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Interviews

Ascent: The Space Game on building a better sci-fi sandbox

Sci-Fi, Trailers, Video, Business Models, Game Mechanics, Interviews, MMO Industry, New Titles, PvE, Browser, Sandbox, MMORPG

Ascent
You'd be forgiven for not having heard of Ascent: The Space Game before. EVE Online is the sci-fi sandbox dominating headlines, and Star Citizen and other upcoming games are breathing down its neck. Is there room in the genre for, well, an indie space MMO that isn't all about cutthroat politics or hardcore ganking?

James Hicks, the founder and CEO of Fluffy Kitten Studios and the man behind Ascent, says yes. He took the time this week to answer our questions about his already-playable-but-still-in-development game in deep detail, focusing on the game's complexity, player feedback, business model, mechanics, and how Ascent can truly expand the genre.

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FFXIV's Yoshida on successful relaunches, switching from sub to F2P

Fantasy, Business Models, Interviews, MMO Industry, News Items, Free-to-Play, Final Fantasy XIV, Subscription

FFXIV NPCs
Final Fantasy XIV producer Naoki Yoshida speaks from a unique position, both because he's responsible for an ultra-rare triple-A MMO relaunch and because Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn debuted with -- and continues to sport -- a subscription model.

Gamasutra recently interviewed Yoshida about FFXIV's success, whether or not he feels any sort of vindication, and his thoughts on the future of future subscription-based MMOs. While Yoshida says that there are pros and cons to both subs and F2P, he ultimately prefers subs, and he believes that most other MMO developers do as well.

"Some titles have to make the hard decision to switch over to free-to-play and try to gain a quick buck, pretty much, and raise their ARPU, and try to gain revenue in that manner," Yoshida explains. "I feel that they're not flipping over because they want to; sometimes, they're forced to go into that because they need to update."

The full scoop on Marvel Heroes' team-ups

Super-hero, Interviews, Patches, Free-to-Play, Marvel Heroes

Marvel Heroes
Massively: Last week Marvel Heroes added a new feature to the game in the form of "team-ups." While we know the basics of this new system, we wanted to go into more detail. To help us with this, Gazillion Community Manager Ryan Collins sat down to answer a few questions. So Ryan, let's strip away the game-specific terminology: Are team-up heroes NPC companions? Pets? If you had to compare them to another game's features, what would it be to help us understand what they're like?

Ryan Collins: Team-ups would be most similar to companions or hirelings. Like Diablo II's hirelings, team-up heroes have their own gear (with four brand-new item types just for them) that allow you to customize your team-up's stats. Some team-up items even convey bonuses to your hero directly. Team-ups also have a power tree that allows you to customize the way they function, the powers they use, and the passive bonuses they have. The first choice you get to make with your team-up is how they behave, for which there are three "modes."

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Jukebox Heroes: Talking to HEX Composer Michael Shapiro

Fantasy, Interviews, Trading Card Games, Jukebox Heroes, Music, HEX

HEX
Massively: On today's column we have the composer of the upcoming TCG MMO, HEX. Now that's a lot of capital letters all in a row, so take a deep breath, get over it, and please welcome composer Michael Gordon Shapiro. Mike, can you give us a bit of your background in music?

Michael Gordon Shapiro: When I started my career I was only interested in film music. Game audio was just starting to emerge from the low-tech era, and there was a kind of stigma associated with it, much as there used to be with television music. As fate would have it, I was offered an in-house composer position at a game studio and was pleasantly surprised to find myself recording the same kind of live orchestral music that I loved doing for film. I also came to appreciate the high artistic effort going into both console and PC game scores.

So from that point, the stigma dissolved in my mind and my artistic palette widened. Today I love doing both film and game music, for both overlapping and complementary reasons.

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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: Erin Roberts on Star Citizen's development

Sci-Fi, Interviews, Sandbox, Crowdfunding, Star Citizen

It's a game about space shooters shooting space in space.
Star Citizen's backers have been waiting to see the game's dogfighting module in action for quite some time now, and it finally happened just before PAX East 2014. Unfortunately, it also wound up having some technical difficulties right at the beginning, which wasn't exactly what anyone had in mind when showing off the whole thing in action. It wasn't quite as bad as having the computer running the module burst into flames and die, but it was bad.

Do the developers regret it? Not a chance. We got a chance to sit down and talk to Squadron 42 producer Erin Roberts and were told, in no uncertain terms, that even hitting technical hiccups like that don't make a more private development cycle feel better. In a way, having the development cycle be so public actually makes technical hurdles less problematic for the company when they're encountered because the language is in place to keep a meaningful dialogue going with the fans.

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PAX East 2014: Pre-launch words with WildStar's Jeremy Gaffney

Sci-Fi, Economy, Interviews, Launches, Endgame, WildStar, Subscription, Buy-to-Play

This is the sort of stuff that got me excited for the game in the first place.
WildStar is being released in about a month and a half. It feels as if it's been forever since the game first revealed its announcement trailer. Now we've finally got a release date in sight, and the last few features for the game are being revealed to the public. It's one of the last chances that we'll have to talk about the game before it releases.

On the last day of this year's PAX East, I had a chance to sit down with executive producer Jeremy Gaffney to chat a little bit more about the game before it launches. While the game has gone gold and the discs are being manufactured, the team is still refining and improving the game and plans to do so up until the day of launch. That meant talking about the endgame, the development process, and the changes that have been made already in the most recent stages of beta.

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PAX East 2014: State of Decay eyes multiplayer, stays offline

Horror, Game Mechanics, Interviews, Consoles, Events (Massively's Coverage), Post-Apocalyptic, Miscellaneous

I know we're fleeing from zombies, but would you guys like to hit Burger King on the way?  Maybe... no?  All right.
The ground is fairly littered with zombie games of some sort these days. That isn't meant as a mark against Undead Labs' State of Decay, but it does raise questions of focus. How do you make a zombie game more unique? According to the studio's Jeff Strain at this year's PAX East, you focus upon building at the community level rather than individual survival. While games like DayZ focus on the personal, State of Decay is much more focused on the idea of putting society as a whole back together and trying to accumulate resources and structures for survivors as a whole.

Of course, most of our readers are more interested in what comes next, specifically Class4. That's the proposed sequel to State of Decay, previously codenamed Class3; it's meant to be a full MMO according to previous statements, a game in which you can worry about rebuilding not just a local community but the world as a whole. And Undead Labs certainly isn't hurting for talent that's familiar with online games, especially with the acquisition of ArenaNet co-founder Patrick Wyatt in January. So what's happening?

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PAX East 2014: The Repopulation's Josh Hall on the future of the game

Betas, Sci-Fi, Interviews, Free-to-Play, Sandbox, Crowdfunding, The Repopulation

Are you not entertained?
If you're looking for Kickstarter success stories, The Repopulation definitely qualifies. While the game hasn't yet been released, it's managed to run not one but two successful campaigns looking to fans for funding, and it's managed its development carefully to keep itself on track for release. The game feels like a well-managed professional affair. And it's been a bit more quiet, but that comes down largely to the focus on getting the game out of its current alpha state and into its first beta.

At this year's PAX East, I sat down to talk with Josh Hall, one of the core team members on the project, about where the game is in development and what it's heading for in the next few months. While the final alpha stage has taken slightly longer than originally planned, the team is on track for launching the first beta phase at some point over the summer, and it's eyeing further release plans.

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PAX East 2014: PlanetSide 2's Higby on weekly updates

Sci-Fi, Game Mechanics, Interviews, Free-to-Play, MMOFPS, PlanetSide 2

The influx is coming.
It's been three months since PlanetSide 2 started updating once every week, if you don't count one update that was pushed back simply because it wasn't quite ready. As creative director Matt Higby put it to me at this year's PAX East, the schedule comes second to making sure that every update is the best it can be. But it's still been quite a ride, and it means that the game has kept up a schedule that's astonishingly fast.

More than a year out from launch, Higby has a lot to say about the game's development process as well as the updates it's already undergone. It's not an unmitigated success story, but it's filled with a lot of lessons and improvements. And like any MMO, the game's development is far from finished. In PlanetSide 2's case, it's a complex process that requires supporting new players, veterans, casual gamers, and professional gaming, sometimes in unconventional fashions.

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PAX East 2014: Landmark's current tools and future crafts

Betas, Fantasy, Game Mechanics, Interviews, Sandbox, Landmark

Any pun based on the sky being the limit will sound cheesy, but eh.
We've all seen what gamers are capable of making in Minecraft. A quick search online turns up replicas of everything imaginable, sublime works of art, even inexplicable cat fountains. According to Dave Georgeson, this is exactly what led to the creation of Landmark, and by his own admission the development team owes Notch a Christmas card solely because of that. Without that limitation, Landmark wouldn't be what it is now, nor would it be developing into what it will eventually be.

At this year's PAX East, Georgeson explained to me that as much fun as Minecraft is, it lacks something crucial: a way for players to see all of these creations. Landmark, by contrast, is designed from the ground up not just to allow that sort of interaction but to actively encourage it. And that's only the beginning; the game's current status as a sort of super-Minecraft is the simplest core expression of the game's promise. By the time it's done, the whole point is to make a game that can be anything, a game for all seasons and tastes.

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Jukebox Heroes: Talking with The Repopulation's Steven Coltart

Sci-Fi, Interviews, Sandbox, Jukebox Heroes, Music, The Repopulation

The Repopulation
Massively: Even in the far distant future on alien worlds, we'll still need music. This is why it's great that Composer Steven Coltart is providing The Repopulation with an original soundtrack, because otherwise the silence would be too much to bear. So Steven, can you tell us a little about yourself?

Steven Coltart: I'm a full-time professional composer based in the UK and was commissioned to be lead composer on The Repopulation in 2013. Previous projects include Outer Empires, the first MMO of its kind created for iOS, which went on to sell over 200,000 copies and boasted the largest ever network of players online at that time. 2014 has seen me complete the soundtrack for a soon to be announced iOS game, and I'm currently putting the finishing touches to US-based sci-fi film Downward. I've worked incredibly hard to get to this point, but I'm lucky to have what I consider the best job in the world. Writing music for a living and getting to work with talented developers and producers, it doesn't get much better for me!

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Guild Wars 2 encourages patch mystery and player speculation

Fantasy, Interviews, Patches, Guild Wars 2, Buy-to-Play

GW2
Death to Guild Wars 2 patch notes? ArenaNet might not be going that far, but it may be getting a lot more secretive about them in the coming months.

In an interview on IGN today, Lead Developer Colin Johanson said that the team learned a lot from the first season of GW2's living world, especially how much the players loved to speculate and discover patch additions organically. He said that the team observed players becoming more engaged when ArenaNet dropped in content that wasn't spelled out in the patch notes.

Johanson said this trend will continue: "You don't know what's going to happen and you don't know what you're going to find. Every week you want to search every corner of the world because the next hint for the living world could be hidden anywhere."

Johanson talked about the great changes to the world, especially in regard to the team nuking the city of Lion's Arch. He mentioned a player who predicted that the event would occur back in January: "It was really interesting for us to see that, and to be able to point back at him and say, 'Hey man, you nailed it!' and to be able to call that out was really cool."

CCP's Valkyrie eyeing 'a really big transformation in how games are built and played'

Sci-Fi, Trailers, Video, EVE Online, Game Mechanics, Interviews, MMO Industry, New Titles, News Items, Sandbox

EVE Valkyrie
Eurogamer recent talked to CCP chief marketing guru David Reid about the company's place at the forefront of the fledgling virtual reality movement. EVE Valkryie was the first title to be publicly played on both the Oculus Rift (PC) and Sony's Morpheus (PS4), which puts CCP in the driver's seat in terms of VR game development.

"There aren't a lot of white papers and APIs and ways of doing these things yet," Reid explained. "We want to be a flagship game. We're on the cusp, potentially, of a really big transformation in how games are built and played, but we have to do our part to make sure that's worthwhile for everybody."

Reid also talks up Valkryie's connection to the economies in DUST 514 and EVE Online as well as its "rock/scissors/paper" game mechanics. "As I go into a battle and I earn skill points and I earn currency, I can translate those to having the capabilities to fly bigger, better different ships and can kit them differently," Reid says. "It's a fundamental mechanic of the EVE universe, in EVE Online and in DUST, and it'll be coming to Valkyrie as well."

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SOE's Georgeson on City of Heroes and the future of EQ

Fantasy, City of Heroes, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Interviews, MMO Industry, News Items, Free-to-Play

EverQuest II dungeon group
IGN has released another snippet of its recent interview with EverQuest franchise lead Dave Georgeson. Earlier today Georgeson talked up his enthusiasm for virtual reality, while this latest cut focuses on EverQuest, EverQuest II, and City of Heroes.

Yeah, you read that right, as apparently the late great superhero title was one of Georgeson's personal faves. "Everybody who plays any MMO never wants it to die," he says. "You invest a little bit of your soul in an MMO, you spend a lot of time in it and so on and so forth, so of course you never want one of them to die."

As for EQ and EQII, Georgeson says that SOE has "no intention of ever shutting those games down."

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