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Family

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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MMO Family: First impressions of Ganz's Amazing World

Opinion, Free-to-Play, First Impressions, Kids, MMO Family, Family

WebKinz is one of the oldest kid-friendly MMOs around, and it still boasts a healthy community, long after other running titles have closed their doors. But Ganz Studio recently launched a new MMO that takes the WebKinz spirit and plants it in a colorful 3-D world. Amazing World combines cuteness with adventure and adds a more modern look and feel.

But is Amazing World really that amazing? In this week's MMO Family, we'll take a look and give some first impressions!

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MMO Family: Winter fun and cool cash in Roblox

Kids, MMO Family, Family, Miscellaneous, Sandbox

EverQuest Next Landmark might be generating a lot of buzz over the impressive creations that players are putting together, but Roblox has been doing it for years, and many of those creating are still in grade school. Indeed, Roblox has continued to improve the structure of the game and give players great tools to become amateur developers. Recently, the developers showed off those tools with a series of winter games. But the real excitement is found in their Developer Exchange system, which now allows arm-chair developers to earn up to $2,000 a month from the games they create.

Let's take a look at what Roblox has been up to this winter in this week's MMO Family.

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MMO Family: How to encourage reading through video games

Opinion, Kids, MMO Family, Family, Miscellaneous

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, author Christopher John Farley posited that literature can learn from the rise and success of video games. Polls reveal that families are increasingly concerned that their children aren't reading as much as they should. And they're right to be concerned because studies have shown that good reading habits are forged during childhood, and after age 12, it's extremely hard to get kids to read if they aren't big readers already.

Video games and literature seem an unlikely duo, but there some important ways that gaming can encourage reading. Let's explore this topic in this week's MMO Family.

(Photo credit: Tim Pierce)

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Norrathian Notebook: Preparing yourself for EQN Landmark

Opinion, Free-to-Play, Humor, The Tattered Notebook, Family, EverQuest Next, Sandbox, Norrathian Notebook

Whether you are a Founder who will access alpha or not, EverQuest Next Landmark is coming up on us like a bullet train; it will be here before you know it. As opposed to most games that stretch your anticipation out for years, this one is going from announcement to playable in less than six months -- if alpha does indeed make it out in January. Those who are opting for closed and open betas or even launch shouldn't have much longer to wait, either. I expect that those stages will maintain the same speed we've already seen, putting players into the game proper well before the next SOE Live.

So with the ultimate build-it-yourself sandbox on the horizon, the question is this: Are you ready? Have you got all your ducks in a row in order to best experience Landmark? Can you say you are all set to take advantage of those first minutes logged in? If not, I've got a few strategies, tips, and tricks to help you prepare for when the game goes live.

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Hearthstone promises fewer card changes in open beta

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

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

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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