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Free Realms

One Shots: You won't believe what color this horse is

Screenshots, EverQuest II, Culture, One Shots, Free Realms, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Miscellaneous, The Elder Scrolls Online

Let's start our time together today by playing a game! The game is this: You have until you hit the "continue reading" button to figure out what color this horse (well, technically a unicorn) is. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

This picture comes from reader Becca: "Here is my EverQuest 2 Fury, Sarense, riding her mighty steed. I spent a few hours grinding out candy hearts to get this mount, which shoots hearts out of his eyes and hooves (unfortunately not captured here). He's a hardcore stallion. Look at his cocky stare. He knows that you know he's a badass."

My apologies in advance for our colorblind readers who think that this game is unfair. I'll tell you the answer to be fair: It's purple. Shh! Don't tell the rest of our readers, OK?

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The Stream Team: Goodbye, Free Realms

Fantasy, Video, Events (In-Game), Free-to-Play, Massively Meta, Hands-On, Free Realms, Livestream, The Stream Team, Sunsets, MMORPG

The Stream Team: Good-bye, Free Realms
Since 2009, Free Realms has entertained children and adults with go-kart racing, playing trading card games, and of course, being a ninja. Unfortunately, even the good MMOs must end. Join Massively's Larry Everett and his son at 7:30 p.m. EDT as they take one more lap around Free Realms and maybe catch one more demolition derby.

Game: Free Realms
Host: Larry Everett
Date: Monday, March 31st, 2014
Time: 7:30 p.m. EDT

Enjoy our Stream Team video below.

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Today's your last chance to play Free Realms and Clone Wars Adventures

Fantasy, Sci-Fi, MMO Industry, News Items, Free-to-Play, Browser, Casual, Free Realms, Kids, Clone Wars Adventures, Sunsets

Clone Wars Adventures main cast
Per SOE's announcement last January, today is your final opportunity to play its Free Realms and Clone Wars Adventures MMOs. If you can't play, be sure to join Massively's Larry Everett for a farewell stream later tonight.

Ten things to do in Free Realms before it's gone

Fantasy, Screenshots, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Trading Card Games, Virtual Worlds, Free Realms, Family, Guides, Sunsets

Free Realms
Free Realms is set to close down at the end of this month, and despite the fact that the game is aimed toward players much younger than I am, I'm going to miss it.

When the game first launched, my two oldest daughters and I played religiously. It was an easy way for us to interact and play together when I was away, and they spent a sizable chunk of their allowances on pets, mounts, and housing items over the years.

So I've decided to honor Free Realms with this article detailing a few things you can do in the game before it's gone forever.

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Jukebox Heroes: Top 40 MMO themes, #30-21

Aion, Pirates of the Burning Sea, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, The Secret World, Free Realms, Mabinogi, Wizard101, EverQuest Next, Miscellaneous, The Elder Scrolls Online, Jukebox Heroes, Age of Wushu, Music

We're back with our second part of our Top 40 MMO main themes countdown, this time digging into the middle of the pack. To repeat my self-imposed rules for this list: I limited myself to just one theme from a particular title, even if there were multiple themes in a game. Entries had to be a main theme or the closest equivalent of that; they had to be from MMOs, not from MOBAs; and I had to divorce my weighting of the track itself from the popularity of and my experience with that game. So there were no points added or subtracted based on my love of the game; I'm counting down the best music, period.

If you missed the first part, check out themes #40-31. Otherwise, hit that continue button and get listening already!

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The Game Archaeologist: The care and feeding of older MMOs

Asheron's Call, Dark Age of Camelot, EverQuest, Guild Wars, Meridian 59, MMO Industry, Opinion, Ultima Online, Vanguard, Free Realms, The Game Archaeologist, Miscellaneous, Sunsets

When an MMO has reached a certain age and dwindled to a certain player population, what do you do with it? Do you put it out to pasture, nurture it, or put it down?

With some of our older graphical MMOs approaching their 20th anniversaries, the question of what studios should do with aging titles is becoming very important. It's not just important for the games in question but as a precedent to the population of games that will one day become just as old.

Lately we've seen different studios act on this topic in a wide variety of ways, all of which I find fascinating. Some of these games have seen tragic ends, while others may be entering into the enjoyable golden years. If nothing else, it's shown me that there isn't just one set answer for this and that some devs are hoping to do the right thing by their companies and their players.

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The Stream Team: Rockin' it out in Free Realms

Fantasy, Video, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, Free Realms, Kids, Livestream, The Stream Team, Sunsets

The Stream Team: Rockin' it out in Free Realms
Massively's Larry Everett and his son Zach want to get some time into Free Realms before it shuts down. Join them at 7:00 p.m. EST as they tour their favorite places and play their favorite minigames in SOE's kid-focused MMORPG. Hop in the game with them if you'd like; maybe they can get a full demolition derby team together!

Game: Free Realms
Host: Larry Everett
Date: Tuesday, February 18th, 2014
Time: 7:00 p.m. EST

Enjoy our Stream Team video below.

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Former Free Realms lead outlines the dangers of metric-based design

Business Models, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, News Items, Free-to-Play, Free Realms

Free Realms
GamesIndustry.biz has published an interesting think-piece featuring SOE's Laralyn McWilliams. McWilliams, former creative lead on Free Realms, says that free-to-play firms relying heavily on metrics to define their development roadmap may come up short.

"There's no measuring spoon for love. You can't quantify it," McWilliams explained to a Casual Connect Europe audience. "Retention is not the same as happiness." She went to detail how metrics can contribute to an illusion of control and confidence on the part of developers when in reality, "the point is that it's a mix of logic and emotion that goes into our decisions as game designers. That's why we can never design by metrics."

Jukebox Heroes: Free Realms' soundtrack

Fantasy, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Free Realms, Kids, Jukebox Heroes, Music

Free Realms
There's something about the announcement of a game's closure that draws tons of interest to that MMO, the type of interest that it frankly needed long before now, not a few minutes too late. Even so, I had Free Realms on my to do list for a while now and figured that spending an hour with its score was something that needed to be done.

Free Realms had had a lot of fingers in its musical pie, including those belonging to Tracy W. Bush, Atli Örvarsson, David Raiklen, and Aaron Kaplan. As a score, it's very reminiscent of The Sims franchise's soundtracks: whimsical, childlike, and quite light on pounding percussion. The many minigames and themed zones probably demanded a good variety of motifs to be developed.

It's a very good score overall although not as wide on variety as I would typically like. Let's give this game the musical send-off it deserves!

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Free for All: Thoughts on SOE's mass MMO sunset

Fantasy, Screenshots, Opinion, Vanguard, Free-to-Play, Casual, Free Realms, Kids, Free for All, Clone Wars Adventures, Wizardry Online

Free Realms screenshot
Sony Online Entertainment recently announced the upcoming closure of not one or two but four of its titles. Those titles are Free Realms, Clone Wars Adventures, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, and Wizardry Online. The announcement hit most of us pretty hard, even those who weren't active or interested players. Four titles just feels much more like a move of desperation than one or even two games. And for players like yours truly, MMOs like Free Realms and especially Vanguard hold a very special place in our hearts.

Having said that, I will never wager solely on perception. It's my guess that SOE does indeed know what it is doing and that some of this is due to licensing issues, new games from similar developers, or an attempt to streamline an already fat lineup in order to get ready for one or two massive new titles. In other words, there is no conspiracy. It's most likely that this decision was due to boring old business.

I decided to break down what each game meant to me in the hopes that the confessional will get me ready for the upcoming sunsets. Here's to hoping.

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SOE shuttering Vanguard, Clone Wars, Free Realms, and Wizardry [Updated]

Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Business Models, MMO Industry, News Items, Vanguard, Free-to-Play, Free Realms, Wizardry Online, Sunsets

SOE logo
SOE is closing down four of its MMOs. Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures and Free Realms will close on March 31st. Vanguard and Wizardry Online will bow out on July 31st.

"At Sony Online Entertainment, we are always evaluating our portfolio to ensure we're providing players with the best gameplay experiences," the company said via press release. "At times, as part of this commitment, we have to make the difficult decision to sunset a game so we can refocus our resources on other areas in the best interest of our company and player community."

SOE CEO John Smedley will be fielding questions on Reddit at 6:00 p.m. EST. We'll update you with the link when it's live.

[Update]: Smedley's Reddit AMA

SOE considering an one-subscription-covers-all plan for $14.99 a month

Fantasy, Sci-Fi, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Business Models, Economy, Vanguard, Free-to-Play, Free Realms, DC Universe Online, EverQuest Next, PlanetSide 2, Dragon's Prophet, Wizardry Online, Subscription

SOE President John Smedley took to Reddit today to address the "fear, uncertainty, and doubt" that's been swirling about regarding the subscription changes made to its games, most notably PlanetSide 2 and EverQuest II. While he lists several reasons why the studio is doing this, the main reason is a big change in the works: SOE is considering implementing a one-subscription-covers-all plan moving forward.

"We are considering (and are likely going to move forward with) a plan that means if you subscribe to one of our games you are a subscriber to all our games (this applies to PC titles only, by the way) all for the current $14.99 a month," Smedley wrote. "That's a benefit most companies simply can't offer because they don't have our portfolio of games. The goal would be to let you pick an item in each game you play."

He implied that this plan will also cover EverQuest Next Landmark and EverQuest Next. Other reasons for the subscription change include helping players buy larger items on the marketplace, internal issues regarding people stockpiling Station Cash, and disparity between computer and console promotions.

For a more in-depth look at the subscription plan changes, read our recent Norrathian Notebook column.

Next SOE Live hits Vegas August 14 - 17, 2014

Fantasy, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Events (Real-World), MMO Industry, News Items, Vanguard, Free-to-Play, Free Realms, DC Universe Online, EverQuest Next, PlanetSide 2, Dragon's Prophet

If you're still kicking yourself for missing the big reveals of SOE Live 2013, you've got plenty of time to make preparations for next year's convention. Mark your 2014 calendars for August 14th through the 17th; that's when fans from the whole arsenal of SOE games will descend upon Las Vegas to mingle with devs, participate in contests and tournaments, attend player and dev panels, and catch reveals of upcoming content in their favorite games. SOE Live 2014 will also features access to beta programs as well as plenty of in-game and real world swag.

The annual fan convention will return to Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, and tickets will be available for purchase in early 2014. Additional information will be forthcoming later, but you can catch the reveal trailer below.

[Source: SOE press release]

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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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SOE president 'can't wait' to see EverQuest Next on PS4

Fantasy, MMO Industry, New Titles, News Items, Free-to-Play, Consoles, Free Realms, DC Universe Online, EverQuest Next, PlanetSide 2, MMORPG

EverQuest Next
In an interview with GamerHubTV, Sony Online Entertainment president John Smedley hinted at a PlayStation 4 release for the studio's next big MMO, EverQuest Next. Smedley was coy on the details, explaining, "We haven't announced technically that we're putting it on the PlayStation 4, but it's fair to say that we're a Sony company, so I say that with a smile on my face. Can't wait to see it on PS4."

Smedley cited the PS4's eight gigs of ram and connection to the PlayStation Network as major strengths for the SOE development team, claiming that developing for PS4 is like "developing on a really super high-end PC." SOE is no stranger to console MMOs; the studio brought both DC Universe Online and Free Realms to PlayStation 3 and is porting both DCUO and PlanetSide 2 to PS4 with the former already live.

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