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The Think Tank: Giving thanks for MMOs

Culture, Opinion, Massively Meta, Miscellaneous, The Think Tank

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WoW
Indulge us a little today, won't you? In our Think Tank today, we the Massively writers gather 'round the virtual feasting table on our virtual golden yacht to express thanks for those MMO-related things we're grateful for. Won't you share yours down in the comments also? We can get back to arguing over raidmills and gankboxes tomorrow -- I promise.

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Lost Saga now on Steam

Fantasy, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, New Titles, News Items, Free-to-Play

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Does the West need another free-to-play "MMO action" brawler import from Korea? Smilegate and Steam Greenlight voters think so, and as such Lost Saga is now available on Steam.

How MMO is it? Well, not very, since it's limited to 16-player PvP action. That said, Smilegate has included MMOish mechanics like PvE dungeons and customizable gear. You can catch a brief trailer after the break.

[Source: Smilegate press release]

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Star Citizen eclipses $63 million, adds pets

Sci-Fi, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, New Titles, News Items, Sandbox, Crowdfunding, Star Citizen

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Cloud Imperium has a lot to be thankful for, including the fact that Star Citizen surpassed the $62 and $63 million crowdfunding plateaus during Thanksgiving week. Chris Roberts has published a new celebratory letter in which he outlines the latest stretch goals (the Genesis-class Starliner at $62 million and the Reliant at $63 million).

The upcoming $64 million goal should please pet lovers. "From Jones the cat in Alien to the Battlestar Galactica's Daggit, pets have a place onboard starships," Roberts writes, "and we want to give you that option in Star Citizen."

What about $65 million? "We have a major feature we're investigating as an option. Suffice it to say, we've heard a lot of your feedback about modular ships and we want to expand our plan for how to do them," Roberts teases.

Norrathian Notebook: First impressions of EQII's Altar of Malice

Fantasy, Galleries, EverQuest II, Expansions, Opinion, Free-to-Play, First Impressions, Crafting, Norrathian Notebook

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Norrathian Notebook:  First impressions of EQII's Altar of Malice
Although Altar of Malice has been available to All Access subscribers for two weeks, EverQuest II's 11th expansion just opened up to everyone on Tuesday. That makes this a great time to share my initial impressions of the new lands and new content. Mind you, these are literally only first impressions: I am not one to blow through the content at a break-neck speed just so I can consume it all in as little time as possible. That's relegated to pecan pie. MMOs aren't a race to me. I prefer to gradually savor the content, stretching it out so the experience lasts. I've actually also been holding myself back from doing too much so I can run through things with those who can finally join me now that the expansion is fully released. I will continue to poke though it at my pace while I continue my other endeavors (do you realize just how long it takes to decorate a house?!). As such, a full review of everything will have to come at a later date.

So what my thoughts as I amble amble my way through the land of the lost... er, jurassic park... I mean, Altar of Malice? EQII's dino-riffic expansion definitely has its highlights, like offering a heaping helping of nostalgia, but it has its disappointments as well. Here's my take.

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PSA: Elite pre-order customers can play right now

Sci-Fi, MMO Industry, New Titles, News Items, Sandbox, Crowdfunding, Elite: Dangerous

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I didn't back Elite: Dangerous through its various crowdfunding stages, but I'm nonetheless playing Frontier's space sim today in between trips to the kitchen.

How so? Well, I pre-ordered the Mercenary Edition this week, and the devs have graciously allowed latecomers like me to partake of the game's single-player combat tutorials from now through the December 16th launch. It's a good thing, too, because my dogfighting skills are a little rusty and there's a lot to learn about Elite before the big day.

If you are a backer, you can play the full game via the gamma client. Don't forget to catch up on all the latest Elite happenings via Newsletter #51.

The Daily Grind: Are you gaming on Thanksgiving?

Culture, MMO Industry, Opinion, The Daily Grind

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It's Thanksgiving in the States, which means that no one's manning the Massively yacht! Ahhhhh! Just kidding. It mostly means that I'm eating too much stuffing and mashed potatoes and hopefully gorging myself on some uninterrupted MMO time after dinner.

What about you, Massively readers? If you're celebrating today, will the festivities include any game time?

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!

Bungie's COO thinks Destiny and games like it are hard to review

Sci-Fi, Culture, Interviews, MMO Industry, News Items, Destiny

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Bungie continues to hype its Destiny shooter post-launch, with the latest bit of messenging courtesy of COO Pete Parsons and an interview at GamesIndustry.biz.

"The launch of Destiny was the starting line," Parsons says, before going on to explain how Bungie's Destiny operations center "looks like a NASA control room" and how "it's very difficult to sit down for nine hours, 11 hours, and write up a review of game like Destiny."

Parsons takes that notion a step further and asks how similar titles will be reviewed in the future when game journos face "a nearly impossible challenge" due to an inability to experience PvP, the campaign, and endgame activities on a deadline.

The Stream Team: Enjoy a heaping helping of pre-holiday ArcheAge adventures

Fantasy, Video, Free-to-Play, Livestream, ArcheAge, The Stream Team

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What do ArcheAge and Thanksgiving dinner have in common? A plethora of turkeys, ducks, geese, pumpkins, yams, corn, cream, and more. Tonight, Massively's MJ is taking a break from holiday preparations to dive into more ArcheAge adventures. (OK, let's be honest here -- she's been taking a break from ArcheAge to actually try to prepare for the holiday!) What's on the menu? It could be the Minions in a dungeon, some sneaking around the Nuian continent, or maybe just having a few hauler races! Join us live at 7:00 p.m. to enjoy a slice of ArcheAge life before your yearly turkey coma.

Game: ArcheAge
Host: MJ Guthrie
Date: Wednesday, November 26th, 2014
Time: 7:00 p.m. EST

Enjoy our Stream Team video below.

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Perfect World's Q3 results down

Fantasy, MMO Industry, News Items, Free-to-Play, Neverwinter

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Perfect World's third quarter profits fell, according to a financial results document published yesterday by the free-to-play giant. CEO Robert Xiao blamed PW's American operations for the drop, though he said the firm remains "confident in the long-term prospects of our US subsidiary given its strong R&D and operational capabilities as well as [its] promising pipeline."

Perfect World declined to comment on the performance of Neverwinter's Q3 console launch. It did note that it is localizing the fantasy MMO for China, where the company has seen its concurrent user numbers drop from 778,000 to 623,000 inside of a year.

A whole bunch of MMOs are discounted on Steam

Fantasy, Sci-Fi, MMO Industry, News Items, Promotions

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Is your wallet ready for Steam's annual holiday assault? We hope so, because in addition to the usual triple-A and indie single-player smorgasbord, quite a few MMORPGs are getting in on the act. Discounted titles include RIFT, LotRO, The Secret World, EVE Online, Shroud of the Avatar, The Elder Scrolls Online, Defiance, Star Trek Online, and perhaps most appropriately, City of Steam.

Leaderboard: Can you co-exist with players who don't share your preferences?

Culture, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, Leaderboard

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Do you ever feel like the MMO genre has gotten too big for its britches? Take Eliot's soapbox series on raiding that we're publishing this week as an example. It's generated an enormous amount of conversation, but when you cut through the noise in the comments, you're left with two (or more) groups of people who can't seem to co-exist.

They don't want the same things out of MMOs, they don't share the same MMO backgrounds or experiences, and in many cases the happiness of one group equals the unhappiness of another.

Some people feel that MMOs should cater to as many different groups as possible, but can they? And should they really? Personally I don't enjoy going to Rush concerts with people who hate progressive rock, nor do I enjoy going to Georgia Tech football games with people who hate football and/or my Yellow Jackets. So why would I want to play MMOs with people who hate sandbox mechanics, crafting, or any of the other genre conventions that I prefer?

What do you think, Leaderboard readers? Can you co-exist with MMO neighbors who don't like what you like? Vote after the cut!

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SWTOR players love that butt-ugly black-yellow lightsaber blade

Sci-Fi, Classes, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, PvP, News Items, PvE, Star Wars: The Old Republic

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BioWare has released another Shadow of Revan dev blog focused on Star Wars: The Old Republic's class changes. This time, Scoundrels and Operatives take center stage.

The firm has also published one of those really long infographic things that gives your scroll wheel a workout. Among the stats are the number of active players (one million), the number of PvP kills since launch (1,790,161,866), and the game's most popular lightsaber crystal (that godawful yellow-with-a-black-center debacle).

Click past the cut to see all the numbers!

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Journey to the West opens up its international beta on Saturday

Betas, Fantasy, Historical, Launches, New Titles, News Items, Free-to-Play

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JTTW
Want a new game to try out this holiday weekend? Journey to the West International might be up your alley if you have a high tolerance for goofy imports. It's yet another MMO inspired by the Chinese epic tale of the same name, and its open beta launches on November 29th. Players can actually reserve their character names for the beta starting today.

JTTW boasts a level cap of 40, instanced dungeons, four classes, recurring events, and a psyche system that transforms characters into powerful elemental manifestations. It's also got an open cash shop, meaning the game is effectively soft launching this weekend.

We've embedded two game videos below, courtesy of MMO Culture. Enjoy!

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Choose My Adventure: The final Final Fantasy

Fantasy, PvE, Hands-On, Choose My Adventure, Final Fantasy XIV, Subscription, MMORPG

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FFXIV
It's amazing how time flies when you're punching things. Just a few weeks ago our Choose My Adventure-forged Final Fantasy XIV pugilist was an aspiring adventurer with no pants; today, she's a certified hero (still with no pants). It's been an impressive ride to say the least. Square Enix has done some things so phenomenally right it's hard to believe the studio botched the game so badly the first time around.

Final Fantasy XIV is definitely a traditional fantasy MMO. But it makes enough changes and innovates in enough places to make itself feel unique and compelling. If I had to pay a subscription for a game (which I hate doing), FFXIV would be the one to get my credit card number.

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Secure a Skyforge beta key through a gems minigame

Betas, Fantasy, Contests, Events (Real-World), News Items, Promotions, Skyforge

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Skyforge
Wanna win a beta key for Skyforge, the upcoming sci-fantasy MMORPG from My.com/Allods Team? I hope you like minigames, then, because Skyforge is going to make you play a minigame to earn that video game beta key. From today to December 23rd, players can log into the game's website to play a daily round of the minigame, called Aelion's Treasure. There's more at stake than just keys, though:
In the mini-game, players have seven attempts daily to find as many blue gems as possible on a board of 21 gems. To win a closed beta key one should collect 5 blue gems. Along the way they'll find several surprises, and a special leaderboard will keep track of players' progress. The top 20 players on the leaderboard each week will also receive an invitation to Skyforge closed beta. Additionally, the player who places in first in the leaderboard rankings each week will receive a Sound Blaster EVO ZXR Headset. Other prizes include an exclusive Skyforge Souvenir Gift Set, an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770 graphics card.
Hey, at least it's novel, right? The game's first technical beta ran earlier in November. We don't yet know exactly when the beta will begin, though given the duration of this promotion, we can hazard a guess.

Hear the Glitch soundtrack in concert

Culture, News Items, Free-to-Play, Browser, Miscellaneous, Music

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Whether Glitch was brilliant or not is a debate I am not interested in having.  Ever.  Yes, I heard you, you miss it.  Please do not flood my inbox.
How many of you like to talk about Glitch? Wow, that many? That's great, but please quiet down for right now; there's time to talk in the comments. It's not a question you need to answer out loud. Besides, if you're super enthusiastic about the memory of the game, you have an opportunity to experience a slice of it for yourself in concert.

To celebrate the release of Glitch's soundtrack, a concert is being held on January 24th, 2015, in Toronto. Tickets are $20, and all proceeds go directly to the musicians taking part in the concert. As of this writing, the planned attendance isn't high, but we're pretty sure that will change as more people get wind of the concert.

Can't make it to Canada in the middle of January? The Glitch website still offers free downloads for many of its music tracks.

The Soapbox: Six reasons MMOs should abandon raiding, part 3

Culture, Endgame, Opinion, The Soapbox, Miscellaneous, Dungeons

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Sometimes you just need to cut away the disease.
In parts one and two of this Soapbox miniseries, I tackled four of the reasons the MMO genre should abandon raiding as a central gameplay element, but one key argument has been left out until now: The social aspect of raiding.

Whatever else is true of raiding, it is definitely social. Communities spring up and keep going largely based on that raiding community, to the point that it's easy to assume that everyone in a game's population raids. There are lengthy discussions about raiding, about how to raid, about tips and tricks for clearing raids. The social aspect of raids is what I think has kept them around so long; it's easy for a designer to look at that sort of engagement and see it as vital.

Yet there's more to the story than might be available at a glance, and the social aspect is not without steep costs. Those social elements do not carry the weight of everything else... mostly because they aren't as strong as they appear.

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Black Desert posts new screenshots ahead of open beta

Betas, Fantasy, Galleries, Screenshots, Classes, News Items, Free-to-Play, Sandbox, Black Desert

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Black Desert
The Korean open beta for upcoming sandbox Black Desert arrives next month, and Daum has refreshed the game's website with a ton of new screenshots.

They've got lady archers wearing garters, a knight with spiked hair, a castle siege, a leprechaun with a basket of herbs, a strangely sweaty ranger, a butt shot of a girl, a butt shot of a pack horse, sunsets, fishing, and murder -- so it's pretty much everything you'd expect from a Korean sandbox MMORPG. Enjoy!

Turbine's customer support department spreads holiday cheer

Fantasy, Lord of the Rings Online, Culture, News Items, Free-to-Play, Promotions

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The players that the team disliked were mailed images of rats being dropped from the tops of stairwells.
Working customer support for an MMO means that even the best times of your job are still spent dealing with upset players. Sure, the player might recognize that whatever went wrong was just an accident or a bug, but you've still got player issues to manage. It's the sort of work that can make you bitter or cynical, but not so with the customer support team at Turbine Entertainment, which decided to reach out to fans in a slightly happier fashion with holiday cards. Seriously. Real ones.

Players on the Lord of the Rings Online forums have reported receiving physical holiday cards from the game's customer service department with hand-written messages and gift cards for 500 Turbine points inside. The community team has stated that this is exactly what it seems to be: a random gesture of kindness and appreciation for the game's playerbase. That message also reminded players to keep their mailing addresses up to date, as this is unlikely to be the only such event.

[Thanks to Fredelas for the tip!]

Guild Wars 2's Leah Hoyer discusses the importance of story

Fantasy, Lore, News Items, Guild Wars 2, Buy-to-Play

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Story: let's me and you fight.
It's fair to say that Guild Wars 2 sells its story pretty highly, as living world progress and story updates are a major part of its content strategy. Head of narrative Leah Hoyer stated in a recent interview that this is one of the core things that games as a whole need to embrace: Story is important in getting players invested. Hoyer went on to say that while story lacks the central importance in games that it has in media like television, it's still an important element of player investment.

Still, she argues, it's harder to tell a good story in a game than it is in a television show, simply because the latter is focused only on story while the former cannot be. This doesn't mean that it's less important, nor does Hoyer feel that it justifies using lore and background as an excuse for not telling a story; a good story requires immediacy. While she believes that lore is highly important, it should help support storytelling rather than replace it. There's a lot of interesting thoughts in the full interview, so whether you like Guild Wars 2's take on story or not, it's well worth a look.

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Elite: Dangerous launch Dec. 16, 2014
TERA: Fate of Arun Dec. 16, 2014
FFXIV: Heavensward Spring 2015

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