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RuneScape's got a new 'one of a kind' grandmaster quest

Fantasy, Game Mechanics, Lore, MMO Industry, Patches, News Items, PvE, RuneScape, Free-to-Play, Browser

RuneScape dragon rider
Jagex has announced RuneScape's new 'One of a Kind' grandmaster epic quest, which it says is both the first major update of its "lore-packed March" as well as part of an initiative to take the fantasy game's questing "back to its roots."

"You'll travel the world, uncover the lost library of Robert the Strong, and the fate of a dying people will rest in your hands," according to the announcement on the RuneScape website. As you might imagine, there are plenty of spiffy rewards, but the quest does boast some significant entry requirements.

City of Steam heads to Steam with a fresh new server [Updated]

Business Models, Events (Real-World), Patches, News Items, Browser, City of Steam, Steampunk

City of Steam
Steampunk browser MMO City of Steam is landing on, er, Steam today, bringing with it a brand-new server. Says developer Mechanist Games,
Coupled with the latest game version 2.4 ([which] will also be available on the established server), the new server will provide improved team-up function, restructured tourney events, new level content (lvl 50-60), and of course exciting new server event. This time, new server events will become goal-based so that they are capable of benefiting as many players as possible.
The studio tweeted that the Steam launch might be slightly delayed but that developers are "talking with Valve to make the launch ASAP."

Massively alum Matt Daniel dived into City of Steam in December to scope out last year's Arkadia relaunch.

[Update: Mechanist has postponed the Steam launch thanks to "critical issues (discovered) when testing (the) live server on the Steam version." The studio promises an update during local business hours.]

Free for All: Five reasons to continue loving MMORPGs

Business Models, Culture, Game Mechanics, PvP, Opinion, Second Life, Free-to-Play, Browser, Casual, Free for All, Miscellaneous, Sandbox, MMORPG

RuneScape screenshot
It's been all gloomy around here lately, hasn't it? Well there's a good reason for that, as you might know. Luckily I have survived the cuts that affected much of the AOL Tech network, although that means that Rise and Shiny and MMObility, my two other regular columns, will be consolidated into this one. While it might seem like less work for me, in actuality it means that I have less room to tell you, fair reader, about all of the fantastic MMOs that continue to come out.

Yes, I said continue to come out. It's easy to become a Seymour ("I hate my interests!") in these days of non-stop hype, but the truth is that the MMO genre has continuously pumped out content for many, many years and will keep doing so for some time. So to celebrate the fact that three of my columns are now coming to you in one megacolumn, I thought it'd be fun to remind ourselves just why we enjoy this hobby.

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Twitch Plays Pokémon... beats Pokémon

Culture, News Items, Browser, Miscellaneous

The pokiest of all men.
When is a single-player game an MMO? When you hook it up to a chat parser and let everyone fight for controls, much like wrestling with five other people to play a single-player game. Twitch Plays Pokémon has garnered a great deal of attention based on its quirky premise and execution, but all good things must come to an end. After 16 days of play, the game has finally concluded with victory for the multitudes.

The channel is currently counting down to something happening on Sunday morning. Will it be a restart? Another Pokémon title? An attempt to use a similar premise on another game? No one knows. (Most theories involve a restart or the next generation of Pokémon titles, though.) You can keep an eye on the page to see what happens next, or you can just enjoy one of the strangest stories of turning a single-player game into a multiplayer online one... even if it was just for half a month.

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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Free for All: Villagers and Heroes adds bells, whistles, and more sand

Fantasy, Video, Expansions, Game Mechanics, Interviews, Patches, Previews, Endgame, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Browser, Hands-On, Casual, Humor, Free for All, Family, Livestream, Miscellaneous, Sandbox, Dungeons, Crafting, Housing

Villagers and Heroes screenshot
Villagers and Heroes is a favorite of mine, but let's be honest: The game looks old. When talking to Damon Slye, President of Mad Otter Games, I found that many people agree. According to Slye, it's one of the most frequent concerns he hears from potential new players. The engine that the game currently uses is old and needs to be upgraded big time. And that's just what the developers are doing with this large patch and expansion that should be due in early March.

I sat down with Slye, Associate Designer Cameron England, Head Writer Sarah Skibinski, and Head Artist Adam Alexander to discuss just how different the game will be once the patch goes live. I was given access to a test account loaded up on gear, cash, and other goodies. Even though I found my backpacks full, I mainly wanted to look around the game and explore. Fortunately, the difference between the original client and the new one is literally night and day.

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The Stream Team: Checking out Villagers and Heroes' new client

Betas, Fantasy, Video, Game Mechanics, Interviews, Previews, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Browser, Hands-On, Casual, Livestream, Sandbox, The Stream Team

Villagers and Heroes screenshot
Massively's Beau Hindman and members of the Mad Otter team are on hand to show off some of the new test features and the new client (with better graphics) of Villagers and Heroes. If you like sandbox gameplay, crafting, and combat, check it out.

Game: Villagers and Heroes
Host: Beau Hindman
Date: Monday, February 24th, 2014
Time: 4:00 p.m. EST

Enjoy our Stream Team video below.

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CCP's Craig Scott switches to lead designer at Bigpoint

MMO Industry, News Items, Free-to-Play, Browser

CCP's Craig Scott switches roles to lead designer at BigpointFree-to-play-focused publisher Bigpoint has announced the newest addition to its design team: Craig Scott. Scott jumps into the role of lead designer on a new game for Bigpoint. A 14-year gaming industry veteran, Scott was previously at CCP where he first worked on character creation in EVE Online, moved up to manage the game's design team, and ultimately worked to turn the fate of Dust 514 around.

Scott noted that his new position affords "space for trying new things, which is a premise for making really innovative games." Of Scott, Bigpoint CEO Khaled Helioui said,
"Craig brings a genuine passion for game design and innovation for the benefit of the players, and he fits perfectly with the game development philosophy we are promoting at Bigpoint. We are focused on attracting the most brilliant minds in the industry to develop innovative and incredibly fun games."
[Source: Bigpoint press release]

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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Free for All: What my Raptr stats say about my gaming style

Fantasy, Culture, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Browser, Casual, MMOFPS, Free for All, Miscellaneous, Sandbox

Raptr stats screenshot
I've had a love/hate relationship with Raptr, the free game tracking service and social network. I used it much of the time when it first came out but then fell out of love with it when it stopped detecting many of the indie and browser-based MMOs that I played. I picked it up again recently and have been attempting to keep it going any time I game. I like being able to communicate with people through the network, but I mainly enjoy looking over my stats as a gamer to see just how flighty I can be.

The system isn't perfect, of course. Either I need to set the app to start when my PC does, or I just need to get better at remembering to start it when I begin a gaming session. And even though I play many, many different types of games and MMOs, the network still doesn't automatically recognize many of the smaller titles I like to play.

So even though there are some gaps in my wall, I thought it'd be interesting to look at the info there to see just how much gaming I am doing.

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RuneScape gets a bank-robbing minigame

Fantasy, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, News Items, RuneScape, Free-to-Play, Browser

RuneScape
Jagex has added a new bank-robbing minigame called Heist to its long-running RuneScape MMO. "Players form two teams and are pitted against each other in a contest of espionage, deception, and grand larceny," the firm explains.

While the setup is pretty simple, Jagex says that the Heist minigame requires skill to master. "The best robbers will be able to mimic the island's citizens to fool the guards," the company says, "while the most successful guards will be the ones who can spot suspicious behaviour a mile off.

Start your adventures in bankrobbing by climbing the airship ladder north Falador, and hit up the RuneScape home page for further details.

Rise and Shiny: Inferno Legend

Fantasy, Video, Game Mechanics, New Titles, Previews, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Browser, Hands-On, Casual, Humor, Rise and Shiny, Livestream

Inferno Legend screenshot
This week's game was a giant gamble, one that I should have known would not have worked out at all. The problem is that I have this crazy inborn optimism that tells me that even though many MMOs look and play the same way, you never know how they truly play until you actually play them. I've literally played hundreds of MMOs for this job and probably a hundred or so before that, so I've seen my share of games that look one way and play the other.

So this week I decided to go ahead and roll in Inferno Legend, a new MMO by GameBox, even though it appeared to be an auto-player like League of Angels from a few weeks ago and other titles before that. I picked my character from five different classes: the Cyclops, Vampire, Samurai, Faerie, and Mummy. I barely got past the incredibly bad voice-acting that was presumably supposed to add life to the characters and popped into the game.

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League of Angels introduces two new angels for official full release

Fantasy, Launches, MMO Industry, New Titles, PvP, Free-to-Play, Browser

League of Angels intruduced two new angels for official full release
Forget cupids, League of Angels has added two other heavenly beings to its angelic arsenal. Amora and Nyssa join the list of angels players can select to take on their adventures. R2Games also announced that the game is now officially official, noting that all previous releases of the game were still beta. This full release also includes a marriage system and new ranking tables.

R2Games also revealed the four cosplayers who will be representing some of the free-to-play game's angels in a live action shots: Maridah, Ginny McQueen, HezaChan, and Riki LeCotey, who plays Riddle in Heroes of Cosplay. Fans who sign up for the official LoA newsletter will see these exclusive shots as well as get further game news and updates.

[Source: R2Games press release]

FlapMMO brings non-combat gameplay to new heights

Culture, Game Mechanics, News Items, Free-to-Play, Browser, Humor, Sandbox

No, we are not good at this game.  Nor are most people.
For years, players have sought MMOs that truly offered a combat-free experience. FlapMMO, a massively multiplayer version of the sadly defunct Flappy Bird (not officially sanctioned), is that rare gem that delivers precisely that. In fact, it delivers everything you could ask for in the genre -- no combat, no levels, and a wide-open world to simply explore. It even offers exclusively horizontal progression (since that's the way the screen scrolls, you can't go backward).

If all this sounds too good to be true, you should consider also the fact that the game is entirely free-to-play without so much as a cash shop. Chat functions are currently limited, as is character customization, but there's no word from the developer on whether or not this is part of the design or something that will be addressed in the first expansion. You might want to consider giving this wide-open combat-free exploration simulator a try if you've got some free time on your hands.

Lord of Ultima shutting down in May

Fantasy, MMO Industry, News Items, Free-to-Play, Browser, MMORTS, Sunsets

Lord of Ultima shutting down in May
The land of Caledonia will soon be swallowed up by the sea of game closures. On Monday, May 12th at 2:00 a.m. EST, Lord of Ultima services will be stopped permanently. Announcing the closure, the developers of Lord of Ultima thanked players for their continued support over the years. Starting now, the ability to buy Play4Free Funds is disabled, but players who currently have the in-game currency are encouraged to spend it before the shutdown. New account creation has also been disabled; those who are already in the game, however, can continue their quest to be one of the final lords ruling over the land.

[Thanks to all who sent in tips!]

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