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Some Assembly Required

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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Shroud of the Avatar's Richard Garriott and Starr Long on MMO community

Betas, Fantasy, Video, Events (In-Game), Interviews, Opinion, Some Assembly Required, Sandbox, Crowdfunding, Player-Generated Content, Shroud of the Avatar

Some Assembly Required:  Garriott and Long interview shows Shroud of the Avatar wins at community
If you've been making a list of sandbox features and checking it twice, chances are you'll find many of those items in Shroud of the Avatar. And if player-generated content and a great community are near the top of that list, then this crowdfunded title might very well be the present you want to get yourself! While still under development, this sandbox has already grown exponentially from its humble beginnings of a chicken in a room to a current state that includes a bevy of features -- with more arriving like clockwork every monthly update. And plenty of those features are tools and systems that allow players to make the game a personalized experience for themselves and others.

What about Shroud of the Avatar makes it so great for player-generated content? What makes the community great? And how has Steam affected the game? I sat down with Portalarium's Richard Garriott and Starr Long to talk about the move to Steam, updates, PGC, and the amazing community that's supporting the game. These guys had so much to share that this is only part one!

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Some Assembly Required: An anniversary look at Darkfall's fifth year

Fantasy, Darkfall, PvP, Opinion, Some Assembly Required, Sandbox, Anniversaries

Gimme five! Five years that is, in honor of Darkfall's anniversary. This week the PvP-centric sandbox celebrated its fifth year of bringing murder, mayhem, and fun to friends and foes alike in the brutal world of Agon. And while it may seem as though you could pretty much sum up the entirety of Darkfall's last 12 months in two words (Unholy Wars) and call it a day, there's actually been much more to the game than just the reboot's long-awaited release. In fact, that was only the beginning. The game has continued to expand and develop even after the initial launch of Unholy Wars, shaping it into the experience that it is today. That's precisely what we're here to toast together -- the ups and down of 52 weeks in Aventurine's hardcore sandbox. Be sure to leave your favorite memories from the past year in Agon before you go!

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Some Assembly Required: Is this really the sandbox renaissance?

Fantasy, Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Business Models, Culture, Economy, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, New Titles, PvP, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, EverQuest Next, Some Assembly Required, Sandbox, Crafting, Player-Generated Content, Subscription, Star Citizen, Pathfinder Online, Buy-to-Play

Some Assembly Required
It's funny, but this whole sandbox renaissance feeling has got me a little worried. I'm of course ecstatic at the number of sandbox MMOs currently in development, and I'm even happier that one triple-A outfit has finally acknowledged that MMOs are supposed to be sandboxes.

EverQuest Next and Landmark aren't the only reasons to be amped, either, as games like Star Citizen, Elite: Dangerous, and The Repopulation are all putting their own spin on emergent virtual worlds and standing on the shoulders of genre giants.

It's not all roses, though, and amidst the cautious optimism on display from starving sandbox fans, I feel the need to remind myself of the various personal pitfalls that still need to be addressed.

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Some Assembly Required: Your home is your castle on Vanguard's Thestra

Fantasy, Galleries, Screenshots, Vanguard, Free-to-Play, Some Assembly Required, Housing, Player-Generated Content, Sunsets

Some Assembly Required:  Your home is your castle on Vanguard's Thestra
In a painful twist of fate, this week's scheduled Some Assembly Required wraps up the trilogy on Vanguard: Saga of Heroes housing that began with my first piece for this column highlighting Kojani homes way back in 2011. I say painful because we now know that Vanguard will be closing its doors forever come July 31st. But that leaves us six more months to enjoy what's there, and since we've already seen the oriental homes of Kojan and the desert dwellings of Qalia, it's time to take a tour of Thestra.

The European-flavored continent was the final of the three to visit not because it is somehow less than the other two but because it is more -- as in more land to cover! The main reason I left Thestra for last is because of the sheer size of the continent. The amount of time required to visit just a fraction of the housing settlements scattered throughout this land is daunting. The other reason is that I wanted to end on a bang with my favorite style of guild housing: the castles!

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Some Assembly Required: Pre-NGE SWG's proper sandbox PvP

Sci-Fi, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, PvP, PvE, Opinion, Star Wars Galaxies, Some Assembly Required, Sandbox

Some Assembly Required architectural plans
A few weeks ago I ranted at indie sandbox devs who continue pumping out poorly conceived FFA PvP games. I didn't have any wordcount left at the end of that novella to propose any solutions, so I'm going to do that today.

And hey, it's pretty simple, at least conceptually. All a dev team needs to do is iterate on Star Wars: Galaxies' pre-NGE PvP system.

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Some Assembly Required: Virtual world roundup for 2014 and beyond

Game Mechanics, Miscellaneous, Some Assembly Required, Sandbox

Some Assembly Required:  Virtual world roundup for 2014 and beyond
Just over two years ago there was a great disturbance, as if millions (or so) of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. Yes, something terrible had happened: a beloved virtual world was destroyed. And that left a number of sandbox refugees looking for a new place to call home. At that time, Some Assembly Required offered a roundup of the then available virtual worlds that could possibly offer accommodation, depending on what qualities players most desired in their games.

But as things are wont to, they changed; a lot can happen in the MMOverse in 24 months, from additional features in existing games to new games to the loss of more worlds. So it's time to update this list of virtual worlds to reflect 2014 and beyond. Take a look and see what titles or titles-to-be have the sandbox features that best make a game a home for you.

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Some Assembly Required: Yet another FFA PvP sandbox

Fantasy, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, PvP, PvE, Opinion, Some Assembly Required, Sandbox

Some Assembly Required - Architectural plans
I dabbled in yet another alpha-state indie sandbox game this week. As you'd expect, the title is rough around the edges. Also as you'd expect, it boasts FFA PvP and the correspondingly godawful community for whom the game's "do whatever you want" mechanics immediately translate to "kill everything that moves first and ask questions later, if at all."

Since it's still alpha, there's plenty of time for the devs to correct this unfortunate bit of business and separate this particular game from the legions of crappy FFA-PvP-with-zero-consequences titles clumping together in the vast litterbox of bad MMO ideas.

Will they do that? Probably not, but at least I'll get a good rant out of it.

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Some Assembly Required: How EverQuest Next Landmark could redefine PGC

Fantasy, MMO Industry, New Titles, Opinion, Free-to-Play, EverQuest Next, Some Assembly Required, Player-Generated Content

PGC means Players Got Creativity! OK, no it doesn't really, but it could (and it's better than Pungent Goat Cheese!). As you know, in our MMOverse, the acronym stands for Player-Generated Content, which is not only the backbone of Some Assembly Required but easily my favorite part of gaming. And what is player-generated content if not a demonstration of player creativity? Unfortunately, for several years, my favorite part of games seemed to be the least important focus for MMO developers. PGC, if it is brought in at all, is relegated to the back seat (or locked away in the trunk). Luckily, times are a-changing.

Just a glance over the past year shows that the aversion-to-PGC attitude is shifting; more sandboxes have gone into development with more and more features than in the last few years. But one game, above them all, is going beyond adding a few features. EverQuest Next Landmark is not just letting PGC into the car; it's plunking it in the driver's seat and handing over the keys, and in doing so could potentially redefine PGC as we know it. And that's a good thing! Instead of being treated as non-essential fluff, PGC could be seen as a vital ingredient to any MMO.

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Some Assembly Required: Mark Jacobs on Camelot Unchained's Kickstarter

Fantasy, Business Models, Interviews, MMO Industry, New Titles, PvP, News Items, Some Assembly Required, Sandbox, Crowdfunding, Camelot Unchained

Some Assembly Required Mark Jacobs' musings on CU's Kickstarter
Given all the MMO-hopefuls flocking to it, you'd think that Kickstarter is the only way to make a game these days. And in some ways, it is. Indie companies and niche games now have a real chance to see the light of day, whereas previously only the "sure sells" got financial backing.

For developers like Mark Jacobs, who as City State Entertainment's CEO spearheads the development of upcoming sandbox Camelot Unchained, Kickstarter is a way to bypass those detached investors and appeal to the gamers themselves. As he told us, "Kickstarter is the perfect platform for an indie developer both to gauge interest in a concept and to receive either all or part of the funding necessary to make the game." Jacobs offered other musings and insights about the role of Kickstarter and updated us on the development of Camelot Unchained in our exclusive interview.

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Some Assembly Required: Is Black Desert the new ArcheAge?

Betas, Fantasy, Classes, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, New Titles, PvP, Endgame, PvE, Opinion, ArcheAge, Some Assembly Required, Sandbox, Crafting, Black Desert, Player-Generated Content

Some Assembly Required - Is Black Desert the new ArcheAge?
I hate to admit it, but I'm getting over ArcheAge. This sucks because XLGAMES' fantasy sandpark is undoubtedly the most feature-rich MMO since Star Wars Galaxies. But Massively first covered ArcheAge in 2010. I first played it in 2011. And we're rapidly approaching 2014 with absolutely no sign of an English-language client on the horizon!

Yeah, Trion famously signed on to distribute the game to western audiences last January, but since then we've heard a whole lot of nothing about how the translation is progressing. Hell, we don't even know if it is a translation as opposed to some ill-conceived "westernization" waste of time. And maybe the MMO gods will strike me down for jumping off the bandwagon. Maybe Trion will make me look a fool by announcing a beta date of some sort later this very afternoon.

If so, that's OK because Black Desert is looking just as good, if not better.

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Some Assembly Required: A dev's-eye view of Dragon's Prophet's frontier system

Fantasy, Interviews, PvP, Endgame, Free-to-Play, Some Assembly Required, Housing, Dragon's Prophet, Player-Generated Content

Some Assembly Required A devseye view of the frontier system in Dragon's Prophet
For getting a better look at the big picture, there's nothing like witnessing a PvP battle from afar instead of being in the midst of it. And that's exactly what I got to do in a recent dev tour of a PvP event in Dragon's Prophet: Spectate. Thanks to the spiffy use of technology, I was able to zoom along through the air as the battles unfolded below and around me without my having to dodge killing blows from my enemies.

On top of that, I got to hear Senior Producer Todd Carson and Associate Producer Rod Haza detail different aspects of this system that melds PvP and housing in Dragon's Prophet. Dubbed the Frontier System, this combination puts PvP on the housing islands of Auratia. However, the implementation is probably not quite what players envisioned when they first heard about it. Luckily, I got a pretty good look at how it all works from my invulnerable perch and can share that with you.

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Some Assembly Required Extra: The scoop on Albion Online

Game Mechanics, Interviews, New Titles, PvP, News Items, Some Assembly Required, Sandbox, Housing, Player-Generated Content

Some Assembly Required Extra  Interview gets the scoop on Albion Online
After a long drought in the industry, the tide of the sandbox gaming is finally coming in. This year can definitely be called the year of the sandbox. While not all of them are out yet, many more games promising those features we love are in development now than ever before. In fact, there are so many titles floating about now that it can be hard to keep them straight!

One of the latest upcoming titles to be announced is the stylized, medieval sandbox Albion Online. With such offerings as territory control, housing, a player-driven economy, and full looting, this game certainly fits the sandbox bill. Heck, the development company is even named Sandbox Interactive! But what makes Albion Online stand out from the pack is that it will be a cross-platform experience; players will be accessing the game via both tablets and PCs.

Of course, as promising as it may sound, just a terse feature list doesn't give players the kind of details we want. So to get the scoop, I had a chat with Sandbox Interactive CEO Stefan Wiezorek, who shared more information about the economy, housing,the skill system, PvP, and territory control.

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Some Assembly Required: Community dictates development path of Neo's Land

Fantasy, Economy, Game Mechanics, Interviews, MMO Industry, New Titles, Opinion, Some Assembly Required, Sandbox, Crafting, Housing, Crowdfunding

Some Assembly Required Community dictates development path of Neo's Land
Sandbox aficionados, are you ready for another contender in the fight to be your next virtual world? Well, ready or not, here one comes! And now that the cat (or Kickstarter, as it were) is officially out of the bag, we can take stroll through this new development project and see just how things are shaping up. The name of this virtual playground-to-be? Neo's Land.

With the number of crowdfund-hopefuls coming and going, you might be wondering what -- if anything -- distinguishes this game from all the others also vying for your attention and support. What exactly makes this project different and worth a look? It's not the various sandbox features like skills, an open world, and building homes; you can find those in other games that are out there or in the works. No, what sets Neo's Land apart is the different approach to development it is taking. Instead of building a game using the studio's ideal features, NeoJac Entertainment is quite literally soliciting the feature set directly from the players before implementing. In this case, Some Assembly Required also refers to the game itself!

Can it be done -- can a game truly be built to honest-to-goodness player specs? During an exclusive interview with CEO and President Jacques Rossouw, I got to walk along the development path of Neo's Land and see what the game is about.

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Some Assembly Required: Conflating story content and MMORPGs

Business Models, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Some Assembly Required, Sandbox, Player-Generated Content

Some Assembly Required
A few weeks ago I poked fun at ArenaNet and its "living story" nonsense. As you might imagine, plenty of comments ensued, and I'd like to highlight one of them as a point of further discussion this week.

Skoryy wrote (in part): "Since when did enjoying content, especially story content, actively require skill? Any literate person can read a book; why do I also need to know how to be a master crafter or master warrior or master whatever to get to enjoy the game's true content?" For further context, this was a response to the line of thinking that says successful games like baseball, chess, and RISK are not linear dev-driven content treadmills but rather a set of rules that result in endless permutations of player-generated content.

When I first read the remark I was taken aback. I mean, really, my initial response to the "since when" bit was "since you decided to play an interactive video game instead of read a book!" And that's still true to a large extent. As I thought about the overall discussion, though, I sympathized with his perspective even though I think it's terrible that some MMO companies are hell-bent on conflating the definition of game with the definition of story.

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