raph koster

Interview and excerpt: The ‘Braving Britannia’ book preserves Ultima Online’s oral history

Earlier this week, we wrote about the launch of a new book that’s right up MMORPG fans’ alley. Dubbed Braving Britannia: Tales of Life, Love, and Adventure in Ultima Online, the book gathers together 35 interviews with players and both former and current Ultima Online devs to effectively become the first published oral history of the MMORPG that started it all.

Author Wes Locher was kind enough to answer a bunch of our questions about the book and provide us an excerpt to help you folks understand what you’re getting into if you decide to pick it up. Read on for the whole scoop!

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Star Wars Galaxies book takes fans back to this late, great MMO

Unless you’re willing to venture out onto the wild space of emulated servers, you won’t be getting Star Wars Galaxies back. That doesn’t mean that you can’t reminisce about this MMO from a galaxy far, far away, thanks to the release of an unofficial fan history book called Galaxies: An Empire Remembered.

The 172-page book recalls the history of Star Wars Galaxies from launch through its 2011 sunset and takes readers through the game’s planets, events, and ongoing legacy. More than 700 full-color images, including concept art, are included in this title. “This comprehensive guide gives those who played the game — and those who never got the chance — an opportunity to relive the nostalgia and excitement of this landmark entry into the MMORPG genre,” the description reads.

SWG creator Raph Koster gave the book his endorsement on Twitter by saying, “The passion fans can have for something they loved never ceases to amaze and humble me.”

And while you’re looking back at Star Wars Galaxies, why not read our own Larry’s favorite memory from that game?

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New Ultima Online book gathers developer and player interviews to document oral history

Old-school MMORPG players, heads-up for you: If you’re a fan of Ultima Online or wanted to hear more about the seminal MMORPG after reading our take on Raph Koster’s book, there’s another book out there you’re bound to love. We’re talking, of course, about Braving Britannia: Tales of Life, Love, and Adventure in Ultima Online by Wes Locher, whose marketing blurb describes it as

“the first nonfiction book to collect interviews with 35 of the game’s players, volunteers, and developers over more than 300 pages, revealing what they did, where they adventured, and how their lives were shaped, changed, and altered through experiences in Ultima Online’s shared persistent world. […] In a fantasy world of limitless potential, the only thing players seem to enjoy more than playing the game is talking about it, and yet, the true stories behind the avatars have largely gone unpublished for the past twenty years.”

Among the devs interviewed? Bonnie Armstrong, Raph Koster, Starr Long, Rich Vogel, Gordon Walton, and plenty more. The book is due out later this week; you can sign up on its official site to be notified when it releases.

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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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The Game Archaeologist: Raph Koster on MUDs and Privateer Online

The release of Raph Koster’s monster book of game essays, Postmortems, was of high interest to Bree and me for different reasons. For her, it was because Koster was a creative driving force behind two of her favorite games, Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies. For me, it’d because Koster shares my passion for MMO history and has some unique stories touching on topics that no one has heard before.

So I combed through his collection of essays to see what I could find out on two topics of interest to me: MUDs and the elusive Privateer Online. Chances are that many of you reading have never touched a text-based multi-user dungeon, and none of us save Koster and his coworkers, ever got to even peek at Privateer Online.

Here’s a few quotes that popped out at me, and if you’re interested and have $35 to drop on a Kindle version, you can read Koster’s full collection of essays in Postmortems.

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The Daily Grind: Do you prefer ‘work’ simulation MMOs to more fantastic game worlds?

In the comments of my piece on Raph Koster’s book last week, a commenter brought up the idea that mimicking the real world in MMOs was a “sad” sort of “obsession” – why would we want to work in a video game in our spare time, he was essentially asking, when we could do something fresh and creative with our video game spaces instead?

I took a stab at answering the question, supposing that just because we can theoretically do a job in real life doesn’t mean we are realistically or physically able to do it, and exploration of the unreachable can be fun. A post on the Psychology of Video Games blog answers it even better: Author Jamie Madigan writes that games like Farming Simulator 17 and Euro Truck Simulator do so well precisely because people like to explore those types of jobs in a low-stress, who-cares-if-I-run-my-semi-off-the-virtual-autobahn environment. “These games remove the worst of the uncertainty, helplessness, ambiguity, and consequences for failure that come with those real world jobs and turn them into game systems that are interesting and fun to interact with,” he argues. “They give players clear goals, unambiguous feedback, winnable challenges, and predictable rewards. All things that most jobs sadly don’t consistently provide.”

That certainly explains it: I really hate thinking about money in real life, but I love playing around in MMO economies where my market mistakes simply don’t matter.

How about you? Do you prefer simulation MMOs to more fantastic game worlds? Or something in between? And is there an activity that you love in MMOs but hate in the real world?

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The Daily Grind: Does teaching toxic MMO gamers what they did wrong actually help?

As RPS reported this week, Valve has taken the relatively unusual step of making your Dota 2 and CSGO report cards semi-public – that is, players can see reports made against their accounts, and the rationales given, even if Valve took no action on them. The author was bemused to find that he’d been reported for “intentional feeding” when in fact, he just sucked that match. Hey, it happens.

But I wonder whether the reports are useful to actual toxic players who’ve been actioned to teach them where they went wrong; it’s certainly an idea League of Legends clung to for years. MOP reader TomTurtle recently suggested something similar in terms of forum moderation too. “I’d like to see how viable it’d be to have moderators give an infractor a chance to edit their post to be constructive in an attempt to have them learn why their initial language was against the rules” in the service of “informing players why they were infracted in the first place,” he wrote to us.

Even if we agree that moderators’ and gamemasters’ jobs should include not just protecting the community from toxicity but actually attempting to – as Raph Koster puts it in his new book – “reform bad apples,” I wonder whether it’s even worth the trouble, never mind the expense. Does knowing what they did wrong actually help toxic players become less toxic? Or does it just cause them to double down to save face? Is the industry just wasting time and money trying to reform players who aren’t just poorly socialized or clueless but willfully destructive?

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‘Magic through serendipity’: Raph Koster on the glorious mess that was Ultima Online

I was a wide-eyed, naive kid when I first stepped into Ultima Online in 1997, and as it turns out, the developers were too.

That’s my takeaway from reading through the Ultima Online chunk of Raph Koster’s new book, Postmortems. Koster, as any dedicated MMORPG fan will recall, went by “Designer Dragon” back then as the creative lead on the game. Having come from a MUD background, he and his wife Kristin Koster were instrumental in shaping Richard Garriott’s seminal MMORPG and therefore the genre as we know it.

Koster kindly sent us a preprint of the book, unwittingly robbing himself of $35, as I was going to buy it anyway, and it’s massive, folks: over 700 pages spanning three decades and the majority of the online games Koster’s worked on during his long tenure in the gaming industry. Some of those games are definitely of more interest to our readers on Massively OP, in particular Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies. It’s the Ultima Online chapters I aim to cover today.

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Massively OP Podcast Episode 174: Fallout vs. Elder Scrolls

On this week’s show, Bree and Justin take tentative steps into the early reveals of E3 — including Fallout 76, Elder Scrolls Online, Anthem, and Final Fantasy XIV, all while dealing with a ton of updates and even an expansion launch. June is here, and we’re all gaming hard!

It’s the Massively OP Podcast, an action-packed hour of news, tales, opinions, and gamer emails! And remember, if you’d like to send in your own letter to the show, use the “Tips” button in the top-right corner of the site to do so.

Listen to the show right now:

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Star Wars Galaxies creator Raph Koster to release postmortem book on MMORPGs

Raph Koster is certainly a well-known name in the MMORPG industry who has spent his career working on titles such as Ultima Online, Star Wars Galaxies, Metaplace, and Crowfall. But did you know that he is also a prolific writer as well? Koster has posted many intriguing behind-the-scenes and industry discussion essays on his blog, and now he’s compiled those and many other new ones for a book that he’s titled Postmortems: Selected Essays Volume One.

Postmortems is due out later this June, and it contains plenty of stories that should intrigue fans and historical buffs of the MMO genre. “It’s not a memoir or tell-all; the focus is on game design and game history,” Koster said. “There’s still nowhere near enough material out there in print covering things like the history and evolution of online worlds (MUDs especially), in-depth dives into decisions made in games by the people who made them, and detailed breakdowns of how they worked.”

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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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Solo has a couple blink-and-you’ll-miss-it references to Star Wars Galaxies

One of the best aspects of all of the new Disney Star Wars films is their references to places, events, and characters outside of the film canon and in the extended or “legends” universe. And now, with the release of Solo in movie theaters, Star Wars Galaxies has joined that list of shout-outs for all time.

One of the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it references is to an AV-21, a two-seater Corellian speeder that debuted in the late, great MMORPG. In the film, young Han Solo said that he spent part of his childhood boosting these vehicles. Another is a mention of a valahorn, a musical instrument that was created for the game.

In any case, the references were not lost on some fans of Star Wars Galaxies, including creator Raph Koster, who seemed pleased as punch at the nods.

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The MOP Up: Battlerite royale (May 6, 2018)

The MMO industry moves along at the speed of information, and sometimes we’re deluged with so much news here at Massively Overpowered that some of it gets backlogged. That’s why there’s The MOP Up: a weekly compilation of smaller MMO stories and videos that you won’t want to miss. Seen any good MMO news? Hit us up through our tips line!

Maybe you’ll discover a new game in this space — or be reminded of an old favorite! This week we have stories and videos from TERANeverwinterBattleriteThe Black DeathRoyal BloodSaga of LucimiaSkyforgeProsperous UniversePokemon GoOcean Legend, Ultima OnlineReign of GuildsDofusFinal Fantasy XIDestiny, and Osiris: New Dawn, all waiting for you after the break!

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