When I saw Legends of Aria last year, right after it had dropped the Shards Online name and expanded to be a full-fledged MMORPG, it looked pretty good. Not spectacular, perhaps, but it definitely looked like something you could point to and agree that it was ready for the prime time. I was reasonably impressed with what the team had on display in terms of graphics, especially considering the size of the team behind the game.
This year, though, the game is looking significantly better than it did before. Where before I thought it looked good for an indie title, now it’s looking pretty nice for a title, period. And it’s still just as indie as it’s ever been.
Obviously, there isn’t a long stretch of time between what the team discussed at this year’s GDC and PAX East, so most of the talk that MOP’s Andrew had with the team still applies and I won’t rehash that here. The centerpiece of the team’s presence at PAX East was about showing off the game’s improved demo, by which I of course mean “the actual game running on live servers,” because the stuff that was there for the demo stations was also on the live version of the game. Which is, again, to the team’s credit.
My experience with Rend last year felt a bit like stepping into a faerie circle and slipping into another world, sneaking up to a rather secret meeting in a restaurant on the Boston pier and seeing this game that at once seemed like a very obvious take on a familiar formula while also being immediately appealing to me personally. So it was a given that I would go back, and I can confirm that the fish restaurant itself was very real; I had some fried fish. It was tasty.
Of course, by that point I had already seen Rend again because it had a booth on the show floor showing off what it had on offer.
I didn’t get to actually play the game on the show floor this year, but I did get a guided tour through all of the things that the game had gone through in the year since I had seen it. As I was told repeatedly, when I saw the game then, it was the work of five guys crammed into a basement working on something. Now, though, the game is approaching something much bigger, better, and brighter.
This year’s PAX East featured a lot of games early in their testing phase, but Ashes of Creation was one that had splurged for a very large booth toward the center of the show floor. And let’s be fair here; the game sure looked like it was ready for prime time. Between the animations on display and the general look of playing the game for onlookers, this is the sort of game that, at a glance, certainly did not look like something in pre-alpha. All of its graphical polish was being shown off to great effect.
Of course, looking good is one thing. The real question was how it played. But that was why the game also had demo stations set up, so that players could see what the game looked like in its current state of development and get a feel for the game from the PvE side and the PvP side.
I took a tour of a brief PvE dungeon with a GM assisting our party and three other people, which served as my chance to get a handle on what the game was offering. Of course, this was also a very early test build, so there’s no doubt a lot that’s going to be changing over time. But it did, at least, feel like a good fundamental base for combat.
One of the fun parts of this job – or one of the odd parts, depending on how you prioritize things – is how you can agree with absolutely every point someone else is making while having an exactly opposite reaction. You may recall that Andrew tried out the build
of The Elder Scrolls Online: Summerset
and walked away with a shrug, which to a certain portion of the ESO
fanbase is apparently a vile insult (demos are serious business). I guess if your reaction isn’t fawning adulation of ESO
, you hate the game, or something. I’ve never gotten that one myself
At any rate, the fact is that I agree with Andrew on this point. I even agree with his overall conclusion. But my walk-away conclusion is altogether different; I found myself impressed with what the game was doing and thinking that this was going to be a pretty good expansion. It might not have anything as show-stoppingly novel as the Warden, but you can’t give every single expansion a bear-based class, I assume. (There has to be some reason.)
At this year’s PAX East, I discovered that my mental picture of Casey McGeever did not match the actual man in person, but that was a positive thing; meeting the man himself, he projects an aura of warmth and earnestness that’s almost impossibly infectious. Not that it should be all that surprising, as he’s spent so much time talking about the strength of community when it comes to building up the base behind Ship of Heroes as a whole.
McGeever and I had an opportunity to speak about a number of issues surrounding the City of Heroes-inspired superhero MMO, starting with some talk about the game’s roadmap moving through the remainder of the year. The roadmap covers the past few months and recent known developments, but it had to be delayed slightly while the team pushed through the early stages of pre-alpha, engine upgrades, and the associated tasks. Now we’re into April, and it’s time for the community to see what’s on the docket for the next three months.
It’s not every day that you walk into a building dominated by an enormous griffon, the enormous statue replicating the mount in Guild Wars 2: Path of Fire
. You could, of course, argue that the griffon is functionally an upgraded version of the glider from Heart of Thorns
, but that just brings you back to the idea that Path of Fire
is closer to what people wanted from Heart of Thorns
in the first place. It’s a bigger expansion for people not interested in the rather narrow focus of the jungle.
Which makes sense, since according to the game director, Mike Zadorojny, the focus of what the expansion was meant to be about was radically different between the two expansions, and Path of Fire was closer to an expansion of the base game.
I had the chance to sit with Zadorojny and chat about various issues of both current development ant future direction, although we did not have that chat on the back of the griffon. (There were people waiting in line.) But considering the nature of the griffon and the talk, it might have been appropriate.
It’s easy to have little to no idea about how Final Fantasy XIV
is localized. Obviously the localization team has advanced beyond the days of Final Fantasy Tactics
(which apparently was translated by someone with Babelfish and a rampaging hangover), but it’s still pretty easy to picture the localization as a matter of the Japanese staff dropping a stack of untranslated text on someone’s desk with a laugh and a note to have fun figuring it out.
The note, presumably, would also be in Japanese.
This is not just wrong, but it bears absolutely no resemblance whatsoever to the actual localization process. I had the chance to talk with main scenario writer Natusko Ishikawa and localization lead John Crow, who helpfully went into some details on both the localization process and their personal feelings about the story and characters therein. You can also check out the embedded footage of the panel below, which goes into more detail on the writing process.
So if we’ll no longer have tier sets in World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth, what motivation will you have for continuing to raid on the high end? For that matter, what motive will you have to continue running island adventures? Two more interviews from the show floor at PAX East 2018 with lead encounter designer Morgan Day cover exactly that. To answer both questions, Mythic raiding still has the best item level rewards in the game, and that’s not changing; meanwhile, long-term island rewards are still being discussed, but are very important to the team.
Players invested in the story can take heart that there’s going to be plenty to digest in Uldir, which is all about Titan research into removing Old Gods without killing the host (Azeroth, in our case). The War Campaign will also be akin to the Class Order Campaign, bringing players into enemy territory. There’s also plans to allow respeccing of Azerite armor, although frequency has yet to be determined. All good stuff to learn about as the release swiftly approaches in August.
Before we had zombies to beat up without remorse in games, what did we used to kill? White dots and angry little mushrooms, mostly. So if you’re looking to go on a good zombie massacre this spring, you’re probably already signed up for State of Decay 2.
The four-player co-op sequel is coming out on May 22nd (with a head start on May 18th), and as such, it is getting some pre-launch publicity going at PAX East this weekend. Undead Labs released a new gameplay video that shows various activities present in the game, including joyriding across the landscape, building up a base, promoting followers, and eliminating zombies with extreme prejudice.
After watching it, the biggest question we are left with is this: Why do the zombies’ eyes glow red? What’s the story behind that?
Ashes of Creation will hit alpha one by the end of the year, Intrepid Studios announced today during its panel at PAX East. The game slipped into a phase it’s calling “alpha zero” back in December.
“The first phase of this public test for all Alpha One level backers will focus primarily on combat, hosting large amounts of players for our siege and warfare systems,” says the studio. “Leading up until the start of Alpha 1, we will still be inviting more players into the Alpha Zero Friends & Family tests.”
Massively OP is at PAX East this week and slated to meet with Intrepid tomorrow, so stay tuned for more coverage, and check out the new PAX video below!
Among the more unusual business model setups for the incoming wave of indie MMORPGs is Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen’s. As we’ve previously covered, Brad McQuaid’s Visionary Realms studio offers pledge packages for would-be players that range up to $10,000, payable in monthly chunks. The particulars have allowed the studio to sometimes dodge complaints about having a pre-alpha sub as well as about having high backer tiers, when in reality, it pretty much has both.
If that doesn’t bother you because you really want to see another McQuaid game reach live, then you might want to point your eyeballs at the game’s latest pre-order package in honor of PAX East. It’s similar to the regular-flavor $1000 tier, with a few extra perks, including pre-alpha access to let you hop into the game in May.
Yes, it’s that time again, time to drive up to Boston and take part in the annual collection of games and poorly laid-out convention halls that makes up PAX East. There are panels to be attended if you can get in line early enough, merch to be bought, and most importantly for our purposes, interviews to be had. Are you excited?
Well, maybe not! Sometimes it feels like the best information about MMOs comes out of small conventions devoted to specific games (like EVE Online, Final Fantasy XIV, and World of Warcraft, although that last one is arguably not small in the least). Yet there’s always a bunch of MMO stuff at the various booths just the same; the convention is just more often a time to reach out to players and press who may not follow MMOs studiously, so that tends to be the focus for presentation.
But enough explaining the situation; let’s turn the microphone over to you, as it were. Is there anything about MMOs you hope to see at PAX East? A game or two that you hope will have a good showing? Or does it not really matter much to you either way?