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IGDA calls for transparent guidelines on game studio social media and harassment following Guild Wars 2 dust-up

Regardless of who you believe had the right and wrong of the ArenaNet Twitter fiasco last week, game developers have expressed concern over the way it was handled and the potential impact on the greater industry. As Gamasutra noted, the International Game Developers Association has put out a blog post urging developers to demand that companies “clarify the guidelines and expectations around social media use, both in professional and personal accounts,” specifically referencing the recent Guild Wars 2 firings. Moreover, IGDA says, companies should be transparent about how they will “protect [their] talent from internet harassment mobs.”

“Game developers are also frequently targeted for harassment, particularly if they are members of under-represented communities,” IGDA Executive Director Jen MacLean writes. “Companies must plan for how they will support their staff members in the event of online harassment, and should clearly communicate the resources they will make available to their team to have safe, productive, and positive interactions online, especially if they are expected to do so in their roles.”

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Defiance 2050 officially launches as a free-to-play reboot on PC and console today

Trion has a big launch on its hands today as it pushes Defiance 2050 out of beta into a live state on PC and both core consoles. As we’ve been covering, Defiance 2050 is set to be a “completely from-the-ground-up recreation” of Trion’s original Defiance that “overhauls the exciting story and groundbreaking gameplay of the original, reimagining the San Francisco-based sci-fi shooter experience for current gaming hardware.” Classic Defiance, which sparked widespread use of the term “transmedia synergy” buzzword across the MMO genre when it launched alongside a SyFy TV series of the same name, will continue on for those who prefer it as well.

If you’ve previously picked up a founder pack, you’ve already been in the beta, but as of today, the game is free-to-play and everyone can hop on in. Launch time is technically 1 p.m. EDT this afternoon, so if you’re reading this in the morning, you’ve got just a few more hours to wait. Why not check out some of our coverage while you do? We recommend our hands-on experiences from E3 and GDC!

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Interview: Worlds Adrift’s Bossa Studios on giving, griefing, and gittin’ gud

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.

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E3 2018: Hands-on with Mavericks, the MMO battle royale hybrid

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.

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E3 2018: Bill Roper on gaming’s smoke and mirrors, Worlds Adrift, and building on SpatialOS

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.

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E3 2018: A second look at Trion’s Defiance 2050 reboot

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.

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E3 2018: hands-on with The Division 2 – a major upgrade over the original game

At this year’s E3, Ubisoft creative director Julian Gerighty said team behind The Division 2 tried to learn “everything” from The Division to help make the sequel better. As he reminded me, the original game’s final DLC was especially meaty in terms of PvE content and PvP balance, but it’s the first impressions of the game that mattered most: The initial Dark Zone iteration is still what gamers remember best, and that’s not necessarily a compliment. I myself was not impressed with the original demo back in 2015.

But based on my preview of The Division 2 at this year’s E3, I can say that Gerighty’s team obviously learned quite a bit – and absolutely improved on the original.

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E3 2018: Mavericks is battle royale on a massively multiplayer scale

Battle royale is all the rage these days, but as we’ve been covering over the last few months, the SpatialOS-based Mavericks is aiming to bring a new approach to the wildly popular new genre: by making it truly massive, which by studio Automaton’s count means 1000 players in the same persistent world.

We got hands-on with the game at GDC, however, and had a hard time seeing how 1000 people made a significant difference in the gameplay in practice. “It’s much more for the battle royale crowd than the MMO crowd,” MOP’s Andrew wrote at the time. Hopefully, the E3 demo will change our minds.

Closed beta is expected to launch in August; you can already sign up on the official site. The company will also launch its founder system later this week. The splash page for that says lootboxes aren’t on the table, but there will be what looks like an optional subscription in the form of “citizenship” that unlocks “a variety of content within the game.” Check out the new E3 trailer below.

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E3 2018: Defiance 2050 reboot launches on PC and console July 10th

We’ve got an official launch date for the new Defiance, folks: Trion announced this morning that Defiance 2050 will hit all three major platforms on July 10th, pursuant to an open beta that’ll run from June 22nd through 25th and preorders that open up on the 19th. Yes, that preorder founder package comes with a three-day headstart.

“The original Defiance revolutionized the sci-fi open-world shooter, seamlessly blending third-person gunplay, fast-paced action, dynamic world events, and cooperative gameplay. In the Defiance universe players take on the role of Ark Hunters, mercenaries battling their way across the post-apocalyptic landscapes of a ruined earth, using alien tech and advanced weaponry to carve out their fortune. Defiance 2050 is the definitive Defiance experience, focused on bringing the game into the next generation. In addition to taking advantage of modern hardware to improve the original game’s visuals, Defiance 2050 also makes major updates to Defiance’s systems, streamlining and modernizing them for today’s shooter audience.”

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Legends of Aria hopes to recruit newbies to test the game with free trial keys

It’s Bring-a-Friend Week in Legends of Aria, but you’re going to need a working email account. That’s because Citadel Studios wants you to email it directly to request trial keys for you and your buddies, which is probably a crazy plan for the studio rep handling that job, although it might be a better way to get keys to people who will actually test the game instead of to people who will just put them for sale on a Russian key website or something.

In light of that, we apologize for making Sanya Weathers’ day harder, but you guys, free keys. There are some caveats, of course; Citadel is specifically looking for people who will provide feedback on the UI and the newbie learning curve.

“We are patching this week, with some major fixes to combat and loot,” she writes. “Make sure your friend understands, this is a closed beta and things are changing every week. Also, with the server wipe coming next month, the population is low. Most people don’t want to invest much in a character that will literally cease to exist in a matter of days. This is a chance to play and do crazy stuff just for fun.”

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How the best devs are ‘fleeing in droves’ to escape the abusive games industry

My only nephew is something of a math prodigy, and the fact that he wants to be a game designer when he grows up (and has even been to game dev camp) fills me with the creeping horror that only someone who’s been living in or chronicling the game industry for years can know. The industry is awesome, and it is also a meat grinder that chews amazing people up and spits them right back out. He deserves a better future than that. Everybody does.

Such is the subject of a lengthy piece on Gamasutra this week. Author Simon Parkin interviews multiple developers about their experience making games – and their obvious relief when they finally escape. They’re not just talking crunch; they’re discussing relatively low pay, contract positions, nepotism, instability, post-launch exhaustion, sexism, and actual corruption driving people away.

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The Game Archaeologist: Warhammer Online

When it comes to notable years in the MMORPG genre’s history, 2008 stands out as one of the most significant. World of Warcraft’s debut onto the scene in 2004 caused an upheaval in ways far too numerous to go into detail here. Suffice to say that its overwhelming popularity drew the attention of game designers who looked at the staggering numbers of players and found themselves envious of the potential to grab a slice of that money pie.

Many projects went into high gear following WoW’s launch, with plenty of them trying to copy the formula and structure that Blizzard established in the hopes of making it at least partially as big as that game. So-called WoW clones began to pepper the market and there was a sense that gamers were ready to move on from World of Warcraft to the next generation of MMOs. In many players’ minds, this would be either 2008’s Age of Conan or Warhammer Online, two big-budget MMOs with strong IPs that carried a lot of the weight of expectation.

Little did anyone realize that 2008 represented a bubble that was about to burst on the industry and the WoW clones that followed — including Warhammer Online. Today, we’re going to take a look at “bears, bears, bears,” the high hopes of Mythic Entertainment, and how WAR became a casaulty on its own battlefield.

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Guild Wars 2 game director talks about the free market and lootboxes

Convenience and cosmetics. These are the foundational pillars of Guild Wars 2’s microtransactions, and back at GDC earlier this year, Game Director Crystin Cox opened up about how ArenaNet monetized its game using these pillars along with the free market and lootboxes.

“Expressing yourself, relating to other people, showing off, making a visual representation of who you are, is hugely important to a lot of MMO players, so that was always very high on our list,” she said. As for convenience items, Cox emphasized how the studio “respected people’s time” and wanted to make items that could trade time and money if so desired.

As for the dual currency system, Cox said that it has turned out quite well for the MMO: “I think we’ve done incredibly well with the free market because it accurately represents the value of the things that people are purchasing.”

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