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Some Assembly Required

Some Assembly Required: On MMOs and loss aversion

Culture, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, Some Assembly Required, Sandbox, Crafting

Some Assembly Required - On MMOs and loss aversion
I've been reading a book called Scorecasting lately. It's basically an academic exercise in statistics and human behavioral analysis as it relates to the decisions made in both individual and team sports. One of the chapters touches on a theory called loss aversion, which is a psychological phenomenon first attributed to Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. The theory is generally understood to mean that humans fear potential losses much more than they enjoy actual gains, and thus they often act in statistically irrational fashion to avoid said losses.

We can also see principles of loss aversion at work in MMOs. In fact, I'd go so far as to posit that loss aversion is a large, if indirect, reason why many people play MMOs in the first place. It's also a major reason why sandboxes, virtual worlds, and games that feature some sort of tangible risk/reward mechanic have been in such dire straits since MMOs went mainstream. Follow me past the cut and see if you agree.

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Some Assembly Required: Five ways MMOs should support player events

World of Warcraft, Age of Conan, Aion, EverQuest II, Events (In-Game), MMO Industry, Warhammer Online, Vanguard, RuneScape, The Secret World, Miscellaneous, Some Assembly Required

Some Assembly Required Five ways all games should support player events and why
Over the course of Some Assembly Required, we've covered a few player-run events out there that haven't been highlighted in their respective game columns. After all, we're all about PGC here, and you can't really get content more player-generated than that! But with all the the possible events across the whole gamut of games, there's no possible way to attend them all, let alone cover them here; there is only so much time in the day and space in the column. Of course, that won't stop me from trying!

From Age of Conan to Warhammer Online, a few of the events I've been able to catch are festivals, races, plays, fishing contests, tavern storytelling nights, quests (yes, quests), treasure/scavenger hunts, trivia contests, arena duels, gambling nights, musical concerts, war games, horse races, weddings, dance-offs, terraforming challenges, auctions, jousts, fashion shows, tournaments, funerals, crafter fairs, and more contests than can even be mentioned. These examples aren't restricted to any one genre, either; creatively concocted events run the gamut and include themeparks like Aion, MOBAs like SMITE, and more -- and not just sandboxes.

As you might have noticed, that's quite a bit of content, content that comes at no cost to the the studio! So why is it these events can be so hard to find? With so much free content at their fingertips, it would behoove studios to make it the norm to support and promote these events. And the tools they need to do so are already at their disposal.

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Some Assembly Required: Three games that need player-generated content

Fantasy, Historical, Sci-Fi, Super-hero, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, PvE, Opinion, Star Wars Galaxies, DC Universe Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Some Assembly Required, World of Warplanes, Player-Generated Content

Some Assembly Required - Three games that need player-generated content
At times over the last half decade, I've felt as if the MMORPG genre lost sight of itself. It seemed that all any gamemaker wanted to do was emulate a certain wildly successful outlier, and this in turn threw a wet blanket over the sandbox play, emergent design, and player-generated content that separates MMOs from run-of-the-mill video games.

The last year or so has seen the collective industry start to wake up from that bad dream, as there are now a half dozen really promising sandbox or sandpark titles in development, several of which are backed by millions of dollars and major studios.

What about the current crop of games, though? Is it a stretch to imagine a few of them, even the unapologetically linear ones, expanding their horizons with a little bit of player-generated content?

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Some Assembly Required: TUG interview reveals the true nature of Soylent Green

Fantasy, Interviews, MMO Industry, New Titles, News Items, Some Assembly Required, Sandbox, Crowdfunding, Player-Generated Content

Some Assembly Required TUG interview reveals the true nature of Soylent Green
Much ado has certainly been made lately about doing something "new and different" in games. Just take a look at all the options coming through Kickstarter lately; even more contenders have thrown their hats into the ring since our roundup last February. But in a large number of these cases, the new ideas are coming from developers within the gaming industry. So what would happen if a game were developed from outside the industry?

Enter TUG. Formally known as The Untitled Game, the game is the brainchild of Nerd Kingdom, a group hailing from the world of academia that happens to have intersected with gaming. Self-described as "a collaboration of video game developers, academic scientists, modders, and gamers," this group wants to move beyond just improving the way games are made "to show[ing] that such games can make us better as individuals and as a society."

I was able to catch up with one of the founders of Nerd Kingdom, Scientist and Researcher of Stuffs Peter Salinas, to talk about the game. We touched on everything from player design input to features (like player books and companions) to making an engine available for others to use. Oh, and of course, Soylent Green.

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Some Assembly Required: Community as content

Culture, MMO Industry, Opinion, Miscellaneous, Some Assembly Required, Player-Generated Content

Some Assembly Required  Community as content
Not too long ago, I had the opportunity to cover an occasion during which an in-game community came together and created a new player-run annual event. Born as an anniversary follow-up to a service event for the young terminally ill player Ribbitribbit, the new tradition focused on celebrating that very community that pulled together to create him a dream playground within EverQuest II. If the game lacked a sense of community in the game before that original project, it certainly didn't after.

After tugging at my heartstrings for a while, that experience made me reflect on how much our communities are really a cornerstone of player-generated content. How often have you attended or participated in an event or run a mission created by someone other than yourself? And yet, when discussing important tools and elements needed to support player-generated content, we often overlook the necessity of a vibrant community. It's like trying to bake a cake without adding the flour. Or how about this analogy: You can give folks a giant tool box full of a shiny implements and tell them to build a house, but not much will happen without the actual wood and materials! So to foster PGC, games need to foster building communities.

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Some Assembly Required: Your guide to MMO sandboxes in 2013 and beyond

Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Darkfall, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, New Titles, PvP, PvE, Free-to-Play, Guides, EverQuest Next, ArcheAge, Some Assembly Required, Sandbox, WildStar, Neverwinter, Age of Wushu, Camelot Unchained, The Repopulation, Player-Generated Content, Star Citizen, Shroud of the Avatar, Elite: Dangerous, Origins of Malu, Pathfinder Online

Some Assembly Required - Massively's guide to sandboxes
Welcome to Massively's guide to MMO sandboxes in 2013 and beyond. I've collected the essential details on all the major sandbox titles releasing this year and in the near future in one easy-to-reference article. If you're wondering whether ArcheAge forces you to PvP, or if you can't tell The Repopulation from Origins of Malu, this is your post.

I'll be updating it as game features are added, removed, or revealed, so be sure to use the comments to let me know if I've overlooked a particularly noteworthy item. Finally, I want to point out that this isn't an exhaustive list because of the sheer number of sandbox projects ongoing. For now, I'm choosing to focus on the ones that will be playable in 2013/2014 as well as the projects that have a big-name developer attached.

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Path of Exile interview reveals plans for player-generated races

Events (In-Game), Interviews, New Titles, Free-to-Play, Events (Massively's Coverage), Some Assembly Required, Player-Generated Content, Path of Exile

Path of Exile interview reveals plans for playergenerated races
Although there is no Some Assembly Required in the title, don't let that fool you; today's focus is on one of the founding precepts of this column, player-generated content. It's just not sandboxy player-generated content like we've covered before. Today's special edition explores the PGC proposed for the decidedly non-sandbox action RPG Path of Exile.

At GDC I sat down with managing director Chris Wilson and technical director Jonathan Rogers to discuss Path of Exile and their idea of adding player-run races to the game. A fan favorite, these timed gaming experiences are currently only officially sponsored events grouped into seasons, the first of which just concluded. However, devs would like to give players the opportunity to create and host unofficial events (meaning results won't have any bearing on the seasons) to allow players to enjoy this wildly popular facet of the game in a place where they can practice skills, test themselves against friends, or just enjoy a unique challenge.

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GDC 2013: Chris Roberts expounds on Star Citizen's crafting, economy

Sci-Fi, Contests, Economy, Game Mechanics, New Titles, Interviews (Massively's), Events (Massively's Coverage), Some Assembly Required, Sandbox, Star Citizen

GDC 2013  Chris Roberts expounds on Star Citizen's crafting, economy
This week we have a special GDC edition of Some Assembly Required. I had the opportunity to sit down with Chris Roberts and talk about his highly anticipated space sim sandbox, Star Citizen. We talked lore, the game's PvP/PvE sliders and living universe concepts, guilds, and when players can expect to get in some dogfighting. Roberts also delved deeply into the crafting and economic aspects of the game.

If you miss the days of carving out a name for yourself and your wares and/or cornering the market and building an economic empire, you'll definitely want to keep an eye on Star Citizen.

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Some Assembly Required: There's no crafting in Star Wars!

Sci-Fi, Culture, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, Star Wars Galaxies, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Some Assembly Required, Sandbox, Crafting

Some Assembly Required blueprint header
The other week I posted a Leaderboard inviting people to vote for their favorite Star Wars MMO. The comments featured a number of both predictable and surprising insights, but one line of thought in particular stood out to me. There are apparently some folks out there who think that Star Wars is nothing more than laser pistols and lightsabers, just as there are some folks who think that MMOs are nothing more than combat lobbies.

While I'll stop short of labeling these people because of a difference in opinion, it's clear that they haven't really thought this through.

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Some Assembly Required: Bringing the 'craft' back to crafting

Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Some Assembly Required, Sandbox, Crafting

Some Assembly Required Bringing the 'craft' back to crafting
A recent comment made in regard to crafting in an upcoming game gave me pause. It went something like this: If the gameplay fails, the crafting system won't matter. My first thought was that this person must have accidentally tripped over his tongue and mistakenly substituted words, meaning to insert pwnzer PvP or some such instead of gameplay. Why? Because we all understand that as a part of playing the game, crafting is inherently gameplay.

But then another explanation for this wildly inaccurate statement came to me; perhaps the speaker had actually never seen -- let alone experienced -- real, meaningful crafting in a game! After all, there has been a serious dearth of deep, involved crafting systems where skill and dedication are valued for quite some time in MMOs. Crafting, if it exists at all, is often relegated to some mechanic that can be slept through that results in uniform, standardized products. It's no wonder that some folks might not realize that crafting is gameplay.

But change is a-comin'! Some upcoming games are returning to the idea that robust crafting systems are a deep and engaging part of games. Heck, the whole premise behind one is crafting! Two titles, The Repopulation and Pathfinder Online, seem to have really hit the nail on the head when it comes to developing sophisticated crafting systems that have purpose and meaning. Today in Some Assembly Required, we'll take a closer look at how both are putting the "craft" back into crafting.

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Some Assembly Required: The sweet sorrow of choosing a new sandbox

Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, New Titles, PvP, PvE, Opinion, ArcheAge, Some Assembly Required, Sandbox, WildStar, Crafting, Neverwinter, Camelot Unchained

Some Assembly Required The sweet sorrow of choosing a new sandbox
Late last year I penned a piece that looked ahead to 2013's most promising sandbox titles. Recent developments have necessitated that I add to that list, which is simultaneously staggering and somewhat stressful. My new MMO home is lurking in one of these games, but I must choose, and choose wisely! Help me out after the cut.

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Some Assembly Required: Kick(start)ing the sandbox genre

MMO Industry, Opinion, Some Assembly Required, Sandbox, Crowdfunding

Some Assembly Required Kickstarting the sandbox genre into higher gear
Sandbox aficionados are known to reminisce about the "good old days." You know, that time long lost in the past when the greats of open-world play like Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies (pre-NGE of course) enjoyed their heyday. Many a lamentation has also been heard about how things have never been the same, or how nothing has filled that void.

Of course, the sandbox never died. In 2012 we started the year off with a guide to games sporting sandbox features to scratch a variety of virtual world itches and we ended with a look at some promising upcoming titles for 2013. With plenty of choices abounding, why are sandbox fans still decrying the lack of a home? It could be because they want one home for everyone to settle in together, basically one game to rule them all. But how realistic is that?

Even with the plethora of offerings now, many folks want to play their ideal sandbox, and everyone has their own idea of what the perfect one would be (and conversely, what would kill it). Perhaps the answer, then, is to forget about a single universal home that accommodates the masses and actually create a number of niche games where people find exactly what they are looking for. Wait, that's already happening? Enter Kickstarter.

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Some Assembly Required: The ultimate MMORPG

Fantasy, EverQuest II, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Star Wars Galaxies, DC Universe Online, Some Assembly Required, Sandbox

Some Assembly Required 17
It's been raining for four days straight, and I've been cooped up in my house with nothing but a head cold and a bunch of time to think about my ideal sandbox MMORPG.

For this week's Some Assembly Required, then, I'm shamelessly borrowing the format from Massively's MMO Blender column to construct a perfect(ly) theoretical hybrid. I've done so once before, but this time I'm going to put the focus on fantasy instead of on the sci-fi stylings of Star Citizen and Star Wars Galaxies.

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Some Assembly Required: How do you define player-generated content?

EVE Online, EverQuest II, Lord of the Rings Online, Game Mechanics, PvP, Opinion, The Secret World, Roleplaying, Xsyon, Miscellaneous, Some Assembly Required, Sandbox

Some Assembly Required  How do you define playergenerated content
During a recent conversation with my fellow Some Assembly Required columnist, it became apparent that we had slightly differing opinions on the definition of player-generated content. We both agreed that it was content generated by players (obviously), but when it came to the type of content, our opinions diverged. Seeing as PGC is one of the founding premise behind SAR, I thought it would be a good idea to start the new year out by defining the term more precisely to give us a stable foundation to build on. After all, we want to be on the same page, don't we?

Of course, that gives you the chance to weigh in with your opinions as well! What is the first thing you think of when you hear the term? Let's see whether your ideas about player-generated content mesh with mine, more closely resemble Jef's, or embody something totally different.

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Some Assembly Required: Six reasons to love sandboxes in 2013

Betas, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Darkfall, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, New Titles, PvP, PvE, Opinion, EverQuest Next, ArcheAge, Some Assembly Required, Sandbox, Age of Wushu

Some Assembly Required - Architectual plans
What a difference a year makes, amirite? This time twelve months ago, I was licking the wounds brought on by Star Wars Galaxies' unceremonious and premature departure from the MMO scene. It was bad enough that a profitable title was sacrificed in order to clear a path for one of 2012's biggest disappointments, but it was worse that said title was the premier sandbox in the genre's history.

Frankly, the last few years have been abysmal for fans of non-linear MMOs and player-generated content, but thankfully, 2012 righted the ship and gave us more than a bit of hope for 2013.

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