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See: Shadowbane

Interview: ArtCraft’s J. Todd Coleman on prepping Crowfall’s Artisan Engine for the broader industry

Yesterday, Crowfall studio ArtCraft announced it was spinning off a brand-new company dubbed ArtCraft Technologies that would basically turn Crowfall’s engine into a marketable product for other studios, “providing game developers with turnkey technology solutions for creating large-scale Massively Multiplayer Online games.” We had opportunity to chat with ArtCraft Creative Director J Todd Coleman about the move and what it means for the studio and genre. Read on!

Massively OP: So to start, we’re curious about the “why” behind the new studio. Is ArtCraft thinking of this venture as an extra revenue stream for the company? Or is it trying to encourage more MMORPGs – or maybe both?

J. Todd Coleman: This wasn’t originally part of our plan. In the last 12 months, we’ve had a few different studios contact us to see if we would consider licensing our technology. The more we looked into it, the more it made sense. The additional revenue stream is great, obviously, but that has to be balanced against the potential distraction. We wouldn’t have done this if we didn’t see it as a great strategic move for the company, and a chance to leverage what we’ve built into something much bigger.

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Crowfall studio ArtCraft spins off new company to license its MMORPG-oriented Artisan Engine

Well now things just got interesting over in the land of Kickstarted Crowfall. ArtCraft announced this morning that it’s spinning off a “new division” called ArtCraft Technologies and specifically positioned for “providing game developers with turnkey technology solutions for creating large-scale Massively Multiplayer Online games” – all based on Crowfall’s underlying tech.

“This technology stack, the Artisan Engine, will include a robust feature set for solving the full spectrum of challenges that emerge when supporting thousands-upon-thousands of concurrent players in a virtual world: networking, persistence, physics, procedural world generation, dynamic world editing and seamless worlds up to 5,120 meters by 5,120 meters in size. In addition, it includes an exhaustive, fully-featured RPG layer, including characters, inventory, equipment, monsters, AI, harvesting, races, classes, sub-classes, powers, banking, secure trading, skills, leveling and more.”

The new division will be headed up by Josef Hall, whom you might remember from his work on Shadowbane as well as the KingsIsle titles (similar to ArtCraft’s J. Todd Coleman’s pedigree). Anybody thinking “SpatialOS competitor”? Because we sure are.

Source: Press release

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The ultimate guide to The Game Archaeologist’s MMO archives

When we moved over here to Massively Overpowered, some of us transplanted our long-running columns to the new space. I perhaps felt most devastated that I was going to lose all of the Game Archaeologist articles that I had painstakingly researched over the years. So my mission with this space became two-fold: to rescue and update my older columns while continuing to add more articles to this series on classic MMOs and proto-MMOs.

I’ve been pleased with the results so far because TGA is a series that I really don’t want to see vanish. As MMORPG fans, we should consider it important to remember and learn about these older titles and to expand our knowledge past the more popular and well-known games of yesteryear.

Now that we have quite a catalogue of Game Archaeologist columns, I thought it would be helpful to end the year by gifting this handy guide to you that organizes and compiles our continuing look at the history of the genre. Enjoy!

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The Game Archaeologist: Disney’s Toontown Online

The use of the word “toon” to describe MMORPG characters is a contentious one, with fans divided over its annoyance or acceptance. But when it came to one MMORPG, it was nothing but proper terminology to call all characters just this.

Toontown Online was one of those “kiddie MMOs” that you probably ignored unless you happen to fall within its demographical clutches back in the day. While it lasted for about a decade, the game’s operation would be notable for its repeated transformation and uncertain status.

With a silly, cartoon-like look and theme, this MMO attempted to bring a levity to a genre that was often marinating in deep fantasy lore and statistical theorycrafting. But when you wanted to eschew dragon fighting for slapstick pie throwing, there was no better game out there. Let’s take a look!

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Hacker claims to have made a living cheating in MMOs for two decades

Motherboard has a fun-slash-depressing piece out this week on an unnamed hacker who claims he’s been cheating at MMORPGs to make a living for almost two decades.

Prior to his recent Def Con hacking conference talk, the hacker dubbed “Manfred” seemingly demoed via video a hack performed in WildStar, one he used to help him accrue nearly 400 trillion gold, which he then allegedly sold to players through various black markets. He argues he wasn’t hacking — he was providing a service by “finding unintended features in the protocol.”

At least some of his claims don’t even seem particularly outlandish, especially if you’ve been around in MMORPGs for a long time and have an understanding of how rampant duping and RMT markets have been over the last 20 years. Manfred claims he got his start in Ultima Online illegally deleting other players’ houses and selling his own on Ebay, funding his days in college. Since then, Motherboard says, he cheated and duped his way through the “wild west” of Lineage 2, Shadowbane, Final Fantasy XI, Dark Age of Camelot, Lord of The Rings Online, RIFT, Age of Conan, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and Guild Wars 2.

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Ashes of Creation hires five new team members, shows off snowy environments

As Ashes of Creation takes aim at the $3M line for its Kickstarter campaign, Intrepid Studios announced that it has made several significant hires to its development team, some of which come from the Daybreak fold.

The hires include Lead Economic Designer Rocco Scandizzo (Psyop Games), Lead Programmer Kevin McPherson (EverQuest, PlanetSide, Vanguard, and Shadowbane), Lead Technical Designer Akil Hooper (EverQuest II, Fallout: New Vegas), Senior Character Artist Mat Broome (H1Z1, DCUO, PlanetSide 2, EverQuest), and Alex Khudoliy (Amazon).

Another interesting announcement is that Intrepid is partnering with Panopticon Labs to develop fraud detection and prevention tools for the game to make it as secure as possible.

Ashes of Creation devs will be on hand this evening at 6:00 p.m. EDT for a final Kickstarter livestream. The team also posted a brief video showing some of the winter effects in the different game environments, which you can watch below.

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The Game Archaeologist: How Sceptre of Goth shaped the MMO industry

When it comes to text-based MMOs created in the ’80s, ’90s, and 2000s, the sheer number of them would blot out the sky. There are certainly more multi-user dungeons (MUDs) than I’ve ever been able to get a handle on when I’ve tried creating lists of the most important to know, but I will say that there are a few that seem to pop up more than others. The original MUD1, created by Richard Bartle and Roy Trubshaw, was certainly a watershed moment for online roleplaying games. Learning about DikuMUD is pretty essential, considering its impact on graphical MMORPGs that we still play today.

But there’s another title that often goes unnoticed, unless you keep an eye out for it. It’s a MUD that keeps popping up when you look into the history of the MMORPG genre, one with ties to key players and design concepts that are still active today.

It’s the MUD that shaped the MMO industry, and it was called Sceptre of Goth.

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Crowfall on the big world, factions, and safeguarding player cities

In Crowfall’s November Q&A “is all about Big World,” Design Lead Thomas Blair declares, kicking off the episode alongside Creative Director J. Todd Coleman. The pair discuss ore deposit drops, factional assignments, Ranger skills, and multiple character creation, but one that leaped out at me was the question about regulating strongholds — that is, how you keep people out of your territory.

It turns out that it depends entirely on the worlds we’re talking about — and it’s inspired by city systems in Shadowbane. Players in the eternal kingdoms and open worlds will be able to make use of kill-on-sight lists to block individuals and guilds from entering cities. Faction-based worlds will automatically block the opposing faction from access. In fact, in the eternal kingdoms, players will even be able to flag areas safe, though that’s not something most of the game will inherit.

There’s also a long section on the big world as promised; ArtCraft has reiterated that this chunk of testing is a foundational test rather than a playest, and while it’s the closest thing to the game’s vision to date, the right mentality for a “rough experience” while testing is a requirement. Invites are in the thousands now, so maybe check your inbox, and then skim the whole update below.

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Crowfall on its player-driven economy as inspired by classic MMORPGs

If you’ve been keeping an eye on Crowfall’s recent crafting updates and are wondering how exactly everything fits together in the PvP-centric MMORPG, then this week’s updated crafting and economy FAQ is going to be a big help for both a big picture view and the wee details.

“Our vision is a player-driven economy where the best items in the game are created by other players — not from farming monsters,” says ArtCraft. “Crafting is a central part of the player-driven economy in Crowfall. Open-ended economic systems are tough to design. The closest model to ours is probably EVE Online, though you can see our design is built on ideas that originally surfaced in early MMOs like Ultima Online, Star Wars Galaxies and Shadowbane.”

Check out the whole FAQ for a clearer picture on how materials, harvesting, quarries, factories, transportation, supply-and-demand, recipes, sub-components, interdependence, salvaging, mass-production, and player-run shops all work together to make the crafting ecosystem go ’round. And in case you’re tempted to reject Crowfall’s claim to a crafting crown, recall that the game does indeed include item decay.

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Perfect Ten: Comparing Druids across MMORPGs

If I asked you what a Mage is in an MMORPG, what would you say? Some cloth-wearing gal who lugs around a long staff and flings fireballs (or other elemental chunks) at bad guys. What about Rogues? Stealthy sneaks with twin daggers and lightning-fast attacks. Warriors? Big lugs with shields and swords larger than most compact cars. Fantasy class tropes are so ingrained that even developers seem powerless to go against them.

But there always seems to be this weird exception when it comes to Druids. A Druid in one MMO isn’t quite the same as one in a different game. Sure, there are usually some common threads — most notably an attunement to and use of nature — but each team has more freedom to interpret and design the Druid concept how it likes.

I thought it would be fun today to riffle through some of the current and past MMOs that have boasted a Druidic class (if not always in name) and see where the similarities and end and the wild notions begin.

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Crowfall’s seventh class is the mighty minotaur

One of the neat aspects of Crowfall’s archetypes is how the team is scouting a wider range of fantasy races for its inspiration. Move over, centaurs; this week, the spotlight is all on the minotaur Myrmidon. This newest archetype will soon join the game’s pre-alpha roster, bringing the class total to seven.

Of course, it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that the devs decided to bring Shadowbane’s minotaur into their newest project. On WorthplayingJ. Todd Coleman said that Crowfall represents the ultimate do-over for him: “Shadowbane was one of the earliest attempts to create a dynamic world, a simulation of reality where the players drive the history and create the stories. It didn’t work as well as we would have liked, for a handful of design and technical reasons, but I never lost that dream. Crowfall offers me another chance to build it.”

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Getting perspective on Chronicles of Elyria’s planned PvP and PvE featureset

Anyone on the MassivelyOP team will probably tell you that I won’t shut up about Chronicles of Elyria. There’s so much to like about the game Soulbound Studios wants to build! Like many of you, I backed the game, and I’ve been literally battling to keep myself from donating $500 max to the Kickstarter; so far, I’ve backed at only the $40 tier, and I’ve never gone over $35 for any Kickstarter in the past. I don’t easily part with my money, especially for a game in development. While Elyria has a lot going for it, I’ve noticed recently that the developers and some fans might have gotten a little over excited since hitting their funding goal, and I’ve seen people comment about pulling out their funds because of this. The team recently released some answers to some good questions on Reddit, but some answers still feel a bit too optimistic. Maybe it’s time we bring things back down to Earth.

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Perfect Ten: MMORPGs with huge class rosters

After talking with Mark Jacobs the other week about the difficulty of balancing Camelot Unchained’s 30 classes, it got my mind thinking of MMOs that don’t merely stop with a half-dozen or so classes in their roster. It seems like having a wide array of class choices used to be in vogue early on in the industry but has since been abandoned for a smaller field of archetypes that are easier to manage.

Me? I love choices, particularly with classes. My interest in a game gets a shot in the arm if I have a lot of prospects for alts — the more, the better. So I started drawing up a list of MMOs with large class rosters and decided to make it into a full-blown column.

For the purpose of today’s list, I’m not counting skill-based MMOs (which could be considered as hosting infinite classes). Also, for games that allow a measure of mix-and-matching between classes, I’m counting only the actual classes or powersets available, not the total number of permutations that could be created by their merging. So which MMO has enough classes to satisfy your appetite?

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