After I reached the highest level in Star Wars: The Old Republic, I ran into a problem: I had seen and done everything the endgame had offered to me. I completed all the dungeons, conquered all the available raid encounters, and then I was essentially stuck in a content drought until BioWare released something new—and then the cycle would repeat again. It's a pattern most MMORPGs of today run the risk of falling into as players tear through at a faster rate than ever before. In a blog post, Sony Online Entertainment CEO John Smedley examines these content-driven tendencies of the MMO genre, calling them "unsustainable" for the industry in favor of more sandbox experiences.
SOE have released a new Building Blocks video, rounding up the foundations of their construct-'em-up MMO alpha. This time, it's to introduce the desert environment; "environment" being the oldey-timey word we used to use before "biomes". As you can see from the video, deserts are big fans of cacti and weird looking trees. I'm sure it won't take long for players to put their own spin on the theme. As I type, someone's sure to be drawing up the blueprints to a raggedy RV, to be placed inconspicuously in the badlands.
The EverQuest Next Landmark alpha packages—$60 and $100 Founder's Packs—don't buy a complete game, and Landmark hasn't been a very functional incomplete game until the most recent patch. But despite four days of server outages, crashes, bugs, and wiped data in the voxel building MMO, EverQuest Director of Development David Georgeson is optimistic about Landmark's first public play test, and even wishes it had started earlier.
SOE have deployed the alpha for EverQuest Next Landmark, which you'll remember is the crafty/Photoshoppy prototype-type thing for their super-voxelly sequel to EverQuest 2. It's not the sort of alpha you can just download, however - you'll have to purchase a 'Founder's Pack' first. The cheapest tier of Founder's Pack with alpha access will set you back a whopping $60, so it's worth having a bit of a think before you decide whether or not to dive in. (Our hands-on preview from way back when might help.) EverQuest Next Landmark will be free-to-play when it eventually releases for real.
SOE haven't yet set a date for Everquest Next Landmark's upcoming alpha test (it's due sometime in the next two months), but they have released a pile of system requirements so you can see whether or not your Personal Computer is up to the task. You'll need an Intel i5 Dual Core / AMD Phenom X3 or higher, plus 20GB of hard drive space and at least a 10Mbit/sec net connection. Do you have those things? Then you are permitted to cross the break. Oh, you don't? Then I'm afraid it's off to the Bog of Eternal Stench with you.
It's not all bad news in the court of Sony Online Entertainment. Following the announcement that four of their MMOs - Free Realms, Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes and Wizardry Online - are soon to be Old Yellered, the MMO makers have revealed the existence of another: the original Planetside. To clarify: the 2003 predecessor to the impossibly huge Planetside 2 is going free-to-play this April. If you're worried about microtransactions, don't be - an SOE FAQ reveals that "PS1 has no Marketplace and will not see further game development".
Sony Online Entertainment has announced that it will be ending support for four ongoing MMORPGs: Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures, Free Realms, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, and Wizardry Online. Free Realms and Clone Wars Adventures servers will shut down on March 31, while Vanguard and Wizardry servers will stop on July 31.
Sony Online Entertainment has been pretty good about updating Planetside 2. As part of its Operation: Make Faster Game (OMFG) it released Performance Update 01 and 02, which addressed a very long list of balancing and performance issues. But players had to wait for them for a long time. This week, SOE announced that rather than huge, infrequent updates, starting this year it will release smaller weekly updates.
Planetside 2's PU02 patch brings more optimisation, holiday distractions, and an absurd number of balance changes
Planetside 2 is a game about big numbers. There's the size of its continents, or the number of players warring on them, or even the statistical likelihood that I will crash a Mosquito seconds after getting into its pilot seat. Clearly, though, SOE are beginning to take this numerical dedication too far. They've just released the game's second Performance Update patch and, rather than stick purely to optimisation changes, they've also made a balance pass so extensive that its section of the official patch notes is over 10,000 words long.
SOE wants to change the way you play MMOs—by letting you build them. Our newest issue of PC Gamer US features Tyler's hands-on report on how EverQuest Next Landmark's tools work, what you can build with them, and what it all means for EverQuest Next. Plus, print subscribers and print newsstand readers will get exclusive, one-week access to EverQuest Next Landmark's upcoming closed beta!
The economy of war is an important thing. Probably more important than the economy of Planetside 2, which is a sci-fi video game about war. Luckily, as a PC gaming website, we don't have to worry about importance - leaving us free to pursue news about lasers and robots. In a Q&A with the community on Reddit's r/Planetside, PS2's creative director Matt Higby revealed plans for personal progression system that would provide customisation that went beyond certificates.
If you've been eagerly consuming every EverQuest Next morsel, you'll already be aware that SOE are posting timelapse videos designed to flaunt the power of EverQuest Next Landmark. To my shame, this latest video in the rapid construction series was the first I'd bothered to watch - my own hideous inability to do an art having led me to assume that the MMO's creative counterpart should be reserved for people with talent (or basic levels of competency).
Having taken the time to see what's possible, I'm now experiencing a feeling best described via that Keanu Reeves face. Basically: if you've not been paying attention to what Landmark is doing, now's a good time to take a look.
Planetside 2's anniversary brings birthday bundle, contest to turn player stories into graphic novel
Most one year olds like to celebrate their birthday by falling over or, if they're feeling really adventurous, dribbling a bit. Like an unnaturally violent infant, PlanetSide 2 prefers to arm its players with a selection of rockets, weapons and bonuses. To celebrate their bouncing babby MMOFPS's continued survival, SOE have created a special anniversary bundle, offering a selection of hardware and buffs for a reduced price.
SOE have today released the first step of their OMFG (or, Operation: Make Faster Game) initiative. Performance Update 01 has just gone live, and it's changelist is a catalogue of tweaks, full of words like "optimized," and "faster," and "reduced". It turns out that framerates are OP.
There's EverQuest Next, and then there's EverQuest Next Landmark—two different MMOs linked by Sony Online Entertainment's unusual development process. Landmark will come first, sometime in early 2014, as a free-to-play MMO focused on exploring and Minecraft-style building, except with tools that go far beyond block stacking. Later on, however, Landmark will grow into the platform for EverQuest Next, and players will get all the tools SOE is using to build its flagship fantasy MMO.
Look at this and start dreaming. Director of Development David Georgeson has been playing with EverQuest Next Landmark's voxel building tools and tweeting the smooth results: a lovely little keep he says he built in "a few hours."
In many genres, the announcement of a purchasable option to skip the majority of content could be seen as a negative, but this is MMO country. In it, EverQuest 2 is one of the older residents, but that doesn't mean it can't occasionally surprise its younger peers. It's now offering "Heroic Characters", which, for a price, give players a direct shortcut to Level 85. Just think how many things you'll no longer have to kill for entirely arbitrary reasons.
Really, SOE? You're calling your plan to increase PlanetSide 2's performance "Operation: Make Faster Game"? That's not how you do operation names. You don't see military-minded nations announce Operation: Invade That Country Over There. And, as far as I know, the police have never made mass arrests under the banner of Operation: Lock Up Some Crims. Okay, so maybe I'm focusing on the wrong part of this behind-the-scenes video, and its showcased team's stated aim of further optimising the MMOFPS.
If you'd stared into the dark heart of the internet, well... you're probably too busy being curled up in the foetal position to read this. For game makers, balancing a lively community with the need to maintain a safe space for both developers and players is an age-old problem. In a profile on GamesIndustry.biz, SOE's director of global community relations Linda Carlson outlined the company's approach to dealing with abusive members of their community. One of the more interesting methods outlined involved holding players accountable for their actions outside of the game. Even players posting abusive messages on Twitter can now find themselves on the wrong end of SOE's banhammer.
It's a bit like Minecraft, quite a bit not like Minecraft, and it sure sounds like it's going to be big: earlier this month, SOE announced EverQuest Next Landmark, a surprise voxel building MMO releasing this winter as a precursor to EverQuest Next. Today at PAX we learned some new things about it—female dwarves can have beards, for insistence—which we've condensed here into an easily digestible info pill.