Hey, kids, did you know that players feel more like a community when they’re working together rather than constantly fighting one another? Of course you did, you’ve paid attention to more than two decades of MMOs teaching this exact lesson. But it appears that Rare was absent during those days of design school. A recent interview on the post-launch environment for Sea of Thieves reveals that the game’s team more or less completely changed the plan for the game once it became clear that, gasp, communities form when people work together:
We looked at the game just after launch and thought: players want to enjoy the fantasy of broadsiding other ships, so it makes sense for AI to take the brunt of that: if you’re giving people the creative outlet of attacking a common foe, it’s going to reduce the wish for dominance over other players.
Y’all remember the wild mess in EVE Online
last winter and spring, when CCP Games said it was “coming for the bots
” and getting tough on botting in the space sandbox? At the time, CCP said it had already banned 1800 accounts
just in the month of January – and that was after a group of bot-hunting vigilante players had exposed the scale of the problem
by taking down some of the outrageously expensive supercarriers owned by an RMT crew and piloted by bots.
CCP Games put out an update on its progress in the war on bots today, saying it understands that it’s “a key issue in the eyes of [its] community.” It says it’s banned 18,398 accounts since February: 8771 for RMT, 4250 for botting, and 5377 for account hacking.
The studio also says it has implemented a new password checking system to prevent account hacking and further asks the community to help by voluntarily enabling two-factor authentication on EVE Online accounts and by keeping those bot reports coming.
Over the past several years, we have witnessed several MMOs being rebooted and relaunched, including Final Fantasy XIV, Secret World Legends, and, most recently, Defiance 2050. There are various reasons why studios would want to do this, including addressing key flaws in the original game, switching over to different business models, and benefiting from a new round of publicity and review ratings.
Looking at the above titles as case studies (and more if you can pull up examples), we see both positives and negatives of these experiences arise. Not many players are keen on starting over in MMOs after investing dozens or even hundreds of hours on their characters, and because of this, there is a heavy price to be paid if the relaunch isn’t significantly different and improved from the original.
How should MMO studios handle game reboots? What would you recommend be the steps that studios should take in handling existing accounts, upgrading the game, and starting everything all over again?
We’re going to bet that a literal hamster ball (albeit a well-armed ball) as a hero is going to divide the Overwatch community. That’s to be expected, but if you’re on board with Wrecking Ball — a genetically-enhanced hamster who crafted his own battle mech — then you’re going to be counting the days until he arrives next week on July 24th.
Wrecking Ball may be small, furry, and oh-so-adorable, but he is also packing a punch. His mech includes quad cannons, a grappling claw, mines, and shields. If that’s not enough, W.B. can roll over or slam into his competition.
Hamster or no, Overwatch is happy that its recent endorsement system and looking for group feature has proved to be major hits for the team shooter. According to VG247, chat abuse is way down, as much as 26.4% less in the Americas than it used to be.
So I’ve been thinking. (A dangerous pastime, I know!) And I have actually been formulating an idea. And that is using a survival game like Conan Exiles to run a guided player campaign. You see, way back when as I was first playing D&D and other tabletop campaigns, I dreamed of the ability to play them in virtual reality. Can you imagine it? Instead of saying, “I cast a fireball,” you actually just do it! It is still a dream; a VR experience is not quite possible yet, but when I found MMORPGs I felt it was one step closer. I could see my actions play out in an adventure. However, for the most part it was an already scripted adventure according to the game devs. In some cases there were tools for players to make their own adventures (and boy, have I celebrated those!), but there were still more like story vignettes in a larger world out of the game master’s control. To really have a fully-crafted experience, you need greater control than what the MMORPGs afforded.
And then came survival games. Now there is a whole world you can take control of and run a story campaign. Granted, they aren’t perfect, but survival games offer more tools for creating a robust visual player campaign a la tabletops. And that’s exactly what I am planning in Conan Exiles.
Quite often, you hear MMO gamers lament that their communities are artificially separated into different servers, with all of the problems that that entails. A single-shard server seems to be the ideal experience, and one that the upcoming Fractured was aiming to attain… until recently.
The developers posted an article this week explaining that while the original plan was to deploy Fractured on a single server, they received significant pushback from the community on this due to latency and regionalization issues. Looking at the world’s geography and ping speeds, the team has decided that it will eventually roll out Fractured on seven servers that will cover the globe. Additionally, Fractured will be released in Portuguese, Russian, Polish, Spanish, French, German, Italian, and English.
In dealing with the ArenaNet fallout over the last couple of weeks, I started giving serious thought to the Reddit problem in gaming, and I’m not just talking about the overt hate groups allowed to fester there. You know how one of the rules of thumb for MMORPG communities for the longest time was never go to the official forums because you’d come away feeling depressed and dejected, believing the game community was a hot mess and your class was most assuredly the most broken? Reddit is like that, only nobody there cares enough about fixing it to see it through, and so we’ve got a tragedy of the commons problem playing out in cyberspace.
When game companies owned their own discussion spaces, most of them at least made some modicum of effort to keep them respectable. Oh, sure, some took that way too far and deleted criticism, but most, barring the very biggest, tamped down on toxicity because that space reflected on them. They cared. This is how I feel about our own comment section, incidentally, because our team owns this site and cares about the conversations we have here, unlike many other sites owned by corporate groups that don’t even care if comments exist at all.
Anyone who’s been on the internet for more than a few minutes knows how quickly forums and comment threads can quickly descend into toxicity — not that such a thing would ever happen around here — and community managers and moderators are constantly trying to figure out how to combat that problem. But according to a new report published on GamesIndustry.biz, the solution may be simpler than you’d think.
The article cites Creative Assembly’s Grace Carroll, who spoke on the subject at Develop:Brighton, as saying that on the Steam forums for the studio’s Total War series of games, simply the “visible presence of moderation” was enough to tone down the toxicity.
“If someone posts a really awful comment, and I reply . . . they’re like, ‘oh my god, I didn’t think you’d read it, I didn’t think you’d reply to it,'” Carroll says. “The attitude can turn from horrible to apologetic straight away.”
Take notes, game devs and community managers. You can check out the full summary of Carroll’s talk over at GamesIndustry.biz.
With last week’s launch of the revamped and rebooted Defiance 2050, Trion Worlds was betting on players flocking back to the sci-fi MMO shooter now that it’s seen improvements and adopted a free-to-play model. However, it doesn’t seem as though the community is giving its approval for the latest version of this game, at least according to Steam, where Defiance 2050 is weathering “mostly negative” reviews.
One common complaint is that the relaunched MMO isn’t really that much different or better than the old game — yet players have to start over from scratch (in an eerily similar situation to last year’s Secret World Legends reboot). Other frequent criticisms include the proliferation of lockboxes, server instability, old bugs that haven’t been fixed, and not enough recognition or extras for players coming from the original game.
Site Kitguru ran Defiance 2050 through a series of benchmarks and compared it to the original game, stating that it “improves upon its predecessor with a more detailed experience.” It was also noted that there was a choppier frame rate on larger resoutions, better AI, and no apparent reason for the reboot on PC.
Concern and alarm has been raised among the Ashes of Creation community this past week as four members of Intrepid Studios, including CEO Steven Sharif, were granted moderation privileges for the AoC subreddit.
While not unheard of for a studio to be in control of a community subreddit, the potential conflict of interest usually prevents devs from moderating their own game’s community sites. What is far more usual, and what the Ashes of Creation community is now calling for, is that the developers be given special “flair” or tags on the subreddit but stripped of their moderation privileges. With the devs in charge, there is worry that censorship and shameless self-promotion will run rampant.
Steven Sharif addressed the situation with this post: “Yesterday, the owner of this sub Julius messaged me on Discord and offered to return the sub to our control in the hopes of giving the sub to a mod team that had the time to dedicate the tender love and care the sub deserved. I accepted, and will be including the volunteer mod team from the Ashes Discord in the moderation of this sub. With that, I will also become more active on the sub from a discussion standpoint and perhaps schedule an AMA as well.”
I’ve still got hype on the brain. We’ve talked about the length of hype cycles and under-hyped MMOs. Now I want to talk about games that have actually suffered from their own hype specifically.
No Man’s Sky and WildStar pop to mind immediately for me as games we cover that were grievously wounded by hype. Both games effectively promised and teased far more features and more interesting features that they actually delivered, causing hype for the game to turn into venom post-launch. And in both cases, the game studios have made considerable effort to turn it around, but the grudges linger.
PUBG strikes me as another game that was heavily hyped last year but quickly succumbed to a prettier, cheaper, more accessible, and more polished game.
And howsabout Destiny 2? A contender, right?
Which online game has suffered the most from its own hype?
Now that the next World of Warcraft expansion is almost upon us, it’s time to say farewell to Legion and all that that entails. MMO blog Leo’s Life took some time for a retrospective that examines the highs, lows, and patch rollout over the past two years.
“Aside from the penalties to alts, I think Legion delivered an amazing package,” he said. “The timing of content release was good, the content was relatively bug-free, the lore was solid, the flows inside each zone worked… it was all rather seamless.”
We’ve got plenty of additional MMO essays for you after the break, covering topics such as player housing, grouping, events, ageless MMO thrills, and more!
It looks as if the upcoming Pokemon Let’s Go games are affecting Pokemon Go once again. I doubt it’s a coincidence that the next Community Day Pokemon is Eevee, the second, non-Pikachu version of the upcoming Switch games. Even better, Niantic may finally be listening to players (including our staffers), as Community Day will be held on two days this time: August 11 and 12.
As some people have noticed, the text mentions that Eevee and its evolutions will receive a new move, in addition to the longer lures and bonus stardust for catching Pokemon. There’s just one problem: Umbreon, the Dark-type Eevee, can be obtained only through the naming trick during the day. Espeon and Umbreon are normally earned by walking an Eevee 10 kilometers or more and evolving it when it’s your buddy, but the time of day matters: It becomes Espeon during the day and Umbreon during the night. As Community Day is only three hours long and still seems to be during its usual hours (11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the west coast), that sounds like Umbreon won’t be available.