The Importance of MMO History And Why Developer Hand-Holding Is Killing It (Penny-Arcade.com)

Looking back at the start of my MMO career, Asheron’s Call has game elements I still have yet to see other MMOs implement well – or at all. It was as sandboxy as any game since, yet offered satisfying, intense combat, with rules meant to be bent or even broken.

Fast forward over 15 years later, every new MMO that launches excites me at first. After a month (and in some cases, just a couple weeks), my excitement has drastically diminished. Mostly that’s due to missing a strong, core social stickiness. Of course, having a brand new AAA MMORPG to play every four or six months only exacerbates that. However, I also believe it’s due to the extensive player hand-holding that’s now become an expected staple of a new launch. If every second of your time in game is guided, how can you expect to find any magic?

There’s no real discovery anymore. Everything’s in a wiki or cleanly mapped out in a YouTube video. I’m really not sure the MMOs of the past can really exist inside the society we have today and that’s truly a major loss.


The importance of MMO history, and why developer hand-holding is killing it

Every MMO player has their story. No matter what game they play, every person who has played MMOs for an appreciable amount of time has a tale of emergent gameplay, those moments when the rules of the game broke down and the personality of its players was laid bare.

These moments happen in every MMO, not just EVE Online, but they may be dying out and, ironically, it’s because MMOs are getting too “good.”

For Scott Andrews, writer of the WoW Archivist column at WoWinsider.com which catalogs the history of the game, his story begins at the Crossroads.

Damned Alliance

The Crossroads is a small city on the Horde side of World of Warcraft’s world that is easily accessible to Alliance players, as it shares a border with a neutral territory. In years past, it was a popular target for Alliance players looking for a fight; the NPC guards in the town weren’t nearly strong enough to stop a few level-capped characters.

Andrews told me about the day when, just a month after release, half a dozen max-level characters showed up to shut down the entire zone.

“At the time, this meant that people could no longer level in the Crossroads,” said Andrews. The Crossroads was the main hub of the area where players would get quests, and the Alliance players had killed all the NPCs that gave those out.

“The towns were not defended by NPCs remotely as well as they are now,” he said. “So the Alliance could literally occupy towns for hours at a time. And it was this key leveling area and the Alliance knew they could basically just shut down half of the entire server leveling.”

For a time, these Alliance characters were successful in griefing the Horde, but it wouldn’t last.

“We all banded together. Dozens and dozens of level 20 characters showed up and battled these 6-7 max-level characters and we could barely make a dent in them, but more and more people kept showing up until 50, 60, a hundred people were there all trying to get these Alliance characters out of our town so we can go back to leveling. Eventually there were enough of us that we basically drove them into the sea in this pitched battle at [the city of] Ratchet as they sprinted down the dock to catch the boat as it was pulling away,” said Andrews with a hearty laugh, still cherishing the memory nearly ten years later.

It’s moments like these that made WoW great. It established a hatred between the Alliance and the Horde which still exists today, and built the mythology and culture of the world.

Stories like this are extraordinary, if not uncommon. In the older days of MMOs, player experimentation was high, and there were lots of opportunities for excited players to experiment with the game. The Crossroads, for instance, may never have been intended to be able to be shut down by Alliance players, but the geography of the game world combined with the inevitability of the human desire to screw with each other in such a way that it was inevitable.

These are the moments that truly make the MMO experience exceptional. It’s not about the long level grinds or the weekly raids. The true magic of the MMO is when the rules break down and the players create their own game.

No more explorers

“It’s really hard for those things to happen in the game anymore, people are pretty jaded,” said Andrews. “There isn’t that same excitement about just playing and seeing what happens. The sort of organic nature of players seeing what can happen in the game is just less prevalent. And now the way MMOs are designed is to keep you flowing from one place to the next with no gaps.”

In many ways it’s boredom that coerces people into experimenting. It’s probably no coincidence that the Alliance characters who raided Andrews’ city were level-capped. They were probably bored and looking for someone to screw with to pass the time.

These days, MMOs are designed so that nobody ever gets bored and it may be siphoning the creativity and passion from the player base.

“When WoW was in its infancy, MMOs were brand new to so many people,” said Andrews. “For so many people WoW was their first MMO, and their first experience where there were a lot of people online. Now it takes something special to get people excited again.”

In a weird quirk, it may be the sloppiness and poor design of earlier MMOs like WoW which helped band people together. There are no shortage of in-jokes and great stories in WoW which extend from terrible voice acting or bugs.

The famous Blood Plague Incident, for instance all stemmed from a silly coding bug. It was one of the most famous and fondly remembered events in WoW’s history and it wouldn’t have been possible if the game was better made. Instead, it became an event which tied the community together and gave the WoW culture yet another common thread to hold together the community quilt.

“A lot of these games have a tendancy to hold your hand too much, and they lose that sense of adventure and exploration and cooperating with other people because you’re in a dangerous environment,” Andrews said. “A lot of the early MMOs had that and I’d like to see that come back.”

History in the making

The neverending attempts by developers to streamline their MMOs, to keep players on a steady progression track, may actually be killing the common bond that the community has by removing opportunities for history to be made.

“If nothing ever happens that’s remarkable then has history actually happened,” asked Andrews. “Or is it just a bunch of people going about routine things? When you look at human history, the moments that stick out in your mind are remarkable events, whether good or bad. You can always study what the average person lived like in the year 1000, but it’s not history unless something remarkable happens. And these MMO memes always spring up around something remarkable. The subculture depends very much on these individual incidents.”

MMOs are still the most fascinating genre in video gaming. They represent the first time in human history where we started living portions of our lives, forming social bonds, in virtual spaces. But without the ability to make history they’re not living spaces, just theme parks. Which has dire consequences for both the health of the genre, its communities, and the beauty of online worlds.

In 100 years, nobody will care about the games we played in these theme park worlds, but they will care about the moments when humanity expressed itself in online worlds for the first time.

The chance to play in a theme park is boring. The chance to make history, on the other hand, is exciting.

The Seven Biggest Upcoming Console MMOs (IGN.com)

I get that MMOs want to extend their reach to add console gamers. For real MMOs (especially MMORPGs), that market segment is virtually untapped. However, I don’t see consoles replacing my mouse+keyboard experience. FFXIV:ARR is a good example of that, especially when looking at tanks. Almost all of the tanks that struggle with positioning that I’ve run with have been console gamers (or just new to the dungeon).

For MMOs like Defiance and those that offer first person views, the overall game would probably be similar between consoles and PCs, but communication will always be substantially behind on consoles and only a small percentage of gamers are using Ventrilo, RaidCall, or other VoIP software.
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As long as video game consoles have had internet connections, enterprising studios have been creating massively multiplayer games for them. Early notable efforts include Sega’s Phantasy Star Online in 2001 and Everquest Online Adventures in 2003.

Still, despite these groundbreaking games, there’s no denying that for most MMO experiences, PC gaming has always been where it’s at. Until now, at least.

Sony’s Playstation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One are more PC-like than ever, and now talented AAA console development teams are finally wrapping their heads around how to create persistent online worlds and long-term character growth. As a result, next-gen might be the era that console MMOs finally come into their own. Below are the hottest console MMOs, both launched and upcoming, that you should be sure to keep on your radar.

Note: It’s still up in the air whether some of these titles will truly feel like traditional MMO experiences when they launch. The lines are blurring. Massive battles with hundreds of concurrent players might not constitute an MMO if the world isn’t persistent. A persistent world might not be an MMO if you can only explore it with small, controlled groups. However you define an MMO, these games are all, at the least, MMO-like experiences worth your hype and attention.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

PC, PS3, PS4
After a notoriously poor launch, Square-Enix doubled down on FF XIV, relaunching the game a full three years later, to critical and commercial success. It’s arguably one of the biggest turnaround stories in video game history.

Somewhat lost in all the headlines was the “small” detail that the relaunched game released not just for Windows, but on Playstation 3 as well, with a Playstion 4 version coming in 2014. The console version is fully playable with just a controller thanks to a completely revamped UI, or players can just plug a keyboard and mouse. FF XIV is the highest-profile MMORPG currently available on consoles and is an easy recommendation for console gamers.

DC Universe Online

PC, PS3, PS4
DCUO launched on PC and PS3 in 2011 to so-so reviews and managed to amass only a modest player base. But Sony Online Entertainment stuck it out, continuing to gradually improve and expand on the superhero MMO. The game gained notable momentum after switching to a freemium business model 10 months after launch.

The game makes excellent use of the DC universe via top-notch voice acting, an active, ever-expanding story, and hundreds of famous and not-so-famous characters and locations from the DC Universe. DCUO is tuned to get players to the level cap and into endgame content as fast as possible, making it a great MMO for superhero nerds to download and try out.

Planetside 2

PC, PS4
Sony Online Entertainment’s massive PC FPS hit Planetside 2 is due out on the PS4 later this year. Many were skeptical about Planetside 2’s massive scale and free-to-play model, but after trying it out for themselves, most came away believers. The payment model never gets in the way, and vehicular and on-foot warfare is always raging, with thousands of players all vying for territory control at once. Thanks to a solid class system and a steady stream of unlockables, Planetside 2 should have something for everyone when it hits PS4.

Destiny

PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
For how much we know about Halo developer Bungie’s ridiculously ambitious “persistent world shooter” Destiny, there’s an awful lot we still don’t know. Bungie itself has refrained from actually calling the game an MMO, for starters. Instead, the game provides players with a feeling of constant connection via seamless matchmaking that all happens in the background, with other players entering and exiting your game world on-the-fly.

Destiny’s emphasis on dynamic world events and “loot drops” also contributes to its MMO feel. Players will be able to socket and customize their weapons with powerful items dropped from foes. Dynamic events will help keep the world of Destiny fresh and keep players on their toes. We’ll have to wait until 2014 to find out just how MMO-likeDestiny truly ends up feeling.

The Division

PS4, Xbox One, PC
When a man-made pandemic collapses civilization, ruthless gangs vie for power in the ruins of New York. Sounds like a good setting for an MMORPG to us! Like Destiny, at this point we still aren’t sure how genuinely MMO-like Ubisoft’s dystopian FPS/RPG hybrid The Division truly is. But what has been revealed looks extremely promising.

Players are plunked into The Division’s unforgiving game world with three days’ worth of food and supplies. From there it’s up for you to explore and scavenge what you need, leveling up your character RPG-style along the way. Although solo play is an option, The Division includes extensive options for player-run clans and groups as well as drop-in/drop-out multiplayer, encouraging and rewarding players who team up and work together to tame its persistent, dynamic online world.

The Crew

PC, PS4, Xbox One
Like Destiny and The Division, just how MMO-like Ubisoft’s persistent world racing gameThe Crew truly is still isn’t known. But what we’ve seen so far is extremely promising. The arcade-style racing action takes place across the entire United States. A condensed version of it, sure… but still. Racing from Seattle to Miami in a seamless online/offline game world filled with hundreds of racing challenges? Yes, please!

The game will seamlessly and constantly fill your game world with hundreds of other real world players, giving the game its “MMO” label. You can party up to compete in races or cooperative events like taking down a single superpowered opponent. Yes, almost like a raid.

Elder Scrolls Online

PC, Mac, PS4, Xbox One
Elder Scrolls Online, in development for six years, is finally nearing its 2014 release window. Set 1000 years before the events of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the game’s major claim to fame is that it takes place across the entire continent of Tamriel. Not just a single country or region like all the other modern single player Elder Scrolls games.

Early impressions were mixed, wih many describing the game as a World of Warcraft clone set in the Elder Scrolls universe. While that’s still a plenty exciting concept on its own, many gamers wanted more. Thankfully, Zenimax Online listened. The game now has a first-person mode, a new Skyrim-like UI, further refined storytelling and plenty more tweaks that truly allow the game to feel like Skyrim with (thousands) of friends.

Plenty more!

The seven games above aren’t the only ones to keep in mind, but they’re probably the highest profile console MMOs in the works. Other upcoming console MMOs include:

War Thunder: A freemium flight sim MMO that’s been making waves on Steam. Due out for PS3 and PS4 in November. Watch the gameplay.

Warhammer 40K: Eternal Crusade: Not due out until 2015, this MMO based on the classic sci-fi license is slated for release on PC and both Xbox One and PS4. Read the news.

World of Tanks: Wargaming.net’s notorious PVP-heavy tank combat game has been available on Xbox 360 since this summer. Read the news.

Phantasy Star Online 2: Sega’s PSO sequel is out now on PC and Vita… in Japan. A US release date hasn’t yet been announced. US Release News?

Dragon Quest X: Like PSO 2, Square Enix’s Dragon Quest MMO hit Wii and Wii U in Japan last year to critical acclaim. But a US release is still up in the air. Watch the epic trailer.

Defiance: Most Wanted Winner Announced

It’s great to see the conclusion of the first “Most Wanted” winner being announced. Unfortunately, it’s marred by many allegations of hacking/exploits. It seems highly unusual that the winner pulled in 273% more ark salvage per hour than anyone else in the entire game. Feels exploity to me.

Also, I  hope the “likeness” they put into the show is really worth all the effort the community put into that contest. From early announcements, the Defiance group made it seem like winners of contests would win cameo appearances on the TV show, not just have a wanted poster with their character’s name on it appear for a second.

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Just over a month ago we kicked off the first ever in-game crossover competition to get your likeness within Defiance. Fans of the show and community members from the game set out to take on the challenge and today we would like to announce the winner.

Congratulations to winner Zachary P. for raking in an incredible 173,383 ark salvage/hr – that’s 109,969/hr over the average Ark Hunter haul! You’ll be seeing Zachary’s likeness in an upcoming episode of Defiance so keep your eyes peeled.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Most Wanted contest.

Original Article

Warhammer 40k: Eternal Crusade – Exclusive Interview (TenTonHammer.com)

Wow! What a score for TenTonHammer! Warhammer 40k has been a long-awaited MMO and this exclusive interview gives us the inside scoop on how long conflicts can last (weeks to months!), that it’s being developed more as a sandbox MMO, and that Warhammer 40k will be FREE TO PLAY. Oh, by the way, you can combine your ships with others forming one massive ship (e.g. guild halls). Uh, hell yeah!

Head below the asterisks to read the original article.

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In a week full of surprise announcements, few have had MMO gamers more excited than the unexpected rebirth of the Warhammer 40k MMO. While the game wasn’t officially being shown at E3, Miguel Caron, Head of the Online Studio at Behaviour Interactive was awesome enough to sit down with Ten Ton Hammer to discuss the design concepts behind the game, expected to launch sometime in 2015.

Our discussion touched on a typical day in the life of a 40k player, the player run chain of command, playable races, and plenty of other interesting tidbits. As I listened to Miguel’s impassioned descriptions of the game, it became readily apparent that he’s just as excited about making the game as fans of the 40k universe are to play it.

WH4K Battle

Space Marines like to come in large numbers.

From a stormbird’s eye view, Warhammer 40k will be somewhat of a sandbox game along the lines of EVE Online, only given a bit more structure in terms of how large-scale conflicts play out. The scale of these conflicts is said to be absolutely massive, or about double that of any other multiplayer game currently on the market.

As Miguel explained, “In terms of technology, we’re currently aiming to double the amount of players on the same battlefield over the biggest game right now. I want to give the visceral feeling of what it is to be part of the war. And it’s not an easy war, but a very dirty war.”

Another thing Miguel was quick to point out is that gamers do tend to like having some form of win condition involved, no matter the type of game they happen to be playing. As such, conflicts in the Warhammer 40k MMO will last anywhere from two weeks up to a few months in duration.

“One of the things I hate in massive warfare games is that there is no winner; they never finish. So what we’re aiming for is campaigns that run from two weeks to three months. The reason why I’m saying from two weeks to three months is because I don’t know who’s going to win, and how fast they’re going to win.

There are four different races that you’ll be able to play. The first will be the Dark Angels from the Space Marines, the Iron Warriors for Chaos, and then the Eldar and the Orks. Then I control the Tyranid – they can’t really be controlled by players because it’s a hive mind.

For example, if I see a huge population of Space Marines playing in the US for a new campaign and they outnumber everyone else to the point they’re about to wipe out the entire planet within days, suddenly the Tyranid would be a lot more interested in them. We’re not going to try and counter that kind of imbalance too much, but enough to help campaigns last for those two weeks.”

A Day in the Life

A typical day in the life of your character might play out something like this. You log on and create your character. From there you load into the game, and will spawn on your ship, which serves both as a form of player housing and flying trophy case all in one. If you decide to permanently join a squad with other players, the group of you will even be able to combine your ships into one massive vessel. If that happens, you’ll each retain your own individual compartments, but will effectively have a guild hall for your squad, making it easier to connect and dive into the action together.

In the GRIM DARKNESS of the future, there is additional grim darkness.

With that squad, you might get voted by your friends to become squad leader. As such, you’ll have the ability to issue objectives for the rest of your squad, in effect creating content for them.

In terms of the overarching chain of command and how it fits into the game, Miguel explained, “When you start the game, the objectives that you have are not given by us, they’re given by other players. We have three ranks of hierarchy: squad leaders, chapter leaders, and then the war council for the whole race. There will be requirements you’ll need to meet to become a squad leader and above, but the players will vote for you to become one of them.

We have a whole system where players can nominate their friends as their squad leader. And then all the squad leaders will nominate someone to be chapter leader. Finally, all the chapter leaders will nominate and vote on who they want to be part of the war council for the whole race.

So when you start as a new player, the objectives that you’ll have will be coming from that war council, chapter leaders, and squad. If you decide to follow these objectives, you’ll gain an XP bonus. So you don’t have to do those objectives, only if you want to get the bonus XP. But the purpose of the game is to make sure your race wins; you’re there playing to win the war. But what this system does is it allows players to invent gameplay for their race.”

Welcome to the Machine

The game will be free-to-play, but if there were any two things that Miguel stressed above all others, it would be his insistence that the 40k MMO be the most immersive game it possibly can be, and that he does not want the game to have any pay to win elements.

An example of items players might be able to purchase that would help fulfill both of those needs would be additional, unique executions for each faction. When you fall on the battlefield, your squad or other members of your faction have the opportunity to revive you rather than immediately forcing you to respawn at another location. However, an enemy still has the opportunity to ‘execute’ you, Think of this almost like finishing downed players in Guild Wars 2 PvP.

Tyranid vs. Eldar

Eldar vs. Tyranids will be happening. The above screen is from Dawn of War II.

In the Warhammer 40k MMO, you’ll be able to do some standard executions, or there could be more interesting or elaborate executions you can purchase. These will be faction-specific, so imagine seeing an Ork Boy run up to a defeated Space Marine and dancing around a bit before sitting down on and squashing his head.

In terms of server structure, the game is going to be one massive game world. Different instances of specific areas might spawn, but Miguel is conscious of the need to keep players connected with this type of setup. The idea here is that you should be able to click on your friend or squad member’s name and it will instantly summon them to the same version of the world that you’re in.

Before we wrap things up (don’t worry, we have loads more info on the 40k MMO to follow soon!), another of the comments made by Miguel about what sets this game apart from other MMOs out there certainly struck a chord with me.

“The game has very simple gameplay, yet is also very, very deep. The premise is that there is only war; it’s total warfare. Now, there’s a lot of depth to it, but I’m not going to hold your hand and tell you a story. I’m not going to have you playing a Space Marine mining ore or things like that, because they don’t do that. You’re not going to care about delivering some package to Ms. Smith. This is a game about total warfare. It’s impossible to please everybody, but I can guarantee I will please the core fans amassed around the 40k universe.”

From what we’ve heard about the game so far, it’s definitely piqued our interest to say the least. Stay tuned for more details and info on the Warhammer 40k MMO from our discussions with Miguel Caron. In the meantime, be sure to let us know your thoughts about the announcement and info revealed about the game so far!

Original TenTonHammer.com Article

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