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PAX South 2015: The Guild Wars 2 Heart of Thorns experience

Fantasy, Culture, Events (Real-World), Expansions, PvE, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, Events (Massively's Coverage), MMORPG, Buy-to-Play

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Charr v Dragon
As MMO player surely know by now, Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns is the first expansion ever for the ArenaNet MMORPG. In fact, most everyone suspected the announcement thanks to the leaked trademark information. But that didn't stop fans from being excited about it, nor did that bit of information satisfy their hunger.

The emcee for the reveal event was none other than voice actor Jennifer Hale, whose voice players might recognize as Queen Jenna's. President and CEO of ArenaNet Mike O'Brien and game director Colin Johanson teased the PAX South crowd of over 1,500 fans waiting in the main theater. But the anticipation for new expansion started well before anyone even came to the stage.

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Make My MMO: January 18 - 24, 2015

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

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This week in MMO crowdfunding news, Star Citizen's release window made headlines, as did the new VAT tax that's about to hit Euro fans of the space sim opus. We also heard from TUG and Shroud of the Avatar, while Pantheon hosted a dev roundtable and promised a public vision.

Click past the cut for our weekly crowdfunding news roundup.

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Norrathian Notebook: Five reasons to support EQ Next and Landmark

Betas, Fantasy, Opinion, Free-to-Play, EverQuest Next, Sandbox, Norrathian Notebook, Landmark

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I like Landmark and am looking forward to EverQuest Next. There, I said it. It should be no surprise. And as such, I certainly have a vested interest in how these games fare throughout their development and launch. I want to see them succeed. But the thing is, so should you -- whether or not you actually want to play them.

Unfortunately, it seems all too fashionable lately for folks to tear something down instead of build it up. So often when I'm following the discussions about EQ Next and Landmark, I hear plenty of reasons why folks don't like the games, and the reasons frequently have nothing to do with the games themselves. Detractors are going on about longstanding gripes and grudges instead of judging the games on their own merits (a practice that the whole world could certainly do without). Amid all the scathing comments I've heard directed at SOE for slights real and imagined, one recently gave me pause and made me reflect on the reasons that supporting these two MMO endeavors is worthwhile.

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PAX South 2015: The Untitled Game is whatever you want it to be

Fantasy, Events (Real-World), Game Mechanics, Interviews, PvE, Hands-On, Events (Massively's Coverage), Sandbox, Crafting, Crowdfunding, Player-Generated Content, MMORPG

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The Untitled Game, better known as TUG, is one of the many recent titles that have earned a small crowdfunding fortune by shouting the word "sandbox" as loud as the internet will allow. The game's initial Kickstarter campaign raised $293,000; launching on Steam's Early Access marketplace helped Nerd Kingdom rake in an unspecified amount of additional dollars. The studio had a bold plan for an open-world, innovative crafting MMORPG, and it appeared as though players were ready to pay for it.

Things haven't gone so swimmingly since then. Funding issues in late 2014 forced the studio to lay off around half of its staff. Many MMO industry followers have been wondering whether the project will ever be released or it's just another crowdfunded pipe dream.

I took a look at TUG on the show floor at PAX South 2015 and talked to COO Brennan Priest about crowdfunding, layoffs, and killing things with axes. The one thing I can say for sure is that there is definitely a game here, and it seems as if it could be a good one.

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PAX South 2015: SWTOR reveals its plans for this year

Sci-Fi, Events (Real-World), PvP, PvE, Free-to-Play, Races, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Dev Diaries, MMORPG

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Pax South 2015: SWTOR reveals its plan for the year
When Eric Musco, the Star Wars: The Old Republic community manager, took the stage at the Community cantina last night at PAX South, he revealed that in 2015 the team wants to do something a bit different with this and future cantina crawl events. In the past, it has been policy not to reveal anything at the cantinas; they were intended to be social events where players could get some face-time with the developers of the game that they both enjoyed. However, going forward, the community and development teams have decided that each cantina will reveal that had not been mentioned before.

The reveal at this weekend's cantina came in the form of the yet-to-be-published producer's letter by Bruce Maclean. The completely made-up story is that it was stolen from his computer while he wasn't looking and printed out to share with us at the cantina.

After the break, you'll find a copy of that letter as it was dictated to cantina goers. The caveat, of course, is that this is not the final version of the letter that will appear on the official site in two weeks, so everything is subject to change.

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PAX South 2015: Notes from a Star Citizen town hall

Sci-Fi, Culture, Events (Real-World), Events (Massively's Coverage), Sandbox, Crowdfunding, Star Citizen, MMORPG, Buy-to-Play

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Star Citizen
Star Citizen is such a big fancy deal that instead of having a panel or booth at PAX South 2015, Cloud Imperium booked a theater down the street and hosted 10 straight hours of forums and chit-chats with backers. That's right: There wasn't enough room in the PAX convention hall to accommodate all the Star Citizening Star Citizens needed to Star Citizen, so they had their own one-day mini-convention dedicated just to their game of choice.

One has to respect a development team willing to spend the entire day with its community (for a nominal fee, of course). I'm sure Star Citizens were absolutely amped to pay the same amount of money as a PAX day pass to hang out with CI all day. Unfortunately, I attended only the evening town hall with Chris Roberts, which I would describe as impenetrable to anyone without a license to pilot one of Star Citizen's $350 ships.

I did take some notes. I will try to parse them here.

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PAX South 2015: Guild Wars 2's Heart of Thorns is an expansion

Fantasy, Events (Real-World), Previews, News Items, Guild Wars 2, Events (Massively's Coverage), Buy-to-Play

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GW2
ArenaNet has just announced that Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns is indeed an expansion.

Speaking from a packed main theater at PAX South 2015, ANet President Mike O'Brien formally confirmed the rumored expansion, saying it will take players "deep into the heart of the Maguuma jungle" and will avoid traditional expansion powercreep and gear treadmills by not raising the level cap. The expansion will introduce new group challenges, new profession specializations, and an account-based "masteries" system for character progression through the new territories.

Game Director Colin Johanson told cheering fans that new legendary weapons and precursors are inbound, as are epic quests that help players acquire their precursors. The expansion will include one new class, the Revenant, which is a heavy armor class that channels the spirits of the mists and famous characters from Guild Wars lore. Each existing class will receive new mechanics and weapons that "fundamentally" change how they play; for example, Rangers can become druids and Necromancers will be able to use greatswords. WvW will also finally get some love, and there will be a new GvG game mode called Stronghold, which of course means... guild halls!

The official site is live now, and the brand-new trailer is now below the cut. Massively's Larry Everett and Mike Foster are live at the event; we'll have more from San Antonio later this afternoon. Fans can follow the festivities on Twitch.

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PAX South 2015: Garriott and Long talk Shroud of the Avatar

Fantasy, Events (Real-World), Interviews, MMO Industry, PvE, Hands-On, Roleplaying, Events (Massively's Coverage), Sandbox, Crafting, Crowdfunding, Player-Generated Content, Shroud of the Avatar, MMORPG

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SOTA
In 2013, Ultima Online creator Richard Garriott took to Kickstarter in the hopes of funding an old-school, sandbox-y MMO. Titled Shroud of the Avatar, the new project would be built in Unity and aimed squarely at those MMO fans who longed for the days of player-driven economies, crafting as a focus instead of a side activity, and the ability to impact the game world in a real way.

The plan worked. Shroud of the Avatar pulled $1.9 million on Kickstarter alone, almost doubling its $1 million funding goal. Since then, the team has been hard at work bringing Garriott's vision to life (and keeping backers happy).

I spoke with Garriott on the PAX South 2015 show floor about crowdfunding, loot, and the mistakes of the modern RPG. I also got to play a bit of SOTA with the help of executive producer Starr Long, who kindly did not make fun of me when I was killed by the second mob in the demo.

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WRUP: Dropping all the subs

Massively Meta, Miscellaneous

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ESO
Welcome back to Massively's What Are You Playing, the game in which we tell you what we're playing this weekend and you guess, to the day, when WildStar will join ESO in dropping its sub. Winner gets the admiration of his peers!

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The Daily Grind: What's your favorite archer class?

Classes, Culture, Opinion, The Daily Grind, Miscellaneous

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camelot unchained
I've never been one to gravitate toward bow-and-arrow classes in MMOs, although I've dabbled in them from time to time. I guess I fear that archers and their ilk are far too popular and feature mindless, straight-forward mechanics (shoot... one arrow at a time! Now two at a time! Now a whole bunch rapidly!).

But if I had to pick a favorite, it would have to be Dungeons and Dragon Online's Bard. I equipped her with a heavy repeating crossbow, and being able to man the medieval equivalent of an automatic rifle was strangely satisfying. Plus, crossbows do not get a lot of play in MMOs for some reason.

Do you have a favorite archer class, and if so, what was it?

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!

Here's a trailer from that Borderlands thing you'll never play

Betas, Sci-Fi, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, New Titles, PvP, News Items

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Borderlands Online is still a China-exclusive title, but if for some reason you want to watch the trailer for a game you'll probably never play, we have it for you after the break!

MMO Culture reports that Borderlands started its "technical test" today. It also says that the game is an "instance-based online shooter," so really you aren't missing too much if you're a fan of the original series and its open world ethos.

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Betawatch: January 17 - 23, 2015

Betas, Business Models, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, News Items, Massively Meta, Betawatch, Miscellaneous, Crowdfunding

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Star Citizen
This week, crowdfund legend Star Citizen laid out a testing timeline for the next two years; it plans to publish the "planetside/social" and FPS betas this spring, while alpha for the persistent universe portion of the game is expected before the end of 2015. What else is new in the world of MMO testing? Read on for the full Betawatch list.

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PAX South 2015: Hangin' with Frontier, playin' Elite on the Oculus Rift

Sci-Fi, Events (Real-World), Interviews, PvE, Hands-On, Events (Massively's Coverage), Sandbox, Crowdfunding, Elite: Dangerous, Buy-to-Play

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Elite: Dangerous
Readers of the Choose My Adventure column may remember that I spent the month of September smuggling beer, shooting NPCs, and dodging space rocks in Frontier Developments' Elite: Dangerous. Though the game was in early beta, I found lots to do and lots to love about the space simulator that isn't that other space simulator. Realistic physics, challenging flight controls, and beautiful design work made the game stand out to me as unique and promising (other Massively staffers seem to agree), and I've revisited it since and enjoyed it every time.

Thus, I jumped at the chance to check Elite out again at PAX South 2015, this time with the experience enhanced by a rad HOTAS setup and the ever-so-popular Oculus Rift. Guided by producer Eddie Symons, I bluffed my way through a combat demo and discovered that when it comes to shooting things in space, being able to look and fly separately is a great thing indeed.

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DayZ has sold over 3 million early access copies

Betas, Horror, MMO Industry, PvP, News Items, Sandbox

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DayZ has been on Steam early access for over a year now, and what does the post-apocalyptic zombie sandbox have to show for it? Well, over 3 million customers, for starters.

A new Bohemia Interactive press release touts the 24 updates the game has seen since its "launch," and it also mentions ongoing improvements including a core engine rewrite begun in 2014. The new engine is called Enfusion, and it includes renderer upgrades and corresponding performance upticks as well as "vastly improved" particle effect aesthetics.

Bohemia also notes that the DayZ dev team now boasts over 80 people.

[Source: Bohemia Interactive press release]

TUG's multiplayer goes live

Betas, Fantasy, Events (Real-World), Patches, Sandbox

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tug
Yesterday, the first stage of TUG's multiplayer went online with its 0.8.1 alpha patch. Players can now bump into each other in both survival and creative modes. But wait -- there's more! The patch also sports a brand-new terrain engine, a new UI, better mod capabilities, additional AI characters, and a handy return stone.

The TUG team will be at booth #1483 at PAX South this weekend and will be selling access to the game at a discount for the duration of the convention. Massively will be reporting on TUG from the show floor, so stay tuned!

City of Titans explains its prototyping process

Super-hero, Previews, News Items, Crowdfunding

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This cat came in, not like a cat, but like cats and dogs, you know, man.
The developers behind City of Titans haven't been shy about praising the Unreal Engine 4 at the heart of development. A new design article gives some insight into one of the major elements of design that makes it so useful to the team, a feature that offers rapid progress between brainstorming, prototyping, and testing: blueprints.

While the article doesn't contain the nuts-and-bolts of the programming elements, it demonstrates how the team was able to build and test a tile-based map system (akin to Skyrim) as an independent element to be tested. The result is that instead of spending a great deal of time brainstorming the idea, the team can drop the prototype in for testing and it can be evaluated as an actual option instead of simply a theory. Take a look at the full article for more details on the map system and the test process.

[Thanks to Byron for the tip!]

The Stream Team: Analyzing ArcheAge's latest update

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

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ArcheAge just introduced a new gift event meant to help the economy in a controlled way (according to the latest producer's letter, at least). Another anticipated change ushered in with this update was the gazebo farm, the largest single farm plot a player can own. It's a beaut, but it costs an awful lot -- especially in labor points! That means Massively's MJ needs to earn gold while simultaneously conserving her labor. Can she manage that? Only if she finds plenty of trouble to get into! Join us live at 3:00 p.m. for a chat about the latest updates (including the recent sloth addition) while MJ tries to make progress on her plans to acquire this fancy new real estate.

Game: ArcheAge
Host: MJ Guthrie
Date: Friday, January 23rd, 2015
Time: 3:00 p.m. EST

Enjoy our Stream Team video below.

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Marvel Heroes hands out free cows and plans team-up revamp

Super-hero, Events (In-Game), Free-to-Play, Marvel Heroes, Humor, Dev Diaries

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marvel heroes
The Cow King is on the move in Marvel Heroes, and a call is going out for all supers to join the most ridiculous battle in the universe. During the weekend Cowtastrophe event, players will get an 40% XP bonus and a portal to the game's bovine levels, where they can slaughter beef for better loot. Marvel Heroes is even giving out a free mini-cow pet for any players who log in on Saturday.

In other Marvel Heroes news, one of the next big projects for Gazillion is a revamp of the team-up system. While all of the details of this revamp are not clear as of yet, we do know that the revamp will allow players to customize team-up's power pools much like main characters.

RuneScape's sub fee hike goes into effect March 1st

Fantasy, Video, Business Models, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Patches, News Items, RuneScape, Free-to-Play, Browser, Sandbox

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RuneScape
Jagex announced a sub rate hike for long-running sandbox RuneScape back in November, and this week, the studio has declared that the new fees will go into effect beginning March 1st. While the game is still free-to-play, the optional sub will increase from $8 US to $9.49 US; the official site includes a conversion chart for the international community and multi-month subbers. For existing Premier Club customers, Jagex posted a reminder about grandfathering in the old rates as long as the sub is maintained:
Don't forget - as long as you're a member and don't lapse out for more than 14 days, you're eligible to keep your current rate of membership. Subscribe now to secure access to all of RuneScape's members' content at current prices.
The studio is also talking up its inbound ports expansion; there's a fresh trailer on the mechanic after the cut.

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Working As Intended: The MMOs we lost in 2014

Events (Real-World), MMO Industry, Opinion, Miscellaneous, Sunsets, Working As Intended

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Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote about how Vanguard's early stumbles foreshadowed the changing MMORPG industry. In January 2007, when Vanguard lurched its way to launch, the genre was barely a decade old; it was booming, and it had never suffered hardship on a massive scale. In the west, we'd seen only three "major" MMOs sunset (Motor City Online, Earth and Beyond, and Asheron's Call 2), and only one MMO, Anarchy Online, had "gone F2P," though we hadn't yet thought to call it yet because it was such a rare and new thing. In fact, it wasn't until 2008's first big wave of AAA, post-World of Warcraft MMOs launched and mostly flopped that MMORPG players gave much thought to the future of the genre and how WoW had reshaped (and possibly broken) it. Maybe not even then.

Here in 2015, sunsets are commonplace, and the vast majority of modern MMOs have adopted some sort of subscriptionless model. Last year, we lost more than a dozen MMOs, including Vanguard itself, all of them wiped from the face of the earth (at least until someone decides to resurrect them), and several more under development were canceled, leading to concern among industry watchers like those of us who pen for Massively. Let's try to get some perspective and revisit the MMOs we lost in 2014.

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Release Dates

Core Games | In Testing | Crowdfund Hopefuls
PAX South Jan. 23, 2015
GDC March 2, 2015
PAX East March 6, 2015
EVE Fanfest March 19, 2015
FFXIV: Heavensward Spring 2015
E3 Summer, 2015
SOE Live Summer, 2015
Gamescom Summer, 2015
PAX Prime Summer, 2015
DragonCon Fall, 2015
BlizzCon Fall, 2015

Meet the Team

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