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Skyforge offers two contests for those who seek beta keys

Betas, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, News Items, Free-to-Play, Promotions, Skyforge

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The official Massively suggestion for the name: Leet, But Not Like Those Leets That Are Owned By Funcom.  A Totally Different Leet That We Made Up.
Is the only thing you want for Christmas a nice shiny Skyforge beta key? If so... wow, you are aiming really low when it comes to gifts this year. We usually at least would ask for a game, not test access to a game. Besides, you could get one completely for free by taking part in one of two contests. The first is a straightforward raffle-style giveaway on Facebook: Just "like" the game's page and submit your account email, and 500 lucky entrants will get a beta key.

But for those who want a key and prefer not to leave it up to chance, there's a forum thread asking players to name the critter they see in the header above. The five best entries will receive a beta key, followed by a vote-off of all the suggested names. So there's a chance at getting in just based on your creativity at naming things, which might be more your style. The name contest will run until December 22nd, while the Facebook entries are accepted until January 15th.

[Thanks to Gabriel for the tip!]

The Daily Grind: Do single-player games give you a craving for MMOs?

MMO Industry, Opinion, The Daily Grind, The Secret World

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I made a dent in my Steam backlog this month, and one of the older titles that I finally got around to beating was Alan Wake. This has nothing to do with MMOs, really, except for the fact that the game's creepy atmospherics and its focus on the supernatural made me want to fire up The Secret World.

What about you, Massively readers? Do your single-player adventures ever give you a craving for a particular MMO?

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!

The holidays have arrived in SOE's MMORPGs

Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Super-hero, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Business Models, Culture, Events (In-Game), Patches, News Items, Free-to-Play, DC Universe Online, EverQuest Next, PlanetSide 2, Sandbox, Dragon's Prophet, Landmark

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EQ2
If you're a fan of SOE's MMOs and also a fan of Christmas, good news! SOE's MMOs also have Christmas! The studio posted a roundup of its holiday festivities earlier today:
  • EverQuest II: The Frostfell Wonderland Village returns this year along with a brand-new quest called The Great Candy (Cane) Chase.
  • DC Universe Online: Players will confront Larfleeze's Orange Lantern Corp. Old feats and rewards are back, as are "new base items, styles, a feat, and collection."
  • PlanetSide 2: It's Auraximas, which means it's time to murder snowmen. Special camo will also be on sale in the in-game store because of course it will be
  • EverQuest: Frostfell in this classic MMO brings Santug Cluagg and a host of new quests rolled out in phases.
  • Dragon's Prophet: Celebrate the The Silver Dragon Festival through January 15th.
A moment of silence, of course, for the SOE games no longer with us after this year's purge. Ahem.

If you're more the type to moon after Landmark and its futurespawn, EverQuest Next, check out MJ's hands-on with Landmark's PvE content update, which launches today. And peek back early next week for Massively's traditional MMO holiday event roundup for all the big games across the genre.

Hearthstone now available worldwide on Android devices

Fantasy, Launches, Free-to-Play, Mobile, Hearthstone

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hearthstone
After a soft launch in select countries on Android devices, Hearthstone is now available worldwide for Android gamers.

To run it, you'll need to have an Android device that's at least 6" or larger. Like the other platform versions, the Android edition of Hearthstone will sync up with your Battle.net account and allow you to use your existing cards (if you have any). Plans are in the works for an Android version to work on smaller-size phones.

Hearthstone recently won the award for Massively's Best Pseudo-MMO of 2014. Android players can snag it on Google Play or through Amazon.

City of Steam is merging EU servers on December 22nd

Fantasy, MMO Industry, News Items, Free-to-Play, Browser, City of Steam, Subscription

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And then everyone just burns forever.  I think.  I don't know how merges work.
If you've played City of Steam in the EU and thought to yourself, "Man, there are just too many servers for this game right now," the developers agree with you, which is why the server list is being consolidated down to a single server as of December 22nd. Characters will be automatically transferred, with character names getting server tags to make sure naming issues sorted out before they arise.

Players on the current EU3 server will be receiving a compensation package that includes a 90-day subscription and a variety of other materials for character advancement. The five-characters-per-server limit will be enforced with prejudice; the staff is simply deleting the oldest or least-played characters on an account if the merge puts someone over five characters on the final server. So take care of that issue before it arises on the 22nd.

Final Fantasy XIV is now offering a PlayStation 4 two-week free trial

Fantasy, Final Fantasy XIV, Promotions, Subscription

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ff14
Final Fantasy XIV may be intriguing you ever since it won of our Most Improved MMO of 2014 this past week. If you haven't bought into it yet and have a PlayStation 4, then you now have a free option to sample this acclaimed title.

Square-Enix announced today that it has begun to offer a 14-day free trial on the PlayStation 4 before requiring a subscription. There are a couple of caveats for these trial accounts, however; players can level only to 20 and have a few in-game activites restricted for the duration of the two-week trial.

[Source: Square-Enix Press release]

EVE Online nixes industry teams

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

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eve
Not every new idea is going to take off and be a smash hit, as CCP definitely understands this as much as anyone. The EVE Online developer said that the implementation of industry teams earlier this year has been vastly underused, and as a result, teams will be removed from the game entirely in 2015.

"We have been closely tracking all related industry metrics and dials and it is apparent to us that usage of teams has been very low relative to the goals we set for it -- with single figure percentage use in manufacturing jobs and near nonexistent use in research," CCP wrote.

Industry teams had allowed players to hire NPCs to help out with industry jobs. The feature will be "methodically removed" over the next few months, although players will be able to use teams until they are forceably retired.

On another note, EVE tweeted that it has freed up over six million names from former trial players and has made them available for general use.

Leaderboard: Are you playing Elite: Dangerous this week?

Sci-Fi, Launches, MMO Industry, New Titles, Opinion, Sandbox, Leaderboard, Elite: Dangerous

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I'm vacationing from Massively this week, but I'm not vacationing from MMOs. Unless Elite: Dangerous isn't technically an MMO. Maybe it isn't, I dunno, because I haven't played long enough to form an opinion just yet. Anyway, Elite! Launched yesterday! Yay! Maybe after my vacation I'll manage to write something more in depth, but for now that will have to suffice.

What about you, Massively readers? Are you playing Elite this week? If so, what do you think?

Ever wish that you could put to rest a long-standing MMO debate once and for all? Then welcome to the battle royal of Massively's Leaderboard, where two sides enter the pit o' judgment -- and only one leaves. Vote to make your opinion known, and see whether your choice tops the Leaderboard!

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Watch six videos of TERA's new dungeons

Fantasy, Video, Expansions, Free-to-Play, TERA, Dungeons

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tera
If you haven't heard from your TERA-playing friends, don't worry -- they're merely in the thick of enjoying the new Fate of Arun expansion. As with many MMO expansions, Fate of Arun came packed with tough new dungeons, and intrepid YouTuber Skill Graal filmed adventures through several of them.

You can watch six of these dungeon dives after the break, including looks at Bathysmal Rise and Ravenous Gorge.

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Echo of Soul has 'everything an MMO player could want'

Betas, Fantasy, Video, Free-to-Play, Dev Diaries

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eos
"At launch, Echo of Soul will include everything an MMO player could want," says Global Development Project Manager Junhyung Jung. "With 68 areas and over 1,600 quests, EOS offers far more initial content than other games."

Them's fightin' words, Mr. Jung. But also playin' words, too. The above quote comes from a new Echo of Soul video dev diary, in which Jung makes a case for why this title should have broad appeal. He runs down the features list, including PvE content, PvP battles, and solo and team challenges. The level cap is also mentioned as where the game "truly begins."

You can watch the full dev diary after the break.

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RIFT beefs up the minion system

Fantasy, Bugs, Game Mechanics, Free-to-Play, RIFT

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rift
RIFT's new minion system is arguably one of the more popular additions to the game in some time, with players sending out their loyal subjects to bring them back treasures and fame. However, Trion Worlds says it still has work to do, and in a new "State of the Minunion" post, the studio lists a few areas that it's improving with the game's next hotfix.

The new Fae Yule minion mission pack, with a series of quests that tell a story, will have some of its minion rewards buffed up with better stats. The hotfix will also tackle a few bugs and add minion-releated achievements. Finally, adventure rewards are being fine-tuned and improved, although it has been difficult for the team to handle this as it has been "an extremely extensive change touching dozens upon dozens of loot tables."

Choose My Adventure: World of Warcraft and the shadowy priest

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Polls, Expansions, New Titles, PvE, Hands-On, Choose My Adventure, Subscription, MMORPG

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It's been one week since Choose My Adventure's voters sent me on the path of darkness in World of Warcraft, daring me to cast off my healing roots and adventure forward as a Priest who deals only in shadow. I've gained a couple of levels, tinkered with my garrison, and killed hundreds and hundreds of orcs. I've even managed to work out some of last week's confusion, finding a spell rotation that works for me and laying waste to any PvE enemies that cross my path.

I've also completed about a million quests, Warlords of Draenor-style.

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Camelot Unchained's Mark Jacobs on the warrior class and development transparency

Fantasy, Trailers, Video, Business Models, Classes, Game Mechanics, Interviews, MMO Industry, PvP, News Items, Sandbox, Crowdfunding, Camelot Unchained

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Camelot Unchained
City State Entertainment -- an indie studio that's becoming better known to our readers, I imagine, after it ran away with our poll for best studio last week -- has today posted its first class concept reveal. The tentatively named Drengr is the Viking warrior class, and in its long design document, the studio has outlined just how the archetype fits into the proposed Path system that will govern character development in the crowdfunded RvR MMORPG.

We spoke to CSE's Mark Jacobs about the Path system, warrior reveal, and the impact of transparency on the game development process. Enjoy the interview below!

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Landmark's PvE arrives today; SOE shifts to EQ Next full-time in 2015

Interviews, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Sandbox, Norrathian Notebook, Landmark

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We've waited a long time for the chance to have our faces eaten off by vicious monsters in Landmark, and now that opportunity is almost here! After a bit of delay, the infamous PvE patch is heading into our favorite sandbox today. This is seriously going to be a game-changer. Of all the patches throughout the whole year, this one is the biggest -- surpassing the August PvP update and even the original alpha launch, at least according to Creative Director Dave Georgeson. And he's not kidding! I got to check out Landmark's new mobs, linking and triggering, armors, props, and more with Georgeson and Senior Producer Terry Michaels. I didn't think it was possible to be even more excited for this patch, but I am! Can I hear a squeeeee?!

Oh, and for everyone who is waiting anxiously for EverQuest Next news, here's a tidbit from Georgeson you might enjoy:
When we get to those game mastering systems [after the start of the year] that means we are working on EQN full time. Because those are the systems we need for EQN, and that's what we're building when we're building those game mastering tools. So we're so close to transitioning the team almost entirely to EQN, and then we'll take the elements that we build for EQN and port them over into Landmark, but our focus will shift almost entirely to EQN after the new year.

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WoW and FFXIV see boosted playtime on Raptr; ArcheAge playtime 'cratered'

Business Models, MMO Industry, News Items, Miscellaneous

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Raptr
Another month, another Raptr report. Yesterday Raptr.com posted its most played PC games list for November, and MMOs did rather well. Unsurprisingly, World of Warcraft surged up the list to #2 thanks to the Warlords of Draenor expansion. "The MMO's monthly play time was up 71.3% versus October," Raptr's press release says. And though WoW "likely" drew from League of Legends' numbers, it couldn't quite usurp the MOBA's #1 seat.

Among other MMOs, ArcheAge playtime "cratered by 39.97%," but World of Tanks and Final Fantasy XIV both saw rises in theirs. Guild Wars 2 rose in rank, Raptr says, but lost playtime in November vs. October. SWTOR fell two places since October.

As always, Raptr roundups come with the caveat that they represent Raptr users on PC, not all gamers; some MMO studios are also known to boost their Raptr numbers with in-game incentives. But since some of these games refuse to release population data, you might call this the next best snapshot of popularity outside of touring the servers yourself.

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Massively's Best of 2014 Awards: Best Update or Expansion of the Year

MMO Industry, Opinion, Massively Meta, Miscellaneous

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Massively 2014 Awards
Massively's end-of-the-year awards continue today with our award for the Best Update or Expansion of the Year. Every patch, be it small freebie update or traditional paid expansion, was eligible for this category, as long as it released in 2014. All of our writers were invited to cast a vote, but not all of them chose to do so for this category. Don't forget to cast your own vote in the just-for-fun reader poll at the very end.

The Massively staff pick for Best Update or Expansion of 2014 is...

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The Secret World's killer clown is coming to get you

Horror, Business Models, News Items, The Secret World, Promotions, Buy-to-Play

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TSW
Some Funcom fans are getting a nice present in their email today: a ticket to play The Secret World for free for a month.

"You will die. Because, hey, that's what happens when you play an MMO where killer clowns are after you. Fight back! Play The Secret World for FREE this Holiday season," reads the promo.

The freebie 30-day codes in the emails are apparently valid if used by January 15th and include experience potions as well as $5 worth of points to spend in the cash shop. It's currently unclear whether the promotion is for former subbers or just everyone who has a Funcom account.

Elite: Dangerous offers cash prizes in the race to 'Elite'

Sci-Fi, Contests, Game Mechanics, New Titles, News Items, Promotions, Elite: Dangerous, Buy-to-Play

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Elite
Why launch a space MMO when you can launch a space MMO and a giant competition for cash money? That's exactly what Elite: Dangerous is up to just a day after its formal launch. Frontier is offering several huge cash prizes for players who reach the "Elite" rank in various gameplay categories.
Entrants must start from a fresh save on the release version of Elite: Dangerous, starting with the Sidewinder and 1,000 CR, and use 'Open Play' multiplayer mode only. They can use the slight advantage of the Eagle starship offered as part of Elite: Dangerous' Mercenary Edition, but otherwise it should be a level playing field. If in Frontier's sole opinion, there has been any cheating, then an entry may be disallowed. This is a skill-based competition with the following prizes for the first person to reach:
1. Elite in combat - £1,000 or $1,500 or €1,200*
2. Elite in exploration - £1,000 or $1,500 or €1,200*
3. Elite in trading - £1,000 or $1,500 or €1,200*
4. Elite in all three - £10,000 or $15,000 or €12,000*
(* currency as applicable)
Participants must clear their saves, start their journey post-release, and play entirely in open play mode. Anyone out there going for it?

SMITE explores Awilix in depth and kicks off Saturnalia

Fantasy, Trailers, Video, Events (In-Game), News Items, Free-to-Play

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The lack of lore apparently meant that Awilix drank heavily from the well of Generic Fantasy Undress.
There are a lot of goddesses of the night or the moon, period, and there's no shortage of playable ones in SMITE, either. Awilix is also a figure without a whole lot of prominent lore trying to provide a different take on the general role of assassin. So how did the design team go from a name and a few details to a playable character? Through interplay with her pet jaguar, a different series of abilities, and an emphasis on mobility and hit-and-run tactics.

Already have all of the gods you need right now? You've still got a reason to log in to SMITE as the game runs its Saturnalia event, offering free bonus gems to everyone and doubled experience gains for each match played. A series of rolling sales on the pantheons of the game will also persist through the whole of Saturnalia, so if you decide you would like to pick up some new skins, you've got that option.

[Thanks to Sorenthaz for the tip!]

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The Daily Grind: What was your best open-world PvP experience?

Culture, PvP, Opinion, The Daily Grind, Miscellaneous

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black desert
As someone who usually stands on the outside of the whole PvP scene, I'm often curious about the appeal and goings-on of fighting endlessly against other human opponents, especially in MMOs. People seem to talk highly of open world battles and epic moments, although my experience has been limited to being corpse camped on a World of Warcraft server and taking part in many confusic and hectic keep battles in Warhammer Online.

So sate my curiosity today and tell me a time when you had your best open-world PvP experience. What happened and why was that such a treasured memory?

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!

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Elite: Dangerous launch Dec. 16, 2014
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