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MMObility: Age of Ascent hopes to beat EVE Online's battle concurrency record

Betas, Sci-Fi, Events (Real-World), Game Mechanics, Interviews, New Titles, Previews, PvP, Free-to-Play, Browser, MMObility, Sandbox

Age of Ascent screenshot
Age of Ascent is the new work-in-progress from Illyriad Games, the maker of one of my current favorite MMORTS titles, Illyriad. I've written about Illyriad before and have always enjoyed its epic scale and massive numbers, but with this new project, the team is promising something that is not only larger than anything it has ever done but larger than anything that has been done before... by anyone.

The studio is working closely with Microsoft in the hopes of achieving massive numbers in a twitch-based sandbox MMO that runs in your browser. I've gone through a few test runs with tons of other players and had no issues whatsoever, even while running it on a $200 Chromebook! It's an exciting prospect, but I had to ask some more questions about the upcoming title.

I asked James Niesewand, CEO of Illyriad Games, to clear up some of my confusion.

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MMObility: A newbie's look at the fantastic Therian Saga

Betas, Screenshots, Video, Economy, Game Mechanics, New Titles, Previews, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Browser, Hands-On, Casual, Roleplaying, Miscellaneous, MMObility, Sandbox, Crafting

The Therian Saga screenshot
I'm tired today. I was up too late playing The Therian Saga, a new browser-based MMO by Studio Virtys. It's a seemingly simple game and might even appear to be easier than it is, but I have found these last several hours of play to be more immersive and satisfying than much of what I have played over the last several months. Essentially, the game is an in-depth representational game, meaning that most of the time you will spend your time giving commands and watching -- or waiting for long periods -- for the commands to work out. Think of the gameplay sort of like Words With Friends with some real-time combat. No, you won't be spelling against your enemies, but the pace is definitely casual with optional, faster combat.

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MMObility: Line of Defense Tactics is a fun start for an IP

Betas, Video, Game Mechanics, New Titles, Previews, Opinion, MMOFPS, MMORTS, MMObility, Buy-to-Play

Line of Defense Tactics screenshot
Line of Defense is an upcoming MMOFPS created by 3000AD. It looks like an interesting twist on the shooter genre, complete with large battles and vehicles to control. It offers only a beta sign-up right now, so if you are interested in diving into the LoD universe, you can download the newly released Line of Defense Tactics standalone game. It's not an MMO, but it still introduces players to the IP. If you're a fan of real-time turn-based combat and challenging gameplay, you might want to give it a go on your portable device or PC.

I downloaded a version of Tactics from Steam and tried it on my Android tablet as well. Both experiences felt pretty much the same, and my game save synced between both devices easily. Today I am going to cover the mobile version mostly, but it should be noted that the PC version looks and acts pretty much identically.

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MMObility: Exploring the confusing world of mobile MMOs

Business Models, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Mobile, Miscellaneous, MMObility

Mobile MMO screenshot
The mobile MMO market has sort of come to a standstill, at least in the Western market. There are always new or incoming mobile titles that are MMO-like and even a handful of new fully fledged MMOs, but most of the ones I come across are either relative copies of current games or blatant repeats of current designs. There's just not much that is new coming to the table right now. It's a bit depressing because mobile devices are perfect delivery systems for massively multiplayer gaming, and yet so many developers are cutting down standard MMO design to fit into the mobile world.

What I would like to suggest is a rethinking of MMOs for mobile. I'd like to see developers stop with the idea that mobile players are gaming the same way they do on a console or PC. Instead, I'd like to suggest that developers get to know how players interact with mobile devices and how that affects how and how long they play. Mobile MMOs should behave differently, but not so differently that they are no longer MMOs.

There are many different types of games you will find when you search for "MMORPG" on Google Play or the App market. Most of them are not MMORPGs, however.

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MMObility: Innogames' Fabio Lo Zito details Tribal Wars 2

Betas, Fantasy, Screenshots, Game Mechanics, Interviews, PvP, War, Free-to-Play, Browser, MMORTS, MMObility

Tribal Wars 2 screenshot
Tribal Wars 2 is the successor to Innogames' oldest title, Tribal Wars. The original is (to put it gently) ugly as sin, but that has never stopped it from being one of the most popular titles the German publisher produced. As a matter of fact, 2013 was the biggest year for the original game... after a decade in existence! You might have heard of some of the other titles in the Innogames lineup or watched an advertisement for two of its largest games, Grepolis and Forge of Empires. So how does Tribal Wars 2 compare to these other games?

First of all, it offers much of the same intense gameplay as the publisher's other, larger titles. Grepolis is sort of the spiritual successor to Tribal Wars and features water-based gameplay that makes ships and deities an integral part of play. Grepolis also offers a more wide-ranging playerbase, thanks to television advertising that helped to pull in more casual players.

Tribal Wars is much more hardcore, and Tribal Wars 2 will be no different. It will look a heck of a lot prettier than its earlier sibling, though! I sat down with Fabio Lo Zito of Innogames to talk about the changes.

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MMObility: CES highlights for mobile gaming enthusiasts

Culture, Events (Real-World), Previews, Mobile, Events (Massively's Coverage), Miscellaneous, MMObility

CES logo
Most years, I am unimpressed by CES, the Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas. Sure, I watch the feeds and keep an eye on the latest bits of technical glitter that pop out of the event, but generally I find 4K televisions that cost thousands of dollars to be about as exciting as a bag of dead hamsters. I don't care about the next wave of supercomputers, and I certainly have no interest in technically advanced cars that mostly innovate on ways to make people spend money.

What excites me about almost any trade show is the stuff you find in the corners of the show room: the smaller booths, the indie developers or the hints of up-and-coming tech that will eventually make our lives easier and more fun. And of course, I'm always excited to see tech that might bring mobile MMOs to the place they deserve to be, a place in our everyday lives. CES is exciting to me because it shows the potential and possibly inexpensive future of tech.

Thanks to Engadget, one of our sister sites, I was able to get more than an eyeful of neat mobile tech!

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MMObility: Mobile and browser face off in School of Dragons

Fantasy, Screenshots, Bugs, Game Mechanics, Previews, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Browser, Mobile, Casual, Kids, Family, MMObility

School of Dragons screenshot
I was excited to learn about a mobile version of School of Dragons, a browser-based, kid-friendly MMO based on the fantastic movie How to Train Your Dragon. I pictured soaring through the skies and interacting with characters from the movie, all while sitting down with my favorite tablet. Unfortunately, I am not able to play on my favorite tablet yet (my Android), but I was able to download it on my wife's iPad Air.

I didn't have much experience with the browser-based version, so I read up on Karen's MMO Family article, made an account, and logged in. I was impressed by the game's visuals even though they are fairly primitive, as they do a good job of giving a sense of scale and accurately recreate many of the movie's characters. The game is very active, even during odd times of the day, and the chat is filled with players discussing the finer points of being a viking.

Unfortunately, the game lacks in polish. Is it be good enough to satisfy younger, less picky fans? Possibly, but after playing the browser-based version, I hoped that the mobile version would somehow feel smoother and more natural.

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MMObility: Rail Nation is perfect for armchair engineers

Betas, Historical, Screenshots, Trailers, Game Mechanics, Previews, PvP, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Browser, Casual, MMORTS, MMObility

Rail Nation screenshot
Travian Games' Rail Nation, a new browser-based, non-combat MMORPG, is intriguing, especially if you are a fan of trains, sim management, and friendly player competition. Admittedly, much of the competition in the game is just as cutthroat as I have seen in more "hardcore" games, but at least there is no blood involved. Players start off with a very basic train and route, and a friendly NPC called William L. Smith explains things nicely to get things moving. The idea is to connect your trains to goods, open new routes, and upgrade your fleet of trains to help level your city (a group of players) as you pass through six different eras of technology. Each era lasts two weeks, and the last era is a competition between the 10 highest ranking cities in the game. As you grow you'll also need to open more routes by adding new tracks, which require more goods. Many industries are not even visible on the map until the player unlocks them, giving the game a real feel of moving forward in time. Travian Games likes to put a time limit on gameplay, meaning that there is a true "win" scenario for players to pursue.

While I'm not a big fan of a time limitation on an MMO, and I'm definitely not very skilled at micromanagement, Rail Nation is a lovely game that is relaxing to play. It does take time to grow on you, and its beta access means that the game still has a few issues that need to be ironed out.

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MMObility: Legacy of a Thousand Suns goes mobile

Business Models, Game Mechanics, Previews, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Browser, Mobile, Hands-On, Casual, First Impressions, Miscellaneous, MMObility

Legacy of a Thousand Suns screenshot
Legacy of a Thousand Suns by developer 5th Planet Games is a relatively simple game that is very similar to Dawn of the Dragons, its sister title. I found Dawn of the Dragons to be strangely appealing even though it's not much more than an interactive story with very basic combat. It helped that I was given a massive pile of in-game currency and so was able to play at a non-stop rate, but even a small investment into either title buys a pretty good chunk of in-game cash and energy to spend on actions.

Legacy of a Thousand Suns is essentially a sci-fi themed Dawn of the Dragons. Gameplay is so similar that a player could jump between the two instantly and a new player could be gaining levels literally within minutes. I'm not sure how to describe the appeal of a game that consists mainly of pressing a button several times, taking a break, and coming back after the energy pool fills back up to do it again.

Let me attempt to describe its appeal anyway and to figure out whether the mobile version is really a good thing or not.

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MMObility: Windows 8 tablets help MMO fans go mobile

Video, Business Models, Opinion, Mobile, Miscellaneous, MMObility

Razer Edge screenshot
One of the most interesting parts of covering the mobile gaming industry for this column is watching technologies move at such blinding speeds. Just over the course of this column's run, I have seen my own tech double and triple in speed while halving in size and weight. I've also had to try to predict how the market will go so I can keep an eye on games and genres.

In one of the stranger turns of recent events, I've watched as Windows 8, RT, and 8.1 have slowly crept into the market in an attempt to pull people back to the desktop... sort of. This is all possible simply because the desktop PC has reimagined itself in a smaller form, something that I am fond of seeing. Even though I predict that gamers will one day do everything on a tablet (with an optional dock or larger-screen connection), I have to admit that I am surprised at how fast Windows tablets are moving into the spotlight. Sure, they are claiming just a single-digit percentage of the marketplace according to this report in April, well behind Android and iOS, but the numbers continue to rise. That's pretty startling.

What does this mean for MMO gamers?

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MMObility: Elemental Kingdoms is almost a unique game

Screenshots, Game Mechanics, Previews, PvP, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Mobile, Trading Card Games, Casual, MMORTS, First Impressions, MMObility

Elemental Kingdoms screenshot
We've all had our share of trading card games. It's a popular genre, and there are always new titles popping up. Frankly, it's hard to tell many of them apart. That's sort of the point, I guess. The fact is that the basic design is so successful because it can be so fun to play with. Tweak the formula a little bit and you might have a very fun game that is easy to get into yet hard to master.

It's also possible that you'll have yet another boring trading card game. I tried Perfect World's Elemental Kingdoms this week and found a very familiar title that sits a bit apart from the rest of the pack but still has plenty of issues. It attempts to be too many games at once and still does not go far enough as it's asking you to gather cards, craft decks, enhance cards, and fight enemies.

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MMObility: Battle Command is similar in a good way

Sci-Fi, Video, New Titles, PvP, Opinion, War, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, Casual, MMORTS, MMObility

Battle Command screenshot
Spacetime Studi.. er I mean Spacetime Games has been branching out lately. This time, they are working on a new way to kill hours with your mobile device. Instead of controlling a literal avatar by pressing on-screen buttons, the company's newer titles will have you building defenses and raising mighty armies to smash your enemies. To keep with tradition, they have found a working formula in the form of Battle Dragons. I enjoyed the game before but now that I see Battle Command, essentially a re-skin of the dragon-based former title, I wonder if a switch of graphics will make a difference?

It sort of does. I liked the "tower-defense-in-reverse" mechanic of Battle Dragons but it is pretty cutesy. Battle Command puts you in command on miniature, futuristic armies instead and I have to admit to getting into it a bit more because of the switch.

It's still the same game as Battle Dragons, though. Is that a bad thing?

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MMObility: Excalibur provides old-school arcade action

Screenshots, Video, Game Mechanics, New Titles, Previews, PvP, Opinion, Free-to-Play, MMObility, Dungeons

Excalibur screenshot
Excalibur, a new mobile MMO by R2Games, promises to provide fun side-scrolling action that is sure to remind you of older arcade classics like Golden Axe. I can't help but giggle when I think of the actual playerbase for many mobile titles and how the average age is not sufficient enough for any of them to have ever stepped foot in an actual arcade, but nostalgia always makes for good PR.

The game is set in the King Arthur world of knights and magic and even promises intense co-op action and many hours of gameplay. I did play it for many hours and enjoyed most of my time, but the game's issues pop up almost immediately.

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MMObility: Crazy Tribes is crazy easy to put down

Screenshots, Game Mechanics, Previews, PvP, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Mobile, Hands-On, Casual, Humor, First Impressions, Post-Apocalyptic, MMObility

Crazy Tribes screenshot
I've played Crazy Tribes before. Or at least it feels that way. I've played so many MMORTS titles, mobile and otherwise, that play exactly like Crazy Tribes that it's hard writing this without feeling as though I am repeating myself. It's not that the game is a complete dud; it's actually relatively well made in a few areas. The problem is that it does not do enough to set it apart from the pack of MMORTS games that already exist. If only Crazy Tribes would take at least a few cues from a game like Grepolis!

I ran into issues almost as soon as I started the game. In the beginning tutorial -- if you can read the tiny, horrible font, anyway -- you'll be told to access a certain building in order to start upgrading. The problem was immediately obvious: Not only was the picture of the building different from the actual building in the town, but there are no labels on the individual buildings that make up your post-apocalyptic village. It's an annoying bit that could so easily be fixed.

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MMObility: Grepolis mobile plays almost perfectly

Historical, Video, Game Mechanics, Previews, PvP, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Browser, Mobile, Hands-On, Casual, MMORTS, Dev Diaries, MMObility

Grepolis screenshot
Grepolis is one of my favorite browser-based MMORTS titles because of its simplicity in design and in-depth gameplay. I can jump into the game for a few minutes a day and survive or play it more than that and can actually become powerful. I've loved browser-based MMORTS games for those very reasons, but Grepolis continues to improve even more quickly than others thanks to Innogames' obvious commitment to the community. I've talked about the developer's recent community-based projects and have covered the developer a lot in the past. The company just seems to pay attention -- for the most part -- to its playerbase.

Luckily my new 4G LTE Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 caught up with the rest of the internet, and I am now able to play Grepolis on Android. It's a nice little tablet, and the larger-sized screen really makes games look great. The Android version of the game is not much different from the browser-based version, but playing on a tablet just feels much more natural.

I do have some gripes, however, but I have a feeling that they might be addressed sometime in a future update.

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