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Events (Massively's Coverage)

PAX Prime 2014: Landmark comes into its own

Betas, Fantasy, Patches, PvP, Free-to-Play, Events (Massively's Coverage), Sandbox, Landmark

landmark
After the better part of a year of being both an excellent building simulator and the sparse skeleton of an actual MMO, Landmark is finally starting to fill out in all sorts of pleasing ways. At this year's PAX Prime, Dave Georgeson was gushing about the joy that's been unleashed with the recent PvP combat patch. Not only are players reveling in the slaughter of their fellow humans, but a new market for death match arenas has sprung up virtually overnight.

"Players are having stupid amounts of fun with the PvP, even if they aren't typically into PvP," Georgeson noted. He said that contrary to popular belief, PvP is tougher to put into an MMO because it deals with a very unpredictable foe (a thinking human). But it's also better for the team to implement that first and home in on what makes the combat click to make PvE combat sparkle when that's added later on. More PvP customization options are on deck for the future as well.

Also part of the crazy fun are the new platforming elements: teleporters, moving platforms, and "flingers." Georgeson predicted that once the playerbase gets a handle on what these elements can do and how they can be chained together, the game will grow several orders of magnitude wilder.

From here, Landmark's progress will only speed up. The team is going to focus on bug fixes and polishing the new systems while listening to what the players think about the new toys. One thing that the devs have to do is separate ideas that are possible (such as allowing players to order voxel structures to obey the laws of physics) from those that are not (such as allowing players to create enemy creature models). The team does have a release date for the game in mind, although it is not sharing.

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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: Going on a deer hunt in H1Z1

Betas, Horror, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, Humor, Events (Massively's Coverage), H1Z1

h1z1
The time was just before dawn, with colors muted by the limited light. I silently roamed through fog banks, looking for a quarry in the woods and finding none. It was my first time playing H1Z1, and I had no other purpose than to find something living (or unliving) and end it with my hefty axe.

Suddenly I spotted it: the flash of a white tail as a deer sprinted away from me through the brush. I pressed down the sprint button and went after it, chewing through my stamina and cursing my lack of four legs or gasoline-powered wheels.

The deer led me on a grim chase through the mostly silent woodland. At one point, a wolf appeared out from behind a tree and sprinted after the doe as well, although it couldn't catch up and eventually became disheartened (or glitched out). Yes, I felt both gruesome and silly spending my moments at the demo booth trying to kill Bambi, but I needed to know if I would be able to survive in this environment.

One wrong move and I was upon the prey, bringing it down with a sickening thud. Continuing to hack away at the carcass with my axe found me rewarded with more crafting materials and a dented conscience. Stricken, I wandered away and roamed up a hill, only to encounter a strange solitary sign with a skull on it.

"That marks the border of the game," a nearby developer told me while another dev professed amazement that he had never seen such signs before. "If you go past here, you'll die," the first dev cautioned.

Maybe I deserve to die. If chopping through a tender critter is what it takes to survive in this new world, is that worth the cost? I put down the controls and walked away, innocent no longer.

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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: PlanetSide 2 meets the PlayStation 4

Sci-Fi, MMO Industry, Free-to-Play, MMOFPS, Events (Massively's Coverage), PlanetSide 2

ps2
PlanetSide 2 is waging a war for your attention on two platforms these days. The big push by SOE as of late is to prepare the title for its testing and release on the PlayStation 4. At this year's PAX Prime, the team said that the MMOFPS should be going into a beta later this year after the devs finish refining the UI for use on the controller.

The PlayStation 4 version won't be sharing the same server as the PC, although SOE predicts that it will become the more popular edition due to the number of first-person shooter fans on the console. Great effort is being made to keep the game as fast and responsive as other FPS titles on that platform. As in many other FPS games on the PS4, voice chat will be a must-have for squads.

The team will be attempting to keep the updates for the PS4 edition as close as possible with the release of the PC title. Because of the approval process by Sony, it won't be possible for the devs to assure a same-day release across platforms.

We asked whether PlanetSide 2 could be coming to the PlayStation 3 as well, but the studio said that the older hardware simply can't handle the title without a serious compromise in game quality.

Massively's on the ground in Seattle during the weekend of August 29th to September 1st, bringing you all the best news from PAX Prime 2014. Whether you're dying to know more about Warlords of Draenor, The Elder Scrolls Online, Landmark, or any MMO in between, you can bet we'll have it covered!

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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PAX Prime 2014: State of Decay takes steps toward something larger

Horror, MMO Industry, Events (Massively's Coverage), Buy-to-Play

state of decay
Down at Undead Labs' new studio in Seattle, there is evidence of one low-tech approach to development. It's a very large, flat table that designers use to playtest pen-and-paper games that they create on the spot. By playing back and forth, organic brainstorming occurs and allows for refinement to the systems before precious time is wasted on coding failed ideas.

It's this kind of iterative approach that led the team to refining its hit title State of Decay. Today, Undead Labs announced that it will be releasing a new version of the game, called State of Decay: Year-One Survival Edition in the spring of next year on the Xbox One and Steam. Not only will this package in the original game and all of its DLC, but it will benefit from a jump to 1080p visuals, better animations, and immersive environmental effects. Additionally, characters from the Lifeline DLC will be made playable in the original content.

It's not the MMO announcement that we might be hoping for on Massively, but it's not a dismissal of that either. The team made a strong point of saying that this was the first step into the next generation and that this edition of the game would be laying down the foundation for the future of the franchise.

Massively's on the ground in Seattle during the weekend of August 29th to September 1st, bringing you all the best news from PAX Prime 2014. Whether you're dying to know more about Warlords of Draenor, The Elder Scrolls Online, Landmark, or any MMO in between, you can bet we'll have it covered!

PAX Prime 2014: Hands-on with Undead Labs' Moonrise

Fantasy, New Titles, Free-to-Play, Mobile, Hands-On, Events (Massively's Coverage), Kids

moonrise
One of the maxims of Undead Labs is that the team is composed of "gaming omnivores" who don't want to get stuck in a rut of doing the exact same game and genre over and over again. When this was explained to me, it helped ease the shock that was caused by the realization that a studio best known for its gory zombie survival bent is also making a colorful Pokémon-like title called Moonrise.

In Moonrise, you play as a Warden who is tasked with saving a wide variety of cute critters called Solari by -- of course -- enslaving them and making them fight other Wardens and their pets. Instead of striving to overcome its Pokémon heritage, the team admits that the game is specifically targeted at older teens and younger adults who grew up with those games and want to experience a slightly more mature and full-featured iteration.

I got to spend some quality time curled up on a couch with a lap full of Moonrise on the iPad at PAX Prime this week. Is this due to be the next "catch 'em all" fad or a strange blip in the company's portfolio? Read on, and I shall make my guess.

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The Daily Grind: What do you hope to hear at this year's PAX Prime?

Culture, Events (Real-World), MMO Industry, Massively Meta, Events (Massively's Coverage), Miscellaneous

PAX Prime is the last major Western multi-game tradeshow of the year relevant for MMO enthusiasts, making it the last big wave of mass studio announcements until PAX South's debut in January. Massively's Justin Olivetti will be on the PAX Prime show floor for us this year, checking out Warlords of Draenor, Landmark, ArcheAge, H1Z1, WildStar, The Repopulation, Pathfinder Online, Hearthstone, Trove, Shroud of the Avatar, and other MMOs and not-so-MMOs both big and small.

But sometimes game announcements come out of nowhere during conventions, and we discover something we weren't expecting at all. What do you hope to see from this year's PAX Prime?

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!

SOE Live 2014: H1Z1 is a full-fledged survival experience

Game Mechanics, New Titles, Free-to-Play, Events (Massively's Coverage), Post-Apocalyptic, Sandbox, H1Z1

With an event like Zombie Prom, it was hard not to notice a certain undead theme at this year's SOE Live. That's all courtesy of the studio's upcoming apocalyptic survival game H1Z1. And thanks to plenty of panels, interviews, and the keynote, we learned even more about the game: The new sandbox is so much more than a zombie shooter; it's a full fledged survival experience. There were even opportunities for fans to nab some hands-on playtime.

We had the chance to mix and mingle with Producer Steve George, Senior Game Designer Jimmy Whisenhunt, Art Director Bill Yeatts, Technical Director Tom Schenck, and Game Designer Adam Clegg to discuss where H1Z1 came from, where it is going, and how far it has gotten. Delve into the new air drops, the heat and temperature systems, and so much more. We've also embedded the full keynote panel for you.

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SOE Live 2014: More on Landmark's islands and combat

Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Game Mechanics, PvP, Free-to-Play, Events (Massively's Coverage), Player-Generated Content, Landmark

I think there's a consensus that you can never get too much information about Landmark, and the devs at SOE Live certainly delivered more juicy details about the game's islands and its upcoming combat system. For instance, did you know that Franchise Director Dave Georgeson revealed this little fun fact for RP: All the player characters in Landmark are actually from somewhere else and were just placed on these islands. How or why, Georgeson didn't say! We've got a slew of other tidbits for you here, everything from island rulesets to the use of grappling hooks in PvP to more info on the game master system. And that's just the beginning!

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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: Yes, there will be new shapes! (and other Landmark building news)

Betas, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Game Mechanics, Free-to-Play, Events (Massively's Coverage), Sandbox, Housing, Player-Generated Content, Landmark

New building shapes are coming! Creative Director Jeff Butler announced at SOE Live that new building shapes really will be coming to Landmark. Do you want columns, cones, or pyramids? They are planned! Franchise Director Dave Georgeson also shared the team's new idea of collectable shape templates. (Georgeson let it slip that players are getting two more attached claims, bringing the total to two main claims and five attached.)

Butler noted that the goal is to make the entire process of voxelmancy easier for players. Besides having new shapes -- and more claims -- to work with, players will see a host of other features aimed at making building a better experience for all. These include dynamic fluids, voxel physics, a new UI that's more intuitive and easier to search, personal palettes, and more.

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SOE Live 2014: The revolutionary intelligence of Storybricks' AI in EQ Next and Landmark

Fantasy, Game Mechanics, Free-to-Play, Events (Massively's Coverage), EverQuest Next, Norrathian Notebook, Landmark

SOE Live 2014 The revolutionary intelligence of Storybricks' AI in EQ Next and Landmark
The most exciting part of EverQuest Next and Landmark for me is the living, intelligent AI brought to the games courtesy of Storybricks. Thanks to a tech demonstration at SOE Live, we got to see that AI in action, and can I tell you I am even more excited having seen it! This technology really will revolutionize the game, creating a living, breathing world in EQ Next that players help shape as it develops as well as give players the power to make their world come alive in Landmark. And to add icing to the cake, the panel also delved into the background of the new Norrath a bit, revealing the world map complete with familiar areas (like Kithicor).

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SOE Live 2014: More EverQuest Next tidbits

Fantasy, Game Mechanics, Free-to-Play, Events (Massively's Coverage), EverQuest Next

With so many keynotes, panels, Q&As, and opportunities to chat with devs at SOE Live, there's always an avalanche of information to sort through. So here's a compilation of tidbits relating to EverQuest Next that we gleaned from the con.
  • There will be guild homes and towns in EQN; these will be really special and hard to get.
  • The devs are committed to taking all the races through the foundation workshops.
  • SOEmote has improved significantly (and looks much more natural).
  • Players know that Qeynos will exist, but Freeport and it's current state are still a mystery.
  • Devs are experimenting with social hubs that players can check anytime from anywhere, even getting alerts for high-profile happenings.
  • Factions are spread out across the land, so there will be multiple opportunities to learn a class, not just "visit one guy on one mountaintop."
  • Being heroes of the world does not just mean slaughtering things; you can build temples to the gods, open trade routes, even help farmers with crops.
  • Even small changes to world are tangible: If you help merchants become wealthier, they walk around in better apparel and show off that wealth. The "quest completion log" is, in effect, an account of the changes you see.
  • NPC groups will ally with and help each other as well as fight against each other.
  • No decision yet if food and drink will be necessary.
  • The future may hold player-fiction contests for official lore, but there's nothing planned in the short term because of the excessive time involved to review them -- time needed on other aspects of game right now. SOE says, "We need to make sure that every detail of the story that we release fits into the continuity of the world; we're a stickler about that."
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.

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