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Opinion

Perfect Ten: New MMOs to watch in 2015

Betas, Launches, MMO Industry, Warhammer Online, Opinion, Perfect Ten, Miscellaneous, Black Desert, The Repopulation, Shroud of the Avatar, Trove, Skyforge, Landmark, H1Z1, The Division

all the mmos
As I've done for 2013 and 2014, I'm going to use the turn of the year as an excuse to look ahead at what MMO releases we may have to look forward to enjoying in the next 12 months. As always, it's a mixture of research, guesswork, and weeks of anguished ranking to come up with 10 titles that I think will define the new year.

After the huge launch year we had in 2014, 2015 will most definitely be a smaller year for big-name releases. That doesn't mean it will be a complete write-off, but perhaps it will challenge us to look beyond the heavy hitters to find more diamonds in the rough.

A couple of notes before we launch into the list, if you please! First of all, I limited this list to MMOs that at least have a shot of launching in 2015; games that are popular but are definitely not going to make it this year had to be excluded. Second, I am expanding the "honorable mentions" section this year to include more upcoming MMOs and my brief thoughts on them. So you are really getting 50 games for the effort of reading 10! You are welcome.

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Shroud of the Avatar's Richard Garriott and Starr Long on how SOTA wins at player-generated content

Fantasy, Interviews, Opinion, Some Assembly Required, Sandbox, Shroud of the Avatar

Garriott and Long show how Shroud of the Avatar wins at player-generated content
When you sit down to talk with Portalarium's Richard Garriott and Starr Long about Shroud of the Avatar, you hear much more than can possibly fit in just one article! Even though its currently in development, there's a lot to this title. Last week's Some Assembly Required focused on the upcoming sandbox's community aspect; as promised, this week's edition delves into SotA's amazing player-generated content capabilities. It's not surprising that PGC would be so prevalent in-game when these two devs have emphasized the importance of making a living, breathing, immersive world for players. When you get a great community together and then give it tools and freedom to create, what happens is phenomenal. As Long put it, "It's really humbling for me and the team to see what these players are willing to do... what they're doing with what we're giving them."

Read on, my friends, and see why Shroud of the Avatar may very well be the reigning king of the PGC hill even before it actually releases! (There might be a few morsels about upcoming development thrown in as well.)

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Ask Massively: The one where we talk about our 2014 awards

Culture, Events (Real-World), MMO Industry, Opinion, Massively Meta, Ask Massively, Miscellaneous

Wasteland
Massively's 2014 awards series is over, but we like to go back and take a look at the reader polls and some of the big questions and neat comments that arose during the course of our rollout because many of our awards were contentious, as they are every year. It'd be no fun if they weren't, I suppose. Allow us to pontificate, and in the course of the review, we'll try to answer some frequently asked questions as well.

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The Daily Grind: What's the ideal crafting style for an MMO?

Economy, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, The Daily Grind, Miscellaneous, Crafting

Ultima Online
There's a lot of hate for "clicky" crafting in MMOs -- you know, the old "click a button, crafted item pops into your bag" trope. I'd call it the World of Warcraft style, but MMOs all the way back to Ultima Online did crafting that way. And this might sound crazy, but even as a hardcore crafter, I don't actually mind it. Everything in a video game comes down to clicking or mousing or typing. What matters to me is whether the crafting itself matters in the game. Even though the final combine in Star Wars Galaxies amounted to clicking a button and having something pop into my bag, there was a whole chain of resource collecting and experimentation and component creation and luck along the way, and since the economy was player-driven, most of what I was making had relevance to other players.

Personally, I'll take that plus simple clicking over a time-wasting, irritating minigame-style of crafting any day, but I'd love to see innovation in how we craft too. What do you think -- what's the ideal crafting style for an MMO?

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!

The Think Tank: The best Massively content of 2014

Culture, MMO Industry, Opinion, Massively Meta, Miscellaneous, The Think Tank

RuneScape
Massively reader Hagu recently wrote to us and suggested that "when the holiday doldrums" arrive and we're "filling with retrospectives" we consider doing one on our most important articles of the year, the ones we really wish developers or players would read and really take to heart. So that's what we're doing in today's Think Tank: I asked each writer to pick one article that he or she wrote this year that marks his or her very favorite, best, or most important work. Since we are writers, most of us couldn't just pick one, and I'm not about to stop us. We'd love to hear you sound off on your favorite content of the year as well (it helps tell us what we should do more of). Happy holidays!

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The Daily Grind: Did you get any good gaming gifts this week?

Culture, Opinion, The Daily Grind, Miscellaneous

eq
In both real life and in MMOs, gifts have been flying back and forth at such an astonishing rate that you might think that there's some sort of holiday going on or something. While I haven't had time to "work" for rewards in seasonal events, I've been more than happy to take in-game gifts that several titles, including Marvel Heroes and RIFT, were willing to give to me.

So as you're sitting there in an eggnog haze, do you have any gaming gifts that you'd like to boast about this week? They could either be things you've gotten in MMOs, digital gifts, or real-life goodies. Spill!

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!

The Soapbox: Better models for MMO endgame progression, part three

Game Mechanics, Endgame, Opinion, The Soapbox, Miscellaneous

There's a climb we can make, if we try.
Today marks the last entry in my better models for MMO endgame progression series, the follow-up to my series on why MMO studios should abandon raiding. And that means providing two more possible models along with something of a thesis statement. But it also means that at this point I'm far more willing to wander off into the woods with these ideas. The first part had slight twists on standard formulas, the second had ideas that was a bit further afield, and this one features two ideas that are still almost entirely unrefined.

More specifically, today's concepts are more about tackling the very principle that progress has to be tied past a certain point to things that you get. You earn a thing and then you're better. But there's no reason that progress can't be oriented the other way, with the gear (etc.) just being a gating mechanism for your actual forward motion.

The funny part is that a lot of these systems aren't really at odds with one another; they can coexist without too much trouble. But then, that's the nature of the beast.

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The Daily Grind: Why should I play your favorite MMO?

Culture, Opinion, The Daily Grind, Miscellaneous

star citizen
A lot of times when I read through comments, forum posts, and the like about MMOs I'm not playing, I'm subconsciously seeking the answer to the unspoken question, "Why should I play this game?" Or, more accurately, "Please convince me to play this game, as I'm a stubborn gaming donkey in need of some prodding by positive testimonials."

So look at your current favorite MMO(s) and answer me this, why should I -- or others reading your answer -- play that game?

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!

Jukebox Heroes: WildStar features the MMO soundtrack of the year

Sci-Fi, Opinion, WildStar, Jukebox Heroes, Music, Subscription

wildstar
Originally I wanted to write a final Jukebox Heroes column for this year that would have ranked all of the soundtrack releases in 2014, but that ran into a couple of snags. Not only am I still in the process of listening and finding all of them, but one game's score was going to thrash the rest of them so badly that it didn't feel fair to stack them up together. That MMO was, of course, WildStar.

I started to suspect that Composer Jeff Kurtenacker's score for WildStar was going to be something else when the studio started releasing parts of it over a year ago, but even then I wasn't prepared for the sheer quality and quantity that the full soundtrack presented. Critics and fans of the game alike have been very vocal in praising this game's music since the beta and through launch, and I'm still grooving on it months later. My only complaint is that it still -- still -- has yet to see an official release, free or paid.

So even though our yearly awards didn't include a soundtrack category, I'm going to take the initiative and crown WildStar as the soundtrack of the year. Let's listen to six of the OST's highlights and discuss our favorites in the comments section.

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The Soapbox: Better models for MMO endgame progression, part two

Game Mechanics, Endgame, Opinion, The Soapbox, Miscellaneous, Crafting

Yes, there must be a better way.  And there are better ways.
If you read yesterday's Soapbox, the first in my Better models for MMO endgame progression series, with a fair bit of awareness, you probably noticed that the models I presented were, well... safe. Normal. Not too far outside of the realm of what we already have in some games, in other words. Oh, sure, they were functional and expanded compared to what you normally see in games, and they weren't reliant on high-end raiding, but they were still derived from the same space, which is part of the point.

But that's not nearly as far as the rabbit hole goes. So let's start moving further beyond what's already common. Let's start heading into stranger territory.

As before, the models presented here are not super-refined balanced labyrinths of systems; they're the outline, the skeletons, the fundamentals of how these concepts could work. And even at this stage, they're able to go in directions you don't find in numerous MMO endgames. So let's jump right into it, shall we?

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Flameseeker Chronicles: Crafting up a storm in Guild Wars 2

Game Mechanics, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, Flameseeker Chronicles, Crafting, Buy-to-Play

Happy Batursday! Oh, wrong holiday. Wow, I'm sorry. This is why nobody invites me to the nice parties.
Merry Wintersday! Guild Wars 2's non-denominational twinkly winter celebration is in full swing. Despite earlier reports from ArenaNet that we'd get pure repeats of both Halloween and Wintersday, this year has added some new quests and a thematically appropriate relocation to Divinity's Reach. I was wrong last week about the sad Dickensian atmosphere of ruined Lion's Arch decorated with snowflakes, but there are still plenty of unfortunate children, so it all evens out.

As your resident Scrooge, I'm going to skirt around the topic of candy canes and jumping puzzles to talk about a game feature that's much closer to my heart: crafting. However, I come to lob snowballs at GW2's crafting system, not to praise it.

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The Daily Grind: Which MMO has the most content?

Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, The Daily Grind, Miscellaneous

WoW
A Massively commenter weeks ago wrote that World of Warcraft has the most content out of any MMO, full-stop, and everyone around him seemed to take that at face value, which astonished me. Look, I'm subbing to WoW even as I type this, and I think WoW has gobs more systems than some people give it credit for, but the most content of any MMO? Not a chance!

Even if we discount wide-open, pure sandboxes -- which, depending on whom you ask, have either no content or infinite content -- we'd still have to factor in sandparks and classic MMOs that have 20 expansions, more updates than WoW per year, multiple expansions per year, and so many systems and zones that it's just flat out overwhelming. There are a dozen MMOs that intimidate people with how much stuff they pack in. You'd never finish them. By comparison, WoW is a mere snack -- an awesome, polished snack, but a snack all the same.

I don't know which MMO has the "most" content, but I'm pretty sure WoW wouldn't make even the inevitable top 10 list. What about you other folks who've been around the MMO block a time or two? Which MMO has the most content?

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!

The Soapbox: Better models for MMO endgame progression, part one

Game Mechanics, Endgame, Opinion, The Soapbox, Miscellaneous

I don't think the all-bear model is sustainable, though.
Last month, my three-part Soapbox series on reasons studios should abandon raiding as the core mechanic of their MMOs produced no shortage of comments. One of the persistent refrains from the pro-raid side was, as expected, "if you're so smart, why aren't you proposing alternatives?!"

The obvious answer would be that it wasn't the point of the articles. The series was about reasons to drop raiding, after all. But it's also not as simple as "here's what games should be doing" because there are countless alternatives. Tons of alternatives. I can think of at least six off the top of my head.

So for this new series, let's consider models that don't rely upon raiding as an endgame progression model. Some of these are close cousins to endgame models found in games currently on the market, some of them are not, and none of them has been designed with fine details or lore or what-not in mind. They're drag-and-drop, as it were. The point here is explaining the multitude of options available for an MMO's endgame that don't rely upon raiding for their focus. Today's article will cover the first two of six I have in mind.

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The Mog Log: Final Fantasy XIV's big fanfest reveals

Fantasy, Classes, Expansions, Endgame, Opinion, Consoles, Final Fantasy XIV, The Mog Log, Subscription

This is, what, five whole months away?  I can't wait that long!
Christmas came early for the forward-looking Final Fantasy XIV player this year. I know some people are upset at the fact that there were more revelations in the Japanese fan festival than in the ones in Vegas or London, but the timing is different. (I'd also point out that the expansion was announced in Las Vegas.) We've gone from having only a dim view of what's coming to having a pretty clear picture of what awaits through the next few month.

One of the things that awaits is, of course, endless yelling about Machinist. Because boy.

So let's start unpacking the stuff we learned from Tokyo. I say "start" because there is no way to get everything in one column, certainly not with deadlines and other considerations to take center stage. It's going to be a few months, but there's a lot to chew on just about 2.5, even if we ignore all of the expansion stuff, which I have no intention of doing.

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The Daily Grind: Can you get immersed in an accessible MMO?

Sci-Fi, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, The Daily Grind, Sandbox, Elite: Dangerous

I like Elite: Dangerous. The game's not a revelation at this point, but it's a solid space shooter that could grow into something more. My favorite thing about ED is the docking. I imagine that most people find it tedious, but personally it adds an extra layer of escapism and conjures plenty of old-school flight sim nostalgia. And, of course, it's mechanically satisfying to fly an efficient approach, squeak a big boat through the slot, and micromanage your thrusters all the way down to the landing pad.

All I do in ED is take courier missions, investigate unknown signal sources, and dock. Technically I guess I'm progressing toward a bigger bank account and thus bigger ships, but my particular gameplay experience is pretty simplistic and pretty slow-paced. Is it sandboxy? Eh, not really, but at least it doesn't feel directed, linear, or otherwise pre-planned even when I'm purposely repeating gameplay patterns. There's this sense of being a small part of a larger world, which allows ED to deliver -- somewhat paradoxically -- bite-sized chunks of deep immersion.

What about you, Massively readers? Assuming you're a fan of immersion, have you found it in accessible games or do you think it mostly stems from prolonged engagement with more feature-rich titles?

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!

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