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!
Legends of Aria has a big reveal today: It’s completely revamped its graphics ahead of its second closed beta. The word Citadel uses is “drastic,” but, you know, the good kind of drastic.
“On July 12, we will be starting a new phase of testing called Closed Beta 2. It will have hundreds of bug fixes, new features, and…an entirely new look for Legends of Aria,” says the studio. “Something this dramatic seems like it should have taken months and an army of people, right? But that would have been a poor use of your investment in us, as gorgeous as these look. It’s been primarily the work of our artists (say hi, Austin and Tiffany!) and a bit of a hand here and there from everyone else, when they needed a short break from bugs and features. We hope you love the new graphics and that they delight you.”
Meanwhile, Citadel is running a community-wide internet scavenger hunt. There are 15 new screenshots of the game hidden on 15 different media outlets and streaming accounts; the first person to find them all is getting the top-end preorder pack for the game. Not bad at all for finding some links! Hint hint, one of the clues is hidden on Massively OP (but it’s not on this article!).
It’s a big day for Legends of Aria and its beta testers, as the game is undergoing some pretty meaty changes to combat and stats, “heavily” inspired by player feedback.
“The goal of these changes has been to solve three distinct problems,” Citadel Studios says. “Increase the predictability of both warrior damage and interruption rates for magic spells. Increase the options for players to end fights sooner. [And] introduce opportunity cost to warrior combat through meaningful decision making and tactics.”
Notably, the game will now integrate critical hits, stamina-based swing calculations, rework armor proficiencies, shooting on the move, new craftable potions, and new abilities for warriors, archers, and rogues.
Fight for your right to party, kids! Or at least for your chance at loot assigned by an unfeeling, uncaring random number generator. Legends of Aria is stepping up its game this month with a major overhaul to its combat system.
The developers said that the overhaul came as a response to three major issues: long fights, unpredictable Warrior actions, and a lack of decision making. In the patch, agility has been switched over to stamina when calculating movement and combat speed. The stamina pool refills slowly, requiring players to choose between weapons with different stamina requirements.
Other changes coming with the patch include the addition of critical hits to interrupt spells, a mortal strike secondary ability, additional prestige skills for the Archer and Rogue, the ability to fire while moving, specific armor proficiencies, weapon ability miss rates, weaker heal spells, and stamina and mana potions.
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.”
The developers of Legends of Aria don’t want you opening a world map any more. You shouldn’t have a world map in a sandbox, according to their design philosophy. The latest patch removes that function and will allow you to now purchase physical maps for the five world areas from vendors. You can also place notes about locations on those physical maps, although presumably you don’t need to buy a pad of sticky notes to do so. (Sticky notes had not been invented.)
The patch also allows for secure trading between players as well as transferring house ownership, and there are also new combat balance changes for players; Strength now has a greater influence on weapon damage and Affinity plays a larger role in evocation damage. It’s a smaller patch, but these changes should have a pretty big effect upon the game as a whole, possibly by getting you lost much more often.
By the time that World of Warcraft came on the scene in 2004, the MMORPG industry had already gravitated toward standard when it came to the interface — specifically, the camera angle. MMO players and devs seemed to prefer third-person views that either peered over the shoulder of avatars or followed right behind them. For decades now, we’ve grown used to watching our characters’ rears as they jog along, and we can’t really imagine the experience otherwise.
Yet when you think about it, while this camera perspective is overwhelmingly used in the genre, it’s not the only one that crops up in MMOs. We’ve seen both old and new titles experiment with the camera angle, sometimes out of style and sometimes out of necessity (here’s a great Gamasutra article on the subject).
For today’s list, we’re going to look at 10 MMORPGs where the camera is positioned in a different way than you’d normally expect, especially if you are coming from modern games.
Hope you haven’t booked that summer vacation just yet, because Legends of Aria would like to interest in a fantasy holiday. The studio announced this week that it is a patch or two away from open beta, which it hopes to start in June.
The wider testing base is necessary, Citadel Studios said, in order to “start addressing the issues we can only find with lots of people.” So there’s a pretty good chance you’ll be in and enjoying this Ultima Online spiritual successor before too long, assuming that you are interested.
Following June’s open beta, Legends of Aria will go into an early access soft launch through its own client. Citadel is still holding back on its plans for going live on Steam and rolling out a marketing campaign as it evaluates how the next few months progress. However, the studio said that in all likelihood these events will happen this autumn.
The past couple of weeks has been wild as we dispatched writers to GDC in San Francisco and PAX East in Boston to gather up and bring back everything they could on the MMORPGs large and small on the spring convention circuit. In fact, as I type this, we’ve got Brendan in Reykjavik for EVE Fanfest too! So for this week’s Overthinking, we’re rounding up our coverage and then reflecting on the best and worst as we pick out what most excites, surprises, and disappoints us: First the roundups, then our thoughts. Read on!
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.
One thing I love about GDC compared to other conventions I cover is how many actual developers I get to talk to, especially without PR and Marketing handlers. Everyone has his or her job, I understand that, but my job as press it to cut through those two departments to get what the actual product is. Nothing helps that more than understanding the thoughts behind design decisions, and that can rarely come from people who aren’t keyboard deep in code and design docs.
My talk with Citadel Studios’ Founder and CEO Derek “Supreem” Brinkmann and Lead Designer Jeffrey “Miphon” Edwards felt like the right kind of interview for just that. I’m not someone who backed their project, and I’m not sure if Legends of Aria (formerly Shards Online) is my type of game, but after checking it out for myself, I feel like the game is in capable hands.
The next big patch for Legends of Aria does not signal the start of the next beta phase. Instead, it signals moving to a more robust version of the game ahead of the game’s demo stations at this year’s PAX East convention at the beginning of April. After all, it’s better to give players a demonstration of the real game than a potemkin village (a comparison drawn by the developers, even), and why not give actual players more fun stuff when it’s the same amount of work?
As for what’s in the update itself, players can look forward to tinting their armors with various hues, a new pass of optimization, and a greatly improved starting experience for new players. That last one means making it clear that the game is completely without classes, adding more character creation options, and providing better guidance at the beginning. The patch is due out for March 30th, so please look forward to it sooner rather than later.
If you’ve been following the MMO industry for a while, chances are you’ve seen the name Sanya Weathers pop up from time to time. Weathers has been both an MMO reporter and a community manager for various studios, including Undead Labs, Metaverse, and Mythic Entertainment. Now she has a new job at Legends of Aria’s Citadel Studios, and she’s bringing her experience and energy to this indie MMO.
It sounds as if Weathers is pretty stoked to be back working on an MMO: “Being part of a world like Legends of Aria is like coming home for me. This is going to be amazing, y’all. There is a lot going on behind the scenes, and I’ll be able to share some of it soon.”
She did say that she’s spending a lot of time right now preparing for Legends of Aria’s appearance at PAX East next month, where the game will have a small booth.