GIbiz put out an interesting piece this week looking 10 years into the past to see where the buzz was in the game industry back in 2008. It’s worth a read overall (that was the year some rando company called “Riot Games” snagged $7M in funding for something called “League of Legends” – pff, that’ll never go anywhere, amirite), but the segment I want to highlight this morning is the one about the industry hype cycle.
The long-ago author wonders just when the hype cycle for video games should begin, at least in terms of maximizing profits (and presumably not annoying consumers). He compares the Assassin’s Creed franchise to Prince of Persia, noting that the former’s hype cycle was twice as long as the latter’s – and performed significantly better. After all, we’re still talking about AC here in 2018!
It seems a fair topic for MMORPGs as well; for example, World of Warcraft expansion announcements and hype lulls, the difference in buzz lead-up between Guild Wars 2’s Heart of Thorns and Path of Fire, and the seemingly interminable Kickstarter MMO dev/hype/funding cycles are perennial subjects here.
How early should an MMORPG’s hype cycle begin? How long before the planned launch of a game or an expansion – or even a Kickstarter – do you actually want to hear about it?
It’s finally time for me talk about Project Gorgon as a released product. As you might have guessed, I was avoiding the game prior to launch. I’ve spoken out against early access a lot and have realized that, at this point in my gaming/career, playing games I’m passionate too early can be a threat to both work and play. I wanted a relationship with PG, but I didn’t want to rush into anything pre-release. I wanted it as complete as possible.
MJ’s streamed it a bunch of times, including the day before launch. Eliot’s comments from his pre-release CMA feel spot on still post-release. However, as the resident old-man Asheron’s Call fan with a review copy, I think I can add a few comments about how Project Gorgon compares to AC1&2, plus how developer Eric Heimburg’s infused PG in AC-esque ways.
Last month, I put together an article and pair of videos discussing Asheron’s Call’s Shard of the Herald event to celebrate the game’s first deathiverary. It was a bittersweet experience for me, as it was not only my first MMO but the game that taught me a lot about life, and a lot of those lessons occurred during the Shard event.
Naturally there was some good nostalgia in there for fellow AC players, but apparently for some families as well. Someone claiming to be the son of Vidorian, the infamous Shard Slayer recruited by Turbine to end the event in a way that would respect the lore they built, reached out to us in the comments section. A quick chat with her verified that yes, she was the infamous savior of Bael’Zharon, and she agreed to answer some of my questions about the event. Even better, she’s provided us an unseen screenshot of the event! More than a decade after release, I feel like I’ve learned a lot more about what occurred behind the scenes of one of the seminal in-game events of our early genre.
Really, when you think about it, MMOs are our grown-up toy chests. They have all of these attractive and fun toys to keep us occupied and happy as we pretend that we are heroes on great adventures while making a pit stop to play Barbie’s dream house. And that’s OK — we need to blow off steam and relax somehow, and this beats HALO jumping in the safety department.
This week, the Massively OP readership was all-too-eager to show off the toys within their toy chests, starting with Hirku’s trip to an amusement park. In a theme park MMO. There are layers upon layers of meta in today’s column, folks!
“World of Warcraft’s Darkmoon Faire is my favorite toy, and this week I get to play!” Hirku posted. “Wheeee!”
Legacy, vanilla, classic, progression – call them what you like, but alternative server rulesets, particularly of the nostalgia-driven kind, are all the rage in 2018. Just since the dawn of the new year, we’ve gotten a new server type for Age of Conan, with RIFT’s on the way – not to mention World of Warcraft’s looming in our future. And those are just the new ones! Games like RuneScape, EverQuest II, and Ultima Online already run similar servers.
That said, does every MMORPG need one? Aren’t some MMORPGs already in pretty good shape without needing a spin-off for nostalgia’s sake? Is it in every MMO’s best interests to prioritize, on some level, the very older ideas it intentionally left behind? That’s the question I’ve posed to the writers this week: Are there any MMORPGs that should stay far, far away from legacy servers, and if so, why?
Although the Asheron’s Call series has now been dead for exactly one year today, it’s far from forgotten by fans. It was admittedly a cult classic, and as the youngest of the “Big Three” graphical MMOs, it was the easiest to ignore, especially as it used an original sci-fi/fantasy setting rather than, well, something with elves.
MMO AC converts I’ve met regularly said the game was more solo-friendly and more story-driven than Ultima Online and EverQuest, receiving monthly updates that felt like downloadable content before DLC was a common industry term. These weren’t simply automated addons but events that were often curated in a fashion that is similar to Game Masters in tabletop RPGs, meaning that those who built the scenario sometimes participated as their own lore characters, placing themselves at the mercy of their own game and community. While several events in both AC1 and AC2 made use of this kind of interactive story-telling style, none is better recalled than the first event: The Shard of the Herald.
A comment on Reddit about the current size and viability of Kritika Online got me thinking about MMO playerbases in general lately. We all know that there’s a stigma attached to little games; the big games with big servers and millions of players feel safer, and nowadays people just assume a small MMO has one foot in the grave. But it isn’t always true. We could also rattle off some smaller MMOs that seem to be moving along just fine, with bills paid. Sure, they’d like to be bigger, but they’re holding steady and know how to work the playerbase they do have rather than constantly alienate their current customers in search of new customers. And some MMO gamers actually prefer those sorts of titles. After all, if the game has just a few thousand people, it’s much easier to get to know a large slice of them, plus have your voice heard by the developers and actually influence the gameworld.
For this week’s Massively Overthinking, I’ve asked the writers to reflect on the smallest MMOs they have played, and then consider how big an MMO has to be in terms of playerbase that they’d consider playing it now. What’s the smallest MMO you’re willing to play, and why?
It has already been a year since one of the oldest graphical MMOs, Asheron’s Call, was shut down unceremoniously following Turbine’s decision to jettison MMOs and focus on mobile titles (how’s that working out for you, by the way?). But have you ever wondered where all of the players went after they were exiled from their virtual home?
PCGamesN did, and one author started investigating and interviewing former Asheron’s Call players to see where they immigrated. While some left MMOs altogether, others drifted toward emulators or other titles like Elite: Dangerous. But it seems like many of these refugees may have found a new home in Project Gorgon.
Guild leader Sasho is one of several who transferred his community into the upcoming MMO: “From a certain point, people didn’t log into Asheron’s Call to play the game, we logged on to see each other — the game was just the excuse. The spirit of the AC community never died, so when looking for a new place to hang our coats, the question wasn’t ‘which MMO is best?,’ but ‘where can I find my old friends?.’ And, honestly, Project Gorgon is an amazing game.”
Just this week, a long-running Star Wars: The Old Republic
fan-made website mentioned that it was shutting down
, one among many that have come and gone since the launch of SWTOR
. I was just mentioning the other day to a friend how Darth Hater pretty much faded into nothing and how many of the old fan-shows and websites no longer exist. It seems to be a rare thing for creators to make content since the launch of the game, and it’s even rarer for them to have created it before
the game launched.
And now SWTOR-RP is shutting down, one of the last sites to have been reporting on SWTOR for over seven years. I know this because I was one of the three founders, and now the three of us remaining have decided it’s time to move on and let the site go.
So where does a SWTOR fan get content now? Are there still fansites that report on the latest news coming from BioWare Austin? I can hear Massively OP readers now: “Larry, your content is great and all, but I need more than a thousand words in Hyperspace Beacon every week.” And I hear you; I need more than that, too. So that’s why I’ve compiled another list of 10 podcasts, YouTube channels, and websites where I get my SWTOR information.
I sat down with Elite Dangerous Senior Designer Sandy Sammarco again at E3 2017, and while the information I’ve got in terms of game info may be a bit old hat for hardcore Elite players, I want to be clear on something: MMO players should take note of how Frontier is doing community events. Even if you aren’t interested in the game itself, the design strategies and execution are things that are reminding this jaded MMO-enthusiast about what got me into the MMO genre in the first place. I don’t really do space sims, and haven’t touched my VR for months (though I could probably hop on normal PC or PS4 versions), but my time with Sammarco has gotten me closer to hitting the “buy” button on the game.
It’s weird to think that it’s already been a few months since Asheron’s Call and its sequel were shut down by Turbine. Yet there’s a hint of a glimmer that the studio might not be done with its proprietary franchise, as Turbine renewed the Asheron’s Call domain name in April to stretch through June 2022. The registration was about to expire come this June.
OK, so before we get a little too giddy about a possibility for an Asheron’s Call resurrection or continuation of sorts, it’s much more likely that this is simply to protect the domain name that belongs to the studio’s only original IP. In other words, Turbine wouldn’t want someone else snagging Asheronscall.com and doing… something with it (currently, the website is down and the old URL doesn’t do anything).
Deep in the comments of the MMOs-vs.-survival-sandboxes thread from last week, reader miol_ produced a beautiful comment about how MMO players have become a minority in their own genre, which he then expounded upon for us in this provocative email.
“I’ve reached the opinion, that since the launch of WoW and its clones, the ‘original’ MMO-playerbase became a minority in their own genre. Before, we were but hundreds of thousands of MMO players, but then came Blizzard with WoW and its legions of fans in the dozen of millions at its peak, starting to dictate what the new success of MMOs should look like. Even if we others tried to vote with our wallet and feet, we became a minority, having only a fraction of our initial influence, while many devs tried desperately time and again to find ways to get at least a portion of the new Blizzard playerbase.
“Am I wrong with that perception of history? Am I totally missing something? Or are ‘we’ are slowly becoming a majority again, now that WoW and its clones are seeing steadily declining numbers (instead of us winning more players to ‘our side’)? How do we lobby better for ‘our cause’? Or can we only wait and see, until the genre is small enough again? Or is it too late? Have we ourselves grown too far apart into our even more niche corners of personal taste since SWG, while production costs and our demands for production value have skyrocketed at the same time? How could we come closer again?”
Let’s tackle miol_’s questions in this week’s Massively Overthinking.
League of Legends
will probably introduce non-straight characters eventually, a new interview on Polygon
with Riot Games’
Greg Street suggests. The publication asked Street questions about LGBT representation during GDC 2017, noting that Blizzard’s Overwatch
) has proven that it’s a hot topic and something millions of gamers want to see. League of Legends
currently has over 130 characters to Overwatch’s
24, but Street says that Riot has to be careful what it adds lest one region or another blockade the game.
“We owe it to the players and, I think, to the world to do something like that. […] What I don’t want to do is be like, ‘Okay, team, next character, whatever you do, has to be lesbian.’ I don’t think we’ll end up with something good there…. From the beginning, it has to be the character’s identity. I’m sure we’ll do it at some point. I don’t know which character or when it will happen.”
If and when it does happen, Street says, it’ll likely be in “storytelling outside the game.”