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First Impressions

Massively's hands-on with EVE Valkyrie on the Oculus Rift DK2

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Culture, Events (Real-World), Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, New Titles, Previews, PvP, News Items, Opinion, Hands-On, Casual, First Impressions, Events (Massively's Coverage), MOBA, Star Citizen, Elite: Dangerous

Elite: Dangerous title image
At last year's EVE Fanfest, the press and attendees got a rare glimpse into something other than CCP's major IPs -- a virtual reality tech demo produced by a handful of developers during their down time. Originally codenamed EVR, this VR dogfighter on the original Oculus Rift development kit drew a surprising amount of attention and went on to win several awards at E3. It's now been a year since that project first sprouted legs, and last week at EVE Fanfest 2014 it sprouted wings as well.

Now named EVE Valkyrie, what started as a side-project has become one of CCP's key intellectual properties and the poster-child for virtual reality gaming. The game's success now ultimately relies on the adoption of VR tech and the appeal of its gameplay, both of which are still open questions at this point. I got some hands-on time with the latest build of Valkyrie during Fanfest to see how the game and the technology that powers it have come along in the past year, and I was pleasantly surprised.

Read on to find out how Valkyrie has changed in the past year and for a first look at the new Oculus Rift Development Kit 2.

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Rust, H1Z1, and the emerging 'survival MMO' genre

Betas, Opinion, Virtual Worlds, First Impressions, Post-Apocalyptic, Sandbox, H1Z1

I'm naked and alone again, but that's OK. After having to level up in other games a million times, deal with boring tutorials, repeatedly turn in quests that add no value to my play time, and then watch as my guild slowly bleeds members to the next MMO asking us to repeat the whole ordeal, "naked and alone" is actually nice. Well, maybe just the naked part.

And that, my friends, is the horror-survival/post-apocalypse genre. I love MMOs, but recent themeparks and building games have left me wanting something a bit more dangerous but still not a pointless murderfest. For the most part, these games are less about levels and quests and more about finding items to make sure you don't die. Hunger meters, diseases, and limited supplies in a world filled with enemies who loot you certainly feels like a good throwback to classic RPGs mixed with the multiplayer I've been craving since Asheron's Call first hooked me on MMORPGs.

But community-wise, these games have seemed more like lobby shooters than MMOs, which for a long time made me hesitate to try them. If you've been finding yourself in the same situation, hopefully my little plunge into this bloody genre will give you some ideas of what to expect.

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EVE Fanfest 2014: Project Legion brings DUST 514 to the PC

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Events (Real-World), Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, New Titles, PvP, News Items, PvE, Consoles, MMOFPS, First Impressions, Events (Massively's Coverage), DUST 514, Dev Diaries, Sandbox

One of the main complaints about DUST 514 since its announcement was the fact that the game was a PlayStation 3 exclusive. DUST was CCP's first attempt to break into the massive console shooter market and its first game to use the free-to-play business model, but things didn't exactly go to plan. The millions of console gamers CCP expected to flood into New Eden failed to materialise, reviews were mixed at best, and DUST quietly fell off the console radar. Players have been asking for a PC release ever since, as the game's unique connection with the EVE Online universe could potentially make it popular with existing EVE players.

If you've been hoping for DUST on the PC, your prayers may have just been answered. A few hours ago at EVE Fanfest 2014, CCP demonstrated a prototype of something it calls Project Legion -- an attempt to bring DUST 514's shooter gameplay to the PC but with all-new sandbox gameplay. The project is extremely early in development, but CCP was able to put together a concept demo for Fanfest attendees showing how the game will work. Most of the demo was a slick UI and transition into a DUST planetary environment which has had its graphics significantly improved. DUST 514 is severely limited by the specs of the PS3, so Legion's being on PC means it should actually still look that good when deployed.

In addition to signing up for mercenary contracts, players will be able to scan the entire EVE universe for open sandbox salvage zones where resources have been found. These planets have no pre-defined missions, victory conditions, or teams; instead, they're free-for-all PvE zones with open-world PvP, and CCP hopes that this will promote the same kind of emergent gameplay as is seen in EVE. It won't be a true sandbox until you can stab someone in the back, CCP announced to a pleased audience. Little else is known about the project, and the announcement has raised some pretty big questions. Will Legion link in with the EVE universe in any way like DUST? And what will happen to DUST 514 on PS3 if Legion takes off?

Whether you're a die-hard fan of internet spaceships or just a gawker on the sidelines, EVE Fanfest is the EVE Online event of the year (and the key source of new DUST 514 and EVE Valkyrie scoops!). Follow Massively's Brendan Drain as he reports back on this year's Fanfest starpower, scheming, and spoilers from exotic Reykjavik, Iceland.

EVE Evolved: Six years of EVE Evolved

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Culture, Expansions, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, PvP, PvE, Opinion, Massively Meta, Hands-On, First Impressions, EVE Evolved, DUST 514, Guides, Sandbox, Anniversaries, Subscription, MMORPG

EVE Evolved title image
Six years ago to this exact day, I joined the Massively crew and published the first edition of this column dedicated to the ins and outs of EVE Online. The column has been home to over 300 featured articles since its creation, offering everything from guides and expansion reveals to opinion pieces, fiction, and tales of real in-game events. It's been my pleasure in the past six years to offer the Massively readers a digestible glimpse into the ordinarily somewhat impenetrable world of EVE Online and to introduce new players to the only game (other than Master of Orion II) that's managed to keep me hooked for over a decade.

It's been a fantastic year to be a fan of EVE Online, with CCP announcing its long-term vision for deep space colonisation and the game being revitalised through the Odyssey and Rubicon expansions. I've had the opportunity to explore both expansions in this column and to share some hands-on experience with DUST 514 and CCP's upcoming dogfighter EVE Valkyrie. There's been no shortage of opinion pieces this year either, with articles on everything from PvP consequences and twitch controls to whether Star Citizen and Elite are a threat to the sandbox giant.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I round up the best articles from the column's sixth year of operation in one place.

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PAX East 2014: Can World of Warcraft's garrisons live up to the hype?

World of Warcraft, Betas, Fantasy, Expansions, Game Mechanics, Previews, PvE, Opinion, Hands-On, First Impressions, Events (Massively's Coverage), Housing

Like many players, I have very mixed feelings about the garrisons being added to World of Warcraft's latest expansion, Warlords of Draenor. At this year's PAX East, I sat down with Blizzard Entertainment to discuss the feature, and the studio reps explained garrisons as a way for Blizzard to bring a bit of Warcraft into the WoW universe. As a fan of WarCraft 3, I left the interview feeling hopeful and excited. But the more I thought about it, the more I began to worry that garrisons will boil down to one of three things: an expanded version of Mists of Pandaria's farms, a new daily quest hub, or just another time-sink that will keep players isolated from one another.

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PAX East 2014: First impressions of Warlords of Draenor

World of Warcraft, Betas, Fantasy, Game Mechanics, Opinion, First Impressions, Events (Massively's Coverage), Subscription

One thing I'll definitely give Blizzard, they do a great job of modeling slope-browed drooling ogres.  I don't know if that is exactly a compliment.
The biggest problem that Warlords of Draenor is facing right now is one of first impressions.

This isn't a mark against World of Warcraft so much as it's the nature of the beast. I wrote a while back about how World of Warcraft can't really be back, all things considered; it's too firmly a part of the establishment to ever shake the image that it's created over the past several years. You know what it is. You know how it plays. Odds are good that you've played it.

Warlords of Draenor also features no new races, no new classes, no overhaul of the talent system, and in the build I got to play, very few of the new models. That's where the first impression problem crops up. A lot of the things that are being baked into the expansion just don't show up at first glance. That isn't to say that the first glance is bad, just that it overwhelmingly sends the message of "this is still World of Warcraft; no need for elaboration."

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Massively's Elder Scrolls Online launch diary: Day five - The (early) verdict

Fantasy, Game Mechanics, Launches, MMO Industry, New Titles, News Items, PvE, Hands-On, First Impressions, Crafting, The Elder Scrolls Online, Subscription

Elder Scrolls Online Harborage
Is it Friday already? Huh. This launch week has gone by fast, which I guess is a good sign for ZeniMax since time flies when you're having fun.

My fifth day in Elder Scrolls Online was a bit more subdued than the previous four. I'm currently floating around Glenumbra between levels 12 and 13, waiting on my healer and tanker friends to catch up so that we can run Spindleclutch, also known as ESO's first proper Daggerfall Covenant PvE dungeon. There are numerous public crypts available for exploration and pillage prior, but Spindleclutch is the first big-boy boss-based four-man.

But I didn't feel like pugging it last night, so instead I started crafting.

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Massively's Elder Scrolls Online launch diary: Day four - PvP

Fantasy, Game Mechanics, Launches, MMO Industry, New Titles, PvP, Opinion, Hands-On, First Impressions, The Elder Scrolls Online, Subscription

ESO - PvP mages in a keep
My fourth day In The Elder Scrolls Online didn't start until well after 3:00 p.m. thanks to the North American megaserver going down in the wee watches of Wednesday morning and remaining down for several hours.

When it came back up, the first thing I did was load into Doshia's Lair outside Daggerfall with a pickup group that intended to finish a Fighter's Guild quest called Anchors From the Harbour. Unfortunately none of us could see the others' avatars inside the instance, so after several attempts at reloading and relogging, we abandoned ship [Ed. note: Yes it's a solo quest, which wasn't in any way made clear to the group trying to enter it!].

While additional data like this has caused me to reassess my earlier observations about ESO's smooth (pre-)launch, it hasn't affected my overall enjoyment of the game. In fact, ESO would need quite a few more bugs and several more days of downtime to qualify as a "bad" launch. If you disagree, well, I question how many MMO launches you've actually experienced.

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Massively's Elder Scrolls launch diary: Day three - Questing, story, and more

Fantasy, Game Mechanics, Launches, MMO Industry, New Titles, PvE, Opinion, Hands-On, First Impressions, The Elder Scrolls Online, Subscription

ESO Betnikh ship
I'm just about to level 10 as the sun sets on day three of my Elder Scrolls Online pre-launch experience. After plenty of decisional paralysis on Sunday, I settled on a Redguard Nightblade and spent Monday and Tuesday leveling him through Stros M'kai, Betnikh, and the city of Daggerfall.

Now I'm working my way northeast through the wilds of Glenumbra, stopping occasionally to assist the citizens of Deleyn's Mill and clean up the Vale of the Guardians.

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Massively's Elder Scrolls launch week diary: Day one

Fantasy, Game Mechanics, Launches, MMO Industry, New Titles, PvE, Opinion, Hands-On, First Impressions, The Elder Scrolls Online, Subscription

Elder Scrolls Online skyshard
Like any proper Tamrielian title, The Elder Scrolls Online starts you off in chains. This isn't the boat-bound incarceration of Morrowind, though, or the relative comfort of Oblivion's initial Imperial lockup. This is the Wailing Prison, an otherworldly abyss stocked with iron maidens, soulless inmates, and a spectral Prophet who sounds a lot like Albus Dumbledore.

Don't worry, though; ZeniMax didn't blow its budget on Michael Gambon or the rest of ESO's A-list voice cast. This is a fairly deep game, and it also does a surprisingly decent job of translating 20 years' worth of single-player sandbox history into a mass market MMORPG.

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Hands-on with TUG, The Untitled Game

Betas, Fantasy, Economy, Events (In-Game), Game Mechanics, Previews, PvP, Opinion, Hands-On, First Impressions, Sandbox, Crafting, Crowdfunding, Player-Generated Content, MMORPG, Buy-to-Play

In my youth, my father handed me nails, wood, and a hammer and told me to build whatever I wanted. I managed to create swollen fingers and a few tangled heaps of wood and nails. Nerd Kingdom is a lot like my father, but instead of wood, the studio is handing me TUG, or as I like to call it, everything.

TUG is a sandbox RPG akin to Landmark or Minecraft, but something about TUG is different. Maybe it's the development team that contains working titles like Economist or Behavioral Scientist. Or perhaps it's the data-driven design philosophy, which claims to deliver a better experience by analyzing how we play. Regardless, it's clear that Nerd Kingdom is attempting to give us more tools to create, both for the players in game and the modders outside of it.

My recent demo, interview, and hands-on session showed me how TUG will unlock the creator's imagination -- with fewer swollen fingers.

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First Impressions: Nosgoth is all right, but that might not be enough

Betas, Fantasy, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Free-to-Play, MMOFPS, First Impressions

Protip: Vampires are allergic to fire.
Let me begin with a somewhat tortured analogy: Nosgoth is sort of like discovering an obscure bit of British nobility of dubious importance. Those intimately familiar with the relevant lineage will be somewhat perplexed by this stranger, who is not really at all what they expected. Everyone else will just see someone showing up in a crowded field without a whole lot to say.

In a way, that would almost be easier, since then you could just write it off altogether. It's just not terribly unique.

Nosgoth is the sequel to the long-running Legacy of Kain series, which eventually moved over into the Soul Reaver series and kind of petered out in 2004 or so. A lot of people really enjoyed it, and there have been rumors about another sequel coming out pretty much forever. Instead of being an in-depth RPG, however, Nosgoth is a class-based asymmetrical shooter. So it's not really as much a sequel as it is a thorough pillaging of an existing IP layered onto another sort of game altogether.

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Hands-on with MOBA Dawngate's closed beta

Betas, Fantasy, Game Mechanics, Previews, PvP, Opinion, Hands-On, First Impressions, MOBA

Dawngate Karma
Dawngate. Another day, another MOBA, right? So why bother with this one? What does it do differently? What does it do better? Why play this over something else? I can't be the only gamer asking these questions, especially in such an oversaturated market, so I spent my weekend playing EA's Dawngate closed beta for that very reason. Here's how it all works.

When entering a match, you'll choose your character and then your preferred role to help coordinate with your group. This isn't just an "I'm going to jungle" icon; it actually provides you certain benefits for playing your role correctly. For example, a "hunter" does bonus damage to jungle NPCs and is healed for a portion of their total health after you kill them.

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Hitting the Mark: Turbine's sublime Rohan recreation in Lord of the Rings Online

Fantasy, Lord of the Rings Online, Expansions, Game Mechanics, Lore, MMO Industry, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, First Impressions

Lord of the Rings Online - Riders of Rohan
I've written before about my on-again-off-again love affair with Lord of the Rings Online, and after finally getting my launch-day character to Rohan a few weeks ago, I think it's most definitely on again.

Yeah, I'm still a sandbox fan first and foremost, and yeah, LotRO is still a dyed-in-the-wool nod to the World of Warcraft school of linear MMO development. But it's got a pleasing topcoat of Tolkien paint that often masks the pedestrian mechanics, and nowhere is this more evident than in the Riders of Rohan and Helm's Deep expansions.

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Hands-on with the Elite: Dangerous alpha

Betas, Sci-Fi, Galleries, Screenshots, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, New Titles, News Items, PvE, Hands-On, First Impressions, Sandbox, Crowdfunding, Elite: Dangerous

Elite: Dangerous alpha test
I don't have much history with Elite. I played the original, circa 1985 on my dad's green monochrome Apple II, but frankly I didn't understand a bit of it and subsequently went back to Sundog and subLOGIC's fledgling wireframe Flight Simulator as a result.

By the time Elite II and Frontier: First Encounters shipped in the early to mid 1990s, I was already losing copious amounts of my adolescence to Wing Commander, Privateer, and X-Wing, all of them of course indebted to the space trading flight sim thing that David Braben and Ian Bell published a decade earlier. For all intents and purposes, then, I'm an Elite virgin despite a lifetime of playing nearly everything in the genre it inspired.

And if the Elite: Dangerous alpha client is an accurate barometer, gosh have I missed out.

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