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Massively's MMO guide to the 2014 winter holidays

Culture, Events (Real-World), Events (In-Game), Game Mechanics, Lore, MMO Industry, Patches, Previews, News Items, Massively Meta, Humor, Promotions, Miscellaneous

creepy snowman gonna get you. i... might be the wrong person to do this roundup, being not-a-fan of holiday mmo events. ah well.
Winter break: that time of year when I think woohoo time to sit around all day in my jammies and play video games but instead I have to work and bake junk food and wrap presents and go to family gatherings. First world MMO problems, right? Those of you who get to game this week better bank some experience points for me, and maybe check out some of the MMORPG genre's winter holiday events and promotions, conveniently rounded up for you in our guide below. The list isn't exhaustive, so feel free to chime in with any we've missed that you love.

Happy holidays from the Massively crew!

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EVE Evolved: EVE Online vs. Elite: Dangerous

EVE Online, Business Models, Culture, Game Mechanics, Lore, MMO Industry, News Items, Hands-On, First Impressions, EVE Evolved, Elite: Dangerous

EVE Evolved title image
Like many EVE Online players, I grew up playing early sci-fi games like Elite and its sequel Frontier. In fact, CCP's recently released stats on the distribution of ages within the EVE community shows a peak around 29 years old, meaning that most players grew up in that same gaming era. A big part of what initially drew me to EVE Online was the prospect of playing the same kind of massive trading and space exploration game with other people, and for over 10 years it's scratched that sci-fi sandbox itch. I've watched EVE grow from a relatively unknown game with around 40,000 subscribers and laggy cruiser skirmishes into a vast game where thousands of players wage war for territory, profit, or just the adrenaline rush of PvP with something valuable on the line.

Now that Elite: Dangerous is finally here, I want to see whether it can scratch the same sandbox itch as EVE and to what extent the two games can be compared. Both feature customisable ship fittings, open-world PvP with a criminal justice system, and real financial loss on death, for example, but the end result is two very different gameplay styles. And both also have that same intoxicating notion of exploring the unknown and try to make you feel like you're in a living world, but they take very different approaches to world design, content, and travel. Elite may not be a full-fledged MMO, but with a sandbox made of 400 billion procedurally generated stars and an open play mode that seamlessly merges players' games together, does it matter?

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I compare my experiences in Elite: Dangerous to my experiences in EVE Online and look at their differing strategies with regard to server model, active and passive gameplay, and the new player experience.

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A dragon interloper is approaching ArcheAge

Fantasy, Lore, Previews, News Items, Free-to-Play, ArcheAge, Sandbox, Subscription

I think he's kind of angry.
ArcheAge is gearing up for its December update, and that means getting ready for a dragon. A long time ago in the in-game lore, the dragon Misagon tried to take the land of Erenor for himself and his kin, which led to the Nuon rising up and killing him because that's just a really rude way to move in. The dragons panicked and left, but one among them started planning for Dragon Invasion II: The Dragoning.

That invasion is going down as part of the December update, with the somewhat uncreatively named Red Dragon leading his minions in an assault on Erenor. This is the same dragon who resorted to feeding on other dragons to get stronger, so you know he's... well, not a good guy. Go ahead and check out the lore post for a slightly less irreverent explanation of what flies forth on crimson wings, and get ready to undertake some dragon hunting in the game's next major patch.

Echo of Soul story trailer tells of the war between gods and giants

Betas, Fantasy, Trailers, Video, Lore, Free-to-Play

echo of soul
With Echo of Soul heading from Korea to North America and Europe next year, it may be time for those interested in the fantasy MMO to discover a little about its world and lore. For those fans, we present Echo of Soul's story trailer, which gives an overview of the conflict and struggles that players will be facing in this game.

Players will take part of an ongoing battle between gods and the giants by attempting to prevent the giants from assembling six fragments of a "shadow soul" (Arrogance, Sloth, Jealousy, Rage, Despair, and Discord) that could spell the end for, y'know, everything. You can watch the full minute-and-a-half video after the break.

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Professor to hold open course in Lord of the Rings Online, asks for bodyguards

Fantasy, Video, Lord of the Rings Online, Lore, Free-to-Play, Livestream

lotro
Dr. Corey Olsen, better known as Washington College's Tolkien Professor, will be holding an open course in Lord of the Rings Online for any and all who would like to understand the lore of the books by exploring the game.

The course will take place on the Landroval server. Here, Olsen (who has a mid-level Guardian) will go through the epic storyline, explore the areas, and compare those to passages from Tolkien's writings. He asked for players to help fight off mobs during his explorations so that he will be free to examine and lecture without distraction.

Olsen's teachings will initially be livestreamed on LotRO's official Twitch channel, although the course will be recorded for viewing later on as well. No dates for the course have been set as of yet.

[Thanks to Braxwolf for the tip!]

Carbine's Chad Moore on WildStar's fresh focus on lore

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

Sure, you could make some jokes about corresponding events, but that just seems like a series of cheap shots.
There's a big focus on WildStar's lore recently. Aside from the big lore drops, dubbed "Loremageddon" by Carbine Studios, the game's official site has begun releasing a series of short stories detailing important moments in the game's history, from the first space voyage of the Cassian people to dealing with the Genesis Prime now. That's a lot of storytelling, the sort that should be continuing on well into next year.

We had a chance to sit down and ask a few questions of creative director Chad Moore regarding what we've seen thus far for the game and what the goals are with this renewed focus on the game's setting and story. If you'd like to know a little more about the setting and what players can expect from the ongoing history lesson, check out the interview just past the break. There's also a new story available today detailing the first contact between the Cassians and the Eldan.

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Flameseeker Chronicles: Planting the seeds of memory in Guild Wars 2

Fantasy, Lore, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, Flameseeker Chronicles, Buy-to-Play

Little glowing friends. Shiny, happy people. Plant joke.
They say that those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it. I don't know who "they" are, but I don't think that particular truism was ever meant to cover a literal repeat of history. Guild Wars 2's latest living world content release has players doing exactly that: planting memory seeds, taking an uncomfortably invasive peek into Caithe's past, and trying to figure out exactly what might have led her to abscond with Glint's egg in the previous chapter.

This stroll down memory lane technically takes place over 20 years in GW2's history, but it's new information to us, and so the statute of limitations on spoilers hasn't expired. You'll probably want to play the content before reading any further, unless you think my writing is improved by a lack of context (if that's the case, don't tell me).

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The Daily Grind: Would you have played a Diablo MMO?

Game Mechanics, Lore, MMO Industry, Opinion, The Daily Grind, Miscellaneous, Diablo III, OARPG

Diablo 3
A few weeks ago, Blizzard content designer Kevin Martens admitted that the studio once considered turning the Diablo IP loose on an MMORPG. It's off the table now, but it still got me wistful. I've been strangely attached to the Diablo franchise and its clones for a very long time. Seriously, it's not even possible to pry the Torchlight series or Titan Quest off my harddrive. But Diablo itself just has a compelling, gritty gloom to the world that would make an MMO version a welcome in a genre that's obsessed with bright and happy fantasy worlds.

Massively's Brendan Drain once opined that Path of Exile is the sequel that Diablo II deserved, but is it MMO enough to count here? Would you have played a Diablo MMORPG, and what would you want it to look like?

Every morning, the Massively bloggers probe the minds of their readers with deep, thought-provoking questions about that most serious of topics: massively online gaming. We crave your opinions, so grab your caffeinated beverage of choice and chime in on today's Daily Grind!

EVE Evolved: The Sleepers are coming!

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Culture, Events (In-Game), Expansions, Game Mechanics, Lore, Patches, Previews, PvE, Opinion, Hands-On, Roleplaying, EVE Evolved, Dev Diaries, Sandbox, Subscription, MMORPG

EVE Evolved title image
Ever since the announcement of 100 new wormhole systems and the unique Thera wormhole hub system, some interesting things have been going on in EVE Online. A new star appeared in the night sky and began rapidly growing in brightness like a supernova, and curiously, the light from that star was able to be seen from every star system in New Eden simultaneously in clear violation of the laws of physics. Two days prior to the event, Sansha's Nation were seen scattering from an Incursion site and leaving the area without using wormholes, hinting that something big was happening in their home system. Combined with the intruiging story of Thera, this has had even non-roleplayers scrambling through the EVE lore to come up with theories about what's to come.

Players slowly set apart picking the mystery to pieces, conducting a galaxy-wide search to find the origin of the bright star and sending people into the test server to get clues. The mystery intensified when players discovered that the star was likely near or within restricted Jove space, and soon after they began finding strange cloaked structures throughout known space. While observing these structures, players even found that an all-new form of Sleeper NPC called the Circadian Seeker was periodically warping into the site and using some kind of scanning beam on the cloaked structure. All of this comes in anticipation of the public release of the Rhea patch on Tuesday 9th, which will introduce hidden Sleeper sites in known space and kick off the arms race to discover tech 3 destroyers.

In this lore-heavy edition of EVE Evolved, I look at everything we know of EVE's new Sleeper storyline event and try to figure out how it all fits together.

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The myth of Skyforge's Celestial Fortress

Betas, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Screenshots, Lore, News Items, Dev Diaries, Skyforge

Skyforge
Guess what, story fans? Skyforge has lore!

Today's dev post explains the myth behind the Celestial Fortress, an epic construction project floating in the sky meant to safeguard the planet Aelion from its own inward-spiraling moon. "While historians still argue about its true origin and meaning," intones the narrator, "only one historical fact remains clear: the Celestial Fortress which the symbol represents prevented the destruction of Aelion." Well, that and the Roche limit, but this is sci-fantasy lore, not astronomy. Carry on, storytellers!

We've included the new concept art of the Celestial Fortress below. Don't forget that Skyforge's browser minigame competition to win a beta key and other prizes is still ongoing for the next several weeks.

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Guild Wars 2 launches Seeds of Truth today

Fantasy, Lore, Patches, PvP, News Items, Guild Wars 2, Buy-to-Play

Yeah, so, the dragon egg is still kind of hot, so I was wondering if I could crash here.  Just for, like, a couple of days?  I have the money I borrowed from you last time and even some extra, man, what do you say?
Oh, that darn Caithe, running off with that MacGuffin dragon egg at the end of the last Guild Wars 2 story update! Someone should go after her. And while someone's going after her, someone should probably collect more armor set pieces and explore more of the Silverwastes. If you haven't guessed by now, that someone is going to be you. The latest update to the game, Seeds of Truth, is live today, and you'll need to... well, you read all of that up above, yes?

Aside from salad-based antics, the update features some major PvP changes, including reworked matchmaking and the test season for organized league play. So if you're there more for the mechanics than the story, that may be more of your speed. If you're there for the story, though, get ready to start retracing Caithe's memories, figure out what happened, and dealing with the fallout of that stolen egg.

[Source: ArenaNet press release]

Guild Wars 2's Leah Hoyer discusses the importance of story

Fantasy, Lore, News Items, Guild Wars 2, Buy-to-Play

Story: let's me and you fight.
It's fair to say that Guild Wars 2 sells its story pretty highly, as living world progress and story updates are a major part of its content strategy. Head of narrative Leah Hoyer stated in a recent interview that this is one of the core things that games as a whole need to embrace: Story is important in getting players invested. Hoyer went on to say that while story lacks the central importance in games that it has in media like television, it's still an important element of player investment.

Still, she argues, it's harder to tell a good story in a game than it is in a television show, simply because the latter is focused only on story while the former cannot be. This doesn't mean that it's less important, nor does Hoyer feel that it justifies using lore and background as an excuse for not telling a story; a good story requires immediacy. While she believes that lore is highly important, it should help support storytelling rather than replace it. There's a lot of interesting thoughts in the full interview, so whether you like Guild Wars 2's take on story or not, it's well worth a look.

WildStar releases Voyage of the Nomad, plans story rollout

Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Lore, News Items, Roleplaying, WildStar, Subscription

WildStar
Carbine Studios has just announced new content for WildStar... well, for the WildStar website, anyway. Voyage of the Nomad, a short story that "recollects the tale of the Cassians' first steps into the vast world of deep-space exploration," will go live on the official site's story page today.

And it won't be a lone entry. Carbine plans to publish 11 such tales starting today and running every other Tuesday until the plots are played out. "The stories will unfold chronologically, until they reach the events that players have already experienced in WildStar's main story," says the press release.

Hey, at least the lore-fiends among the greater MMO playerbase will be happy!

EVE Evolved: What does Thera mean for EVE?

Sci-Fi, Video, EVE Online, Culture, Events (In-Game), Expansions, Game Mechanics, Guilds, Lore, Patches, Previews, PvP, Endgame, PvE, Opinion, EVE Evolved, Dev Diaries, Sandbox, Player-Generated Content, Subscription, MMORPG

EVE Evolved title image
If you've been keeping up with the recent news updates on EVE Online, you've probably heard about the upcoming Rhea update scheduled for December 9th. This mega patch will introduce the new tech 3 Tactical Destroyer ship class, Sleeper incursions into normal space, hands-on WASD flight controls, and 101 new wormhole systems (including 25 that are limited to small ships). The new wormhole systems have had all of their planets shattered by an as-yet unknown stellar phenomenon, and clues as to what transpired there will be hidden in the rubble. This infusion of new content and story will mark the first time the wormhole storyline and gameplay have been significantly expanded in over four years.

Each of the new shattered star systems is guaranteed to have at least one outgoing wormhole leading to normal space at all times, increasing the likelihood that pirates will catch you exploring or farming them. And since these systems won't have any in-tact moons, you won't be able to put up a permanent starbase to retreat to if hostiles appear. I'm pretty excited for exploring this new lawless frontier, but it's a unique shattered star system called Thera that I'm most looking forward to finding. Thera will be the first and only wormhole system to have fully kitted NPC stations and will serve as neutral ground for anyone who wants to live there. It's been described as the Mos Eisley of EVE, a permanent home to pirates, PvP corps, and smugglers looking to make some quick ISK.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at how the Thera system could revolutionise EVE for a lot of players and where the EVE storyline could go as a result.

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WoW previews Highmaul raid, kicks off anniversary events today

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Lore, Endgame, News Items, Dungeons, Subscription

And this time, slightly less than a year between updates!
Are you ready to start in on the raid cycle of Warlords of Draenor? Yes you are; that's what you do here. You can start by checking out the latest World of Warcraft development blog that shows off Highmaul in all its glory. The raid's release will be staggered into four parts, with Normal and Heroic releasing on December 2nd, Mythic and the first part of the Raid Finder difficulty releasing on December 9th, and the final two wings being added to the Raid Finder on December 16th and January 6th.

Highmaul contains seven bosses, three of which are optional and two of which are mandatory. Players will take on Kargath Bladefist to kick off the raid experience, while the ultimate encounter leads players against Imperator Mar'gok, the pinnacle of ogre power in the region. You can also take the time to play around with the game's new Twitter hashtag campaign while you wait. That won't help you with the raid at all, really, but it will help pass the time.

In other WoW news, Blizzard will be kicking off its previously announced anniversary events today. Both the 40-man, level 100 version of Molten Core and the Southshore vs. Tarren Mill battleground will become available to players through the raid finder and battlemaster queue, respectively. Everyone who logs in will receive a molten corgi pet as a happy birthday present from the team. The events end January 6th.

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