Fantasy, Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Business Models, Culture, Economy, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, New Titles, PvP, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, EverQuest Next, Some Assembly Required, Sandbox, Crafting, Player-Generated Content, Subscription, Star Citizen, Pathfinder Online, Buy-to-Play
EverQuest Next and Landmark aren't the only reasons to be amped, either, as games like Star Citizen, Elite: Dangerous, and The Repopulation are all putting their own spin on emergent virtual worlds and standing on the shoulders of genre giants.
It's not all roses, though, and amidst the cautious optimism on display from starving sandbox fans, I feel the need to remind myself of the various personal pitfalls that still need to be addressed.
The European-flavored continent was the final of the three to visit not because it is somehow less than the other two but because it is more -- as in more land to cover! The main reason I left Thestra for last is because of the sheer size of the continent. The amount of time required to visit just a fraction of the housing settlements scattered throughout this land is daunting. The other reason is that I wanted to end on a bang with my favorite style of guild housing: the castles!
And hey, it's pretty simple, at least conceptually. All a dev team needs to do is iterate on Star Wars: Galaxies' pre-NGE PvP system.
But as things are wont to, they changed; a lot can happen in the MMOverse in 24 months, from additional features in existing games to new games to the loss of more worlds. So it's time to update this list of virtual worlds to reflect 2014 and beyond. Take a look and see what titles or titles-to-be have the sandbox features that best make a game a home for you.
Since it's still alpha, there's plenty of time for the devs to correct this unfortunate bit of business and separate this particular game from the legions of crappy FFA-PvP-with-zero-consequences titles clumping together in the vast litterbox of bad MMO ideas.
Will they do that? Probably not, but at least I'll get a good rant out of it.
Just a glance over the past year shows that the aversion-to-PGC attitude is shifting; more sandboxes have gone into development with more and more features than in the last few years. But one game, above them all, is going beyond adding a few features. EverQuest Next Landmark is not just letting PGC into the car; it's plunking it in the driver's seat and handing over the keys, and in doing so could potentially redefine PGC as we know it. And that's a good thing! Instead of being treated as non-essential fluff, PGC could be seen as a vital ingredient to any MMO.
For developers like Mark Jacobs, who as City State Entertainment's CEO spearheads the development of upcoming sandbox Camelot Unchained, Kickstarter is a way to bypass those detached investors and appeal to the gamers themselves. As he told us, "Kickstarter is the perfect platform for an indie developer both to gauge interest in a concept and to receive either all or part of the funding necessary to make the game." Jacobs offered other musings and insights about the role of Kickstarter and updated us on the development of Camelot Unchained in our exclusive interview.
Yeah, Trion famously signed on to distribute the game to western audiences last January, but since then we've heard a whole lot of nothing about how the translation is progressing. Hell, we don't even know if it is a translation as opposed to some ill-conceived "westernization" waste of time. And maybe the MMO gods will strike me down for jumping off the bandwagon. Maybe Trion will make me look a fool by announcing a beta date of some sort later this very afternoon.
If so, that's OK because Black Desert is looking just as good, if not better.
On top of that, I got to hear Senior Producer Todd Carson and Associate Producer Rod Haza detail different aspects of this system that melds PvP and housing in Dragon's Prophet. Dubbed the Frontier System, this combination puts PvP on the housing islands of Auratia. However, the implementation is probably not quite what players envisioned when they first heard about it. Luckily, I got a pretty good look at how it all works from my invulnerable perch and can share that with you.
One of the latest upcoming titles to be announced is the stylized, medieval sandbox Albion Online. With such offerings as territory control, housing, a player-driven economy, and full looting, this game certainly fits the sandbox bill. Heck, the development company is even named Sandbox Interactive! But what makes Albion Online stand out from the pack is that it will be a cross-platform experience; players will be accessing the game via both tablets and PCs.
Of course, as promising as it may sound, just a terse feature list doesn't give players the kind of details we want. So to get the scoop, I had a chat with Sandbox Interactive CEO Stefan Wiezorek, who shared more information about the economy, housing,the skill system, PvP, and territory control.
With the number of crowdfund-hopefuls coming and going, you might be wondering what -- if anything -- distinguishes this game from all the others also vying for your attention and support. What exactly makes this project different and worth a look? It's not the various sandbox features like skills, an open world, and building homes; you can find those in other games that are out there or in the works. No, what sets Neo's Land apart is the different approach to development it is taking. Instead of building a game using the studio's ideal features, NeoJac Entertainment is quite literally soliciting the feature set directly from the players before implementing. In this case, Some Assembly Required also refers to the game itself!
Can it be done -- can a game truly be built to honest-to-goodness player specs? During an exclusive interview with CEO and President Jacques Rossouw, I got to walk along the development path of Neo's Land and see what the game is about.
Skoryy wrote (in part): "Since when did enjoying content, especially story content, actively require skill? Any literate person can read a book; why do I also need to know how to be a master crafter or master warrior or master whatever to get to enjoy the game's true content?" For further context, this was a response to the line of thinking that says successful games like baseball, chess, and RISK are not linear dev-driven content treadmills but rather a set of rules that result in endless permutations of player-generated content.
When I first read the remark I was taken aback. I mean, really, my initial response to the "since when" bit was "since you decided to play an interactive video game instead of read a book!" And that's still true to a large extent. As I thought about the overall discussion, though, I sympathized with his perspective even though I think it's terrible that some MMO companies are hell-bent on conflating the definition of game with the definition of story.
As a qualifier, I don't play Guild Wars 2. I have in the past, briefly, but my criticisms today are mostly directed at ANet's marketing folks or whoever is responsible for the Living Story refrain that gets sillier and sillier every time I hear it.
That's right folks: The MMOFPS is finally getting in on the fun. On Monday, July 29th, PlanetSide 2 will officially launch into the realm of Player Studio. Keen-eyed players may even notice that the groundwork has already been laid; the necessary information has been soft-launched on the official website for potential creators to peruse. So what does this all mean for a game that is decidedly different from the fantasy settings of its SOE siblings? I sat down with Senior Art Director Tramell Isaac to discuss how this new tool fits into the war effort.
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