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Hyperspace Beacon: SWTOR's 2014 report card

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

Hyperspace Beacon: SWTOR's 2014 report card
In 1996, Richard Bartle published a study of MMO gamers that eventually led to his 2003 book Designing Virtual Worlds, which was at the time the de facto MMO genre's design bible. Of course, this was before World of Warcraft hit the scene, but many of the principles Bartle laid out still hold true. In fact, if you don't believe me, take it yourself: GamerDNA still has an online test based on the Bartle study.

Bartle categorized players based on their interests in the game; I would like to do the same this year as I did last year for Star Wars: The Old Republic since it's a good way to measure the game against the average expectations of certain types of players. Bartle divides us all into Achievers, Socializers, Explorers, and Killers. I'll explain what each of those means as I discuss the different aspects of SWTOR. If you know what that means and so you have a point of reference, my profile is SEAK, which means that I interact with all types of players.

For fun, I've added a grade-card-style of rating system: A, B, C, D, or F. Just remember the information I give about that score counts for more than the score itself.

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EVE Evolved: The Sleepers are coming!

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Culture, Events (In-Game), Expansions, Game Mechanics, Lore, Patches, Previews, PvE, Opinion, Hands-On, Roleplaying, EVE Evolved, Dev Diaries, Sandbox, Subscription, MMORPG

EVE Evolved title image
Ever since the announcement of 100 new wormhole systems and the unique Thera wormhole hub system, some interesting things have been going on in EVE Online. A new star appeared in the night sky and began rapidly growing in brightness like a supernova, and curiously, the light from that star was able to be seen from every star system in New Eden simultaneously in clear violation of the laws of physics. Two days prior to the event, Sansha's Nation were seen scattering from an Incursion site and leaving the area without using wormholes, hinting that something big was happening in their home system. Combined with the intruiging story of Thera, this has had even non-roleplayers scrambling through the EVE lore to come up with theories about what's to come.

Players slowly set apart picking the mystery to pieces, conducting a galaxy-wide search to find the origin of the bright star and sending people into the test server to get clues. The mystery intensified when players discovered that the star was likely near or within restricted Jove space, and soon after they began finding strange cloaked structures throughout known space. While observing these structures, players even found that an all-new form of Sleeper NPC called the Circadian Seeker was periodically warping into the site and using some kind of scanning beam on the cloaked structure. All of this comes in anticipation of the public release of the Rhea patch on Tuesday 9th, which will introduce hidden Sleeper sites in known space and kick off the arms race to discover tech 3 destroyers.

In this lore-heavy edition of EVE Evolved, I look at everything we know of EVE's new Sleeper storyline event and try to figure out how it all fits together.

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The Daily Grind: What's the worst character name you've ever seen in an MMO?

Fantasy, Culture, MMO Industry, Opinion, Massively Meta, The Daily Grind, Roleplaying, Humor, Final Fantasy XIV, Miscellaneous

In writing his article about Final Fantasy XIV's character rename service, Massively's Eliot rattled off a few silly names he's seen in-game that could really use a rename token. What you didn't see was the list of awful names he passed along to the writers behind the scenes: Combyo Beard, Carfullof Whiteboys, Sharing Needles, Stupid Name, Popular Character, Avengers Assemble. And here I was thinking Ffxiv Blows and Mycat Isanimro were pretty wretched, but I should have known better. There's always something more wretched to reset the wretchedness scale.

How about you, Massively peeps? What's the worst character name you've ever seen in an MMO? Bonus points if it makes me laugh. Bonus-bonus points to the first person to call me out for the joke name I used for my Second Wind Torchlight II character. Names are serious business.

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!

Hyperspace Beacon: Previewing SWTOR's Shadow of Revan

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

Hyperspace Beacon: Playing the Shadow of Revan
When I was first introduced to the expansion for Star Wars: The Old Republic, there were two things I wanted to see: the continuation of the class story and Yavin 4. And I'm happy to say that this expansion delivered both of those in a satisfying way. When I spoke to studio game director James Ohlen and lead writer Charles Boyd about the expansion a few weeks ago, they told me that Shadow of Revan would close one major chapter and open a new book for SWTOR. After seeing the expansion, I have to agree that Shadow of Revan does put a great cap on a class stories and opens the door for an exciting future for the game.

I don't want to give you the impression that everything in the expansion is exactly what I wanted, though. There is a surprising lack of exploration, the amount of content fell short, and parts of the maps felt slapped together. The screenshots depict beautiful scenes, but sometimes form outweighs function.

Before I continue, I feel obligated to tell you that there are spoilers of previous content in this piece, but the important parts of the new content will remain unspoiled.

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WildStar releases Voyage of the Nomad, plans story rollout

Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Lore, News Items, Roleplaying, WildStar, Subscription

WildStar
Carbine Studios has just announced new content for WildStar... well, for the WildStar website, anyway. Voyage of the Nomad, a short story that "recollects the tale of the Cassians' first steps into the vast world of deep-space exploration," will go live on the official site's story page today.

And it won't be a lone entry. Carbine plans to publish 11 such tales starting today and running every other Tuesday until the plots are played out. "The stories will unfold chronologically, until they reach the events that players have already experienced in WildStar's main story," says the press release.

Hey, at least the lore-fiends among the greater MMO playerbase will be happy!

The Soapbox: In praise of SWTOR's 12X experience

Sci-Fi, Culture, Events (In-Game), Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, PvE, Opinion, Roleplaying, Star Wars: The Old Republic

It's taken 12 times the normal XP rate, but Star Wars: The Old Republic is finally my main MMO (at least for another week or so). Well, OK, it's also taken a series of spectacularly ill-considered decisions by XLGAMES and Trion, but that's a rant for another day.

I've been playing SWTOR quite a lot over the past month since BioWare's subscriber-only pre-expansion boost has cut all of the godawful grindpark garbage right out of a galaxy far, far away. Too bad it's just a temporary fix, though -- here's hoping that the devs give veterans the option of keeping the XP bonus long after December 1st.

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Catch a glimpse of Wander in Wednesday's live machinima

Fantasy, Culture, Events (Real-World), Events (In-Game), Lore, Previews, News Items, Roleplaying, Livestream, Sandbox

Wander
We've been keeping an eye on no-combat, exploration-driven sandbox Wander since its debut at PAX over a year ago. This week, you can keep an eye on it too. Creator Loki Davison says that his studio will be livestreaming the game tomorrow, but it won't be just any ol' gameplay walkthrough; it'll be a "pioneering live streamed drama" set in the gameworld, a piece of live machinima rarely seen in the genre. "Join Sylvania as she explores her dream of flying and realizes that what she is, isn't all she can be," Davison hints. "Azar however, might not approve."

The stream begins at 7 p.m. EST on Wednesday, November 19th, on the official Wander Twitch channel.

Neverwinter resurrects its April Fools' Day event next week

Fantasy, Galleries, Screenshots, Events (In-Game), Game Mechanics, Patches, News Items, Free-to-Play, Roleplaying, Humor, Promotions, Neverwinter

Neverwinter
Nope, it's not April Fools' Day, but it's going to look like it next week in Neverwinter. Cryptic is reintroducing Respen's Marvelous Game, its 2014 April 1st event, from November 13th to November 17th. The minigame turns your character into a tabletop miniature that slides around the tabletop skirmish map as you collect special dice currency and other rewards. Massively's Justin Olivetti included the event in his roundup of the top 10 MMO pranks of all time.

The event's reprise leads into the launch of Neverwinter: Rise of Tiamat, which launches on November 18th. We've included pics of the event below![Source: Neverwinter press release]

Hyperspace Beacon: SWTOR Shadow of Revan FAQ

Sci-Fi, PvP, Endgame, PvE, Free-to-Play, Races, Roleplaying, Rumors, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Guides, Hyperspace Beacon, MMORPG

Hyperspace Beacon: SWTOR Shadow of Revan FAQs
With every expansion, there are questions -- a lot of questions. Star Wars: The Old Republic is no exception. Shadow of Revan changes a lot of game mechanics and expands the story of SWTOR. With all the interviews and Cantina Tour chatter, it's difficult to tell what is true and what isn't. So I thought it'd be best to make an FAQ to answer some of those ponderings.

When does Shadow of Revan release?

The official release date for Shadow of Revan is December 9th. However, if you preordered before November 3rd 2:59 a.m., then you will gain early access, which starts on December 2nd.

Do I have to subscribe to play Shadow of Revan?

No, Shadow of Revan is a paid expansion and can be accessed by a free-to-play player. However, to be eligible for the 12x XP bonus, you do have to be subscribed to the game.

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The Daily Grind: Where did all the MMO bars go?

Culture, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Massively Meta, The Daily Grind, Roleplaying, Miscellaneous

SWTOR
No, not those bars. The fun kind of bars.

Massively reader Serrenity recently posted a provocative comment lamenting the loss of gathering places in MMORPGs: "Why aren't there many bars in games anymore? There's virtually no communal space. In capital cities everything has a numbers-related function -- learn to craft, spend money, repair your gear, auction, etc. [...] Everything is purely functional in games, without any 'flavor,' to the point of being the digital equivalent of getting socks for Christmas."

And Serrenity is right. Many MMOs don't have bars or taverns or cantinas anymore, and those that do usually fail to imbue them with a purpose, but it wasn't always that way, so why and how did it happen? Where did all the bars go, and do we need them back?

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!

SWTOR's experience boost enables altaholics, story-lovers

Sci-Fi, Business Models, Classes, Events (In-Game), Game Mechanics, Lore, News Items, Free-to-Play, Roleplaying, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Promotions, Dev Diaries

SWTOR
Eagle-eyed gamers probably noticed the "leveling boost" tucked in with Star Wars: The Old Republic's Shadow of Revan pre-order announcement, but just in case you missed it, BioWare wants to make absolutely sure you understand what it entails, and it entails story -- a whole bunch of stories in a short amount of time, in fact. In a new dev blog, the studio is calling the boost a "class leveling event" in which players are effectively "treated to an all-new epic BioWare roleplaying campaign, uninterrupted." The 12.32 multiplier to experience that players pick up by preordering the expansion and subbing up for a month is "enough to play through the game all the way to level 55 playing only epic story missions," meaning that you can play through the class stories with no quest grind in between. Skill training is free during the promotion too. But you'll have to move quickly; the promo ends on December 1st.

I've already lost two writers and three guildies to the leveling frenzy. Jef thinks he'll be done leveling all eight of his characters in 10 more days. Who'll be next?!

The Daily Grind: Are character bios due for revival?

Game Mechanics, Lore, MMO Industry, Opinion, Massively Meta, The Daily Grind, Roleplaying, Miscellaneous, Sandbox, Player-Generated Content

SWG
One of my favorite things about classic MMOs is that they refused to give up on the "RPG" part of MMORPG. As in a tabletop game, in classic MMOs you were often given an opportunity to write a biography for your character, then import it into the game and attach it to your profile in some way so that other players could read it. In some games, having a superb character bio could snag the attention of a gamemaster and land you even more recognition in the form of a badge or achievement.

It bothers me that these little touches are missing from so many modern MMOs. They don't take much effort on the part of the designers, and they sell the impression that creativity still matters, that your character is more than just a chat handle and a suit of armor.

Are character bios due for a revival? Did you ever or would you use the option in your game of choice if you could?

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!

Elder Scrolls Online's 'Tales of the Dead' contest seeks storytellers

Fantasy, Contests, Culture, Events (Real-World), Lore, Roleplaying, The Elder Scrolls Online, Player-Generated Content, Subscription

ESO
If you've spent even an hour in an Elder Scrolls RPG, you're certain to have stumbled into one of the iconic corpse-and-letter storytelling scenes created by the writers and world builders. This week, ZeniMax is giving Elder Scrolls Online players the chance to join in the fun via a contest titled Tales of the Dead, which asks gamers to put pen to paper in the service of describing this cheerful scene:
To participate, take a good look at the image [above]. Then, create your own fictional entry of 500 words or less that tells us more about the scene. You can write a short story, a journal entry, or any other kind of fictional text that sheds more light on what happened to cause this grim tableau. Once you're happy with your creation, post it in the contest entry thread.

We'll start accepting entries today, August 11th, and will close the contest this Friday, August 15th at 11:59PM EDT. If you're one of the three winners we announce on August 29th, you'll receive a $25 electronic gift certificate to the Bethesda Store and an ESO t-shirt of your choosing!
The complete rules are available on the ESO forums. Good luck topping A Falling Wizard!

WoW Archivist: One night of payback in 2006

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Culture, Events (In-Game), Game Mechanics, PvP, Roleplaying, Player-Generated Content, Subscription, WoW Archivist

Theramore
WoW Archivist is a biweekly column by WoW Insider's Scott Andrews, who explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold? It first appeared on our sister site on August 1st and is included here by permission.

An interesting aspect of the ongoing Ashran faction hub debate is the fear people express that their hubs will be raided by enemy players, since the new hubs are adjacent to a PvP zone. Blizzard pointed out that the hubs will be better defended by NPCs than the Shrines are now, and the Shrines currently see few serious attacks on live realms, despite their close proximity.

On most realms today, little large-scale world PvP occurs, and even fewer faction raids. Faction raids were once a huge part of the game, even on PvE realms. You couldn't kill opposing players on PvE realms if they didn't want to be killed, but you could deny them their questgivers, flightmasters, and other crucial NPCs. And we did that, on both sides, throughout classic WoW.

Easy targets like the Crossroads, Astranaar, Grom'gol, and Refuge Pointe were raided almost daily. If your faction was heavily outnumbered, like mine was on Khadgar-US back then, it could be infuriating. We had our small victories at times, as I covered in my first Archivist column. But many days, all we could do was stand by and watch as the Alliance occupied our towns for hours at a time and took away our ability to level effectively.

On our first anniversary in 2006, my guild set out for some payback. Today I'd like to share that tale of classic world PvP from the era when faction raids were serious business.

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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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