Coronavirus roundup: Blizzard, free APB Reloaded, EA esports, HPWU, and how your PC can help humans win

Haha whoops.

Feel pretty surreal to be reporting on a global crisis like the coronavirus in our indie pages here on MOP, but it affects everyone and everything, even MMOs. We’ll keep this weekend edition brief!

More MMO companies announced last night that they’re closing down their physical offices and directing developers to work from home for the next few weeks. Blizzard made the call last night. “To protect the health and safety of our employees, we are implementing work-from-home policies for our Irvine and Austin offices,” the studio tweeted. “Those in our other offices around the world have been or will be working from home as directed by local governments and health authorities. We will continue to pay our on-site vendors and contractors while this work-from-home policy is in place, and our game teams will work to provide the best experiences we can for players during this challenging time.”

Little Orbit, the company that bought up Fallen Earth and APB Reloaded a few years back, also switched to remote working. Even better, the studio’s CEO is giving all APB players premium status.

“Come hell or high water, the team is dedicated to shipping the Engine Upgrade, and we didn’t get this close to be sidelined by a little virus. I know this may be a little scary right now. And APB is just a game. But since many of you will be temporarily home due to work or supporting family members, we want to insure that the game is online and available for all our players to distract themselves with some missions, fight club, or a little virtual socialization in Breakwater. I’m also going to be turning on Free Premium for all players across all platforms.”

Are your kids already bored out of their minds? Adventure Academy may do the trick. This is an educational MMO we mini-reviewed a while back, built by the same folks who made ABC Mouse. And it’s offering a hefty discount to subs right now for parents with littles now stuck from home without a whole lot to do. My district won’t even have lesson plans prepared until the end of next week, so this could come in handy. (There’s a free trial month too.)

EA formally suspended all live events for its competitive gaming series, both third-party-run and those EA operates itself, as of yesterday. That includes Apex Legends Global Series, EA Sports FIFA 20 Global Series, FIFA Online 4, and Madden NFL 20 Championship Series.

Following Pokemon Go’s lead this week, one of Niantic’s other MMOARGs has altered its gameplay to allow players to play without breaking quarantine or violating social distancing norms. Harry Potter: Wizards Unite has buffed trace detection tonics and added more ingredients and traces to the map, among other tweaks, all to make it easier to play from inside homes.

We’ve covered World of Warcraft’s old Corrupted Blood plague event many times over the last decade, but here’s a neat capstone to this post: PC Gamer has a report on how epidemiologists and researchers have used what they learned about human behavior during that event to inform their study of the current outbreak in the real world.

“To pull it back to a Corrupted Blood analogy, and something I’ve been thinking about: One of the critiques we got from a lot of people, both gamers and scientists, was over this idea of griefing,” Dr. Lofgren told PC Gamer. “How griefing isn’t really analogous to anything that takes place in the real world. People aren’t intentionally getting people sick. And they might not be intentionally getting people sick, but wilfully ignoring your potential to get people sick is pretty close to that. You start to see people like ‘oh this isn’t a big deal, I’m not going to change my behavior. I’m going to the concert and then going to see my elderly grandma anyway.’ Maybe don’t do that. That’s a big takeaway. Epidemics are a social problem… Minimizing the seriousness of something is sort of real-world griefing.”

Finally, if you’ve got a PC and some time on your hands and a willingness to help? NVIDIA has a task for you.

More on the impact of the virus on gaming:


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Techno Wizard
Techno Wizard

“Don’t go to cities. Go to the countryside or non-populated areas! Especially if low level.” <- learned the hard way during WoW's Corrupted Blood pandemic.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Strangely, this is still good advice for a pandemic.