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Shroud of the Avatar lays out plans for early 2015

Betas, Fantasy, Dev Diaries, Music, Shroud of the Avatar, Buy-to-Play

shroud of the avatar
If stated plans are any indication, Shroud of the Avatar is in for a busy first few months of the new year. In a recent newsletter, the team recapped the "flexible" schedule for the game's early 2015 updates.

January's Release 14 will expand zone connections, add in the Shardfall biome, begin testing on a new version of Unity, and add things like player banks, an encumbrance system, and in-game pledge rewards. February's Release 15 has its eye on several new mainland areas including the Necropolis, more magic spells, housing fees, dyeable outfits, teachable emotes, and crafting skills. Finally, March's Release 16 is going to add Steam achievements, a cover system in combat, and localization.

The team also released one of the backer rewards, a cover version of the classic Ultima Stones theme by the band The Space Bards, and you can listen to it after the break!

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Rob Pardo argues that the Olympics should include e-sports

Events (Real-World), MMO Industry, News Items, Miscellaneous, E-sports

E-sports should totally be a part of the Olympics. Or so said former Blizzard CCO Rob Pardo in a BBC interview.

"Video games are well positioned to be a spectator sport," Pardo said. "There's a very good argument for e-sports being in the Olympics. I think the way that you look at e-sports is that it's a very competitive skillset and you look at these professional gamers and the reflexes are lightning quick and they're having to make very quick decisions on the fly."

Pardo conceded that championing e-sports in Olympics might come down to the age-old argument of whether a sport must include physical activity or simply skill-based competition.

Stick and Rudder: This is not an Elite: Dangerous review

Sci-Fi, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, First Impressions, Sandbox, Crowdfunding, Stick and Rudder, Elite: Dangerous

One of these days I'll get back to writing Star Citizen-flavored words in this space. Right now, though, Elite: Dangerous is a thing that I've been playing, and please ya'll, put down your pitchforks.

It is possible -- and even healthy -- to like and support both of these titles. This is not space Capulets vs. space Montagues but rather the beginnings of a new sci-fi sandbox age. Elite's not quite where I would like it to be at this early hour, but it's still a fine piece of work that's salvaged a thoroughly regrettable MMO year.

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One Shots: Ignore physics and jump already!

Screenshots, Culture, Guild Wars 2, One Shots, Miscellaneous

Out of all of the reality-bending game mechanics that we deal with in MMOs on a regular basis, I'd have to say that my immersion is the most broken when I jump from fantastic heights and walk away with nary a crushed spine to show for it. And this particular diving board in Guild Wars 2 that's like 300 feet above the water? Yeah, diving goggles aren't going to help you with squat. But jump anyway!

Reader Mike took the plunge: "While playing my Norn Warrior, I found something I never saw before. Just above one of the waypoints in Lion's Arch is a diving platform! The kind people at ArenaNet even had goggles and a swimsuit for you to put on before you take that massive dive into the cold waters below. It was so funny I just had to send it to you."

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: Are you keeping up with your current MMO's lore?

Sci-Fi, Lore, MMO Industry, Opinion, The Daily Grind, Roleplaying, Sandbox, Elite: Dangerous

I just finished reading all of the entries on the Elite: Dangerous GalNet news page. It's a sort of in-character feed service that keeps pilots up to date with lore and associated happenings around the Milky Way in the year 3300.

The lore doesn't impact my gameplay at all, but it's kinda fun to peruse the headlines while docked at an in-game station in between trade runs. What about you, Massively readers? Are you keeping abreast of the lore in your current MMO? Why or why not?

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 21 - 27, 2014

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

This week in MMO crowdfunding news, The Repopulation dropped its NDA and thrust itself firmly into the middle of Steam's Early Access conga line. This was a pretty big deal, given how the game is channeling a certain late great sci-fi sandbox and given how many people responded with their alpha tester opinions in the announcement thread.

Some other stuff happened, too. Christmas, for one thing. But, really, this week was all about TR when it comes to crowdfund happenings. If you simply must know what else was up, click past the cut for our roundup.

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Get the full scoop on Marvel Heroes' Venom

Sci-Fi, Trailers, Video, Classes, Free-to-Play, Marvel Heroes

marvel heroes
The most recent addition to Marvel Heroes' roster, Venom, isn't merely a Spider-Man reskin. Gazillion put some thought into making this 43rd playable character unique as it uses its symbiote power to do nasty things to nasty people.

Gazillion said that it wanted to go "all out" on Venom's looks and animations. Venom also has an interesting resource builder. "Unique to Venom, ichor serves as his primary resource, replacing spirit entirely, and accumulates as Venom uses powers that drain his own health – representing the host's constant battle with the symbiote," said Systems Designer Michael May.

You can check Venom's trailer out after the break!

[Source: Gazillion press release]

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Taking a look at the Black Desert cash shop

Fantasy, Business Models, News Items, Free-to-Play, Sandbox, Black Desert

Look, we're going to have to decide what we're buying beforehand, and I still vote for underwear.
So what does the inside of Black Desert's cash shop actually look like? Sure, the exact contents aren't going to matter to players who hate having cash shops at all or the players who were going to play the game no matter what, but a good implementation or a bad one could have an impact. Hence a new post on Steparu walking through the options available and giving a loose idea of how the pricing breaks down.

With a $50 budget, some options were simply out of reach on the shop, specifically the limited edition mount armor. A handful of limited-time packs with boosts are already in-place in game, alongside the usual options of dyes, inventory expansions, and makeovers. The cash shop also contains exclusive hairstyles and under-armor options. Check out the full piece for a more comprehensive glance inside of the game's real-money marketplace.

One Shots: Grim Raider

Screenshots, Culture, Guild Wars 2, One Shots, Miscellaneous

"Here's my Guild Wars 2 Necromancer haunting the countryside of Divinity's Reach, bleeding and poisoning souls to fuel his demonic rituals and Necromancing zealotry," Russel announced, as if that was the sort of thing that you can say in polite society.

Actually, as a fellow Necro, I have to say that I agree with looking the part. You got to have a skulls motif; there's no way around it. Way to commit to the role!

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 Stream Team: Seeking a Santa hat in Shroud of the Avatar

Fantasy, Video, Livestream, Sandbox, The Stream Team, Crowdfunding, Player-Generated Content, Shroud of the Avatar

Last week, Massively's MJ popped back into Shroud of the Avatar for the first time in many releases. At viewer request, she's heading back in to experience even more adventure in this sandbox. On her agenda: the hat! What better way to keep in the holiday spirit than with a festive hat from the holly-jolliest of elves himself? Apparently, there is a quest to nab your own Release 13 Santa hat. Will MJ be able to complete this quest (or even find it, for that matter?!)? After that she'll be seeking out some of that fabled player-generated content. Join us live at 1:00 p.m. to see even more of what new Britannia has to offer.

Game: Shroud of the Avatar
Host: MJ Guthrie
Date: Saturday, December 27h, 2014
Time: 1:00 p.m. EST

Enjoy our Stream Team video below.

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Perfect Ten: New MMOs to watch in 2015

Betas, Launches, MMO Industry, Warhammer Online, Opinion, Perfect Ten, Miscellaneous, Black Desert, The Repopulation, Shroud of the Avatar, Trove, Skyforge, Landmark, H1Z1, The Division

all the mmos
As I've done for 2013 and 2014, I'm going to use the turn of the year as an excuse to look ahead at what MMO releases we may have to look forward to enjoying in the next 12 months. As always, it's a mixture of research, guesswork, and weeks of anguished ranking to come up with 10 titles that I think will define the new year.

After the huge launch year we had in 2014, 2015 will most definitely be a smaller year for big-name releases. That doesn't mean it will be a complete write-off, but perhaps it will challenge us to look beyond the heavy hitters to find more diamonds in the rough.

A couple of notes before we launch into the list, if you please! First of all, I limited this list to MMOs that at least have a shot of launching in 2015; games that are popular but are definitely not going to make it this year had to be excluded. Second, I am expanding the "honorable mentions" section this year to include more upcoming MMOs and my brief thoughts on them. So you are really getting 50 games for the effort of reading 10! You are welcome.

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WRUP: You'll shoot your eye out, kid

Massively Meta, Miscellaneous

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 how you got this awesome game under your holiday tree and you're playing that and we should be playing it too! Plus I'm totally going to use the ridable ferret pic again. Everybody wins.

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The Daily Grind: How much time do you spend playing MMOs per week?

MMO Industry, The Daily Grind

I haven't managed much MMO time this week, unless you count the five-odd hours I spent running around in Elite: Dangerous. Between Christmas, work, and single-player games, there just haven't been enough hours in each day, you know?

What about you, Massively readers? How much time do you typically spend on MMOs in a single week?

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!

Betawatch: December 20 - 26, 2014

Betas, MMO Industry, News Items, Betawatch, Miscellaneous

Say a little prayer for Mr. Fancy Pants - the whole world knows it's only clothes, and deep inside he's sad.
Alas, Transformers Universe, you were too beautiful for this world. Only you were not, in fact, too beautiful for anything; you were actually not beautiful enough to make it to launch. Yes, it happened a little while ago, but due to some holiday or another this has been a fairly slow week, and someone needs to shed a tear for the game. Or something like that.

What else was new in the world of MMO testing for the week? Jump on past the break for our full listing of games in testing!

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Pathfinder Online ends its stress test and preps for early enrollment

Betas, Fantasy, News Items, Sandbox, Pathfinder Online

There's a path!  Do I win?
The bad news is that if you had hoped to do nothing but strain the Pathfinder Online servers over your holiday, you were denied that option. The good news is that the test ended because the servers passed the stress test with flying colors, and that means it's time for the development team to move on to the next phase of access. Yes, early enrollment is just around the corner.

Of course it hasn't kicked off just yet, as the developers behind the game are human beings who would like to actually spend some holiday time with their families. But it's coming soon. The change will mean that players who have alpha access via friends & family options or are normally slated to enter during open enrollment can no longer log in; so if you want to keep jumping into the game you may wish to upgrade your account. For those already happily waiting for early enrollment, nothing else remains to be done other than continuing to wait. Not much longer now.

The Stream Team: A look at Landmark's linking and triggering

Video, Free-to-Play, Livestream, Sandbox, Housing, The Stream Team, Player-Generated Content

Although they've gotten most of the attention, mobs were not the only thing introduced in Landmark's latest update. In fact, the linking and triggering system is a huge deal, especially for folks like Massively's MJ who want to create a dynamic world full of adventures. Add on top of that all the cool new particle effects and the possibilities explode! Don't know much about this system? Then join us live at 5:00 p.m. as MJ shows off how easy linking and triggering is to use and demonstrates a few of the particle effect emitters.

Game: Landmark
Host: MJ Guthrie
Date: Friday, December 26th, 2014
Time: 5:00 p.m. EST

Enjoy our Stream Team video below.

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Final Fantasy XIV prepares for a sheep-filled year

Fantasy, Culture, Events (In-Game), News Items, Consoles, Final Fantasy XIV, Subscription

So you can complete that set you previously had going with the horse hats.
Every year, Final Fantasy XIV rings in the new year with a new animal-themed kabuto, and this year is no exception. With the Year of the Ram swiftly approaching, it's time for that most humble of Eorzean denizens to grace the helm, the diminutive sheep dotting the landscape and bleating all over. That means a new sheep-themed hat, a new sheep minion, and the usual assortment of housing decorations for those who want them.

Coming hot on the heels of the rather involved Starlight Celebration, this event has a quest chain which kicks off in Limsa Lominsa to unlock the various seasonal rewards. Players will also be able to purchase additional decorations and the like through seasonal vendors, as is tradition. So ring in the new year with visitors from the Far East and get ready for your own personal woolgathering sessions.

Shroud of the Avatar's Richard Garriott and Starr Long on how SOTA wins at player-generated content

Fantasy, Interviews, Opinion, Some Assembly Required, Sandbox, Shroud of the Avatar

Garriott and Long show how Shroud of the Avatar wins at player-generated content
When you sit down to talk with Portalarium's Richard Garriott and Starr Long about Shroud of the Avatar, you hear much more than can possibly fit in just one article! Even though its currently in development, there's a lot to this title. Last week's Some Assembly Required focused on the upcoming sandbox's community aspect; as promised, this week's edition delves into SotA's amazing player-generated content capabilities. It's not surprising that PGC would be so prevalent in-game when these two devs have emphasized the importance of making a living, breathing, immersive world for players. When you get a great community together and then give it tools and freedom to create, what happens is phenomenal. As Long put it, "It's really humbling for me and the team to see what these players are willing to do... what they're doing with what we're giving them."

Read on, my friends, and see why Shroud of the Avatar may very well be the reigning king of the PGC hill even before it actually releases! (There might be a few morsels about upcoming development thrown in as well.)

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Ask Massively: The one where we talk about our 2014 awards

Culture, Events (Real-World), MMO Industry, Opinion, Massively Meta, Ask Massively, Miscellaneous

Massively's 2014 awards series is over, but we like to go back and take a look at the reader polls and some of the big questions and neat comments that arose during the course of our rollout because many of our awards were contentious, as they are every year. It'd be no fun if they weren't, I suppose. Allow us to pontificate, and in the course of the review, we'll try to answer some frequently asked questions as well.

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TUG's investment deal goes through

Fantasy, Video, MMO Industry, News Items, Sandbox

Hooray, this fully-funded Kickstarter is probably going to actually happen!
After all the stress that TUG went through with a series of layoffs and funding issues, it almost seemed like too much to hope that Nerd Kingdom would actually secure the investors they were looking for. But good news does come around this time of year. The game has its additional funding secure, which means that it's out of the woods, at least for now.

The multiplayer portion of the game continues in heavy development (there's a preview video just past the break) and supporters are implored to really go to town and help find bugs in that build. Players are also encouraged to check out the Nerd Kingdom booth at the upcoming PAX South. It's good news for fans of what the game is now and what it could eventually become, so keep your eyes peeled and breathe a sigh of relief that the money from the sky actually came through.

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H1Z1 Early Access Jan. 15, 2015
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Meet the Team

Brianna Royce Editor-in-Chief
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