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Free Realms

Some Assembly Required: Player-generated content at SOE Live

EverQuest, EverQuest II, Events (Real-World), Game Mechanics, Vanguard, Free-to-Play, Roleplaying, Free Realms, Events (Massively's Coverage), DC Universe Online, EverQuest Next, Some Assembly Required, PlanetSide 2, Sandbox, Housing

Some Assembly Required  SOE Live in a nutshell  PGC lives! and so do I
By now, everyone has made it home from SOE Live... yes, even that one fellow who kept disappearing, seduced by the one-armed bandit. As my first foray into the annual self-described "family reunion," I wasn't sure what to expect. I'd hoped there would be some news to pass along. If nothing else, a tidbit or two about any title -- be it EverQuest II, PlanetSide 2, or DC universe Online -- would justify my trip out there to me. But what I got wasn't just some news; it was great news!

Although the lights of Vegas are fading from memory, the hope for player-generated content burns brighter than before. From keynote addresses to panels to interviews, Sony Online Entertainment's focus on emergent game play and various sandbox features showed a dedication to gaming beyond just the hack-and-slash treadmill grind. Can we hear a hallelujah?

With so much news coming out of the convention, there wasn't time or space to do much more than just report on the facts. Here, I have the opportunity to sum things up and even add my own impressions of the event! I might even toss in an anecdote or two to illustrate what made this such an incredible experience that I am hooked and will return each year.

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MMO Family: What Free Realms and Clone Wars Adventures should borrow from the SOE stable

Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Casual, Free Realms, MMO Family, Clone Wars Adventures

MMO Family  What Free Realms and Clone Wars Adventures should borrow from other SOE games
There was a lot of news at last week's SOE Live, and both Clone Wars Adventures and Free Realms had big announcements as well. The two games have seen a burst of new content and game updates over the past few months, and from what we learned last week, that rapid pace is going to continue.

Over the past year or so, we've seen an increase in the cross-over of ideas among the various SOE titles, and the announcement of Player Studio in several MMOs is just the latest example of a shift towards centralizing things. With all of the news about upcoming titles and new approaches to future design, there's plenty that could work well in Free Realms and Clone Wars Adventures (and in kid-friendly MMOs in general!)

In this week's MMO Family, let's look at what Free Realms and CWA could borrow from other SOE MMOs.

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SOE Live 2012: An exclusive look at the future of Free Realms

Fantasy, Interviews, MMO Industry, News Items, Free-to-Play, Consoles, Free Realms, Events (Massively's Coverage), Kids, Family

SOE Live 2012  An exclusive look at the future of Free Realms
SOE Live might be over and done, but it wouldn't be complete without news from one of SOE's kid-friendly titles, Free Realms! The game's been around for three years, but it hasn't showed any signs of slowing down. In fact, over the past year, the game has seen new areas, new minigames, and even a special world event in Shrouded Glade.

The dust is still settling in Sunstone Valley, yet the team announced even more new additions coming to the game in the near future. Along with it is a new philosophy aimed at making Free Realms more social and designed around what the players wish to see in game. Free Realms Producer Clint Worley sat down with Massively to give us all the details. Grab a slice of vampire cake and check out the highlights below!

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SOE Live 2012: Building your business and selling homes with Player Studio

Fantasy, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Economy, Events (Real-World), Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Free-to-Play, Free Realms, Interviews (Massively's), Events (Massively's Coverage), Housing

SOE Live 2012  Building your business and selling homes with Player Studio
We've all had that moment. In your mind's eye, you see the perfect item; whether you are a decorator or adventurer, you've imagined that one item that would look perfect in your EverQuest II house or on your EverQuest character. But alas, since you aren't on the development team, your awesome idea could not be realized. That was then; this is now. With the new Player Studio announced last month, that idea can not only come to fruition but net you some cold hard cash as well.

So how does one transition from imaginer to bustling entrepreneur? Devs hosted a panel at SOE Live 2012 that discussed the steps of getting an item from your mind's eye out into the Marketplace for others to buy and enjoy. But what if instead of imagining new items, you take existing items and create incredible displays that are the envy of others? Devs announced a feature that will allow decorators to fully furnish a home, bundle it up, and offer it for sale via the Marketplace as well.

After the informative panel, I caught up with Producer Holly Longdale and director of of the EQ franchise Dave Georgeson to uncover even more details about the opportunities available with Player Studio.

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The Tattered Notebook: Seven highlights from SOE Fan Faire history

EverQuest, EverQuest II, Opinion, Free Realms, Legends of Norrath, DC Universe Online, The Tattered Notebook, EverQuest Next, PlanetSide 2

The Tattered Notebook  7 highlights from Fan Faire history
There's just a couple of weeks left until this year's SOE Live, and players are all preparing for what should be a very busy convention with lots of game news. But for some of us, it's hard to get used to not calling it Fan Faire. The gathering has had a long past spanning more than a decade and more than a few memorable moments (some of them not fit to print!).

What happens in Vegas doesn't always stay in Vegas, and as fans get ready to once again descend upon Bally's, it's worth looking back at highlights from past Fan Faires. In this week's Tattered Notebook, we'll revisit a few of those memorable moments.

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SOE community webcast focuses on Player Studio

Fantasy, Video, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Business Models, Culture, Economy, Game Mechanics, News Items, Vanguard, Free-to-Play, Free Realms, Livestream

SOE livecast focuses on Player Studio
User-generated content is an awesome way to breathe life into games (and cash into your wallet, if you don't mind stretching that metaphor to the breaking point). Sony Online Entertainment's Player Studio has been generating interest since its introduction as a way for EverQuest, EverQuest II, Free Realms, and (eventually) Vanguard players to create and sell their own in-game items.

In response to that interest, SOE's most recent community webcast focuses the spotlight on the Player Studio, with input from Director of Artistic Development Joe Shoopack, Sr. Manager of E-Commerce Rick Reynolds, and Global Community Relations Director Linda Carlson. Together, they talk players through the idea of the Player Studio and its origins in the wealth of fanart and persistent excitement about the games involved, what sort of effort will go into making items, and the magical journey that a submission undertakes before it emerges as a full-fledged, purchasable asset.

While some of the initial item possibilities are still being nailed down, players can expect to be able to submit housing items, weapons, and shields for EQ, cloaks and housing items for EQII, and similar items for the other games.

Skip below the cut to let the pros speak for themselves.

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MMO Family: How kid-friendly games can treat MMO malaise

Opinion, Free Realms, Wizard101, MMO Family, Family, Clone Wars Adventures, Pirate101

MMO Family  How kidfriendly games can treat MMO malaise
Let's face it: It hasn't been a banner year for MMOs. We've witnessed disappointing launches, studio layoffs, and even studio meltdowns. There have been reports questioning whether MMOs are a good investment, and some studios have even signaled that they're shying away from traditional MMO development in the future.

With all of these dark clouds looming overhead, it's sometimes hard to stay cheerful about MMOs. But ironically, the kid-friendly genre might actually buck the trend. KingsIsle's launch of Pirate101 and SOE's recent updates to Clone Wars Adventures and Free Realms might help curb the malaise with a blend of old and new styles of gameplay. In this week's MMO Family we'll look at what's new with these titles and why kids both young and old have reason to celebrate.

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Jukebox Heroes: Whimsy and oddity

World of Warcraft, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Lord of the Rings Online, Warhammer Online, Guild Wars 2, Free Realms, Champions Online, Hello Kitty Online, Miscellaneous, Jukebox Heroes

Jukebox Heroes Whimsy and oddity
I have two big announcements today. The first is that Jukebox Heroes is switching from a bi-weekly to a weekly schedule, which should delight my 30 readers and cause an epidemic of indifference elsewhere. The second is that we're going to take a week off examining specific soundtracks to have a little fun with how silly MMO studios can get.

If you haven't figured it out already, this column is kind of a not-so-subtle outlet for sharing my MMO music collection with you. I don't have any firm method of collection other than I just acquire tracks that my ear tells me I'd like to hear again. So along the way, I've acquired a few oddball pieces that you probably won't find on any OST but that are notable enough to share.

In some cases, these tracks represent studios' attempts (successful or otherwise) to let down their hair and be humorous. In others, these songs are parodies or one-time special events. So let's take a sidebar to look at the whimsical and odd songs of gaming.

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Why I Play: Free Realms

Culture, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Casual, Virtual Worlds, Free Realms, Kids, Family, Sandbox, Crafting, Why I Play

Free Realms screenshot
Free Realms has been going really strong, as far as I can tell, since the beginning. I definitely remember the distinct buzz that came from the beta, and I remember bloggers and podcaster friends proclaiming that the game was going to go gangbusters. We MMOers often forget just what sort of impact certain titles have made on the market. As soon as these special titles are released into the world, we become used to them and often take them for granted.

Free Realms has always been one of those special titles. But think about it: We hear from it regularly but often forget to notice just how packed with players it can be and how much variety in gameplay it offers. In fact, Free Realms is probably one of the least appreciated sandboxes in the world of MMOs right now because it has been so successfully integrated into the MMOsphere.

Yes, I said sandbox. Yes, I'm serious. I'd go so far as to say that Free Realms is almost a perfectly designed sandbox, although some of its design is not for everyone. Like Mabinogi, another underappreciated open world of a game, Free Realms might turn off the typical sandbox aficionado, who might not like its graphics or young audience. That's unfortunate because the world of Free Realms is more vast that many of us think.

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Free Realms previews Sunstone Valley ahead of tomorrow's release

Fantasy, Video, Patches, Previews, Free-to-Play, Free Realms, Family

Free Realms previews Sunstone Valley ahead of tomorrow's release
Tomorrow will see a bigger Free Realms than ever before, as SOE is adding a new zone to the game: Sunstone Valley. To tide us over until the release, the studio released a video of Development Artist Misty Michelle giving us a sneak peek of the region.

In the video, Michelle delivers both concept art and a few brief clips of Sunstone's environs. "We definitely wanted to go with a new theme," she said, "something players haven't gotten to experience before."

Check out the video for yourself after the jump and let us know what you think!

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Free for All: Blasting through Clone Wars Adventures' new Carlac content

Sci-Fi, Screenshots, Video, Culture, Game Mechanics, Previews, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Casual, Free Realms, Kids, Free for All, Family, Clone Wars Adventures, Miscellaneous, Dungeons

Clone Wars Adventures screenshot
I love the Clone Wars animated telvesion series on Cartoon Network. So when I heard that Sony Online Entertainment was making the Clone Wars Adventures MMO using the Free Realms engine, I was more excited than a tween with an unscratched Station Cash card on Christmas. Finally I would be able to play in the world of the Clone Wars without having to venture into the lower digit channels!

Recently SOE released (somewhat quietly) a new area to explore and conquer. In the Carlac zone, players are tasked with defeating piles of Death Watch baddies and Pre Vizsla. Tune in past the break, where I'll defeat Pre myself!

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Free Realms showing off Sunstone Valley tomorrow

Fantasy, Previews, Free-to-Play, Free Realms, Kids, Family

Free Realms plans Sunstone Valley webcast
Two months ago, SOE gave players their first look at the Free Realms' new Sunstone Valley zone. But there's always a difference between eyeballing static pictures and seeing a game in action, isn't there? That's why the team is excited to give players a video tour tomorrow of this upcoming area.

Starting at 7:00 p.m. EDT on Thursday, August 30th, Free Realms developers will broadcast Sunstone Valley's features on Twitch TV. You'll need to be prompt, as the webcast is only expected to take 15 minutes.

Sunstone Valley is a rocky canyon that's home to a clan of uppity dwarves, a place called Wheelie Pete's, and the awesome Rumbledome.

MMO Family: Clone Wars Adventures' tale of two card games

Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Business Models, Game Mechanics, PvP, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Trading Card Games, Free Realms, Kids, MMO Family, Clone Wars Adventures

MMO Family  Clone Wars Adventures' Tale of Two Card Games
Even though Clone Wars Adventures is a kid-friendly MMO, I've always been a fan of the title, partially because it sort of came out of nowhere and launched soon after it was revealed and partially because it's done a terrific job of matching content and itemization with the TV series. The Darth Maul content update was a household favorite, particularly because the pint-sized players in the family got a chance at going face to face with one of Star Wars' major baddies after seeing him on the animated show. Talk about an epic moment for a CWA fan!

The most recent update, though, left me scratching my head a bit. Clone Wars Adventures has had a trading card game called Card Commander for quite a while. Recently, though, SOE added a completely new trading card game called Card Assault. What's the new game like, and why would an MMO have not one but two card games? This week's MMO Family will take a look at the new game and theorycraft on why we're neck deep in cards!

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MMO Blender: Larry's old-school 16-bit MMO

Game Mechanics, Opinion, Ultima Online, Guild Wars 2, Free Realms, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Miscellaneous, MMO Blender, Housing

MMO Blender Larry's old school 16bit
In August of 1991, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System launched in North America, kick-starting what would eventually be the biggest boom in console roleplaying games. Granted, some of us had been playing RPGs on consoles like the original NES, but RPGs didn't see as big a console boom as they did on the SNES. In fact, console RPGs haven't seen the same level of popularity since the SNES. A quick jump over to VGChartz shows us that out of the top 50 games sold world-wide on any individual console, RPGs on the SNES dominated the NES, the Playstation, and even the Nintendo DS, boasting titles like Dragon Quest VI, Final Fantasy III, and Super Mario RPG. If you take into account some adventure games that should be considered RPGs, like Super Metroid and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, then you have arguably the best platform of all time for the genre.

Nowadays, with online gaming and indie companies sprouting up all over the place, a 16-bit online RPG would probably sell really well, especially if it took some of the best elements from the classic console RPGs of the NES/SNES era. Isn't that right, Cthulhu Saves the World? Let's see what I can throw together from some of my favorite 8- and 16-bit games.

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Previously on MV TV: The week of June 30th

Betas, Fantasy, Horror, Video, City of Heroes, EVE Online, EverQuest II, New Titles, Previews, PvP, PvE, Opinion, Vanguard, Free-to-Play, The Secret World, Humor, Free Realms, Kids, World of Tanks, Family, Post-Apocalyptic, Guides, Livestream, Miscellaneous, MOBA, Previously on MV TV

Previously On banner
This week was another stellar week in gaming, despite the fact that many of us in the Massively offices were busy spending our holiday on the beach, together, hugging and shooting fireworks and remembering old times. We have had this tradition for the last 17 years, back when many of us were only in our tweens. Ah, good times. Massively good times.

What's that? You missed some of these killer streams that we worked so hard to bring you? It's all right; just follow past the cut to catch up on some of the best moments from the week. Also, be sure to bookmark our livestream schedule to see what we are doing next! This week, we have playtime with Mike as he heads into the blackness of EVE Online and then braves the battlefields of World of Tanks. MJ takes over from there and plays some The Secret World, EverQuest II, and City of Heroes and sees some good times in Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. Richie attacks stuff in the new MOBA SMITE, and I round things out by continuing to beat up the Gloam in Free Realms. Hurry up and die already so we can see the new area, Gloam!

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