Last autumn/winter stumbled upon the closed beta of a niftly online RPG/MMO-type game, City of Steam. I started to play the game in the closed beta weekends, which was pretty fun. I think they game had some issues, but the level of interaction and feedback between the developers and the community was outstanding. Primarily for that reason, I bought one of their beta packs, to support them in their efforts. The game also got greenlit on Steam, which sounded like a nice potential boost for the game.
After the closed beta weekends there were a couple of months which the developers, Mechanist Games, were working on updates and additions to the game – presumably based on the closed beta feedback. During this the company also settled some deals with a few publishers for different regions. The Western hemisphere (Europe, North America) was covered by R2 Games.
And so the open beta arrived – and players met a game which some ways were significantly different from the closed beta, and in many players’ view, not for the better. There were certainly improvements also, but the “dumbed down” aspects of the game annoyed quite a few is seems.
There were also a number of bugs and the interaction and feedback from developer side decreased. Perhaps not surprising though, with a few different publishers that now had the main responsibility for the game, instead of Mechanist themselves. Additional restrictions entered the game, bugs remained unfixed, less information from developers and less happy players – unfortunately it seems to have been going a bit downhill here. Last times I managed to log in to the game there were not many people around. Recent visits show barely any activity in the forums and I was not even able to login to the game.
What happened here? Did the developers suddently start to hate the players? Are the publishers the spawn of the devil? Hardly. The enthusiasm and engagement from the developers were genuine I think and I do not think that this changed really.
But it is a business and some business-oriented decisions had to be made. That may have been in negotiations with the publishers, there may have been other investors or similar that gave some ultimatums – who knows? Decisions were made by some people who did not understand the impact of those decisions I think and mistakes were made. Rumos also say that a few of the developers left the company as well – Mechanist seemed to be quite a small developer, so that would be something that would hurt them.
Will they recover to former glory? I don’t know. Hitting players with changes that annoy people, nerf features etc and at the same time decrease communication with the players seems like a bad combination. There may be good reasons why these decisions are made, but not obvious to players. All the more reason to improve communication with the community at these times.
In a way it reminds me a bit of the situation around Chronicles of Spellborn. A neat game which had its share of issues for the gameplay, but also some quite nice and unique features. The messed up the publisher situation when going live and eventually folded. One of the publishers made some attempts to revive the game, but in the end that was futile it seemed.
I hope City of Steam recovers, but from my viewpoint it looks a bit depressing right now.
A bit over a week ago City of Steam, a steampunk-inspired, browser-based dungeon crawler/MMO-type game went into open beta. So it is kind of launched, but not quite.
I November/December of 2012 the game had 4 closed beta weekends, which I played a bit in. So now it has been time to see what the state of the game is, what has changed and if it is worth playing. And my answer to that last part is – yes, it could be worth playing. But it is a bit bumpy ride.
The game City of Steam is now in the Steam Greenlight queue, which means it will be available through Steam if it gets the green light. Playing the game through Steam will provide provide some extra features, which is outline in a CoS forum post.
Since the game is browser-based and with a free-to-play payment model, anyone* can still play it though even without Steam. The game is currently gearing up for its 3rd closed beta weekend, starting this Friday/Saturday (depending on your time zone). In time for this next round of closed beta, the people at Mechanist Games have released a new trailer for the game, see below.
If you are interested in a beta key, send me a private message in the game forums (Sente), as I may have beta keys.
* anyone with a browser which is supported by the Unity3D web player.
In a previous post I mentioned that would take a look at a steampunk-inpired MMO called City of Steam. The game is currently in closed beta and this very weekend is one of their closed beta weekends, the second of them – out of four weekends. I say steampunk-inspired; the game company Mechanist games says it is rather an Industrial Age fantasy game with steampunk elements. It is certainly a mix of a Victorian steampunk world and a few industrial/technology elements seen in some other fantasy games. The setting is rather what a fantasy author living in an alternative steampunk universe would make up.
It is a browser-based MMO which uses the Unity3D engine and thus can be played in any browser that is supported by the Unity web player. This currently includes a couple of different browsers on Windows and Mac platforms.
While closed beta for some games means a non-disclosure agreement and everything being very secret, for City of Steam and Mechanist games this is pretty much the other way around it seems. The encourage people to spread the word and get people to play and help test their game and are quite open with what they do. Note though that what I write here is still from a closed beta and many things will change/improve. Thus I will try to avoid any judgement on specific features and not go into too much detail on everything.
Lead designer and producer for the game is a a David Lindsay, who is also the author of a pen&paper RPG called The New Epoch. The world setting in this RPG also forms the base for City of Steam, although it does not share the same ruleset – this has been adopted to fit the video game format. Reading the some of the background lore and information it is clear that this is not just a thin lore layer that is slapped on. Regardless of the actual setting, this is something I think one wants to see with an MMO-type game – that there is a consistency and depth to why things are the way they are.
In a couple of days City of Heroes will be end as a playable game and I will not longer have that game as a fallback when the MMO space looks a bit bleak at times.
The last months now has perhaps more than before put the spotlight, for me, the importance of the MMO game company’s interaction with its customers and game community. Not only is the presence of other players important, but also the relationship with a game company and the players of their game(s). Is there a passion for a game vision, a willingness to interact with the players, a mutual respect?
Combined with theme/settings preferences, this has resulted in a few games that I am going to look more into when City of Heroes comes to an end.
- The Secret World. I love the setting and what Funcom has tried to accomplish here, so I will most certainly return to TSW in about a week. Funcom is one of those MMO developers that ranks quite high on my list – they certainly mess things up from time to time, but sometimes it works out quite well. They do not try to play safe all the time, but do try new ways to do things and they do seem to be pasionate about what they do.
I have not come very far in my progress in TSW – my most played character is still in Blue Mountains – a zone which I thought was pretty ok actually, before I took a break to focus on City of Heroes. Not sure what the state of my cabal is at this point, but will see about that later.
- Anarchy Online. Another Funcom game and my first MMO. This is a game that probably does not have a huge amount of paying players and only a handful of developers working on the game. But Funcom still supports it and does not just try to keep a status quo and keep it running only.
The new game engine as well as a revamp of the new player experience is expected to go into beta early next year (yes, I know – the usual Real Soon Now, not holding my breath). Server merges for RK-1 and RK-2 is expected to happen before the end of this year.
While the new engine is interesting to see what comes out of it, I really also hope there will be some revamp of the combat eventually – it has been to much dependency towards auto-attacks for my taste.
- The Repopulation. A Scifi sandbox/sandpark:ish MMO under development. The feature list is quite neat,looks pretty niced from what has been shown so far and the developers behind it seems quite nice and passionate about what they do. I was a backer in their Kickstarter campaign and I will look forward to jump into a beta some time next year. They are amining for a late 2013 release – about a year from now.
- City of Steam. Another City of-game, but in this case an MMO with a steampunk:ish flavour. And it is a browser-based MMO, using the Unity engine. I have picked up a key for the closed beta. The game company, Mechanist Games, seems to be quite transparent and willing to interact with the players – I get a definite positive vibe from what I have seen so far here.
I have only played a little bit in closed beta so far. While I have not seen any any NDAs I will probably not write much details about it yet, since there is still changes being made and things missing. But I think it looks like a charming game with potential. CLosed beta weekends will continue in the coming month and I suppose an open beta at some point early next year.