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Frontier lays off 15 employees

Sci-Fi, MMO Industry, News Items, Sandbox, Elite: Dangerous, Buy-to-Play

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Keep flying on anyway.
Frontier Developments has axed 15 positions from its Halifax studio somewhat unexpectedly, leaving this branch of the overall studio with a somewhat hazy future. According to investor reports, the move is the result of a refocusing of the company's business plan around its two major games, and with all of the expertise on Elite: Dangerous and the upcoming Coaster Park Tycoon concentrated in Cambridge, it simply made more sense to reduce staff in the satellite studio.

No word on what this means for the long-term health of the Halifax location, which may very well be facing the axe as well. Our deep consolation goes to all employees affected by the layoffs.

The Daily Grind: Are there any MMO dailies that don't make you cringe?

Business Models, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, Massively Meta, The Daily Grind, Miscellaneous

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GTA Online
You know what I don't think MMOs need more of? Dailies. I think most core MMO gamers are tired of a mechanic that exists, transparently and unashamedly, to keep us completing repetitive tasks on a daily basis and keep us logging in, and in some cases, paying our subs. Even a well-constructed daily achievement system and totally benign daily login rewards can be irritating.

But out on the fringes of the MMO space, gamers are just discovering the allure of the daily. VG247 pubbed an editorial last week arguing that GTA Online ought to copy -- wait for it -- Destiny's "intrinsic" dailies and rewards; without them, the writer opined, players are "reminded that the grind is most certainly real."

Call me jaded, but I say themepark dailies are usually just as grindy as whatever formless grind they're meant to replace, and I suspect the players who need something to do at the "end" of online co-op shooters would probably be happier with a sandboxier MMORPG to begin with. But surely there's some sort of dailies that we do like. Are there any MMO dailies that don't make you cringe? Which game can boast the best? (And can we tell GTA Online to copy those, please?)

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!

Not So Massively: The pseudo-MMOs of PAX South 2015

Betas, Trailers, Video, Business Models, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, New Titles, News Items, Free-to-Play, Massively Meta, Trading Card Games, Consoles, MMOFPS, Events (Massively's Coverage), Miscellaneous, Not So Massively, World of Warships, MOBA, League of Legends, Crowdfunding, Destiny, Elite: Dangerous, Path of Exile, Hearthstone, E-sports, OARPG

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NSM - Gigantic
Welcome back to No So Massively, where every Monday we round up the highlights from the past week in the world of MOBAs, roguelikes, MMOTCGs, and other games that aren't quite MMOs.

This past weekend was PAX South 2015, the first PAX held in San Antonio, and our reporters covered not-so-massive online games in addition to MMORPGs, including Star Citizen, Elite: Dangerous, Shroud of the Avatar, Gigantic, Moonrise and State of Decay, Pox Nora, and TUG. Here's what else the week brought not-so-massive fans.

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The Stream Team: This Marvel Heroes event is for the cows

Super-hero, Video, Events (In-Game), Free-to-Play, Marvel Heroes, Livestream, The Stream Team

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Anyone who has played Marvel Heroes for more than 30 minutes knows that this game is big on events because there is always an event going on! And the latest event has really gone to the cows. That's right, cows: many, many cows. Having never been to Bovenheim before, Massively's MJ ventured forth this weekend with other Minions to see what all the heifer hoopla was about. It's no joke when the first explamation heard upon entering was, 'Holy cow!" You seriously have to see this place to believe it. So join MJ and the Minions at 8:00 p.m. for their second trip into the land of moo, moo, quack?

Game: Marvel Heroes
Host: MJ Guthrie
Date: Monday, January 26th, 2015
Time: 8:00 p.m. EST

Enjoy our Stream Team video below.

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PAX South 2015: Pox Nora is the coolest online card game you've never heard of

Fantasy, Events (Real-World), Expansions, Interviews, PvP, PvE, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, Trading Card Games, Events (Massively's Coverage)

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Pox Nora
Pox Nora is a game that's hard to categorize. It's like Hearthstone, you see, because it's an online card game. But it's also like Civilization because it uses turn-based combat on a variety of maps with terrain that affects the battle. And maybe it's like Minecraft as well because it was built by a tiny team and developed incrementally through the feedback of a passionate fan base.

Pox Nora was free-to-play before free-to-play was a thing. It's gone from tiny little indie to SOE-backed product and back again. And through its eight years, it's managed to fly quietly under the radar while its developers continually churn out content, implement community ideas, and expand its possibilities.

At PAX South over the weekend, I sat down with Arthur Griffith, CEO of Desert Owl Games and co-creator of Pox Nora, to learn more about the game and its latest content additions.

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Star Trek Online starts its fifth anniversary celebration

Sci-Fi, Events (In-Game), Patches, Star Trek Online, Free-to-Play, Giveaways, Anniversaries

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sto
It was five years ago February 2nd that Star Trek Online came mewing into the MMO world, bringing with it final frontiers, infinite diversity, and canon-approved lockboxes. Cryptic's so excited to share this milestone that it's starting the celebrations a little early with a daily giveaway from today through Thursday, beginning with a free research and development pack.

The real special treat is more than just casual freebies, however. The team's introducing a brand-new featured episode, Dust to Dust, starring Garrett Wang as Harry Kim. Q is also returning with his annual events, although this time around he's adding an Omega Particle minigame to the mix.

Completing both the featured episode and Q events will earn tokens to spend on various rewards (including a Kobali Samsar Cruiser) and fragments that can be assembled for an Omega upgrade kits.

World of Warcraft unleashes its full patch 6.1 patch notes

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Classes, Game Mechanics, Patches, News Items, Subscription

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Loud noises.
The first major patch for World of Warcraft's latest expansion is here! If by "here" you mean "on the test realm," anyhow. So not here at all. The opposite of here; still preparing to be here. One might even go so far as to say it's there. But the full (preliminary) patch notes for the test realm are available right now for those who'd like to see what's around the corner aside from brand-new Blood Elf models.

Garrison fans will have plenty of things to enjoy, with new visitors offering quests, new follower missions, and a new music box available. Players can also make use of a new Twitter integration feature and the new heirloom collection tab. Several classes are also seeing talent and balance adjustments, including across-the-board buffs to healer damage output for adventuring in the world. No word yet on when the patch will drop, but you can see what it contains from the patch notes.

Here's how to steal from NPCs in Elder Scrolls Online

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

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"Justice is coming to Tamriel," according to ZeniMax's latest website notice. It's probably more accurate to say that criminality is coming to Tamriel, though. More specifically, Elder Scrolls Online's upcoming Update 6 features the justice system which will enable your avatar to participate in a variety of underhanded activities including murder and thievery.

The latter involves relieving hapless NPCs of their valuables while avoiding those pesky town guards, and the former involves assaulting and even killing AI citizens. At some point you'll end up with a bounty on your head, which in turns affects how guards react to your presence. Click through the links below to read the rest of the details.

PAX South 2015: Life is Feudal revives the good ol' MMO feel

Fantasy, Events (Real-World), Interviews, New Titles, Opinion, Events (Massively's Coverage), MMORPG

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The good ol' MMO feel
When the assignment for Life Is Feudal came to me, I questioned why I was covering a game that really didn't seem to be an MMORPG in my eyes because of its separate servers and the survival feel of the setting. It felt to me initially that I was covering another DayZ, one set in a medieval era and no zombies. But as I found out at this year's PAX South, I was completely wrong.

Interestingly, I didn't find out what kind of mistake I made from the head honcho of Bitbox, Vladimir Piskunov. I found out from someone who has been playing for a long time and was invited to play at the Life Is Feudal booth. His name is Bill, and he's the "superfan" who demoed the game for me. He explained the ins and outs of the mechanics until I started having Ultima Online flashbacks. We discussed the skill system and trekked around the world, and then reminded me that LiF will eventually be an MMORPG. And I could certainly see how. If sandboxes are your thing as they are mine, then maybe this game is up our alley.

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PlanetSide 2 smashes world record for biggest FPS battle

Sci-Fi, PlanetSide, MMO Industry, Free-to-Play, MMOFPS, PlanetSide 2

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ps2
Those of you who turned out to help PlanetSide 2 set a world record this past Saturday now have the satisfaction of knowing that you're officially a part of gaming history.

The Guinness World Records title for "Most Players Online in a Single FPS Battle" was set by the combined efforts of three factions and 1,158 players on January 24th in the game. The immense fight took place in a single instance and surpassed the previous record holder of Man vs. Machine, which reached only 999 players in 2012. The title will be included in the Gamer's Edition of the World Records.

PlanetSide 2 Producer David Carey wanted to thank those who participated, adding that this put the title right back where it belonged: "PlanetSide held the original record for this achievement and we're thrilled to have officially taken it back with PlanetSide 2."

[Source: SOE press release]

The Mog Log: Final Fantasy XIV 2.5 dungeons

Fantasy, Patches, Endgame, Opinion, Consoles, Final Fantasy XIV, The Mog Log, Dungeons, Subscription

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Being the champion after all.
I mentioned a while back that it was kind of neat how the whole setup of Final Fantasy XIV had come full circle. At the start of the 2.0 patch cycle we were scurrying away from tonberries and bashing our heads against Demon Wall; in the final patch, we're back to both of those spots, along with the oft-seen and never-explored Keeper of the Lake in the midst of Mor Dhona's wreckage. It's a neat counterpoint.

Having played through all of the dungeons now, well, you get to rescue tonberries. That alone makes the last set of dungeons worthy.

As in every set of dungeons, there are winners and losers amidst the bosses, good points and bad ones. The dungeons as a whole are very reluctant to let you do much speeding through, with pulls being pretty aggressively gated. So let's talk mechanics, let's talk atmosphere, and let's carefully coach you through the process of kicking the crap out of your final expert roulette competitors.

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PAX South 2015: Why aren't MMOs more social?

World of Warcraft, Culture, Economy, Events (Real-World), MMO Industry, Endgame, Star Wars Galaxies, Virtual Worlds, Events (Massively's Coverage), Crafting, MMORPG

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PAX Panel
On Friday, Alex Albrecht from ZergID and formerly of the Totally Rad Show headed up a PAX South panel about the social side of MMOs, inviting Patrick Mulhern from Lorehound, Jenesee Grey from Camelot Unchained, and me to join to discuss community in MMOs and why it's seemed so absent in recent years. Meg Campbell from YouTube moderated the panel discussion, calling us the PAX MMO guild.

I admit that I considered naming this piece, "How Star Wars Galaxies did everything right and World of Warcraft did everything wrong" because I am obviously biased. But I really was completely surprised at how much SWG came up during the panel. Many former Galaxies players will tell you that there was a lot about that game that was pure crap, but when you talk about the social implementations of SWG, there just aren't many games that compare.

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Defiance developers answer a dozen player questions

Sci-Fi, Game Mechanics, Patches, News Items, Consoles, Community Q&A, Post-Apocalyptic, Defiance, Buy-to-Play

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We hope you like shooting, because it's all shooting from here on out.
Good news, Defiance fans: Your questions have been answered. Assuming that your questions were closely tied to the 12 questions answered here, of course. Otherwise your questions remain unanswered. But if you want to know more about expeditions or the upcoming Alcatraz hub, the answers have you covered. Whether or not you'll like the answers is another story entirely; expeditions are very much about straightforward shooting engagements with a full group using a drop-in-drop-out approach to forming a party.

At this point there's no exact ETA for when the Alcatraz update will be available on the game's test server, although the developers are hopeful for "soon." The answers also discuss some long-standing issues and a few bugs as well as take on the issue of character customization, which isn't going to be expanded any time soon. Even if your question isn't among the ones answered, it still would behoove Defiance players to take a peek at what's in store for the game.

PAX South 2015: Moonrise and State of Decay shine at the Undead Labs booth

Fantasy, Events (Real-World), Interviews, New Titles, PvP, PvE, Free-to-Play, Mobile, Hands-On, First Impressions, Events (Massively's Coverage), Post-Apocalyptic, Miscellaneous, Buy-to-Play

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Undead Labs
Most media appointments at an event like PAX South 2015 work like this: You meet the person you're supposed to meet, that person shows you the game her studio is working on, and then you rush off to the next booth on your list while cursing yourself for not scheduling time for a snack. Undead Labs handled my PAX appointment a bit differently, sitting me down for back-to-back play sessions with brand-new tablet game Moonrise and a remastered version of State of Decay, the zombie survival game that put the studio on the map.

It was a little jarring to go from adorable pet battles to being torn in half by a zombie, but the two-for-one session provided a nice glimpse of where Undead Labs has been and where it intends to go.

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The Elder Scrolls Online answers player questions on its buy-to-play model

Fantasy, Business Models, News Items, Consoles, The Elder Scrolls Online, Buy-to-Play

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It's fine.  I'm fine.  We're fine.  Everything is fine.
Even if you were among the many players predicting a business model shift for The Elder Scrolls Online, a change in business models can be kind of disturbing. Suddenly the game doesn't behave according to all of the same rules you've been familiar with since launch. To help alleviate that confusion, the ESO dev team hosted a quick question-and-answer session with players over the weekend to help answer some of the major questions about the change, the next major patch, and balance issues moving forward in the game.

To start with, if you've still got time cards for the game on your desk, fret not; you can still use them after the model transition to add the equivalent amount of subscription time to your account. You might want to use them ahead of time, though, since there are plans to add in a special veteran reward for players who stayed subscribed during the game's entire subscription lifespan. DLC prices are not finalized, but they are intended to be around the normal DLC price points for other games. Take a look through the whole of the answers for more details on balancing and issues like controller support.

The Daily Grind: Did you get anything out of PAX South?

Events (Real-World), MMO Industry, Opinion, The Daily Grind, Star Citizen

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PAX South came and went, and outside of the jumpgate and mobiglass UI reveals for Star Citizen, none of the news coming from the con really interested me. What about you, Massively readers? Did you get anything out of this year's PAX South?

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: Expansion or riot

Business Models, Events (Real-World), Expansions, MMO Industry, News Items, Massively Meta, Events (Massively's Coverage), Miscellaneous

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GW2
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.

You gotta love a week with tons of huge MMO news! Guild Wars 2 avoided a riot by announcing its first expansion, The Elder Scrolls Online revealed it's going buy-to-play ahead of its June console launch, and Star Citizen declared that its persistent MMO portion will roll out to testers this year. Meanwhile, PAX South has wrapped up; here's a look at what we've published so far:
PAX South 2015: O'Brien and Johanson on Guild Wars 2's Heart of Thorns
PAX South 2015: Garriott and Long talk Shroud of the Avatar
PAX South 2015: Camelot Unchained's proactive community management
PAX South 2015: Hangin' with Frontier, playin' Elite on the Oculus Rift
PAX South 2015: SWTOR reveals its plans for this year
PAX South 2015: Notes from a Star Citizen town hall
PAX South 2015: Slaying giants in Motiga's Gigantic
PAX South 2015: The Untitled Game is whatever you want it to be
PAX South 2015: The Guild Wars 2 Heart of Thorns experience
Read on for the rest of this week's top MMO stories.

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PAX South 2015: Camelot Unchained's proactive approach to community management

Fantasy, Events (Real-World), Interviews, New Titles, Opinion, Events (Massively's Coverage), Camelot Unchained, MMORPG

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A different kind of community management
In the crowdfunded independent industry, we are starting to see some ups and downs. Backers have seen some games fail and other games soar. One of those games that seems to be doing very well, at least if you ask its Community Manager Jenesee Grey and its legions of fans, is Camelot Unchained. At this weekend's PAX South, I spoke to Grey about her experience as a CM for a crowdfunded game.

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One Shots: Haiku edition

Screenshots, Culture, Star Trek Online, One Shots, The Secret World, Final Fantasy XIV, Miscellaneous, Elite: Dangerous

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ff14
Believe it or not, I have been listening to you guys in the comments, and I know that there's been an ongoing desire for One Shots to provide the full-size pictures that are otherwise shrunk by our size limitations. So I'm happy to announce that starting this week, I'm including a gallery at the end of the column that will allow you to pull up larger screenshots if so desired.

A few weeks ago I issued a screenshot challenge for folks to send in a haiku poem in addition to their picture. A select few of you did, starting with this striking pose from Final Fantasy XIV by reader Wolfyseyes:

Facing this challenge
One thought repeats in my mind:
Please, please, please don't suck

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MMO Burnout: Engineers in spaaace

Sci-Fi, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, PvP, PvE, Opinion, Sandbox

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I missed the whole Minecraft craze. I was stupidly grinding my virtual life away in various MMORPGs, plus I couldn't get past Minecraft's so-fugly-it's-hip aesthetic. No matter, though, because Space Engineers takes Minecraft's core concepts and dolls them up with pleasing visuals, a nifty near future sci-fi setting, and addictive gameplay that's much more than the sum of its parts.

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PAX South Jan. 23, 2015
GDC March 2, 2015
PAX East March 6, 2015
EVE Fanfest March 19, 2015
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BlizzCon Fall, 2015

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