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Ask Massively: Clearly I need more totally random pictures edition

Eliot Lefebvre

So apparently, having a picture of a BattleMech as the header for Ask Massively makes everyone expect that there's some big news about a BattleTech MMO somewhere to be found. Sorry, folks -- I'd like it just as much as you would, although I'm not sure that it would necessarily turn out to be very good. (There's not a lot to do outside of a 'Mech and not much to do inside of one other than shoot things.) Luckily, I'm pretty sure that it will not be possible to misconstrue this week's image. I certainly hope not.

Today's discussion has absolutely nothing to do with the above picture, which is usually the case. Instead, we're talking about integrated voice chat in games and the apparent immortality of Ultima Online. If you've got a question you would like answered in a future edition of Ask Massively, just drop us a line at or leave your question in the comment field.

Fienemannia asked: Why in the world do games integrate voice chat clients when everyone just uses Mumble or Ventrilo?

Because a full feature list is always better than a depleted one, mostly. There are certain games in which integrated voice chat is not the punchline to a joke, although most of those are console games. But if someone's used to playing Valve's array of first-person shooters on Steam with an integrated client, he'd find it familiar to be able to use an integrated voice client in an MMO. In theory, anyway.

The idea seems to be that by making the service built-in, players won't have to worry about third-party applications and server issues, never mind that the third-party applications have long since become embedded in the genre's culture. It's not the worst way you can update a game client's functionality, but it is low on the list of necessary features.
Jejeune asked: Ultima Online has been running since 1997, and I can't imagine it's making a whole lot of money these days. Why is it still operational when newer games (The Matrix Online, for one) get shut down?
A lot of reasons. "Because life isn't fair" would be sort of accurate but not terribly satisfying.

Part of it is the resources required to keep the game running. The older a game, the less resource-intensive it is to keep the game operational, which means that it needs to bring in less money to justify its continued existence. Another element is the company in question. Some companies are loath to shut down any game, while others will happily prune underperforming titles to make sure that the "failed" titles aren't clogging up server space. And others actually do make money from dedicated playerbases, cash shops, and expansions, in spite of expectations to the contrary.

Unfortunately, there's not always a whole lot of rhyme or reason to which games live on past their prime and which ones get cut down before they have a chance. TMO had been a hard game to manage from the beginning, and when it was inherited by Sony Online Entertainment, the management didn't have the same long-term attachment to it as the players or staff. Compare that to Tabula Rasa (which died because it was a black eye for the company) or All Points Bulletin (which kind of killed its parent company altogether).
Looking for some advice on which class is best for soloing in Aion? Not sure who this Raph Koster fellow is? Curious about the release date of NCsoft's newest MMO? You've come to the right place! No one knows MMOs like we do. If there's anything you'd like to know about the MMO genre or the site itself, Ask Massively is here to help every Thursday afternoon. Just ask!

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