Earlier this week, I happened to see a mainstream website refer to ArtCraft as an indie studio, and it jolted me. ArtCraft, as anybody reading MOP knows, is working on Crowfall, which at least in my estimation is a high-quality, graphics-intensive MMORPG from hardcore MMORPG veterans who’ve been in the business as long as anyone alive. The game has raised at least $12M or maybe $15M, at least counting up what we know about.
When I think of indie studios, I think of the tiny outfits working on games like Project Gorgon, Ever, Jane, and Ascent the Space Game. But of course Crowfall is also an indie, right? It’s not running a $500M budget; it’s not ensconced under a cozy AAA publisher umbrella. It crowdfunds.
Then again, aside from the budget/wealth, its profile looks like a bit like Epic Games’ – it even has an engine to vend now. So is it really just about money? Is Star Citizen, with its multiple studios and AAA budget, an indie because of crowdfunding? Camelot Unchained studio CSE has multiple studios – does that factor in?
I’m curious what you folks think. What exactly defines an indie MMO studio? What characteristics must an indie studio have or not have?
Before you take flight with Ascent: Infinite Realm, you are going to need to choose the best possible class for you. Bluehole gave a tantalizing teaser of the first two classes that will be coming with this steampunk title next year: the Assassin and the Gunslinger. Both seem deadly, stylish, and capable. But which one will be the best?
The Assassin wears light armor and hides her face for that extra shadowy persona, and her concept art boasts snakeskin material and stockings. This, to the artist, conjurs up a “sexy but inaccessible and dangerous atmosphere.” Moving on to the Gunslinger, this light armor class is more about leather, metal patches, casual clothes, capes, and long goats.
The artists also showed off one of the beast mounts that will be in the game: “Tamed mounts (bio-type vehicles) enable characters to freely fight while riding. Flying mounts are utilized as key tools in aerial combat and can be further grown to higher tier in residential ranches.”
Last year’s announcement that Kakao would be bringing the steampunk-flavored Ascent: Infinite Realm to the west was a much-needed shot of encouragement to MMO players who have been desperate for new titles. There was a good month or two in late 2017 when we were genuinely excited for this game as it showed off its trailer, talked about its lofty ambitions, and started Korean beta testing.
Then it kind of dropped off the map, and for the last four months, we’ve heard very little about this game. But now it’s back, baby, and things look like they’re progressing just fine. (True story: This author was just writing a “whatever happened to this game?” post when the official account sent out an update.)
The dev team said that the game is being “refined” following its initial Korean beta test. In the meanwhile, some new teasers and art will hopefully rekindle players’ interest. More previews are promised for upcoming weeks.
Back in January, we expressed concern for the brilliant one-man space indie sandbox MMORPG called Ascent: The Space Game (not to be confused with that other Ascent). Talks with an investor were supposed to come to fruition in December, when a studio liaison (the in-game president) reported that developer James Hicks was also working on a second game, changing Ascent’s engine, and building out the new update and client. And while the game could run in maintenance mode indefinitely, according to the dev, that’s obviously not ideal for what remains of the entrenched playerbase.
But in February, hope arrived. Fluffy Kitten Studios posted a market update on Steam and said the “new client [was] at last approaching beta.” And over the last few weeks, Hicks told forumgoers through the surrogate that the patch does indeed switch the game to Unity and the new client as well as adds terraforming, NPC commands, and camera tweaks.
South Korea’s Bluehole has been busy as the rise of PUBG has filled its coffers. It partnered with Tencent. It’s been hiring for TERA’s mobile port and even snapping up execs from Riot. It fended off rumors of a Microsoft buyout. It teamed up with Kakao for Project W. It built subsidiary PUBG Corp offices in four corners of the globe. And now, it’s picked up two more studios.
GIbiz reports that Bluehole and PUBG Corp have bought up MadGlory. We don’t know how much money changed hands, but we do know that the company is primarily focused on “custom matchmaking engines” and other multiplayer tools. The publication suggests that the newly dubbed PUBG MadGlory will be working on the PUBG Developer Portal coming out in April, which will basically allow community modders access to the API.
And MMO Culture has a brief piece out on Bluehole’s acqusition of Red Sahara Studio, a mobile studio that will be working on another TERA spinoff.
Has the pace of news moved so quickly that we’ve already forgotten about Brendan “PlayerUnknown” Greene’s statement that video games lack any IP copyright protection? Because that was really ridiculous. Especially since what he was referring to was not actually even remotely related to copyright, but covered something that would be handled via patent. And even that wouldn’t have worked!
Of course, you can’t really blame him. By which I mean you can totally blame him, but it’s a common misconception that turns up time and again. People talk about copyright, trademark, and patent issues in the same general melange of “this company owns this,” and the thing is that they’re related terms and concepts that nevertheless mean very, very different things.
Ever pause during your day and find yourself wondering, “Whatever happened to that game?” With hundreds upon hundreds of online titles these days, it’s surprisingly easy for MMOs to fall through the cracks and become buried as more aggressive or active games take the spotlight.
Well, every so often we here at Massively Overpowered find ourselves curious what has transpired with certain MMOs that we haven’t heard from in quite a while. Have we missed the action and notices? Has the game gone into stealth maintenance mode? What’s the deal? What has it been up to lately?
That’s when we put on our detective hats and go sleuthing. Today we look at what has been going on with Ascent: the Space Game, Aura Kingdom, and Fragmented.
One of the frustrating bits about our end-of-the-year content rollouts is that sometimes predictions and story roundups can come across as negative. It’s way too easy to assume that if someone is predicting game X will flop, she wants it to happen and is gleefully steepling her fingers and cackling madly over its future demise. Which is just not so! I never steeple my fingers.
But all the same, for tonight’s Massively Overthinking, we’d like to take a moment to set aside our fears and expectations and just talk about our hopes and wishes for 2018 in an MMORPG context. That was what we think will happen. This is a summary of our most optimistic daydreams.
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!
Blizzard took the month of November with huge announcements for World of Warcraft, specifically the Battle for Azeroth expansion and vanilla-flavored WoW Classic servers.
Meanwhile, we saw the sunset of Motiga, the sunset announcement for Master X Master, and the abysmally handled and abrupt end of Gazillion and Marvel Heroes.
In happier news, Kakao took the wraps off its next mega-MMORPG, Ascent: Infinite Realm, specifically targeting western players.
And lockboxes continued to drive conversations around the law, the cost of games development, the press, and gambling, and not just because of EA: Guild Wars 2’s mount lockboxes and Star Citizen’s land claims sales reminded MMO players that monetization problems aren’t just for mainstream gamers. Still, we doubt anyone will be forgetting the ol’ claim that lockboxes create a “sense of pride and accomplishment” any time soon.
Read on for the whole list!
It has become a long-standing tradition as Massively OP and our former site that we like to end the year by creating a list of titles that we anticipate for the coming one. It has always been a devilish list to create, full of loose dates and fast guesswork about which titles will and won’t be releasing during a 12-month window (just read last year’s list to see how spot-on I was).
This year we’re changing things up a bit by tossing out the qualifying factor of “will see a hard launch in 2018.” Instead, I drafted up a list of 20 MMOs that have the potential to do or be really interesting next year, whether that be a launch, a long-anticipated beta test, or some other significant development. Plus, hey, you get 20 for the price of 10, so no complaining now!
As an aside, this list isn’t going to cover some other exciting-looking multiplayer games that are arriving in 2018, like Anthem, Sea of Thieves, The Crew 2, Monster Hunter World, DayZ, Red Dead Redemption 2, Stardew Valley, Conan Exiles, and State of Decay 2. And you old school fans won’t want to forget that Ultima Online has a new free-to-play option coming this spring.
Ready for some harsh truths, MMO players? Bluehole CEO Hyo-Seob Kim recently told GIbiz that he wasn’t expecting PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds to do so well globally, that the studio was “pitching up the quality of the game for the Western market.” Bluehole wasn’t a major player before that, even though it had been making MMOs for a decade. In fact, Bluehole hadn’t even gone to G-Star in six years – back during the rise of its MMORPG TERA in 2011, which was “targeting the Western market from the beginning.” You’ll recall that TERA actually did well – GIbiz fairly calls it a “hit” for the genre – but Kim argues the genre has since stagnated.
“MMORPGs were very new [ten years ago], with World of Warcraft and all the others. But the play style [stayed] very similar as time passed on, so the players got bored with the system. They started looking to other genres of games. […] But there are still people who are used to the MMORPG, and if a new game can give them a new experience they will come back and play again.”
One thing you can say for the MMO industry: It never ceases to surprise all of us. No matter what predictions we may make at the beginning of a year, by December we will all be proven fools who lack vision and foresight.
Although 2017 isn’t quite over yet, we here at Massively Overpowered wanted to count down the biggest news stories that crossed over into our neck of the woods so far this year. We witnessed controversies and delights, shockers and sadness. We saw launches and shutdowns, expansions and bugs.
So before we move into 2018, let’s take a look at the year that was and remember the biggest stories that dominated headlines.
It’s kind of hard to be thankful this year. Sure, some good things have happened this year, but we also have some things that, to put it politely, are unqualified messes. There’s everything around Star Wars: Battlefront II. There’s the shuttering of Master x Master and Marvel Heroes (the latter I actually flagged a year ago as being robust and healthy). There are titles like Lord of the Rings Online and ARK: Survival Evolved that have doubled down on methods to enrage players. And last but certainly not least, there’s still no sign of a sequel to the Warcraft film.
That one might be a grey area, actually.
But the year hasn’t been devoid of light, and there’s still stuff to be thankful for. So rather than being bitter and cranky about it, I want to focus on what we do have to be thankful for even while I hope for better in the future. Let’s talk about some stuff that’s good to be thankful for, even if it doesn’t tickle your particular fancy, and be a little more hopeful.