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The Soapbox: Instant leveling and the whining fringe

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, EVE Online, EverQuest II, Business Models, Events (Real-World), Expansions, MMO Industry, New Titles, PvP, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Events (Massively's Coverage), TERA, The Soapbox, Miscellaneous, Sandbox, Subscription, MMORPG

Warlords of Draenor
Over the weekend at Blizzcon 2013, Blizzard Entertainment announced the fifth World of Warcraft expansion, Warlords of Draenor. The content add-on brings most of the things one might expect from an expansion -- new zone, new features, new quests, new dungeons -- but perhaps most notably includes the option to instantly raise any one of your characters to WoW's current level cap of 90.

While you'll still face 10 levels of Warlords of Draenor questing, killing, and fetching if you opt to take the insta-level, the feature has re-ignited the argument among MMO fans as to whether offering players a maxed-out character somehow violates the core rules of the MMO genre. Should developers really provide high-level characters just to get/keep players in the game?

The short answer, of course, is "duh." Here's the long answer.

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The Stream Team: Starting new adventures in TERA

Fantasy, Video, PvE, Free-to-Play, Massively Meta, Hands-On, Roleplaying, TERA, Livestream, The Stream Team, MMORPG

Every adventure has a beginning. Before you fight giant monsters and earn fame in TERA, you must first learn the basics. Tonight, Massively's Mike Foster re-lives the TERA starting experience, complete with character creation and the first handful of quests. Mike will be starting anew on the Celestial Hills role-playing server -- all viewers are invited to create new characters and come along for the ride. Tonight's stream kicks off at 7:00 p.m. EST.

Game: TERA
Host: Mike Foster
Date: Friday, November 8th, 2013
Time: 7:00 p.m. EST

Enjoy our Steam Team video below.

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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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Get in the spirit with TERA's Banquet of Blood trailer

Fantasy, Galleries, Screenshots, Trailers, Video, Events (In-Game), News Items, Free-to-Play, TERA

TERA Banquet of Blood video and screens
The air is cooling, which means thoughts are turning to pumpkins, ghouls, and fun in-game events. And tomorrow kicks of TERA's Halloween celebration! You can get your fill of tricks and treats in a variety of events, from the Banquet of Blood (don't forget to include your weapon as part of your costume!) to protecting your candy stash with a cannon. With plenty of ghouls and ghosts to dispatch and Halloween-themed rewards to acquire, it's sure to be a spooktacular time. Get a sneak peek of the party in the trailer after the break and the four new images in the gallery below.

[Source: En Mass Entertainment press release]

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TERA's newest update brings Halloween event, box refinements, and achievements

Fantasy, Events (In-Game), Game Mechanics, Patches, News Items, Free-to-Play, TERA

What's really scary is what's going on with that dude's shoulder.
Halloween is almost here, if you count half a month away as "almost," and TERA is ready to go with its Halloween event starting on October 17th. That means opening up both a low-level and high-level dungeon as well as adding new ways to earn candy for everyone. It also adds new achievements... along with 182 other new achievements added in the same patch, more rewards for clearing achievements, and improvements to the achievement UI. Yes, there's more to this patch than just pumpkins and ghosts.

The update also has changed the loot distribution of strongboxes, both in terms of what's in the boxes and where you can pick them up. Older types have been retired, and new types have been added with a somewhat smoother distribution of items. Add to that some class balance updates and an assortment of bugfixes, and there's plenty for all TERA players to be happy about aside from the upcoming event.

[Thanks to Dengar for the tip!]

One Shots: Darkness Falls

Screenshots, Anarchy Online, Dark Age of Camelot, Culture, Guild Wars 2, One Shots, TERA, Miscellaneous

One Shots Darkness Falls
Going through the One Shots email account is a little like peeking into strangers' photo albums, complete with their private stories and embarrassing toilet shots. Seriously, folks, what is it with you people sending in toilet pictures? OK, it's a little funny, so keep 'em coming.

I was particularly drawn to Callie's photo from Dark Age of Camelot circa 2003 this past week: "My fiance and I loved going into the dungeon of Darkness Falls so much that we would frequently go down and fight the Prince, just the two of us, on our Warrior duo. I know newer games have come and gone, but nothing beats dungeon exploring and fighting a difficult boss with the one you love. Still one of my favorite MMO memories."

One can only assume that your characters discovered the lavatory behind the boss room and took many, many pictures as well. Speaking of tawdry screenshots, we've got a few more for you behind the break!

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Experience TERA with a free high-level character

Fantasy, MMO Industry, News Items, Free-to-Play, Giveaways, TERA, Promotions

Experience TERA with a free highlevel character
Last March, En Masse enticed new players to join and get to high levels in TERA with a power-level promotion. But for some, even prizes couldn't make that much grinding worth it. If you fall in that crowd, then TERA's newest promotion is for you: For a limited time, new and existing accounts can get a free level 58 character! This Level Up Test Event is a chance for current players to get friends into the game and group up with them immediately as well as for new players who've been debating trying it to experience the newest content.

To get your free level 58 character, you must create a brand-new character between 1:00 p.m. September 19th and 2:59 a.m. September 23rd and give it a name ending in ".Levelup" (i.e. Bob.Levelup, Jane.Levelup). All newly minted level 58 characters will be supplied with gear, a mount, access to all story quests, and a name change voucher. For full details, visit the official site.

[Thanks to John for the tip!]

Jukebox Heroes: TERA's soundtrack

Fantasy, Opinion, Free-to-Play, TERA, Jukebox Heroes, Music

Jukebox Heroes TERA's soundtrack
Within the small but passionate video game music community, there's a common gripe that goes around regarding studios' haphazard methods of distributing and selling original soundtracks. My general thought is that it's not that hard to just make a soundtrack a digital purchase through Amazon, iTunes, etc. for those who are interested in purchasing it, but more often than not, one has to look high and low to figure out how to get the desired music.

What's even worse is when a soundtrack is released in different editions by region. Take today's subject, TERA, as an example. TERA's OST was at least released, but in two different editions: the limited 26-track edition given to Europe and Japan and the expansive 50-track edition that debuted in the US. It's just silly to do this sort of thing, but we see it all the time (and don't get me started on the way-too-expensive Japanese import of Final Fantasy XIV's Before Meteor).

Anyway, I have a burr in my saddle about this today because TERA is a tremendous soundtrack. It's rich, evocative, and just plain catchy in parts. If you've listened to only part of this score composed by Inon Zur and Rod Abernethy, then you owe it to yourself to scrounge up the full deal. Here are my favorites!

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Massively Exclusive: En Masse talks TERA's Dungeon Assault

Fantasy, Screenshots, Trailers, Interviews, PvP, PvE, Free-to-Play, TERA, Dungeons, MMORPG

TERA Dungeon Assault
TERA: Rising's new Dungeon Assault content patch is prepped for launch today, bringing with it new dungeons, new game modes, new bosses, and high-end gear. Among the added encounters are Wonderholme (a 10-man raid), Channelworks (a three-player mission), Kezzel's Gorge (a seven-player tower defense game), and Shattered Fleet (a five-player "BAM beatdown").

Also new today are the Conjunct, Visionmaker, and Bloodrave armor sets, which represent the most powerful armor on offer once fully leveled and upgraded. We spoke with En Masse about the state of TERA: Rising, the thought process behind the new encounters, and how the studio answers some common fan complaints.

Check out our interview and exclusive video and images of the Channelworks dungeon after the break.

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One Shots: Sunset over Eorzea

Screenshots, Culture, One Shots, RIFT, Final Fantasy XIV, TERA, Miscellaneous

One Shots Sunset over Eorzea
Reader Gordy feels that a new era is dawning on Final Fantasy XIV these days, and as I survey the general excitement over this title, I'd have to agree. Who would have thought it considering how messy this title was two years ago?

"Even with the many, many server issues during the re-launch, it's still a wonder of a game in my opinion," Gordy testifies. "I was mining out in Thanalan, and when I turned around, I realized the sun was setting, and there was a warm comfortable glow over the entire world. I had to grab a screen and add it to the (probably piles) of shots you're getting for the launch of this gorgeous game."

Get the full color version and more for the low, low price of $9.99 if you just call... what? We're not allowed to charge readers for this column? Man, I'm never going to buy myself out of indentured service to Bree now! Oh well, go see it for yourself after the jump.

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TERA: Rising unleashes Dungeon Assault on September 10 with all new dungeons

Fantasy, Galleries, Screenshots, Trailers, Video, Patches, News Items, Free-to-Play, TERA, Dungeons

TERA Rising unleashes Dungeon Assault on September 10 with all new dungeons
If you've been yearning for a new experience in TERA, you've only got to wait until next week to get one. On September 10th, the free-to-play fantasy game is launching four brand-new dungeons, complete with new game modes, epic bosses, and of course elite gear. Dubbed Dungeon Assault, this update adds content for various group sizes and allows players to upgrade the Conjunct, Visionmaker, and Bloodrave armor sets.

Wonderholme, a 10-player co-op adventure, is a lethally whimsical castle. Channelworks is a series of aqueducts maintained by automatons (basically the sewers) deep beneath the Veritas District is explorable by groups of three. Kezzel's Gorge is a tower defense scenario built for seven participants. And Shattered Fleet, a five-player BAM beatdown, takes place on a ship run aground off the Jagged Coast.

Can't wait until the 10th to see what's in store? Then check out screenshots of these new dungeons in the gallery below and watch a teaser trailer for each, one right after another, after the break.

TERA Rising Dungepn Assault Gallery
[Source: En Masse press release]

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TERA teases its political system overhaul in both the US and EU [Updated]

Fantasy, Trailers, Video, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Patches, PvP, News Items, Free-to-Play, TERA

Gameforge teases TERA Europe political system update
Gameforge has issued a press release detailing an alliance update for TERA Europe scheduled for later this month. There's a new political system in the works along with a "continent-comprehensive" PvP mode that awards winners with priority access to instanced dungeons.

Players will be able to ally themselves with the Velika, the Allemantheia, or the Kaiator (and their faction-specific bonuses), as well as join in the battle for the mysterious mineral Noctenium. Gameforge has released an update-specific teaser trailer that you can view after the break.

[Update: En Masse has just sent out a press release noting that the American version of the Alliance update will go live on August 13th. We've also included two exclusive screenies along with the Web Comic!]

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TERA introduces tasty new weapon skins

Fantasy, News Items, Free-to-Play, TERA

Fear the power of the salmon!
TERA fans, have you ever been squaring off against a big-ass monster and found yourself thinking, "Man, it sure would be great if I could beat the stuffing out of this guy with a plate of salmon nigiri?" If so, you're either crazy hungry or just plain crazy, but that's fine because the folks at En Masse Entertainment have you covered.

That's right, the latest addition to TERA's cash shop is a new set of weapon skins themed around a variety of delightful epicurean treats. The weapon skins range from the barely logical, such as a swordfish that replaces the Slayer's greatsword, to the completely absurd, like the Archer's new bow which has been haphazardly constructed with some bananas and a slice of watermelon. If you wanna check out all the ridiculous new offerings for yourself, just head on over to the game's official site. But take our advice and don't do it on an empty stomach.

Former Lineage II/TERA dev starts new game studio

Lineage 2, MMO Industry, New Titles, News Items, TERA

Lineage II/Tera dev starts new game studio
What do you do when your parent company wants to focus on mobile gaming and you don't? If you are Yonghyun Park, you start your own studio. Once a developer on both Lineage II and TERA, Park created a new company called NAT Games from LADA Studios, which was dismissed from Netmarble Korea over the aforementioned difference in market focus.

NAT Games plans on creating the next big blockbuster MMORPG, according to Steparu.com, who found the fledgling studio's recruitment webpage and application. Unfortunately, not much more is known about this proposed game in the works, but we'll keep you informed as information comes in.

TERA Korea adds five new dungeons, lots of gear

Fantasy, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Patches, News Items, PvE, Free-to-Play, TERA, Dungeons

TERA Korea adds five new dungeons, gear
Bluehole Studio may be focused on its upcoming TERA sequel, but it hasn't forgotten about the original game, either. MMO Culture reports that the Korean version of TERA recently received a massive update that included five new dungeons.

The content is broken down into solo, 3-man, 5-man, and 7-man instances, with names that translate roughly as Wizard's Fortress, Ancient Underground Canal, Ship of the Red Pirates, Forest of the Giants, and Shrine of Barde. The site also features impressive screenshots of each dungeon's final boss, and it says that each instance will feature new gear drop. Older instances will apparently see improved drops. There is no word on the new content making its way to the western versions of TERA.

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