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Economy

PAX South 2015: Why aren't MMOs more social?

World of Warcraft, Culture, Economy, Events (Real-World), MMO Industry, Endgame, Star Wars Galaxies, Virtual Worlds, Events (Massively's Coverage), Crafting, MMORPG

PAX Panel
On Friday, Alex Albrecht from ZergID and formerly of the Totally Rad Show headed up a PAX South panel about the social side of MMOs, inviting Patrick Mulhern from Lorehound, Jenesee Grey from Camelot Unchained, and me to join to discuss community in MMOs and why it's seemed so absent in recent years. Meg Campbell from YouTube moderated the panel discussion, calling us the PAX MMO guild.

I admit that I considered naming this piece, "How Star Wars Galaxies did everything right and World of Warcraft did everything wrong" because I am obviously biased. But I really was completely surprised at how much SWG came up during the panel. Many former Galaxies players will tell you that there was a lot about that game that was pure crap, but when you talk about the social implementations of SWG, there just aren't many games that compare.

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Raph Koster is collaborating on Crowfall [Updated with video]

Economy, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, PvP, News Items, Miscellaneous, Sandbox, Crowfall

Does it have your attention NOW
So here's a funny story: Yesterday, the Massively writers were shooting the breeze in team chat when the subject of sandbox devs who were not also closet-gankers came up. "When do you think Raph Koster will finally make a new sandbox?" I asked, half kidding and half wistful. "Never," Jef answered. Then we commiserated for a bit.

It turns out we were remarkably prescient because that day is... today. ArtCraft, the studio working on the nebulous PvP MMO Crowfall, announced today that Koster, the backbone of sandbox legends Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies, has been collaborating with the Crowfall team on the game's design for a year already as a "formal advisor and design consultant."

"Raph and I have been working together for about a year on the design architecture for Crowfall," ArtCraft's J. Todd Coleman wrote. "At the heart of this game, we have two core systems: dynamic territorial conquest and a player-driven economy. Marrying these two concepts is the holy grail of MMO development, and Raph is arguably the best person in the world to help us solve this puzzle."

Koster gets a blurb of his own in the PR: "There isn't anything on the market like Crowfall, and it has been a long time since some of these design ideas were explored. There's a very specific audience out there waiting for a game like this -- the conflict, the real economy -- that has been looking for new steps beyond the games of ten years ago."

Your move, MMO genre.

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Trove vows to become 'the ultimate sandvox'

Betas, Fantasy, Classes, Economy, Previews, Free-to-Play, Dev Diaries, Sandbox, Trove

trove
Trove Game Director Andrew Krausnick isn't above making grand statements, saying in his 2015 preview letter that he wants the title to become the ultimate sandvox. "Modest, right?" he begins. "Simply put, if there's something fun to do with voxels in an MMO adventure setting, we're going to be there and we're going to be the best."

With that out of the way, Krausnick goes on to outline some of the big goals for the coming year. He said that the team is working to add gliding, sky islands, rune crafting, water islands, fishing, swimming, more block types, more mechanics, and definitely more classes.

Another big focus Krausnick mentions is to expand the economy: "We also think it should be easy and rewarding for everyone to trade and participate in the economy, so we'll be creating a system this year to make the trade channel simply a small part of a larger economic system!"

He finished his letter by saying that the open beta test will be ending "sooner rather than later," indicating an early 2015 launch.

You'll soon be able to buy WoW garrison followers directly

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Economy, Patches, Previews, Subscription

wow
If you missed out on snagging one of your World of Warcraft garrison followers or are willing to trade gold for time to complete your collection, then Blizzard is prepared to humbly accept your patronage. The studio announced on the forums that it will be adding a follower vendor in the next patch.

"One specific change I can share is in the next patch we're planning to add a new NPC to tier 3 garrisons who will sell followers you might not have access to based upon which buildings and outposts you've chosen," Community Manager Crithto wrote. "You'll be able to browse for followers you did not choose from quests and any you might have missed from failed missions."

Elite: Dangerous rolls back decision on billionaire rollback

Sci-Fi, Economy, News Items, Sandbox, Elite: Dangerous

Reverse the reversal!  Prepare to complete the preparation for completion!
There was a bit of a to-do recently about money in Elite: Dangerous. A bug caused numerous players to receive a credit "refund" that wound up making them instant billionaires, which might have had some long-term ramifications for anyone who had hoped to actually play in the sandbox economy in the future. While the developers had initially opted against wide-scale rollbacks, asking instead for affected players to choose whether to be rolled back or not, that decision has been reversed.

Unexpected billionaires will find all of their bug-gotten gains rolled back and removed, with the development team contacting those affected personally to make sure that nothing legitimate gets caught in the crossfire. Meanwhile, players who found a way to exploit the game explicitly will also see their gains removed. So those who were hoping for rollbacks in the wake of these issues will be happy; those happy with billions of credits for no real effort will be... less happy.

[Thanks to Cotic for the tip!]

Elite: Dangerous server goes haywire, creates instant billionaires [Updated]

Sci-Fi, Bugs, Economy, Events (In-Game), MMO Industry, News Items, Sandbox, Elite: Dangerous

The Elite: Dangerous server has had a relatively smooth launch since it released just over two weeks ago, but all that changed last night when the server went absolutely haywire. A suspected transaction server failure caused a whole slew of bizarre bugs for those playing the game last night, from benign errors like players getting disconnected to catastrophic failures like deleting a ship's entire cargo, rolling back ship upgrades, and deleting credits. The worst problems involved players having ghost cargo that could be sold over and over again, allowing them to rack up millions of credits in minutes.

Though the problems were reported promptly, the server wasn't rebooted until its usual maintenance period over six hours later. In a feat of remarkably bad timing, the server problems happened on a national holiday in the UK, and so the developers at Frontier were taking time off to celebrate the new year. There has been no official announcement on the problems yet, and players are speculating on the damage that would be caused or reversed if Frontier performed a server rollback. Reports from the Elite forum suggest that developers may not be back to work until as late as January 5th, at which point it's unlikely that developers will roll the server back.

The damage from last night's errors continues to cause problems today. One player was left shipless and unable to log in when the server reversed a ship purchase transaction, and another's ship teleported back across the galaxy and is being held hostage at a station with no shipyard. Dozens of players have reported broken cargo holds or missing cargo and credits, and one player logged in this morning to find 5 billion credits sitting in his wallet. These events have naturally prompted a resurgence of complaints about Elite's always-online gameplay, as players have found themselves unable to play without problem even in solo mode.

We have reached out to Frontier for comment.

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The Daily Grind: What's the ideal crafting style for an MMO?

Economy, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, The Daily Grind, Miscellaneous, Crafting

Ultima Online
There's a lot of hate for "clicky" crafting in MMOs -- you know, the old "click a button, crafted item pops into your bag" trope. I'd call it the World of Warcraft style, but MMOs all the way back to Ultima Online did crafting that way. And this might sound crazy, but even as a hardcore crafter, I don't actually mind it. Everything in a video game comes down to clicking or mousing or typing. What matters to me is whether the crafting itself matters in the game. Even though the final combine in Star Wars Galaxies amounted to clicking a button and having something pop into my bag, there was a whole chain of resource collecting and experimentation and component creation and luck along the way, and since the economy was player-driven, most of what I was making had relevance to other players.

Personally, I'll take that plus simple clicking over a time-wasting, irritating minigame-style of crafting any day, but I'd love to see innovation in how we craft too. What do you think -- what's the ideal crafting style for an MMO?

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!

WoW Archivist: A Glyphmas story

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Economy, Expansions, Game Mechanics, PvP, Hands-On, Crafting, Subscription, WoW Archivist

Scrolls of glyphs
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 December 17th and is included here by permission.

Professions in Warlords of Draenor feel completely different than in any other era in WoW. Creating powerful items is no longer a matter of farming, luck, or gold. Instead, we have to produce their key ingredients via garrison work orders. Leveling crafting professions is no longer about creating a bunch of useless items that we instantly vendor or disenchant, and reaching max level is now a slow burn instead of a quick grind. This is the first expansion where I haven't hit max level on all my professions within the first week or two.

The profession that has changed the most is the most recent: Wrath of the Lich King's inscription, added in 2008. Even the interface changed: The glyph window was originally part of the spellbook UI, not the talent pane. Because of those changes, for a few very special weeks, inscription transformed the financial futures of countless WoW players. I was one of them. We called it Glyphmas, and it was magical.

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World of Warcraft proposes tradable subscription currency

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Economy, Patches, Previews, Subscription

wow
Six-point-one. That's all you World of Warcraft players need to hear to get psyched for the new year. The dev team took a brief pause in rolling in all of the money from Warlords of Draenor sales to talk about what's coming up with Patch 6.1 as well as a proposed new subscription currency.

The patch, which will go into testing soon, will contain improvements to garrisons, a legendary follower, the ability to send tweets from the game, the new Blood Elf models, shorter flight master routes, incentives for visiting friends' garrisons, and the new heirloom collection tab.

Even bigger than this news is word that Blizzard is "exploring" adding a subscription currency that sounds like EVE Online's PLEX. The proposed idea would allow players to buy and sell game-time tokens for in-game gold: "Our current thought on this is that it would give players a way to use their surplus gold to cover some of their subscription cost, while giving players who might have less play time an option for acquiring gold from other players through a legit and secure system."

ArcheAge reinstates APEX purchases

Fantasy, Economy, News Items, Free-to-Play, ArcheAge, Sandbox

Just wait for the next issue, because it'll happen.
The time since ArcheAge's launch has been a cycle of allowing cash shop purchases, discovering exploits with those purchases, and disabling those purchases, usually APEX. There have been a variety of other goofs hither and yon, but the important one right now is APEX. After a long period of being unavailable, it can be purchased once more, hopefully without a need to disable it again in the future.

APEX, for those of you unaware, is essentially a way to purchase subscription time and sell it in-game, a la EVE Online's PLEX or WildStar's CREDD. The exploit issues caused by use of APEX items without actually consuming them have led to the items being removed from the store on multiple occasions. Hopefully this reinstatement signals the end of that particular cycle for the game.

Star Wars: The Old Republic axes skill training costs

Sci-Fi, Economy, Free-to-Play, Star Wars: The Old Republic

swtor
SWTOR penny-pinchers rejoice, for the oppressive tyranny of skill costs are about to become history. In a post on the forums this afternoon, BioWare announced that it will be abandoning skill training costs as of next week.

"One thing has become clear from the player feedback in not only this thread, but since launch: players do not like training costs. It is a situation where every level you will see your hard earned credits go to a holographic Hutt doctor in order to make yourself a bit stronger. We have been talking about this topic internally for quite some time and when you add player feedback to the mix one thing becomes clear... We should make training costs a thing of the past," the studio said.

[Thanks to the five million people who sent this tip in!]

The Daily Grind: Do special currencies in MMOs annoy you?

Business Models, Economy, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, Massively Meta, The Daily Grind, Miscellaneous

A reader discussion in a past Guild Wars 2 update article made me realize, once again, how much I loathe special event currencies. You know the type: It's patch day, and here's an event, and if you want the rewards, you have to grind a shiny new currency to get them! Never mind that you already have a pile of gold (and in Guild Wars 2's case, karma and gems) earned through your adventures up until now; those credits are mysteriously useless at the new reward vendors, who accept only some new currency.

Commenters rightly pointed out that if modern devs did what old timey devs did, players would just rush in and buy everything on day one and not do the grind. But so what? Why should it bother us that people get to actually use the currency they've already earned and banked? That's the whole point of gathering money in MMOs in the first place. And if there's so much existing currency in the world that everyone could buy everything without additional grind, that's the studio's problem for providing insufficient sinks and a poor economy in the first place, not ours. In fact, special events themselves could be an awesome gold sink! Instead, event currencies signal to players that their existing achievements and savings matter not at all and that the event isn't really going to be much fun on its own merits.

What do you think? Are you also sick of special currencies in MMOs? What would you prefer to see in their stead?

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!

EVE gives more market data tools to the mod community

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Economy, Patches, Dev Diaries, Sandbox

eve
EVE Online is such a mod-happy game that there's an official site for it, and it's on this site today that CCP said that it will be giving another valuable information-gathering tool to players with the advent of a new searchable resource.

"We also are making available the MarketType resource. MarketTypes is a collection of all possible MarketType resources," the devs posted. Being able to search market history and orders will help modders pull in data from multiple regions and should be in the game with the Rhea content patch.

WildStar slashes box prices by 33%

Sci-Fi, Economy, WildStar, Subscription

wildstar
In a day after releasing its third major update to the game, WildStar has gone on sale by reducing the cost of both editions by 33% if purchased through the official website. This brings the standard edition down to $40 and the digital deluxe edition to $55. Both editions come with a month of game time included.

Earlier today we reported on an interview in which the studio said that its publisher was standing behind the game and that it had strong though unspecific box sales. Yesterday, WildStar released Drop 3, Mystery of Genesis Prime, a content patch with over a hundred pages of bug fixes.

EVE Evolved: Clone upgrades and skill loss are gone!

Sci-Fi, Video, EVE Online, Economy, Expansions, Game Mechanics, Patches, Previews, PvP, Endgame, News Items, Opinion, EVE Evolved, Dev Diaries, Sandbox, Subscription

EVE Evolved title image
While the player activity stats might suggest otherwise, the past few years have been a real rennaisance for EVE Online. Developers have gone back and iterated on dozens of old game features that were starting to show their age, and some of them have been pretty huge. The war declaration and criminality overhauls in 2012 were fundamental changes to core gameplay that had been stagnant for almost a decade, and the recent industry and warp acceleration changes were equally fundamental shifts. These were all features we had previously been told were essentially off-limits for iteration because they relied on undocumented legacy code from 2003, and none of the programmers wanted to poke that sleeping beast.

Now it seems that no idea is off-limits, and developers aren't afraid to challenge fundamental parts of EVE's original design that may not make sense today. This week's Phoebe update revisited capital ship force projection for the first time since the ships were added in 2004, for example, and it removed the 24-hour skill queue limit that CCP insisted on adding in Apocrypha. In Thursday's episode of The EVE Online Show, developers announced the next big legacy feature to be put on the chopping block in the game of progress: As part of December's Rhea release, clone upgrades and skill point loss on death will be completely removed from the game.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at the problems caused by the cloning system, why it needs to be removed, and what could possibly replace it.

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