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Heroes of the Storm is now in closed beta

Betas, Fantasy, News Items, Free-to-Play, MOBA

Your play skills, when carefully examined, show a marked status below a standard deviation from those of your peers!  And your mother is considered overweight by medical professionals!
If you've paid attention to the people in the early testing for Heroes of the Storm, you likely saw a lot of feedback that amounted to surprise that the game was just in alpha. Of course, a game that feels polished and fun in alpha testing is in a good spot, which is why it should come as no huge surprise that the title moved into closed beta yesterday. Players who wish to test and have not already opted in should be sure to do so, as beta invitations are being sent out regularly.

The team behind the game also took a moment to explain a bit more going on behind the scenes with character design by looking at Thrall -- specifically, looking at top-down design for Thrall as he exists within Heroes of the Storm and bottom-up design using Thrall's Warcraft III abilities as a starting point. It's an interesting look at how the same basic character could wind up inspiring two different designs in the end and well worth a glance if you're crossing your fingers for that closed invitation.

[Thanks, Dengar.]

Choose My Adventure: Air travel is not very safe in TERA

Fantasy, Polls, Expansions, PvE, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, Choose My Adventure, TERA, MMORPG

TERA
Massively multiplayer online games are collections of interlocking systems. A character's skills allow her to interact with the world, interacting with the world gives her experience points, experience points give her levels, levels give her skills, and so on. Inventory, items, professions, quests, and social interactions are also systems, layered on top of the core combat and gameplay mechanics.
When you have mastery over an MMO, you don't just have mastery over skill rotations; you have mastery over all of the systems underneath. By the time a normal person hits 60 in En Masse's TERA, for example, that person can probably tell the difference between good gear and bad gear, organize a character's inventory, and use the game's menus. This is the stuff you take for granted when you've been playing an MMO for weeks, months, or years.

Leaping into expansion content with a near-max-level character but little core game experience is, thus, not very smart. But I did it anyway, charging into TERA's Fate of Arun with a brand-new-yet-level-60 Castanic Warrior for Choose My Adventure.

It went okay.

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Black Desert readies sieges for January 17th

Fantasy, Trailers, Video, Game Mechanics, Previews, PvP, News Items, Free-to-Play, Sandbox, Black Desert

Avon calling!
Ready to lay siege to your enemies and take control of whatever strikes your fancy (as long as it's a castle) in Black Desert? The developers are getting ready to let players do just that. Sieges will be enabled on a single server on January 17th for a live test, and as long as nothing breaks horrendously, all servers will have the mechanics enabled on January 24th.

Each guild will be able to build two towers and one command center as part of the lead-in to the warfare; the last guild standing after a siege will take control of the castle and be the defenders during the next assault. Still no word has been offered on an exact date for a North American release, for those of you watching this with hungry eyes. You'll have to find out how the siege tests go from the sidelines.

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The Daily Grind: What is your favorite Marvel Heroes character?

Super-hero, Classes, Culture, Opinion, Free-to-Play, The Daily Grind, Marvel Heroes

marvel heroes
I have to say, Marvel Heroes preys relentlessly upon the weaknesses of an altoholic like myself. I want to collect and play all of the title's (currently) 43 characters, even though I could spend countless hours working on just one superhero to get him or her up to spec.

Squirrel Girl is my current favorite toon because what is better than ordering a horde of rampaging squirrels to overrun your enemy? Plus, she's very peppy and has all sorts of upbeat quips, unlike certain dour heroes that I could name. But I'm starting to branch out by playing other characters such as Rogue and Cable, so I am a long way away from declaring a winner.

If you play Marvel Heroes, what is your favorite character and why?

Every morning, the Massively bloggers probe the minds of their readers with deep, thought-provoking questions about that most serious of topics: massively online gaming. We crave your opinions, so grab your caffeinated beverage of choice and chime in on today's Daily Grind!

MapleStory 2's closed beta will have 3 PvP modes

Fantasy, MapleStory, Game Mechanics, New Titles, PvP, News Items, Free-to-Play

When MapleStory 2's closed beta doors open up in Korea from January 21st through the 25th, testers will be able to experience three different PvP modes. MMOCulture brings word of Nexon's recent update, which described these three modes, including 1v1, free-for-all, and PvPvE. Players level 30 and higher can engage in 1v1 battles in Red Coliseum or go for a reward for the most kills in Blood Mines free-for-all. The third mode, Shadow World, has no level restriction and pits players against mobs as well as players in a search for special treasures that aren't available anywhere in the open world.

RIFT plans improvements to dimensions and minions

Fantasy, Patches, Previews, Free-to-Play, RIFT, Dev Diaries, Housing

Two of RIFT's more popular systems, dimensions and minions, will be getting some major dev love when Patch 3.1 arrives.

In a new dev diary that went out yesterday, the team lays out a list of improvements for these systems. Dimensions will be getting a free-fly camera to allow for even more building precision, permissions options for visitors, ban lists, and -- prepare for this to blow your mind -- a bigger +1 button.

As for minions, players will have even more options in how they deploy these hard-working followers. The team is adding minion stamina potions, the ability to shuffle adventures, and the option to link to minions in the chat window.

Not So Massively: SMITE's tourney, Shadow Realms' do-over, Heroes of the Storm's new mode

Betas, Video, Bugs, Business Models, Events (Real-World), Events (In-Game), Game Mechanics, Previews, PvP, News Items, Free-to-Play, MMOFPS, Not So Massively, MOBA, Crowdfunding, Destiny, Elite: Dangerous, Infinite Crisis, Hearthstone, E-sports, OARPG

SMITE
Welcome back to No So Massively, where every Monday we round up the highlights from the past week in the world of MOBAs, roguelikes, MMOTCGs, and other games that aren't quite MMOs.

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Blade & Soul raid boss looks grumpy at its future prospects

Betas, Fantasy, Free-to-Play, Blade & Soul, Dungeons

blade and soul
Blade & Soul will soon have a new 24-person raid boss to fight, and if a teased poster is any indication, the big bad doesn't look happy at being at the bottom of a pile-on. However, it does look competent, as evidenced by all of the dead bodies at its feet.

MMO Culture reports that the raid will be tailored to include the upcoming Warlock class, although there are no other details or specifics to absorb at the moment. Until we know more, content yourself to gaze into the eyes of madness after the break and know that this beast holds the key to all of your loot dreams... at least if you're in Korea. The rest of us are still impatiently awaiting the game in the West.

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RuneScape debates auction halls on retro servers

Fantasy, Culture, News Items, RuneScape, Free-to-Play, Browser

Doing it like it used to be, but it's not.
The old school servers for RuneScape are something of a community experiment. Yes, the servers are meant to keep a classic feeling alive alongside the modern game, but they're also meant to be fun for the players. This is why the developers have opened up a thread for discussing whether or not to bring the Grand Exchange on to the old school servers, with a detailed explanation of the potential benefits and drawbacks.

Some of the features available in the Grand Exchange on the "main" version of the game would not necessarily be available on the old school site due to technical limitations. It would, however, replace the Trading Post while still leaving the game's normal trade interface untouched. If you're an old school gamer who wants to sound off on the matter, take a look at the thread and figure out what would best serve the community. That's why it's up for discussion, after all.

Rumor: World of Warcraft may be prepping a free 'veteran' edition

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Business Models, Free-to-Play, Rumors, Subscription

wow
World of Warcraft dataminers, while diving into the piles of information for the upcoming Patch 6.1, may have found game-changing evidence that the title is preparing a new free-to-play option.

The data files include several references to a "Veteran Edition," in a similar fashion to the already-existing Trial Edition, which allows players to level to 20 for free. The Veteran Edition has several limitations listed, including a level cap, money cap, and chat channel restrictions.

There's a lot of speculation going on right now as to whether or not the Veteran Edition will happen, and if it does what it will entail. MMO blogger Superior Realities theorizes that WoW will allow subscription-lapsed accounts to continue playing with the above restrictions.

[Thanks to Tyler for the tip!]

SMITE world champions receive million dollar prize, new character revealed

Fantasy, Video, News Items, Free-to-Play, MOBA

They clicked more things the best.
Tempted to proclaim yourself the best SMITE player in the world? Unless you are one of these five people, there is now demonstrable evidence that you are not on top. The first World Championship for SMITE is over, and the team known as Cognitive Prime has taken home the title and half of the $2.6 million prize pool. Worldwide viewers for the stream over the weekend came out to 78,000 people, which doesn't quite compare to the turnouts at better-known competitive gaming championships like League of Legends. But SMITE's prize pool was larger than the pools for any LoL tournament; in fact, it's the third largest e-sports prize pool ever, behind Dota 2's The International tourney's 2013 and 2014 pools.

Coinciding with tournament was the reveal of SMITE's newest god, Hou Yi, Defender of the Earth. He justifies this lofty title with a variety of ranged attacks, movement tricks, and a high resistance to critical hits. Check him out in action just past the break.

[Thanks to Sorenthaz for the tip!]

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Age of Conan has its eye on achievements, crafting for 2015

Fantasy, Age of Conan, Previews, Free-to-Play, Dev Diaries

aoc
Is Hyboria one of your planned destinations for 2015? If so, then you're in luck, as Joel Bylos has a taste of what's in store for Age of Conan this year in a new game director letter.

The two big initiatives for the year revolve around the brand-new achievement and revamped crafting systems. The first iteration of achievements are coming with update 4.5 in a few weeks. These will include achievements for completing speed challenges for dungeons. Following that, players will get to dive into a richer crafting experience.

Bylos hinted at a few other highlights for 2015, including the return of the world boss system and PvP festivals. "We are still nailing down our production schedule for the year," he wrote. "You can expect to hear more about the status of Palace of Cetriss and The Slithering Chaos in an upcoming letter."

The Stream Team: Prowling ArcheAge's Perinoor Ruins

Fantasy, Video, Free-to-Play, Livestream, ArcheAge, Sandbox, The Stream Team

Thanks to the sandboxy nature of ArcheAge, there are still plenty of things Massively's MJ has never done. And one of those things is explore the wilds of Perinoor Ruins. Depending on the time and the threat level, the zone could be a hotbed of war activity or it could be a quiet stroll through a tropical park. Which will it be this time? Tune in at 4:00 p.m. and get a look at this corner of the Haranyan continent (and see just how long MJ survives!).

Game: ArcheAge
Host: MJ Gutrhie
Date: Friday, January 9th, 2014
Time: 4:00 p.m. EST

Enjoy our Stream Team video below.

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STO Producer's letter hints at anniversary celebration and story to come in 2015

Sci-Fi, News Items, Star Trek Online, Free-to-Play, Dev Diaries, Anniversaries

Star Trek Online's first producer's letter of the new year hailed 2014 as a fantastic year and suggested that 2015 may be even better. After recounting many of the additions to the game over the past 12 months and summing up the story arc thus far, Stephen D'Angelo stated that the past year was just setting the stage for what's to come! The continuation of this arc includes some challenges that even the grand alliance may not be able to handle. The next step in the story, along with the first of the new captain and bridge officer specializations, will release with the anniversary update in that's just over three weeks away.

Just what kind of events and celebrations can players expect for this fifth anniversary? D'Angelo didn't share, but he did say that the details on that -- as well as the future content -- will be forthcoming piece by piece in dev blogs starting in the next few days.

The Road to Mordor: Ten thoughts on LotRO's 2015 plans

Fantasy, Lord of the Rings Online, MMO Industry, Opinion, Free-to-Play, The Road to Mordor

lotro
This year I'm breaking my long-running tradition of posting a "wish list" for Lord of the Rings Online at the beginning of the new year. This is partially because I'll be in danger of repeating the same old items that I've been yammering on about for quite some time now, and partially because Turbine was on the ball and released a producer's letter this past week that lays out some of the year's plans (by contrast, last year the studio waited until the end of February to do the same).

Tradition be hanged! Let's adapt with the events and spend some time evaluating the information we've been given! There's a lot going on in and around this producer's letter, so here are 10 thoughts that I'm taking away from all of this in regard to LotRO's future.

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