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Leaderboard: How do you feel about loyalty rewards?

Fantasy, MMO Industry, Opinion, Leaderboard, The Elder Scrolls Online

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Elder Scrolls Online announced its vet reward program recently, and while it doesn't take effect until next month, it got me to thinking about similar incentives in other MMOs. They're pretty common, of course, and even F2P games offer them provided that they also offer an optional subscription tier.

Personally vet rewards aren't much of an incentive. I mean, sometimes they offer a neat-looking vanity pet that I'll look at once and subsequently forget to ever summon again, but I can't recall ever anticipating a loyalty reward or remaining subscribed in order to get one. What about you, Massively readers? Are loyalty rewards nothing more than a nice bonus, or are there some that go above and beyond in terms of desirability? If so, which ones? Don't forget to vote after the cut!

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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Get Skyforge closed beta keys in a social media scavenger hunt

Betas, Fantasy, MMO Industry, New Titles, Giveaways, MMORPG, Skyforge

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Did the upcoming title Skyforge grab your attention during its Gamescom panel earlier this month? Are you now looking forward to delving into the class-swapping system for yourself? If so, we've got good news: You have the chance to nab a key that guarantees access to the closed beta! Obsidian is having a scavenger hunt giveaway on the game's official Twitter and FaceBook page, getting a total of 100 keys into the hands of fans. Numerous keys have been posted already, so if you want one of them, keep your eyes peeled. If you don't win, however, you can still sign up for a chance to get one on the official site.

[Thanks to Dystopiq for the tip!]

Guild Wars 2 previews crafting backpacks

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

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I said there's got to be some good reason for your crafting themed backpack, gold stack, turn around your gems are back, yeah.
Do you consider yourself nice and crafty in Guild Wars 2? Are you fond of being a master of your chosen profession? If so, you're going to be nabbing some nice upgrades when the September 2014 feature pack rolls out. For example, there's the new line of craft-based backpacks available to players that don't take much to make but show off just how good you can be at making stuff in the game. If you've ever wanted to haul around a miniature forge on your back as part of your wardrobe, your ship has come in.

Players can also look forward to new exceptional weapons that can either be crafted for leveling characters or found via exploration, giving your character a little boost while leveling through Tyria. There are also loot changes that make you more likely to receive items you can use on a character rather than receiving an endless string of greatswords on your Thief. Take a peek at the official post for more details.

Final Fantasy XIV celebrates a year since its relaunch

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

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Well this is much more pleasant than what exploded in the night sky at Carteneau.
As of today, Final Fantasy XIV has made it a full year since its successful relaunch. Producer Naoki Yoshida took the time to celebrate with a special letter from the producer, looking back at the past year of operation, both the pitfalls and the highlights. He also thanks the fans and especially the Legacy players for having stood by the game from a rocky inception to the present, and looks forward to upcoming patches, the pending Fan Fest, and the as-yet-unrevealed expansion.

Today also marks the start of a seasonal event to celebrate the anniversary, featuring new minipets, a new emote, and new items for players to enjoy. The event will run until September 8th, giving everyone time to complete the sequence if they so choose. So here's to a year of the resurrected game, and let's hope for many more to come.

Choose My Adventure: Firefall as it stands

Sci-Fi, Polls, PvE, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, MMOFPS, Choose My Adventure, Post-Apocalyptic, Firefall, MMORPG

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Firefall
As I noted in the first week of this month's truncated Choose My Adventure, Firefall is finally an honest to goodness real-life video game. The extended extended beta is over, the launch trailer has released, and the game has been cut loose into the world. One might argue that Red 5 is now officially out of excuses; if something isn't satisfactory in Firefall, it must be unsatisfactory by design. We have stepped beyond the point where "it's a beta" is a fair explanation of the game's rougher edges.

Because what we're dealing with is theoretically intended to be a full retail product, it's not useful to talk about what Firefall used to be, nor is it useful to speculate on what Firefall might become. The only honest evaluation of the game, if evaluation is the goal, must center on the current iteration of the product, the one that Red 5 considered complete enough to release as the finished version of its vision. Is Firefall, in its current state, worth playing? Does it offer enough content to keep players engaged? Is it finally delivering on the promise we have glimpsed in its systems?

For the first time since my initial encounter with the game in early 2013, I'd say the answer is yes.

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The Crew's closed beta PvP is lobby-based

Betas, Real-Life, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, New Titles, PvP, News Items, Races, Buy-to-Play

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What's PvP like in The Crew? You can find out if you're playing the PC closed beta this week. If not, you can read the latest news blurb on the racing MMO's website to get the general idea. It says that PvP races are enabled at level 10. Curiously, given Ubisoft's focus on The Crew's open-world design up to this point, the post also mentions that the closed beta's eight PvP races are lobby-based.

"The PvP lobbies can be accessed directly from the map," the company says. "The Midwest PvP lobby being in Detroit and the East lobby in New York, both represented by a yellow lozenge."

Anarchy Online's graphics engine upgrade suffers delays

Betas, Sci-Fi, Anarchy Online, Events (Real-World), MMO Industry, Patches, News Items, Free-to-Play, Sandbox

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Anarchy Online
Funcom has announced that two Anarchy Online developers, Genele and Macrosun, are leaving the studio and "relocating back to their homelands in Scandinavia." That's bad news for MMO gamers patiently awaiting the game's promised new graphics engine, as the devs' departures mean delays for both the upgrade and the next patch. Creative Director Joel "Nusquam" Bylos explained the situation to players on the official forum:
[L]osing competent and knowledgeable people does have some impact on our development schedule, so we've had to rearrange some things and tune our schedules to make sure we can deliver on our vision for the game. Originally we were planning to patch 18.7 to live this month. We have now delayed it until we have had the chance to give it a thorough going over with the new designers. It is a large and complex patch and we want to be a hundred percent certain that we understand all of the intricacies of the patch before we make it live.

Additionally, because Macrosun was the technical coordinator on the new engine, it causes some challenges on the code side. It will take our live coders some time to get themselves acquainted with the engine and all that it entails. The beta will remain up and running and we hope to get past beta status as soon as we can.
Nusquam noted that Henry "Michizure" Senger will take over for Genele and that the existing live team was organized with "competence sharing" across the studio's games to minimize the impact of personnel shifts. Funcom earlier this week tweeted about new job openings in its Durham, North Carolina, location.

[Thanks to tipster Divalicious Diva. Image credit: Azzura.]

WildStar's Jeremy Gaffney steps down as president of Carbine Studios

Sci-Fi, MMO Industry, News Items, WildStar, Subscription, Buy-to-Play

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So long, and thanks for all the feuds.
Jeremy Gaffney, President of Carbine Studios, has announced via the WildStar forums that he will be stepping down from his current role as president of the studio. He's staying on in a consulting and advisory role, but he'll no longer be steering the operation.

Why the change? According to Gaffney's post, part of it is a result of both losing several family members to cancer last year and having to receive treatment for skin cancer himself. He's recovering without incident, but he put off the treatment for nine months to keep working through launch. Meanwhile, he also wants to allow the studio's creative team to keep working on improving the game rather than simply listening to his creative vision, something which is more easily accomplished if he steps away from an active role.

Gaffney concludes his letter by thanking the fans as well as the studio for making a game that he's proud to have been a part of.

[Thanks to Pete for the tip!]

The Daily Grind: What would you want in a World of Warcraft 2?

Culture, Opinion, The Daily Grind, Miscellaneous

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wow
Your guess is as good as mine as to how serious Blizzard was being the other week when it floated the possibility of a sequel to World of Warcraft during an interview. After all, words are cheap, but development is crazy expensive.

But let's have a little fun with this concept today, whether or not a WoW 2 is in the making. Assuming that there was one being brewed up, what would you want to see done with it? Would it embrace more sandbox features? Would it simply remake the current game or jet off on its own timeline? Would you even prefer a platform switch, such as a mobile WoW or a virtual reality-based one?

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!

GX3 Kickstarter gets a big boost from Blizzard

Culture, Events (Real-World), News Items, Miscellaneous

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Points where they're due.
Conventions are expensive, and unless you have a major publisher or media franchise backing them, it's very easy for a convention to be successful without being successful enough to keep going. GaymerX managed two conventions, but the third round is currently on Kickstarter, trying to raise funds for another convention focused on inclusiveness and support of all different types of gamers. That goal is being helped significantly by a big name in online gaming: Blizzard Entertainment.

The Kickstarter site for the convention lists the World of Warcraft developer as pledging "over $10,000" to making the convention a reality. There are still 23 days for the project to reach its funding goal, but that kind of money certainly helps kick a project along. If you're interested in donating yourself, the convention will be in the Bay Area of California in either November or December of 2015.

Black Gold Online announces its first major content update

Fantasy, Patches, PvP, News Items, Free-to-Play, Black Gold

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Making a joke about critical reception seems just plain cruel.
The first major update to Black Gold Online is going live on September 10th, and it's not going to be all sunshine and lollipops. The name alone kind of makes that obvious; a title like the Campaign of Ashes doesn't bring to mind pleasant undertakings. It brings to mind a new region of the game, plenty of new open PvP, and new missions and quests for players. Which, as it turns out, is exactly what the update will provide.

Of course, that's not the extent of what the update is offering to players, who can look forward to a higher level cap, a new "Skill Surge" system, more equipment, and more content across the board. The update also ushers in an improved interface and a variety of performance upgrades, making the game run more smoothly while being that much easier to play. It's only a couple of weeks until the update goes live, so active players should get ready now.

Diablo 2.10 patch releases with week of in-game bonuses

Fantasy, Video, Events (In-Game), Patches, Diablo III, Buy-to-Play

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d3
It's time for new challenges in Diablo III, as Patch 2.10 crash-landed today to the delights of players and the screams of frustrated hellbeasts. Why won't you stop slaughtering them already?

The big four features that arrive with 2.10 are seasons, greater rifts, leaderboards, and cesspools. Starting today, players can roll up a fresh character for a new season to earn special rewards without assistance from the player's other assets. To celebrate the patch, Diablo III has triggered a week of double gold find and double treasure goblin appearances.

The patch notes are so long that, well, they descend into the deep blackness of the website. If you'd rather not go blind reading all of that, you can check out the patch overview video after the jump. Happy gaming!

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The Stream Team: Firefall's farewell

Sci-Fi, Video, PvE, Free-to-Play, Massively Meta, Hands-On, MMOFPS, Post-Apocalyptic, Livestream, Firefall, The Stream Team, MMORPG

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Firefall
Massively's Mike Foster is prepping for one last go-round with Firefall, the subject of this month's Choose My Adventure. According to the results from last week's poll, readers are hoping to catch a glimpse of Firefall's newly-implemented campaign in action. So, with guns blazing and rocket boots flaming, Mike steps once more unto the breach. Join him live at 7:00 p.m. EST.

Game: Firefall
Host: Mike Foster
Date: Tuesday, August 26th, 2014
Time: 7:00 p.m. EST

Enjoy our Stream Team video below.

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Massively Speaking Episode 311: Interior decorating

Podcasts, MMO Industry, News Items, Massively Meta, Massively Speaking, Miscellaneous

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Rid yourself of gender-baised notions, for boys love interior decorating too! This week, Eliot and Justin share tips on couch placement, pleasing contrasts between wall trim and carpet colors, and where to put mutated eyeballs so that they're not always freaking out the guests. Also, they talk about MMOs, because that's what we sometimes do on this show.

Get all of our opinions and analysis on the most important stories of the past week right here on Massively Speaking, the industry's leading MMO podcast. And if you have a comment, question, or topic for the podcasters, send an email to podcast@massively.com. We may just read your email on the air!

Get the podcast:
[RSS] Add Massively Speaking to your RSS aggregator.
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Listen here on the page:



Read below the cut for the full show notes.

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Trion Worlds denies ArcheAge server security breach, recommends new passwords

Betas, Fantasy, Events (Real-World), MMO Industry, News Items, ArcheAge

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AA
Over the weekend, the ArcheAge beta forums erupted with claims that testers' credit cards were being charged for unauthorized purchases of founders packs. Trion has today responded with a forum post that denies a widespread server security breach. Community Manager Scapes writes,
Let us start by saying this very clearly: Trion Worlds' security has not been compromised in any way. There has been absolutely no breach in Trion's servers.

What happened in the last few hours is sadly nothing new: Every day, bots obtain user credentials from various unprotected sites around the Internet, build lists of login and passwords, and try them on Trion's servers (along with many other sites). If players consistently use simple or repeated passwords across different online services, these bots may get access to their accounts. Because of the current momentum around ArcheAge, hundreds of millions of such attempts were made from well over a million different IP addresses in the last few weeks, only a fraction of which ended up being successful today.
Trion says that it has begun issuing refunds to affected users and is (by coincidence) buffing its Glyph launcher with new device-specific security features. The studio recommends strengthening all game passwords.

[With thanks to tipster Boinya.]

Jukebox Heroes: The music of World of Warcraft: Cataclysm

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Opinion, Jukebox Heroes, Music

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wow
Cataclysm was the first World of Warcraft expansion that I was not there to experience. While I initially applauded the idea of the devs changing the world and bringing the new tech to old spots, that fundamental change in the land that I used to know so well ended up causing me pain. Nobody likes to think of something beloved changed and lost forever. So I stayed away and missed what is probably the worst-reviewed expansion to date.

As such, it was the first WoW expansion score that I listened to outside of the game. To my ears, it was substantially darker than previous efforts, although there contained moments of beauty and excitement. Due to the nature of the expansion, the soundtrack is all over the place thematically, occasionally rewriting old zone music (alas).

The one thing that really pops out at me from this album is how the composers extensively used various background sound effects and noises to suppliment the tunes. I'm not sure if these were added for the album or if these exist in-game, but they certainly add more in terms of atmosphere. Interestingly enough, one of my all-time favorite World of Warcraft tracks came from this expansion, so it certainly wasn't a wasted effort.

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TERA introduces Kickstarter-esque BAM Killer event

Fantasy, Events (In-Game), Free-to-Play, TERA

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Instead of asking for cash, TERA has taken to crowdfunding to solicit manpower. Using a fake Kickstarter page, En Masse invites players to help combat the out-of-control population explosion of BAMs -- or Big Ass monsters -- throughout TERA before they invade our world. How dire is the situation? Watch the video below to see!

From now until September 16th, players can contribute to the BAM kill count and work toward the ultimate goal of 5 million BAMs dead in 21 days. Each day players log in during the event they will receive a special loot box that will contain five federation bills and a chance to drop bronze, silver, or gold BAM tokens -- tokens that can be exchanged for costumes, accessories, and even weapons exclusive to this event. For a look at all the possible rewards, check out the BAM Killer program.

[Source: En Masse press release]

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Blizzard is already working on World of Warcraft's sixth expansion

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Expansions, Interviews, Subscription

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wow
Warlords of Draenor? That's yesterday's news, my friend. The progressive World of Warcraft player should already be looking forward to expansion number six, which Blizzard says is in full production.

Game Director Tom Chilton confirmed that the team is already hard at work at the follow-up to Warlords of Draenor. "We already have zones in production for it," he said to Gameplanet, adding that the team will also be looking at the theme for the seventh expansion "over the next several months."

Chilton indicated that World of Warcraft has a long life yet to come: "Beyond that, there are about six or seven different ideas for expansions that we can take elements of and say, 'You know what? Let's take that and put it in this one for our next expansion after the next one.' [...] As long as there are enough players demanding that we make more content then we're likely to do so. I think it'll be quite a while before the financials indicate that it's just not worth doing anymore."

RIFT adds experimental support for the Oculus Rift

Fantasy, Culture, News Items, Free-to-Play, RIFT, Subscription

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It's the next best thing to actually lighting yourself on fire!
RIFT heard you liked rifts, so it's added some rift support to your RIFT. Specifically, it's added in support for the Oculus Rift development kits. Yes, that means that players who have headsets and want to really feel as if they're right there staring into the game world can play around with doing exactly that. What's not to love?

The official posting notes that support at this time is highly experimental and may be discontinued at any time on the whims of the developers. UI support is also very primitive, which could lead to issues with the game experience beyond just looking at stuff. Despite that fact, the support is available for testing now on the public test server and is expected to go live this Wednesday, giving players a chance to play around with the support and see how they like it. Assuming they have Rifts, of course.

[Thanks to Rick from Santa Cruz for the tip!]

Guild Wars 2's feature pack will improve dungeons and the crafting UI

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

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I think we can all agree that the Norn fellow on the right is quite striking and will hopefully show up in a variety of future promotional materials.
September is just around the corner, which means that the next major update for Guild Wars 2 -- the September feature pack -- isn't far behind. The pack aims to improve several parts of the game, starting by demolishing the concept of dungeon owners. Currently, the first player to zone into a dungeon is counted as the "owner" of the dungeon, which can lead to problems if that player disconnects; by contrast, after September there will be no dungeon owner, avoiding issues with progression if that owner leaves or gets kicked.

The game's crafting UI is also receiving an overhaul, making it faster and easier to access crafting sub-components without navigating away from the main item that you want to craft. The update will also bring a number of performance improvements to make the game run faster and better on various bits of hardware. Take a look at the full update for a few more details as the feature pack release approaches.

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Destiny September 9, 2014
The Crew November 11, 2014
LEGO Minifigures Online Fall 2014
ArcheAge 2014
WoW Warlords of Draenor November 13, 2014

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Massively Speaking Episode 311: Interior decorating

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