SpatialOS: Making MMOs Big Again

Is SpatialOS The Next Big Tech?

Improbable has been on our radar for a while here at MMOGames. Who doesn’t love new technology? There’s always something to keep an eye on in the gaming world and the small shifts in technology can have a lasting impact on our multiplayer games. How many new games have been spawned by the suddenly free professional game engines? How many games suddenly have more voxels than you can shake the stick you made out of voxels in the game at? How many people remember the hope and promise of StoryBricks?

Admittedly, not all technology is created equal and not all good ideas get to be games. Taking two examples above of voxel technology and StoryBricks, the ideas behind them while genius wasn’t enough to see Everquest Next to fruition or the longevity of Landmark. Of course, there are always other factors at play around games: the money, the talent, the studio … and now thanks to 2018 porn stars and geopolitics.

Still, I can’t quite help but get excited when a new technology gets to shine both a light on itself and on the potential in the future. Shadowed images, almost ideas that could be. There are chances with new technology to take our worlds all sorts of places. Why else did every crowdfunding project in a certain window three or so years ago offer or outright pledge VR support? It was the wave of the future! A silly one in some cases, but still a wave.

This particular technology is getting more and more press thanks to E3 2018. Mavericks: Proving Grounds had bold claims of big player counts in the battle royale genre. No mere 100 players for them, they were going for 1000. It’s eye-catching to be sure but the technology, SpatialOS, caught my eye early last year when instead of being part of the battle royale revolution, it was used for a darling indie MMO.

Mavericks: Proving Grounds

RainBow

Developers Krillbite Studio wanted to do something for the Norwegian Gameplay Championship. We’ve all heard of game jams turning out fun little games in tight timeframes and with not many people behind them. How about an MMO in a week? The idea is clearly insane. A week to create a game that a lot of people could play, that could be entered into a competition and because they apparently don’t do things by halves in Norway, tackle the concept of xenophobia as the theme.

You can read their full adventure in putting the game together here. Suffice to say that the developers turned to Improbable and SpatialOS … and got the game done. There’s almost certainly going to be people who will look at the blog post and the concept of the game and try to draw comparisons to Agar.io or similar games but there’s no pleasing everyone I am afraid.

The point here is the technology exists and works with the engines our favorite devs already work with.

So what about it?

Let’s go first with what they claim themselves both on the Improbable website and in the promotional material for Mavericks: Proving Grounds.

Meaningful Persistence and Massive Scale

You can’t argue that being able to host ten times the number of people in a standard battle royale in a single match isn’t impressive. We’ll see eventually when it comes out if it is actually fun, but that’s not something you find in support documents or video tutorials. The skill of the devs and the execution of the vision will decide if the game is fun or not. I will admit I will be very amused at the thought of a thousand people at once squatting in bushes waiting to see who breaks first, but I never claimed to be normal.

The change in scale offers us options in plenty of avenues. I have no idea off hand how many players Crowfall hopes to have taking part in any particular siege but I bet it could be scaled up. The scaling technology could also deal with issues a more traditionally designed game might have with areas of high traffic and lag, but you’d have to grab a developer and ask them to be sure. What we players dream does not always match reality, especially where actual development is involved.

The idea of meaningful persistence is also a very alluring one. Setting fire to a forest to smoke out a number of foes or just to deprive them of cover. Demolishing things that stand in your way or cutting off retreat. We will be seeing plenty of developers looking at, for example, Crowfall with its physics and voxels and wondering how they can make it all last longer. After all, the hardest thing with any MMO is to make the world feel alive as living things change. The world shouldn’t be as soft as cheese because players absolutely will undermine the bedrock of everything just because they were bored, but the idea of taking a persistent world and being able to see the scars of its history as we play out our games is definitely appealing to me.

It is far too early to herald Mavericks: Proving Grounds as the next big thing in technology but it is certainly one of the most interesting things. It is also prophetically named. Whatever other projects are currently eyeing up or already deploying the talents of SpatialOS exist, they aren’t making the same noise. One way or another, this bold, big new entry into the battle royale genre will be the proving ground for more than just the players. It will prove the technology is or isn’t viable… and it will prove if we will be seeing more of it.

Great projects can die, just look at StoryBricks. That said, the possibilities offered by SpatialOS have the chance to make MMOs feel huge again in a way we have long since lost under fast travel and flying mounts.

Only time will tell if a huge world is a good one or merely a big empty promise.

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The Battle Royale Games of E3 2018

We went into E3 2018 expecting the convention to be completely dominated by new Battle Royale games. Now we can quite happily say that this didn’t come to pass. In fact, Bethesda came out and said that they WEREN’T working on a Battle Royale game. But, that isn’t to say that there were none. There were still a few announced. Some of them are just modes as part of a larger game, while others make it the sole focus of the game. So let’s dive into the Battle Royale games of E3 2018.

 

Fortnite for Nintendo Switch

We’re just going to get this one out of the way so we can move on to talk about other titles. Fortnite released on the Nintendo Switch during E3. In the first 24 hours, it received 2 million downloads. There was also some drama as people discovered there’s no cross-play with the PS4. In fact, you can’t log into a Fortnite account on the Switch that has been used on the PS4. Sony issued a pretty weak response that did nothing to cool tempers. Will anything change? Sony says they’re open to player feedback so…there’s a slim chance?

 

Mavericks: Proving Ground

Mavericks: Proving Grounds

We’ve actually been talking about Mavericks: Proving Ground for a little while now. It is taking Battle Royale and making it bigger. Most Battle Royale games currently have maps with 100 people, Mavericks is going with 1,000. It was literally the biggest game at E3. They’ve also opened up registration for closed beta, which will take place in August. The Battle Royale portion of the game is actually said to be Phase 1. It will have 400 players on the map then. Phase 2 will add RPG elements to the game as well as the rest of the players to make it a 1,000-person map.

 

Rapture Rejects

Finally, we get to move on and talk about new games! Our first one is Rapture Rejects, which takes place in the post-apocalyptic universe of Cyanide & Happiness. It’s being called a top-down, dark comedy Battle Royale, it’s exactly the sort of thing you’d expect from the folks at Cyanide & Happiness. It’s your job to scavenge for weapons and kill every other person on Earth…to impress God enough to let you into heaven after the rapture leaves only the worst of humanity behind. It’s being developed by Galvanic Games. “Rapture Rejects takes the battle royale genre, gets rid of the boring military stuff, and introduces a Worms-esque armory of insane weapons and over the top violent animation. Also, Satan is there.” – Rob, co-creator of Cyanide & Happiness

Sign me up! In fact, you can sign up for the alpha right now on the official site.

 

Battlefield V

Most of the talk around Battlefield V hasn’t been about the fact that there will be a Battle Royale mode. In fact, that has barely been getting any mention since the internet exploded and took offense to the inclusion of playable female characters in the game. But we aren’t here to talk about that, we’re talking about Battle Royale. The Battlefield V devs have said that it has been re-imagined for Battlefield V. They’re also promising an experience that you’ve never had before. But, that’s all that has been said about it so far.

 

Realm Royale

Hi-Rez brought Realm Royale out to play at E3, giving us the chance to see even more of the game. One of the things that sets Realm Royale apart is the game’s class system. Crafting also plays a big role in the game. It is totally free-to-play on Steam right now, so if you’re interested you can jump into the Early Access now.

 

Call of Duty Black Ops 4

Black Ops 4 is calling its Battle Royale mode Blackout. The map will feature locations inspired by maps from all across the series. Though the exact size of the map hasn’t been stated yet, though they have said it will be 1,500 times larger than the fan favorite: Nuketown. Characters from all across the series, including Call of Duty Zombie Origins will be available. It’s going to feature land, air, and sea vehicles. Finally, we know you’ll be able to play solo or in teams. How this all fits in with the Call of Duty twist they’re putting on the genre…only time will tell.

 

Fear the Wolves

Vostok Games, the folks behind Survarium dropped a trailer for their new Battle Royale game Fear the Wolves just before E3 got started. The game takes place in Chernobyl where you’ll be faced with radioactive areas, anomalies, and yes, wolves. In Fear the Wolves gear can protect you from the harmful radiation in the area as you make your way to the extraction point where a helicopter waits, but there’s only room for one. The wolves are said to be only the first of many more mutant creatures that will be in the game. Fear the Wolves enters Early Access sometime this summer.

 

The Division 2…maybe

Finally, we’re going to just briefly mention The Division 2. No, they haven’t confirmed that there will be a Battle Royale mode in the game. But they have said that they’ve not ruled it out. So while we don’t have any confirmation about it at the moment it will be a game to keep an eye on in the future, just in case.

 

So there you have it: the Battle Royale games of E3 2018. There weren’t nearly as many as expected and some of them sound like they’re going to be a lot of fun. The fact that there were so few Battle Royale titles at E3 may suggest that the industry has learned not to jump on the latest fad. The last  big ones were MOBAs and hero shooters, and many of those ended up being a waste of time and money for the developers and publishers who worked on them. This certainly doesn’t mean that the genre is dead though. There’s still plenty of time left for more games to join in.

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