps they serve as cautionary lessons to other studios seeking to mimic League of Legends’ format, but we somehow doubt that the era of the MOBA is over just yet.
When we moved over here to Massively Overpowered, some of us transplanted our long-running columns to the new space. I perhaps felt most devastated that I was going to lose all of the Game Archaeologist articles that I had painstakingly researched over the years. So my mission with this space became two-fold: to rescue and update my older columns while continuing to add more articles to this series on classic MMOs and proto-MMOs.
I’ve been pleased with the results so far because TGA is a series that I really don’t want to see vanish. As MMORPG fans, we should consider it important to remember and learn about these older titles and to expand our knowledge past the more popular and well-known games of yesteryear.
Now that we have quite a catalogue of Game Archaeologist columns, I thought it would be helpful to end the year by gifting this handy guide to you that organizes and compiles our continuing look at the history of the genre. Enjoy!
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!
MOP reader Sally Bowls is on a roll with the good questions lately! She lobbed us one this past weekend that seems a good follow-up to a comment thread discussion about the problems inherent in unregulated three-way factional PvP/RvR (and how a game like Camelot Unchained will regulate it). By way of example, she noted that a certain MMO griefer famously argued in favor of strategy that basically made the opponent not want to log in, using tactics like creating timesinks and hassles in a sandbox. “Should the dominant faction on a RvRvR server ‘camp’ the smallest to try to drive them off?” she wondered.
“If it’s about fair PvP, then that is anathema. But if you see the game as being about your faction being at war with other factions, then not doing your utmost to win that war is incompetence. Neither is bad design per se, just a conflict in understanding of the goals. And will Camelot Unchained really be RvR, doing everything legal for your realm to win? Or will it be about PvP battles, with the RvR rhetoric being more marketing fluff than von Clausewitz and Machiavelli? If camping a mine hurts your kill/death ratio but makes the opponent weaker due to hassles or crafting, is that winning or losing? Is an RvR game really about realms vs. realms or is it just another BG?”
I’ve pitched Sally’s comments to the team for consideration in this week’s Massively Overthinking. Is RvR just a more carebear-friendly way to market FFA PvP? Do you play RvR or factional PvP to win or to have fun, and how does that differ from a more open FFA sandbox? How would you design three-way factional PvP to keep people from quitting and stop griefing before it starts?
Over the weekend, the studio behind crowdfunded RvR MMORPG Camelot Unchained released a hefty chunk of its ongoing beta one document, revealing extensive insight into the way the game’s social systems will be laid out. Parts of those social systems will look familiar to MMO players, such as groups (Warbands), guilds (Orders), and raids (Battlegroups). But there are more layers to contend with, including perma-groups or mini-guilds (Permanent Warbands), as well as project-oriented raids (Campaigns), all designed in the service of an ambitious RvR-centered MMO that makes space for soloers and small guilds by not over- or under-privileging the largest teams in the genre. That’s the goal, anyway!
CU boss and MMORPG veteran developer Mark Jacobs, whom many of you know personally thanks to his ubiquity in our comments section, gamely answered about a thousand of my questions over the weekend, which we’ve compiled into an absurdly long interview about how to properly smush together all these groups into a social system sandwich that makes everybody happy. There’s even a Star Trek quote and a bonus question about Warhammer Online’s development and CU’s budget at the end!
I strongly urge you to check out the original doc first, as the interview assumes knowledge of the basic terminology and structure of the game. Fair warning: While Camelot Unchained’s document is almost 6000 words, this interview itself is close to 4000. You put Jacobs in a virtual room with me and my questions go on forever, and damn if he doesn’t answer them exhaustively. It’s a whopper, but it’s worth reading for a glimpse into what could be the future of MMO community planning.
This particular part of September is loaded with MMORPG and MMO birthdays. In addition to ArcheAge, whose corgipocalypse we’ve been covering already, and Ultima Online, doomed to ding 20 by Monday, there are a few more we’ve not mentioned yet. Let’s remedy that!
is turning eight today, and it’s putting on a pretty sweet party
, plus a different one in the EU
. US players can look forward to bonus experience, cake, and Kroemede’s Revenge; through the weekend in the EU, expect a Cake Hunt, in-game boots, gifts, and temporary mounts, plus an event about poppys. I don’t know, it’s Aion
, man, just go with it. We’ll be streaming some of the US festivities on Saturday, so stay tuned!
Fallen Earth also turns eight today, though you won’t find any hoopla on the official site, where there’s been no news since last year. MOP’s Justin judged it in maintenance mode as of at least this past summer. It’s OK, Fallen Earth. We’ll have a slice of cake in your honor.
Let’s begin with a little personal history. Back in 2008, I decided to get into the blogging scene by jumping on board the latest MMO hotness — in this case, Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. As I was growing increasingly tired of World of Warcraft, WAR seemed to offer a refreshing alternative: a darker world full of brutal PvP and awesome new ideas. So I joined the elite ranks of bloggers (hey, stop laughing so hard) and spent the better part of two years jawing about Mythic’s latest fantasy project.
And while Warhammer Online was, in my opinion, a solid product, it certainly failed to live up to the extremely high expectations held by both the development team and the players. No matter how it turned out, I really enjoyed talking about WAR, especially in the days leading up to its launch.
As with other IP-related MMOs like Star Trek Online and Lord of the Rings Online, Warhammer Online had its roots with another company and another vision. It’s a “what if?” tale that’s tantalizing to consider — an entirely different studio, Climax Online, creating a much darker version of Warhammer.
So what if Climax had brought its version of Warhammer Online to bear? Would it have eclipsed Mythic’s vision or been its own animal? Hit the jump and let’s dive into the pages of ancient history!
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.
And lo, as the Battle Bards walk through the zone of the shadow of death, they will fear no evil, but they will listen to evil’s soundtrack because that is what they do! In today’s episode, the crew looks at the darker side of MMORPG soundtracks, dwelling in the wicked, the profane, and the deliciously macabre. Also, Syp does his Cookie Monster voice.
Battle Bards is a bi-weekly podcast that alternates between examining a single MMO’s soundtrack and exploring music tracks revolving around a theme. MOP’s Justin co-hosts with bloggers Steff and Syl. The cast is available on iTunes, Google Play, TuneIn, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, and Player.FM.
Listen to Episode 104: Something wicked this way comes (or download it) now:
Every MMO tells a story through the run of its life. A lot of those stories are pretty happy, too. Ultima Online may not be the most happening place in the world right now, but its story is about launching a genre and then running for two solid decades. That’s a pretty great story. However much it’s become a tale of mismanaged expectations, World of Warcraft kind of became the most popular thing for a long while and brought in tons of new people to the hobby. Even titles with sad endings often have bright stories; the end bit for City of Heroes sucks, but everything leading up to that was a gas.
And then you have these 10 titles. These are titles where the whole story is a tragedy, start to finish, and in many cases the tragedy isn’t necessarily over, but the story is still just plain sad. There are reasons, of course, maybe even good ones, but the result is that the narrative for these titles is pretty sad all the way through.
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!