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The Think Tank

The Think Tank: Saying farewell to Vanguard

Fantasy, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, Vanguard, Massively Meta, The Think Tank, Sunsets

Vanguard is being retired forever next week, and this time there won't be a studio waiting in the wings to rescue it from doom. Today, Massively's staff hopes to give it a fond farewell. Join us in sharing our thoughts about the world of Telon.

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The Think Tank: Star Citizen and armchair speculation

Betas, Sci-Fi, Business Models, MMO Industry, Opinion, Massively Meta, Humor, The Think Tank, Crowdfunding, Star Citizen

Star Citizen pew pew
This week, Star Citizen announced it's now raised a total of $48 million in crowdfunding and revealed its $50 million stretch goal, which is an absurd amount of money (but still not as absurd as how much some other AAA MMOs reportedly spent). "As a professional gamer and armchair developer with several failed armchair projects under my belt," wrote Massively commenter computerhelfer with his tongue firmly in cheek, "I can safely say this project has acquired too much money. This project makes my armchair feel uncomfortable."

Apparently, large sums of money and large-scale projects make a lot of people uncomfortable, at least judging by the huge and sometimes nonsensical debates that sprawl across our Star Citizen posts. In today's Think Tank, I've asked some of the Massively writers to speculate on the future of the game, its impact on the genre, and how much higher that crowdfund number might go before all of the core pieces of the game have launched.

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The Think Tank: Finding the magic in MMOs

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

About a month ago, a Massively reader wrote to our team to ask for help on an issue many of us -- and probably many of you -- struggle with: a genre with lots of games and not enough stickiness (and patience!).
I've been around the MMO block (since EverQuest); I even dabbled in Meridian 59. And I keep seeing game articles that make me want to try or retry lots of MMOs, but between my schedule and investment in other titles already, I cannot bring myself to jump into old or new games for more than a few play sessions. There's so many to play that I just can't bring myself to settle down for a little bit to really get enough of the experience to enjoy it.

For example, I recently played Asheron's Call for a total of three hours after subbing and reading articles that compelled me to try it. But it felt foreign and clunky. I couldn't stick around to really appreciate it. I fear the same results in other games I'd like to try. Can you give me advice on shedding the urge to judge and dismiss a game if it doesn't click with me immediately? Is there a way to not be jaded or lazy with being a newbie (yet again) in older titles? Help me play more MMOs for the sake of experience and new loves!

- MMO junkie seeking help "finding the magic"
I polled the team for advice in this week's Think Tank!

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The Think Tank: Happy birthday, Star Wars Galaxies

Sci-Fi, Culture, Events (Real-World), MMO Industry, Opinion, Star Wars Galaxies, Massively Meta, Miscellaneous, Sandbox, Anniversaries, The Think Tank

Today marks the 11th anniversary of the launch of Star Wars Galaxies, an MMO whose untimely sunset at the end of 2011 continues to make sandbox fans sigh mournfully. This week, in honor of the anniversary, I asked the Massively writers whether they think we'll ever see another new Star Wars MMORPG (other than those we still have, of course), let alone another epic Star Wars sandbox. It's time to speculate!

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The Think Tank: The best of E3 2014's MMO offerings

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

Elite
E3 has come and gone, and we, the members of the Massively crew, have taken some time to reflect on the MMO shenanigans we saw and read about and experienced vicariously through the folks we conned into going to LA our dear and intrepid field reporters.

Here's what our writers thought about E3's offerings for MMO players.

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The Think Tank: Catching up on WildStar's launch

Sci-Fi, Bugs, Events (Real-World), News Items, Opinion, Massively Meta, WildStar, Housing, The Think Tank, Subscription

WildStar
WildStar's launch has come and gone, and I missed it while I was away on a raid IRL (my loot? A legendary baby drop!). This might just be one of the few major MMORPGs whose launch metas I've missed out on in my entire span of playing MMOs since Ultima Online, so I asked the Massively staffers who've been playing either a lot or a little to catch me up on the state of the launch. How did it go from the perspective of the people on the ground (as opposed to the people in the peanut gallery)? I'd love to hear from our readers, too!

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The Think Tank: The best MMORPG character naming systems

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

SWG
My first MMO was Ultima Online, where character naming rules were so unrestricted that it wasn't uncommon for people to copy names from others to pass themselves off as other players, usually for espionage and infiltration purposes. My guild even lost a guild base that way once to a particularly savvy spy with the same name as one of our officers! Subsequent MMOs, all the way into the present day, usually curtail such exploits with harsh naming conventions, including WildStar, which made recently headlines with a botched reservation system for its unique names (in fact, the registration ends tomorrow!). But players don't seem any happier with unique names than with copycat names.

I polled the Massively writers about their opinions on the best naming systems in MMOs and how they'd like to see naming systems improved in general.

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The Think Tank: Listen to the music

Culture, Opinion, Massively Meta, Miscellaneous, The Think Tank, Music

Jupiter
When I logged into ultra-indie sandbox Villagers & Heroes a few weeks ago to explore its latest patch and arrival on Steam, the first thing that slammed into me was Jupiter. No, really: Holst's Jupiter, Bringer of Jollity, one of the iconic movements of The Planets suite that's been inspiring composers for a hundred years. I just wasn't expecting to hear it verbatim during character creation. It's... well, it's jolly and strangely annoying in a game context, even for someone who appreciates a good Holst-inspired game soundtrack.

For this week's Think Tank, I polled the Massively writers about their in-game music preferences. Do they turn it off? Do they listen faithfully? Are they raiding to Bieber? I bet they are.

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The Think Tank: Non-combat roles in MMORPGs

Classes, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, Massively Meta, Miscellaneous, The Think Tank

ArcheAge
Two recent topics have collided to create this week's Think Tank topic: Massively's Justin wrote about pacifist characters in MMOs, and Camelot Unchained reminded me that while there's no PvE, it'll be possible to play as a pure crafter to contribute to PvP. These shouldn't strike us as novel concepts. The genre has seen several MMOs (A Tale in the Desert, Glitch) that shed combat entirely, and many sandboxes (Star Wars Galaxies and Ultima Online, to name just a few), allowed players to roll pure crafters who raised neither blaster nor kryss to attack a foe. Yet many modern gamers still think of pacifist play as an anomaly, having been bred to believe combat is the end-all, be-all of an MMORPG experience.

I polled the Massively team members for their thoughts on pacifist play and non-combat roles in MMOs. Have or would they play such characters and games?

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The Think Tank: Founder packs, exploitation, and choices

Business Models, MMO Industry, Opinion, Massively Meta, Miscellaneous, The Think Tank, Crowdfunding

Think Tank
Free-to-play MMOs have learned at least one key lesson from crowdfunding: Some people will shell out huge amounts of money for pixels, far more than we've traditionally paid for industry-standard preorders and collectors editions. Most recently, Landmark, ArcheAge, Trove, and Transformers Universe have come under fire for offering pricey "founder packs" that provide a range of early access benefits, some of them significant, for what are otherwise F2P games.

I polled the Massively writers for their take on this trend. Is it exploitative or just the reality of modern MMO funding?

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The Think Tank: Wistfully watching MMOs across the pond

Business Models, MMO Industry, Opinion, Massively Meta, Miscellaneous, The Think Tank

Black Desert has been filling our headlines lately because of its Korean beta, but over here in the US, we have no inkling as to when or whether we'll ever get our hands on the game. That leads us to this week's Think Tank question: Would you rather know all about the awesome games overseas we might never get to play, or would you prefer they just shut up until they have a plan for those of us in the west? I polled the Massively team members for their take.

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The Think Tank: Thoughts on PAX East 2014

Culture, Events (Real-World), MMO Industry, Opinion, Massively Meta, Events (Massively's Coverage), Miscellaneous, The Think Tank

PAX East came and went last weekend, and as we do most years, the Massively writers got together to discuss the highlights and the disappointments of the con. Join the conversation -- what did you think was the best (and worst) MMO or reveal at PAX?

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The Think Tank: Putting The Elder Scrolls Online's launch in context

Fantasy, Bugs, Events (Real-World), Launches, New Titles, Opinion, The Elder Scrolls Online, The Think Tank, Subscription

ESO
If you've been around the MMO industry long enough, you know that MMO launches rarely go smoothly for everyone. Some of them even crash and burn in such spectacular ways that veterans are still invoking their names a decade later. This week, I polled a few of the Massively staffers about the launch of the Elder Scrolls Online. How did it fare compared to some of the trainwrecks in MMO history?

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The Think Tank: Essential MMO launch components

Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, Massively Meta, Miscellaneous, The Think Tank

SWG
How many times have you read about a post-launch game patch and seen a fellow gamer dismiss the additions with, "That's nice, but it should have been in at launch"? Probably far too many to be realistic considering the time and expense involved in making MMOs, but we all say it anyway. I saw similar comments in the last few weeks about Guild Wars 2, Diablo III, and Lord of the Rings Online -- it's almost as if we don't want to let games redeem themselves!

This week, I asked the Massively writers to assume that basics like "chat" and "combat" are givens and then select the one completely and utterly essential gameplay mechanic or element that they think an MMO should really have at launch. Here's what they told me.

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The Think Tank: How MMO players prepare for launch

Culture, Events (Real-World), Launches, Massively Meta, Miscellaneous, The Think Tank

ESO
Launches are a big deal to MMO players. Diablo III and SMITE both released this week, Landmark made a break for closed beta, and The Elder Scrolls Online, the first major MMORPG of the year, will become a reality next week. So how do you prepare for these launches in an era of digital downloads? That's exactly what this week's Think Tank asks the Massively team members, who cleverly pretended that they don't call in sick from Massively itself on launch days. Ahem.

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