On this week’s show, Bree and Justin cleans up after Guild Wars 2’s PR disaster, chew over the survivability of Shroud of the Avatar, and commiserate about Camelot Unchained’s delay. It’s not all downer news — there’s some really great stuff happening in the MMO industry, and that makes an appearance on this extra-long episode!
Special note: If you want to skip the ArenaNet discussion for the rest of the news, go to the 50-minute mark (yeah, we talk about it a lot!). Also, please note that this was recorded before the Polygon article that came out Monday night, so it’s missing some the additional commentary on Mike O’Brien’s second formal statement.
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.
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As an MMO music collector, I’ve gathered some really obscure soundtracks over the years, including ones from games that people don’t even remember existing, nevermind having actually played. I won’t lie: Some of these soundtracks are downright forgettable. They might have one or two halfway decent tunes tucked among them, but they certainly do not have enough good tracks to justify a whole column on them. Once in a while there might even be a gem that can be sifted from the pile, but these end up being anomalies.
Back in 2016 I posted a quick list of six great tunes from MMOs that most people had never played, and today, I’m going to do another. Sure, maybe there are a few of you out there who did log into these games back in the day, but chances are that a majority of readers on the site did not. In some cases, the music is all that remains of a long-lost experience.
So let’s see what gems we might uncover today!
As I’m off on vacation this week, I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to cull through the previous One Shots comment section for great pics like I usually do. So I’m going to have to beg your forgiveness for a little indulgence here, because in this edition, I’ll be sharing nothing but my own screenshots. Feels like a cheat, because I do that all the time in normal news articles and columns, but why not?
First up is my tribute to the late, great Marvel Heroes. However sad it went out, I had some great times in that MMO and loved the crazy superhero encounters. Such as, in this instance, Captain Marvel giving Carnage a little something to think about before he swings that hand-axe around.
Today is Pokemon Go’s second-year anniversary. Last year’s report card had to grapple with things like the game’s rapid rise and fall as a fad, its severe lack of promised content even with its first major update, crimes associated with the game, and being somewhat anti-social – and that was before the disaster known as Pokemon Go fest 2017. It was probably the worst way to start off a new year for your game, and it’s probably no surprise that our coverage of the game waned after the fallout.
But something happened. Whether it was because series Director/Producer Junichi Masuda was there to witness the horror or because some internal change in Niantic’s process changed, we’ll probably never know. But change came. Generation 3 became Pokemon Go’s One Tamriel. Suggestions I’d made previously happened and are still happening. The numbers are showing that the improvements are paying off, as the game’s playerbase is at the highest it’s been since its 2016 peak, after having gone through a brutal 80% dropoff. I thought I was being overly optimistic with my 2018 predictions for the game, but so far, so very good!
Here’s the weird part about this week’s column: I’m going to tell you, in short, that Final Fantasy XI is still a good game once you get past the initial hurdles involved. I am also going to tell you that it is a game which has not aged well, in part because of those facts. Which no doubt is going to sound kind of weird, but that’s the situation we find ourselves in.
There are really two things you have to look at with this particular game. The first is whether or not the game is approachable by someone who hasn’t played the game in years or ever, whether or not you can make reasonable progress when you start playing. The other is whether or not the game gives you slightest idea about how to do so, or indeed about how to do anything in the game. Because all of the systems in the world don’t help if you don’t know what they are.
Can’t wait until August 14th to get your hands on World of Warcraft’s upcoming Battle for Azeroth expansion? Then you might be in luck: Today, July 6th, from 1 p.m. to 12 a.m. EDT, Blizzard is holding the Battle for Beta giveaway contest. To enter, all you have to do is take to Twitter between the designated times and post an in-game screenshot of a slain enemy or NPC of the enemy faction with the hashtag #BattleForBeta. The lucky winners will be chosen randomly and contacted by Blizzard within a week of the giveaway.
And if you’re not much for tweeting, Blizzard wants to remind you that there are still ways to get your hands on a Battle for Azeroth beta key. Chief among them is Wowhead’s beta key giveaway, where players can enter for a chance to win a key by completing in-game achievements. For all the contest rules and details, you can check out the full post on WoW’s official site.
GIbiz put out an interesting piece this week looking 10 years into the past to see where the buzz was in the game industry back in 2008. It’s worth a read overall (that was the year some rando company called “Riot Games” snagged $7M in funding for something called “League of Legends” – pff, that’ll never go anywhere, amirite), but the segment I want to highlight this morning is the one about the industry hype cycle.
The long-ago author wonders just when the hype cycle for video games should begin, at least in terms of maximizing profits (and presumably not annoying consumers). He compares the Assassin’s Creed franchise to Prince of Persia, noting that the former’s hype cycle was twice as long as the latter’s – and performed significantly better. After all, we’re still talking about AC here in 2018!
It seems a fair topic for MMORPGs as well; for example, World of Warcraft expansion announcements and hype lulls, the difference in buzz lead-up between Guild Wars 2’s Heart of Thorns and Path of Fire, and the seemingly interminable Kickstarter MMO dev/hype/funding cycles are perennial subjects here.
How early should an MMORPG’s hype cycle begin? How long before the planned launch of a game or an expansion – or even a Kickstarter – do you actually want to hear about it?
Quick question: What is the Group Finder in World of Warcraft intended for? If you answered that it’s for finding groups, possibly with an incredulous expression that anyone would ask such an obvious question, congratulations! You are following along here. If, on the other hand, you answered “for advertising runs through content being sold for in-game gold,” then you are not following along, you have an odd definition of the words “group” and “finder,” and you are not going to be allowed to use the tool much longer because, as mentioned, that’s not what it’s for.
This doesn’t mean that people cannot offer to sell runs through content, of course; it just means that you will need to advertise it throug means other than the in-game group finder. Trade chat and such is still permitted. It just clogs up the group finder interface and is generally undesirable, so Blizzard is cracking down on the practice. Bad news for the people who sell though the interface, but good news for everyone who just wants to find a group.
We’ve got some MMO industry topics you shouldn’t miss, so welcome back to our MMO business roundup!
• Last week, Pokemon Go company Niantic previewed what it’s calling the Niantic Real World Platform, a huge step forward for augmented reality games and tools.
“The Niantic Real World Platform advances the way computers see the world, moving from a model centered around roads and cars to a world centered around people. Modeling this people-focused world of parks, trails, sidewalks, and other publicly accessible spaces requires significant computation. The technology must be able to resolve minute details, to specifically digitize these places, and to model them in an interactive 3D space that a computer can quickly and easily read. We are also tackling the challenge of bringing this kind of sophisticated technology to power-limited mobile devices. The highest quality gameplay requires a very accurate ‘live’ model that adapts to the dynamics of the world. It needs to accomplish the difficult task of adjusting the model as the environment around the user changes, or as people move themselves–or their phones.”
Temtem has just fully funded on Kickstarter to the tune of just about $573,919, with 11,715 backers (the counts will keep fluctuating for a few minutes here). It basically crushed its original $70,000 goal. Stretch goals racked up along the way include the Nuzlocke game mode, the Arcade Bar minigames, a Mythical Temtem, mounts, Nintendo switch support, the replay system, guilds, and in-game tournaments. In fact, backers blazed through the game’s entire plan of stretch goals.
As we’ve previously covered, the game is “not hiding the fact that [it’s] heavily inspired by [Pokemon]” but aims to change some bits that are “maybe too close to Pokemon.” The game is very much billed as an MMO – specifically, as a “massively multiplayer creature-collection adventure.”
It seems only fair that World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth will give players a bit more reason to go to war. So it seems like the right time to roll out the newly robust war mode, which is all about turning on a PvP experience at all times. You place yourself in more danger, but you also have PvP talents available at all times, and you get new gameplay options like chests and bounties to contend with.
If you’ve been gone from the game for a bit, though, you might be more interested in a video going through the history of every single WoW expansion up to the present in a short span of time. Dedicated fans and players will probably find all of this information to be old hat, but anyone who took a break will probably benefit from the walk through time. (Not Timewalking, that’s different.) You can view it just past the break. Read more
The recent announcement of WoW Classic’s starting point — Patch 1.12 — started to make the prospect of this legacy server a lot more real to players, including many MMORPG bloggers.
“Fans of Captain Placeholder are no doubt disappointed, but it seems like a reasonable place to call Vanilla to me,” said The Ancient Gaming Noob.
“I do wonder whether Blizzard will ever take this idea to the logical next step, as other studios have already (both EverQuests and now RIFT), and make it into a progression server so that players can relive the highs of each new content release, patches, and expansions in turn,” mused GamingSF.
Inventory Full concurs: “A server that simply locks at a specific snapshot of the game risks stagnation. There is a market for an unchanging experience as can be seen by the number of ‘maintenance mode’ MMOs that still hold some kind of population but it’s easy to see why a company as large and successful as Blizzard might not consider that audience sufficiently large or profitable to encourage.”
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.