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Interviews

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.

SOE Live 2014: Discussing EQN and Landmark music with Jeremy Soule

Fantasy, Interviews, Free-to-Play, Events (Massively's Coverage), EverQuest Next, Music, Landmark

Who wouldn't want to talk with Jeremy Soule? This composer has brought to life myriad games through his music, both single-players and MMOs alike (even a number of zombie games!). Luckily for Norrathian fans, his attention is now focused solely on EverQuest Next and Landmark, where the worlds are shaping his music while his music, in turn, helps shape those worlds. I had the opportunity to sit down with Soule at SOE Live to discuss the new combat piece revealed during the keynote and delve into his inspirations for the upcoming games' musical scores. He also shared a bit about the composition method he is developing.

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SOE Live 2014: DCUO's Legends PvE and a la carte DLCs

Super-hero, Interviews, PvE, Free-to-Play, Events (Massively's Coverage), DC Universe Online

A superhero game deserves a super announcement at SOE Live, and DC Universe Online delivered. Creative Director Jens Andersen and Assistant Creative Director SJ Mueller shared details about many upcoming updates, from the second installments of the various trilogy story arcs to new movements and powers to a whole new way to purchase the DLC themselves. Oh, and we can't forget one of the biggest announcements: Legends play is coming to PvE!

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Blizzard's Chilton: Expansions are barriers to people coming back

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Expansions, Game Mechanics, Interviews, MMO Industry, News Items

In the aftermath of World of Warcraft's latest subscriber number downturn, Blizzard game designer Tom Chilton says he's unsure if the fantasy MMORPG will rebound like it has in the past. "We really don't know if it will grow again," he said, according to MCVUK. "It is possible, but I wouldn't say it's something that we expect. Our goal is to make the most compelling content we can."

Chilton also touched on Blizzard's decision to provide a level 90 character with its Warlords of Draenor expansion. "By building expansions, you are effectively building up barriers to people coming back. But by including the level 90 character with this expansion, it gives people the opportunity to jump right into the new content," he said.

SOE Live 2014: PlanetSide 2 plans battle islands, a fight finder, and more

Sci-Fi, Interviews, PvP, Free-to-Play, MMOFPS, Events (Massively's Coverage), PlanetSide 2, Sandbox

PlanetSide 2 got some big updates over the last couple of months, but there's plenty more planned for the MMOFPS. Creative Director Matt Higby, Senior Art Director Tramell Isaac , and Lead Designer Luke Sigmund detailed some of those plans at SOE Live. Specifics include the squad mentoring, the Valkyrie aircraft, battle islands, a fight finder, and more. They also showed off the progress of the Playstation 4 version, which will launch in early access before the end of the year.

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SOE Live 2014: Dragon's Prophet to join All Access, add hatching system

Fantasy, Interviews, Free-to-Play, Events (Massively's Coverage), Dragon's Prophet

While much of the SOE Live attention has been on other titles, Dragon's Prophet was on hand with some announcements of its own. The two biggest pieces of news are the upcoming hatchling system and the addition of the game to SOE's All Access pass, and Producer Todd Carson shared the details with us as well as gave the heads up on a couple other upcoming changes.

The new hatching system will allow players to find and raise their own dragons. Carson explained that how long it takes the egg to hatch depends on what activities players do to care for their eggs. Additionally, the stats of the dragons will be influneced by the egg's care. More specifics on that system will be coming soon.

The other really big (and welcome news) is the addition of Dragon's Prophet to the All Access plan. Carson noted that it has taken time to work out the details because of the unique differences of the game since it is made by Runewaker. Within the next month or so players will be able to become a part of the system that gives special monthly bonuses in all SOE games, 500 station cash, and a 10% discount on all items in the store. Dragon's Prophet players will receive a nine in-game items every month worth $50, including a 30-day repair hammer, teleportation, revive tokens, and more.

Carson also described the recent renovation of the starter experience and the change to the class masteries that give them more defined roles in combat that await new players who try the game out thanks to the All Access changes. He gave us a heads up that a new zone expansion is coming at the end of the year and special roaming merchants that will be added to the territory islands. Another new feature will be the ability to pay to have your house packed up and moved to a different island. Carson is also taking into consideration panel attendees' requests to add Vanguard dragons into the game.

What happens in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas, at least where SOE Live is concerned! Massively sent intrepid reporter MJ Guthrie to this year's SOE Live, from which she'll be transmitting all the best fan news on EverQuest Next, Landmark, H1Z1, and the other MMOs on SOE's roster.

Black Desert's Korean version is almost 80% finished

Betas, Fantasy, Business Models, Events (Real-World), Game Mechanics, Interviews, News Items, Free-to-Play, Black Desert

If you've got your eye on Black Desert now that it's definitely making the trek to the West, then Brian Oh is a name you'll want to know. He's Pearl Abyss' director of overseas business, and 2P chatted him up at this past weekend's ChinaJoy about class balance, sea battles, costumes, dyeing, swimming, the non-existent level cap, and why Daum was selected to publish Black Desert in the West.

Of note, Oh and Chinese Community Manager Cheng Ying said that Pearl Abyss has "almost completed about 80% of the game." The English version is not yet half translated; the Korean version, at least, will be free-to-play and will block foreign IPs during open beta. According to the interview, PA remains "very interested " in porting the game to consoles but could not speculate on timing of the NA beta launch.

[Thanks, Dystopiq!]

Chris Roberts: 'If I were a little saner, I wouldn't be biting off as much as we're doing here'

Sci-Fi, Interviews, MMO Industry, New Titles, News Items, Sandbox, Star Citizen, Buy-to-Play

Star Citizen will top $50 million in crowdfunding at some point over the next few weeks, and when it does, chances are good that you'll see increased media coverage. Some of that coverage has already started, if a new piece at The Verge is any indication.

There's nothing new here for fans or backers, but it's a great high-level primer for your on-the-fence friends that focuses on creator Chris Roberts and his desire to build the ultimate space sim. "If I [were] a little saner, I wouldn't be biting off as much as we're doing here," Roberts explains, "but it's the game that I've wanted to play and dreamed about playing forever."

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