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ZeniMax's Paul Sage on The Elder Scrolls Online's endgame, PvP, and crafting

Fantasy, Events (Real-World), Game Mechanics, Interviews, Previews, Professions, PvP, PvE, Interviews (Massively's), Events (Massively's Coverage), Dungeons, Crafting, The Elder Scrolls Online

The Elder Scrolls Online Interview With ZeniMax's Paul Sage
During my hands-on play session with The Elder Scrolls Online at the media event last week, I got a glimpse of the early game experience, and it was delicious. But most MMOs are judged on what awaits players at the max-level endgame, so I sat down with ZeniMax Online Studios creative director Paul Sage to ask about those areas of the game that I didn't get to see.

Specifically, I asked Sage to describe ZeniMax's strategy for keeping players occupied once they hit the level cap at 50. His reply included four main activities: questing in enemy alliance zones, four-player dungeons, adventure zones, and the PvP alliance war in Cyrodiil. Read on for all of the details I gleaned from the interview!

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EVE Evolved: Do PLEX make EVE pay-to-win?

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Business Models, Culture, Economy, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Professions, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, EVE Evolved, Sandbox

EVE Evolved title image
Several years ago, the subscription model was king and the mere mention of an MMO selling in-game items for cash was almost enough to cause a virtual riot. RMT was the devil, and players who bought swords or spaceships for cash deserved nothing short of a permanent ban. The past decade of development has changed the MMO landscape and brought in a new generation of gamers with different attitudes. Today's players have grown up with and embraced ideas like the free-to-play business model, microtransaction shops, and perhaps even the idea of buying in-game advantages for cash.

In his latest Free for All column, Massively's Beau Hindman tackled the controversial issue of MMOs selling power for real cash, and his points about EVE Online sparked some pretty interesting discussion in the comments. The crux of the argument was that an EVE player can currently take out his wallet and buy his way into a bigger ship or even pick up a pre-trained veteran character. That's certainly true, but is that the same as buying an unfair advantage and does it necessarily make EVE pay-to-win?

In this week's EVE Evolved, I look at why players find PLEX so much more palatable than direct item sales and ask whether the system fits the definition of pay-to-win.

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Land and Hand: Crafting and gathering in Final Fantasy XIV's relaunch

Fantasy, Game Mechanics, Previews, Professions, Opinion, Hands-On, Consoles, Hands-On (Massively's), Events (Massively's Coverage), Final Fantasy XIV, Crafting

Work that armor.  Work it good.
When I was playing Final Fantasy XIV's pre-launch beta, it was gathering that made me realize I was in real trouble with this game. Normally I consider gathering to be a necessary evil, a part of the game that exists and only occasionally overlaps with what I like to do. But the first time I started chopping away as a Botanist, I knew that something special was going on here.

Of course, gathering and crafting also needed an overhaul. The former was a frequently luck-based minigame that could be intensely frustrating to decipher with few skills that seemed to do much, and the latter was obtuse even if you ignore the fact that you didn't have a recipe book. So the relaunch had the unenviable task of reworking both systems while at the same time retaining what made them such a breath of fresh air.

If you liked Final Fantasy XIV's crafting or gathering before, I'm happy to say you still will -- and odds are good you'll like both even more because the new systems in place are solid improvements of what came before.

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Why I play: Lord of the Rings Online

Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Lord of the Rings Online, Guilds, Professions, Opinion, Star Trek Online, Free-to-Play, Crafting, Why I Play

LOTRO Falathlorn House
A year ago I came to Massively as an odd-man-out of sorts. I had very little experience with MMOs, but for the previous two years I had podcasted and blogged about Star Trek Online. That being my only experience with the genre, I had very little interest in (read: I was fearful of) trying any other game. Trying another game meant that I was leaving my comfort zone and also, maybe, risking the perception that I was being disloyal to the game that gave me so much enjoyment.

However, a new friend and co-worker, Justin Olivetti, changed my mind. Because of him and his great The Road to Mordor columns here at Massively I decided to take the plunge and give Lord of the Rings Online a try. So in June of last year I took the plunge and I have found myself smitten by yet another MMO based on a powerhouse franchise that I adore.

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The Soapbox: Joy in the little things

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Aion, EVE Online, Game Mechanics, Professions, Opinion, Free-to-Play, The Soapbox, Sandbox, MOBA

Aion Wings
Some people play MMOs because they love the challenge. Some are there for the social aspects. Still others stick with their favorite titles because they're deeply in love with the content or lore. Every single gamer reading this post has a different reason for logging into their MMO of choice instead of watching television, reading a book or choosing any other type of recreation.

There is no right way to enjoy a game. Despite the fact that our comments section is often filled with people letting others know what they "should" or "shouldn't" be playing based on their affinity for certain in-game functions, having fun is a very personal experience that depends entirely on your tastes and desires. If you're having a good time in a game, you're doing it right.

It's all about the little things.

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EVE Evolved: Baiting players is hilarious fun!

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Culture, Expansions, Game Mechanics, Professions, PvP, Endgame, Opinion, EVE Evolved, Guides, Sandbox

EVE Evolved title image
I originally planned to put together updated ship setups for EVE Online's newly revamped Caldari, Minmatar, and Amarr Tech 1 cruisers this week, but I've honestly been having far too much fun baiting people in highsec with last week's Vexor setup. I'm having such hilarious fun doing it that I just had to dedicate this week's column to the dirty art of the bait-and-gank! There's absolutely nothing more amusing in EVE than baiting a ship twice the size of yours into attacking you for an "easy kill" and then turning it into a very expensive smoking wreck.

The basic idea of baiting is simple: Get yourself flagged as a suspect by committing a minor crime like theft, fly around waiting for someone to attack you, and then tear him to bits. Before Retribution, you were flagged as a valid target only to the individual people you stole from, but once they attacked, you were safe to engage. Now you're flagged to the whole of EVE, making it easier to get a bite but also a whole lot riskier to engage in a crowded area. It's hard to pick and choose your fights when the whole universe is gunning for you, but when you get a good bite, there are some insanely fun fights to be had.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I give some top tips on how to safely bait players in high-security space, where to find the best targets, and what ships are most effective.

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Darkfall Unholy Wars hits Steam Greenlight, debuts shiny new video

Fantasy, Video, Darkfall, Events (Real-World), Game Mechanics, Professions, News Items, Dev Diaries

Darkfall Unholy Wars hits Steam Greenlight, debuts shiny new video
Aventurine is making a bid to get Darkfall Unholy Wars on Steam, by way of Steam Greenlight. You can now vote (provided you have a Steam account) for the game to be a part of the ever-growing Steam stable.

Because just one blog post a day is for the weak, the Aventurine team also put out a new video, which takes a good look at the Brawler School. Brawlers are part of the Skirmisher role and are equipped with skills to increase their efficiency, sprint speed, leap, evade, and reflexes. If covering dizzying amounts of ground and controlling battle through movement sounds like your thing, you might consider checking out the video. We've included it below the cut because we're just that nice.

[Thanks to savvy webizen Bartillo for the tip!]

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EVE Evolved: Top ten ganks, scams, heists and events

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Culture, Events (In-Game), Game Mechanics, Lore, Professions, PvP, Endgame, News Items, Opinion, EVE Evolved, Sandbox

EVE Evolved title image
It's been called "boring," "confusing," and "the world's biggest spreadsheet," but every now and then a story emerges from sci-fi MMO EVE Online and grabs the gaming world's attention. Tales of massive thefts, colossal battles, high-value kills, record-breaking scams, political dirty deals, and controversial player-run events never fail to grip us. Perhaps it's the fact that these events have such huge impacts in the EVE sandbox that captures our imaginations, or maybe we just want to watch with morbid curiosity as a virtual society self-destructs.

Whether it's innocent interest in quirky stories or a secret sense of schadenfreude that keeps us glued to EVE's most illicit events, the game continues to deliver them with startling regularity. Most scams, thefts, and high-profile battles will never make the news, instead becoming another forgotten part of EVE's history or just a story for a few friends to reminisce about. But those stories that do reach the news always draw in a huge audience that wouldn't play EVE in a million years but can't get enough of its engrossing stories.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I run down a list of ten incredible EVE kills, scams, heists, and sandbox events that have made it into the news over the years.

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Allods Online crafting professions set to merge in Patch 3.05

Fantasy, Patches, Professions, Free-to-Play, Allods Online, Crafting

Allods Online crafting professions set to merge in Patch 305
Crafting professions in Allods Online are getting quite a revamp with Patch 3.05 at the end of this month. Following in the footsteps of the Alchemy changes, all professions will be merged with their appropriate gathering counterparts to make for a more self-sufficient process. According to the dev notes, "the skill of their new merged profession will be based on the highest of the two that are being combined."

Other changes made to crafting with this patch include simplified profession leveling progression, an improved crafting interface, tool upgrades, crafted armor, and more. The point of the crafting changes revolves around the idea of making armor that is more easily obtained for those players who put time into crafting and adventuring.

Patch 3.05 is set to release on October 30th.

RIFT reveals the Tactician, master of flamethrowers

Fantasy, Expansions, Game Mechanics, Lore, Previews, Professions, News Items, PvE, RIFT

RIFT title image
RIFT has been updated with new areas and content since launch, but the upcoming Storm Legion expansion is set to seriously kick things up a notch. As if tripling the size of the game world weren't enough, the expansion will raise the level cap and add a new technology-based soul to each of the game's core classes. The battle-mage style Harbinger soul was revealed at Gamescom 2012 in August, followed by the Tempest, and data from the test server hinted that the remaining pair might be named Defiler and Tactician. Last night Trion Worlds confirmed our suspicions by revealing the new Rogue Tactician soul to livestream viewers.

The Tactician uses a magical weapon that's part flamethrower and part fire extinguisher, able to deal incredible area-effect elemental damage to enemies but actually heal allies. Players using the soul can also place small devices called Cores on the ground to provide area-effect healing, buffs, and additional damage. The flamethrower-like weapon is directionally aimed and can be channelled while the player is moving, so clever positioning is required to get the most out of this unique soul.

Previously on MV TV: The week of September 8th

Fantasy, Video, Aion, EverQuest II, Previews, Professions, Opinion, Vanguard, Guild Wars 2, Free-to-Play, Casual, Virtual Worlds, Humor, Guides, Livestream, Miscellaneous, Sandbox, Previously on MV TV

Previously On MV TV banner
It's starting to cool down outside, at least here in Texas. Trust me, I know how strange that sounds, but the temperature during the middle of the day is moving up as usual and the mornings and evenings are pure bliss. If it's cold where you are now, settle down with a cup of coffee and take that newspaper and throw it in the trash! Who needs to read? Follow the magic links down below, and not only will you get the news, but it will be delivered in a completely non-newsy form: video game streams!

Let's break down the top stories for this week. First, we'll be joined by the Pigster as he takes us on a tour of Spiral Knight's planet. Richie is still stuck in Guild Wars 2, but trooper that he is, he continues to file reports from the front lines. How brave! MJ returns this week with a recipe for Gnoll burritos from EverQuest II, a newbie tour through the character mines of Guild Wars 2, a quickie glimpse of the floating islands of Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, and an avocado dip recipe given to her by the pirates of Aion. I finish off by travelling back in time to a game called There, a title that kept me up for ages when I was younger.

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Previously on MV TV: The week of September 1st

Fantasy, Puzzle, Real-Life, Sci-Fi, Trailers, Video, EVE Online, Fallen Earth, Game Mechanics, Interviews, Previews, Professions, Wurm Online, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, Free-to-Play, Browser, Casual, Virtual Worlds, MMOFPS, Interviews (Massively's), World of Tanks, Post-Apocalyptic, Guides, Livestream, Miscellaneous, Sandbox, Dungeons, Previously on MV TV

Previously On MV TV banner
This week I have quite the selection of tasty video tidbits for you to enjoy. What better way to spend the weekend than staying inside away from the nasty pollen and wasps, watching amazing gameplay videos hosted by yours truly and his band of fellow pixel-heads? That's right! You don't even have to buy MMOs anymore! By simply clicking on the "continue reading" link below, you step into an expansive world of MMO exploration, teeming with sights and sounds unlike you have ever seen or installed before! Why should you go through the trouble of standing in line, purchasing a box, spending two days installing it on your massive PC, pulling up that huge plastic chair, waiting for the game to patch, and attempting to make a character who doesn't look like a 17 year-old pop-punk band member only to find that you suck at PvP?

The simple answer to your problem is to watch us play ALL OF THE GAMES! Which games, you might ask? Well, this week I have some Piggy action as he streams Fallen Earth, followed by Richie with some Guild Wars 2, Mike with some more EVE Online, World of Tanks and Tribes: Ascend. And I follow it all up with a trip through Wurm Online to view the mystery behind the Puzzles deed and then chat with Illyriad CEO James Niesewand about his game's new patch! Check it out!

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EVE Evolved: Fitting a brawler frigate for PvP

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Game Mechanics, Professions, PvP, Endgame, Opinion, EVE Evolved, Guides, Sandbox

EVE Evolved title image
EVE Online's PvP usually has more in common with a game of chess than a dogfight; it helps to have more pieces on the board than the other guys, and tactics usually play a more important role than the size or cost of your ship. You can't automatically win by bringing a gun to a knife fight in EVE, but you can win by being better with a knife than the other guy or by bringing a dozen knives and just flinging them all over the place. The lowly tech 1 frigate may not seem so ferocious on its own, but a hundred frigates can smash even capital ships to bits.

Despite the advantage of bringing more pilots to a fight, the frigate is also one of the best ships for soliciting solo PvP. Its superior speed and maneuverability will help you avoid groups of enemy ships and pursue individual targets. It's most common to find lone players in faction warfare areas and the borders of nullsec, and there are even dedicated wardec corps that will let you find solo PvP in highsec. Frigate duels can provide a fun and much more twitch-based style of combat than you'll find elsewhere in EVE, and a well-designed frigate can punch far above its own weight. The Rifter has always been the ship of choice for close-range frigate PvP, but Inferno 1.1 gave all four races an equivalent option.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I give close-range PvP setups for the Minmatar Rifter, Amarr Punisher, Gallente Incursus and Caldari Merlin that make full use of the Inferno 1.1 overhaul.

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Why I Play: EVE Online

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Culture, Professions, PvP, Opinion, Sandbox, Why I Play

Why I Play title image
Sci-fi MMO EVE Online is possibly the most polarising online game in existence. It has some of the genre's most loyal fans and spawns some of its biggest news stories, but most people just can't stand the user interface and gameplay. It's been called boring, overcomplicated, and a griefer's paradise, but even those who don't play it often still watch from the sidelines as each insane story of theft or corruption emerges from the sandbox. Most games can only keep my attention for a few months at a time, but somehow I've played EVE for over eight and a half years.

I've heard it said that EVE is a long-term commitment, a statement I find hard to argue with as at only 26 years old I've been playing EVE almost continuously for a third of my life. It's not just been a game to me; at times it's been a way of life, a refuge from stress, a way to stay in touch with friends, and even a place to learn skills that can apply to the real world. Thanks to Massively, my attachment to EVE has even grown from a hobby to a career in writing and games journalism. I've had numerous periods of low activity in EVE and even quit for months at a time, but something always brings me back to the world's biggest sci-fi sandbox.

In this article, I look back at what drew me to EVE initially, some of the unusual factors that have kept me playing EVE over the past eight years, and the reason I'm still motivated to subscribe to this day.

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EVE Evolved: Making your first billion ISK

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Economy, Game Mechanics, Professions, PvP, Endgame, PvE, Opinion, EVE Evolved, Guides, Sandbox

EVE Evolved title image
A lot of the people I introduce to EVE Online ask about the possibility of playing for free by buying game time codes with in-game ISK. It's a legitimate way to turn EVE into a free-to-play game, but the rising price tag of a 30-day PLEX can make it seem as if only veteran players can afford to do it. New players typically scrape together just a few million ISK by the end of their free trial periods, making the 500 million per month required to pay via PLEX seem like a tall order.

With the right guidance, a new player can actually pull in over a billion ISK in his first month or two of play and quickly become able to afford a PLEX each month. Farming missions requires a bit of time investment but can pull in 20-30 million ISK per hour once you're set up, and exploration and salvaging can lead to some unexpected big hauls. There are also plenty of newbie-friendly corps that run group activities, and those who aren't interested in grinding to their first billion ISK might try their hands at trading or turn to a life of crime. It's all possible in the sandbox.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I give some practical tips on making your first billion ISK, from scraping together the seed capital to buy your first big ship to reliable farming methods and some more underhanded methods.

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