Legends of Runeterra Preview – Overwhelming the Competition

Could Riot Games be too late to the party with its take on the digital card game? Legends of Runeterra by and large missed the peak of the genre, which hit its stride with the release of Blizzard’s Hearthstone in 2014. Being bolstered by the unwavering League of Legends star power may not be enough to achieve its lofty goal; is there time to make up for the delay and convince players that Legends of Runeterra is the TCG they have been waiting for?

The answer to this last question is a resounding yes. Riot Games’ mediocre timing may turn out to be Legends of Runeterra’s greatest strength, as they didn’t have to enter a colossal and potentially destructive clash with Hearthstone. This also served another purpose, which was to see where Magic: The Gathering Arena would fit as a potential big-name competitor. The jury is out on this as well, declaring that the latest MTG card game poses no massive threat.

Legends of Runeterra Preview Card Combat

The World in Your Deck | Legends of Runeterra Preview

Riot Games clearly took a long, hard look at the competition and settled for what makes a first-rate digital card game. Legends of Runeterra is a fun game to watch, with a crisp and clean starting board with exactly the right amount of bells and whistles to look good without encumbering the screen. This is the kind of game that is likely to appeal to those who have stayed away from CCGs until now, since everything about it seems poised for perfection. League of Legends fans are in for a treat, as the Champions that they know and love come to life in new and innovative ways, often with a little bit of clever showboating, and they are joined by several new characters. It may be far from original, but this is fan service at its best.

Sure, there are some balance issues that the betas will hopefully iron out, and the in-game menus look simple but are somewhat bland and overcomplicated, when they should go straight to the point – why do I have to go to Collections to delete a deck, instead of having that option in Play as well?

When you and a challenger are facing each other over the board, the slightly warped perspective may take some getting used to, but a few minutes should do the trick. Furthermore, the way that the Legends of Runeterra decks are portrayed is beyond criticism, with crispy clean design and perfectly visible stats that never get into the way of your strategy. I would like to be able to instantly see the attack and health points for the cards that I’m holding, but this is a minor concern that can also be directed at Hearthstone.

Legends of Runeterra Preview Fast Spell

The cornerstone of Legends of Runeterra is the use of Champions, faces that you know and love from the MOBA. Prepare yourself to meet Jinx, Braum, Darius, Zed, Lux, Lucian, and others, coming from six regions of Runeterra: Shadow Isles, Ionia, Piltover & Zaun, Demacia, Noxus, and Freljord. You can have up to six Champion cards in your 40-card deck, with the rest being comprised of follower and spell cards. Champions should always be your focus in every match, as they come with valuable stats; furthermore, they can level up by fulfilling a special condition, turning them into devastating gamechangers – for Jinx, having a empty hand is the requirement, while Braum levels up by taking 10 damage. Never ignore Champion cards, as their damage dealing ability and resourcefulness is vital in the hands of a skilled player.

The catch is that Legends of Runeterra gives you a myriad of choices and tactical options, and them callously slaps you on the wrist for being greedy. All those beautiful units and spells are yours for the taking, but under one very succinct condition – you are limited to choosing cards from two regions, and no more than that. Experimenting with Champions and spells is going to take a long time, as every opponent that you face seems to take a different yet effective approach to decks. When you begin to feel comfortable with your selection, another rival comes by and obliterates the masterful strategy that you thought would be effective against every single player in the world. Matches are mostly about skill, but luck also plays a small role in the outcome as the right cards are drawn in the nick of time, especially the all-important fast spells that can turn the tide of a clash.

Legends of Runeterra Preview Decks

Elusive Is as Elusive Does | Legends of Runeterra Preview

Ignore the tutorials at your own peril. They may seem intimidating and a couple of them may even stump you, but this is where you’ll get useful info that is otherwise coming at the cost of many defeats. Besides, this is where you earn your first significant set of cards, getting closer to a proper deck. Legends of Runeterra seems fairly generous with its reward track, handing card after card during the tutorial, but also as you face other players. However, there’s a catch – you can only have one active region reward track. This means that the sooner you settle for a consistent and reliable deck, the better you’re going to be at earning new cards from your two preferred regions.

Your goal is to destroy the enemy Nexus using your cards to hit it, providing they aren’t blocked by rival cards. Such a simple approach develops into several layers of complexity, as you learn to deal with the intricacies of card effects such as Overwhelm and Elusive. The latter is particularly worrying, as these cards can only be blocked by another Elusive unit, paving the way for some unflinching Nexus takedowns in case you are not duly prepared.

Legends of Runeterra Preview Burst Spell

While it has a lot of catching up to do in terms of player base and content to properly rival Hearthstone, Legends of Runeterra seems to be on the right path. This is a game that is both entertaining to play and to watch, sporting an ambitious competitive tone while remaining within reach for those who have never tried a digital card game before. Riot Games is determined to prove that there’s more to it than League of Legends, and Legends of Runeterra is just the first of many cards that it has up its sleeve.

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Riot Makes the Leap to Tabletop Gaming with Riot Tabletop

Not only does Riot have a new card game coming out they’re also expanding into tabletop games. They recently announced Riot Tabletop. You may remember that a few years ago they released Mechs vs Minions, well now they’re going to be making another board game. This next one is called Tellstones: King’s Gambit. It’s a bluffing game for 2 to 4 players and a Demacian variant of a game played across Runeterra. They also said in their announcement that they have a whole lot more planned.

Why are they making board games? Well, because they’re gamers. Their offices are filled with stashes of all sorts of games. So they’re taking that love of physical games to the next level.

At the moment Tellstones: King’s Gambit is the only game they’ve announced but, they’re encouraging those who are interested in staying up to date on the development of their board games to sign up to get emails from them.

Riot is also venturing into the world of publishing with Riot Forge. This will allow other studios to create games within the League of Legends universe. Already, they have announced that they have several games in development, though we don’t have any details about them just yet. This year seems like it truly is going to be THE year for Riot Games. We can’t wait to see what they end up announcing next! When we know anything more we’ll be sure to share it with you all so make sure you’re following MMOGames on social media.

 

Source: Official Announcement

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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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California Says Riot isn’t Cooperating with their Gender Discrimination Investigation

The State of California says Riot isn’t cooperating with their Gender Discrimination investigation and they are filing an investigation suit to compel Riot to cooperate. This is being carried out by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing who are asking Riot for employee pay information for “an ongoing investigation into alleged gender discrimination.”

A press release issued by the DFEH said that they’re looking into “alleged unequal pay, sexual harassment, sexual assault, retaliation, and gender discrimination in selection and promotion.” The investigation started in October 2018 but Riot has “refused to provide the Department with adequate information for DFEH to analyze whether women are paid less than men at the company.”

They allege that Riot has impeded the investigation by withholding basic employment data that employers are required by law to maintain. In response to this, Riot got in touch with Kotaku to give a response of their own.

“We’ve been in active conversations with the DFEH since its inquiry began. Investigations like this can arise when there have been allegations of workplace disparity and we’ve been cooperating in good faith with the DFEH to address its concerns. During this time, we’ve promptly responded to the DFEH’s requests, and have produced over 2,500 pages of documents and several thousand lines of pay data so far. We’ve also made several recent requests that the DFEH participate in a call with us to address their requests. To date, these requests have been unanswered, so we’re frankly disappointed to see the DFEH issue a press release alleging that we’ve been non-cooperative. We’re confident that we’ve made substantial progress on diversity, inclusion, and company culture, and look forward to continue demonstrating this to the DFEH.”

It’s really not looking good for Riot at the moment. As always we’ll continue to watch this ongoing story. If you need to catch up on everything that has led up to this moment I encourage you to read our breakdown of everything you need to know about the Riot Games Walkout and the news that came shortly after that about forced arbitration.

 

Source: Press Release, Kotaku

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Riot Games Refuses to Budge on Forced Arbitration

Earlier this month employees of Riot Games held a walkout in protest over the company’s forced use of arbitration in a handful of lawsuits the company is facing. We did an extensive deep dive into the events that led up to the walkout. At the end of the walkout one of the organizers, Jocelyn Monahan said that if Riot doesn’t make a commitment on the forced arbitration before May 16th she and others involved in the walkout would take further action. May 16th was selected because that was the next scheduled town hall style company meeting, something Riot holds biweekly. The May 16th meeting has now been held and they have released a statement. In their statement Riot has announced that they will continue to hold their current stance. “Ultimately, given the complexities of ongoing litigation, we will not change our employee agreements while in active litigation.” The statement also goes on to talk about their 90-day plan and how well it is going for them. They’re also introducing a new program called the D&I Rioters Council and they have invited a group of employees to take part in reviewing aspects of their code of conduct.

Image from Riot Games via Upcomer

Kotaku, who originally broke the story about the problems in Riot Games, reached out to Jocelyn Monahan. “We’re disappointed leadership doesn’t seem to be considering any major changes to their active policy. That said, we’re blown away by the passion, solidarity, and vulnerability that workers who support the walkout are showing. As we continue to pressure Riot to end forced arbitration, we are leveraging that teamwork and solidarity by involving more coworkers in the effort.” So there still aren’t any concrete details from her about what they will be doing next but it is likely that we will hear something about it this week.

 

Source: Riot Games Official Site, Kotaku

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Everything You Need to Know About the Riot Games Walkout

Yesterday, the world witnessed a walkout for the first time in the history of the video games industry. The Riot Games walkout is something that is grabbing attention from inside and outside of the industry as it highlights some of the horrible business practices that are being used by companies in the United States. Before we can really dive into what took place yesterday we need to take a look at what led up to this point.

In December Riot Games suspended COO Scott Gelb for two months for inappropriate and unprofessional behavior. What was he accused of doing? Farting on employees, dry humping them, and slapping or flicking testicles. Things that would get any average employee fired on the spot. Along with this came sexual harassment allegations in the company as well as a heaping dose of sexism and discrimination. Kotaku broke the story with dozens of accounts from current and former Riot employees, we’ll link to that and other articles below if you’re interested in reading even more in-depth on the topic. Riot responded by promising a significant culture change and improvements. This included Gelb’s suspension and the hiring of Angela Roseboro, the first-ever Chief Diversity Officer for the company.

Image from Riot Games via Upcomer

Five former and current Riot employees have filed lawsuits against Riot Games. Riot then made motions to force two of those women into private arbitration, saying that the women had waived their rights to sue the company when they were hired. This is actually a pretty common part of employee contracts, though highly controversial. In fact, in the last few months Facebook, Google, and Uber have all announced they would end forced arbitration practices for harassment cases. Riot themselves have even ended forced arbitration for sexual harassment and assault claims. But, it only applies to future employees, meaning those two women who are facing forced private arbitration instead of being allowed to take Riot to court are still impacted. In a statement on the Riot Games website the company said, As soon as current litigation is resolved, we will give all new Rioters the choice to opt-out of mandatory arbitration for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims. At that time, we will also commit to have a firm answer around expanding the scope and extending this opt-out to all Rioters.” They also went on to give a 90-day timeline for changes they plan to make within the company as well as outline what arbitration means with Riot Games.

Over the weekend Roseboro spoke to employees on the company’s private Slack saying, “We’re also aware there may be an upcoming walkout and recognize some Rioters are not feeling heard. We want to open up a dialogue on Monday and invite Rioters to join us for small group sessions where we can talk through your concerns, and provide as much context as we can about where we’ve landed and why. If you’re interested, please take a moment to add your name to this spreadsheet. We’re planning to keep these sessions smaller so we can have a more candid dialogue.” In Waypoint’s report, however, one anonymous employee responded saying, “When Angela Roseboro offered to schedule focus sessions with people there was backlash because people were frustrated at yet another example of closed-door discussions instead of transparency. Overall, I think Rioters are sick of feeling like they have no visibility into what leadership is actually doing to improve.”

Image from Riot Games via Upcomer

This all finally brings us to yesterday’s walkout. More than 150 Riot employees in their Los Angeles headquarters staged a walkout that took place in a parking lot on Riot’s campus. The employees carried signs and passed around a megaphone sharing stories of harassment, as well as their hopes and fears for the company. More than one employee said that they would be quitting because they were failed by the internal investigation process and because walking around the campus makes them uncomfortable. Upcomer has posted transcriptions of 3 of the speeches from the walkout, these are just a few of the highlights.

“We want Rioters to present a unified front. I spent every day listening to people who were scared. There’s a gap here between our sense of safety and leadership’s perception of those numbers.”

“We cannot thrive if any of us is scared. Imagine a Riot where everyone felt safe and included. If you already feel that way, take a second, look around, and think about who might not, and why?”

“In almost five years here, I’ve heard these words repeated again and again. Constant calls for Rioters to hold one another accountable. I’ve heard it from every one of my managers. I’ve heard it from all the leaders throughout the company. I’ve heard it from those named in the lawsuit articles. ‘Hold me accountable.’ That’s what they said. We are here today to do just that.”

Image by Nathan Grayson from Kotaku

The signs being held up by Riot employees further expressed their feelings. Some signs read “I reported and he got promoted”, “Forced is not a word women like,” and “It shouldn’t take all this to do the right thing.”

Toward the end of the walkout the main organizer of the event, Jocelyn Monahan made an announcement saying that if Riot doesn’t make a commitment on the forced arbitration by May 16th she and others involved in the walkout would take further action. There was no specification on what that entailed but, talking to Kotaku another organizer, Indu Reddy said, “we do have plans, and we do have days that we’re planning, and we do have commitments that we have responses for.” The May 16th deadline was put in place because it is the date of the next scheduled bi-weekly townhall style company meeting. We’re just a little bit over a week away from that event now and as things stand it looks like we might not hear anything else about this ongoing story until then. But, if anything does come out we will be sure to update this article with the latest.

 

Kotaku Report on Riot’s Culture

Riot Games’ Official Response

Waypoint’s Report on the Weekend before the Walkout

LA Times Coverage of the Riot Games Walkout

Upcomer Transcription of Speeches at the Riot Games Walkout

Kotaku Coverage of the Riot Games Walkout

Header Image by Kevin Hitt

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10 Studios That Would Make Your Dream MMORPG

The MMORPG genre is far from dead, but it could surely use a boost from a top player in the industry. Can you imagine if the masterminds behind the Witcher franchise decided to make an MMORPG? Just how splendid that would be.

This thought alone led me to ponder on other studios that could potentially deliver your dream MMORPG. I chose to leave some renowned developers out of the equation as they clearly need a respite to reflect on their recent blunders. Who exactly, I hear you ask?

Bethesda, to begin with. The mess of a game that is Fallout 76 didn’t do any favors to its reputation, so they need the time to realign their focus – The Elder Scrolls fans are watching. BioWare also seems to be stuck in a rut following the lackluster releases of Mass Effect: Andromeda and the highly anticipated and equally unfulfilling Anthem. Finally, Destiny 2 is clearly showing that many players are getting tired of Bungie’s microtransaction-laden sci-fi worlds and the studio needs to move on to more rewarding and fair experiences.

Without further delay, here are ten studios that wouldn’t let you down – hopefully.

CDProjekt (The Witcher Franchise, Cyberpunk 2077)

Dream MMORPG Studios CDProjekt

The storytelling gurus at CDProjekt delivered three of the best RPGs ever made but are yet to prove themselves outside of Geralt de Rivia’s universe. Cyberpunk 2077 is its first stab at another setting, trading medieval fantasy for grim futuristic sci-fi. Here is a studio that doesn’t shy away from a challenge and is known for pouring its heart into each game. CDProjekt deserves extra honors for its crusade against DRM technology and the belief that players should feel compelled to buy a game for its sheer value, instead of pirating it.

The Witcher series has all the trappings of an MMORPG. Great lore, captivating characters, exciting combat and large regions to explore. CDProjekt could probably build on this to create a massively multiplayer world and considering that it owns the rights to video games based on The Witcher novels, there is no shortage of potential or visible blockades along the way – except when Witcher creator Andrzej Sapkowski realizes he needs more money.

Or they could go for something completely original instead, no strings attached. No matter CDProjekt’s decision, it’s a proven fact that they value their players and would go the extra mile to create something utterly memorable.

Rockstar Games (Grand Theft Auto Franchise, Red Dead Franchise, Bully…)

Dream MMORPG Studios Rockstar Games

No matter what Rockstar sets out to do, Rockstar achieves – even if it means putting its staff through excruciating long hours. That’s the ugly side of the video game industry, sadly not as unusual as it should be.

But back to the matter at hand. Rockstar Games is a huge publisher with several subsidiaries with proven track records. Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead are its two major franchises, where they show their skills both in single-player and multiplayer. There is no doubt that they would work wonders in an MMO environment…

… “But isn’t that a thing already with GTA Online and Red Dead Online?,” the observant crowd asks. Well, you ingeniously inquisitive fellows, the answer is both yes and no. These online modes for the popular franchises may be robust and excitingly entertaining, but I want to see Rockstar doing something bigger and bolder. Not just multiplayer revisions of the original gameplay, but something supporting way more than 32 players. An entirely new IP, featuring the same open world ideas from the above-mentioned games but with a more elaborate, story-based approach to the game world.

It would be an interesting challenge to tackle, and I’m convinced that Rockstar would be successful. Business as usual.

Ubisoft (Far Cry Franchise, Assassin’s Creed Franchise…)

Dream MMORPG Studios Ubisoft

Currently, Ubisoft is synonym with Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry, but the French company has a lot more under its sleeve. The Division 2, for example, is just one of several games that happily dabble with online gameplay, but is it a true MMORPG? I wouldn’t say so. Oddly enough, there isn’t a single full-fledged story-driven MMORPG anywhere to be seen in Ubisoft’s enviable backlog.

Ubisoft’s experience with rich open world settings would be invaluable when it comes to building a vast and diverse map for an MMORPG. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey shows a developer with several great ideas and a brilliant grasp on art direction, storytelling and combat system. The Assassin’s Creed franchise is a potential candidate for a massively multiplayer release, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Ubisoft using its expertise and resources with an original IP.

Epic Games (Fortnite Battle Royale, Gears of War…)

Dream MMORPG Studios Epic Games

The overwhelming success of Fortnite Battle Royale coupled with the industry-leading Unreal Engine are the two main drivers of Epic Games’ unstoppable growth. The failure of third-person MOBA Paragon wasn’t enough to deter the studio, and it was convinced that Fortnite would come out of development hell and convince the masses. It did, but the “help” of a rival to steer it in the right direction was essential: PUBG introduced it the wondrous world of Battle Royale.

For a studio that was founded in 1991 and enjoyed several successes over the years, Epic Games is sitting at the top of its game. They could easily design a traditional third-person MMORPG as they have the resources – mainly the engine –, the know-how and the financial freedom. They are proven masters of every visual style, so they could go for a sci-fi fantasy theme enriched with realistic features (as seen in Paragon) or choose a laid-back cartoon approach (Fortnite). While it is early days for fully-fledged Unreal Engine 4 MMORPGs (Nexon’s Project BBQ, Blade & Soul’s Vision update, NCsoft’s Project TL…), Epic Games could easily stand out from the competition with its expertise with the engine.

Grinding Gear Games (Path of Exile)

Dream MMORPG Studios Grinding Gear Games

Is Path of Exile an MMORPG or is it not? That’s a discussion that could go on for days, but the general opinion is that it is an ‘online action RPG.’ Rightfully acclaimed as one of the best examples of the Diablo school of hack and slash, Grinding Gear Games’ title could work as a great prelude to an MMORPG.

Grim and gloomy just as Diablo is – or was? –, Path of Exile could serve as the stepping stone for an isometric MMORPG in the style of Lost Ark. With open world areas and world bosses for dozens of players to cooperate, along with the traditional instanced dungeons, it’s not like GGG’s first and only game strays too far from MMORPG territory. Their updates are renowned for being huge and going in the direction of player requests and aren’t afraid of drastically changing something that doesn’t feel right – as they did with the Fall of Oriath expansion, completely altering the campaign structure.

The big question here is if it would be worthwhile developing a second game that fundamentally would borrow many mechanics from Path of Exile. Perhaps going for a different, less grisly theme would be the best choice?

Digital Extremes (Warframe)

Dream MMORPG Studios Digital Extremes

Through perseverance and unshakeable belief in its original vision, Digital Extremes managed to surpass everyone’s expectations and showed a thing or two to many publishers of little faith. Warframe went from being a niche game to a behemoth of an online action RPG.

It’s this perseverance and long-term vision that would ultimately set them apart from other developers. Ironically, it was absent from hero shooter The Amazing Eternals, but realizing early on that something isn’t going to take off may be a positive as well.

Digital Extremes is absolutely at ease with sci-fi and fast-paced movement, so it would be the perfect candidate for a frantic action combat MMORPG. They are no strangers to open world MMO gameplay as well, with Warframe’s updates Plains of Eidolon and Fortuna showing that they can hold their own in this department.

The only downside would probably be that this hypothetical MMORPG would be, just as Warframe, in open beta for all eternity and beyond. But we all can live with that, right?

Riot Games (League of Legends)

Dream MMORPG Studios Riot Games

Riot Games must step up its game soon or risk seeing the fountain of riches that is League of Legends eventually dry out. How fun would it be to see Runeterra becoming the stage for an MMORPG? It’s not as crazy as it sounds either; it was Riot Games’ co-founder Marc Merrill that came up with the thought and fans reacted accordingly.

Of course, this is nothing but speculation. While Riot Games is said to be “experimenting a lot of stuff,” and considering the implications of going head-to-head with World of Warcraft, nothing is set in stone.

However, it should happen. League of Legends has some terrific characters and intricate lore that could work nicely in an MMORPG. The colorful cartoon aesthetic feels just right for a third-person perspective, and it goes without saying that the League of Legends player base would jump at the thought of seeing its favorite world expanding. This MMORPG must be made while the MOBA remains at its best, so that gives them… two to three years?

KOG Studio (Grand Chase, Elsword, KurtzPel…)

Dream MMORPG Studios KOG Studio

KOG Studio is something of a weird case. While an expert in online games, the South Korean studio still hasn’t dipped its feet in traditional MMORPG territory. Grand Chase and Elsword are acclaimed MMO games but they are action games at heart and couldn’t be further from the likes of World of Warcraft or EverQuest.

Nonetheless, Elsword is considered a 2.5D action MMORPG, which means that it includes core mechanics such as guilds, PvP and item trading. KOG’s latest game, KurtzPel, switches to a third-person perspective but is a focused PvP brawler experience with boss raid PvE gameplay tacked on.

So why do I reckon that KOG could deliver an outstanding MMORPG? Because they have years of experience in online games, a couple of successful titles under its belt, and a mastery of action gameplay. The cherry on top is the combat system developed for KurtzPel, which would work impeccably in an MMORPG. The same thing goes for the beautiful anime graphics.

I don’t want to sound like a grumpy old curmudgeon, but adding hub towns with proper quests to KurtzPel would be a great place to start. Follow it with complete dungeons, let it cook for a couple of years and we would get a stunning anime MMORPG. Sadly, KurtzPel isn’t going to be that game, but KOG may eventually get to it in the future.

DevCAT (Vindictus, Mabinogi, Dragon Hound, Ascendant One…)

Dream MMORPG Studios DevCAT

For many of you, the name DevCAT may not ring a bell, but what about Mabinogi and Vindictus? Now that tells you something, doesn’t it? The South Korean studio is behind these classic MMORPGs, with Vindictus being one of the best examples in action combat before TERA or Black Desert Online showed up to the party. This game is live and getting updates up to this day, further proof that DevCAT stands by its work.

A sequel to Vindictus is long overdue and was once in development, but it felt more like an arena brawler spin-off than a proper follow-up. It ended up being canceled, with DevCAT moving on to other games. The monster-hunting online game Dragon Hound is one of its upcoming titles and a very promising one, and DevCAT is also reimagining Mabinogi for mobile devices, and it looks terribly cute. DevCAT’s catalog shows that it is a studio capable of tackling any challenge, from MMORPGs to MOBAs and even card games.

DevCAT should consider updating Vindictus to the current generation, just as Neople is doing with Dungeon Fighter Online’s sequel (codename Project BBQ). A third-person, brutal action combat MMORPG mixing Vindictus’ varied character selection with an open world like Black Desert Online could be a pleasant recipe. Nexon just needs to give them the go-ahead and we’ll all be happy.

SEGA (Yakuza, Phantasy Star Online 2…)

Dream MMORPG Studios SEGA

I’m not even going to bother with Phantasy Star Online 2 anymore. I gave up on the promised western release a long time ago, but SEGA could at least be so kind as to officially confirm that this version is dead and buried, something that they didn’t even worry about telling their fans. We need some sort of closure on this subject, guys!

SEGA is no stranger to MMORPGs, as you can see, so it’s peculiar to realize that it has all but abandoned the genre. A new Phantasy Star Online game would result in millions of joyful players worldwide, but I wouldn’t rule out something based on the Yakuza franchise as well. This prolific series is acclaimed for its open world and story, as well as for the abundance of mini-games and entertaining side-quests. Aren’t those some of the fundamentals of a full-fledged MMORPG?

Between a new Phantasy Star Online and a Yakuza MMORPG, the choice is far from easy. Recently we were fooled into thinking that the latter one was happening, but Yakuza Online turned out to be a mobile card game. In your face, expectations!

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10 Absolutely Shocking or Surprising MMO Events

The video game industry isn’t all about making games; that would be so downright boring. That is why now and then we get a shocking scandal, surprise announcement or surreal occurrence. Here are 10 controversial or surprising happenings that spread like wildfire and in some way changed the industry.

Save the Whales – Lockbox Legislation Around the World

Video Game Industry Scandals Star Wars Battlefront 2 lockboxes

Do you like gambling? Great! So why aren’t you inside a casino? Oh, that’s right, most games nowadays come with some sort of gambling feature called lockboxes. The premise is simple and ingenious: you are promised amazing in-game rewards that will be all the rage. So, what should you do? Purchase more and more of these boxes to increase the odds of getting that rare piece of gear or costume. Go on, put that credit card to use, games don’t make themselves, you know?

That was sarcasm, in case you didn’t notice. Always be responsible with your spending.

The shady thing with lockboxes is that the odds of really getting something worthwhile are incredibly slim and shrouded in secrecy, not to mention that they have this tempting allure that many players aren’t able to resist. It does sound a lot like gambling, right? That is how you end up spending hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on randomized pieces of loot.

Oddly enough, it was China that first started looking into this matter and demanded that developers publicly revealed the odds of earning an in-game item. Crossfire was one of the first games to come to light and the ludicrous 3% proves that lockboxes are a wonderful deal… for publishers.

Other regions such as Belgium and The Netherlands started investigating lockboxes, with some games such as Overwatch stopping the sale of lockboxes in affected regions. Electronic Arts was involved in this controversy as well, with games such as Star Wars Battlefront 2 and FIFA 18 being mentioned as examples. Of course, other countries aren’t entirely sure about this subject. France and Ireland, for example, aren’t the biggest fans of lockboxes but see this practice as a legally grey area.

Lockboxes are a touchy subject and will surely continue to be discussed during the following years. My advice to you is: if you really like a game and want to support the development team by spending some money, which you should totally do, look at the item shop and leave lockboxes alone.

 

Riot Games Bro Culture, Testicle Flicking and Gender-Based Discrimination

Video Game Industry Scandals League of Legends Riot Games

Riot Games achieved intergalactic fame riding on the success of League of Legends, but by late 2018 it was talked about due to the worst possible reasons: an alleged culture of sexism, a “giant fraternity,” and a “bro culture” where women were not welcome. It was a place where women were discriminated against, as their career progression was stifled as positions went to less-qualified men.

Kotaku created an amazing article with several interviews that dropped like a bomb in the already fragile and scandal-ridden video game industry.

Naturally, this piece spread like wildfire and had severe repercussions, with Riot Games having to undertake some serious damage control. Riot’s COO Scott Gelb was in the spotlight by facing accusations from multiple employees about repeatedly flicking testicles, farting on employees or humping them for comedic effect. Sounds like a lot of fun when you are on the receiving end, right?

To cut a long story short, several former Riot Games employees started sharing their experiences after reading the articles (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) and the least that can be said is that it is some heavy reading. Riot Games eventually apologized, but the damage was done, and the past can’t be erased. How it has affected the studio – and League of Legends – remains a bit of a mystery, but I doubt that it did them any favors. And it’s so easy to apologize after your humiliating studio culture is revealed to the world…

 

A Bad Case of Battle Royale – PUBG Corp Sues Left and Right

Video Game Industry Scandals PUBG

Here’s a lawsuit for you! And you! Everyone gets a lawsuit!

There is no denying that PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds was the game that kickstarted the Battle Royale craze. It remains as one of the most played games in its genre, but it is now trailing behind Epic Games’ Fortnite, and Respawn’s Apex Legends is also proving to be a worthy challenger.

However, if there is one thing that developer PUBG Corporation can’t claim is having invented the Battle Royale genre or its mechanics. That is why suing Epic Games sounded more like a desperate attempt to put a stop to the rising fame of Fortnite Battle Royale than an authentic, credible case. It felt more like a kid throwing a tantrum because someone stole his candy. His delicious, everlasting candy.

But before the Epic Games lawsuit, there was a previous one targeting NetEase. PUBG Corporation wasn’t pleased with Knives Out and Rules of Survival, going to the extent of detailing several game mechanics over 100 pages. Claiming copyright infringement for things such as a pre-game lobby, the air jump, character attributes and much more seems a bit of a stretch. Sure, I’ll admit that the frying pan armor may be somewhat original, but still…

PUBG is a huge success and shady copycats were bound to happen, but it will be a depressing day when a studio is granted the copyright for trite game mechanics or a completely unremarkable game idea. Let’s cross our fingers and hope that the day will never come.

 

Trust Us, This Time It’s Good – Bless Online Western Release Mess

Video Game Industry Scandals Bless Online

Bless Online is the perfect lesson in exaggerated hype and subsequent disappointment. May its legacy serve as a warning for future generations about the dangers of high expectations.

For the lucky few who aren’t aware of the whole situation, Bless Online is a Korean fantasy MMORPG that was several years in the making and had a large budget as well. A few lackluster betas led to a Rebuild project that ended up not changing that much, and the attrition between original western publisher Aeria Games and developer Neowiz was a clear sign that Bless Online wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be.

Ultimately, Neowiz decided to self-publish Bless Online in the west through Steam, but with a major twist – it was going to be buy-to-play! An unfinished, buggy mess of a free-to-play Korean game that the western crowd was now expected to pay for. Oddly enough, many players cheered this decision because things are always better when you pay, right? With the reality shock and negative feedback stemming from the Early Access phase – because Bless Online wasn’t in development for long enough, you know –, there was a 180º turn and Bless Online’s official launch marked a switch to the original free-to-play business model. Too little, too late?

Apparently, yes. As the original Korean servers shut down, along with the failure of the Russian and Japanese versions. The Steam release of Bless Online is now the sole focus of Neowiz. Unsurprisingly, it is bleeding players and its future is uncertain, to say the least.

But I saved the best for last! Out of the blue, Neowiz and Bandai Namco announced Bless Unleashed, further stirring up the hornet’s nest, a.k.a. Bless Online PC players claiming that resources were being shifted to this upcoming game. This Xbox One exclusive is developed in Unreal Engine 4, is free-to-play and is scheduled for a 2019 launch. How does that old saying goes? Fool me once, shame on you…?

 

Who’s the Parent – Daybreak / Columbus Nova Chaos

Video Game Industry Scandals Daybreak PlanetSide Arena

Daybreak Game Company was in the spotlight for an important part of 2018, and no, it wasn’t due to the massive layoffs (around 70 people). It was because of all the confusion surrounding Daybreak’s alleged parent company, Columbus Nova.

The makers of Z1 Battle Royale, DC Universe Online and PlanetSide Arena, among others, were involved in a tangled web of miscommunication, doubt and unexpected twists. Daybreak has officially denied any affiliation with Columbus Nova, claiming that Jason Epstein, former member of Columbus Nova, is the primary owner of the studio. This conflicts with a 2015 privacy policy which described Columbus Nova as the parent company.

This almost feels like a detective movie, involving a Russian oligarch, billions worth of frozen assets and nail-biting suspense. All that is lacks is a romantic subplot, but let’s not make it more complicated than it already is.

 

Elves on Spaceships – Pearl Abyss Purchases CCP Games

Video Game Industry Scandals Black Desert Online

What does it take for one Korean studio to acquire a hugely reputed developer with a massive hit that has been live for more than 15 years? The answer has three words: Black Desert Online.

Pearl Abyss delivered a stunning MMORPG that is almost unrivaled when it comes to graphics and action combat. It is also incredibly deep and complex – so much so that it’s awfully grindy and requires a hefty dose of patience, and usually money, to become a powerful player. There are reports of players having spent over $5,000 USD on Black Desert Online, and I’m betting that is the tip of the iceberg.

With such revenue numbers, it’s clear that Pearl Abyss had a bit of pocket money. They decided to use it on the acquisition of CCP Games, makers of the intergalactic epic EVE Online. Apart from the upcoming release of EVE Online in Korea, we don’t know what other plans Pearl Abyss has for the Icelandic studio. Let’s just hope that it doesn’t involve spaceships landing in Black Desert Online.

 

A Handful of Nothing – Wargaming Seattle Closes Without a Single Release

Video Game Industry Scandals World of Tanks

Gas Powered Games is a name that brings back some pleasant memories. It takes me to a time when I enjoyed playing the Diablo-like Dungeon Siege, or the complex real-time strategy series Supreme Commander. However, in 2013 the studio was suffering from severe financial issues and ended up being purchased by World of Tanks publisher Wargaming.

Thus, Wargaming Seattle was born, along with hopes of a new “big free-to-play MMO” that never saw the light of day. Five years later, not a single piece of info or a measly screenshot was released to the public, and Wargaming decided to cut its losses. The studio was closed, affecting a 150-strong team and leaving the gaming community oblivious to what kind of project was in development.

However, this isn’t stopping Wargaming’s ambitions. The Belarusian company acquired Edge Case Games in November 2018 and has several partnerships with various developers, one of the latest being Ukrainian studio Frag Lab, which is working on a next-gen free-to-play MMO first-person shooter.

 

Not So Heroic – Marvel Heroes Downfall

Video Game Industry Scandals Marvel Heroes Gazillion

There was once a time when Marvel Heroes merged the best of two worlds: Diablo-like gameplay and super heroes. Sure, it didn’t have the greatest start, but just as it happened with other online games – League of Legends is the perfect example –, it eventually got better as development progressed, gameplay was finetuned and new heroes joined the fray.

After a few years of live service, some worrying news came to light, and not all of them involving the game. A sexual harassment scandal concerning Gazillion’s CEO Dave Dohrmann is a major problem, and Disney’s (owner of Marvel) intention to cut ties with Gazillion was a death sentence. It all ended with a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2018, meaning that the studio wasn’t paying its creditors and was forced into bankruptcy by the same entities.

Gazillion workers ended up without any kind of PTO or severance, making the entire situation even more dramatic.

 

Worlds Divided – Gamigo Buys Trion Worlds

Video Game Industry Scandals Trove

Trion Worlds was once one of the most prolific free-to-play games publishers and developers. Trove, Rift, Defiance and Atlas Reactor are all their own doing, and you certainly have heard about ArcheAge as well.

While some of these games were moderate successes, they weren’t enough to keep the company afloat. In October 2018, German publisher Gamigo acquired Trion, along with the full rights to the aforementioned games. They even managed to get a few Gazillion assets (makers of Marvel Heroes) in the deal as well.

Gamigo was undoubtedly one of the top players in the free-to-play market when the genre was on the rise. Recently, however, its catalog is more discreet, with the decent shooter Ironsight being one of the latest releases.

 

Guild Lost – ArenaNet Layoffs and a Grim Future

Video Game Industry Scandals ArenaNet Guild Wars 2

For some reason, ArenaNet felt to me like one of those studios that couldn’t do any wrong. Sure, it’s not like they have done much besides Guild Wars and its sequel, but both MMORPGs were critically and commercially acclaimed, thus my appreciation and admiration for their spotless track record.

Nonetheless, there are very few studios that manage to keep going for years without the occasional new release. Founded in 2000, ArenaNet was allegedly working on two new projects, but delayed development and a shift of staff from Guild Wars 2 to these unannounced games ended up being an unsuccessful move.

Reports mention over 100 layoffs at ArenaNet following a restructuring decision by the studio’s owner NCSoft. The future of ArenaNet is now uncertain, and if there aren’t any new games in an advanced stage of development, there is only so much that new Guild Wars 2 expansions can do. I fear that we will end up seeing the talented staff being engulfed and separated by NCSoft in a not-so-distant future.

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Two Riot Employees Leave over PAX West Panel Row

As Riot Games continues to reportedly clear its culture and sexism issues, the departure of two Riot employees over a PAX West panel briefly muddied those efforts a bit. However, it appears that their social media engagement ultimately lead to their departure from the studio.

two riot employees

The panel in question was offering presentations on art design, game production and narrative writing for women and non-binary game dev aspirants. What caused an uproar was the fact that the panel blocked males from entering. This sparked a firestorm of claims that the decision was sexist.

One of Riot’s systems designers, Daniel Klein, waded into the outcry, referring to one Reddit thread as a “toxic landfill” populated by “manbabies” and explaining that sexism refers to discrimination against a marginalized gender. This prompted further rancor from the League of Legends playerbase, who called on Riot Games to act.

Communications associate Mattias Lehman came to Klein’s defense. “It’s telling when people spend more time tone policing him than calling out those harassing and threatening him,” tweeted Lehman. “Being an ally means listening to, learning from, and standing up with marginalized people.”

Days later, both Klein and Lehman were released from Riot Games.

Assumptions regarding their departure hit a high point, but internal sources mention that Riot Games asked employees to not engage with the controversy. Klein and Lehman – both outspoken people who have advocated for more diversity at Riot Games – apparently did not heed those instructions. Additionally, Klein stated to The Verge that he was fired for violating the company’s social media policy. It’s not clear whether Lehman was also fired for those same reasons or if he quit on his own.

Riot issued the following statement:

“These departures are independent from our efforts to evolve our culture. Our culture remains our top priority, and we remain committed to taking the steps that we need to become a leader in Diversity & Inclusion. We will always encourage Rioters to share their perspectives, and we fully support efforts by Rioters to further our Diversity & Inclusion initiatives. We are committed to making real, positive change in Riot’s culture and internal advocates are a crucial part of making that happen.”

Our Thoughts

This definitely seemed to hit the precise same notes that led to firings at ArenaNet, but in this case it appears that there was some actual clear instruction by the company to its employees. That said, it still does look like Riot Games has a lot of work to do in order to become a more inclusive company.

Source: Kotaku

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Riot Games Promises Action to Combat Workplace Sexism

After Kotaku absolutely blew the lid off of a culture of Riot Games sexism, sourcing 28 first-hand accounts from current and former employees, Riot Games has officially responded with an action plan and a number of steps meant to make the company a safer work environment for women.

riot games sexism

After opening with several apologies and statements to fans, employees and partners, the company post outlines a number of new positions and initiatives that are being put in place to address sexism in both the game’s office itself and in its hiring processes.

These steps include the hiring of a new Chief Human Resources Officer and a Chief Diversity Officer; opening up an anonymous hotline for people to report issues as well as evaluating claim investigation processes; hiring two third-party consultants to evaluate the company; and overhauling recruitment practices and training.

In addition, the post mentioned that more direct action would be taken on specific employees including firings, though details weren’t provided for legal and privacy reasons.

“We’ve always believed that Riot should be the home for the very best talent in gaming. It’s clear we’ve fallen short of that goal,” closes the post. “But we’ve never backed down from a challenge before and we don’t plan to start now.”

Our Thoughts

Those are a whole lot of pretty words, to be sure, but those will still ring hollow until there’s some honest and noticeable action taken at Riot Games. We suspect that there will be a follow-up at some time later down the line to see if these initiatives have actually made an appreciable difference.

Source: Riot Games website

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