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Anti-Aliased: End of line

Fantasy, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Lord of the Rings Online, Culture, MMO Industry, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Anti-Aliased

Yeah, it's exactly what you think it is. It's one of those columns where the writer announces that she's packing up and moving out. It's a column where the writer talks about how she's been here for two years and 199 days, and has written over 1,018 posts that have included over 534,580 words. It's a column where the writer says goodbye, wishes that she wasn't moving on, but knows that she must.

Guys and gals, it's been an amazing two and a half years and it has been nothing but an honor to write for all of you. I know sometimes we all disagree, and I know I say some really insane stuff that leaves people going, "Wow, she really said that aloud?" But, I'm glad that all of you still come back to discuss gaming here on my column, despite some of our disagreements. Anti-Aliased has remained one of the most popular columns here on Massively throughout these two years and I am very grateful for your readership.

As I prepare to leave Massively and say goodbye, I'd like to take one final look at the MMO genre as a whole. Plus, I have a surprise announcement to make at the end! Yay surprises!

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Anti-Aliased: What happened to building worlds

Culture, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, Virtual Worlds, Anti-Aliased

I hope you guys have taken the time to check out our GDCO coverage, specifically our interview with Richard Bartle. If there's anything that has really been on my mind for these past weeks, it's been that. Dr. Bartle's approach to MMOs is very similar to my own personal approach to MMOs: these are games, but they are also worlds.

And it's been that line of thinking that has lead me to today's column. What happened to creating worlds in our games?

Now, I'm not saying that our games don't include vast settings for us to explore. All of our MMOs include some great settings, but they seem to fall flat anymore. Instead of focusing on how players can interact with the world and each other, many developers are focused on creating the coveted "theme park" environment. We have worlds filled with pre-planned obstacles and challenges that rarely change and evolve over time, instead of allowing players to interact with the world and vice-versa.

So, with all of our new knowledge on how games work, what's stopping us from tackling the challenges we used to tackle regularly? How can we make world building and sandbox practices approachable? How can we re-ignite the creative fire?

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Anti-Aliased: How I mine for craft

Culture, MMO Industry, Opinion, Anti-Aliased

This column was bound to come sometime. We've had legions of people asking us, "Why don't you cover Minecraft? It's totally an MMO!" The email barrage was so constant that I had nightmarish fits in my sleep, where I was drowning in oddly block-shaped emails pouring out of my ceiling.

Now, after I've finally played Minecraft, my nightmarish fits have turned into scenes in which I'm being attacked by giant block-shaped spiders, but that's neither here nor there.

I can see why people have fallen in love with this game, and they have every reason to. Minecraft may not be an MMO by our standards, but it is an example of gaming done right. It's the purest form of everything we love about gaming, and it's a game that could teach MMO makers a lot about design, should they care to listen.

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Anti-Aliased: Breaking into gaming journalism

Culture, Opinion, Massively Meta, Anti-Aliased

Readers, you have absolutely no clue how nice it is to be back in my room and at my PC. I love Dragon*Con dearly, but the 12-hour, one-way drive is getting a little unnerving. Perhaps next year it will finally be time to invest in plane tickets?

Well, plane tickets or no plane tickets, a great point was brought up to me during Dragon*Con -- why don't we do any panels on how to break into gaming journalism? This year we focused on all of the titles that are looming on the horizon, like TERA, Guild Wars 2, and Star Wars: The Old Republic, but we didn't do any panels on the industry we're all already a part of.

So, today, let me change that for you guys, even though we're not currently hiring. As a person who does look over the infamous "slush pile" here at Massively (the industry name for the pile of applications that get sent to us), I'm more than happy to offer a few pieces of advice on how to break into gaming journalism.

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Anti-Aliased: A few thoughts on the Final Fantasy XIV beta

Betas, Previews, Opinion, Consoles, Anti-Aliased, Final Fantasy XIV, Family

Holy crap. Look at that sweet screenshot. It's a veritable action movie!

There. That's your article. Now, if you could excuse me, I'm going to go explore Eorzea some more.

Oh. You're still here. Damn. I was hoping you'd all be distracted by the pretty. I'm guessing you've all figured out that I've been getting some time in on the Final Fantasy XIV beta, and I've been enjoying myself so far. While I understand that many people have plenty of dislike for the title (and some of that dislike is well-deserved, I do admit), I have to say that something about this game has gripped me in the right way.

While I can't claim a huge amount of time with the title just yet, I do want to devote some time to picking out the good and bad areas of my visit in Eorzea so far. So join me this week as we discuss the ups and downs of Final Fantasy XIV's eclectic design, as well as the starting portions of Gridania and Limisa Lomisa.

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Anti-Aliased: I can finally stop playing Mortal Online now

Fantasy, Culture, New Titles, Opinion, Hands-On (Massively's), First Impressions, Anti-Aliased, Mortal Online

A long time ago, well before Mortal Online launched, I was really looking forward to playing the game. The first-person only perspective made me drool, the Unreal Engine 3 powered graphics engine looked top-notch, the endless amount of customization of weaponry made me giddy, and the sprawling open world made me bow in awe. This was a game that sat at the top of my "WANT NAO" list, and I'm not even a person who's really huge into PvP. I just wanted an Elder Scrolls/Ultima Online inspired sandbox.

Upon finally playing the game, however, all I found was a nightmare of errors, glitches, and missing systems. Mats Persson, one of the developers of Star Vault, was right: this game does lack polish, user friendliness, and many systems that could turn this sandbox into a true sandbox. Instead, all I found was a buggy, glitchy, never-ending, pointless deathmatch in an MMO world. Keep reading, and I'll be more than happy to explain every aspect of my time with Mortal Online.

If you're interested in commenting on this article, then you have to trek all the way to page 3 this week. Just a heads up!

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Anti-Aliased: Don't hate the playa, hate the developa

Culture, MMO Industry, Opinion, Anti-Aliased

So I noticed something last week, in the comments section of my piece on UI design, that finally kicked me back into "endless rant" mode. It's a sentiment that I've noticed in the video game community at large for a while now, but I never really knew how to approach it until recently, thanks to my own life experiences with games. It's an idea that's pretty misinformed on how the industry works.

It's the idea that the developers behind any given game are an idiots. According to commenters, they're all blind, non-gamer morons, bumbling around in the dark without the slightest sense of what game mechanics are actually fun.

Why are these bumbling morons in the industry? Why don't they listen to the endless array of golden ideas that pop up on game forums? Don't they realize that these revolutionary ideas will turn every game into double-rainbow-crapping unicorns? Why haven't 15% of my readers (a totally accurate statistic, mind you) figured out how sarcastic I'm being at this point in the introduction?

This week we're going after some of the common misconceptions about developers and game design, and how making a game as complex as an MMO is really never as easy as you claim it is.

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Anti-Aliased: UI see what you did there

Culture, MMO Industry, Opinion, Anti-Aliased

Dear user interface designers: please stop making trashy-samey UIs. (Bree is going to kill me for making up a word.) I really am sick and tired of seeing World of Warcraft in every game I pick up.

While many people say that graphics are the game's "first impression" tool, I'd disagree. UIs are the game's true first impression. These are the menus, artwork, and tools that will make a huge impact on how you perceive any game, yet we seem to be stuck in a rut with them as well. Many of today's UIs, instead of taking advantage of new approaches to deliver information in a stylish way, seem to fall flat against the screen.

So this week I'm going after my biggest beefs with the default UIs that games ship with, and how I'd like to see user interfaces improve. Interested? Well then keep up with me and jog past the break!

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Anti-Aliased: Modding your way out of a paper bag

World of Warcraft, Culture, Opinion, Anti-Aliased

If there's been a theme to this week, it's been interfaces and modding. Both EverQuest II and Lord of the Rings Online have had announcements related to their interfaces, be it re-skinning or new Lua functionality being installed. However, it was these two articles that set off the Rube Goldberg device in my head. They reminded me just what I thought about mods.

My relationship with mods has always been iffy. While I certainly appreciate what they do for us in our many MMOs, they also irk me to no end. While I understand (and totally support) some mods, there are others that I'd rather offer to Zuul.

Now don't get me wrong, I don't hate the mods because they're not useful. It's quite the opposite, in fact. Sometimes, I think mods are too useful. When you start skipping social interactions in favor of an e-peen number, that's the point where mods are going over the line.

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Anti-Aliased: A few tips for running in-game events

Culture, Events (In-Game), Opinion, Anti-Aliased

So you're playing your favorite MMO, you've hit max level, you've done your raids or progression-related activities, and you find yourself a little bored. So, to ease that boredom, and perhaps cure the boredom of others, you decide to run a special event in your favorite world. Wonderful! Good for you! That's the type of stuff that makes MMOs so great!

But running an event isn't as simple as running an event. Events require a solid idea to plan on, time to plan out the event, reliable volunteers, and advertising. If those weren't hard enough, you might need an in-game reward to provide incentive for people to join you, depending on your event.

Over the years, I've certainly run my fair share of events, and I continue to do so as I plan events alongside developers. I've learned a few things that I'd like to pass along, so let's not delay any further. Onwards, to the meat of the matter!

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Anti-Aliased: What's in a name

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Business Models, Culture, Opinion, Anti-Aliased

Earlier this week, Blizzard really got the MMO gaming community up-in-arms after the announcement of its latest Real ID feature -- your real name attached to all of your forum posts on its official forums. That's right. No more hiding behind a fake persona when you want to go a-trolling.

But, with the transition to a "real name" system comes a whole slew of security issues, privacy issues, and comfort issues. Everyone has an opinion on the system, as well as their own theories on if the official forums are going to crash and burn or if the forums are going to experience a rebirth as people finally watch their tongues when they post.

Blizzard is, essentially, asking, "What's in a name?" And, if Shakespeare is to be believed, there's not much back there. It's not the name that needs changing, it's the personalities behind them. It's less about the name, and more about what, or who, it represents.

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Anti-Aliased: When playing a bad game is just so good

Culture, Opinion, All Points Bulletin, Crime, Anti-Aliased

This week's Anti-Aliased is great for two reasons. One, it's the antithesis to last week's topic, and two, it's completely relevant to this week's events. In short, it's about All Points Bulletin.

Did I just call APB a bad game after spamming screenshots from it, hosting an event in it, and offering people what basically amounts to free DLC for their game? Yes, yes I did. Does that make me a complete hypocrite? Well, yes and no. You see, I'm having conflicting beliefs over this game. The reviewer in me wants to punt it over the Seattle Space Needle, but the gamer in me wants to sit down and play the hell out of it some more.

Look, this all makes sense, ok? Just come with me after the break (yes, I'm luring you with my double-sided, purposefully vague statements) and we'll get this all settled out.

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Anti-Aliased: Don't worry, it gets better in time

Opinion, Massively Meta, Anti-Aliased

You know, I had no clue what to write about this week until I realized it was a topic that had been haunting me forever. It's a topic that everyone can relate to, and one that I'm sure we've all experienced at least once. Personally, it's a topic that I never hear the end of. Any review, any game impressions that I write up almost inevitably will be shot with this line:

"What, you didn't play until [insert level X or time requirement here]?!?! Then you didn't experience the game!"

You know what, let me say it straight. I'm sick and tired of hearing that line. Completely sick of it. I played your game, it was bad. And you want to know why it was bad? Let me tell you, in full detail, why it was bad, and let me go on to tell all of you why "it gets better in time" is a really, really lame line.

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Anti-Aliased: LotRO will only go down in flames if you let it

Fantasy, Lord of the Rings Online, Business Models, Culture, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Anti-Aliased

Damn my column being on Thursdays. It makes me a week late to the "Lord of the Rings Online going free-to-play" discussion, and that makes me sad. Still, a short passage of time isn't going to stop me from sinking my teeth into this subject, so be prepared for an onslaught of opinion!

So, I read a lot of opinions last week. I read the opinions here, I read the opinions on the blogosphere, and I listened to the chat room, Facebook, and Twitter. I was all over the place. While there was a lot of criticism and praise being flung around for Lord of the Rings Online making this absolutely crazy move, it's the criticism that I want to tackle in today's column.

Specifically, there's one piece of criticism that I feel needs to have bull called on it -- the concept that the Lord of the Rings Online community will fall apart the second the free-to-play crowd is mixed in.

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Anti-Aliased: The customers aren't always right, but they should be supported

Business Models, Culture, MMO Industry, Opinion, Anti-Aliased

The customer isn't always right. Trust me, I know, I use to work at GameStop. *shivers at the thought of pushing reserves* Sometimes, the customer is wrong -- dead wrong -- but that doesn't mean the customer shouldn't be supported and appreciated.

Customer support is one of those areas of MMO games that often goes overlooked when it goes right, or put under a spotlight when it goes wrong. There is no middle ground with that department, and the many good people who put long hours into making sure your account properly works don't get enough thanks

Well, let's fix that. Today I want to talk about two recent interactions I've had with customer support, but I also want to address a few issues that I have with the system as well.

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