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The Soapbox: Better models for MMO endgame progression, part one

Game Mechanics, Endgame, Opinion, The Soapbox, Miscellaneous

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I don't think the all-bear model is sustainable, though.
Last month, my three-part Soapbox series on reasons studios should abandon raiding as the core mechanic of their MMOs produced no shortage of comments. One of the persistent refrains from the pro-raid side was, as expected, "if you're so smart, why aren't you proposing alternatives?!"

The obvious answer would be that it wasn't the point of the articles. The series was about reasons to drop raiding, after all. But it's also not as simple as "here's what games should be doing" because there are countless alternatives. Tons of alternatives. I can think of at least six off the top of my head.

So for this new series, let's consider models that don't rely upon raiding as an endgame progression model. Some of these are close cousins to endgame models found in games currently on the market, some of them are not, and none of them has been designed with fine details or lore or what-not in mind. They're drag-and-drop, as it were. The point here is explaining the multitude of options available for an MMO's endgame that don't rely upon raiding for their focus. Today's article will cover the first two of six I have in mind.

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The Mog Log: Final Fantasy XIV's big fanfest reveals

Fantasy, Classes, Expansions, Endgame, Opinion, Consoles, Final Fantasy XIV, The Mog Log, Subscription

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This is, what, five whole months away?  I can't wait that long!
Christmas came early for the forward-looking Final Fantasy XIV player this year. I know some people are upset at the fact that there were more revelations in the Japanese fan festival than in the ones in Vegas or London, but the timing is different. (I'd also point out that the expansion was announced in Las Vegas.) We've gone from having only a dim view of what's coming to having a pretty clear picture of what awaits through the next few month.

One of the things that awaits is, of course, endless yelling about Machinist. Because boy.

So let's start unpacking the stuff we learned from Tokyo. I say "start" because there is no way to get everything in one column, certainly not with deadlines and other considerations to take center stage. It's going to be a few months, but there's a lot to chew on just about 2.5, even if we ignore all of the expansion stuff, which I have no intention of doing.

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Massively's MMO guide to the 2014 winter holidays

Culture, Events (Real-World), Events (In-Game), Game Mechanics, Lore, MMO Industry, Patches, Previews, News Items, Massively Meta, Humor, Promotions, Miscellaneous

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creepy snowman gonna get you. i... might be the wrong person to do this roundup, being not-a-fan of holiday mmo events. ah well.
Winter break: that time of year when I think woohoo time to sit around all day in my jammies and play video games but instead I have to work and bake junk food and wrap presents and go to family gatherings. First world MMO problems, right? Those of you who get to game this week better bank some experience points for me, and maybe check out some of the MMORPG genre's winter holiday events and promotions, conveniently rounded up for you in our guide below. The list isn't exhaustive, so feel free to chime in with any we've missed that you love.

Happy holidays from the Massively crew!

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One Shots: Cruising for Borg

Screenshots, Culture, Star Trek Online, One Shots, Miscellaneous

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sto
We're kicking off our two-week series of daily One Shots with this picture of a pair of Star Trek Online starships getting ready for some serious action.

Reader Chris sets the scene: "Futures passing in the night. A Galaxy-X dreadnought from the TNG finale All Good Things dangles in space with a heavily Borg-modified Galaxy-class ship in the background. Borgified Galaxy cruisers always remind me of the chilling moment at the end of the episode Parallels where Riker exclaims, 'You don't know what it's like in our universe. The Federation's gone! The Borg is everywhere! We're one of the last ships left...'"

Want to be featured in a future edition of One Shots? Send your favorite MMO screenshots to oneshots@massively.com, and don't forget to include your name, the name of the game, and a description of the scene. Large, colorful, UI-free shots that tell a story and really show off the game make for the best images. Look ma, we brought back One Shots!

The Daily Grind: Can you get immersed in an accessible MMO?

Sci-Fi, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, The Daily Grind, Sandbox, Elite: Dangerous

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I like Elite: Dangerous. The game's not a revelation at this point, but it's a solid space shooter that could grow into something more. My favorite thing about ED is the docking. I imagine that most people find it tedious, but personally it adds an extra layer of escapism and conjures plenty of old-school flight sim nostalgia. And, of course, it's mechanically satisfying to fly an efficient approach, squeak a big boat through the slot, and micromanage your thrusters all the way down to the landing pad.

All I do in ED is take courier missions, investigate unknown signal sources, and dock. Technically I guess I'm progressing toward a bigger bank account and thus bigger ships, but my particular gameplay experience is pretty simplistic and pretty slow-paced. Is it sandboxy? Eh, not really, but at least it doesn't feel directed, linear, or otherwise pre-planned even when I'm purposely repeating gameplay patterns. There's this sense of being a small part of a larger world, which allows ED to deliver -- somewhat paradoxically -- bite-sized chunks of deep immersion.

What about you, Massively readers? Assuming you're a fan of immersion, have you found it in accessible games or do you think it mostly stems from prolonged engagement with more feature-rich titles?

Every morning, the Massively bloggers probe the minds of their readers with deep, thought-provoking questions about that most serious of topics: massively online gaming. We crave your opinions, so grab your caffeinated beverage of choice and chime in on today's Daily Grind!

MMO Week in Review: Are you Elite or Dangerous?

Massively Meta, Week in Review, Miscellaneous

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Elite Dangerous
At the end of every week, we round up the best and most popular news stories, exclusive features, and insightful columns published on Massively and then present them all in one convenient place. If you missed a big MMO or WoW Insider story last week, you've come to the right post.

In spite of its ongoing offline mode controversy, Elite: Dangerous formally launched this week, earning congratulations from rival Star Citizen's Chris Roberts, who's said he'll be playing Elite himself over the holidays. Massively's Brendan Drain has been zipping around in this online sequel to Elite and examined it in comparison to internet spaceship genre cornerstone EVE Online.

We also brought to a close Massively's 2014 awards series and our predictions for next year.

Read on for a look at the rest of this week's top MMO stories.

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EVE Evolved: EVE Online vs. Elite: Dangerous

EVE Online, Business Models, Culture, Game Mechanics, Lore, MMO Industry, News Items, Hands-On, First Impressions, EVE Evolved, Elite: Dangerous

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EVE Evolved title image
Like many EVE Online players, I grew up playing early sci-fi games like Elite and its sequel Frontier. In fact, CCP's recently released stats on the distribution of ages within the EVE community shows a peak around 29 years old, meaning that most players grew up in that same gaming era. A big part of what initially drew me to EVE Online was the prospect of playing the same kind of massive trading and space exploration game with other people, and for over 10 years it's scratched that sci-fi sandbox itch. I've watched EVE grow from a relatively unknown game with around 40,000 subscribers and laggy cruiser skirmishes into a vast game where thousands of players wage war for territory, profit, or just the adrenaline rush of PvP with something valuable on the line.

Now that Elite: Dangerous is finally here, I want to see whether it can scratch the same sandbox itch as EVE and to what extent the two games can be compared. Both feature customisable ship fittings, open-world PvP with a criminal justice system, and real financial loss on death, for example, but the end result is two very different gameplay styles. And both also have that same intoxicating notion of exploring the unknown and try to make you feel like you're in a living world, but they take very different approaches to world design, content, and travel. Elite may not be a full-fledged MMO, but with a sandbox made of 400 billion procedurally generated stars and an open play mode that seamlessly merges players' games together, does it matter?

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I compare my experiences in Elite: Dangerous to my experiences in EVE Online and look at their differing strategies with regard to server model, active and passive gameplay, and the new player experience.

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EVE Online plans security crackdown on RMT rule violators

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Patches, Previews, Dev Diaries, Sandbox, Subscription

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eve
Players who have been skirting EVE Online's TOS might find themselves on the bad side of a ban come 2015, as the studio is rolling out tougher rules on violators in the new year. CCP posted a security blog in which it outlined how real-money traders will be punished, as well as those engaging in other activities such as input broadcasting and multiplexing.

While CCP didn't post the number of bans it performed in 2014, it did show a few graphs illustrating where the problem areas lay. Banned accounts this year, permanent and temporary, were divided up by macro use (56%), ISK selling (18%), ISK buying (5%), modified clients (4%), ISK spamming (1%), and other (16%).

On the brighter side of news, the team is hard at work on January's Proteus patch with sneakier combat recon ships, improved asteroid belt visuals, and the retirement of industry teams.

[Thanks to Chrysillis for the tip!]

Star Citizen releases Arena Commander 1.0

Betas, Sci-Fi, Patches, Sandbox, Star Citizen, Buy-to-Play

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star citizen
Pilots, start your engines, for Star Citizen's Arena Commander 1.0 is here! Arena Commander is the next significant milestone for the modularly developed space sim. With AC 1.0, pilots can take their ships out for dogfighting or just to experience flight among the stars.

Arena Commander 1.0 also has the effect of growing Star Citizen's feature list. The team's tripled the number of flyable ships with 14 new vessels. Missiles were improved, while the game added a lobby system, a friends list, a ship signature system, a thruster power system, and a lateral g-force system. The team also improved many of the visuals, animations, and audio effects.

[Thanks to Chrysillis for the tip!]

WoW Archivist: A Glyphmas story

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Economy, Expansions, Game Mechanics, PvP, Hands-On, Crafting, Subscription, WoW Archivist

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Scrolls of glyphs
WoW Archivist is a biweekly column by WoW Insider's Scott Andrews, who explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold? It first appeared on our sister site on December 17th and is included here by permission.

Professions in Warlords of Draenor feel completely different than in any other era in WoW. Creating powerful items is no longer a matter of farming, luck, or gold. Instead, we have to produce their key ingredients via garrison work orders. Leveling crafting professions is no longer about creating a bunch of useless items that we instantly vendor or disenchant, and reaching max level is now a slow burn instead of a quick grind. This is the first expansion where I haven't hit max level on all my professions within the first week or two.

The profession that has changed the most is the most recent: Wrath of the Lich King's inscription, added in 2008. Even the interface changed: The glyph window was originally part of the spellbook UI, not the talent pane. Because of those changes, for a few very special weeks, inscription transformed the financial futures of countless WoW players. I was one of them. We called it Glyphmas, and it was magical.

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One Shots: Top 10 best player screenshots of 2014

Screenshots, Culture, One Shots, Miscellaneous

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wildstar
It's been a pleasure being your tour guide through a sea of player screenshots this year, and I can't wait to see what awesome pics you all will take in 2015. Before we get to the new year, however, I'm going to do something we've never done before here on One Shots: play favorites.

Actually, I went back through all of this year's columns and picked out 10 screenshots that I personally liked the best. I don't often comment on what I think of a picture or what makes one stand out over the others, so the end of the year seemed to be a good time to do this.

And I have one other special treat for you as well! Starting tomorrow, Massively will be putting out a single One Shots entry each day for the next two weeks. So if you've sent in a picture but have yet to see it posted in its full glory, then it may indeed happen over this holiday season!

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The Daily Grind: Do you log into games you're not currently playing?

Super-hero, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, The Daily Grind, Marvel Heroes

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I haven't played Marvel Heroes in about two months. Blame Elite: Dangerous, ArcheAge, and a pile of single-player games, I guess, but I just haven't been able to fit it into my rotation here lately. That said, I've logged into the game for 122 straight days, entirely because of Gazillion's penchant for giving away nifty login prizes like an Ultron pet and dozens of others.

What about you, Massively readers? Do you log into MMOs or MMO-lites for prizes even though you're not currently playing?

Every morning, the Massively bloggers probe the minds of their readers with deep, thought-provoking questions about that most serious of topics: massively online gaming. We crave your opinions, so grab your caffeinated beverage of choice and chime in on today's Daily Grind!

Make My MMO: December 14 - 20, 2014

Business Models, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, New Titles, News Items, Crowdfunding, Make My MMO

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This week in MMO crowdfunding news, Elite: Dangerous launched. Let's hold here for a brief round of applause.

Moving on, Camelot Unchained's Mark Jacobs talked up developmental transparency, and his PvP sandbox closed in on $3 million in total funding. Last but not least, Massively interviewed Shroud of the Avatar gurus Richard Garriott and Starr Long. Click past the cut for more of our weekly crowdfunding roundup.

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Final Fantasy XIV introduces two new jobs and new races for Heavensward

Fantasy, Classes, Events (Real-World), Expansions, Previews, News Items, Consoles, Final Fantasy XIV, Subscription

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Well, at least we finally got it.
The last Final Fantasy XIV fan festival of the year is going on now in Japan, and the event's keynote speech has already contained big revelations for the game's first expansion, Heavensward. Players can look forward to the first new race for the game, the Au Ra, a race of dragon-esque people from Othard. It's been established that heretofore masked NPC Yugiri belongs to this race, and she will be revealing her face in patch 2.5.

Fans were also treated to preview footage of the Dark Knight in-game as well as two new jobs, the Machinist and the Astrologian. Astrologians are a new style of healer, drawing cards from decks to aid party members while debilitating enemies. Machinists are ranged DPS with a single large handgun and a style of play based on laying down turrets and paying attention to positioning. The keynote also contained information on the next multi-part raid and the Collector's Edition for the game, currently scheduled for release in spring of 2015.

Dark Age of Camelot takes aim at group finder and bug fixes

Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Dark Age of Camelot, Bugs, Patches, Previews, PvP, Community Q&A

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daoc
An end-of-the-year community Q&A at Dark Age of Camelot revealed that the team has a lot on the docket for Patch 1.117, including the long-awaited casual group finder and a heap of bug fixes.

"We think that focusing our development resources on bug fixing for an entire patch cycle is something that hasn't been done in a long time and is something that will make everyone's gameplaying experience that much better!" Broadsword posted.

Other topics discussed include freeing up space in quest logs, plans to update the patcher, and ideas to help out starter guilds. The Q&A even revealed that there will be "official Broadsword player reps" and "scheduled raids of all sorts" for trial accounts, although details on those will be coming later.

The Stream Team: Returning to Shroud of the Avatar

Fantasy, Video, Livestream, Sandbox, The Stream Team, Crowdfunding, Shroud of the Avatar

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It's been a few releases since Massively's MJ was able to prowl the streets of New Britannia, but the recent move to steam has her back in Shroud of the Avatar. And boy, has the world changed! Want to come get a glimpse of what this in-development sandbox already has to offer? Then join us live at 1:00 p.m. for a stroll through the towns and wilds and to talk about all things SotA.

Game: Shroud of the Avatar
Host: MJ Guthrie
Date: Saturday, December 20th, 2014
Time: 1:00 p.m. EST

Enjoy our Stream Team video below.

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The Game Archaeologist: The complete history of classic MMOs

Culture, MMO Industry, The Game Archaeologist, Miscellaneous

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uo
Since this is my final Game Archeologist post of 2014, I want to indulge in a personal project that's been pulling at my shirt-tails for a little while now. I've been writing this column for years and have yet to create a proper guide to all of the games and subjects that I've covered. So that's what you're getting today: a "complete" (thus far) history of classic, obscure, and dead MMOs, arranged by decade.

Ever wonder where MMOs began? Wanted to know what online gamers played back in the '90s and '80s? Trying to remember which games never made it to launch? Curious whether I've covered that little-known gem that was your doorway to a larger virtual world? Then take my hand and come with me!

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WRUP: Expanshapaign is too a word

Massively Meta, Miscellaneous

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Welcome back to Massively's What Are You Playing, the game in which we tell you what we're playing this weekend and you tell us what Guild Wars 2's much-prophesied expanshapaign should look like.

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The Daily Grind: Why aren't more studios investing in post-apocalyptic MMOs?

Culture, Opinion, The Daily Grind, Post-Apocalyptic, Miscellaneous

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fallen earth
Some days it makes my heart so very sad that Fallen Earth stands virtually alone in the field of "classic" post-apocalyptic MMO settings. I love that game dearly and wish I had more time to actually play it, but I wish even more that it had a bigger studio and budget to go with its wide aspirations. I fear it is already slipping away from us.

I was among the many desperately hoping for a Fallout MMO, but it seems as though those hopes were in vain. And out of all of the Kickstarter MMOs that I see, none seems to have gone the Mad Max route. So why do you think that more studios aren't investing in (non-zombie) post-apocalyptic MMOs -- and what would you like to see in that genre?

Every morning, the Massively bloggers probe the minds of their readers with deep, thought-provoking questions about that most serious of topics: massively online gaming. We crave your opinions, so grab your caffeinated beverage of choice and chime in on today's Daily Grind!

Gloria Victis is all up in your beeswax

Betas, Fantasy, Patches, Sandbox

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gloria victis
In yesterday's pre-alpha patch, Gloria Victis shattered all sense of boundaries and decided that it was going to make your beeswax its business. Yes indeed, we are finally living in an era when beeswax has been added to beehives in an MMO, and life will never be the same again. (Actually, my editor informs me that Ultima Online has that as well because it has everything.)

Other changes with the patch included global buffs for capture-the-flag winners, cattle horns as "by-products of [the] animal skinning process," a buff to gear durability, a higher change to get weapon drops from humans, and a rework of the mob spawning system.

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Release Dates

Core Games | In Testing | Crowdfund Hopefuls
Elite: Dangerous launch Dec. 16, 2014
TERA: Fate of Arun Dec. 16, 2014
H1Z1 Early Access Jan. 15, 2015
PAX South Jan. 23, 2015
GDC March 2, 2015
FFXIV: Heavensward Spring 2015

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