MMO News Roundup

I’m trying an experiment here: A list of MMO news that I found noteworthy during the week. I’m trying this slightly retro blogging format because, to be brutally honest, for most MMO topics, I have a lot of trouble summoning up more than a few sentences of commentary, which results in a glut of unfinished blog drafts and a paucity of published posts (ha!). The challenge here will be finding a picture to use.

Not at all related, but something I did this week.

Chronicles of Elyria is dropping SpatialOS. I know almost nothing about this specific game, but you couldn’t throw a rock last year without hearing about how SpatialOS was going to change the world. Now we learn that changing the world is apparently too expensive. In the dev update, Caspian wrote, “In January of 2017 we began the long process of taking what was mostly an offline, single-player game…” Stop right there! Why?? Why ruin it?? Okay, and lastly:

Project Gorgon is coming soon to Steam Early Access. My standard rule for Early Access games is to avoid them unless they are under $10. In this specific case, however, I have played Project Gorgon before, so I know exactly what to expect and I might spend more for it. I don’t want to play it through Steam, though. I hate playing MMORPGs through Steam. I hope there is a non-Steam version.

Life is Feudal is now on Steam Early Access. The real one, that is, not the stripped-down lite version(s). This game is on my radar, but I’m not paying $30 to try it. Also, as previously mentioned, I don’t like playing MMORPGs through Steam.

Final Fantasy XIV 4.2 is almost here. I have almost nothing to say about this except, oh yeah! That new patch is almost here! I didn’t realize this until recently, but Square Enix has a whole page devoted to it. Presumably, they’ve been doing preview pages for every patch and I’ve just never noticed it before. No wonder everyone always knows what’s going to be in the patch before I do! I will need to review my 4.1 post to refresh my memory on where we are in the Main Scenario.

Amazon’s New World disappeared and returned. New World disappearing would have been in last week’s post, if I’d been doing this back then. Now New World is back. The biggest news was really the leaked New World video. I didn’t watch it. Why bother? I’m supposed to start getting excited about a game that isn’t even far enough along yet to announce–let alone release–a buggy, pre-alpha, barely-compilable, full price early access edition with fully-functioning, fully-debugged cash shop? (Don’t judge me, you know every AAA game from now on is going to release like that.)

And now we know why Chronicles of Elyria can’t afford SpatialOS. They can’t attract money because of an antiquated notion of “maintaining creative control” in a world full of cash grabs, loot boxes, and micro transactions. (Personally I think it’s because they used “MEOW” in public.) High marks for integrity, but I hope they (and their employees) are prepared to go to the figurative grave for it. How about sell that single-player offline game?

Raph Koster wrote about game development costs again. No comment except that it all rings very true to me.

Albion Online is fine despite secretly firing half their team before Christmas. Nothing to worry about. Perfectly normal. The game is expanding, even! (It is plausible to reduce a development team size after launch, but seriously, who is buying that Albion Online is going gangbusters? I actually mean that literally. Who is buying Albion Online?)

Rift will be opening a subscription-only progression-ish server in Spring. Didn’t Allods Online do this? I might be tempted to try it, because I think we can all agree that Trion cheapened Rift considerably with the increasingly-aggressive cash shop, but I’m already paying a FFXIV subscription and I don’t need/want another one.

And in the gossip section of this post, I suspect one of the above stories prompted this tweet from MassivelyOP’s Bree Royce:

P. S. I’m aware that all of these links go to MassivelyOP. It’s true I’m somewhat biased in that I like MassivelyOP, but it also happens that I almost always see news there first. I actively looked for interesting stories elsewhere and couldn’t come up with any.

Amazon’s New World, Part Two

From a draft written somewhere around October 2016…

I finally got around to watching Amazon’s teaser video, thinking that it would erase my earlier skepticism and soften my opinion about their upcoming games, and maybe even start to get excited about the possibilities.

Unfortunately it only pushed my skeptical buttons even harder.

“What if a game was built for Twitch,” wonders a voiceover 12 seconds into the video. Instant buzzkill. The video goes on to mention Twitch about five times in the first 60 seconds, before anything about games. If we go with the assumption that what they put into the very beginning of their video is the “hook” and therefore the most important message they want to deliver, we have to assume that Twitch integration is the most important part of their design philosophy for these games. And if Amazon making games to target Twitch viewers is not a corporate-synergy-driven game design, I don’t know what is. It’s as if they accidentally put the video meant for their shareholders out to the public.

The bottom line is that we don’t know anything about New World right now, except that it’s main, repeatedly-stated purpose is to synergize with Twitch. Which, to me, is not a selling point. When I look at the Twitch ecosystem, and indeed the whole streamer sociography, I see something that’s very difficult to comprehend. Lately I’ve been thinking of streamers as the modern-day equivalent of dancing monkeys or traveling freak shows. Probably an unkind comparison, but that’s the kind of content that seems to rise to the top.

I don’t understand why they’d reveal anything at this point and leave so much room for rampant speculation. They’re talking about this game even earlier in the development cycle than when ArtCraft started talking about Crowfall, which was incredibly early, and now seems so long ago that Crowfall feels like it’s come and gone already.

Hopes and Predictions for New World

Based on the video, this poor fellow is apparently the only person working on New World artwork. :)

Since Amazon was kind enough to tell us they were working on an MMORPG without telling us anything about it, I thought it might be fun to throw out a wish list for it, and also try to predict what they’ll actually do.* Check back in two or three or four years to see how well I did! (Actually it probably won’t take that long to find out I’m completely wrong.)

Business Model. First the cynical stuff. I hope it’s a full-blown subscription model like WoW and FFXIV because that will result in the highest level of immersion. But I predict it will be a modestly-priced buy-to-play game with a cash shop. With several expensive pay-to-play early access options. And a soft launch without all of its promised features. Because that’s the law now. Also I predict they will try to monetize Twitch broadcasters in some way (eg. you’ll be able to buy “something” which will make your stream more entertaining for viewers to watch, like a giveaway prize, or unlock of an event, or colorful fireworks and dance parties, or something like that).

Setting. When I first heard “New World” I assumed they meant Jamestown-era (early) 17th century. But then they said (paraphrasing) “all the supernatural stuff is real” in their game, and after re-watching the video, I now think they mean the Salem-era (late) 17th century. Then again, building mechanics would be more in line with a Jamestown-era game, because Salem was already built. Personally I would prefer a Jamestown setting, since Salem is well-trodden story territory.

This still from the video seems to show a 17th century town. To my eye it looks more late 17th century than early 17th century. (Actually it almost looks technologically advanced enough to be the Old West to me.)

Story. I am 95% sure that the game will begin with your character standing on a beach while a clipper ship sails away. If not that, you’ll be washed up on the beach from a shipwreck of said clipper ship. I predict that our character will not be “the chosen one.” We’ll be just another “Adventurer,” as the early settlers were called.

Map. I hope the game uses real-life North American names and places. But I predict they will use a made-up map that won’t match up with historical geography, for ease of development. I predict there will be some “otherworldly” places you can go, like an astral plane zone or a Hell zone.

POV. I obviously hope it’s a third-person view, and not first-person, and I can’t think of any reason why they wouldn’t do this. When dressing your character is a major feature of the game, a first-person view makes no sense.

Combat Style. I predict it’s going to be action combat and not tab-targeting combat, presumably playable with a controller so they can port it to consoles. I imagine the combat will feel quite similar to the other two games, as it would make sense to share that code. I’m fine with that. I suspect there will be a lot of ranged combat because historically, everyone was ditching swords in favor of muskets. Or maybe pikes. Possibly rapiers.

Of the action combat implementations, Dark Souls is obviously my favorite and I hope they copy that. But among MMORPGs, I think Neverwinter has one of the best implementations. ESO and TERA are also very good. Black Desert is a little too button mashy for me–more reminscent of Diablo. I prefer to fight one or two mobs at a time, rather than slash through hordes of them. WildStar is unacceptable because simultaneously having to move and press hot keys to fire off abilities is awkward, and it’s one of the main reasons I can’t get back into that game.

Classes. I hope it’s a skill-based system and not class-based, because they are objectively superior in every way. But since we haven’t seen a mainstream game use a skill system since the 1990s I doubt Amazon will be that brave. Rift has the best class system so I hope they copy that one. But I predict we’ll see a traditional trinity-based, limited-function class system more in line with WoW, where each class is very distinct and there is no possibility for overlapping roles. I predict there will only be about five or six different classes at the start. There will be a Conquistador kind of class (it’s right there in the video), which I bet will be a tank. There will be a Witch class. There will be an Explorer/Scout type of class who runs around in furs and a Davy Crockett hat. I predict it will be one class per character (as opposed to being able to change classes like FFXIV or Skyforge). I predict each class will have their own unique type of weapon (as opposed to any class being able to pick up any kind of weapon and use it).

Whoever is dressed in that steel armor in the upper right corner is probably going to be the tank.

Races. Humans, obviously. Not sure what else would make sense in a 17th century setting. Even the Salem witches were humans. :) I suppose they could divide that into Europeans and different Native American tribes but I think that would just be inviting racism controversy. Sticking with humans is fine with me. I definitely don’t want to see any elves or dwarves in there.

Genders. Just guessing here, but … male and female? I only put this category here because I hope they won’t gender-lock anything. I predict they won’t. (It’ll be interesting to see how they sexy-up the traditional Puritan garb.)

Factions. European, Native American, and Supernatural would be the three obvious choices, but again, I agree with @Sypster that they’ll have to be careful there. Maybe they’ll just go with English, Spanish, and Portuguese. I have no particular wishes or predictions here, except that I hope they don’t prevent people in different factions from grouping together. (Though I will throw out an incredibly safe prediction that there will be Indians–it’s right there in the video.)

Leveling. I predict traditional leveling, with an optional questing path. (By which I mean quests will be available if one wants to follow them. And by “traditional leveling” I mean it won’t be a level-less system.) I hope we’ll see some form of dynamic events as the main form of leveling. Maybe we’ll see a way for Twitch broadcasters to create their own events.

Progression. I predict it will be more of a horizontal progression style than vertical, like GW2. Character progression will just involve unlocking abilities (sort of like GW2). (I hope I’m wrong because I don’t like horizontal progression.)

Dungeons. Sandboxes (the way I think of them) typically don’t have dungeons, so I wouldn’t expect to see any.

Endgame. A lot of times, my “endgame” for an MMORPG is leveling a different character, so I’m clearly not qualified to predict what we might see in an endgame. It will probably be a traditional sandbox endgame, by which I mean the focus will be on making gold, getting achievements, hoarding junk you’ll never use, building things (aka. housing), and PvP. There might be some form of raiding, but given their Twitch-heavy plans I wouldn’t be surprised to see their “raids” come in the form of sponsored tournaments (like GW2 and WoW PvP tournaments).

Crafting. My only wish for the crafting system is that it be useful to craft gear while leveling. ESO is the only recent MMORPG I can remember where it made sense to craft gear for myself as I was leveling. In every other game, you out-level your crafting ability way too fast, and/or you get better drops from mobs than what you can craft. I predict crafting will be a simplistic system like WoW or GW2, and not a more complex system like Vanguard or FFXIV. I also predict crafting won’t be a high priority for them because it won’t help their Twitch integration.

Careful squinting at this still from the video shows a brush texture called *_struc_crafting_alchemy_* so I predict there will be an Alchemy profession, and this is the place you’ll do it. :)

Gathering. Gathering is an essential part of an MMORPG experience for me. If I can’t run around finding glowing nodes to click on while I’m exploring, the world feels incomplete. I can’t imagine they would leave this out, but I predict it will be a simplistic gathering system (by which I mean, not like FFXIV where there are gathering abilities and such). I hope they use shareable nodes like GW2, but if they don’t, it might provide an automatic form of competition between players which would make for some dramatic Twitch broadcasts. (“Today we’re going to take over the gold-ore farming spot!”)

Servers. This is a key question, and I just don’t know what they’re going to do. Will there be a list of servers or one big mega-server like ESO? I hope the latter. I hate picking servers. But I predict they will separate NA and EU, because they always do.

Guilds. I predict guilds will be a major feature of the game, to promote the “us” versus “them” mentality that is great for Twitch streaming. I predict it will be the same old guild feature set that every other game has, with nothing innovative.

LFG. I predict there will not be an LFG tool when the game launches. (If there are no dungeons or raids it won’t be needed.)

PvP. I predict the PvP system will be similar to ArcheAge: Open world PvP with safe zones, enforced by NPC guards. I am fine with that. It will not be full loot, instead the death penalty will be negligible. I don’t think they will do siege combat like GW2 or ESO, because I don’t think that makes good viewing. I predict there will be nothing innovative about the PvP to make PvE players change their minds about playing.

Housing. I’m not sure about this one. They’ve talked about being able to build, but I can’t imagine they would allow open-world building like we see in ARK or ArcheAge (resulting in land grabs). I imagine that’s very difficult to develop. Personal and guild housing simply has to be instanced if they want anyone from the traditional MMORPG world to play this game. I imagine this will be a low priority for them because nobody is going to tune into Twitch to see somebody’s house.

Art Style. At first I thought they would use a similar visual style in all three games, which looks to be slightly stylized, somewhat like Crowfall. But upon reviewing the video I predict that New World will be the most realistic-looking of the three, which I approve.

* By the way, I have exactly zero information on which to base any of these predictions. But I’m making these assumptions:

  • All three games will share code and assets
  • Amazon’s business interests are more important than gamers’ interests (this is the downside of all AAA game development)
  • Twitch synergy will be an important corporate goal
  • New World will probably get less resources than the other two, more marketable games
  • Rapid and easy development will be in their best interest
  • Amazon’s teaser video accurately reflects the direction they are heading

Amazon’s New World Reveal

The following is a very cycnical screed about Amazon’s New World, fueled mostly by yet another rainy day and the constant barrage of Internet commenters acting shallow and uneducated about the election. And I have a headache. Please look away if you’re excited about this game.

I am reacting only to the one paragraph of information shown in MOP’s reveal article, which is the same information shown on the Amazon page.

“Carve your own destiny in New World, a massively multiplayer, open-ended sandbox game set in a living, cursed land.”

Says nothing.

“Choose how you play, what you do, and whom you work with or against in an evolving world that transforms with the seasons, weather, and time of day.”

Says nothing, except that there will be times when you log in and can’t complete whatever objective you wanted to do because it’s night time, or it’s snowing, or whatever.

“Band together to reclaim monster-haunted wilds and build thriving civilizations, or strike out on your own, surviving in the face of supernatural terrors and murderous player bandits.”

“Band together”, “build thriving civilizations” = Zergy, guild-focused, team-focused. Possibly this means player-built structures (“civilizations”), a la ARK. If so, that means you’ll have to band together, else other groups will keep breaking down your structures faster than one person can rebuild them.

“Murderous player bandits” = it’ll be an open world PvP gankbox if you decide to “strike out on your own.”

“Focused on emergent gameplay and rich social features–including deep Twitch integration with broadcaster-led events, achievements, and rewards–your only limit in the New World is your ambition.”

“Emergent gameplay” = We devs won’t have to worry about making content, you players can do that for free. A win for the shareholders! Or: Bugs aren’t bugs, they’re “emergent gameplay!”

“Broadcaster-led events” = A whole game made to bolster the viewership of their Twitch platform? The way this is featured so prominently is very troubling. It makes it sound like we players of the game are only valuable as background actors in somebody’s Twitch stream.

“Only limit is your ambition” = Ambition, not imagination. The game will focus on competition, which makes sense because that’s better for broadcasting.

This game sounds like it’s being built from the ground up by a big corporation board room who decided that they needed a way to increase the amount of original content on their streaming platform. I’m guessing there won’t be any deep integration with, say, YouTube.

No, I didn’t click on the button to get more information, because I’m not going to become a pawn in this obvious corporate scheme to use consumers as currency.

I said I was feeling cynical today.

P.S. I reserve the right to change my mind and jump on the hype train at any time, but it’s way too early right now.

P.P.S. I couldn’t care less about the other two titles.