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Hands-On

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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Hands-on with Windborne's early access

Fantasy, New Titles, Previews, Opinion, Hands-On, Sandbox, Buy-to-Play

Screenshot -- Windborne
The breakout success of Minecraft has inspired a slew of creative sandbox games since its release in 2011, and the trend has shown no signs of dying down given the ever-increasing number of sandbox titles hitting the market. Hidden Path Entertainment's in-development title Windborne is certainly one such game, and at first glance one might be tempted to write it off as a clone of Mojang's golden child, but that would be more than a little disingenuous.

The folks at Hidden Path were generous enough to provide me with a key to get some hands-on experience with Windborne, but I'd like to make special mention of the fact that the game is currently part of Steam's Early Release program, which of course means that it's still unfinished and under constant development. With that in mind, I dived into Windborne's world of mystical floating islands, and I've got more than a few thoughts about the game, where it's going, and where it needs to be.

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Hands-on with Hearthstone for iPad

Fantasy, Launches, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, Trading Card Games, Hearthstone

Hearthstone
While I was part of the early beta crowd for Hearthstone last year, I haven't played it in quite some time. It wasn't because I became disenfranchised with the game but rather because I felt it truly belonged on a tablet -- and playing it on a PC just felt wrong somehow. So I've been waiting for Hearthstone to finally make the leap to the iPad, and when that happened yesterday, I was all over it like a murloc swarm on a noobie.

In many ways, Hearthstone is absolutely tailor-fit for mobile gaming. It requires minimal manipulation; poking, holding, and the occasional swipe is about as complex as the physical mechanics get. It's a turn-based thinker's game that gives you ample time to plot your strategy and get a few other things done between moves. On an iPad, that's pretty easy; I would read a book while my opponent took his/her/its turn.

The game actually kept me up past my bedtime because of the "just one more match" temptation, which tells me that the magic that fueled my interest in this game in beta is roaring more now than ever. But how does it actually handle on Apple's devices?

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Guild Wars 2's megaserver update and patch primer [Updated]

Fantasy, Video, Game Mechanics, Patches, News Items, Guild Wars 2, Hands-On, Buy-to-Play

GW2
If you're still reeling from playing dress-up and retraiting your stable of characters thanks to Guild Wars 2's feature pack launch yesterday, then friend of Massively Richie "Bogotter" Procopio has just the video for you. He's put together a patch primer that walks current and returning players through the new wardrobe system, dye system, and trait system. He also gives a few more obscure tips that aren't obvious from the patch notes.

Meanwhile, ArenaNet has posted that the patch's promised megaserver tech is slowly rolling out to key zones. Here's what's been activated so far: The Grove, Heart of the Mist, Black Citadel, Timberline Falls, Southsun Cove, Rata Sum, Straits of Devastation, Fields of Ruin, Brisban Wildlands, Hoelbrak, Iron Marches, Blazeridge Steppes, and Dredgehaunt Cliffs. [Update: Lion's Arch, Lornar's Pass, Kessex Hills, Diessa Plateau, and Metrica Province were just converted this afternoon, according to the official site.]

Enjoy the primer video after the break!

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Choose My Adventure: Approaching level 10 in The Elder Scrolls Online

Fantasy, Massively Meta, Hands-On, Choose My Adventure, The Elder Scrolls Online, Subscription

‚ÄčTESO
As I make the approach to level 10, I realize that The Elder Scrolls Online is not "just another fantasy MMO" as it's sometimes billed by skeptical players. I'm continuously finding myself pleasantly surprised by the storyline, the crafting, and world, and the execution of it all.

And even though I'm playing it as a single-player game still at this point, it's not a single-player Elder Scrolls game. I'm dying way too much for that.

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Not So Massively: Heroes of the Storm's new heroes, Dawngate's beta launch, and Diablo III's latest patch

Betas, Fantasy, Classes, Game Mechanics, Interviews, Launches, MMO Industry, Patches, PvP, News Items, Free-to-Play, Mobile, Hands-On, MMOFPS, Events (Massively's Coverage), Miscellaneous, Not So Massively, MOBA, Diablo III, Hearthstone

NSM
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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PAX East 2014: Hands-on with Infinite Crisis

Super-hero, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, Events (Massively's Coverage), MOBA, Infinite Crisis

Soundtrack by Blondie.
I don't know what Superman's problem is, man. I was expecting my confrontation with Doomsday to be something epic, something horrifying, but instead it turned into a pretty standard affair. Grab him with my enormous telescoping force arm, yank him over, slow him, then put up a shield while I beat the stuffing out of him. Seriously, I can only assume that Last Son of Krypton's death was largely a result of his desire for a vacation.

Of course, soon thereafter I fell victim to the eternal nemesis of Green Lantern -- enormous red-hued turrets surrounded by support drones. But I did all right.

MOBAs are not really my cup of tea, but superheroes are in a big way. I hadn't gotten a chance to play Infinite Crisis before now, but on the show floor at PAX East this year, I was given the chance to sit down and get a coaching session from one of the more experienced members of the team while I smashed heads. So I picked up Atomic Green Lantern and walked in fully expecting to fail left and right. To my pleasant surprise, the whole thing played out much better than I had expected, making excellent use of the license and providing a fun match all around.

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PAX East 2014: Guns of Icarus Online's expanding environment

Game Mechanics, Opinion, Hands-On, MMOFPS, Events (Massively's Coverage), Miscellaneous, Crowdfunding, Steampunk

If I don't look at you, you can't shoot me out of the sky!  I think?  Those are the rules, right?
PAX East taught me that I am apparently not the right person to pilot a ship in Guns of Icarus Online. In my defense, I was trying to do what my ship was designed to do. The co-op mode on display is all about delivering supplies to a final point on a map, and I was flying the fast scoutship. So I figured, why bother slowing down? Why not just jink left and right and avoid anything in my way?

As it turns out, the reasons to not do that are quite simple: The boss encounter at the cargo dropoff requires two people, and you need to actually retain control of the point rather than just wing to it at full speed. So I may have sent my ship crashing to the ground in a tumble of burning wood and broken steel. (By "may have" I of course mean "I definitely did this.")

This isn't a failing on the part of the game, just a failing on my part for trying to bull-rush through something. But it's still fun; the game gives players a variety of things to do while they're busy crewing the various stations across the ship. And it's just one place the developers are going with the game.

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Choose My Adventure: Elder Scrolls Online welcomes another Khajiit

Fantasy, News Items, Hands-On, Choose My Adventure, The Elder Scrolls Online, Subscription

The Elder Scrolls Online
I'd like you all to welcome your new character in The Elder Scrolls Online: Fa'saad! Get it? Fa'saad...like façade because he's a sneaky Nightblade ... oh nevermind.

The character you created for me is a male Khajiit Nightblade from the Ebonheart Pact. I will be playing him for the rest of the month from the perspective of a veteran MMO gamer who is excited to see what this year's triple-A MMO can bring to the table not only for MMO fans but for fans of the Elder Scrolls series. This week's article will be an introduction to the character and more polls for you to vote on to help this character progress in the early game.

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The Stream Team: Creating your Elder Scrolls Online CMA character

Fantasy, News Items, Opinion, Hands-On, Livestream, The Elder Scrolls Online, The Stream Team, Subscription

Elder Scrolls Online
The Elder Scrolls Online is enjoying a fairly smooth early launch period this week that corresponds perfectly with the start of a new Choose My Adventure. As you've been focusing your energy on picking his character's starting gender, race, alliance, and class, Shawn Schuster has been enjoying the game so far. But the real fun begins when he plays the character you've selected for him to create. Come join Shawn Schuster at 7:00 p.m. EDT on Sunday for a Choose My Adventure livestream.

Game: The Elder Scrolls Online
Host: Shawn Schuster
Date: Sunday, April 6th, 2014
Time: 7:00 p.m. EDT

Enjoy our Stream Team video below.

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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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Choose My Adventure: The Elder Scrolls Online

Fantasy, New Titles, Opinion, Hands-On, Choose My Adventure, The Elder Scrolls Online, Subscription

Elder Scrolls Online
The Elder Scrolls Online has launched into its early access period, and I couldn't be more excited for the timing on this new edition of Choose My Adventure. I've always been a huge fan of the Elder Scrolls series, but I didn't have access to this MMO beta for various reasons. As I stated in my last column, I even avoided reading impressions articles here at Massively because I wanted this to be a fresh experience for me. I'm kinda weird like that.

But I've purchased the game now and have been enjoying myself this week during early access. Of course, I'm still saving the good stuff for this column, and I don't plan to release my impressions until a future article, but I'll reiterate that I'm very excited about this next month.

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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 diary: Day two - Skills and progression

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

Elder Scrolls Online Stros M'kai temple
Never in 15-plus years of MMO gaming have I been so bewildered when it comes to picking a main class and character. Part of this is because I ignored The Elder Scrolls Online prior to March 30th. So I'm drinking from the information firehose in terms of game mechanics while simultaneously trying to keep up with friends.

The other part of it stems from the fact that ESO has an absurd amount of build customizability. I'm glad it has only four classes instead of six or eight because six or eight would probably send me over the decisional paralysis edge and into some sort of fugue state. I think for the purposes of this launch week diary -- and my own sanity -- I'm just going to stick with my Redguard Nightblade and forge ahead. There. Done.

Maybe.

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