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Braben on Elite's GTA successors and friendly competition with Star Citizen

Sci-Fi, Game Mechanics, Interviews, MMO Industry, New Titles, News Items, Sandbox, Crowdfunding, Star Citizen, Elite: Dangerous, Buy-to-Play

Elite: Dangerous alpha
Space sims are in vogue again, thanks in large part to crowdfunded darlings like Elite: Dangerous and Star Citizen. Prior to the past couple of years, though, the genre was basically dead in the water aside from occasional indie gems. Elite mastermind David Braben says the lull happened because game devs and publishers lost sight of the freedom that defines space sims.

"The true successors to Elite and Frontier were the Grand Theft Auto games. For me, the setting is secondary to the feeling of freedom," Braben recently told Tech Radar. "The success of the Elite series has always been based on the freedom that players are given. It's all about individual choice in an open world -- you don't select 'pirate' or 'bounty hunter' or 'trader' from a list, you simply do what you want and events will unfold accordingly."

Braben also addresses the "friendly competition" between Elite and Star Citizen, saying that he and Chris Roberts are "both alpha backers of each other's games and both want the other to succeed."

WildStar unveils the details of raids

Sci-Fi, Trailers, Video, Interviews, Endgame, News Items, WildStar, Subscription, Buy-to-Play

Gather 39 of your closest friends, and... wait, do you seriously have 39 close friends?  I don't even understand how that's possible.
WildStar wants to have its raids be big. Big in size. Big in rewards. Big in engagement. Big in lots of ways, in short. The team has talked about them in passing elsewhere, most notably at PAX East 2014, but there still hasn't been a nice big info drop about raids that potential players could really sink their teeth into. Like the sort of reveal that accompanies a new DevSpeak video.

So guess what's past the cut? Go ahead, guess.

Very good, it's the raiding video (something you could have concluded from the headline, yes), but there's more besides. We had a chance to sit down and talk with Brett Scheinert, the dungeon & raid lead developer, regarding these high-end encounters and what will set WildStar apart from other titles offering a raiding endgame. And despite what those opening lines might have made you think, it's not just about size. (It's also Spinal Tap references. You can guess which ones.)

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Yes, people still play Meridian 59

Fantasy, Meridian 59, Interviews

Meridian 59
Meridian 59 may not enjoy the population numbers it did almost 20 years ago, but there are still a handful of dedicated players playing every day.

A recent article at The New Yorker takes a more personal look at a few of these remaining players. "I've tried to leave the game many times over the years," admits Tim Trude, a 33-year-old player from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Tim first started playing the MMO at the age of 15. "But I always return. Some of these people I've grown up with. We have been enemies or friends forever."

The article goes on to quote other players and document a brief history of the game's development, including the source code release in 2012. Meridian 59 is looking to launch on Steam sometime this year, and its current code-maintainer is looking forward to the possibility of bringing in new players once again.

WAR40K's Miguel Caron on lore, immersion, and cloud computing

Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Interviews, MMO Industry, Free-to-Play, Warhammer 40k, Buy-to-Play

War 40k
Miguel Caron is a passionate man. The former Funcom Canada CEO has moved on from The Secret World to lead the team developing Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade, and he's not shy about showing the world what's happening behind the scenes. In fact, he recently showed off an impromptu video of a fan playing the pre-alpha build at Chicago's Comic & Entertainment Expo.

Total transparency was the theme of our two-hour-long Skype chat this week as the Behavior Interactive studio head talked to me about everything from pleasing 40K lore fanatics to avoiding the "public quest curse" that plagued the original Warhammer Online MMO.

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Elder Scrolls Online's Craglorn zone 'harkens back to old school games'

Fantasy, Interviews, Lore, The Elder Scrolls Online, Subscription

The folks over at ZeniMax have started a new series on the official Elder Scrolls Online website called the Loremaster's Archive, with the very first issue dedicated to the not-smelly-at-all-why-do-you-ask topic of the undead. The post differentiates between the four varieties of undead -- Reanimated, Returned, Accursed, and Abominable Miscegenations -- and provides a some backstory as to why people would pursue necromancy as a hobby.

Meanwhile, on the fansite Tamriel Foundry, there's an interview with Lead Content Designer Rich Lambert about the development of the upcoming Craglorn zone. Citing his history of extensive raiding in MMOs, Lambert said that he was excited about developing this high-level group PvE area: "It harkens back to some of the old school games, (ugh I said 'old school') where grouping was really important for survival and stuff was hard."

Lambert goes on to explain the various mechanics and specifics of how group adventures will proceed in the area, so check it out if you've hit level cap already and are ready for the next big challenge.

SOE's Jimmy Whisenhunt on the paranoia and potential of H1Z1

Betas, Horror, Interviews, Previews, Post-Apocalyptic, Sandbox, H1Z1

What's more dangerous to your survival after the apocalypse: undead abominations or your fellow humans? OK, that's certainly not a new question in the zombie gaming genre, although it's not going to stop H1Z1 from asking it. In fact, there's a haze of extreme familiarity that's settled around this title, even though it's the first full MMO on this scale to tackle a zombie survival sandbox. Is it almost too familiar for its own good? Will that familiarity be an asset or a drawback? Is SOE merely trying to cash in on the DayZ craze without trying much new? Or are these assumptions blinding us to the grander plan?

To get a better feel for H1Z1, we got on the phone with Senior Designer Jimmy Whisenhunt. To start off, Whisenhunt gave us a quick summary of the game for those who aren't clued in to the whole. H1Z1 is a post-apocalyptic survival MMO that's more focused on physicality than stats. So instead of needing to level up, you'll find your initial challenges will be things like foraging for food, finding a shelter, building a campfire, and getting your hands on a weapon because everything wants to kill you. And when Whisenhunt says "everything," he means not just zombies but the environment, infection, weather, wildlife, and even other players.

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Phantasy Star Online 2's beta ends in Southeast Asia

Betas, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Interviews, Launches, News Items, Consoles

I guess the good news is that it's in English?
While Phantasy Star Online 2 is unreleased here in North America, the residents of Southeast Asia will soon get to experience the game in English. The servers for this version of the game are region-locked, but it's still as close as the game has gotten to a local release thus far. Curious about how it went? The team working for local publisher Asiasoft shared thoughts regarding the beta experience in a recent interview.

The team states that while the game already has new race/class options available in Japan (as it has been out for some time), releasing these options in the localized version will depend partly on player progress. Tie-in events such as those found in the Japanese version are also nixed, as most of those cross-promotional events are strictly for Japanese marketing and wouldn't make much sense to the audience. For more details, take a look at the full interview.

Ascent: The Space Game on building a better sci-fi sandbox

Sci-Fi, Trailers, Video, Business Models, Game Mechanics, Interviews, MMO Industry, New Titles, PvE, Browser, Sandbox, MMORPG

You'd be forgiven for not having heard of Ascent: The Space Game before. EVE Online is the sci-fi sandbox dominating headlines, and Star Citizen and other upcoming games are breathing down its neck. Is there room in the genre for, well, an indie space MMO that isn't all about cutthroat politics or hardcore ganking?

James Hicks, the founder and CEO of Fluffy Kitten Studios and the man behind Ascent, says yes. He took the time this week to answer our questions about his already-playable-but-still-in-development game in deep detail, focusing on the game's complexity, player feedback, business model, mechanics, and how Ascent can truly expand the genre.

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FFXIV's Yoshida on successful relaunches, switching from sub to F2P

Fantasy, Business Models, Interviews, MMO Industry, News Items, Free-to-Play, Final Fantasy XIV, Subscription

Final Fantasy XIV producer Naoki Yoshida speaks from a unique position, both because he's responsible for an ultra-rare triple-A MMO relaunch and because Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn debuted with -- and continues to sport -- a subscription model.

Gamasutra recently interviewed Yoshida about FFXIV's success, whether or not he feels any sort of vindication, and his thoughts on the future of future subscription-based MMOs. While Yoshida says that there are pros and cons to both subs and F2P, he ultimately prefers subs, and he believes that most other MMO developers do as well.

"Some titles have to make the hard decision to switch over to free-to-play and try to gain a quick buck, pretty much, and raise their ARPU, and try to gain revenue in that manner," Yoshida explains. "I feel that they're not flipping over because they want to; sometimes, they're forced to go into that because they need to update."

The full scoop on Marvel Heroes' team-ups

Super-hero, Interviews, Patches, Free-to-Play, Marvel Heroes

Marvel Heroes
Massively: Last week Marvel Heroes added a new feature to the game in the form of "team-ups." While we know the basics of this new system, we wanted to go into more detail. To help us with this, Gazillion Community Manager Ryan Collins sat down to answer a few questions. So Ryan, let's strip away the game-specific terminology: Are team-up heroes NPC companions? Pets? If you had to compare them to another game's features, what would it be to help us understand what they're like?

Ryan Collins: Team-ups would be most similar to companions or hirelings. Like Diablo II's hirelings, team-up heroes have their own gear (with four brand-new item types just for them) that allow you to customize your team-up's stats. Some team-up items even convey bonuses to your hero directly. Team-ups also have a power tree that allows you to customize the way they function, the powers they use, and the passive bonuses they have. The first choice you get to make with your team-up is how they behave, for which there are three "modes."

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Jukebox Heroes: Talking to HEX Composer Michael Shapiro

Fantasy, Interviews, Trading Card Games, Jukebox Heroes, Music, HEX

Massively: On today's column we have the composer of the upcoming TCG MMO, HEX. Now that's a lot of capital letters all in a row, so take a deep breath, get over it, and please welcome composer Michael Gordon Shapiro. Mike, can you give us a bit of your background in music?

Michael Gordon Shapiro: When I started my career I was only interested in film music. Game audio was just starting to emerge from the low-tech era, and there was a kind of stigma associated with it, much as there used to be with television music. As fate would have it, I was offered an in-house composer position at a game studio and was pleasantly surprised to find myself recording the same kind of live orchestral music that I loved doing for film. I also came to appreciate the high artistic effort going into both console and PC game scores.

So from that point, the stigma dissolved in my mind and my artistic palette widened. Today I love doing both film and game music, for both overlapping and complementary reasons.

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Not So Massively: Heroes of the Storm's new heroes, Dawngate's beta launch, and Diablo III's latest patch

Betas, Fantasy, Classes, Game Mechanics, Interviews, Launches, MMO Industry, Patches, PvP, News Items, Free-to-Play, Mobile, Hands-On, MMOFPS, Events (Massively's Coverage), Miscellaneous, Not So Massively, MOBA, Diablo III, Hearthstone

Welcome back to No So Massively, where every Monday we round up the highlights from the past week in the world of MOBAs, roguelikes, MMOTCGs, and other games that aren't quite MMOs.

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PAX East 2014: Erin Roberts on Star Citizen's development

Sci-Fi, Interviews, Sandbox, Crowdfunding, Star Citizen

It's a game about space shooters shooting space in space.
Star Citizen's backers have been waiting to see the game's dogfighting module in action for quite some time now, and it finally happened just before PAX East 2014. Unfortunately, it also wound up having some technical difficulties right at the beginning, which wasn't exactly what anyone had in mind when showing off the whole thing in action. It wasn't quite as bad as having the computer running the module burst into flames and die, but it was bad.

Do the developers regret it? Not a chance. We got a chance to sit down and talk to Squadron 42 producer Erin Roberts and were told, in no uncertain terms, that even hitting technical hiccups like that don't make a more private development cycle feel better. In a way, having the development cycle be so public actually makes technical hurdles less problematic for the company when they're encountered because the language is in place to keep a meaningful dialogue going with the fans.

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PAX East 2014: Pre-launch words with WildStar's Jeremy Gaffney

Sci-Fi, Economy, Interviews, Launches, Endgame, WildStar, Subscription, Buy-to-Play

This is the sort of stuff that got me excited for the game in the first place.
WildStar is being released in about a month and a half. It feels as if it's been forever since the game first revealed its announcement trailer. Now we've finally got a release date in sight, and the last few features for the game are being revealed to the public. It's one of the last chances that we'll have to talk about the game before it releases.

On the last day of this year's PAX East, I had a chance to sit down with executive producer Jeremy Gaffney to chat a little bit more about the game before it launches. While the game has gone gold and the discs are being manufactured, the team is still refining and improving the game and plans to do so up until the day of launch. That meant talking about the endgame, the development process, and the changes that have been made already in the most recent stages of beta.

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PAX East 2014: State of Decay eyes multiplayer, stays offline

Horror, Game Mechanics, Interviews, Consoles, Events (Massively's Coverage), Post-Apocalyptic, Miscellaneous

I know we're fleeing from zombies, but would you guys like to hit Burger King on the way?  Maybe... no?  All right.
The ground is fairly littered with zombie games of some sort these days. That isn't meant as a mark against Undead Labs' State of Decay, but it does raise questions of focus. How do you make a zombie game more unique? According to the studio's Jeff Strain at this year's PAX East, you focus upon building at the community level rather than individual survival. While games like DayZ focus on the personal, State of Decay is much more focused on the idea of putting society as a whole back together and trying to accumulate resources and structures for survivors as a whole.

Of course, most of our readers are more interested in what comes next, specifically Class4. That's the proposed sequel to State of Decay, previously codenamed Class3; it's meant to be a full MMO according to previous statements, a game in which you can worry about rebuilding not just a local community but the world as a whole. And Undead Labs certainly isn't hurting for talent that's familiar with online games, especially with the acquisition of ArenaNet co-founder Patrick Wyatt in January. So what's happening?

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