MMO Week in Review: Population Zero hits early access; early access hits back

    
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Survival MMO Population Zero rolled into Steam early access this week, but it was a bumpy ride, followed by apologies and patches and an ambitious short-term roadmap.

Meanwhile, EVE Online turned 17, Fallen Earth is still being revived, Trove launched its Delves update, Albion Online is racking up players, we poked our noses into Blizzard’s and EA’s financials, and every MMO tried to make Star Wars day a thing.

Read on to catch up with the very best of this week’s MMO news and opinions today as every Sunday in Massively Overpowered’s Week in Review!

THIS WEEK’S TOP STORIES

Working as Intended: Sparking joy in MMOs - On this week's podcast, I mentioned that I'd just finished off Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, something that superficially seems unrelated to MMOs but (as I'll eventually…

THIS WEEK’S CASTS & STREAMS

Every week, get caught up on the MMO genre’s latest news and Massively OP’s best content in our MMO Week in Review! Want more roundups of content? Try Friday’s Betawatch for MMO testing highlights, Saturday’s Make My MMO for MMO crowdfunding updates, and Sunday’s The MOP Up, which mops up all the bits of news we didn’t cover anywhere else.
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Ashfyn Ninegold

Bree, absolute laugh of the day with your title. Thanks so much for that.

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Arktouros

Those Steam Charts numbers are pretty yikes for Pop Zero.

Last Oasis recent release ain’t doing them any favors.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Yikes is right. Then reviews like this show just how badly the devs misjudged:

everything you need to craft is only at the hub. they should allow you to make your own workstations. they need to add transportation cause you spend forever walking to a quest area. meat needs to be more then 1 piece per monster you kill, bandages shouldnt have to take 15 mins to make since you have to always heal after fighting monsters. or your health should be able to regen after not taking damage if they gonna have it that it takes 15 mins to craft a bandage. sprained ankles take forever to heal. add a splint or something that can be crafted to speed up the healing its a pain in the ♥♥♥ loosing health just for jumping trying to get away, when you die they should allow you to choose a cacoon location or allow you to spawn close to where you died and not across the the map. if you block an attack you shouldnt take damage. thats the reason you block.

Even if somewhat exaggerated, that all sounds bad. They also shat upon their Founders by wiping their Head Start. Sounds like Last Oasis is altogether a better experience.

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Tom316

These survival games with little substance to them are getting old. Both Pop Zero and Last Oasis’s are lacking any type of real goal to them. Oooo build a base.. Guess what it gets wiped out in 7 days or less. No real point in the end other then to offer some pvp where whoever has the numbers or the better gear generally wins.

Pop Zero building is worthless. Buildings get busted up in no time flat by one person and you can not really do anything worth a darn with it.

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Arktouros

Like any Sandbox it’s up to you to determine the course and direction you take with the tools the developers have given you.

Watching streams of people playing the game I’ve seen a variety of scenarios that defy your generalization of the game. For example some guys I was watching started in a hex and the hex owners came and talked to them about how it was a friendly hex and people who PK/attack are called out and hunted. This is because the hex ownership system rewards groups for letting solo/groups stay there and farm. This isn’t to say small groups or solos don’t have issues, such as the tablet bottleneck that serves as good ambushing spots for larger groups to prey upon smaller groups but also other larger groups. Last night I watched a group of 5-10 guys take on 20ish guys and walk away with thousands of fragments.

While in many games friends, grouping and other forms of collaboration are optional they aren’t in an a survival sandbox. Decrying that you need numbers and technology to survive is a rather astute observation and one that has been discussed for hundreds of years.

People decry survival games as little more than gankboxes, that’s really a skin deep observation because that’s generally as far as they get with them. The reality of them is they’re probably the most social games available out there in terms of requiring multiple people coordinating, communicating and playing collaboratively on both a micro scale (guilds/clans/groups) as well as a macro scale (diplomacy, treaties, agreements, etc).

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Robert Mann

There’s a lot of possibility there, but usually the major portions of the game are tied to the PvP, which leaves a lot of people turned off. I do think the first good PvE focused sandbox with community interactions will change a lot of the narrative there, and reduce the “Another gankbox!” mantra. Sadly, the only game really aiming at that right now is Fractured (and only if you want to be a beast-person type)… it’s really an empty area in the MMO space.

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Arktouros

I would argue it’s the PvP nature that is what allows such possibilities to exist. As the wiki article I linked states:

Hobbes argued that natural inequalities between humans are not so great as to give anyone clear superiority; and thus all must live in constant fear of loss or violence; so that “during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called warre; and such a warre as is of every man against every man”.

In a PvE game it’s that ruleset that makes players live with a common power to keep us all in check by limiting what actions we can take. Since fundamentally there’s little you can do to me in a PvE environment I have no fear of loss or violence to make me create the kind of social contracts where I’d voluntarily give up my freedoms for the safety and security of numbers. There’s little to no reasons to engage diplomatically with other guilds as again there’s no fear of loss or violence. There is less essential need for social interaction in order to be successful.

This whole topic has been being discussed more or less with the whole Blizzard employees discussing levels of social interaction on the topic. As they argue if you give players the tools that let them bypass the need for social interaction they will do so. As I argued it’s because players prefer less social interaction because there’s nothing stopping them from creating social bonds only a system that lets them bypass the need to do so. Again, less essential need for sociability.

However you can’t not be sociable in a PvP environment without either being “superior” (to tie it back to Hobbes’ statement) or you’ll just constantly be experiencing loss. Even the most pugnacious of those players generally rely on a crew of some sort if not larger guild backing. Social currency like reputation mean a great deal as well. I’m just not sure how you create the necessity for such things in a PvE environment.

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Robert Mann

Great, you like PvP. Many of us do not particularly care for PvP as it exists in MMOs, whether open world, guild based, or whatnot. Personally, I’d rather spend my entire day every day fishing in an MMO than deal with how people act toward each other all too often in PvP (or raids, for that matter). So I avoid those things, because fishing all day every day in an MMO would be quite tedious indeed. Frankly, the ‘social’ there is mostly group insular in my experience. The most likely interaction when finding a group is a full on assault zerg. No thanks to having to go through 20 flaming hoops on various websites and discord servers just to pass by… I’ll skip that and hope for something better, thank you very much!

Where there is every possibility for people to avoid social interaction in game, there’s also ZERO games that have tried a well moderated approach that encourages social behaviors through scarcity. That is to say, one where being decent to each other is not merely encouraged, but where being an arse about things is actively dealt with. Likely by requiring payment with identification to get an account, and simply banning that identification as needed… which won’t solve all ills, but will remove many people who are just unwanted elements due to bad behavior. In short, where having the ability to avoid interaction is part of things, I believe that it is a smaller part than many argue. Instead, the focus being on efficiency means people are either helping your efficiency, or worthless to you.

To really get the economy involved one must take several actions some will decry, but not every game needs cater to the solo focused player. That would include no AH, no fast travel, different resources spread far away, and other things that people would loathe as inconvenient in the standard design. It also requires that people have other reasons to share with their community, including events and fun hangouts. Left to a community alone, you get a few interesting things. Design for interaction and work with the community…

Of course, that’s just simply not where MMOs have gone. They aimed to recreate hack and slash more than anything else, so hack and slash is what we have.