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Hearthstone promises fewer card changes in open beta

Betas, Fantasy, Trading Card Games, Family, Dev Diaries, Hearthstone

All CCG and TCG players fear "the big nerf" that will change a beloved card, and in turn, an entire deck. However, such changes and tweaks are part of any card game, and in a blog post today, Lead Designer Eric Dodds explained the team's philosophy behind keeping Hearthstone balanced.

Dodds said that such changes need to be made when cards cause non-interactive games, are frustrating to play against, are causing confusion, aren't intuitive enough, are too strong compared to other cards with a similar cost, or are too weak. "Hearthstone is at its most fun when you're solving an interesting puzzle each turn," he wrote. "Your opponent's minions, your minions, and the cards in your hand are all pieces to this puzzle, and when your opponent removes parts of the puzzle, it can be less fun to play."

Even with these reasons, Dodds promised that the team plans to make "very few card changes" when Hearthstone goes into open beta. "Giving you confidence in your cards and the play environment is very important to us, and each card change we make potentially undermines that confidence," he said.

MMO Family: Forbes' three essential parenting tips on video games

Culture, Opinion, Kids, MMO Family, Family, Miscellaneous

As video games continue to grow in popularity each year, there is a correlating increase in the number of studies and advice columns offering insight into how parents should tackle the many parenting issues that go with it. Sadly, far too many of the "experts" who offer advice have little or no real experience playing video games, and their advice is shaped by an overall negative view of video games.

But as Forbes blogger Jordan Shapiro points out in his article 3 Things Parents Should Know About Video Games and Kids, video games and the internet are here to stay. And it's unrealistic to look at the issues of raising a child in the age of technology strictly in black and white terms. Shapiro offers up the three pieces of advice that are great starting points for parents, and we'll take a look at them in this week's MMO Family.

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MMObility: Mobile and browser face off in School of Dragons

Fantasy, Screenshots, Bugs, Game Mechanics, Previews, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Browser, Mobile, Casual, Kids, Family, MMObility

School of Dragons screenshot
I was excited to learn about a mobile version of School of Dragons, a browser-based, kid-friendly MMO based on the fantastic movie How to Train Your Dragon. I pictured soaring through the skies and interacting with characters from the movie, all while sitting down with my favorite tablet. Unfortunately, I am not able to play on my favorite tablet yet (my Android), but I was able to download it on my wife's iPad Air.

I didn't have much experience with the browser-based version, so I read up on Karen's MMO Family article, made an account, and logged in. I was impressed by the game's visuals even though they are fairly primitive, as they do a good job of giving a sense of scale and accurately recreate many of the movie's characters. The game is very active, even during odd times of the day, and the chat is filled with players discussing the finer points of being a viking.

Unfortunately, the game lacks in polish. Is it be good enough to satisfy younger, less picky fans? Possibly, but after playing the browser-based version, I hoped that the mobile version would somehow feel smoother and more natural.

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MMO Family: Setting Sail in Pirate101

Opinion, Free-to-Play, Kids, MMO Family, Family, Pirate101

Yo ho ho and a bottle of yum! It's been a while, but I've recently returned to the Spiral to explore the world of Pirate101, along with my two younger game testers. We enjoyed our time in-game the first time around, and were curious to revisit the game to see what's changed. Would we find a hidden treasure or end up sunk? In this week's MMO Family, we're donning our Tricorn hats and setting sail in Pirate101!

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Rise and Shiny: Aura Kingdom

Betas, Screenshots, Video, Business Models, Game Mechanics, Interviews, New Titles, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, Casual, Humor, Family, Rise and Shiny, Livestream

Aura Kingdom screenshot
You might have heard about Aura Kingdom, the latest game from Aeria Games. It's been generating a lot of buzz not just for its unique look and adorable graphics but for its pre-order offers that literally cost between $19.00 and $299.00. I wrote about the pricing policy in a recent Free for All article, though I don't have a problem with them. I like to ask if these packages are harmful to others, but in my opinion they are doing nothing new. They're just like any old gaming package or preorder or collector's edition that comes with physical or digital goodies.

I have more of an issue with the game's early-game blandness. Unless you are the type of player who is used to soft-grinds and fast leveling or Anime-styled games that are usually played in groups, you'd think that the game was literally nothing but the pressing of a few buttons. I certainly thought it was that for the first dozen or so levels.

Luckily, the game opens up and becomes fun, but it takes a while to get there. I sat down with game producer Aaron Biedma to ask about the controversial packs, combat mechanics, and adorable dragons.

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LEGO Minifigures Online puts together a new site, aims for summer 2014 launch

Betas, Trailers, Video, New Titles, Previews, News Items, Kids, Family, Miscellaneous

This is a thing now.
Anxious to know more about the adventures to be had in LEGO Minifigures Online? Curious about how the game's mechanics will play out? Just eager to see some of the sillier minifigures in play? The latest video update from the game will satisfy all of these needs right away. It's a top-level overview of the game as a whole, and it comes along with a full website overhaul to help potential players learn more about the game before its launch in summer 2014.

The video shows off a small sampling of the many minifigures in the game, ranging from the obviously combat-oriented (such as the Knight and the Revolutionary Soldier) to the almost completely ridiculous (the DJ or that guy in the chicken suit). All of the figures will have a role and a purpose within the game, and each one has its own unique set of abilities the help allies and hinder opponents. Check out the trailer just past the break.

[Source: Funcom press release]

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The Stream Team: What is Poptropica?

PvE, Free-to-Play, Massively Meta, Hands-On, Kids, Family, Livestream, The Stream Team

The Stream Team: What is Poptropica?
Sometimes the best people to find family-friendly MMOs are the children themselves. When Massively's Larry Everett went looking for a game to play, he turned not to his friend Kyle but to Kyle's son, Kevin. Turns out one of Kevin's favorite games is Poptropica. You've never heard of Poptropica? Well, join Larry, his son, and special guests Kyle and Kevin at 7:00 p.m. EST as they explore Poptropica together.

Game: Poptropica
Host: Larry Everett
Date: Thursday, December 12th, 2013
Time: 7:00 p.m. EST

Enjoy our Steam Team video below.

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MMO Family: Yes, video games are good for you

Culture, MMO Industry, MMO Family, Family, Miscellaneous

The good news continues to arrive for gamers. In the last MMO Family column, we looked at a decade-long British study that showed no connection between playing video games and mental health issues in children. And this week, the American Psychological Association published a report that goes even further, saying that playing video games has tangible benefits.

Can video games really be good for you? Let's take a look in this week's MMO Family.

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Free for All: MMORPGs for your new console

Betas, Fantasy, Super-hero, EVE Online, Launches, New Titles, Previews, PvP, News Items, PvE, Free-to-Play, Consoles, Casual, Virtual Worlds, MMOFPS, Free Realms, Rumors, Warhammer 40k, Kids, DC Universe Online, Final Fantasy XIV, DUST 514, World of Tanks, Free for All, Family, EverQuest Next, PlanetSide 2, Sandbox, Diablo III, Defiance, The Elder Scrolls Online, Destiny, Player-Generated Content, Subscription, Buy-to-Play

PS4 and Xbox One picture
Consoles and MMOs do not have the stand-offish relationship that they used to have. In fact, there are so many different MMOs to choose from on consoles that it's seriously tempting to pick up one of the new ones -- the Xbox One or PlayStation 4 -- even though I wasn't planning on it for a long, long time. I enjoy using a controller with MMOs so much that I plan on covering the subject more in the future.

So let's get to the list of MMOs that are currently on consoles or that will be coming out on consoles in the near(ish) future. Massively's own Mike Foster put together a fantastic list last summer, but I thought I would update and pass it on. After all, the new consoles are officially here... so be sure to reference the list when you need a new MMO to play on your shiny new console!

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MMO Family: Study shows no link between video games and mental health issues in children

Culture, Kids, MMO Family, Family, Miscellaneous

We've long heard concerns that video games might be responsible for bringing about antisocial behavior and even violence. But there's some good news for gaming fans. Recently, researchers from the University of Glasgow released findings that video games had no effect on children's psychological development.

The study included thousands of families over the past decade, tracking children's TV and video game playtime from nine months to seven years of age. Let's take a peek at some of the more notable results and what they mean for the young generation of gamers.

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MMO Family: How to raise an astute gamer (even if you aren't one)

Opinion, Kids, MMO Family, Family, Miscellaneous

MMO Family  How to raise a healthy gamer even if you aren't one
As we trudge towards winter here in the States, the frigid temperatures make outside playtime a lot more difficult. And while we're hunkered down inside during those bitterly cold days, more and more kids choose to log in and do a little gaming to get through the winter doldrums.

For many parents, though, negotiations with their children over video game time is about as pleasant as a snowball to the face. Many of us have come across parents who don't play video games at all and are struggling to make sense of the whole thing. What advice is crucial to the uninitiated parents of gaming children? How can they instill healthy gaming habits and get a handle on video gaming in general? Let's look at a few tips that might help in this week's MMO Family.

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Rise and Shiny revisit: Star Stable

Video, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, Casual, Roleplaying, Humor, First Impressions, Kids, Family, Rise and Shiny, Livestream

Star Stable screenshot
Sometimes you just need a place where you can chill out, jump on the back of your favorite four-legged friend, and go off on an adventure. During my week's revisit to Star Stable, I've simultaneously been researching zombie MMOs for an upcoming article, and after the third post-apocalyptic game filled with cursing juveniles, I had to cleanse myself by jumping back into the friendly, non-competitive world of Star Stable.

It's a world in which you'll play a young girl who is loaned a horse. It's your job to work your way through a series of linear, story-based quests until you pay the horse off, save the town from evil corporations, help build a bridge to a new area of the map, explore, make friends, join clubs, and take care of your horse. And fashion. Let's not forget fashion. It's hard for me to find fault in the game, at all. Seriously. That's because I'm playing the game exactly as it's meant to be played.

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The Stream Team: Star Stable with Beau and the developers

Video, Interviews, Previews, Opinion, Hands-On, Casual, Kids, Family, Livestream, The Stream Team

Star Stable screenshot
Do you ever ask yourself, "Where can I find an MMO that allows me to play as a little girl whose best friend is a horse?" If so, when seek no more because today Beau has on tap the developers from Star Stable, a cutesy horse-based MMO brought to you by World of HorseCraft AB. If you want to ask questions, join us in the chat room. We promise you haven't see an MMO like this before!

Game: Star Stable
Host: Beau
Date: Monday, November 4th, 2013
Time: 4:00 p.m. EST

Enjoy our Steam Team video below.

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Funcom opens LEGO Minifigures Online beta registration

Betas, Previews, News Items, Kids, Family, Miscellaneous

I guess you can savor the... buildup.
If you still have sleepless nights mourning the loss of LEGO Universe, the announcement of LEGO Minifigures Online was like a ray of sunshine. For that portion of the audience -- and anyone else really looking forward to playing in a brick-based playground -- today's news will be even more welcome. Funcom has opened a registration site for players interested in taking part in the game's beta, with the first phase scheduled to start in... early November. Yes, it is early November right now; we told you it was good news.

The gameplay focus will be familiar to anyone with a love of LEGO toys. Collect minifigures with unique abilities, collect bricks, and build new things to improve your abilities and learn new tricks. Cross-promotions are also planned with bagged minifigures, allowing you to jump in with your collected figures right off the bat. Go ahead and sign up for the beta if this sounds like just your cup of brick-based play.

[Source: Funcom press release]

MMO Family: Good video games or bad mind games?

MMO Industry, Opinion, Kids, MMO Family, Family, Miscellaneous

MMO Family  Good video games, or bad mind games
The video game industry suffers from an uncomfortable balance. On one hand, it's a business, and the best way to make money is to keep players playing. On the other are the methods that go into getting people playing -- and paying. From the bottom-feeding tactics of Zynga's FarmVille to the more subtle methods we see in MMOs through cash shops and microtransactions, studios are employing a variety of mind games to nudge players to open their wallets.

It's one thing to market to adults, who (in theory) are mature enough to make wise decisions on how much to spend on gaming. But kids are a growing percentage of the playerbase and might not be as savvy when it comes to smart spending. NPR took a look at the marketing side of gaming, in an article called How video games are getting inside your head -- and wallet. It raises some meaningful questions about video games and children, which we'll look at in this week's MMO Family.

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