fantasy

Ultima Online plans rentable storage vaults for F2P players, plus new castle and keep designs

With the game’s 100th patch in the rear-view mirror, Ultima Online’s developers are already hard at work on the 101st patch due out in September, according to Broadsword’s latest newsletter. Notably, Bonnie “Mesanna” Armstrong says that the planned housing refresh is indeed coming that month, with new castle and keep designs on the way, subject to a player contest to decide which ones make the final cut.

Broadsword is also still working on “storage solutions” in the wake of the game’s free-to-play conversation last spring; players will be able to effectively rent 125-slot vaults for their account, shared across all characters, at a price roughly equal to $3 per month. If you don’t pay up, you lose the storage space – oh, and everything in it. It might be easier to just pay the $10-$13 sub and get a house, yeah?

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Fantasy Life Online launches in Japan this month, no word on Western release date

Game historians might recall that way back in 2002, game development studio Level 5 and Microsoft were collaborating on bringing the cel-shaded True Fantasy Life Online to Xbox. The project fell apart partially into development to the dismay of many who were anticipating the MMORPG, but Level 5 didn’t quite give up on its dream.

The studio has seen great success on mobile platforms, including its Fantasy Life series of Nintendo DS games. Now Level 5 is returning to its MMO dream with this months’ launch of Fantasy Life Online in Japan.

Described as an “MMO-lite,” Fantasy Life Online gives players the opportunity to quest and live out a career as one of several classes. There are both combat and non-combat options, and the title definitely has a lot in common with the Animal Crossing series when it comes to presentation.

There is no word as of yet on a Western version or release date, but chances are good that it is heading our way. In the meanwhile, check out the trailer after the break!

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The Game Archaeologist: Kesmai’s Air Warrior and Legends of Kesmai

Most studios would be overjoyed to have pioneered one significant advancement in video game history, but then again, most studios aren’t Kesmai. While it’s not a household name today, it’s reasonable to say that without the heavy lifting and backbreaking coding that this company shouldered in the ’80s and ’90s, the MMO genre would’ve turned out very different indeed.

Previously in this space, we met two enterprising designers named Kelton Flinn and John Taylor who recognized that multiplayer was the name of the future and put their careers on the line to see an idea through to completion. That idea was Island of Kesmai, an ancestor of the modern MMO that used crude ASCII graphics and CompuServe’s network to provide an interactive, cooperative online roleplaying experience. It wasn’t the first MMO, but it was the first one published commercially, and sometimes that makes all the difference.

Flinn and Taylor’s Kesmai didn’t stop with being the first to bring MMOs to the big time, however. Flush with cash and success, Kesmai turned its attention to the next big multiplayer challenge: 3-D graphics and real-time combat. Unlike the fantasy land of Island of Kesmai, this title would take to the skies in aerial dogfighting and prove even more popular than the team’s previous project.

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Wizard101’s main city gets a magical makeover

When you’ve got magic on your side, renovation on a grand scale should be a snap, right? It was probably a little more difficult than waving a wand, but Wizard101 managed to pull a major city revamp out of its hat this week with the July update.

The patch delivered a graphical overhaul for much of Wizard City, character creation, character selection, and the tutorial. Visuals aren’t the only improvements for the newbie experience; music and sound got some major love. Oh, and there’s a carousel that you can ride now!

Hate the changes? KingsIsle is giving players the option to revert to a “classic mode” to bring back the old look and sound of the city hub.

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WoW Factor: World of Warcraft’s Battle for Azeroth feels like Cataclysm all over again

It took me a long time to identify what felt off about World of Warcraft’s upcoming expansion. Something was definitely bothering me, but the thing was is that we know exactly what an expansion with the bare minimum effort looks like now, and it sure as heck didn’t feel like Battle for Azeroth was Warlords of Draenor But Again. Yet something kept nudging at me, some comparison that was just slightly eluding me as I dutifully tested new quests, new system revisions, and so forth.

Then I realized that the whole thing was basically Cataclysm and it clicked.

Mind you, I say this not as an indication that the expansion is nearly as bad as Cataclysm was. (There’s still far too much of the actual game to see, for example.) But far from my own optimistic excitement, it feels like the expansion is making a lot of the same missteps as that particular black mark, and it doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence.
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Crowfall improves performance by changing terrain

It’s far too early in Crowfall’s testing to worry about optimizing the game’s frame rate and overall performance, but there’s a difference between “optimizing” and “improving.” The latest change made to the game exists precisely in that space, as the game should now perform better just because the game’s terrain is now being rendered using custom-built meshes instead of built-in Unity meshes. That… had a pretty distinct improvement on the rendering and overall performance!

Why? Well, the game’s engine no longer has to convert from default options before rendering things, which cuts down on processing power and results in terrain that should look identical but just render more smoothly. There’s also a new way of handling the grass rendering that significantly cuts down on processing as each chunk of the landscape is rendered. All of which should result in an improvement you see in terms of frame rate, but the game itself shouldn’t look different… which is a performance upgrade for you, really.

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Black Desert dives down into underwater dungeons

You know where’s a really great place to build a dungeon? Under the ocean. Sure, there’s the bends, flesh-rending sharks, and a severe lack of daylight with which to contend, but you can get some really great deals on real estate down there and won’t have to worry about sewage bills.

Black Desert is thinking along these lines with its brand-new underwater dungeons. Currently debuting this summer in Korea (and coming to a continent near you… sometime!), the trio of dungeons take players through aquatic-themed caves to (spoiler) fight bosses and gain loot.

Get a glimpse of the Mysteries of the Ocean update after the break and then plan on going swimsuit shopping soon afterward!

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World of Warcraft Hunters launch #SaveHati campaign

With this week’s World of Warcraft pre-expansion patch, Blizzard has made one group of players deeply unhappy by putting down their pet dog.

Some — but not all — Beast Master Hunters are mourning the loss of their Legion companion Hati, who disappeared with the de-powering of their artifact weapon. Players who had grown attached to the blue pet over the past two years have taken umbrage with the studio for callously stripping it away with Patch 8.0, and the BM community has rallied together to launch a #SaveHati campaign on the forums and Twitter.

“For many hunters Hati is a person, a friend, a companion who has been part of our story for months. Years?” one player posted. “To many hunters, pets are more than just a weapon. To me, Hati is a full-blown character who is tightly bonded to my hunter,” said another.

Blizzard fielded a question on Hati during this week’s livestream, teasing the possibility of the pet’s return in some form in the future — but no plans and no promises were made in this regard.

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The Daily Grind: What’s your favorite non-awful gaming subreddit?

I want to flip the tables on the whole toxicity/Reddit thing a bit. Earlier this week, we talked about some of the problems Reddit has. But not every gaming subreddit – or every subreddit, for that matter – is a cesspit of drama. I can never write off the whole platform because I’ve had really enjoyable experiences on the subs for some of my other hobbies, for single-player games, and even for niche groups for MMOs.

For example, have you ever checked out /r/GuildWarsDyeJob/? You guys, it’s basically a fashion show in there. It reminds me of the old Guru forums where people would post up their awesome outfit/dye combos for classic Guild Wars, only this one’s got much more Guild Wars 2. People are super creative, and the commentary is constructive too.

What’s your favorite non-awful gaming subreddit? Which one truly deserves an epic shout-out?

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Massively Overthinking: What important lessons are MMORPGs failing to impart?

MOP reader and Patron Brett has a burning question about the lessons we’re learning (and not learning) from playing MMORPGs.

“In his book Theory of Fun, Raph Koster suggests that games are really just systems of learning things in a way that we enjoy with fewer consequences. In his words, ‘That’s what games are, in the end. Teachers. Fun is just another word for learning.’ If that’s true, then modern MMORPGs and their narratives would seem to be a pretty mixed bag of lessons – individual power can be accumulated like wealth; evil can be conquered through solo and group acts of courage; violence is a feasible solution to almost every problem; your race, nation or profession defines a lot about who you are; and accessorizing with the most expensive bag is possibly the most crucial decision to make before leaving home.

“So with so much opportunity at the moment for our real-world societies and communities to be better, I’d like to know what you think is the most important lesson or lessons that MMORPGs could be teaching us, but currently don’t? How could these games leave us wiser or more richer people for the experience?”

I’ve posed Brett’s questions to the team for the resurgence of Massively Overthinking this week.

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World of Warcraft answers pressing prepatch questions in its latest video Q&A

The prepatch for World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth is out now, but the expansion is still a bit further off, so players have questions about it. For that matter, players have questions about the changes made since the prepatch hit. The latest Q&A video just below covers a number of questions, but if you don’t want to watch the whole thing, you can get caught up with the summary of events. And several of the issues with the prepatch are ones that will be remaining in place. For example, Legacy loot mode? That’s working as intended and shouldn’t be available for Legion dungeons and raids in BfA.

The issue with artifact appearances changing your offhand as well as your main-hand is also a limitation of how Artifacts are coded; that having been said, transmog limitations are being examined, especially for Fist weapons. The developers have also considered doing a level squish instead of just a stat squish, partly in response to the perception of more levels without much actually happening during them (there’s a desire not to add more talent bars, for example). Check out the full video below or the full summary on Wowhead.

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Netease calls PUBG Corp’s copyright lawsuit ‘shameless’, Riot and Tencent win non-compete lawsuit against alleged cloner

Remember back in April, when Korea-based PUBG Corp. accused China-based Netease of ripping off PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds with its battle royale titles Knives Out (which is making bank) and Rules of Survival, and subsequently lodged a lawsuit against it in the US courts? Then remember when Netease threatened to sue everybody who cloned it and PUBG dropped its other lawsuit against Epic Games?

Netease has responded to PUBG Corp.’s complaint against it with a motion to dismiss, predictably arguing that no company is entitled to ownership of an entire genre like battle royale and that the copyright act protects only original expression; specifically, it claims PUBC Corp. cannot legally copyright things like game lobbies and health bars.

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SuperData: Fortnite’s success hit League of Legends and PUBG hard, but not all online games are struggling

There’s a new thinkpiece out on how Fortnite happened and what it all means every week lately, but SuperData’s latest might be a comfort to the rest of the industry. Analyst Bethany Lyons argues that Fortnite’s wild success isn’t coming at the expense of all other games.

Fortnite Battle Royale has grown without disrupting the bottom line or player base of a surprising number of free-to-play games. For example, the title has increased its console revenue in May at a rate of 12% month-over-month, while other free-to-play console games stayed more or less consistent,” she writes.

So that’s revenue. What about users? Other games are still growing, some even faster than Fortnite, she says, particularly in the free-to-play console market, which is encouraging competitors to focus there. And streaming? Seems hours-watched on Twitch for the big games have stayed fairly even too as Fortnite has taken off.

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