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Endgame

WildStar's next big update and holiday surprise

Sci-Fi, Game Mechanics, Patches, Previews, Endgame, News Items, WildStar, Dungeons, Subscription, Buy-to-Play

Now if you'd jut say that Glory is available from shiphands, we'd be moving somewhere!
The first major WildStar update of 2015 is available on the test servers now. Yes, there's a little time before it actually goes live for everyone. Creative Director Chad Moore took the opportunity today to explain to the community everything contained within the new update, starting with the addition of two new dungeons (the Protostar Academy and the Ultimate Protogames), a new Shiphand mission, and the addition of veteran-level Shiphand missions that can still be cleared solo or in a group as you'd like.

This update also includes new housing options, cosmetic options for characters (including the ability to edit your appearance post-character creation), and the addition of the new Glory currency for completing dungeons and raids, which can be exchanged for high-end equipment. Last but not least, it's the update that includes the long-discussed drop of the Datascape raid down to 20 players, making it less of a challenge to assemble a roster for this content. While it remains to be seen how well the update actually plays, it looks to be filled with a number of positive changes for the game.

In other WildStar news today, the studio is running holiday promotion during December. "Carbine wanted to wish everyone a Happy Holiday and spread some cheer by giving out 12 Days of Boom Boxes," wrote Community Manager Tony Rey yesterday. "Everyone that has logged into WildStar during the month of December (12/1-12/15) will receive these sweet little bundles of potential."

Hyperspace Beacon: SWTOR's 2014 report card

Sci-Fi, Events (In-Game), Expansions, PvP, Endgame, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Roleplaying, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Hyperspace Beacon, MMORPG

Hyperspace Beacon: SWTOR's 2014 report card
In 1996, Richard Bartle published a study of MMO gamers that eventually led to his 2003 book Designing Virtual Worlds, which was at the time the de facto MMO genre's design bible. Of course, this was before World of Warcraft hit the scene, but many of the principles Bartle laid out still hold true. In fact, if you don't believe me, take it yourself: GamerDNA still has an online test based on the Bartle study.

Bartle categorized players based on their interests in the game; I would like to do the same this year as I did last year for Star Wars: The Old Republic since it's a good way to measure the game against the average expectations of certain types of players. Bartle divides us all into Achievers, Socializers, Explorers, and Killers. I'll explain what each of those means as I discuss the different aspects of SWTOR. If you know what that means and so you have a point of reference, my profile is SEAK, which means that I interact with all types of players.

For fun, I've added a grade-card-style of rating system: A, B, C, D, or F. Just remember the information I give about that score counts for more than the score itself.

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Destiny previews The Dark Below and still offers no raid matchmaking

Sci-Fi, Expansions, Game Mechanics, Patches, Endgame, News Items, Consoles, MMOFPS, Destiny

It'd almost be tragic if people remembered the game existed.
The first expansion to Destiny, The Dark Below, is launching on December 9th. Some players will get new content out of it. That's not editorializing; the official preview of the mechanical changes says outright that the update will bring new content for some and new play mechanics for all. Mechanically, the updates focus around upgrading Exotic equipment, raising character levels to 32, and the addition of Legendary gear that sits below raid equipment and Exotics.

Bungie has also reaffirmed its commitment to not adding in any sort of matchmaking service for the game's raids while praising third-party sites that allow players to find others who wish to take on these raids. This is the equivalent of refusing to own a clock while complimenting your neighbor's sundial. Despite this fact, the developers are aware the demand for this content exists, and the team states it's looking into designing content for this particular audience.

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The Soapbox: Six reasons MMOs should abandon raiding, part 3

Culture, Endgame, Opinion, The Soapbox, Miscellaneous, Dungeons

Sometimes you just need to cut away the disease.
In parts one and two of this Soapbox miniseries, I tackled four of the reasons the MMO genre should abandon raiding as a central gameplay element, but one key argument has been left out until now: The social aspect of raiding.

Whatever else is true of raiding, it is definitely social. Communities spring up and keep going largely based on that raiding community, to the point that it's easy to assume that everyone in a game's population raids. There are lengthy discussions about raiding, about how to raid, about tips and tricks for clearing raids. The social aspect of raids is what I think has kept them around so long; it's easy for a designer to look at that sort of engagement and see it as vital.

Yet there's more to the story than might be available at a glance, and the social aspect is not without steep costs. Those social elements do not carry the weight of everything else... mostly because they aren't as strong as they appear.

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The Soapbox: Six reasons MMOs should abandon raiding, part 2

Game Mechanics, Endgame, Opinion, The Soapbox, Miscellaneous, Dungeons

Time to take on the stock.
In yesterday's Soapbox, I had some things to say about why it's time to dump raiding. I'm writing this before I've seen the comment responses, but I'm willing to bet that a fair amount of angry shouting was involved in the comments because that's what I usually expect. But I wasn't done, as suggested by the whole "part 1" thing in the title header.

For those don't feel like reading the whole thing, the short version is that raiding is too expensive to develop for too small a portion of the players. This is a solid argument, but it's standard: You hear it every time this debate comes up. In some ways, it's the foundation of the argument against raiding beyond the reality that most people say they just don't like raiding.

There's more to be said, though, and there are more serious issues up for discussion. Raiding isn't just expensive in terms of development. It's expensive in lots of ways.

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Here are the tier 17 armor sets non-PUG WoW raiders can loot in Highmaul

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Previews, Endgame, News Items, Subscription

Don't worry, if you're in Mythic, you still get to feel superior to everyone else.  If you get lucky, anyway.
With the first raid of World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor right around the corner, Blizzard has released a preview of the Tier 17 armor sets in all their glory. There are three variants of each set: the Mythic version (which has a unique skin compared to the others), the Heroic version, and the Normal version. Raid Finder raids no longer drop tier sets, thus reducing the overall number of available sets by one from the end of Mists of Pandaria.

Player opinion seems to be somewhat split on whether or not the sets are good matches for the aesthetic of the expansion and the individual classes, as well as the split between the Mythic versions and the other versions of each set. The raid that drops these pieces, Highmaul, will be available starting on December 2nd for Normal and Heroic, with Mythic launching a week later on December 9th.

The Soapbox: Six reasons MMOs should abandon raiding, part 1

Game Mechanics, Endgame, Opinion, The Soapbox, Miscellaneous, Dungeons

Sorry, Truce.  You deserve better, but you get this.
Raiding is no longer doing MMOs any favors.

I've compared raiding to open PvP in the past, and the comparison still holds up. It's something that a lot of games developed in response to a specific genre-defining game have featured. But it's not doing those games any favors, and it might be time to take a hard look at this gameplay element that games survive in spite of rather than because of. If we learn nothing else from WildStar's issues when it launched into what should have been an ideal environment, it's that raiding certainly isn't driving players into a game's waiting arms.

But I don't want to just say that and let it roll around on the floor. Let's actually break the argument down across a couple of articles this week. Why does raiding need to shuffle off of the main stage, definitely as the default endgame model, perhaps altogether? I can give you six good reasons.

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EVE Evolved: What does Thera mean for EVE?

Sci-Fi, Video, EVE Online, Culture, Events (In-Game), Expansions, Game Mechanics, Guilds, Lore, Patches, Previews, PvP, Endgame, PvE, Opinion, EVE Evolved, Dev Diaries, Sandbox, Player-Generated Content, Subscription, MMORPG

EVE Evolved title image
If you've been keeping up with the recent news updates on EVE Online, you've probably heard about the upcoming Rhea update scheduled for December 9th. This mega patch will introduce the new tech 3 Tactical Destroyer ship class, Sleeper incursions into normal space, hands-on WASD flight controls, and 101 new wormhole systems (including 25 that are limited to small ships). The new wormhole systems have had all of their planets shattered by an as-yet unknown stellar phenomenon, and clues as to what transpired there will be hidden in the rubble. This infusion of new content and story will mark the first time the wormhole storyline and gameplay have been significantly expanded in over four years.

Each of the new shattered star systems is guaranteed to have at least one outgoing wormhole leading to normal space at all times, increasing the likelihood that pirates will catch you exploring or farming them. And since these systems won't have any in-tact moons, you won't be able to put up a permanent starbase to retreat to if hostiles appear. I'm pretty excited for exploring this new lawless frontier, but it's a unique shattered star system called Thera that I'm most looking forward to finding. Thera will be the first and only wormhole system to have fully kitted NPC stations and will serve as neutral ground for anyone who wants to live there. It's been described as the Mos Eisley of EVE, a permanent home to pirates, PvP corps, and smugglers looking to make some quick ISK.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at how the Thera system could revolutionise EVE for a lot of players and where the EVE storyline could go as a result.

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WoW previews Highmaul raid, kicks off anniversary events today

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Lore, Endgame, News Items, Dungeons, Subscription

And this time, slightly less than a year between updates!
Are you ready to start in on the raid cycle of Warlords of Draenor? Yes you are; that's what you do here. You can start by checking out the latest World of Warcraft development blog that shows off Highmaul in all its glory. The raid's release will be staggered into four parts, with Normal and Heroic releasing on December 2nd, Mythic and the first part of the Raid Finder difficulty releasing on December 9th, and the final two wings being added to the Raid Finder on December 16th and January 6th.

Highmaul contains seven bosses, three of which are optional and two of which are mandatory. Players will take on Kargath Bladefist to kick off the raid experience, while the ultimate encounter leads players against Imperator Mar'gok, the pinnacle of ogre power in the region. You can also take the time to play around with the game's new Twitter hashtag campaign while you wait. That won't help you with the raid at all, really, but it will help pass the time.

In other WoW news, Blizzard will be kicking off its previously announced anniversary events today. Both the 40-man, level 100 version of Molten Core and the Southshore vs. Tarren Mill battleground will become available to players through the raid finder and battlemaster queue, respectively. Everyone who logs in will receive a molten corgi pet as a happy birthday present from the team. The events end January 6th.

The Nexus Telegraph: Is WildStar's raid size change too late?

Sci-Fi, Endgame, Opinion, WildStar, Dungeons, The Nexus Telegraph, Subscription, Buy-to-Play

You cannot play potential.  You cannot enjoy what could be fun.  You can only play the game that there is, and a pile of wasted potential does not make a game worth caring about.
Very few people are going to contest that scaling WildStar's biggest raid down to 20 people is a good move. Some will, yes, but when 400 players are working on content five months after release, that's a good sign that it's not doing the most basic job of getting people to play it. Bringing Datascape's size down is an indisputable good thing.

The question, of course, isn't about that. It's about whether it's too small a change too late in the game.

Make no mistake, this is a change that is significant enough to merit an announcement, but it's one that just missed the big patch we finally received not too long ago. (My initial reaction to that is middling, for the record, neither bad nor really a break from form or something that justifies its long delay.) I would be surprised if we see this change actually live in the game before next year. And it's a change of more conceptual significance than anything else because unless someone very quietly managed to clear Datascape without telling anyone, the end of that raid has gone unseen.

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WildStar is scaling Datascape down to 20 players

Sci-Fi, Endgame, News Items, WildStar, Dungeons, Subscription, Buy-to-Play

Yeah, it's all right to just comment with LOL to this one.
WildStar brought 40-player raids back to the forefront. The game is now pushing said raid size back away from the forefront, as the game's 40-person raid pinnacle is getting scaled down to 20 players. The official post on the subject notes that the number of people entering was far too low and the attrition rate far too high, so the raid is being rebalanced (but not nerfed) to account for having only half of its originally designed population inside.

Several reasons are cited for the changed, such as the game's combat working best with a smaller number of people, the lowered demands on computers, and a consistent raid size for future raid content which will hopefully make guild management easier. While the topic stops shy of saying that the 40-player versions are never coming back, that is certainly the implication. So it'll at least be marginally easier to form a group for Datascape soon if you're able to get through the first raid successfully.

Final Fantasy XIV's Yoshida on housing, test servers, and post-Fanfest

Fantasy, Game Mechanics, Interviews, Patches, Endgame, News Items, Consoles, Final Fantasy XIV, Housing, Subscription

Two Massively employees in the same game at once?  The world is madness.  (No, you get no hints about who.)
Final Fantasy XIV has had a busy year, and it looks to be having a busy next year to boot. The game's first expansion is in the works and planned for a release in spring of 2015, along with another major patch to cap off the game's current patch cycle. And director/producer Naoki Yoshida continues steering the ship, working what I can only assume is a 200-hour week.

I had a chance to ask a few questions of Yoshida around the time of the first two fanfests of the year (the final one is scheduled for December in Tokyo), ranging from housing questions to the promise of public test servers to how hard it will be to establish an Eternal Bond. Jump on past the break to read the full interview!

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The Daily Grind: Should MMOs have a 'raid stat'?

Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Endgame, PvE, Opinion, Miscellaneous, WildStar

Last week, WildStar dev J-Tal outright apologized for the game's poor solo progression, stating that Carbine is "well aware that solo progression in WildStar is pretty much non-existent" and is working on the problem. But as I was researching that quote, what caught my eye is the post right after J-Tal's mea culpa, a benign little question by a player named Nike Online:
If progression is driven by need, why is there not a budget-hungry 'raid stat' that only provides benefit inside raid instances and keeps those drops more sedate when taken out into the open world? [...] PvP gear has its own stats to protect its environement from outside gear coming in and dominating. PvP power/defense also drain budget from those items so that it's not the optimal open-world gear.
Lots of games have tried PvP stats (for example, World of Warcraft's now-defunct spell penetration and resillience), but I've never seen the equivalent for raid gear. It's definitely a band-aid on a game with innate design and balance issues, but it does seem to solve the problem of overgeared raiders trampling the open world. What do you think: Should MMOs have a "raid stat"?

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 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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The Stream Team: Finally taking the first steps on ArcheAge's Auroria

Fantasy, Video, PvP, Endgame, Free-to-Play, Livestream, ArcheAge, The Stream Team

The Stream Team: Finally taking the first on ArcheAge's Auroria
Auroria is here, and that means there are fresh new lands to explore in ArcheAge -- if you are lucky enough to be able to log in! Massively's MJ can finally log in, so what more of an invitation does she need to explore? Sure, death may really be waiting around every corner, but that won't stop MJ from prowling around the new continent and poking into everything interesting she can find. With any luck she can dodge enough PvP to check out where the new castles will soon go. Join us live at 3:00 p.m. for this peek at the new shinies of Auroria.

Game: ArcheAge
Host: MJ Guthrie
Date: Wednesday, November 5th, 2014
Time: 3:00 p.m. EST

Enjoy our Stream Team video below.

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