Top Online Gaming News Stories of 2019…So Far

Can you believe this year is already halfway over? It seems like just yesterday we were logging in to Apex Legends for the first time. As is tradition at MMOGames we’re taking a look back at how the year has gone so far. To be honest, things aren’t looking all that great, though there is one shining bright spot on the year so far, see if you can spot it. This is the MMOGames list of the top online gaming news stories of 2019…so far.

 

10. Bless Online Sunset

Why Steam Can Be a Terrible Thing For MMO Players - Bless Online

For a while, it was one of the most anticipated upcoming MMORPG that players in the West were dying to get their hands on. In fact, the world first heard about it back in 2011, though it was then canceled in the West by publisher Aeria Games because of “quality standards” and “technical difficulties [that] cannot be overcome.” Neowiz then said they would self-publish it and set out to make the game better. Last year the game finally launched in the West, just as the first shutdown was announced. Today the game has shut down in all regions of the world except on Steam But even that is not to last. The game’s last day will be September 9th.

 

9. Amazon Game Studio’s Woes

This is a news story that just broke a few days ago but it has the potential to have a massive impact on the future of the studio and games being developed by them. In fact, according to reports, multiple games that were unannounced were canceled and dozens of employees are facing finding new jobs. The good news, for now, is that their MMO New World is one of the games that is being made a priority. However an anonymous interview with the Wall Street Journal suggests that the problems at Amazon may be even bigger than what we’ve already seen. Lumberyard, the studio’s game engine, wasn’t designed for multiplayer games. This may mean more trouble in the future.

 

8. Blizzard Cancelations and Ongoing News

This has been a bit of a weird year for Blizzard. Many issues seem to be connected so rather than focusing on just one, we decided to count Blizzard as a story all of its own. Most recently, they’ve canceled two games that were in production and lost two major players in the esports department within the last month. Activision-Blizzard’s last quarterly report showed that revenue dropped nearly a quarter in the last quarter and announced they are going to skip Gamescom 2019, in order to save money. Earlier in the year Blizzard laid off a reported 800 employees in what was called a bloodbath. All of this adds up to one thing; everything is not ok at Blizzard. This isn’t likely to be the end of Blizzard’s woes either, so expect this story to continue throughout the rest of 2019.

 

7. Anthem Disappointment

To call Anthem a disappoint is perhaps a bit of an understatement but it is true nonetheless. The world, character, and gameplay are considered by many to be lackluster. Aggregate review scores put the game somewhere between 54 and 65 out of 100 depending on which platform you’re playing on. Andrew Wilson, the CEO of EA, made a statement saying while Anthem had a disappointing launch they are still hopeful the game can be successful. He has also had to reassure fans that Bioware isn’t at risk of being shut down due to the games failure. It will be interesting to watch Anthem for the rest of the year to see how it progresses.

 

6. WoW Classic

It may have been announced back in 2017 but this is the year WoW Classic is set to become a reality. This year there have been a few stress tests and more are planned for July. News on WoW Classic is actually pretty sparse. They’ve held tests and a makeup test, that’s about it. The real story so far is the fact that everyone is talking about playing WoW Classic. I guess August just can’t get here soon enough.

 

5. Apex Legends Rises and Falls

Just as the world was getting a little bit bored with Fortnite, Apex Legends swooped in and grabbed everyone’s attention. For a brief time, it looked like the game had the potential of becoming bigger than Fortnite but Revenue from Apex Legends also dropped sharply. In April, just two months from launch, the game was only bringing in a quarter of what it did in its first month. What went wrong? Well, aside from having a number of bugs and issues that often get ignored by players the game isn’t being updated quickly enough to keep people engaged. To make it even worse, this seems to be intentional. Respawn has said that they’re looking to make fewer updates that are of higher quality, but when your audience is used to Fortnite, that doesn’t go well.

 

4. Riot Games Walkout

This year the games industry saw its first-ever walkout in the main office of Riot Games along with their Dublin and Ireland offices which had a few employees participate in support of their friends and coworkers in Los Angeles. In LA they were protesting the use of forced arbitration for several ongoing sexual misconduct accusations. While Riot has made some small efforts to improve the situation by getting rid of forced arbitration, those efforts haven’t included the ongoing cases. If you’d like to read up on the entire backstory of the walkout as well as the aftermath you should read this article and this one. Oh and just to add more fuel to the fire, the State of California has accused Riot of not cooperating in its gender discrimination investigation. This story isn’t over yet though and we expect to hear more about it again soon.

 

3. World Health Organization’s Gaming Disorder

This year the World Health Organization added Gaming Disorder in their International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems. Basically a big list of things that can go wrong with the human body and mind. But this was quite a controversial decision, one that has a lot of people questioning the politics behind the act. As expected industry officials have denied that gaming disorder, and in fact gaming addiction is a problem. Lobbyists like the ESA have been quite vocal about this in fact. Meanwhile, academics and journalists believe that the research is incomplete and that there isn’t enough known to make a proper diagnosis. It has been indicated that the WHO was feeling political pressure from some countries in Asia to see this get pushed through quickly. In the future we may see the WHO change their stance on gaming disorder. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time this has happened.

 

2. Nexon Founder is Getting Out

Kim Jung-ju, the founder of Nexon is selling his majority, 98.64%, stake in the company that is estimated to be worth just under 9 billion dollars. Throughout this year a list has been slowly building of companies that may be interested in buying that 98.64% stake. Names thrown around have included Disney, Tencent, EA, and many others. It sounds like this story won’t be over until October when bids are officially locked in. Until then, anything is possible.

 

1. Players Return to City of Heroes

We’ll be honest with you, short of finding out that aliens exist and play Fortnite there isn’t going to be a bigger story this year than the return of City of Heroes, even if it is in an unofficial capacity. Just in case you’ve been living under a rock or you’ve been stranded on an island without internet for the last couple of months, lets quickly get you caught up. Yes, City of Heroes is back on servers that are being run by the fans. They aren’t emulators and are in fact being called rogue servers by some organizations. The biggest collection of servers, called Homecoming, has more than 100,000 registered accounts. While still in it’s early days they are anticipating creating new content to keep the 15 year old MMO fresh for those who are playing. Homecoming has a bunch of improvement updates already in place, but some people didn’t like those changes so they made servers of their own that don’t include those improvements. Those servers aren’t as popular as Homecoming, but some of them have a few thousand players. City of Heroes is really the one big bright spot in a not so amazing year and we can’t wait to see what directions they end up taking in the future.

 

What will the rest of 2019 hold? From the looks of it, we will continue to see many of these stories in the news for some time to come and we’ll be following them every step of the way. Be sure to check back every day for more news from the online gaming industry and keep an eye out at the end of the year for our update on how the year has gone.

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On the Precipice of the New World

I stand on the sandy shores of another world, one that is my new home, surrounded by men and women in battered cotton clothes. The tide rolls across the sand behind me, and a man in a fancy coat is pointing waving from the treeline. I am here in Tera Vitae Aeternum, this is the final slice of the unknown world, and all the men and women on the shoreline around me are here to carve their fortunes as they may in these shores.

 

Welcome to the New World

While my avatar, a young woman named Tara sits on the sand, flanked on all sides by men and women dressed in rags, I am in a quiet loft in downtown San Francisco. Several thousands of dollars worth of high-end monitors, capture cards, PCs, and gaming peripherals are spread out on tables down the length of the little loft. Men and women in New World sweatshirts are chatting amiably with the others who walk in, a large-screen television sits at the front of the room showing a splash image from the game. At the back of a room, a table spread of fruits, cookies, candies, and drinks sections off a bit of the back of the room, and several staff members are smiling and greeting everyone.

I am at a preview event for Amazon Game Studios’ upcoming MMO, New World. I was among the first to arrive, sitting next to one of the stations where the game is already open, and a lush-looking grassland is splayed out in front of the avatars.

After a bit of milling, more writers show up, and we’re called to the front where head of Amazon Game Studios Orange County, Patrick Gilmore, is standing in front of the large television. He explains that New World is a game set in alternate-history 17th century. The age of discovery is winding down, with just a tiny slice of Bermuda left uncharted in a world of now finite boundaries. In the last corner of the unexplored is the island of Aeternum, one final piece of unclaimed land.

Players take control of the island’s new residents, leaving their old homes, selling their possessions to afford to sail, and set off to make their fortune on this island with just the shirts on their backs and the sense of adventure in their hearts.

Amazon bills this game as a “Sandbox MMO,” explaining that it’s the neatest label to define what it’s about. New World is a game that has by design avoided scripted sequences and moments, instead letting player freedom and emergent stories be the driving vehicle that propels players to log on, to carve the world into the shapes of their whimsy, and to experience the construction of civilization.

Back on the island, I’m behind the eyes of Tara, and the other new residents are sprinting around the stand wildly, getting used to the controls, which were provided helpfully by a packed print-outs sitting on top of our multicolored keyboards, and throwing punches into the air, running in aimless patterns, and spinning around in graceless circles. After a bit of orientation, we find Mike Willette under the handle “Berserker Mike,” who teaches us the basic mechanics of putting down camp, crafting, and finding materials to build resources.

Our characters are all fantastically over-leveled. Although we lack high-level equipment and resources, we seem to have high crafting skill, great combat skill, nice combat durability, and a handful of other perks that would translate to being high-level in games with a traditional leveling system, which is something this game lacks. Instead of levels, players gain experience in specific crafts: blacksmithing gains players levels in blacksmithing. Fighting gives players levels in fighting. In short, each stat the game tracks has its own level system, rather than the character as a whole having that level.

Together, we’re directed north to a basic crafting area. Inside the walls of this little blacksmithing outpost, we’re in a what New World calls a Sanctuary: a place safe from any player-based combat. We’re introduced to crafting stations, shops, and the basics of stamina. Forges, tanning racks, and such placements are necessary to use those trades, and those stations come at varying levels. Ostensibly, higher level forges, tanneries, clothiers, and so on will not be found in the wild, and must be built by players.

Once everyone had time to bump into walls, climb railings, and hurl ourselves off of the parapets (where I quickly learned that I could take fall damage), Mike pointed us at our company’s base. We slogged through the swamp, slowing our travel, gathered some more resources in transit, killed a few wolves, and on arrival used the company’s armory to equip ourselves for combat.

We were told the combat we were arming for would be a demo of the game’s war system. Players can gather in companies, New World’s equivalent of guilds, in groups of up to 50 players. These companies could stake claims on certain portions of the map, in which players could build compounds including crafting stations, storage barracks, respawn points, walls, and other defenses to stave off attackers. Companies who wish to take over enemy positions would have to declare war. So, war was declared. While it normally comes with a 24-hour timer to give both sides time to shore up their defenses, our timer was accelerated to a handful of seconds. With some direction from Berserker Mike, we crept our way over to an enemy base staffed with other members of Amazon’s development team who were waiting on the parapets with bows and muskets. War on, we planted kegs of explosives next to the outer walls of their fortifications, and with a few seconds pause, detonations sounded the first beat of the war drum, and we flooded into the base.

What transpired during the skirmish was familiar territory. From the inner walls of the base, archers and musketeers rained hell from above, ground warriors with maces and swords flanked us from the sides, and we made war while our demolition team continued to plant bombs and punch holes in the enemy’s walls.

In motion, New World felt a lot like modern action MMOs. Despite being in alpha development, the actual nuts and bolts of the game felt fluid. Movement, dodge rolls, melee, and ranged weapons had good response times seemingly uninfluenced by communicating combat through the internet. Everything felt punchy, immediate, and violent. Attacks that connected illustrated the amount of damage dealt in crisp red, the third-person camera kept just enough distance to keep things clear without taking away from the immediate threats all around, and striking and being struck felt like it had weight as skirmisher fought and killed for glory.

Amazon let us win, I’m sure, but we managed to destroy the central pillar that secured their base, and plant ours in its place. The base was now ours.

After our little war demo ended, we were encouraged to forge our way north through a section of map called The Great Cleave, a frozen valley packed with undead-seeming settlers who’d settled in the wrong places, arctic wolves, and doubtlessly other aggressive dangers the deeper north we could manage.

Outside of combat, New World offers players some alternatives to raw swords-and-guns. Foraging resources seems to be a large part of how to craft high level equipment. The deeper in the island players push, the better the resources that can be extracted from the earth. So, in order to make high-level swords, shields, and spears, players will need to have high-level blacksmithing. In order to build the higher tier equipment, players need high levels of crafting to refine the raw, mined material into useful forms. In order to even create items with the high level materials, players need high level crafting stations. Skills are layered this way, but since companies are made up of many trades, each of these could be covered by different players. It seems in order to do high-level work, players will either need to keep many equally high-level friends, or commission high level tradesmen.

Weapons seemed to come in five flavors: Wood, Iron, Steel, Starmetal, and Orichalcum. Represented as Tiers I through V. As the tiers climb, the weapons and armor become better, both in terms of damage output or mitigation, and in durability. Higher level blacksmithing and refining increased the chances of pushing items to higher qualities—for example, a Good quality Iron Sword will be better than a Normal quality Iron Sword, and so on.

Although the game has some shared DNA with survival-crafting games, there is no way for players to dehydrate or starve. Hunger and thirst systems exist, but staying well-hydrated and well-fed offers buffs to the players stamina and health recovery respectively. It isn’t mandatory to keep their characters from dying.

One of the things integral to the apparent intent of New World is vulnerability. Most of what a player carries with them will be dropped at death. These items can be collected at any point after a player dies. Aside from Sanctuaries, players are at risk of death everywhere they go. Be that from wild animals, ghosts, corrupted settlers, or from other players. Players with the intent to become criminals can do so and attack any other player at will. However, this isn’t without risk.

Players can equip 3 weapons or tools at a time in their quick access slots, as well as four quick-use items (food, bandages, and such). These items are secure, and will not drop when players die, however, anything else they are carrying that is not equipped will fall. Criminal players, those who’ve assaulted other players with murderous intent, a manually toggled state, will gain criminal notoriety. Criminals are not safe in Sanctuary zones and drop all of their equipment on death, even the equipped items. Although being a criminal is a way to play, they have no respite at almost any point.

After eating a lot of cooked meat, drinking a lot of fresh water, and repeatedly getting killed by roving bands of skeletal corrupted settlers, I got the opportunity to chat with the developers.

The 17th century feels like an unusual choice for a setting, particularly for a game like this, so I asked the developers what about it drove them to it. One of the quotes that popped up was “the last gasp of the blade, the first breath of the gun,” a moment where swords hadn’t faded from use, but guns were beginning to become an inescapable part of the landscape. Scot Lane, game director, explained he and his team were stuck on the idea of building society, but didn’t want to feel nailed down to the collapse or post-apocalypse. “What if our game was about the opposite, the construction of society?” That way there would be both the structure of a civilized world, but also the freedom to let players make their own freedom.

Given that most of civilization seemed player driven, I had some apprehension about the nature of starting fresh later into the game’s life. Could a new player spill out onto the shores of the island only to find an oppressively colonized land, full of claimed area and strip-mined of resources? When I brought up these apprehensions, the developers seemed nonplussed. By design, the game was meant to have a bit of a race to capture territory. “There will be boom towns. There will be land rushes.” However, they explained, since players couldn’t form companies of over 50 players, it seemed unlikely that a single company to claim vast enough swathes of land to outright force out all competition.

Also, I learned during these chats, that building company territory was limited to a few predefined spots on the map, and there will always be unclaimed landmass for players to explore without having to step on any one company’s territory and toes.

Finally, I asked them what if they had any interesting stories to tell from playtesting. They offered me the story of a narrow thoroughfare that had been taken over by a criminal company. Any player that tried to make their way through it would be killed, their items taken, and if they returned, they would be killed again.

These players, fed up with it, formed up a company, and stormed the criminals. The result was a bloodbath. The criminals couldn’t face so many opponents at once, and given their attackers were not criminals themselves, could face their few casualties with their equipment intact, so they could swing back to combat quickly. The criminals, down to their underwear after their first death, could do little but throw punches and take fire as they respawned to die and respawn again. To die again.

After that, I said my thanks, and the event was over. Tara and I parted ways.

At its heart, New World is entering a crowded MMO landscape, and there’s a lot out there players can invest their time and focus in. With as much risk of loss as there seems to be, it can hard to delve into the island when the combat-focused players seem to hold all the power and face the least risk. Though there are a lot of options for non-combat roles, those with the power to punch hard seem to be in the best position to keep from being slaughtered while going about their business.

That said, I find myself wanting to return to the island to see if I can tinker with the systems, maybe explore the lush, swampy, arctic, and picturesque landscapes once again; even if I know it’ll be with a gun in my hand and a sense of adventure in my heart.

At least for now, I cannot promise I will want to settle here.

Disclaimer: Writer was flown out to the San Francisco event to preview New World at no cost.

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Active Development Ends on Breakaway

It looks like things have gone from “hiatus” to outright halted. A post shared to the game’s subreddit has confirmed that active Breakaway development is being stopped after some “soul searching” failed to find a way to make the team-based battle sport grow.

breakaway development

Despite the adjustments to Breakaway’s core gameplay that were made during the aforementioned hiatus, Breakaway was simply not able to make enough of a mark and meet the team’s high standards. As a result, the devs will be moving on to other projects while Breakaway itself will no longer be developed.

“We remain exceptionally proud of the team’s work, and feel privileged to have been a part of such a dedicated and enthusiastic community,” reads the announcement. “We will reach out to this channel as soon as we have news to share regarding our new projects, and if a thunderbolt of inspiration strikes that leads us back to Breakaway, you’ll be the first to know.”

As far as the other games in Amazon Game Studios’ lineup, active development appears to be ongoing, with job postings still open for devs to work on the sandbox MMO New World and Westwood Studios founder Louis Castle named as head of the competitive multiplayer title Crucible in March of last year.

Our Thoughts

Considering the already-burst bubble of MOBAs and the incredibly competitive multiplayer shooter sub-genre, we’re not terribly surprised that Breakaway wasn’t making much of a splash. We wish the devs affected by this decision the very best of luck in their future projects and hope that Amazon Game Studios’ other titles will bear greater fruit.

Source: Breakaway subreddit

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