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BioWare shifts resources to Anthem and debates SWTOR’s future

Talk about putting all of your eggs into one basket. While BioWare is nominally working on both the next Dragon Age title and Star Wars: The Old Republic, Kotaku reports that most of the studio’s personnel and resources are being devoted to the development of 2019’s multiplayer Anthem.

The outlet said that it had spoken with several unnamed sources close to the project that say BioWare is staking its future on Anthem as the studio continues to reassign employees to this title.

“There’s a belief that if Anthem doesn’t live up to EA’s expectations, BioWare will look very different in the future, especially after the disappointment of Mass Effect Andromeda led to EA absorbing BioWare Montreal into the studio EA Motive,” the article said.

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Lockbox roundup: MMO studios on ‘elegant’ lockboxes, legal issues, and the ‘cosmetics only’ angle

You know the lockbox thing is reaching saturation when there are so many things to cover we have to resort to a roundup. Nevertheless, for those of you who want to stay on top of developments and arguments, here we go.

Polygon has an explainer piece up on Destiny 2’s Eververse fallout and why everyone is still rioting over the game’s monetization. Of note for this discussion is the publication’s note that if Destiny 2 is hell-bent on having lootboxes, it ought to adopt Overwatch’s lootboxes, as they’re relatively tame and haven’t produced a Reddit in full meltdown.

Gamasutra has a roundup of MMO developer quotes from studios that believe they’re doing lockboxes “elegantly,” including Trion (for Defiance), PWE (for Star Trek Online), Wargaming (for World of Warships). In this particularly case, that means either being easily accessible through in-game play (not just in the cash shop), making lockbox drops tradeable to other players, creating systems of accruing lockbox rewards, or offering a choice of lootbox type.

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MMO Year in Review: Morrowind, Stormblood, and Secret World Legends (June 2017)

We’re taking a time-machine back through our MMO coverage, month by month, to hit the highlights and frame our journey before we head into 2018!

Easily the high point of the year, June saw the launch of The Elder Scrolls Online’s Morrowind and Final Fantasy XIV’s Stormblood, along with the relaunch of The Secret World as Secret World Legends.

Meanwhile, Shroud of the Avatar launched a controversial equity crowdfunding campaign, Cryptic announced a Magic the Gathering MMORPG, and we got a look at Skull & Bones, Sea of Thieves, and Anthem at E3. We also confirmed that Neowiz and Aeria had cut ties, leaving the former to bring Bless Online westward alone.

Read on for the whole list!

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Perfect Ten: 20 multiplayer games to watch in 2018

A couple of weeks ago I covered 20(ish) MMORPGs that we are looking forward to seeing develop, test, and launch in 2018. But as you well may know, Massively OP covers a small university’s worth of “not-so-massively” multiplayer games that have some crossover into the MMO space. We do this because it gives some people much-needed gripe fuel and also because a lot of our readership is also interested in these games.

There is a lot of movement in the multiplayer game space, especially as the larger video game market continues to adapt and hew to MMO design. It’s a blended mess as we continually try to sort these games out into their proper categories, but while we do that, you can enjoy this list of 20 multiplayer games that you should be tracking in 2018. From survival sandboxes to pirate simulators to sequels, here we go!

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BioWare’s Anthem may have a virtual reality mode

BioWare has been unusually quiet about its upcoming Destiny 2 killer, Anthem, since the title’s initial announcement this past summer. And while nothing official has been stated, some fans spotted an interesting detail at a company party that might indicate that virtual reality is in the game’s future.

The picture in question shows a BioWare party in which a cubicle wall in the back appears to have the words “Anthem VR” on the side. Now as someone on Reddit pointed out, this doesn’t confirm anything, as there could be several explanations for the photo. Someone claimed that this was simply an internal VR booth set up for the party and wasn’t indicative of any actual VR software being designed for the game.

Still, it’s interesting food for thought as we continue the wait for the company to talk more about this multiplayer shooter.

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The Daily Grind: How do you feel about Destiny 2 six weeks post-launch?

Destiny 2’s Curse of Osiris has already been out a few days and… it’s not exactly lighting the world on fire. Core fanboys aren’t happy and are advising folks to just hold their wallets until Bungie gets its house in order. I’m down to just one guildie obsessively playing. And the hype? The hype for Destiny 1 was a surge that carried for months. D2 hype seems to have fizzled out.

All of that was in my mind already with MOP Patron Roger dropped the perfect topic in my inbox. “I’ve been more in pen and paper games recently than MMOs, but I have been playing something that gives me that MMO feel: Destiny 2.” he writes. “Have any of you guys played it yet? If so, how do you feel if MMOs and massive-coop-online games met closer in the middle?”

For starters, I am digging “massively co-op”! So let’s tackle Roger’s query and mine together. How do you feel about Destiny 2 six weeks post-launch? Were you one of those folks who said, “PC or bust,” and are you still PCing? What happened to the hype? Where did Bungie go wrong? And above all else, do you think Destiny 2 is that perfect midpoint between MMORPG and co-op shooter? Will it have an impact on the way the genre is developed moving forward, or will that be left to future games like Anthem?

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Jukebox Heroes: Kritika Online’s soundtrack

It’s kind of a sad commentary on 2017 that Kritika Online is one of the most significant MMORPGs to launch during the calendar year. No real disrespect to Kritika meant, just saying that in past years we might not have even noticed such a release. It’s been a meagre year for new launches, is what I meant.

Still, this odd but plucky import got the backing of En Masse (TERA) and managed to carve out a small niche to operate in the west. Instead of presenting itself as a generic or cutesy MMO, Kritika Online decided to embrace a hair metal aesthetic to match its over-the-top combat style. It’s loud, brash, and frantic — and its music complements that direction.

While there are a couple of Kritika tracks that I did enjoy a lot during my review of the soundtrack, there weren’t as many standout pieces as I had hoped. I would imagine that listening to what amounts to nonstop boss battle music would get a little old after a while, but perhaps this game is meant for small but intense play sessions. Let’s give it a listen today!

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Warframe doubled its concurrency record with Plains of Eidolon to become second top-played F2P on Steam

Four year-old Warframe’s done it again: set a new concurrency record, and not even for the first time, as it busted past its concurrency records following The War Within last year and Octavia’s Anthem last spring.

“With the Plains of Eidolon expansion, Warframe hit an all-time peak of 121,377 concurrent players on Steam, nearly double its previous record of 69,526 CCU peak in March 2017 with Octavia’s Anthem, making it the second highest peak CCU for a free-to-play game currently on Steam. Warframe Plains of Eidolon rocketed to the top five of SteamCharts, racking up 40,145,054 hours played (as of this writing) by enthusiastic Tenno.”

The update hasn’t even landed on console yet, so that number will only go up, even if all we can see is the Steam stats, which Digital Extremes notes puts the game in second place for playtime in F2P games (that’s still accurate as of this morning). Interestingly, the press release says the game still counts “more than 30 million registered users,” not that far off from the almost 31 million registered users counted in March of this year, which at the time was an increase of five million players since 2016.

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The Daily Grind: Do you think EA is pivoting into a Star Wars pseudo-MMO?

Yesterday’s surprise revelation that EA was canning Visceral Games and “pivoting” the design of its in-progress Star Wars linear adventure RPG clearly struck a nerve around here, as we received a flood of mail about it (thanks guys!), and not because that game was an MMO but because of how EA justified the closure.

“It has become clear that to deliver an experience that players will want to come back to and enjoy for a long time to come, we needed to pivot the design,” EA VP Patrick Soderlund said. “Importantly, we are shifting the game to be a broader experience that allows for more variety and player agency, leaning into the capabilities of our Frostbite engine and reimagining central elements of the game to give players a Star Wars adventure of greater depth and breadth to explore.”

If you read between the lines, the “market” has apparently told EA to scrap a single-player RPG in favor of something more persistent, more marketable, and very likely more multiplayer, especially since Soderlund name-dropped Anthem’s engine and then mentioned how Battlefront II “fuels [its] live service” in the franchise.

What do you think? Are we looking at another Star Wars pseudo-MMO in a few more years? And maybe more importantly, do you think EA’s implication that return-worthy – presumably connected, online games – are the only games worth building right now? Read more

BioWare confirms eventual beta for Anthem, advises patience

Maybe in this era of unpredictable development cycles, early access, and soft launches, the confirmation that a game will actually get a beta test is noteworthy. So in case you were, for whatever reason, doubting that BioWare’s upcoming multiplayer Anthem would leapfrog over beta and deprive you of a testing experience, worry no longer.

Game Director Jonathan Warner emerged on Twitter this week to stoke fans for the project and encourage them to be patient. “It’s been an intense couple of months,” he posted on September 26th. “The world continues to grow and develop.”

In response to players asking about beta testing and when they will see more of the game, Warner dropped a few tidbits. “Yeah we’ll have a beta,” he writes to one fan. Then, to another: “Remember, we are still a distance out. Too soon for details but will provide more when the time is right.”

Source: Twitter via VG247

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Mass Effect: Andromeda ends single-player support, forges on with multiplayer updates

It’s the end of the line for Mass Effect: Andromeda, as BioWare announced this past weekend that it had no further plans to develop single-player content for its sci-fi RPG. Fortunately, several projects to expand the game’s multiplayer aspect are still in the works.

“Our last update, 1.10, was the final update for Mass Effect: Andromeda. There are no planned future patches for single-player or in-game story content,” BioWare posted on the game’s site. “In the coming weeks, our multiplayer team will provide details of their ongoing support and upcoming content, including new multiplayer missions, character kits, and what’s in store for N7 Day.”

Andromeda failed to live up to the high studio and fan expectations, netting mixed reviews and a 72% Metacritic score following its March 2017 release. With work being done on other projects, such as Star Wars: The Old Republic and the upcoming multiplayer Anthem, BioWare may be looking to reallocate team members to needed departments.

Source: Andromeda via PC Gamer

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Xbox One X announces ‘select enhanced titles’ that include many online games

At its pre-Gamescom press conference this Sunday, Microsoft revealed more about its upcoming Xbox One X and its glorious 4K gaming capabilities. As part of the conference, the company listed several games that would benefit from the enhanced performance and power of the console when it arrives this November.

MMO players should take note, because this list contains many games in our sphere of interest. The select enhanced titles include BioWare’s Anthem, ARK: Survival Evolved, Astroneer, Black Desert, Conan Exiles, Dark and Light, Diablo III, Elite: Dangerous, Path of Exile, Portal Knights, Roblox, Sea of Thieves, SMITE, State of Decay 2, The Crew 2, Elder Scrolls Online, The Division, Warframe, and World of Tanks.

The Xbox One X boasts six teraflops of processing power, 4K Ultra Blu-Ray, and 12GB GDDR5 graphics memory, and will retail for $500. Interested players can pre-order the Project Scropio edition right now for as long as supplies last.

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Massively Overthinking: Is the popularity of small-scale co-op games hurting MMORPGs?

Gamasutra has an unusual piece from an Ubisoft developer this week arguing that co-op gameplay is the industry’s rising midcore trend, one that he believes will ultimately outstrip team competitive games. “It’s all about all the big data and stats that are finally available and can be mined,” author Andrii Goncharuk says, “and no surprise that it’s showing that players who played co-op mode have much more play hours, and players who played co-op with friends have even more play hours.”

He may be right, though first you’d have to believe co-op ever went anywhere to begin with (and console players would probably tell you nope!). But as I read the article, I couldn’t help but see MMOs in most of the arguments he’s making about what makes co-op games sticky, and yet MMOs are being edged out all the same. And while I don’t like to think of the MMO genre’s space in the industry as a zero-sum situation, the reality is that when people tire of MMORPG baggage but still want social play, co-op is exactly the sort of game they retreat to.

For this week’s Massively Overthinking, I asked our writers to reflect on the rise of co-op PvE games outside the MMO label. Do we play them? Do we prefer them, and when? How can we learn from them? Is the popularity of smaller-scale co-op hurting MMORPGs?

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