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The Stream Team: Wracking our brains in Brain Storm

Betas, Real-Life, Sci-Fi, Video, New Titles, Previews, Opinion, Browser, Hands-On, Casual, MMORTS, Livestream, Miscellaneous, The Stream Team

Brain Storm screenshot
Join us as we explore Brain Storm, an interesting quiz-based, browser-based MMORTS. Yes, it's a real thing and so far looks pretty cool, so join Massively's Beau Hindman in the chat room and ask your curious questions!

Game: Brain Storm
Host: Beau
Date: Monday, January 6th, 2013
Time: 4:00 p.m. EST

Enjoy our Steam Team video below.

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Massively's Third Annual Frindie Awards

Fantasy, Screenshots, Game Mechanics, Ryzom, Wurm Online, Opinion, Second Life, Free-to-Play, Browser, Mobile, Casual, Virtual Worlds, MMORTS, Free for All, Miscellaneous, Sandbox

Frindie Awards
It's time once again for me to throw out my awards for the best of free-to-play, indie, and oddball MMOs, a real niche-within-a-niche. It might seem that I am assigned many of these titles as though I were some modern day Mikey, but the truth is that I get a huge thrill out of finding a new game but get even more of a thrill when I realize that no one is covering it. I had to really think hard about the criteria for the awards this year, mainly because "indie" is quickly becoming one of those often hard-to-define words, alongside "MMORPG" and "free-to-play." Fortunately, I think I know it when I see it.

I kept my choices to games that I have actually played this year. I wanted to avoid games that appear to be really cool. If you want a more broad batch of prizes, check out Massively's best of awards. (Side note: I voted for Defiance as my game of the year.)

These awards are for games that are being created on a shoestring or independent of massive budgets. Some of them are connected to some money, of course, but instead of trying to define "indie," I will only repeat: You'll know it when you see it.

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MMObility: Rail Nation is perfect for armchair engineers

Betas, Historical, Screenshots, Trailers, Game Mechanics, Previews, PvP, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Browser, Casual, MMORTS, MMObility

Rail Nation screenshot
Travian Games' Rail Nation, a new browser-based, non-combat MMORPG, is intriguing, especially if you are a fan of trains, sim management, and friendly player competition. Admittedly, much of the competition in the game is just as cutthroat as I have seen in more "hardcore" games, but at least there is no blood involved. Players start off with a very basic train and route, and a friendly NPC called William L. Smith explains things nicely to get things moving. The idea is to connect your trains to goods, open new routes, and upgrade your fleet of trains to help level your city (a group of players) as you pass through six different eras of technology. Each era lasts two weeks, and the last era is a competition between the 10 highest ranking cities in the game. As you grow you'll also need to open more routes by adding new tracks, which require more goods. Many industries are not even visible on the map until the player unlocks them, giving the game a real feel of moving forward in time. Travian Games likes to put a time limit on gameplay, meaning that there is a true "win" scenario for players to pursue.

While I'm not a big fan of a time limitation on an MMO, and I'm definitely not very skilled at micromanagement, Rail Nation is a lovely game that is relaxing to play. It does take time to grow on you, and its beta access means that the game still has a few issues that need to be ironed out.

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Not So Massively: Novus AEterno's kickstarter, LoL's Yasuo spotlight, and Elite's first alpha test

Betas, Sci-Fi, Video, EVE Online, Business Models, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, New Titles, Patches, PvP, News Items, PvE, Free-to-Play, Mobile, Casual, MMORTS, Dev Diaries, Not So Massively, Sandbox, MOBA, League of Legends, Diablo III, Crowdfunding, Star Citizen, Elite: Dangerous, Path of Exile

Game title image
If you've ever wanted an MMO that's part Homeworld and part EVE Online, check out upcoming single-shard MMORTS Novus AEterno. The game recently smashed its $75,000 US goal on Kickstarter and has managed to bypass Steam Greenlight to secure a Q1 2014 PC release. Previously kickstarted sci-fi sandbox Elite: Dangerous has now entered alpha testing with the release of an impressive-looking singleplayer combat test.

League of Legends released a spotlight video on new champion Yasuo, who features an insane critical hit chance, a spammable knock-up ability, and a wind wall that blocks all projectiles and spells. Dota 2's annual Frostivus celebrations were taken over this year by the interesting new Wraith Night co-op horde game mode. SMITE developer Hi-Rez Studios offered to help players hit by YouTube's recent automated copyright sweep by providing written permission to use its game footage, and old character Kali got a complete revamp.

Mobile MOBA Arena of Heroes is now officially out of beta with the release of its first version for the iPad. Diablo III's Reaper of Souls closed beta has now officially begun and test versions of the new loot system and paragon patch are now on the public test realm. And Path of Exile fans won't have long to wait for the big PvP update, as it should be starting after content update 1.0.4 on December 22nd.

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Infinite Crisis trailer introduces Robin

Betas, Super-hero, Trailers, Video, Classes, New Titles, PvP, News Items, Free-to-Play, MMORTS, Infinite Crisis

While full of plenty of superheroes to play, Infinite Crisis has not forgotten about the sidekicks that fight alongside them. The latest playable hero to join the MOBA's roster is none other than Robin, based on Tim Drake. Cast as (what else) a melee support role, Robin benefits his team with skills such as This Guy, Bo Master, and Dynamic Duo, each skill offering various team buffs and enemy debuffs. Robin's ultimate, Emergent Leader, combines AoE damage with team buffs.

Gather some hints and tips for utilizing Robin in the reveal trailer below. Folks interested in playing Robin -- or any of the other heroes -- for themselves, can sign up for closed beta on the official site.

[Source: Turbine press release]

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MMObility: Elemental Kingdoms is almost a unique game

Screenshots, Game Mechanics, Previews, PvP, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Mobile, Trading Card Games, Casual, MMORTS, First Impressions, MMObility

Elemental Kingdoms screenshot
We've all had our share of trading card games. It's a popular genre, and there are always new titles popping up. Frankly, it's hard to tell many of them apart. That's sort of the point, I guess. The fact is that the basic design is so successful because it can be so fun to play with. Tweak the formula a little bit and you might have a very fun game that is easy to get into yet hard to master.

It's also possible that you'll have yet another boring trading card game. I tried Perfect World's Elemental Kingdoms this week and found a very familiar title that sits a bit apart from the rest of the pack but still has plenty of issues. It attempts to be too many games at once and still does not go far enough as it's asking you to gather cards, craft decks, enhance cards, and fight enemies.

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Perfect World ends the quarter strong, looks to Dota 2's China release

Fantasy, Perfect World International, Launches, MMO Industry, PvP, News Items, PvE, Star Trek Online, Free-to-Play, MMORTS, Champions Online, Miscellaneous, Neverwinter, MMORPG

Perfect World International
Perfect World Entertainment, the China-based publisher behind games like Perfect World International, Neverwinter, Star Trek Online, and Champions Online, ended the last financial quarter in a strong place. Citing the Chinese release of Swordsman Online and Saint Seiya Online as driving factors, Perfect World claimed $136.2 million in revenue and $19.8 million in net profit -- up from last year's marks of $114.2 million and $14.2 million respectively.

Perfect World also expressed its hope for even better quarters to come thanks to big launches in the pipeline. It is currently localizing Neverwinter for a Chinese release and will be overseeing Valve's Dota 2 as it makes its way into Chinese markets.

MMObility: Battle Command is similar in a good way

Sci-Fi, Video, New Titles, PvP, Opinion, War, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, Casual, MMORTS, MMObility

Battle Command screenshot
Spacetime Studi.. er I mean Spacetime Games has been branching out lately. This time, they are working on a new way to kill hours with your mobile device. Instead of controlling a literal avatar by pressing on-screen buttons, the company's newer titles will have you building defenses and raising mighty armies to smash your enemies. To keep with tradition, they have found a working formula in the form of Battle Dragons. I enjoyed the game before but now that I see Battle Command, essentially a re-skin of the dragon-based former title, I wonder if a switch of graphics will make a difference?

It sort of does. I liked the "tower-defense-in-reverse" mechanic of Battle Dragons but it is pretty cutesy. Battle Command puts you in command on miniature, futuristic armies instead and I have to admit to getting into it a bit more because of the switch.

It's still the same game as Battle Dragons, though. Is that a bad thing?

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Free for All: Five MMOs that deserve more of my time

Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Polls, Culture, Wurm Online, Opinion, RuneScape, Free-to-Play, The Secret World, Casual, MMOFPS, MMORTS, RIFT, Free for All, Sandbox, Buy-to-Play

Five MMOs screenshot
There's only so much time in the world for playing video games. Yes, yes, I know it pains us to admit it, but it's true: We really can't sit around and explore MMOs all day long. Well, we could, but it probably wouldn't be very good for our relationships or health or finances. For me, this means that I have to balance playing MMOs for work and playing them for the sake of the hobby. I typically take one of my weekend days to jump into any number of MMOs. I might even spend a good hour just updating them all.

Let me tell you, it's plain painful to log into an MMO and realize just how much good content, events, and player interaction I have been missing. I'm sure this is a common issue though, right? In today's Free for All, I want to take a look at five MMOs that deserve more of my time.

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Novus AEterno announces Kickstarter campaign, expected to launch in 'next six months'

Sci-Fi, News Items, MMORTS, Sandbox, Crowdfunding

Screenshot -- Novus AEterno
Taitale Studios has announced today that its upcoming MMORTS, Novus AEterno, is nearing completion and is "expected to launch within the next six months." In order to gather funding for the final stages of the game's development, the studio has launched a Kickstarter campaign that aims to raise $200,000 US over the course of the next 30 days.

Of the campaign, Taitale CEO Nick Nieuwoudt states that the studio is "excited to make the supportive gamer community part of the [development] process and part of our success." If Novus AEterno sounds like the kind of game at which you'd like to throw some of your money (in exchange for some nifty backer rewards, of course), you can check out the official Kickstarter at the link below. And of course, to learn more about the game itself, just head on over to the official site.

[Source: Taitale Studios press release]

Spacetime debuts Battle Command strategy MMO

Sci-Fi, Launches, New Titles, War, Free-to-Play, Mobile, MMORTS

Spacetime debuts Battle Command strategy MMO
Spacetime has a new MMO out that isn't saddled with the "Legends" moniker. The studio, which is now called Spacetime Games, announced the release of Battle Command for Android devices.

Unlike Spacetime's previous games, Battle Command skews away from an RPG and toward a city-building RTS. Players will develop a futuristic base, pump out an army, and fight both the computer and other players in offensive and defensive campaigns. Alliances can be forged as well, linking players together in economic and militaristic support.

The free-to-play title is currently available on Google Play.

MMObility: Grepolis mobile plays almost perfectly

Historical, Video, Game Mechanics, Previews, PvP, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Browser, Mobile, Hands-On, Casual, MMORTS, Dev Diaries, MMObility

Grepolis screenshot
Grepolis is one of my favorite browser-based MMORTS titles because of its simplicity in design and in-depth gameplay. I can jump into the game for a few minutes a day and survive or play it more than that and can actually become powerful. I've loved browser-based MMORTS games for those very reasons, but Grepolis continues to improve even more quickly than others thanks to Innogames' obvious commitment to the community. I've talked about the developer's recent community-based projects and have covered the developer a lot in the past. The company just seems to pay attention -- for the most part -- to its playerbase.

Luckily my new 4G LTE Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 caught up with the rest of the internet, and I am now able to play Grepolis on Android. It's a nice little tablet, and the larger-sized screen really makes games look great. The Android version of the game is not much different from the browser-based version, but playing on a tablet just feels much more natural.

I do have some gripes, however, but I have a feeling that they might be addressed sometime in a future update.

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The Soapbox: Free-to-play wasn't our idea

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Aion, EverQuest, Lord of the Rings Online, Business Models, Opinion, Free-to-Play, MMOFPS, MMORTS, Star Wars: The Old Republic, TERA, The Soapbox, Miscellaneous, The Elder Scrolls Online, Subscription, MMORPG, Buy-to-Play

Dota 2
Free-to-play is surging. In just a few short years, free-to-play has become the go-to mechanism through which studios broaden audiences, entice players, and build revenue. No other method of monetization has proven to be so lucrative and effective with such consistency, whether it be a monthly subscription fee, a one-time purchase price, or some combination of the two.

Free-to-play's growth has created a world in which non-free games are the exception, not the rule. Of the most popular MMOs and online games as of my typing these words, the vast majority are free-to-play. Games that are bold enough to buck the trend and launch with a sub fee are met with derision and suspicion from the online gaming community; the many thousands of words dedicated to ZeniMax Online's decision to require a subscription for The Elder Scrolls Online are likely the most recent and high-profile examples of this trend in action.

When players complain about a game launching with a subscription, their opinions are often countered by a self-appointed gaming elite who believe that things were better in the good old days, when games cost money and poor people didn't ruin everything by demanding free stuff. The argument summarized is something like, "I am sick and tired of lazy, entitled gamers wanting everything for free."

There's just one problem: Lazy, entitled gamers didn't invent free-to-play. Studios did.

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Civ Online to launch with four civilizations and win conditions

Historical, Interviews, New Titles, PvP, News Items, Free-to-Play, MMORTS, MMORPG

Civlization Online
In an interview with 2P, XLGames CEO Jake Song talked a bit about upcoming Civilization Online and delved deeper into how the game will function. Civ Online, which is currently not officially scheduled for a North American release, will go live with four playable civilizations: China, Rome, Egypt, and Aztec. Each civilization controls three starting cities that cannot be conquered; players must strike out on their own to found cities once they have gathered enough resources.

Song also revealed four of the game's classes, confirming Engineers, Miners, Soldiers, and Farmers for release. Players will be allowed to change careers if desired, though career-swaps carry risks. Progression requires that players develop skills in order level their characters up. Technology advances will be made based on how players focus their resources.

Civilization Online will be different from previous Civ games thanks to its MMO nature. However, Song confirmed that the game will have several win conditions that end the session, such as a player conquering all other civilizations or launching a spaceship. When a player wins, the game starts over with everyone back at square one.

[Thanks to Dengar for the tip!]

Behind the scenes as a [REDACTED] Game Master

MMO Industry, MMOFPS, MMORTS, Miscellaneous, MMORPG

Guild Wars 2
Once upon a time, I worked as a game master for a very popular MMORPG. My duties were relatively simple: help players out of sticky situations and enforce the rules of the game when it came to cheating, harassment, and general player behavior. A game master's role is to protect the player from any and all potential game dangers, up to and including the player himself.

In my work as a GM, I saw many amazing things. I saw guild members contact support staff because they were worried about another player's real-life wellbeing. I saw incredibly complex scams across multiple players and accounts that, while infuriating and exceptionally against the rules, were astonishing in their genius. And of course, I saw lots and lots of cybering.

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