It’s a little strange to consider that Saga of Lucimia has been around in development for four years now, but that’s the gestation period of an indie MMORPG for you. While the game isn’t ready to emerge from its shell just yet, the devs felt that the philosophy and advancements that they have made over the past four years warranted a revision and update of its group-based gameplay manifesto.
It’s worth a refresher read if you’re interested in the game, considering that this approach lies central to Lucimia’s design philosophy: “We are building a group-based game, one that focuses on the epic battles, challenges and rewards that come about as a direct result of being part of something epic in scope… not grocery store runs and endless fetch quests where you bring back tongues, tails, and teeth from various mobs.”
Lucimia’s fanatical devotion to hardcore group play has enthralled some and alienated others. As recently as earlier this month, the game’s creative director publicly criticized some testers for forgetting how to group up and overcome obstacles together.
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?
It’s a big day for indie MMORPG Legends of Aria, as its second closed beta official kicks off with a server wipe and a juicy patch. CB2, as we’ve previously covered, revamps the game’s art, adds detail to the cities, adds a diurnal cycle, backer rewards, new encounters, better shops, a more realistic map, new tameables, saddle storage, new music, secure house trading, crafting orders, the dungeon revamp, and better fast travel.
“It feels like a different game, and we need to gather as much feedback as we can to get things just right for Open Beta and the Early Access launch,” Citadel Studios’ Derek Brinkmann opines in his letter to testers today, and that is where you come in: The Aria team wants you to test and has ponied up a bundle of trial keys to get the MOP readers in and playing. Click the Mo button below (and prove you’re not a robot) to grab one of these keys!
Continuing from my previous column, I’m going to be running through the second decade of graphical MMORPG launches and picking the best title to debut in any given year. From doing the first decade, I know that this thought exercise isn’t always fair; some years have several great contenders, while others see one mediocre one rise due to a lack of competition.
Still, it’s kind of fun to look back at MMO history and to see which game was really the best of that year. And if you ever felt sore that a particular title got overlooked, well, consider this a retroactive awards ceremony of some sort.
Let’s dive right in where we left off with 2007!
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll have noticed that two Guild Wars 2
developers were cut loose last week after a heated Twitter exchange that was initiated by narrative lead Jessica Price. What started off as welcome insight into the problems with player-character narrative development in MMOs turned into a PR horror show
when the dev felt slighted by a comment received in response to her musing.
The internet is alight with opinions on the drama and ArenaNet’s response to the comments made by Price and her coworker, so in this edition of Flameseeker Chronicles, I just had to address it myself.
Back in April, Valve announced new supposedly privacy-oriented changes for Steam that had what everyone assumed to be an unintended (and unannounced) side-effect: It would hide everyone’s owned games by default, effectively neutering extremely useful and popular tools like Steam Spy.
Steam Spy’s Sergey Galyonkin, the Epic Games employee who ran Steam Spy on the side, hasn’t seemed particularly perturbed over the last several months since the announcement; in fact, last week, he said he was “excited” at the idea that Valve was working on its own version of the tracking tool. “The reason I opened Steam Spy to everyone was to let smaller developers make informed decisions based on data and to remove some of the information asymmetry that is so pervasive in our industry,” he tweeted last week. “Naturally, I am excited by Valve’s decision to offer a better version of Steam Spy.”
But that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening.
It’s been a while since we last caught up with Boundless, that quirky voxel sandbox that might be better known by its former title, Oort Online. It’s now up to Patch 192 in early access, having added features such as an assistance scanner, bombs, brews, portals, meteorites, combat, and so much more over the past six months.
Now the MMO is getting a helpful boost thanks to Square Enix, which has acquired it as part of its indie Collective project and will be the game’s publisher. Boundless is aiming for a release later this year on both PC and PlayStation 4. It will feature crossplay between both platforms.
The publisher introduced the game to its fans: “So what do you do in Boundless? Well, that is very much up to you, since it’s definitely on the sandbox end of MMO games. Unlike many other MMOs, there aren’t any NPCs to give you quests, or buy your unwanted loot. In fact, everything in the game (other than the worlds themselves) is entirely built, crafted, hunted, mined, gathered, or traded by players. And we think *that* is supremely cool.”
Chances are that you have never heard of Citadel of Sorcery. MJ, our resident “has played every MMO in the universe” expert, only vaguely recalled this very indie title. But now it looks like you won’t be getting to know the game better, as the developers have announced that the game’s development is shutting down.
The fantasy MMO, which has been in development for 14 years and hung off of a promise of a truly dynamic world, operated on donations from fans alone. That wasn’t enough to keep it going, nor was the slower-than-expected engine development from another company.
“You made some amazing progress and worked hard to make this dream come true,” the team said. “Unfortunately, there just weren’t enough believers to get sufficient funding to push this to completion.”
One of Project Gorgon’s old-school-made-new-again features is the incorporation of player vendors. And while that’s all well and good to let players sell their own wares, it does present a problem when it comes to browsing and finding the items that you want to buy from others.
Enter catalog golems: “These adorable little constructs will be happy to search the player vendors for specific items on your behalf, and let you know which shops have what you need. The golems can’t tell you how much the price is, and they don’t deliver the goods, but they also don’t demand tips.”
These golems are just part of this past week’s patch for the indie MMO. Other features of the update include the ability for NPCs to install augments for players, more damage-over-time tweaks for skills, and plenty of additional improvements and fixes.
As Fractured continues to ramp up to its hopefully successful Kickstarter campaign, interest ramps up from the MMO community about this indie title. The dev team announced that the game has seen a rapid increase in registrations from 20,000 three weeks ago to 30,000 today.
To help prime the pump for crowdfunding, the team also released a new teaser video showing off the game’s building mode: “In the video, you can see the character taking a resting phase in the tavern, then venturing in the nearby forest to chop down some trees […] The building the player is trying to raise is a medium-sized one, with low-level technology, made of wood and stone. The construction is modular, and has to be completed step by step.”
Give it a look after the jump!
On the prowl for an undiscovered indie MMORPG these days? You might want to check out Gran Skrea Online, as it just went into early access this past weekend.
According to the team, Gran Skrea “combines a desire for new player-defined MMORPG mechanics with influences from classic RPGs like RuneScape, Ultima Online, and The Elder Scrolls.” It’s $9 right now through June 23rd, which isn’t the most exorbitant price we’ve ever seen, and there’s an official Discord set up already.
The sandbox MMORPG sends players “to create their own destiny in an original world of medieval fantasy.” This apparently means a mixture of quests, “ruthless” PvP combat, guilds, and economy. There are already quite a few features in place, including player housing, a criminal flagging system, lots of crafting, and a game world with plenty of lore. There’s more to be added in the early access program, so features such as territorial warfare, auction houses, and naval warfare are still in development.
Get an early look at Gran Skrea after the jump!
During EA Play this weekend, EA announced Origin Access Premier, its attempt at a subscription service on PC. For $100 a year, you’ll basically get a service pretty similar to what already exists on Xbox: You’ll be able to play all the big new games, like Anthem, plus other titles within the Origin Vault, for that flat fee.
Subscriptions rise again, right? Is this a good thing for games outside the service?
“As always, I want to Bree to win the lottery, buy up some MMOs and take them to the Island of Misfit MMOs where $200 per annum gets you sub/pref access to all of RIFT, LOTRO, STO, SWTOR, et al.,” MOP tipster Sally wrote to us, urging us to write about the sub. “But picture that you are a hard-working indie dev. You already have the issues with dealing with Steam. Now a customer has to decide whether to buy your game or just play something like Anthem for no additional cost.”
Will you be subbing to EA’s new Origin Access Premier service? Do you think it’ll have a catastrophic impact on indie games or MMOs with subs?
Massively OP reader ichi_san has a burning question about the state of the industry.
“Lots of people seem to be looking for an MMO they can get into – consider the rush into Bless as an example. Lots of games are being released, but most (or even all) have some glaring issues, like pay-to-win, lockboxes, ganking, poor optimization, heavy cash shop, horrible gameplay, and so on. There’s the WoW model and other semi-successful formulas, and a lot of unexplored territory. The market seems hungry, and there is a bunch of history to build on and new territory to explore, but either gaming companies don’t understand their customers or greed/laziness/expediency get in the way, such that we see release after release that fails to scratch the itch. Am I missing something – are there fun MMOs with good graphics and fair monetization that I’m missing? Or is there a gaping hole in the MMO scene, and if so, why isn’t someone filling it?”
I’ve posed his question to the writers for their consideration in Overthinking this week. We’re long past bubble-bursting here when all of the still-major MMORPGs are four years older. What exactly are we looking at? Why is the obvious demand for MMOs not being met?