After the launch of Worlds Adrift but prior to E3, we sent off an interview to Bossa Studios and recently received our answers, complete with current news about how the studio is trying to address griefing, adding countermeasures, and yes, “gitting good.” Maybe the phrasing there could be better, especially given the brutality of the Steam launch, but Bossa Studios Co-Founder Henrique Olifiers and Game Designer Luke Williams were kind enough to talk to us about why they pursue the seemingly less profitable PvP crowd, building PvPvE experiences, and the road to release.
Let me be upfront with my biases for those unfamiliar with my coverage: I love open world PvP as a concept, not as a ganker but as the guy trying not to get ganked. I love the concept of virtual worlds, but as Bill Roper and I discussed, players aren’t developers and don’t always understand the tech that gives them the games they love.
Though ArenaNet was technically at E3 this year, the group representing Guild Wars 2
was chiefly a marketing and business one, so they carted our interview questions back to team members more suited to answer. ArenaNet Brand Manager (and former Massively columnist) Lis Cardy, Design Manager Crystal Reid, Systems Team Lead Irenio Calmon-Huang, and Game Director Mike Zadorojny weigh in on the living story, security, gaining “momentum,” and more, just in time for the launch of the next episode later today. Let’s dig in.
The ever-living story
While I haven’t personally played much GW2 since the arc about the fall Lion’s Arch, I’ve liked the concept of an ever-evolving story. It’s actually what got me into MMOs thanks to the Asheron’s Call series’ monthly updates. When I asked how the ArenaNet team felt players were reacting to the current living story, especially in terms of pacing, Mike Zadorojny said the studio has “seen players become more engaged with the releases.” Apparently, they’re happy to see the connections players making to the stories and characters they’ve developed and especially with the discussions across Reddit and the forums.
Automaton Games CEO James Thompson came along with Improbable, Bill Roper, and Mavericks to this year’s E3, where I got a second chance to see how everything in the battle royale/MMO hybrid is doing since GDC. I know battle royale is a hot topic around here, and the reaction we saw at GDC did have me worried about Mavericks’ potential audience.
Thompson was quite eager to talk about Mavericks, especially its battle royale side, but as someone who’s much more of an MMORPG player, I felt the one key thing we found common ground on was that Mavericks is aiming to be less of a simple genre game and more of a “platform” to build on, not because of any strength of the BR or even MMO genre but because of its ability to run a simulation. For virtual world fans, this is something I feel we should be paying more attention to.
For MMO players, Improbable brought some interesting ideas to GDC this past spring. It also brought some games I wasn’t expecting, and the ones I was expecting were kind of downplayed. On the ground floor, developers from some of our favorite MMOs hadn’t heard of SpatialOS, a platform that allows games to be “bigger” by running multiple game engines in an innovative way, with a few developers being exceptions. I was set up for a meeting with Improbable CCO Bill Roper to help figure things out, but soon into our physical meeting he was pulled away and we had to follow up with emails, which rarely goes as well.
Fortunately, Roper had time to sit and chat again with me at E3. With SpatialOS’s first game out in the wild and more on the way, I felt like there was a lot Roper could explain about SpatialOS, MMOs, and Improbable’s role in it all.
Fallout 76 wasn’t the only Interplay throwback at E3 2018: Descent, one of the games that defined the six degrees of freedom genre, is no longer underground. That is, the former title has changed because Interplay’s embraced the game and given the developers full support.
Descendent Studios team is hard at work on launch, Little Orbit CEO Matt Scott met with us to discuss what’s been going on in the past several years of development. Nostalgia aside, I went in expecting the worst: long-abandoned IP, Kickstarted game, indie team, extended public development, and fairly quiet presence on social media. However, I came out very pleased. While the game may not be an MMORPG, what I saw and heard makes me think that this may be the space experience I’ve been waiting for.
Remember how we learned that Perfect World would be showing off some new games at E3? Well, things happen at conventions like this – they don’t always go to plan. My FarSide didn’t materialize, for example. However, ReEvolve did happen, just not without setbacks. Our PR contact, Michael Meyers, did his level best to help me understand what was up with the game, despite the realization that PWE’s Chinese branch hasn’t pushed much information westward just yet. All this could have ended with my not writing anything, but despite it all, enough of the game showed through, and I’m definitely intrigued.
If a sandbox version of something like Adventure Quest 3D exclusively on mobile sounds like your thing, read on.
While I’ve had kind words to say about the potential for mobile in the past – particularly MMOARGs – I just haven’t been able to get into mobile MMORPGs. The point of view, the auto-follow, the lack of chat, and a generally cheap feeling leave me feeling a bit ill. However, I was fortunate enough to get my hands on Black Desert Online’s mobile port this year at E3, which might just change my mind.
Now, let me preface this by saying I am not an active player of the PC version of the game, and my brief time with the console version of the game only confirmed to me that Pearl Abyss has competently adapted controls and UI for console, but oddly enough, the work on the mobile client stood out to me as particularly superb. And as Pearl Abyss CEO Kyungin “Robin” Jung told me during our interview, the company is indeed considering porting the title to the Switch. While it sounded interesting (and a bit odd considering Nintendo’s general status as an online-outsider), it wasn’t until I personally played BDM that I seriously started to consider the possibility.
Apparently, GDC was good to Funcom, The Bearded Ladies, and Mutant: Year Zero. The teams had originally thought to skip E3 this year, but after the reveal led to even one developer’s mail attendant in Sweden fanning out a bit, it became clear that an appearance at the Expo might be in order (and to maybe not wear developer t-shirts in public).
The Bearded Ladies developers said that they’ve received nothing but positive comments so far, and I can’t say I’ve been able to give them more critical feedback either. Part of that is because my tactical RPG experience is limited to super casual Fire Emblem outings that never end with my finishing the game. Admittedly, I also didn’t have a ton of questions to bring with me this time because the guys were just so open at GDC. It’s probably for the best, though, as I was finally able to get my hands on the game. Spoiler alert: Not only did I fail my mission, but so did almost everyone else!
GDC 2018 back in March was good to Defiance 2050, at least in terms of making people aware of the goals of the game. It doesn’t necessarily mean people like what they’ve seen or heard, but Social Influencer and Community Manager Scott “Mobi” Jasper and Community Specialist Coby West feel that particular reveal has done the best for the game.
At this year’s E3 followup, there wasn’t any huge new reveal, aside from the launch date itself – just more tweaks. There certainly seems to be a bit of a disconnect between the overall MMO sphere and the 2050 fandom the devs are used to, with the devs somewhat understandably being more connected to their fans. After all, those are people who are willing to pay to play, and especially for a free to play game, that’s what you need. I got my hands on the game for the second time this year, and while it’s a solid play experience, I worry that, created in a vacuum, its potential for growth beyond the original Defiance experience is limited.
So, you want to be a pirate, but Sea of Thieves isn’t your cup of tea? If the issue was PvP, well, you’re probably out of luck, as Ubisoft Producer Karl von der Luhe emphasized at E3 this year that one of Skull and Bones‘ chief strengths is that it lets you decide what kind of pirate you want to be: the kind who backstabs and murders his fellow buccaneer, or a wolf running with a pack. There’s no room for pacifists who just want to share Earl Grey and crumpets, alas.
While von der Luhe admits that Ubisoft admires what Rare’s done with SOT, it’s been clear for a long time that the two games are different enough to co-exist. They’re different takes on the pirate lifestyle. Even with the new hideout system for off-ship… um, town interaction, my demo of the open PvPvE area, the hunt grounds, further confirmed my feeling that Ubisoft’s game is more about the ship than it is about the pirate, something that surely has its own audience.
When I met Frostkeep Studios’ CEO Jeremy Wood and crew at GDC earlier this year, I walked away impressed. I finally felt like I understood why other MOP staff are so excited about this flying-under-the-radar title. And this year at E3, I not only saw a more finished build of Rend but got some hands-on time with the game. I can’t say the floor demo did the game any justice, but what I heard from Wood and co-founder Solomon Lee sounded like the kind of forward thinking that only comes from developers who know the history of the genre and their playerbase.
Although I think I could start a hype train, I’m going to try to try to reserve judgment for a little longer. Rend may not be an MMO (it’s a moddable survival game with factions), but it has the potential to feed that MMO hunger we know you’re craving.
You know with my being the one at this year’s E3 that this would happen. A console Pokemon game that also connects to Pokemon Go? The possibility for a way to include trading in Niantic’s game in an indirect manner, a wider connection to the main series, its online storage system that helps give the games some semblance of persistence – altogether, it seemed for a moment as if Nintendo was indirectly building another pillar in its overall Pokemon world.
Sadly, from what everything we’ve learned, we’re no closer to a true (official) Pokemon MMO. However, my hands-on experience did hint at some really cool immersion for Go players who want to pick up Pokemon Let’s Go for a new mix of the core series’ gameplay.
With all the online talk about Nintendo this year, it feels only fitting to give Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros Ultimate a little time. We’ve talked recently about the unbundling of MMOs and why the market seems primed for a big title yet goes unanswered. Readers and writers all noted that other genres help meet the demands for this, from MOBAs to even social media.
In fact, we even covered an online fighting game last year because it included customizable characters (both appearance and abilities), quests, loot, guilds, and even guild quests that involved more than two people. An MMO it was not, but it certainly had enough overlap that it turned a few heads. The last Smash Bros included several of these components but restricted them to mostly offline play. However, one interesting note was that the Mii-fighter, a highly customizable character in the Smash-verse restricted to “fun” and “casual” play off and online, is being prepared for online battles. Whether that means in a new form or its customizable form matters, as one might hint at Nintendo’s aim for this title: another try for sanitized online fighter, or embracing the full spectrum of Smash fans. I’m leaning towards the latter.