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First Impressions

Massively's ArcheAge launch diary: Day three - PvE, quests, and story

Fantasy, Game Mechanics, Launches, MMO Industry, New Titles, PvE, Opinion, Hands-On, First Impressions, ArcheAge, Sandbox

Welcome back to Massively's ArcheAge launch diary. I can't believe we're already on the third installment because there's still so much to see, do, and learn. That's a good thing, though, isn't it?

Yeah, it is, and while ArcheAge has its share of issues, its breadth and depth is incredibly welcome in a genre that's gotten far too comfortable repackaging the same tired experience.

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EVE Evolved: Has the industry revamp worked?

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Economy, Expansions, Game Mechanics, Patches, PvE, Opinion, Hands-On, First Impressions, EVE Evolved, Sandbox, Crafting, Player-Generated Content, Subscription, MMORPG

EVE Evolved title image
When I was first introduced to EVE Online back in 2004, a big part of the attraction for me was the promise of a huge player-run economy in which the only real laws were those of supply and demand. With only a handful of tech 1 ships and modules available to build and everything made out of the same basic minerals, science and industry were pretty easy for new players to figure out. Over the years, more complexity has slowly been added to industry via features like Starbases, Salvaging, Capital Ships, Tech 2 Invention, Planetary Interaction and Tech 3 Reverse Engineering. Today's industrialists have to contend with hundreds of different items that are often arranged in sprawling component manufacturing chains, which can make it hard to figure out exactly how to make a profit.

The recent industry revamp attempted to solve this problem with a full user interface overhaul and a revamp of material costs and manufacturing prices. All of the relevant information for using a blueprint was packed into a slick new combined Industry UI, allowing new players to find the info they're looking for in-game rather than through websites or opening dozens of item info windows. It's now been almost two months since the industry revamp went live, and while the market for many items is still going to take several months to fully stabilise, the dust has finally begun to settle. So what's the verdict? Has the industry revamp worked?

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I consider whether the industry revamp has been successful, how easy it is to make a profit in the new system, and whether it's worth setting up your own industrial starbase.

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Massively's ArcheAge launch diary: Day two - Classes, skills, combat

Fantasy, Game Mechanics, Launches, MMO Industry, New Titles, PvE, Opinion, Hands-On, First Impressions, ArcheAge, Sandbox

Welcome to day two of Massively's ArcheAge launch diary. Technically, by the time you read this, it'll be day three, but you know how these things work. And I know, I know, it's not really launch; it's head start. But Trion's not wiping this weekend's progression, so I'm going to keep referring to this as a launch diary!

Thanks to a bunch of virginal script kiddies who thought it would be cool to DDoS the ArcheAge servers on Saturday, I didn't get to play all freakin' afternoon as planned. That's OK, though, because we've got a lot to talk about with regard to the game's basic mechanics.

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Massively's ArcheAge launch diary: Day one

Fantasy, Game Mechanics, Launches, MMO Industry, New Titles, Opinion, Hands-On, First Impressions, ArcheAge, Sandbox

I'm standing on a sun-baked rock along Nuia's northern coast. The waves lap at my feet, little bubbles are visible just off shore. Wispy strips of white cirrus float overhead, framing a baby blue sky that meets the ocean somewhere beyond a hazy horizon I can't quite see.

I've been standing here a while because there goes the sun, melting into the water and leaking red-orange streaks across the purplish waves as I watch. Up the cliff face behind me, a gaggle of green-named newbs mosh about in the newb area doing what MMO newbs do.

A couple of them make their way down the cliff face to join me. One of them jostles my character and apologizes. He didn't realize there was collision detection and he's very sorry and wow, this game is pretty, isn't it?

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HEX is not Hearthstone: A look at HEX's closed beta

Betas, Economy, Game Mechanics, Previews, PvP, Opinion, Hands-On, Trading Card Games, First Impressions, Miscellaneous, Crowdfunding, HEX

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It's been a while, HEX. Last time I saw you was E3 2013. I hadn't yet started to play Hearthstone, and truthfully, I doubted it could hold a candle to you. In a lot of ways, I was right. It's so much simpler, it's less complex, and at the time, it felt less imaginative. But my card game days are behind me. I don't have the kind of time I used to, so Hearthstone's faster games and accessible drafts (called "arenas" in HS) reminded me of the things I love about the genre while allowing me to keep my grown-up schedule intact and being easy on my wallet.

Just the same, HEX, when I got the closed beta invite to see you again, my heart skipped a beat. I was ready to drop some big money on you, but I've been burned a few times. While I've been in betas and alphas for other games, there's been a trend of letting people pay to play unfinished products. I've been burned, and while I don't regret the experience, I do regret the purchases at the moment. I mean, when a game suddenly disappears from the market, it does make you question your decisions, so I decided we should go out a few times first before I really invest in you.

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The Think Tank: The best of PAX Prime 2014

Events (Real-World), MMO Industry, Opinion, Massively Meta, First Impressions, Miscellaneous, The Think Tank

ArcheAge
This year's PAX Prime has drawn to a close, as has our coverage, but how did it fare, on the whole, for MMO players?

I polled the Massively writers for their favorite announcements and showings from the con. Here's what we think was the best and most interesting MMO news to come out of PAX Prime.

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Hyperspace Beacon: SWTOR guild ships and Rakghouls

Sci-Fi, Events (In-Game), Expansions, Patches, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, First Impressions, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Hyperspace Beacon, MMORPG

Hyperspace Beacon: SWTOR guild ships and Rakghouls
This weekend was full of space zombies and capital ships in Star Wars: The Old Republic. I ended up dividing my time between the live servers hosting the Rakghoul event on Tatooine and attempting to make the most out of having a guild ship on the public test server.

Unfortunately, my guild's capital ship fell victim to the Bermuda Triangle bug that makes ships completely disappear, and I wasn't even able to buy a new one. I chalk that up to testing. And I certainly will not cry foul because of it. Besides, the ship was eventually restored, just not in time for my guild to really make any headway in the conquests for this week.

However, I did get to experience the ship some because I was on the SWTOR official livestream last week, and I also created my own guild on PTS to test out the capital ship features.

But first, let's talk about Rakghouls.

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An early look at Heroes of the Storm's alpha

Betas, Fantasy, Culture, Game Mechanics, Previews, PvP, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, First Impressions, MOBA

HOTS
Heroes of the Storm: Just another MOBA, right? Well, maybe. I have to admit two things before we jump into this article. First, I like MOBAs, but I'm an MMO player first and foremost. I keep trying MOBAs as they come out, and I've sunk some serious hours into the genre, so I do have a decent working knowledge of the bare basics, especially starting experiences.

Second, I'm neither a fan nor a hater of Blizzard. Blizzard often sticks to safe rather than unique features, but it also makes games for the masses, which is great because I love to drag my friends into my games. But a game that attracts everyone also attracts the kind of people I don't want to play with.

So why should I -- or you -- play Heroes of the Storm?

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Hyperspace Beacon: First impressions of SWTOR's Galactic Strongholds expansion

Sci-Fi, Expansions, Patches, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, Roleplaying, First Impressions, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Hyperspace Beacon, MMORPG

Hyperspace Beacon: First Impressions of SWTOR's Galactic Strongholds expansion
It's been an exciting weekend: I've spent many hours just absorbing the contents of the new expansion for Star Wars: The Old Republic. Of course, the largest part of Update 2.9 is Galactic Strongholds. I'll come right out to say that the SWTOR livestreams do not do it justice. I'm finally glad that I could get my hands on it to see exactly what the hook system feels like, where I can find all the furniture, and mostly importantly, how much it is going to cost.

Beyond the strongholds themselves, BioWare also introduced a new planet and flashpoint this weekend. I took some time to also visit Manaan, and I know I'm going to sound like a fanboy when I say that it blew me away. I was absolutely not expecting something that gorgeous for a simple flashpoint.

We have a lot to talk about, and if you've spent some time on the SWTOR PTS, I'd like to read your opinions in the comments. But first here are a few of my thoughts.

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First Impressions: LEGO Minifigures Online

Betas, New Titles, Previews, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, First Impressions, Kids, Family

LEGO Minifigures Online
Besides being an avid gamer myself, I am raising three children who are also avid gamers. You might have seen past livestreams that I've done with my youngest son and my daughter. In fact, my son and I are going to stream with the Super Hero Squad Online crew here in the next few days. As a gaming dad, I keep my eyes out for games that lend themselves to being kid friendly and fun for adults, too.

When Free Realms shut down, my youngest, now 9 years old, was heartbroken. Although he didn't really do much questing, he loved the other activities in the game like kart racing and exploring the housing system. I have attempted to get him to jump into games like Wizard101 and Pirate101, whose combat systems were more complex than his liking. But he's a fan of combat in SHSO. He also plays Minecraft daily and has really adhered to the whole culture that surrounds it.

So when LEGO Minifigures Online opened its beta, I thought it would be an excellent combination of both SHSO combat and the building systems of Minecraft. I was wrong on one count but right on the other. My son loved the combat system, at least.

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The Stream Team: Poking in the Pathfinder Online alpha

Betas, Fantasy, Video, First Impressions, Livestream, Sandbox, The Stream Team, Crowdfunding, Pathfinder Online

Have you been eager to see what is happening behind the Pathfinder Online developmental curtain? Massively's MJ has sneaked in and will be poking around the alpha to see how things are coming along. Starting with character creation, she'll peek into as many corners as possible to show off this upcoming crowdfunded sandbox. Can she get to housing, crafting, adventuring, and exploring? Obviously because it is alpha, things won't be finished, but chances of experiencing everything in a short time is still pretty low! Join us live at 1:00 p.m. to let MJ know what aspects you want to see the most while she has the chance to show you.

Game: Pathfinder Online
Host: MJ Guthrie
Date: Saturday, July 26th, 2014
Time: 1:00 p.m. EDT

Enjoy our Stream Team video below.

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WoW's Warlords of Draenor beta: Questing, mechanics, and concerns

World of Warcraft, Betas, Fantasy, Expansions, Previews, Opinion, Hands-On, First Impressions, Subscription

The past is haunting you.
Tell me if this sounds familiar if you've played World of Warcraft: Your faction's forces are unexpectedly trapped in a strange new world with some familiar elements but a large number of unfamiliar ones. You are facing both the other faction and a new almost unknown foe, forcing you to seek allies immediately. Unfortunately for you, the local inhabitants have their own customs and lives, and you're going to need to start forging alliances to deal with this largely alien region.

Yes, that's the Warlords of Draenor starting experience as well as the Mists of Pandaria starting experience. What sets the two apart, aside from MoP's clever use of mini-hubs moving out in a sort of spiderweb fashion, is that MoP approached its story by easing up on the pressure early in the plot. You start settling into a rhythm, putting down the conflict with the enemy a little more, dealing with the inhabitants on their terms. The overarching conflict was there, but it had time to fade into the background. Not so here; the conflict with the Iron Horde squats on your shoulder and screams at you, crow-like, preventing you from thinking even for a second that you might want to explore this strange fantasy world.

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The Stream Team: A first look at Swordsman's beta

Betas, Video, First Impressions, Livestream, The Stream Team, Swordsman

Are you in the mood for a MMO with an oriental flair? Massively's MJ is peeking into the open beta of Swordsman, a game based on the books of Louis Cha. What does this martial arts title have to offer players? Now is the time to come and see! Join us live at 5:00 p.m. for a look at MJ's first steps into this new world.

Game: Swordsman
Host: MJ Guthrie
Date: Monday, July 21st, 2014
Time: 5:00 p.m. EDT

Enjoy our Stream Team video below.

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WoW's Warlords of Draenor beta: The disappointment of garrisons

World of Warcraft, Betas, Fantasy, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Hands-On, First Impressions, Housing, Subscription

This house is not a home.
Once a player finishes the introductory quests for Warlords of Draenor, the Horde and Alliance gangs go in separate directions, and I had slightly higher hopes for the rest of my beta experience. The introduction was kind of a wash, a climactic third act delivered we'd been left out of the first two acts unless we'd read novels and participated in an event that's not yet live. But Shadowmoon Valley was where I could start seeing the pure promise of this expansion realized, the beautiful idea of a Draenor still filled with Draenei before the corruption and assault of the Horde, an alien landscape far from what was familiar on Azeroth. Not too far, of course, but just far enough to feel like we'd really come to a strange new place. And, of course, the first thing you do is unlock your Garrison.

If my first impression of the WoD beta, which I posted last week, was negative, then this is where it took a sharp nosedive into something resembling rage. But let me start off with a statement that might seem to make no sense, in this context: I've always been fine with housing never being a part of World of Warcraft.

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WoW's Warlords of Draenor beta: A disappointing start

World of Warcraft, Betas, Fantasy, Expansions, Game Mechanics, Opinion, First Impressions, Subscription

Yeah, I know those feels, all right.
My time with the Draenor beta has been an overwhelming disappointment.

Warlords of Draenor is to World of Warcraft as Man of Steel is to the Superman mythos. It's an effort to collect classic elements with no regard for the setting in which they make sense, throwing them together like line items. It's aware of the history of the franchise only as a resource to mine, and it's just giving us all of the old familiar pieces without the parts that made those pieces memorable.

Imagine watching Harrison Ford pretending to be Indiana Jones despite being far too old for the role now, locked in a script with no sense of momentum or energy, going through the motions in a way that's not just lackluster but actively kind of shameful. Imagine Frank Miller writing Batman as a parody of what people thought his original versions of Batman were anyway without the slightest sense of irony. That should give you some idea of where I am when it comes to Warlords of Draenor. It's loads of classic ideas, stuff that I desperately want to like, but it's ultimately just not very good, and it certainly doesn't come together.

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