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The Think Tank: Analyzing Elder Scrolls Online's B2P model

Fantasy, Business Models, Culture, MMO Industry, Opinion, Massively Meta, The Elder Scrolls Online, The Think Tank, Buy-to-Play

Yesterday's reveal that The Elder Scrolls Online will go buy-to-play in March has prompted much speculation about the nature of the cash shop, the ethics of the switchover, the continued viability of the game, and the quality, cost, and frequency of the promised DLC. In today's Think Tank, the Massively staff will discuss the decision. Is B2P the right call for ESO? Was the exceedingly long delay of the console launch a huge mistake? What do we expect from the DLC? And is "Tamriel Unlimited" in fact the worst rebrand ever?

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RuneScape opens RuneLabs for player suggestions

Fantasy, Video, Culture, RuneScape, Free-to-Play, Sandbox

If you have a terrific idea that you'd like to get implemented into an MMO, then RuneScape's your best bet these days. The ever-creative MMO recently launched RuneLabs as a formal structured suggestion process that will take the best player ideas and make them an in-game feature.

RuneLabs works like this: Players will make a pitch to that month's studio-assigned criteria. If it gets enough community support, it will be reviewed by Jagex and (barring a studio veto) voted on by fellow players. The winner of the poll will go from concept to reality.

You can watch an amusing video explaining RuneLabs after the break!

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World of Warcraft player hits 100th level 100

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Culture, News Items, Subscription

And then comes the realization.
Do you like playing World of Warcraft? Would you like to play a thousand levels of World of Warcraft? Because the player known as Watola did just that. Watola has 100 characters at level 100, a project that started during the exceptionally long twilight of Mists of Pandaria. With 20 characters already at the level cap back then, another 80 apparently seemed like a doable project, which started a cycle of very efficient leveling and copious use of recruit-a-friend tricks.

The method outlined on the the forums involves essentially rotating through full rest state on various characters and having a set plan of attack, along with using tank characters via recruit-a-friend to ensure that queues for dungeons are more straightforward. If you'd like to do the same, it's still perfectly functional now, although you'll have to do so knowing full well that you can never have a world-first level 1,000. (That seems a fair nod for the achievement.)

PAX South 2015: Massively's Larry Everett to guest on MMO community panel

Culture, Events (Real-World), MMO Industry, Previews, News Items, Massively Meta, Roleplaying, Events (Massively's Coverage), Community Q&A, Miscellaneous, Player-Generated Content

PAX South
For MMO fans headed to Penny Arcade's inaugural PAX South in San Antonio, Texas, this weekend, there's one panel not to miss: Where Did Multiplayer in MMOs Go?. Massively's Larry Everett will guest on the community-oriented panel, which runs from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. local time on Friday in the Bobcat Theater. You can probably figure out the topic from the title, but here's the official blurb:
In early MMORPGs, interacting with other community members in places like taverns and main cities were a necessity for advancement and survival. Today, interacting with random players has become a rare event instead of the tools for survival. Is this what we all wanted to happen? Join Alex Albrecht alongside Larry Everett and Patrick Mulhern to discuss the future of communities in MMORPGs.
Larry will join Zerg ID Co-Founder Alex Albrecht, Lorehound Editor-in-Chief Patrick Mulhern, YouTube Gaming Strategic Partner Manager Meg Campbell, and Camelot Unchained Community Manager Jenesee Grey for the panel.

Massively's big sister Joystiq will also be represented at the show; Joystiq Editor in Chief Ludwig Kietzmann and Community Manager Anthony John Agnello will host the In(s)ane Joystiq Quiz on Saturday evening at 8 p.m. local time in the Falcon Theater.

The Daily Grind: What's the worst-designed MMO city?

Culture, Opinion, The Daily Grind, Miscellaneous

One of my personal pet peeves in any roleplaying game is to have to navigate around an overly large city. I guess I'm just not a city guy at heart. But that annoyance is doubly so for any video game metropolis that suffers from poor design.

I can name several examples, although today World of Warcraft's Undercity springs to mind. While delightfully atmospheric, it was nevertheless a pain in the tuckus to traverse. There were too many elevators, vertical space, and long, long runs around the outer circle, all of which kept me away if I could help it.

What do you think is the worst-designed MMO city and why?

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!

Global Chat: Guild Wars 2's economy is broken

EverQuest II, Culture, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, Global Chat, Miscellaneous, The Repopulation, Elite: Dangerous

Guild Wars 2's economy remains a hot-button issue even two-and-a-half years after its release. In this week's exploration of the blogosphere, one writer pulls out all the stops to let you know what's broken about this MMO's economy -- and how it can be fixed.

In addition to this thoughtful read, Global Chat will hear some snark on silly hotbar icons, pontificate about poor MMO names, deliver The Repopulation first impressions, and invite you to participate in a grand MUD experiment. Let's get going!

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Path of Exile unholsters the banhammer for cheaters

Fantasy, Culture, Game Mechanics, News Items, Free-to-Play, Path of Exile

It's not a resort.
The team behind Path of Exile has been pretty forgiving up to this point. Players have been a bit more commonly warned that there will be penalties if they're cheating. But that's over now. The latest race season has finished, and players who were found to have cheated have been given a grand total of no rewards even if they were technically eligible. Nearly 4,000 players will log in to find a warning to disable any cheats they have running before they get banned.

From this point forward, any incidents with cheating software will result in a ban, end of discussion. This is true even if the player in question argues that the cheat was being used for quality-of-life purposes; those issues will be addressed in the future and don't justify cheating. Players are reminded that they are allowed to run tools that don't require the client to be running and single-action hotkeys without a problem, so don't worry about being punished just for having Fraps in the background. Just... don't cheat.

One Shots: Christmas leftovers

Screenshots, EVE Online, Culture, Ultima Online, One Shots, Miscellaneous, Trove, Landmark

You guys! Even though Christmas is well and over, you're still sending me wonderful screenshot presents! I'm blushing. I don't even know what to say other than, "You rock! Also, no butt pictures!"

Our first non-posterior shot is from reader Jake, who braved the heart of a volcano for this vista: "Here's a picture of my Dracolyte in Trove after having finished a really cool dungeon that took me down into the depths of a volcano. After a while, you start to see similar dungeon types repeated, but this was a new one for me. I kept expecting to see a conflicted hobbit contemplating a ring as I descended the volcano, but alas, nothing but lava beetles and an ember dragon."

What will we find when we descend into the rest of our player-submitted screenshots for this week? Hopefully more than lava beetles!

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The usual suspects dominate December's Raptr rankings

Culture, MMO Industry, News Items

Do you quote Raptr data when having unscientific discussions about MMO playerbase numbers? If so, rejoice, because here are some more numbers based on a sample size of dubious value!

As you might expect, League of Legends, Dota 2, and World of Warcraft continue to dominate Raptr users' attention spans, while ArcheAge, Final Fantasy XIV, and Guild Wars 2 all dropped from their position in November's rankings.

Click past the cut to see the full list.

[Source: Raptr press release]

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The Daily Grind: What does Trove need to do to succeed?

Betas, Fantasy, Culture, Opinion, Free-to-Play, The Daily Grind, Sandbox, Trove

This month I've made a point to dabble in Trove and check out how far the game's come now that it's in a semi-launched state. So far I'm somewhat pleased as it's running well, intuitive to handle, fun to play, and not half bad on the eyes.

I don't think anyone, Trion included, is under the impression that Trove is going to be some sort of breakout blockbuster. However, it could be a possible sleeper hit, especially if it keeps generating good word of mouth and doesn't overreach with its business model.

My question for you today is, what do you think Trove needs to do in 2015 to succeed? Should Trion throw more advertising out there? Does it need to go bigger? Are there cross-promotional opportunities here? Is it missing a key system that could put it over the top? Or is it on the right track and should keep on going as is?

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!

LotRO players host Winterstock II music festival

Fantasy, Lord of the Rings Online, Culture, Events (In-Game), Free-to-Play, Music

Lord of the Rings Online is well-known for its player bands that take advantage of the in-game instruments, and this weekend you can hear a lot of musical acts with the return of the Winterstock player festival.

Hosted by the Lonely Mountain Band kinship, Winterstock II will feature 31 bands playing over the course of four days from January 16th through the 19th. All shows will be set near Thorin's Gate on the Landroval server. There's a schedule posted on the forums, and if you really want to get into the swing of things, you can listen to the official Winterstock II theme song.

Al Rivera discusses his role in Star Trek Online on Reddit

Sci-Fi, Culture, News Items, Star Trek Online, Free-to-Play, Subscription

There's always a nebula.  Or an anomaly.  Or a distortion.
Who is Captain Geko? It was a fairly innocent question posed on Reddit earlier in the week by a user who happened to group with someone using that name in Star Trek Online. The answer is that it's the usual screen name of lead designer Al Rivera, who took the opportunity to respond to the question with a larger discussion of what makes the game what it is and how the game's microtransaction model is set up.

Rivera discusses his experience with the franchise and being a longtime fan from the age of 10, as well as the fact that the game's microtransactions are decided upon chiefly based on what will keep the lights on and keep the game fundamentally free-to-play. While he states clearly that not every decision comes down to him, at the end of the day he's proud of what the team has accomplished and the state of the game. If you want a look behind the curtain at one of the people in charge of Star Trek Online, take the time to read Rivera's full answer.

[Thanks to Lootcritter for the tip!]

RIFT spurns hoverboards and brings out hoverbikes for 2015

Fantasy, Video, Culture, News Items, Free-to-Play, RIFT, Subscription

It's like Star Wars except for all of the many ways it's not like Star Wars.
Do you all like your current MMOs? More than you like RIFT? That's fair. But do you like your current MMO more than you like... hover bikes? Faced with the choice, the team behind RIFT is hoping that when it comes down to the wire, your answer of what game you love the most will be answered with a resounding chorus of "hover bikes!"

Hey, it's close enough.

Yes, bikes that do not roll but instead hover slightly above the ground are being floated out to RIFT for a limited time. If you want to not-actually-roll through Telara with these stylish mounts, you'd best log on and grab them promptly; they're available for only a limited time. And who doesn't love hover bikes, after all? Especially when they have a video showing off just past the break.

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World of Warcraft dispels free-to-play 'Veteran Edition' rumors

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Business Models, Culture, News Items, Free-to-Play, Subscription

Ironically, being a veteran of the game is part of why I no longer wish to go back.
Pretty much anything in the world will start the World of Warcraft free-to-play rumors these days, but this set of rumors had a bit of basis in reality, at least. Datamining uncovered references to a "Veteran Edition" for players, which prompted speculation that it would be a preferred account status for players who were on the free side but still had played in the past. It turns out that's not quite accurate, but it's also not entirely wrong: Veteran Edition will allow players to play for free, essentially, with Starter Edition restrictions.

Community Manager Bashiok addressed the rumors, explaining that while someone who never had played the game before could jump in with Starter Edition restrictions, veteran players could not. Veteran Edition, then, places almost all of the same restrictions on players, but it will allow you to roll up a new character and play through level 20 or at least log in to chat with friends. No word on exactly when this will be rolled out, but it should put the free-to-play rumors to bed until they start again in a month.

The Think Tank: The MMO server merge stigma

Business Models, Culture, MMO Industry, Opinion, Massively Meta, Hands-On, Miscellaneous, The Think Tank

Last week, Turbine announced that it plans to address Lord of the Rings Online's ongoing population problems. New executive producer Athena "Vyvyanne" Peters wrote, "We're taking measures to get everyone onto the more populous servers" and "working on [...] improved server transfer tools." And later, she clarified, "We are still working through the details, but part of our efforts here are to make the transition as seamless as possible for Kinship leaders to keep the players together. The idea is to bring you together, not spread further apart."

In our post, we called this process "server merges of a sort," but some loyal LotRO fans went ballistic at the idea that mass server transfers to, you know, merge players onto populous servers might be called "server merges." The term has such negative connotations and implications for a game's health that neither studios nor fans will dare use it even when it's a reasonable term to use and when it heralds good things for an aging game. The stigma might even make some studios leery of doing merges at all.

What do you think -- is there a better term for these sorts of faux-merges? Have you been through a merge and found it a worthwhile experience? Can we be done with the merge stigma already? We're talking server merges in today's Think Tank.

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