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Interviews

How graphics will help H1Z1 set a creepy mood

Historical, Horror, Trailers, Video, Interviews, Previews, PvP, News Items, Post-Apocalyptic, Sandbox, H1Z1

H1Z1
Do you care a whole lot about graphical fidelity when you're running away from shooting zombies in the face with a sawed-off shotgun? Fabulous; we have just the video for you. SOE has just posted a Q&A video featuring H1Z1 Art Director Bill Yeatts, who fields player-submitted questions about the upcoming zombie-survival-sandbox's graphics. Yeatts explains how SOE chose H1Z1's art style, how that art style will evolve as early access approaches, and just how he plans to make the game look and feel really scary (obviously, a zombie plague isn't terrifying enough).

Enjoy the dev spotlight below.

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Jukebox Heroes: Chatting with Neverwinter's Kevin Manthei

Fantasy, Interviews, Free-to-Play, Neverwinter, Jukebox Heroes, Music

neverwinter
This week on Jukebox Heroes, we're sitting down with Cryptic Studios Composer Kevin Manthei to talk about his work on the studio's most recent title, Neverwinter. So Kevin, Can you introduce yourself and give us a little background on you and your history with the company?

Kevin Manthei: Hi! I am Kevin Manthei, a Minnesota-born, California-living composer. I write music for film, TV and games. I have been doing this for over 20 years and have worked with most of the big publishers in the gaming world and have scored music on feature and indie films, television shows, and animated projects.

Currently I just finished scoring the Guardians of the Galaxy section of Disney's Infinity 2 video game and am in the middle of scoring Season 3 of the Ultimate Spider-Man animated series for Marvel/Disney XD. I also recently started work on the animated series Transformers: Robots In Disguise for Hasbro/The Hub network.

I have been working with Cryptic on music for its games since City of Villains. I have scored music for City of Villains, Champions Online, Star Trek Online and Neverwinter. Each project I worked on for more than a year, and each game has about 100 minutes of music I scored.

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Massively interviews Trion's Scott Hartsman on ArcheAge's rocky launch

Fantasy, Bugs, Business Models, Events (Real-World), Game Mechanics, Interviews, Launches, MMO Industry, News Items, Free-to-Play, ArcheAge, Sandbox, MMORPG

ArcheAge
ArcheAge's server issues, endless queues, and housing woes are the subject of hot debate in comment sections across the MMO world this week as players wonder just how in the heck the sandbox's launch went so awry. Massively spoke to Trion Worlds' Scott Hartsman to ask him exactly what went wrong with the launch and what the studio is doing to fix it.

Massively: Prior to the head start, Trion seemed to be aware of the huge interest in ArcheAge, citing a million signups for beta and knowing of the launch problems faced when the game launched in other countries. And yet Trion has seemed largely unprepared for the deluge of players for the head start and even for the F2P launch. Why? Were there really far more people trying to play than expected?

Scott Hartsman: Yes. There's a lot of science that goes into forecasting how many people are going to show up for a new game, when they're going to show up, and how long they'll stick around. Beyond that, external factors such as what else is going on in online games can also have a huge impact.

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Massively Interview: How Eleven is fighting to bring Glitch back

Betas, Fantasy, Interviews, Free-to-Play

eleven
The Massively staffers were delighted to hear that one of our favorite quirky browser MMOs might be coming back from the dead. Fan projects such as Eleven and Children of Ur, the latter of which is in a playable pre-alpha, are often at an extreme disadvantage with such resurrection projects, as they can lack legality, resources, and access to the original code. However, in this particular case, it looks as though Glitch might be a go for a return, as Tiny Speck has blessed player efforts and released the source code and art assets to help out.

Of course, this doesn't mean that there isn't a huge mountain of obstacles to surmount, but if anyone's to do it it, it might very well be the Eleven team. We reached out to Project Lead Jim Condren and several members of his team to get a better feel for where the project is at and when we might be playing Glitch once more.

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PAX Prime 2014: World of Warships balances historical accuracy with big boat fun

Betas, Historical, Interviews, Previews, Free-to-Play, Events (Massively's Coverage), World of Warships, MOBA

wows
A warship is understandably larger and more complicated than a tank or plane, which is why Wargaming is diverging slightly with its third online title. At PAX Prime, I sat down with the dev team for World of Warships to see how the alpha is progressing and what a fleet of ships looks like with all guns blazing.

There are four types of ships from which players can choose when they step into a match. Destroyers are smaller and faster with torpedoes, battleships are hulking gun platforms, and cruisers are straddling the line between the two. Then there are carriers (which we did not get to see) that eschew big guns for a squadron of planes to send out. Unfortunately, submarines aren't part of the mix, as the team decided that they wouldn't be fun for this type of game.

Each ship is as historically accurate in its looks and is hideously detailed, with up to 500 parts and 270,000 polygons. This detail comes into play when ships are damaged in certain sections, disabling features and abilities. The team is planning on launching with around 75 ships between the starting nations of the United States and Japan.

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PAX Prime 2014: Hearthstone eyes an expansion

Fantasy, Expansions, Interviews, Free-to-Play, Trading Card Games, Events (Massively's Coverage), Hearthstone

hearthstone
The PAX Prime Blizzard booth was one of the larger and more populated venues on the show floor this year. A slow-moving line wrapped around it as players waited eagerly to try out Warlords of Draenor or to see Heroes of the Storm for the first time. Yet it was Hearthstone -- a free-to-play game available to anyone at anytime -- that was winning gamers over.

I talked with Game Director Eric Dodds about how this small project at Blizzard blew up into a great success story. He said that when the team noticed that Twitch livestreams of Hearthstone were drawing in thousands and tens of thousands of viewers is when the studio knew that it had a hit on its hands.

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PAX Prime 2014: Heroes of the Storm is friendly, zany fun

Betas, Fantasy, Interviews, Previews, Free-to-Play, Events (Massively's Coverage), MOBA

heroes of the storm
Heroes of the Storm's beginnings are rooted in a mod that Blizzard made in 2010 to encourage StarCraft II players to get into the modding scene. Not only was this unnecessary (the StarCraft II comunity took to modding like fish to water) but the mod gradually became so well-liked internally that proper development began in 2012 to make it a full-fledged MOBA.

At PAX Prime, I asked the team what was going to make Heroes of the Storm stand out from the rest of the MOBA pack -- or whether it was merely content to ride the Blizzard name to big sales. The response was that this game is shaping up to be one of the most friendly and welcoming MOBAs on the market. Gone are mechanics like denying and last hits and in are new concepts like shared team levels. The devs said that the root of the toxic atmosphere seen in many MOBAs is game design that focuses more in individual selfishness and potential ways to hurt your own team. There also won't be any chatting with the opposing team in HotS to cut down on potential sass-mouth.

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PAX Prime 2014: Marvel Heroes is the industry's surprise success story

Super-hero, Interviews, Previews, Free-to-Play, Marvel Heroes, Events (Massively's Coverage)

marvel heroes
Meeting with Marvel Heroes' David Brevik at PAX Prime confirmed what I have been observing over the past year or so: This game has quietly and steadily become one of the bigger success stories in the online gaming industry. Brevik told me that the Marvel Heroes playerbase continues to grow, boasting four times as many players as it had nine months ago.

What did Brevik attribute to the game's meteoric rise? The promotions and sheer mountain of new content that the team's been adding certainly helped, but he said that it really came down to terrific community relations. Brevik streams the game four nights a week and talks to the community members as though they were part of his family.

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PAX Prime 2014: Trove moves at the speed of lightrail

Betas, Fantasy, Classes, Interviews, Free-to-Play, Events (Massively's Coverage), Sandbox, Trove

trove
Probably one of the coolest features that I've seen in an MMO in a long time came during a Trove demo at PAX Prime this weekend. The devs were keen to show off the game's magriders, which are tracks that players can lay down to take others on a pre-planned route around the world. Think of it as a combination of rollercoaster, lightrail, and slip-n-slide, and you might have a notion of how insane these can get. Magriders can obey the laws of physics or not and have several options for speeding up and slowing down passengers depending on the creator's intent.

After a dizzying five-minute ride through one of Trove's biomes that ended with a thousand-foot plunge into the heart of a volcano, I was sold on the potential for this new in-game toy. But as neat as magriders are, they're not the only card in the devs' deck as the game nears beta later in September.

The team recently introduced Trove's fourth class, the Dracolyte. This is a fireball-wielding mage who fills the need for the pyros out there. The Dracolyte also has a little familiar dragon hovering over its shoulder that can charge up a fiery attack and then unleash it at will. The class to follow the Dracolyte couldn't be more different, however: The Neon Ninja looks to be a cyborg sword-wielder who stepped straight out of Tron.

There's so much more to talk about with Trove's development, including the addition of clubs. Clubs are like mini-guilds, only you can join up to five of them, and each one gets its own world to modify and keep. The team is also working on a transmog system to allow players to collect and permanently store skins. From crazy candy biomes to lightning-quick rides, this underdog title might end up surprising us all.

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PAX Prime 2014: ArcheAge is a go for launch!

Betas, Fantasy, Interviews, Launches, Free-to-Play, Events (Massively's Coverage), ArcheAge, Sandbox, Housing

archeage
The packed ballroom at Trion's PAX Prime party erupted into giddy cheers last night when the team announced that ArcheAge's launch is merely a couple of weeks away. This gorgeous fantasy sandbox blew up the alpha test population and is poised to be a huge coup for Trion as the studio adds another title to its growing portfolio.

While the official launch date is September 16th, there will be an open beta from September 4th through the 8th, followed by a headstart launch on the 12th for founders.

The team expressed confidence in the alpha testing and the back-and-forth communication with developer XLGAMES. If XLGAMES is the proud mom and dad of ArcheAge, I was told, then Trion is the proud auntie and uncle. A lot of work has gone into straightening out regional differences for the western audience as well. For example, in Korea it's quite common to play an MMO with the intent of selling your character for actual money, which places a different value and emphasis on what you accumulate and do. Since such sales aren't often legal here, adjustments had to be made for the localized version. There was also a special cape item that Korean players could use to identify botters, which was used responsibly in that country but has apparently been wielded as a griefing tool in the west.

ArcheAge won't be budging on its commitment to an open PvP world; it's simply how the game is constructed. Players who want to avoid getting ganked will need to keep an eye on war zones that move throughout the world and accept the inherent risk that comes with attempting trade in those regions.

The team hopes that there will be enough space on the servers for all subscribers to grab an open world housing plot if desired. Coming some time after launch will be castles, which are larger structures that guilds can build, maintain, and defend together. Trion said that server transfers won't be in for release but are being worked on for the future.

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PAX Prime 2014: The Repopulation's Josh Halls on beta, fishing, and houses

Sci-Fi, Interviews, Events (Massively's Coverage), Sandbox, The Repopulation

Above & Beyond Technologies Lead Developer Josh Halls has been on a very long journey with The Repopulation, a journey that began back in 2009 and isn't even close to being over yet. I met with Halls at PAX Prime to talk about where this sci-fi sandbox has been and where it's going as it angles for beta testing.

The Repopulation released its Alpha 3 build this past April and will be sticking with that for the duration of alpha testing. Halls told me that there's a pretty dedicated group of testers in the game, with around 1,500 having picked up the title so far and around 20 to 40 playing at any given moment. Those numbers are primed to increase when the game transitions into beta and Steam Early Access later this year.

While it's not terribly sexy, bug tracking and fixing is vital to the development process and foremost on the team's mind. Player feedback during the alpha has helped to refine the game in other ways, such as to make gathering less of a click-fest and more of a community effort. Right now a group of players can work together to enhance a region in order to gather better materials.

Other big to-do items include putting in a fishing minigame and opening the doors (so to speak) for open-world housing. Fishing will pave the way for other possible minigames, and open-world housing is the next step from the game's existing instanced homes.

Halls said that the dozen or so members of the team are hard at work to prepare The Repopulation for the larger gaming public and that the studio is currently operating in the black.

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PAX Prime 2014: H1Z1's bears will end you

Betas, Horror, Interviews, Previews, Free-to-Play, Events (Massively's Coverage), H1Z1

h1z1
In most MMOs, bears are chunky cannon fodder: good for lowbie XP and a sad scrap of a pelt as loot. In H1Z1, bears are possibly more terrifying than zombies and gankers combined. At PAX Prime this weekend, Senior Game Designer Jimmy Whisenhunt explained that in this game, a bear attacked will run you down as fast as it does in nature and make a plaything of your skull. It's a good thing that they're relatively rare and give a warning roar before charging, otherwise the zombies would be coming to you for help.

Expanding the role of nature is essential to the immersion of H1Z1's survival aspect. Wolves, deer, and bear roam the countryside, getting into the occasional tiff with each other and the undead. They're useful if you can take them down quickly, since the harsh elements (such as rain and snow) will soon be programmed to degrade your well-being and those animal pelts could be made into clothes.

Whisenhunt walked us through the four essential stats to staying alive in this world. Stamina is for sprinting and attacks, and while it regenerates quickly, neglecting it will ensure your body will draw from your hydration and energy levels instead. Your health is also constantly ticking down and replenished by the food and water you drink, meaning that you'll always need to be looking for more to scarf up and quaff in your journeys. Stashing your food in your backpack is a good option, although the team is still tinkering with the style of inventory to make the limited storage another survival factor.

When H1Z1 goes into early access later this year, there will be one "vanilla" server on which no punches will be pulled (this is doubly true as all players will start with only their fists as weapons). Other types of servers, such as player-only or PvE rulesets, are possibilities once the team assesses how players are engaging the game in beta.

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Blizzard's Tom Chilton on World of Warcraft's slow content pace

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Business Models, Game Mechanics, Interviews, Patches, News Items, Subscription

Blizzard's Tom Chilton has been making the rounds this week in one candid interview after another. World of Warcraft website Icy Veins recently asked him directly why recent content releases haven't been meeting the originally planned six-month cadence, and Chilton didn't dodge, explaining that scaling the team up to make Warlords of Draenor resulted in a slower-than-desired pace for releases:
We did a good job earlier in Mists of Pandaria, having the content come at a more frequent intervals, and certainly we had hoped to have Warlords of Draenor out a couple of months ago. The reality is that scaling up the number of people that we have, to work on multiple projects at once has slowed us down. Honestly, it should have not come as a surprise to us. We increased the size of the team by 50% and the majority of those people had never worked on World of Warcraft before or any other MMO, so it is really difficult for them to create content right away, without getting up to speed. So we ended up redoing a lot of the content that we were doing for Warlords to make sure that we would get it at the quality level that we would expect. Also, the garrison feature turned into a bigger thing than we expected it to be. Quality is the most important thing, so if we have to make a choice between getting you something two months ago or getting you a great expansion in November, the choice is obvious. I think we are in a better position now for the future, we already have zones in production for our next expansion. So, if things go well, there will be less of a gap.
Chilton also discusses alternative subscription models for niche players (there are no plans for such), the possibility of making Outland and Northrend parallel level 60-80 content paths, and the potential for visual and aural upgrades beyond character models.

Blizzard is already working on World of Warcraft's sixth expansion

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Expansions, Interviews, Subscription

wow
Warlords of Draenor? That's yesterday's news, my friend. The progressive World of Warcraft player should already be looking forward to expansion number six, which Blizzard says is in full production.

Game Director Tom Chilton confirmed that the team is already hard at work at the follow-up to Warlords of Draenor. "We already have zones in production for it," he said to Gameplanet, adding that the team will also be looking at the theme for the seventh expansion "over the next several months."

Chilton indicated that World of Warcraft has a long life yet to come: "Beyond that, there are about six or seven different ideas for expansions that we can take elements of and say, 'You know what? Let's take that and put it in this one for our next expansion after the next one.' [...] As long as there are enough players demanding that we make more content then we're likely to do so. I think it'll be quite a while before the financials indicate that it's just not worth doing anymore."

Black Desert getting naval transportation, combat

Fantasy, Game Mechanics, Interviews, MMO Industry, New Titles, News Items, Sandbox, Black Desert

Yes, I'm aware this isn't a picture of a BD boat, you try and find one
Fan site BlackDesert.com spoke to representatives from Pearl Abyss and Daum Communications at Gamescom. The resulting interview is worth a read, and it mentions that Black Desert will in fact be getting some sort of naval system.

"Yes naval transportation and combat will be present in Black Desert Online," said Daum's Park Yoo Jin. "Players will be able to control boats and ships and depending on the kind of naval unit, there will be the possibility to board it with more than one person."

Pearl Abyss had previously announced that it was adding naval combat at this year's E3, but thus far the systems have not been made available during Black Desert's Korea beta tests.

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