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The Stream Team: Dungeoning in Swordsman

Fantasy, Historical, Video, New Titles, PvE, Free-to-Play, Massively Meta, Hands-On, Livestream, Dungeons, The Stream Team, MMORPG, Swordsman

Swordsman
According to Perfect World, the real meat of Swordsman is to be found in its dungeon content (and its PvP). Join Massively's Mike Foster tonight as he continues his Choose My Adventure exploration of Swordsman by queuing up for some mid-level instances and seeing where his whips take him. The action starts at 7:00 p.m. EDT -- assuming, of course, that the instance gods show Mike some pity and give him a group.

Game: Swordsman
Host: Mike Foster
Date: Friday, October 24th
Time: 7:00 p.m. EDT

Enjoy our Stream Team video below.

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BioWare on SWTOR's Revan expansion, upcoming species, and class stories

Sci-Fi, Events (In-Game), Expansions, Interviews, Launches, Patches, Endgame, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Star Wars: The Old Republic, MMORPG

SWTOR Interview: Capping off the Revan story
Star Wars fans are super excited about the next digital expansion for Star Wars: The Old Republic releasing on December 9th. First off, it's Star Wars, and second, it deals with one of the most iconic Star Wars figures outside the movies: Revan.

I recently talked to some key figures at BioWare to ask them about Shadow of Revan. On the phone call and livestream, Charles Boyd, the lead writer for the expansion, not only gave an overview of the story but played a bit live. Producer Bruce Maclean discusssed the production side of the game. And even Game Director James Ohlen popped onto the call to let us know how much this expansion means to him.

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Choose My Adventure: The once and future Swordsman

Fantasy, Historical, Polls, Expansions, New Titles, PvE, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, Choose My Adventure, MMORPG, Swordsman

Swordsman
For the last three weeks, I've been whipping and kicking every bad guy I can find in Perfect World Entertainment's Swordsman in the hopes of understanding this peculiar wuxia MMORPG. My Choose My Adventure experience thus far has been mixed; I've enjoyed Swordsman's theme and setting, but its mechanics and hard-to-follow narrative have made the experience a touch less manageable. Swordsman from 1-30 seems at best like an extended tutorial and at worst like a game that plays itself.

That's not just my opinion. All of the feedback I can find on the game seems to point in one direction: Swordsman's early levels aren't the main attraction. The real Swordsman exists in PvP (unlocked at level 30), guild quests (unlocked at level 35), and instances (unlocked at 15 -- not bad). Last week's combat discipline discovery at 25 further cemented the idea that Swordsman is a game designed to reward players who stick through the initial grind.

I didn't have much time to play this last week, but I did get a chance to sit down with PWE product manager Gabrielle Heiland to talk about Swordsman's first expansion, the future of the game, and how Perfect World feels about the game's current "wait and see" design.

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Hyperspace Beacon: SWTOR and the transparency dilemma

Sci-Fi, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Community Q&A, Hyperspace Beacon, MMORPG

Hyperspace Beacon
This past week on The Republic, I talked to prominent community members about transparency and broken promises in regard to Star Wars: The Old Republic. Both Heather from Corellian Run Radio and Redna from Ootinicast agreed that BioWare's community team has communicated too little and too infrequently with the players and has actually driven people away from the game because of that lack of dialogue.

Also this past week, former Operative Class Representative Snave interviewed Community Manager Eric Musco, asking why the community team has been so quiet as of late and why it promised to deliver information by the end of September but it didn't. Snave also asked why there hasn't been more transparency from community team, especially when Musco specifically said that one of the things that he wanted from the community team was more transparency. Snave accused Musco of speaking out of both sides of his mouth when he said that he wanted more transparency but then wouldn't reveal what was going on with the announcement.

Compounding recent events was a kerfuffle over the ongoing Cantina Tours. Players became upset when the Cantina Tour date for Las Vegas was moved from November 7th to November 15th, even though back in February, Community Coordinator Courtney Woods posted the planned dates of the Community Cantina Tour with the caveat that they were "subject to change."

As a community, SWTOR players don't seem to be happy with or without transparency. The SWTOR community team cannot, as the saying goes, win for losing. What is the solution here? Let's discuss the details and maybe a solution or two.

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EVE Vegas 2014 roundup: Tech 3 destroyers, permadeath and more

Sci-Fi, Video, EVE Online, Culture, Events (Real-World), Expansions, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Patches, Previews, News Items, Events (Massively's Coverage), Livestream, Dev Diaries, Sandbox, Subscription, MMORPG

An event that started out several years ago as an impromptu EVE Online player gathering, EVE Vegas has grown so large that this year it was was officially taken over by developer CCP Games. This year's event was organised like a mini-Fanfest, with Executive Producer Andie Nordgren's keynote address and some interesting talks from both players and developers. Players got a chance to compare notes with developers on the game's recent progress, CCP let out a few exciting reveals, and the whole event was streamed live to viewers at home for free.

This year's big reveal was a new tech 3 Tactical Destroyer ship class that can transform into one of several tactical configurations mid-fight to boost power to the engines, shields, or weapons as required. We also heard rumblings of new "glass cannon" weapons that deal increased damage but lower your ship's damage resistances, and CCP tested the public response to the controversial idea of adding permadeath characters to EVE. Player talks were equally informative, giving insights into the world of nullsec Fleet Command and the custom Region Commander software that the game's biggest coalitions use to maintain their grip on power.

If you missed out on the event, read on for links to Massively's coverage of the stream or to watch the stream recordings for yourself.

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EVE Vegas 2014: Getting players involved in EVE's development

Sci-Fi, Video, EVE Online, Business Models, Culture, Events (Real-World), Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Patches, News Items, Events (Massively's Coverage), Livestream, Dev Diaries, Sandbox, Player-Generated Content, Subscription, MMORPG

Back in 2011, EVE Online developer CCP Games was rocked by controversy when players outraged over the Incarna expansion's microtransactions and CCP's indifference to player feedback spoke with their wallets and quit the game. In what became known as the monoclegate scandal, an estimated 8% of players quit, and CCP eventually laid off 20% of its staff worldwide. Some tough lessons were learned about keeping players looped into the development process, and CCP began involving players more closely in the development process.

At EVE Vegas 2014 today, developer CCP Fozzie looked at the ways that CCP gathers ideas and feedback from the community. As a sandbox MMO with a very dedicated community, EVE is in the interesting position that many of the players know more about the game than the developers themselves and can identify problems with ideas very early in the development process. Plans are now announced earlier in development to gather feedback, some new features are now made optional on release to gauge usage, and failed ideas will even be rolled back if necessary.

During the talk, Fozzie confirmed that each SCRUM team within CCP focuses on one particular area of gameplay and that player ideas are often brought into internal meetings for discussion. A new rig named the Higgs Anchor is even being introduced based on player suggestions; it will decrease movement speed by 75% but increase agility to make it easier to align to warp out if hostiles approach the player's location. If this level of player participation keeps up, hopefully disasters like monoclegate will never happen again.

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EVE Vegas 2014: CCP on the new player experience and permadeath

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Culture, Events (Real-World), Expansions, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Patches, PvP, News Items, PvE, Events (Massively's Coverage), Livestream, Dev Diaries, Sandbox, Subscription, MMORPG

Every time some huge scandal or record-breaking battle erupts in EVE Online, thousands of new players flood into the game ready to create epic stories of their own. Confronted with a confusing interface and a practically mandatory tutorial that takes most of the day to complete, most of those players, unsurprisingly, don't stick around. The past few updates have improved things by adding tooltips to the main UI elements and introducing a new notification system, but there's more to come.

At EVE Vegas 2014 this weekend, CCP Rise discussed his plans for a new Opportunities system that will replace the tutorial. To help design the system, developers got together groups of gamers who had never played before and dropped them into EVE with little to no instructions. The playtests highlighted a lack of action compared to expectations and showed how confusing things like the map, station UI, and hangar inventory system can be for newcomers. Many of these problems are very easily fixed and may even be solved in one of the two remaining patches this year.

In an interesting move, Rise went on to talk about his idea to add a form of permadeath to EVE Online. Although you lose your ship when you die in EVE, it's actually only a financial loss as your character is reborn in a fresh clone. What Rise wants is for people to make new mortal characters with no clones and a fixed number of skillpoints to allocate to skills. It's possible that this could close the gap between old and new players by allowing newbies to purchase single lives with the focused combat skills of a veteran. This isn't something that will be introduced any time soon or even that's definitely coming, but the fact that CCP is talking about the idea publicly now is intriguing.

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EVE Vegas 2014: Region Commander turns EVE into a huge spreadsheet

Sci-Fi, Video, EVE Online, Culture, Economy, Events (Real-World), Game Mechanics, Guilds, MMO Industry, PvP, Events (Massively's Coverage), Livestream, Sandbox, Crafting, Player-Generated Content, Subscription, MMORPG

It's often said that sci-fi MMO EVE Online isn't so much a game as a giant online spreadsheet and that people pay a subscription fee in order to have a second job they don't get paid for. While that's little more than a joke to the majority of EVE players, there are those for whom EVE is genuinely played on a massive spreadsheet. In a guest talk at EVE Vegas 2014 earlier today, players Javajunky and Gossamer DT from the logistics division of one of the game's largest coalitions discussed the monumental amount of work that goes into the industrial and organisation side of running a nullsec alliance or coalition.

During the talk, Gossamer DT discussed an interesting piece of custom software he develops called Region Commander that was designed specifically for organising player empires. The tool keeps track of starbase tower fuel, maintains a blacklist of players who have been kicked out of the coalition, and allows organisers to create and assign tasks to players in their command. Players who want to contribute to their alliance's industrial backbone can log into the system to take on work tasks due for completion, and the tool updates in realtime. The only thing missing is a punch card and a paycheck.

Using this tool, players have managed to combat the logistical and organisational challenges that would naturally make coalitions of thousands of players infeasible. Many third party tools have been criticised in the past for providing gameplay advantages to those who use them and increasing the gulf between new and experienced players. Players already have tools to help with mining and trading, and even ones that parse data from your ship scanner into useful information for your Fleet Commander. It's clear that whether CCP or the playerbase approves of these tools, this djinn won't be going back into its bottle.

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EVE Vegas 2014: December's Rhea update adds tech 3 destroyers

Sci-Fi, Video, EVE Online, Classes, Culture, Events (Real-World), Expansions, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Patches, News Items, Events (Massively's Coverage), Livestream, Dev Diaries, Sandbox, Subscription, MMORPG

During the Keynote speech at EVE Vegas 2014, EVE Online developers revealed some big news for the game's next two major updates. We heard the broad strokes of CCP's plans at the latest EVE Fanfest back in March, when it was revealed that the company would switch from releasing two expansions per year to around ten smaller releases. The upcoming Phoebe release planned for November 4th will improve Tech 2 Invention, improve life in the lawless nullsec regions with heavy nerfs to capital ship movement, and introduce a highly requested unlimited length skill queue system.

While players are certainly looking forward to Phoebe, it's December's Rhea update that will really pack a punch. The Blackbird, Falcon, and Rook electronic warfare ships will get new models, and a new type of freighter codenamed the "Tug" will be introduced that can move large numbers of fitted ships around the game. But the big news coming out of EVE Vegas 2014 today is that a completely new set of tech 3 ships will be added for the first time since 2009's Apocrypha expansion. The new ships are tactical destroyer, and they aren't just smaller versions of the tech 3 strategic cruisers.

Instead of being built out of a set of subsystems, tactical destroyers will have the ability to switch between several modes on the fly, transforming them from snipers or tanks to speed demons as required. If you've ever wanted to transfer full power to your engines or shields like something out of Star Trek, these new ships are for you. Thanks to winning a recent research race event, the Amarr version of the ship will be released before the other races.

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The Stream Team: Sightseeing in Swordsman

Fantasy, Historical, Video, New Titles, PvE, Free-to-Play, Massively Meta, Hands-On, Livestream, The Stream Team, MMORPG, Swordsman

PWE
Perfect World Entertainment's Swordsman offers quite a few interesting locales to visit, complete with temples, rickety bridges, and practicing martial artists. Tune in tonight as Massively's Mike Foster takes a laid-back tour of some of Swordsman's zones and checks out each of its martial arts school headquarters.

The wandering begins at 7:00 p.m. EST.

Game: Swordsman
Host: Mike Foster
Date: Wednesday, October 15th, 2014
Time: 7:00 p.m. EDT

Enjoy our Stream Team video below.

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Choose My Adventure: Clicking around in Swordsman

Fantasy, Historical, Polls, New Titles, PvE, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, Choose My Adventure, MMORPG, Swordsman

Swordsman
Three weeks into our Choose My Adventure adventure, I'm not sure what to make of Perfect World Entertainment's Swordsman. The game boasts a deep literary pedigree and markets itself on its wuxia themes and combat-oriented design. It has a rich, beautiful world that is dripping with powerful design cues and historical influences. Like all PWE games, it is slick and easy to pick up and play.

Swordsman is a well-made MMORPG. It is mechanically sound and conceptually solid. So why am I so bored?

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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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EVE Evolved: Fixing EVE's player activity

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Business Models, Culture, Expansions, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Patches, PvP, Opinion, EVE Evolved, Sandbox, Subscription, MMORPG

EVE Evolved title image
It's been a sort of running gag in EVE Online throughout the years that players spend inordinate amounts of time docked in stations and spinning their ships around in the hangar, but this is oddly close to the truth. Those of us who have been hooked to EVE for years know just how intense the game can get at its most frantic and how incredible it is to be present for historic events and important PvP battles, but those moments are rare, and there's typically a lot of downtime between periods of activity. For every PvP battle fought, incursion fleet formed or wormhole op organised, players often have to spend hours in stations or in space amusing themselves or doing busywork.

With gamers now spreading their increasingly limited free time across a growing catalogue of online games, some EVE players log in for only a few minutes per day to queue skills, chat with corpmates, and see if anything interesting is happening. The recent announcement that the upcoming Phoebe release will contain infinite length skill queues has some players concerned that people will lose the motivation to pop their heads into New Eden each day and see what's going on. Since the best sandbox gameplay is emergent in nature, just getting players to log in so they're available to take part in something awesome when it happens is extremely important.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I ask whether EVE is in trouble due to its recent decline in player activity, look at the impact of people with just a few hours per week to play, and suggest a new app idea that could help solve all of those problems.

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The Stream Team: SWTOR because Star Wars

Fantasy, Sci-Fi, PvE, Free-to-Play, Massively Meta, Hands-On, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Livestream, The Stream Team, MMORPG

SWTOR
Massively's Mike Foster is a tremendous Star Wars geek who for some reason just realized that there is an MMO where he can swing lightsabers and listen to NPCs talk about Jedi/Sith relations for hours on end. Join Mike as he experiences Star Wars: The Old Republic from a new player's perspective and nerd out with him about Han Solo's demise, Boba Fett's survival, and Darth Vader's floating glove.

The action starts at 7:00 p.m. EDT. Bring your own Wookiee.

Game: Star Wars: The Old Republic
Host: Mike Foster
Date: Friday, October 10th
Time: 7:00 p.m. EDT

Enjoy our Stream Team video below.

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The Stream Team: Swordsman's Five Venoms

Fantasy, Historical, Video, PvE, Free-to-Play, Massively Meta, Hands-On, Livestream, The Stream Team, MMORPG, Swordsman

Swordsman
Swordsman is this month's Choose My Adventure game and Massively's Mike Foster is ready to spend his evening whipping bad guys and poisoning their friends with his Five Venoms character. Poll voters wanted to see the female-only martial arts school in action, so tonight's the night. Tune in at 7:00 p.m. EDT to check out Perfect World Entertainment's latest free-to-play juggernaut and to see if Mike can make any sense out of its Mandarin voice acting.

Game: Swordsman
Host: Mike Foster
Date: Wednesday, October 8th
Time: 7:00 p.m. EDT

Enjoy our Stream Team video below.

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