Making a list of the “biggest” MMOs currently running is always an exercise in frustration. It’s easy to put a few things on the list – no one’s going to argue with placing World of Warcraft on such a list, for example – but then everything else always gets mired in opinions and controversy, and endless cycles of “why isn’t this game I love on there while another game I don’t like is there?!” I speak from experience.
Still, on our list of the healthiest MMOs at the moment, we’ve got only three licensed games: Neverwinter, Star Trek Online, and Star Wars: The Old Republic. Those are by no means the only entries on the licensed game list, of course, but there does seem to be something of a dearth of those. And perhaps that’s more understandable than it seems. For all that we talk about how one setting or another would be perfect for an MMO, there are some unique troubles you inevitably run into when you get into the licensed MMO shuffle.
Tabletop games and MMORPGs seem like they would go well together, but remarkably they often don’t. That’s true for several reasons, but one of the main reasons is that we have a lot more games adapting different source material separately. You can certainly run a Star Wars: The Old Republic-themed game with a Star Wars tabletop system, but neither one is based on the other. (Technically there was a supplement published for it, but that was covering the first two single-player games, which themselves were based on that tabletop system.)
But there have still been incursions from MMOs into the tabletop space, and MMOs which pluck that fertile ground for the seeds of inspiration. So let’s spend today looking at these games, when you can log off of your favorite MMO, gather around a table with your friends, and keep playing your favorite MMO. More or less.
Wizards of the Coast’s most famous card game continues to prepare its newest multiplayer version for public consumption. This Thursday, Magic: The Gathering Arena will update its closed beta to be more public and full-featured.
Thursday’s update will mark the end of the NDA and allow testers to discuss, stream, and share the game with the larger community. Wizards will be sending out 100,000 more players to come try the game out and some of its newer additions, such as preconstructed decks and the recent Amonkhet cards.
Interested participants can sign up to be part of the upcoming stress test over on the Magic: The Gathering Arena site.
“This new phase is an exciting time for us,” Wizards said. “As we’re still in closed beta, we’re still testing many aspects of the game, looking for feedback, and learning a lot along the way. That means there are plenty of areas we want to add more polish and finish to, plus additional functionality and content to be implemented. But we’re very excited to see what discussions and feedback arise out of this new testing period.”
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 Vendetta Online, Worlds Adrift, Monster Hunter World, Hellion, Rust, Skyforge, Blade and Soul, Portal Knights, Final Fantasy XI, Dreadnought, PUBG, Hyper Universe, Crossout, Black Desert, Dark and Light, H1Z1, Dauntless, Robocraft, Fortnite, War of Rights, Cosmos Invictus, Ultima Online, and Vendetta Online, all waiting for you after the break!
“We want everyone to be able to experience Magic: The Gathering.”
Upon this “simple idea” Wizards of the Coast is building Magic: The Gathering Arena’s business model, which could quickly be summed up as free-to-play that gives players a choice of time or money as a way to progress. By earning gold (in-game currency) or purchasing gems (RMT currency), players can purchase card packs, access events, and open up “The Vault,” a special treasure trove with secret rewards.
Wizards said that it is structuring the game’s economy based on a few principles: “Make our players’ valuable time as fun as possible; players need a variety of cards to have the most fun, so reward them with as many as possible; and make sure players can get the specific cards they want.”
Magic: The Gathering Arena went into beta testing last month with the eventual goal of releasing an online card game that will mirror the physical set releases and be more accessible to the general gaming public.
It’s true that we lost a lot of MMOs in 2016 — bigger and more important ones than in 2014 and 2015. 2017, however, has been a different sort of beast. The list is long, and while it’s painful for those whose games are gone, the genre didn’t lose many major MMOs this past year. And that startles me.
Marvel Heroes was surely the most dramatic of all the sunsets, given that it shut down early without notice. Earlier in the year, we saw Daybreak put an end to Landmark after less than a year of live operation, while Turbine let the Asheron’s Call franchise go, Firefall formally closed, Club Penguin’s sunset broke the internet, and NCsoft called it quits with Master X Master. A number of other MMOs simply halted development – Perpetuum, Sword Coast Legends, and SkySaga being the most prominent of those. And on a more positive note, there were a few sunsetted MMOs that were revivified, including Otherland, Uncharted Waters Online, and RaiderZ.
Farewell, old friends.
Better buy Sword Coast Legends while you still can: It appears that Wizards of the Coast and Digital Extremes will be ending the publishing contract for the Dungeons and Dragons-based co-op game at the end of 2017. The good news that the servers will stay up for those who already own it (or who purchase it before December 31st).
“Purchase Sword Coast Legends now at 67% off and receive the Rage of Demons DLC for free,” the devs posted to the official forums. “Our publishing contracting is ending, but although Sword Coast Legends will no longer be available to purchase after December, its multiplayer servers will remain live indefinitely.” (It looks to be $14.99 on Steam as I type this, so the sale doesn’t appear to be live yet.)
We’ve been following the game since 2015 when we first heard about this odd multiplayer-slash-single-player game, which allowed one player to step into the gamemaster’s shoes to run campaigns for a team. It officially launched in October of that year after an initial delay, then rolled out an expansion in May of 2016, followed by a double console launch in July of 2016, but it’s been relatively quiet since then. In the middle of it all, the original developer, n-Space, was shuttered, leaving further development to Digital Extremes.
Magic: The Gathering Arena’s alpha development is apparently going well, as according to a new dev blog and press release today, Wizards of the Coast is due to begin closed beta on December 4th.
“Starting December 4, we will begin inviting the first wave of Magic players to our Closed Beta, including bringing back everyone who has played so far in the Alpha. Whereas the Alpha was focused on a few weekends, the Closed Beta will be up and running every day (barring maintenance, downtime, or pirates storming our servers—it’s more common than you think), giving you even more opportunities to try it out.”
Everyone in the closed beta will be under NDA, but WOTC stresses that “initial invite waves will start small,” so even if you sign up right now, you may not get in until next year.
Remember a few weeks ago when Wizards of the Coast announced Magic The Gathering Arena, an online card game headed up by former Turbine prez Jeffrey Steefel? We’ve got a little bit more info today, as PCGamesN reports the studio aims to release cards inside the game in sync with their physical release in the real world.
“Our goal is to definitely have card sets released day and date. [… ] So when you see a release in the physical world you should be able to see it in MTG Arena. You’ve seen a little bit of our experimentation with this with Magic Online so far where [card releases] sometimes even earlier than day and date release.”
The plan won’t surprise MMORPG players, as we’ve been watching PWE’s Neverwinter sync up with WOTC’s real-world D&D releases for several years now. In fact, that might just be one of the properties that helped WOTC get over its apparent past fears about leaks, as chronicled by PCGN.
And what about Cryptic’s Magic The Gathering MMO announced back in June? No news yet.
Remember how former Turbine President Jeffrey Steefel was snapped up by Wizards of the Coast this past January to head up a digital games studio for the studio’s IPs? Now we know the big project that his team was making: Magic: The Gathering Arena, a F2P digital card game that’s coming soon.
Made for PC and mobile, Magic: The Gathering Arena is a full-fledged Magic game with “full rules and ongoing content support for new card sets.” It sounds as though Arena might well be a replacement for the creaky and faulty Magic Online, although the studio wasn’t saying if this will be the case.
“We want to create the deepest, richest digital card game on the market, and for it to be as much fun to watch as it is to play,” said Steefel in a press release. Magic: The Gathering Arena is taking beta signups and will begin testing Constructed play from the Ixalan set later this year.
At this point, Cryptic Studios has a stable of games based off of existing IPs, most notably Star Trek Online, Neverwinter, and the upcoming game based on Magic: the Gathering. A new interview on GamesIndustry.biz with CEO Stephen D’Angelo discusses working with the IP and making a successful game out of it, noting that first and foremost it’s a matter of finding the core element of the IP that makes it interesting and designing the game around that.
D’Angelo explains that the studio’s core goal is to expand beyond the existing audience for the IP by exploring new directions, rather than trying to solely cover the same material as the original; he notes that the expansion into Magic: the Gathering made sense due to a strong working relationship with Wizards of the Coast and the desire to not simply make an online version of the same card game. The studio wants to explore the world from another angle, just like Neverwinter doesn’t simply plug the stats of the tabletop game into digital form. If you’re interested in the mechanisms of making an IP-based MMO work, the full interview is worth a read.
One of the largest and longest-running collectible card games is about to become a brand-new role-playing video game, courtesy of Cryptic Studios. Cryptic and Perfect World Entertainment announced today that it is ramping up development on a Magic: The Gathering MMORPG in partnership with Wizards of the Coast.
The untitled game is being made “from the ground up” for both PC and console as a top-tier release and is part of Wizards of the Coast’s Magic Digital Next initiative. According to the press release, the RPG will allow players to “fully immerse themselves in the Multiverse.”
“Everything from the graphics to the gameplay is being targeted for a truly unique AAA game,” said Cryptic CEO Stephen D’Angelo. “We’re thrilled to provide Magic fans with an opportunity to explore the game’s worlds and characters through an entirely new lens. Get ready to embark on a brand new journey.”
What is Wizards of the Coast’s loss is ArenaNet’s gain.
Michael Yichao announced on Twitter yesterday that he was leaving the Dungeons & Dragons company to take up a position as narrative designer for Guild Wars 2 at the end of June. Previously, he worked on lore and stories for Magic: The Gathering.
In addition to being a writer, Yichao’s portfolio includes performing improv comedy, developing plays, and being a teaching artist. You can read some of his short stories that he produced for Magic: The Gathering over on Wizards’ site.
Yesterday we reported that Guild Wars 2’s June feature pack will be centered around the game’s competitive PvP and WvW scene.