business model

The Game Archaeologist: City of Heroes’ launch history and the Marvel lawsuit

In our first part of this series looking back at the stupendous history of City of Heroes, we saw how the idea for this superhero MMORPG germinated from a tech millionaire who took his love for RPGs and comic books into the online world. Cryptic Studios was founded in 2000 with the intent of developing a new type of MMORPG, one with a superhero bent set in an original IP.

While the development period was fraught with difficulty, including a messy design, delays, and the departure of the studio’s co-founder, City of Heroes took shape by 2004 and finally entered into live operation that April to the delight of thousands of fledgling superheroes.

Today we’ll be walking through the next few years of this game’s lifecyle, including its launch, the initial issues, and a serious lawsuit that threatened to kill the game dead.

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WoW Factor: World of Warcraft’s market saturation and the pull of vague memories

Here’s something a little different: Usually, before I write a World of Warcraft column (or any column), my assumptions and data are pretty firm before I put them down on paper, else I wouldn’t be writing it in the first place. This is one of the reasons that, for example, I spent so much time showing my work when trying to predict the launch date for Battle for Azeroth; that was all about hard numbers, so it was easy to check math and assumptions in an obvious fashion.

But in this particular case I’m exploring a concept that I’m still playing with and researching, something that may turn out to be somewhat erroneous. To wit: I suspect World of Warcraft expansions have switched from selling to existing customers and into reclaiming old customers as a primary design focus.

It might seem like an odd assertion, but I think it’s an interesting thing to consider and may help shed light on a number of design decisions, several of which I think are pretty bad ones. But for this particular column I’m not interested in analyzing the merits of design choices; I’m interested in presenting the evidence and showing how it lines up in a more neutral fashion. Because I think it can shape some interesting thinking.

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LOTRO Legendarium: Is Lord of the Rings Online aging well?

By now, to me, Lord of the Rings Online is a comfortable, well-worn friend that always offers a very predictable and enjoyable experience whenever I return to the game. It’s absolutely bizarre to me to consider that we’re now in the Post-Ring era of the MMO’s storyline, yet it is all still going strong in its own way.

One thing I cannot deny is that LOTRO is what most people would consider to be an “older MMO.” It’s been in live operation ever since April 2007, and once the game tipped over the decade mark, it joined other long-running titles that had long since shed their youth for maturity and stability.

As I was exploring Northern Mirkwood and going through the new Christmas quest recently, I found my thoughts had turned to evaluating the game’s status as an aging MMORPG. I mean, all MMOs age (if they’re fortunate enough to launch), and not every title can remain young, hot, and popular forever. But that doesn’t mean that they become irrelevant and unengaging when they’ve entered into the middle age of their lifespan. So, I thought, how is LOTRO aging as an 11-year-old product? What is going for it at this point and what is starting to show signs of wear and tear?

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The 22-year-old Meridian 59 heads to Steam

One of the MMORPG genre’s longest-running titles is finally making the jump to Steam in the hopes of picking up a new generation of players.

Meridian 59 announced that it will be launching on Steam this August 28th for anyone who would like to play the game but, for whatever reason, cannot fathom of thinking of downloading a game outside of that platform. The owners note that players will need to make an account through the website before logging into the MMO.

Meridian was released in 1996, when few people had heard of the internet,” the description states. “It became well-known for its exciting player-vs-player (PvP) combat system, often setting alliances of guilds against each other. It has been running almost continuously ever since. In 2010 it returned to its original creators, and now it’s open source and free to play. Come and see the game that started it all!”

Source: Steam

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Make My MMO: Star Citizen, Camelot, Codename Reality, and EverFeud (August 5, 2018)

This week in MMO crowdfunding, Star Citizen did some just Star Citizen things as fans raised a pay-to-win stink over CIG’s lifting of the cap on pre-launch currency stockpiles, meaning hardcore backers can hoard now and have (another) major advantage come launch. The drama would’ve probably blown over in a day or two but kept blazing through the weekend, as first a CIG PR statement and then Chris Roberts himself bizarrely denied the pay-to-win aspects of the game. Oh yeah, and 3.3 was delayed to coincide with CitizenCon.

Want something new to back? We got two new MMORPG Kickstarters this week: One for a self-described “massively multiplayer online persistent entity game” called Codename Reality, which seeks $583,918 wants to “revolutionize the MMO genre,” while the other, at $105,000, is for a PvP MOBA/MMO hybrid called EverFeud. Both join our list today.

Good news on the Camelot Unchained front: Beta one did indeed launch as planned this week, and thought it won’t look considerably different to existing testers, it’s a major milestone for the Kickstarted RvR MMORPG. Meanwhile, Razer launched a super quiet Kickstarter for left-handed gaming mice, Zeal announced it’ll kick off a Kickstarter in SeptemberAlbion Online launched its Merlyn update, and the Diablo history book Kickstarter pulled through to successfully fund in the end (phew!).

Read on for more on what’s been up with MMO crowdfunding over the last week and our roundup of all the crowdfunded MMOs we’re following.

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Albion Online’s shift away from mobile was a matter of market forces

If you remember a lot of the early marketing for Albion Online, it focused quite heavily on how the game was going to feature cross-platform play for PC and mobile devices. The game has launched at this point, but the mobile versions are still in testing. A recent interview with CTO David Salz reveals that it’s hardly something the developers forgot; it’s simply that when the game was first planned, it seemed that mobile was the wave of the future. As the game acquired fans, it became clear that PC was the preferred platform for most of the would-be players, which caused a shift in design to emphasize desktops over mobile devices.

Salz also talks about the shifts in business models and the technical hurdles involved in building the game from the ground up, starting with a prototype that was built to see if the game could even be made fun or if the project was doomed from the start. Check out the full interview for a peek at the industry history as well as the technical roadblocks that hit the game over time.

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The Daily Grind: Which MMOs are the best for occasional play?

As a longtime fan of MMOs, I struggle with one serious factor when it comes to playing them: time. It’s not just finding time to play, period, but instead considering whether or not an MMO deserves my time.

Unlike a lot of other video games, MMOs don’t often reward the occasional gamer. Their design and business model pushes hard for large, constant, and repeated investments of time. So it’s kind of difficult for me to just pick up a title and play it once to get much out of it. For most games, if it’s not something I can dedicate at least an evening a week to making progress, then it’s probably not worth “dipping” into.

Still, some MMOs are surprisingly friendly for occasional play. I find episodic titles like Star Trek Online and Secret World Legends perfect for this, since they have fewer content releases focused on a smaller amount of very defined and story-based experiences.

What do you think? Which MMOs are the best for occasional play if you’re not looking for a 100 hours-a-month investment?

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RuneScape gives away a ton of free stuff through Twitch Prime

Jagex is revving up one of its biggest RuneScape promotions in recent memory. From now through September 6th, anyone with access to Twitch Prime can grab a free bundle of goodies for the game.

And when we say “bundle,” we’re not talking a few little trinkets here. It’s a really, really huge amount of useful stuff, starting with a free month of subscription to both RuneScape and Old School RuneScape. It goes on, too: You’ll get Umbral armor and a flame blade, a companion pet, two Umbral chests, 15 treasure hunter keys, 200 RuneCoins, and a Twitch purple player skin.

All in all, the bundle is a reported $50 value that can be snagged for nothing. Jagex also produced a new RuneScape trailer, which you can watch after the break!

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Funcom is hiring for the ‘cooperative online shooter’ it teased earlier this year

Remember earlier this year, when Funcom announced in its Q4 2017 financial presentation that its North Carolina branch had greenlit a “cooperative online shooter” using the Heroic Signatures IP – and it was supposed to go into pre-production last spring?

It looks like production has ramped up. MOP reader Hikari noticed that the company’s hiring page has several newish posting for programmers, engineers, and QA working on what’s clearly the same game. Here’s one:

“Funcom is looking for an enthusiastic, talented and versatile game programmer to join its development team in North Carolina, working on a new cooperative online shooter game with a Premium business model using an IP from Heroic Signatures. The Gameplay /Console Programmer at Funcom, Inc. will implement game features and systems within the Unreal game engine for development on PC and most importantly on the PS4 and Xbox One consoles.”

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EA adds new Origin Access premier membership that includes Anthem head start

Do you trust EA with your money? Want to do so on a regular basis? Then you are set up and primed for the company’s new premium Origin Access subscription service.

This service, which is now live, adds a $15/month “premier” subscription tier on top of its previous $5/month basic service. The service promises a five-day head start access for titles, extra currency for games, and all of the access to current and upcoming games that are covered under the basic tier.

You’ll get some new titles with the service too, including The Sims 4 and Star Wars: Battlefront II. Origin Access is also going to be handling BioWare’s Anthem, giving players a head start date of February 15th, 2019.

What wasn’t sent out in EA’s press release, however, was the fact that the company has quietly discontinued its free “on the house” game giveaways that it used to hold on a regular basis.

Source: Press release, Origin Access

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PvP-centric sub MMO/MOBA hybrid EverFeud has launched its $105K Kickstarter

As we foretold yesterday, the PvP-focused MOBA/MMO hybrid EverFeud has officially launched its Kickstarter today. Developer PSB Entertainment has described the title as a hyper-competitive “arena and battleground-styled multiplayer PVP game set in a fantasy world where might and magic hold sway,” a game “built by PvPers for PvPers.” It eshews the levels and grinds of most MMOs, but it’s set in an MMO world with battleground factions rather than FPS-style lobbies with gobs of customization, classes, and races. It’s adamantly anti-pay-to-win and is expected to run a $5 monthly sub and $20 box fee, with no fees for future content.

“Are you looking for a pure PvP fantasy combat game without all the leveling and grinding? Think playing video games should be fun and not a chore? Maybe you do like questing and raiding but don’t want to spend time grinding your PvP character and just want to compete? Then this game is for you. […] EverFeud is a cross between an MMO and a MOBA. It’s pure PvP combat in a fantasy setting. […] All class weapons and gear types are available at the time of character creation. You then choose from an assortment of runes and imbuements to further specialize your weapons and gear. Character classes can be specialized by choosing from multiple ability trees.”

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Make My MMO: Camelot’s beta one, Fractured’s successful Kickstarter (July 29, 2018)

This week in MMO crowdfunding, anti-grind, PvP-optional MMO sandbox Fractured became the biggest traditional MMORPG to fund on Kickstarter this year (Temtem pulled in more cash but is not so traditional!), coasting past its goal to victory and promising to continue funding off Kickstarter as the months continue. The first leg of alpha is expected to begin by the end of the year, with beta planned for 2020 and a full launch in 2021.

Project Oasis World, on the other hand, has just kicked off its $25,000 Kickstarter to finish a GTAO-styled roleplay sandbox, and therefore it has entered the Make My MMO lists!

Meanwhile, Crowfall announced a partnership with Innova to launch the game in the Russian and CIS regions, Shroud of the Avatar launched R56, Ship of Heroes is prepping an August login test, City of Titans has a huge costuming infodump, and ROKH suspended development barring new funding.

Finally, Camelot Unchained’s Mark Jacobs put a new date on beta one: It’s coming this Tuesday, folks, at least as long as the weekend testing goes to plan.

Read on for more on what’s been up with MMO crowdfunding over the last week and our roundup of all the crowdfunded MMOs we’re following.

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Global Chat: Getting a handle on Legends of Aria

One of the great benefits of reading the wealth of MMO blogs out there is that you can touch base on a huge variety of games that you might not have time to play. Haven’t gotten around to checking in with the indie sandbox Legends of Aria? The blogosphere has you covered!

While Superior Realities thinks that there’s a “skeleton of a good game” in Aria, he wasn’t won over by the closed beta: “After about thirty minutes of dealing with bugs, spectacularly tedious and old school gameplay, and generally terrible design, I decided life was too short.”

Inventory Full felt that the game had featureless maps but probably deserved a longer look, and Levelcapped said that Aria is “so damn close to being an Ultima Online sequel that it’s both wonderful and blasphemous at the same time.”

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