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The Stream Team: Random drafting in Dota 2

Fantasy, Video, Game Mechanics, PvP, Free-to-Play, Massively Meta, Hands-On, Livestream, MOBA, The Stream Team

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Dota 2
Newcomers to Dota 2 often stick to the game's All-Pick mode when searching for matches. In All-Pick, every hero currently in the game's hero pool is available for selection. This makes character selection more manageable for new players (since you can pick heroes you know), but it also leads to an All-Pick All-Stars syndrome in which the same few heroes show up time and again to crush teams and bust ancients.

Tonight, Massively's Mike Foster is exploring a different game mode known as Random Draft. In Random Draft, players take turns choosing from a pool of randomly selected heroes. There's still flexibility in terms of individual hero choice, but the full pool isn't available, and thus teams must get creative using the heroes that appear. Sometimes this goes well; sometimes it doesn't.

Tune in at 7:00 p.m. EDT to see how it turns out for Mike.

Game: Dota 2
Host: Mike Foster
Date: Thursday, August 28th, 2014
Time: 7:00 p.m. EDT

Enjoy our Stream Team video below.

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Heroes of the Storm launches interactive battleground page

Fantasy, Previews, News Items, Free-to-Play, MOBA

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Percival J. Ogre and his companion discuss the comparative merits of oligarchy compared to tyranny.  And farting.
Looking forward to exploring the maps in Heroes of the Storm? The good news is that you can do so right now, even if you aren't currently in the test pool. The game's interactive battleground maps are now available, showing off the fields of battle and allowing you to zoom in or out, highlight important points, and scroll around to see all of the neat stuff that's there to be seen.

Each of the maps has numerous different mechanics as well as additional routes for players to take, including aboveground and underground routes or enemies that spawn during the night. The page outlines how all five maps will work and should help players start plotting strategies even without getting your hands on the game. If you feel like a bit of surveying, go check out the maps now.

Norrathian Notebook: I tasted Landmark's combat and I like it!

Betas, PvP, Player-Generated Content, Norrathian Notebook

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Better late than never, right? At long last, after months of only mining and voxel magic (and then an overnight delay), I have finally partaken of the Landmark combat fruit. And oh, how sweet it is! Of course the system was just barely implemented and is in only its first iteration, but that doesn't stop me from sharing the experience I had upon first logging in to check things out. So in I jumped just as soon as servers went live... and there I lost the rest of my day.

Even with the inevitable bugs, I was not disappointed by my first few hours of this update. There are flingers and teleporters, weapons and proximity mines -- plenty of things to keep a slightly wacky mind occupied. And who can leave out the new joys of fall damage? Here are my unadulterated first impressions of that much-anticipated system.

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LotRO heaps love on its music system with Update 15

Fantasy, Lord of the Rings Online, Patches, Previews, Free-to-Play, Music

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lotro
This news should be sweet music to many Lord of the Rings Online players: Turbine is making improvments to the music system come Update 15.

"This system has such a net positive effect on the game, and more importantly on community, [that] it was long overdue for some developer love," the team posted. In the patch for sure are adjustments to the music system's pitch, volume, and balance, as well as a tuning pass.

Turbine also is toying with adding two additional instruments, the string bass and serpentine, although it makes "no promises" that it will be able to do so. Another stretch goal for the update is player-spawnable stages.

The scoop on Elder Scrolls Online's Dragonstar arena

Fantasy, Super-hero, Trailers, Video, Game Mechanics, Patches, Previews, News Items, PvE, Dungeons, The Elder Scrolls Online

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ESO
When The Elder Scrolls Online's fourth update arrives next month, a new type of content will open to players: themed PvE arenas. The first of 10 such arenas, Dragonstar, is the subject of a new developer essay on the official site today.

The Dragonstar Arena is located in Craglorn and will pit a group of four players against five waves of monsters with "escalating intensity," though not necessarily escalating numbers; ZeniMax promises there will be no "cannon fodder" to waste your time. Hazards inside the arena -- like poisonous clouds, lava flows, and immobilizing blizzards -- will further impede groups' progress through the challenges.

ZeniMax says that arenas are intended to provide difficult combat encounters and elite rewards to small, highly skilled groups, but more casual players can skip Veteran mode for normal mode if they choose. We've included the brief Dragonstar arena trailer below.

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Captain's Log: Star Trek Online's expansion and communication

Sci-Fi, Expansions, Game Mechanics, Patches, News Items, Opinion, Star Trek Online, Free-to-Play, Captain's Log, Subscription

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We're hard at work developing stuff, some of which will come off as tone-deaf.
So we finally know what the next expansion is going to be for Star Trek Online, and my speculation regarding the Xindi and points related turned out to be way off. Nope, we're heading into the Delta Quadrant, which is less interesting to me than the Gamma Quadrant, but I suspect the powers that be are exploring all the angles of existing content first. It's coming with a level cap increase, a new tier of ships, a bunch of new tricks, and apparently some bonus communication misses.

Delta Rising is really on track to be a pretty divisive expansion anyway. It was inevitable, really; raising the level cap now was going to lead to problems no matter how it was handled. Unfortunately, Cryptic Studios hasn't done a great job communicating what's in the works for players, nor have the first few things that we've heard exactly countered some early suspicions. It was a minefield that's thus far been navigated largely with a push and a blindfold.

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Funcom's revenues decrease in Q2

Age of Conan, Anarchy Online, MMO Industry, News Items, The Secret World, Miscellaneous

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It's still a better business model than Orochi.
Funcom has released its second-quarter financial results for the year, and it's not a glowing success story. Revenue dropped roughly $600,000 compared to Q1, a drop attributed to weaker in-game item sales over the quarter. Despite this, the report indicates that the company remains on-track as a whole, with the overall pattern of expenses not significantly changed. All of the major MMOs in the studio's portfolio are stated to be cash-flow positive, which is good news for fans.

While the company launched several marketing attempts to draw more players into its titles, The Secret World was the most successful at bringing in more players via its most recent major update. The company projects good results for LEGO Minifigures Online when it releases in October. Interested players can look at the full report, which is less overwhelmingly positive than might be ideal but hardly paints a picture of doom.

Guild Wars 2 is revamping the new player experience

Fantasy, Game Mechanics, Patches, News Items, Guild Wars 2, Buy-to-Play

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Darn it, I'm still getting the hang of this.  Can we call a do-over?
If you've been playing Guild Wars 2 since launch, you're probably intimately familiar with the ins and outs of the game's mechanics. Unfortunately, this doesn't necessarily translate for new players, who can find themselves overwhelmed in the early parts of the game with a wide array of statistics, abilities, game modes, and the like. Along with all of the other improvements the game is making in the September 2014 feature pack, the new player experience is receiving an overhaul.

Players will now receive a clear reward window indicating what is unlocked at each level, with features such as PvP and WvW initially locked away until higher levels so that players can familiarize themselves with the game systems first. Veteran players can still navigate to these features via the map at lower levels. The personal story is now tied into the story journal, major rewards have been reworked, and the interface will serve to more efficiently guide players to points of interest. Check out the full posting to see how leveling in Guild Wars 2 will get just a bit more friendly with the next major patch.

Heroes & Generals tops 2.6 million registered players, releases 'Rommel' update

Historical, Video, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Patches, PvP, News Items, War, Free-to-Play, Browser, Dev Diaries

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Heroes & Generals' latest update is codenamed "Rommel," which seems rather appropriate given the new general characters and officer rank overhaul. "The Rommel update is an important update, as it wraps up our vision with the character progression tree," explains Reto-Moto game director Jacob Andersen. "So you may start your career as a foot soldier and work your way up to become an officer and finally a general in order to command armies and wage war resources."

Rommel also adds FG 42 and M1 carbines for paratroopers, new win conditions for wars, a "much larger" campaign map, improved tank handling, and more.

Reto-Moto's press release says that Heroes & Generals now has more than 2.6 million registered players. Don't forget to view the seven-minute Rommel dev vlog after the break.

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The Stream Team: Launching into Landmark's combat

Betas, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Video, PvP, Free-to-Play, Livestream, The Stream Team, Landmark

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You know how people always reminisce about where they were when the moment something big happened? Well, something big just happened in Landmark, and Massively's MJ is making sure you are there to be a part of it. Yes, combat has just arrived! That means death galore, and not just death at the hands of fellow players but death by mountains and oceans, too. And, as always, she's got some fun codes to giveaway as well. Join us live at 12:00 p.m. for the first peek into this new system. Better yet, catch MJ's first Landmark death live! You know it's bound to happen. Oh, and get codes, too!

Game: Landmark
Host: MJ Guthrie
Date: Thursday, August 28th, 2014
Time: 12:00 p.m. EDT

Enjoy our Stream Team video below.

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Elder Scrolls' fourth major update teased in new concept art

Fantasy, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Patches, News Items, PvE, Dungeons, The Elder Scrolls Online, Subscription

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When Elder Scrolls Online's fourth major update lands in September, players will be able to "discover the ruins and delves of the last region of Craglorn," according to a teaser on the fantasy MMO's website. Upper Craglorn holds the key to the mystery of the fallen constellations, apparently, and it also boasts something called "the Serpent Trial" and "treacherous new delves."

ZeniMax has posted a few concept art wallpapers to whet your appetite for the new content.

Landmark's combat patch goes live

Betas, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Game Mechanics, Patches, PvP, Free-to-Play, Sandbox, Player-Generated Content, Landmark

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Combat has finally come to Landmark, but there's much more to this update than just armor, weapons, and death. There are plenty of new Kerran-themed props, new materials (10 new color of Stucco variations and 16 new Burled Wood tints), movement props, and bug fixes. On top of that, there's a new way to pay claim upkeep; those who desperately want to keep their claims but don't want to bother with copper now have the opportunity to pay with Station Cash at a cost of 10 SC per day per claim.

And here's probably some of the best news from the mouths of the devs themselves:
"We've made a number of optimizations that should improve framerates for many players. This does not include the Multithreaded Rendering, which we are still working on."
If you plan to dive in and check out combat, SOE has posted instructions for setting up the PvP games on the forums to help answer any questions. Full details on the update can be found in the patch notes. For now, all claims will be flagged for PvP until the observer mode can be added.

Finally, the Workshop livestream is moving! Starting August 28th, the show focusing on the collaborative development of racial buildings will be broadcast on the EverQuest Next Twitch Channel Thursdays at 2:00 p.m. EDT.

CCP lays off two execs, closes San Francisco offices [Updated]

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, MMO Industry, News Items, Sandbox, Subscription

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Gamasutra reports that EVE Online developer CCP has closed its San Francisco studio and fired laid off CFO Joe Gallo and CMO David Reid. The firm's revenue and earnings were both down year-over-year, the website says.

CCP laid off 49 staffers from its Reykjavik headquarters in June after announcing the cancellation of its long-gestating World of Darkness MMO in April.

[Update: CCP's public relations firm contacted Massively to clarify our source's original claim that Joe and David were fired; in fact, CCP says, they are both "both leaving of their own volition and it's an amicable split."]

Get your Dizzel beta item key today here on Massively

Contests, New Titles, War, Massively Meta, Giveaways, Post-Apocalyptic, Miscellaneous

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Dizzel
Just as our sister site Joystiq did yesterday, Massively is giving away a boatload of Dizzel beta codes to our readers today -- specifically, keys for a Chrome Assault Rifle usable in the game. Dizzel is a free-to-play multiplayer third-person action-shooter by OGPlanet and Neowiz that falls into our Not So Massively category, but we think it could appeal to our regular MMO audience as well. Plus, free stuff!

Interested? Just clicky the buttons below to grab your Dizzel item code, then follow these instructions to redeem it:
  • Via official installer: Sign up for a free OGPlanet account by downloading the Dizzel Installer. Once Dizzel is installed, login to the game and create your character. Go to Dizzel's Redemption Page and enter your key code. Finally, check your in-game 'Storage' to add your items to your inventory.
  • Via Steam: Download and Install Dizzel through Steam. Once you're in-game, locate and click the 'Shop' button on the top menu. Press the 'Cash Reload' button located on the bottom right. Steam's Cash Purchase window will be displayed; you will notice 'Item Package Redemption' on the right section. Please input your Keycode, and press 'Redeem,' and allow up to 15 minutes for delivery. Your item will arrive in your Inventory's 'Storage' section.

GET YOUR KEY GIVEAWAY FAQ OFFICIAL RULES

The Daily Grind: What's the longest you've gone without playing an MMO?

Culture, Massively Meta, The Daily Grind

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I'm in the midst of an MMO sabbatical. I won't call it full burnout because I'm still logging into Elder Scrolls Online and Marvel Heroes to hang with friends a couple of nights per week, but other than that I've basically taken a couple of weeks off from the genre while I wait for an ArcheAge launch announcement.

What about you, Massively readers? Do you periodically step away due to burnout or other reasons? What's the longest you've gone without playing an MMO?

[Image credit: Vintage Customs LA]

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!

Twitch viewership now rivals prime-time cable

MMO Industry, Livestream, Miscellaneous

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While some folks don't understand the phenomenon of watching others play a game when they could actually play it themselves, many are doing exactly that. And those numbers continue to rise: A recent look at viewership compiled in The New York Times shows that Twitch at its peak now rivals the average of some prime-time cable networks. Compared to major video providers, however, Twitch still lags behind. When held up to NetFlix and YouTube, Twitch has about eight times fewer hours of video viewed monthly compared to the former and roughly 24 times fewer than the latter.

Contributing to Twitch's numbers are a multitude of streamers who've built large audiences. These personalities can individually pull in up to and even more than 40,000 viewers during a single stream. For a glimpse of all the graphs, head on over to NYT.

Star Trek Online celebrates the end of summer with giveaways [Updated]

Sci-Fi, News Items, Star Trek Online, Free-to-Play, Promotions, Subscription

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Those must be pretty big fireworks.
The days get shorter, the heat diminishes, and students collectively go back to actually studying things. Yes, summer is coming to a close, and the team behind Star Trek Online is pretty happy with how this past summer went. Sure, seasons are kind of a meaningless concept when you're talking about a setting that spans multiple planets with their own annual cycles, but the players are still here on Earth, and they can celebrate the end of the season with free stuff.

An as-of-yet undisclosed ship will be going live in the game's cash shop tomorrow, but that's not the really free part. From August 29th to September 1st, around 1:00 p.m. EDT, a new promotional item will be flagged in the store as free. These items are all account-wide unlocks so long as an eligible character is available to claim the item. Who wouldn't like some free stuff for the end of summer?

[Update: The team has also today released more information about upgrading tier 5 ships.]

Project Gorgon engages its second Kickstarter campaign

Fantasy, Video, New Titles, Crowdfunding

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gorgon
After its Kickstarter campaign fizzled back in 2012, Project Gorgon and its team regrouped to prepare a second, and hopefully successful, crowdfunding drive. The campaign launched a couple of days ago and is attempting to rake in $100,000 in pledges before the end of its 30 days.

Project Gorgon bills itself as "an indie MMORPG with the deep gameplay of the classics, all the features of a modern game, and a unique immersive feel." The team promises a virtual world with a focus on exploration without signposts and immersive aspects such as being able to write in-game books for others to read. Project Gorgon also allegedly rewards certain types of gameplay with "behavior badges."

Project Gorgon has been in development for four years and is nearing the production stage. The game is actually playable in an early state right now, so if you're curious, you can check it out before deciding whether or not to sponsor its development. We've also got a preview video for you after the jump.

[Thanks to Gaming Conjecture for the tip!]

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The Stream Team: Looking for trouble in ArcheAge places

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

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After having her car insurance canceled in ArcheAge (apparently water damage isn't covered!) and her driving privileges revoked, Massively's MJ heads back to the safer realms of questing. Oh, whom are we kidding -- there is plenty of trouble she can get into anywhere! And if you know MJ, you know she'll find some. Maybe she'll even turn to a life of crime and go on a potato-stealing spree. Join us live at 6:00 p.m. for more Firran alpha adventures.

Game: ArcheAge
Host: MJ Gutrhie
Date: Wednesday, August 27th, 2014
Time: 6:00 p.m. EDT

Enjoy our Stream Team video below.

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Blizzard's Tom Chilton on World of Warcraft's slow content pace

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Business Models, Game Mechanics, Interviews, Patches, News Items, Subscription

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Blizzard's Tom Chilton has been making the rounds this week in one candid interview after another. World of Warcraft website Icy Veins recently asked him directly why recent content releases haven't been meeting the originally planned six-month cadence, and Chilton didn't dodge, explaining that scaling the team up to make Warlords of Draenor resulted in a slower-than-desired pace for releases:
We did a good job earlier in Mists of Pandaria, having the content come at a more frequent intervals, and certainly we had hoped to have Warlords of Draenor out a couple of months ago. The reality is that scaling up the number of people that we have, to work on multiple projects at once has slowed us down. Honestly, it should have not come as a surprise to us. We increased the size of the team by 50% and the majority of those people had never worked on World of Warcraft before or any other MMO, so it is really difficult for them to create content right away, without getting up to speed. So we ended up redoing a lot of the content that we were doing for Warlords to make sure that we would get it at the quality level that we would expect. Also, the garrison feature turned into a bigger thing than we expected it to be. Quality is the most important thing, so if we have to make a choice between getting you something two months ago or getting you a great expansion in November, the choice is obvious. I think we are in a better position now for the future, we already have zones in production for our next expansion. So, if things go well, there will be less of a gap.
Chilton also discusses alternative subscription models for niche players (there are no plans for such), the possibility of making Outland and Northrend parallel level 60-80 content paths, and the potential for visual and aural upgrades beyond character models.

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The Stream Team


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Release Dates

Core Games | In Testing | Crowdfund Hopefuls
Destiny September 9, 2014
The Crew November 11, 2014
LEGO Minifigures Online Fall 2014
ArcheAge 2014
WoW Warlords of Draenor November 13, 2014

Meet the Team

Brianna Royce Editor-in-Chief
Jef Reahard Managing Editor
Justin Olivetti Contributing Editor
Eliot Lefebvre Contributing Editor
MJ Guthrie Contributing Editor
Mike Foster Contributing Editor
Anatoli Ingram Columnist
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Larry Everett Columnist
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