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Interviews

Massively Interview: Spinning Neverwinter's tall tales

Fantasy, Interviews, Lore, Free-to-Play, Neverwinter

neverwinter
Massively: Today we're joined by Neverwinter Senior Content Designer Randy Mosiondz to talk about the game's story. So Randy, how does the story of Neverwinter run parallel to the pen-and-paper campaign and how does it differ? In the cases of its divergeance, why did the team take those paths?

Randy Mosiondz: In Neverwinter we usually try to parallel a lot of the Forgotten Realms story development that Wizards of the Coast has been doing over the last few years. At launch, the majority of our adventure zones were based on stories were being told in the Realms, primarily focusing on Valindra, the Crown of Neverwinter, Gauntlgrym, and the aftermath of the Spellplague. One of our main sources of inspiration was the D&D 4th edition Neverwinter Campaign Guide, which had a number of great story seeds.

We did add a number of new zones that were not directly connected to that book but were still drawn from Realms lore. In a lot of these cases we simply wanted to make sure there was enough variety in storylines, environments, and monsters you encountered to ensure we covered all of the high points of the D&D adventuring experience. Whenever we do this, we consult with Wizards of the Coast on a weekly basis to ensure these storylines match up to their expectations of what fits in the Forgotten Realms.

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Kingdom Under Fire II took seven years and $50M to complete

Betas, Fantasy, Interviews, Free-to-Play, MMORTS

kuf2
After spending over seven years in development, Kingdom Under Fire II may be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. It's currently in beta testing in southeast Asia and has plans for US and EU tests before the end of 2014.

Game Director Sang Youn Lee said that the title's lengthy development was compounded by a format switch from a single-player Xbox title to an MMO for the PC and PlayStation 4. The cost for the game also spiraled upward over the years. "The scale of the game has expanded to three or four times what it was at first," Sang Youn Lee told Kotaku. "$15,000,000 was the first budget for the game. Now it is $50,000,000."

Kingdom Under Fire II blends RPG and RTS elements to allow players to lead up to 500 soldiers in battles against each other rather than against the computer. Reportedly, the game can handle displaying 10,000 troops in combat at the same time.

Loot drops? Eternal Crusade says no.

Betas, Sci-Fi, Interviews, PvP, Warhammer 40k

war
If you haven't figured it out yet, Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade will not be like most MMOs or online co-op games, especially in the looting department. In an interview with 2P.com, Behaviour Interactive announced that the game will have not dropped loot but rewards from NPC bossses.

"You'll be given rewards from your high command," Behaviour said. "Attack the enemy positions, defend your bases or free them from the Tyranids... this is what you are asked to do and this is what you will be rewarded for. Once you get enough reward tokens you can exchange them from some special ammunitions or equipment. There is no direct drop system in the game."

The interview shed light on many of the game's features, such as its single resource (requisition points), the possibility of purchasing elite units, and the challenge of balancing melee and ranged classes.

[Thanks to Halldorr for the tip!]

Sneaking a peek at EQII's Altar of Malice with SOE

Fantasy, Galleries, Screenshots, EverQuest II, Expansions, Interviews, Free-to-Play

When EverQuest II's next expansion, Altar of Malice, was announced at SOE Live in August, we heard about upcoming features, perused concept drawings, and even saw some screenshots. As exciting as all that can be, nothing compares to actually getting in the game and seeing the living breathing world of Norrath. And that's exactly what I got to do last week on a tour with Senior​ Producer Holly Longdale and Creative Director Akil Hooper.

While we have to wait a bit longer to hear more about the Aerakyn (the new winged dragonkind race) and what special goodies will be included in the collector's edition, the tour of the zones allowed me to bask in the beauty of the artwork while weaving through dinosaurs, pygmies, and my favorite-yet-long-lost starting zone. And it definitely made me even more excited for the upcoming release of Altar of Malice!

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Carbine's Donatelli and Moore on WildStar's population and philosophy

Sci-Fi, Interviews, Endgame, News Items, WildStar, Dungeons, Subscription, Buy-to-Play

No comment.
Two weeks ago, Carbine Studios offered us the opportunity to interview product director Mike Donatelli and creative director Chad Moore regarding the state of WildStar and what future updates would bring to the game. We have their thorough answers in their entirety for you today; Carbine assures us that there was no animosity or conspiracy in the delay, and we thank the studio for that. So let's get to it: Read on as the duo discuss WildStar's current population, business model, development strategy, and plans for the near future.

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The science of language, community, and MMORPGs

Culture, Interviews, MMO Industry, Opinion, Virtual Worlds, Miscellaneous, MMORPG

Johannes Jansson
Back in August, Massively wrote a little post about Swedish research on MMOs and language learning. That article provoked me, a gamer and teacher of English for speakers of other languages (ESOL), to hunt down the original research and talk directly to the researchers, Dr. Liss Kerstin Sylvén from the University of Gothenburg and Dr. Pia Sundqvist from Karlstad University, to better understand their research and findings.

Note that we'll be talking here about games and language learning specifically, not other forms of game-related education. Also, Sylvén and Sundqvist don't consider themselves "gamers." Sundqvist remembers Pac-Man as her first game, both admit to playing Angry Birds on their cell phones, and Sundqvist is "allowed" to sometimes watch her 17-year-old son play League of Legends. I find this interesting because they are non-gamers who seriously consider games capable of being educational without specifically being developed to do so. This isn't a simple merger of a hobby with work; this is work in a field of interest that's still being explored.

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Trion responds to ArcheAge's 10 percent patron discount controversy

Fantasy, Business Models, Interviews, MMO Industry, ArcheAge, Sandbox

Things are never dull in the ArcheAge community. The latest brouhaha, as exemplified by this 100-page (as of press time) threadnaught, has to do with the fact that patron account holders haven't received the 10 percent cash shop discount that was promised pre-release.

Massively contacted Trion to see if it could shed some light on the controversy as well detail any steps it's taking to provide patrons with one of their perks. Click past the cut to view the firm's response.

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Trion explains why ArcheAge uses Hackshield

Fantasy, Business Models, Interviews, MMO Industry, News Items, Legal, Miscellaneous, ArcheAge

HackShield
Ever since ArcheAge's launch, Massively has been deluged with queries about Trion's use of Hackshield, an anti-cheating toolkit created by Korean company AhnLab, Inc. Western gamers aren't traditionally fond of such security programs; as of the time of this writing, even Hackshield's meager entry under AhnLab's English Wikipedia entry has been vandalized, presumably by disgruntled internet denizens. ArcheAge's Hackshield implementation recently provoked one Redditor to issue an open letter essentially accusing Trion of illegally and secretively installing a third-party rootkit on every computer that runs Glyph.

We spoke to Trion about the legalities and efficacies of the program. Specifically, we asked about five topics:
  • Whether the program is being installed without permission,
  • Whether it is legal to install it in in this way around the globe,
  • Whether it is causing technical problems for users as claimed,
  • Whether it is fully uninstalling when ArcheAge/Glyph are uninstalled,
  • And whether it actually works, given weekend reports about exploits.

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Casual escapists, Skyforge hasn't forgotten you

Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Business Models, Culture, Game Mechanics, Interviews, News Items, PvE, Skyforge

Skyforge
A new MMOGames interview with Obsidian Executive Producer Eric DeMilt sheds light on inbound sci-fantasy MMO Skyforge, which he says is angling to provide a deep experience for players with tons of time -- as well as players with very little. As he put it,
"We are striving to make a great high quality free to play MMO that would have action oriented combat and allow for short rewarding session time. We wanted to make something that could accommodate short session game play as allow for enjoyable longer play sessions. It's about escapism and being larger than life."
DeMilt also discusses power creep, player retention, character progression, the Facebook-inspired social network within the game, and monetization; on the last, he's reluctant to give details, but he vows that Skyforge is "not going to be a flat-out pay-to-win game."

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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