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Massively's top 5 original features for 2009

Culture, Opinion, The Digital Continuum, Massively highlights, Virtual Worlds, Anti-Aliased, EVE Evolved, Choose My Adventure

Not only are we here at Massively passionate about covering the news, but we also deliver on unique and original content. We're out in the trenches interviewing developers, talking about our favorite games, getting inside our games and meeting the community, and giving you our perspectives on the MMO industry. Sometimes you agree with us, sometimes you don't, but we'll keep writing as long as you guys lend us your support and keep reading.

This year was a real breakout year for our original content as we had a bunch of our features rock the traffic charts higher than our news. So, in the spirit of a banner year, it's time to run down the list and name our top five features for 2009.

Once again, we're presenting the article in gallery-vision (TM), so be sure to jump on in by clicking the link below or clicking the first image in the gallery below that. If you wish to comment, drop back by this post (not the gallery) and leave your comment in the white comment box below.

Anti-Aliased: How the game of the decade haunts us

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Culture, MMO Industry, Opinion, Anti-Aliased

Yesterday I posted the interesting find that Gamasutra readers had voted in World of Warcraft as the game of the decade, which inevitably caused a huge spark of rage in the comments. Some readers lashed out against WoW while other readers defended the game's award. Needless to say, this is a very opinionated topic on our site.

On Twitter, the choice was more clear cut. I asked my Twitter followers in a non-scientific Sera Survey (TM) if they believed that World of Warcraft deserved the game of the decade award. Of the 32 people who responded, all 32 said that they believed Warcraft deserved the honor. Some even went the extra step and said that while they personally didn't play anymore, they felt that the honor was well-deserved.

When it comes to this subject, I'm completely torn in half. As a former raid leader and player of World of Warcraft during much of its five year existence, I too agree that the game is worthy of this very weighty title for a number of reasons. However, once I begin to pan backwards and look at the rest of the market, all I can see is how we as an industry may be haunted by the ghost of success.

World of Warcraft changed this industry in many ways, and not all of them are worthy of laurels.

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Anti-Aliased: The Quest of Vindication

Fantasy, Darkfall, Culture, Opinion, Anti-Aliased

Happy Holidays everybody! Hope you're all having an exciting time that's full of epic loot drops from purple gift packages sent by the jolly NPC in the red suit.

This week's column is a holiday-tacular rant fest as I feel like tackling one of the major sticking points of an MMO player's behavior: the need to pursue vindication. This isn't something unique to MMO culture or even video game culture at large. We all feel this rather odd need to defend our decisions or opinions to others, even if they will never ever agree with us.

However, when it comes to MMOs, vindication can be a bad thing. When communities become polarized in thought and begin to shut out others it can hurt the game's growth and the game's sense of community.

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Anti-Aliased: Rogue rage

Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, PvE, Opinion, Roleplaying, Anti-Aliased

There's always a rogue. Doesn't matter what setting you're really dealing with either. Medieval times? Rogues. Renaissance? Professional rogues. Great Depression? Organized crime. Modern day? Thieves. Sci-fi? Assassins. It's the one job that follows you no matter where you go.

Yet, I don't think we utilize our fine shadowy friends well. No, let me say it even stronger, we've sidestepped our shadowsteppers. Rogues use to be more than backstabbers and cutpurses, but since the traditional MMORPG model has taken over, our rogues have taken steps backwards.

No guys, this isn't just some rant thread about how the rogue classes needs uber l33t buffs. This is about how the class plays at its very core across all games. This is about taking advantage of a class's passive abilities and how just a few new tricks of the trade can aid social gameplay for everyone.

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Anti-Aliased: I, suck

Culture, Opinion, Anti-Aliased

So my last column was one heck of a surprising column. Anti-Aliased got steamrolled with your opinions, thanks to the linking from N4G, Kotaku, Reddit, WoW.com, and Joystiq and everyone spreading the word and telling their friends. Without a doubt, that was the most productive column I've written in a long time, and while some people may have written it off as a rant, the more important thing is that it started some great discussion amongst the community. Everyone who gave their view on things, from the people who agreed to the people who wish I would crawl into a ditch and die, thanks for giving your view!

So this week when I went out with a few friends to get a drink, one of them mentioned Darkfall. Of course when an MMO comes up in conversation, all of my friends turn and give me this long, dead stare. I sighed and recounted my time in Darkfall, but as I thought of it, I began to notice something.

I really sucked at Darkfall. Not just kind of sucked -- really sucked. The combat in that wasn't my thing, as I never really deal with pressure in PvP when something big is on the light. FPS games where I go to my save point when I die is one thing, but dying and losing everything? That's something different. I think I killed like 3 people in my entire month there. Although, when it came to crafting, I was a arrow machine.

But that got me thinking about sucking in general and how we as a community aren't very supportive when it comes to players who may not be the best at the games they play.

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Anti-Aliased: Boobs and you

Culture, MMO Industry, Opinion, Anti-Aliased

Well Happy Turkey Day everyone! It's Thanksgiving Thursday, but it's also that time of the week again -- the time where Sera gets to rant in her opinion column to her heart's content. Yes, that's right, it's time for Anti-Aliased.

This week's topic is one that's near and dear to my heart. Well, it's near to my heart, at least, and I mean that quite literally. It's also a perfect topic for today's holiday! I mean, who doesn't like to talk about large breasts on Thanksgiving? (Score one for the terrible synonym.)

During last week's column on Blade & Soul, the main topic that came up time and time again in the comments wasn't the game's combat, or the game's engine, or anything really related to the game at large. No, it seems that many of you were turned off of the game by the fact that the screenshot I used had a woman with huge boobs. That was the deal breaker for the game.

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Anti-Aliased: Blade & Soul > Aion

Fantasy, New Titles, Opinion, Anti-Aliased, Blade & Soul

All right, now that the inflammatory title that makes you look at my column is out of the way, let's get down to business. This week we got to see a 30-second teaser trailer from the folks at NCsoft about Blade & Soul, a game from NCsoft that has been stealthing in the background, waiting for the right time to strike and jump in front of Aion.

Blade & Soul isn't a brand new game though. In fact, the game's artwork has already made a guest appearance on our website. (With subsequent comments on how that woman's back is going to break in half if she should walk forward.) Plus, if you really want to see what the game has to offer, a quick YouTube search will bring you to the Blade & Soul HD gameplay video which looks, well, simply stunning.

So why am I dedicating my opinion column to a game that's nowhere close to being released? Well, because I think it has potential, and because it's my opinion column. So come along after the break, and let's look at Blade & Soul.

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Anti-Aliased: We put the no in innovation

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Culture, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, Anti-Aliased, Alganon

So, yesterday I was browsing our site, and I was happy to see that our community interview with David Allen had gone up, as I didn't get the chance to read it. We had lots of great questions sent in, and I think the ones that Shawn chose were really some hard, direct questions, that I felt someone really had to ask.

Reading David's answers left me thinking, however. David is a person who I certainly admire, as he was the brain behind Istaria, and he really presented some very innovative gameplay mechanics in that game. Alganon, however, is not innovative nor is it cutting edge. It is, quite frankly, another World of Warcraft. Something that, in my opinion, this genre does not need another of.

David's rationale as to why Alganon looks and plays like Warcraft is the part of the interview where I was left in thought. While I understand he wanted to make a game that players could easily adapt to... did it have to resonate of Warcraft so strongly? Furthermore, are we, as a genre, stuck in a rut?

Editor's Note: (As always, if you wish to comment on this edition of Anti-Aliased, please do so on page two of the column. Thank you!)

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Anti-Aliased: It pays to be paranoid

Super-hero, Business Models, Culture, MMO Industry, Opinion, Champions Online, Anti-Aliased

Blame Shawn Schuster. No, really, it's applicable this time and I'm not just pulling your leg.

Many of you were wondering why we hadn't talked about the Champions Online failures this past weekend -- The "Blood Moon Blunder." Well, it was because pretty much the second we started getting reports from you guys about the client not working on Steam, or subscribing players complaining of the lag that the servers had over the weekend, Shawn turned to me, slapped the story on my desk and said, "All yours for Anti-Aliased."

And I sat there, smiled, and politely responded, "Oh crap. This is going to drive them all up the wall even further than last week's article. I'll do it."

So was the Champions free weekend a failure? Absolutely, but not for the reasons you may think. Come on, follow me after the break, and we'll go into yet another (and hopefully the last for a while) opinion column on Champions.

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Anti-Aliased: I like walking into towering infernos (like the Champions Online C-Store)

Super-hero, Business Models, Culture, MMO Industry, Opinion, Champions Online, Anti-Aliased

Yes everyone, it's one of those articles. I promised you guys way back before the launch of Champions Online that I would talk about the C-Store when it finally came out. Well, it finally came out last week, and you guys certainly had a lot to say on the matter.

To many, this is just another bad move on the part of Cryptic. However, according to the general MMO population, every move that Cryptic has made has been a bad move. (Yes Kdolo, Sakura Park, we heard you the last 50 times.) If I took every comment people told me about Champions Online as truth, then I'd think it was a buggy, unplayable mess that's powered by unsympathetic robots who want to do nothing more than suck all of the cash out of your wallet.

Unfortunately for the naysayers, I actually play Champions Online. And, like I did before, I'm going to give my honest opinions on this next move from Cryptic.

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Anti-Aliased: The mailbag edition

Culture, Opinion, Humor, Anti-Aliased

Well hello there intrepid Massively readers! This week, instead of my usual selection of complaints crammed into the tight space of a single column, I've decided to do something different. This Monday, I opened up a call for questions on anything MMO related on the Massively Facebook fan page, the Massively Twitter, and my own personal Twitter. You guys didn't disappoint, and you certainly sent me more than a few intriguing e-mails.

So, for the past three days, I've been preparing responses to some of the questions that landed in my inbox. What did intrepid readers ask me to answer? Whose e-mails did I select from the pile of text I received? What is the airspeed of an African Swallow? These and many other questions (except that swallow one, that one's been done to death, go Google it or something) shall be answered after the break! Thundercats, hoooooooooo!

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Anti-Aliased: What is Love?

Betas, Puzzle, Guides, New Titles, Tips and tricks, Opinion, Hands-On, Love, Anti-Aliased

So what is love? That's certainly the metaphysical question of the ages, isn't it? Is it simply an attraction to another gender, or is it a deep bond between two people that goes beyond mere friendship, and more into the realm of headbanging, suit and sunglasses wearing pride? Do I have the authority to take on questions such as this in my editorial column?

Heck no! That's why we're going to spend this week talking about Eskil Steenberg's indie-MMO, Love! We've been covering Love extensively this week, announcing that the alpha was available and showing off some really beautiful in-game footage. But, even with all of that, we never got into the meat of the game. What is Love about? What do you do in it? Why is it so special to us on the Massively staff?

Those questions and more will be answered in this week's edition. So come on in, the Love is great!

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Anti-Aliased: Champions Online one month checkup

Super-hero, Culture, Opinion, Champions Online, Anti-Aliased

No, you're not hallucinating. That is, indeed, a new name under the column title, but it's still the same insane editor behind the typing. Starting today, you'll be seeing Seraphina Brennan instead of Colin Brennan on all of my articles, thanks to the power invested in Shawn Schuster and Liz Harper to grant name changes. If you're a little confused as to why the change, then feel free to check out this Anti-Aliased where I go into detail.

But enough of that! On to today's topic! This morning, we here at Massively got an e-mail from avid reader JP, asking all of us if we planned on sticking with Champions Online after playing the game for one month. A great question, if I do say so myself!

So great, in fact, that I'm using my column to talk about it. (Also because I had no idea what to write about this week. Thanks for the assistance JP!) The other members of the staff will be doing their impressions as well, but I do believe they're saving them for a later date. So, without any further stalling, let's get talking on Champions!

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Anti-Aliased: Hax0red

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

Today was a beautiful morning. It was a morning filled with sunshine, chirping birds, and a good night's rest. I was up writing late last night, so it was nice to sleep in a little before getting a start on the day. Yet, all cozy naps must come to an end, as I had to get up to man my computer, check my e-mail, and get a start on today's work.

As I booted up Mozilla Thunderbird and looked over the e-mails that were floating in my inbox (yesterday's MAG comments, Star Wars Galaxies comments, and some new screenshots for D&D Online) I saw one that kinda stuck out. It was from Blizzard Entertainment Support, and it was a password change notification from Battle.net. At first I chuckled, thinking it was some type of spammer who was trying to get me to give up my password, but on looking through the letter, I noticed it was authentic Blizzard material.

That's when my phone rang. It was one of my guildmate's numbers flashing on the screen. Those birds stopped chirping after that booming string of profanities escaped my mouth.

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Anti-Aliased: Socially awkward

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Face of Mankind, Culture, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, Anti-Aliased

So, ok, we've been talking about Champions Online recently here in the column. Been talking about it a lot, as a matter of fact. I don't feel like risking having this column turn into a Champions love fest (as much fun as I'm having with the game), so we're going to change gears significantly this time and get onto a completely new train of thought.

This week's topic: social gameplay. No, I don't mean those games you play obsessively/compulsively on Facebook or your social network of choice. I'm talking about how some aspects of gameplay completely rely on human interaction, for better or for worse. It's present in all of our games, but are we really taking advantage of it? We're going to take a look at some games that do take advantage of human-powered conflict, and why, perhaps, it might be a wave of the future for online games.

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