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Virtual Worlds

Ten things to do in Free Realms before it's gone

Fantasy, Screenshots, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Trading Card Games, Virtual Worlds, Free Realms, Family, Guides, Sunsets

Free Realms
Free Realms is set to close down at the end of this month, and despite the fact that the game is aimed toward players much younger than I am, I'm going to miss it.

When the game first launched, my two oldest daughters and I played religiously. It was an easy way for us to interact and play together when I was away, and they spent a sizable chunk of their allowances on pets, mounts, and housing items over the years.

So I've decided to honor Free Realms with this article detailing a few things you can do in the game before it's gone forever.

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Second Life CEO Rod Humble leaves Linden Lab

MMO Industry, News Items, Second Life, Free-to-Play, Virtual Worlds, Miscellaneous

It will forever be a mystery how anyone could leave this behind.
Rod Humble, CEO of Linden Lab for the past three years, officially announced via Facebook that he has left the company. Humble has worked on both The Sims and EverQuest, pretty much exactly the two games that you would think could be mashed together into Second Life. Linden Lab has not issued a statement about Humble's replacement at this time.

In a statement on the move, Humble wished his former coworkers and customers the best of fortunes, stating that he was moving on to form a startup company to make "art, entertainment, and unusual things." Whether or not this will be another startup in the online gaming space or something entirely different remains to be seen.

Study shows intense gaming can cause changes in real-life perception

Culture, MMO Industry, News Items, Virtual Worlds, MMOFPS, MMORTS, Miscellaneous, MOBA, MMORPG

Surgeon Simulator 2013
A new study published in the International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction has linked changes in visual perception and "pseudo-hallucinatory experiences" with intense video gaming. According to the study, intensive playing can cause the player's mind to perceive real-life objects through a gaming lens and can also create a situation in which the mind generates visual distortions based on gameplay.

Examples offered in the study, which was done by gathering 656 posts from 54 different forums, include a subject seeing the Mass Effect dialogue wheel in his or her mind during conversations and another mistaking in-flight airplanes for Modern Warfare 2 UAVs. Mentioned as a basis for the study are the visual "waviness" some gamers experience after long sessions with Guitar Hero, the "Tetris effect" that involves seeing how real-life items could stack after playing the famous puzzler, and "Minecraft sickness" in which gamers see square-shaped themes in everyday objects.

The full study breaks down a number of different types of gaming after-effects as reported by participants and proposes that the effects can be caused by "the interplay of physiological, perceptual, and cognitive mechanisms."

Massively's Third Annual Frindie Awards

Fantasy, Screenshots, Game Mechanics, Ryzom, Wurm Online, Opinion, Second Life, Free-to-Play, Browser, Mobile, Casual, Virtual Worlds, MMORTS, Free for All, Miscellaneous, Sandbox

Frindie Awards
It's time once again for me to throw out my awards for the best of free-to-play, indie, and oddball MMOs, a real niche-within-a-niche. It might seem that I am assigned many of these titles as though I were some modern day Mikey, but the truth is that I get a huge thrill out of finding a new game but get even more of a thrill when I realize that no one is covering it. I had to really think hard about the criteria for the awards this year, mainly because "indie" is quickly becoming one of those often hard-to-define words, alongside "MMORPG" and "free-to-play." Fortunately, I think I know it when I see it.

I kept my choices to games that I have actually played this year. I wanted to avoid games that appear to be really cool. If you want a more broad batch of prizes, check out Massively's best of awards. (Side note: I voted for Defiance as my game of the year.)

These awards are for games that are being created on a shoestring or independent of massive budgets. Some of them are connected to some money, of course, but instead of trying to define "indie," I will only repeat: You'll know it when you see it.

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Colbert cracks ancient Second Life joke, picks on NSA

Culture, MMO Industry, News Items, Second Life, Virtual Worlds, Humor, Sandbox

Stephen Colbert
I guess we'll forgive Stephen Colbert for not realizing that the Second-Life-users-don't-have-a-first-life joke is older than he is. Mainly because the rest of his segment on Linden Labs' virtual world and its NSA-powered avatars is pretty funny.

Colbert follows up Comedy Central colleague Jon Stewart's riff on the NSA in World of Warcraft with a segment heavy on Second Life secret agents. Kotaku has the full story as well as a video embed.

Free for All: MMORPGs for your new console

Betas, Fantasy, Super-hero, EVE Online, Launches, New Titles, Previews, PvP, News Items, PvE, Free-to-Play, Consoles, Casual, Virtual Worlds, MMOFPS, Free Realms, Rumors, Warhammer 40k, Kids, DC Universe Online, Final Fantasy XIV, DUST 514, World of Tanks, Free for All, Family, EverQuest Next, PlanetSide 2, Sandbox, Diablo III, Defiance, The Elder Scrolls Online, Destiny, Player-Generated Content, Subscription, Buy-to-Play

PS4 and Xbox One picture
Consoles and MMOs do not have the stand-offish relationship that they used to have. In fact, there are so many different MMOs to choose from on consoles that it's seriously tempting to pick up one of the new ones -- the Xbox One or PlayStation 4 -- even though I wasn't planning on it for a long, long time. I enjoy using a controller with MMOs so much that I plan on covering the subject more in the future.

So let's get to the list of MMOs that are currently on consoles or that will be coming out on consoles in the near(ish) future. Massively's own Mike Foster put together a fantastic list last summer, but I thought I would update and pass it on. After all, the new consoles are officially here... so be sure to reference the list when you need a new MMO to play on your shiny new console!

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The Stream Team: Exploring the MMOness of Minecraft with Beau

Video, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Casual, Virtual Worlds, Livestream, Sandbox, Housing, The Stream Team, Buy-to-Play

Minecraft screenshot
Have you been curious about how massive Minecraft can be? Should we consider it an MMO, and what would the relevant criteria be? Join Beau as he lands on the Split Infinity Radio server to see just how it works out when you have scores of players working together. Watch live at 4:00 p.m. EST!

Game: Minecraft
Host: Beau
Date: Weekday, November 18th, 2013
Time: 4:00 p.m. EST

Enjoy our Steam Team video below.

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Free for All: Five ways to create immersion in MMOs

Fantasy, Screenshots, Culture, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Roleplaying, Virtual Worlds, Free for All, Sandbox

Second Life screenshot
Immersion. I've used the word so much over the past several years that it has almost lost all meaning. I've played around with my Immersion Project, a set of rules designed to force me to play in a way that creates an almost physical connection with my characters. I've written about immersion and why it is important. I've even played the other side and fell in love with MMOs that are seemingly designed to be anything but immersive. It's one of those flashy terms that sounds more complicated than it is.

The fact is that it's important only to those who value it. And those who value it do not value it all the time. Immersion is simply a feeling of being lost in an MMO. It's the same feeling we get when reading a good book or when completely entrenched in a good movie. It's a feeling that designers must pay attention to, but if you pay too much attention to it, the game you design can miss the mark.

So what defines immersion for me? Well, it's easier to list off some specific game elements that help me feel immersed.

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Choose My Adventure: Saying goodbye to Age of Wushu

Culture, Game Mechanics, PvP, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, Virtual Worlds, Choose My Adventure, Sandbox, Age of Wushu

Age of Wushu screenshot
During a Q and A with Grant Bowler, SyFy's leading man in its new series Defiance, the actor tried to explain some of his love for MMORPGs and gaming in general. He talked about EVE Online and how he once stayed up for 36 hours due to an in-game war. He bragged about how players often lose everything they have in the game and smiled as he explained its "learning curve." He even likened playing the game to being married to Woody Allen, a strange yet somehow accurate description.

Am I comparing my time with Age of Wushu to being married to en elderly comic genius? No, but I am very familiar with the lawkeeper's description of his favorite game. It's the same description that Age of Wushu players use when we talk about the game, although I disagree with how wonderful the "learning curve" is. Still, I had a blast over these last few weeks.

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Free for All: What a Memoria MMO might look like

Fantasy, Video, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Browser, Mobile, Casual, Virtual Worlds, Free for All, Miscellaneous

Memoria screenshot
There are a few styles of gaming that we just don't see much of anymore, and point-and-click adventure games has been one of those. The good news is that compared to other older styles like text-based or email-gaming, point-and-click adventuring is making a comeback. Thanks to the mobile market and its resurrected titles like Broken Sword and amazing newer games like The Walking Dead, adventure-lovers have much to do. Personally, I find adventure gaming to be a thrilling experience because they generally allow a player to use her brain more than her reflexes, and the experiences are usually quite beautiful too.

Memoria is Daedalic Entertainment's latest adventure game set in The Dark Eye universe. It's often described as "the German Dungeons and Dragons." I'm not sure that the description gives either IP full credit, but The Dark Eye is one interesting universe.

As usual, though, my mind wondered how the game could be worked into a multiplayer version. A massively multiplayer version. I've asked the same question of other games before, so let's look at how Memoria might make a killer MMO!

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Choose My Adventure: And the winner is...

Polls, Game Mechanics, PvP, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, Virtual Worlds, Choose My Adventure, Community Q&A, Sandbox

Choose My Adventure winner censored
Choose My Adventure is a funny column to write. At some point, you as the author know which game will likely win, but you also know that at some point everything can go wonky. I've seen games that seemed to be the sure thing get knocked off by a lone wolf or underdog. I like to poke the developers who are running the games that are in the polls in the hopes that they let their community know about the column and get the polls heating up. There's nothing like a good vote to get people excited about MMO games, and that's the way things should be.

Even though I watched the poll go a few different ways, it was relatively obvious what title was going to pull it off. I started to prepare by updating the top titles and reading up on some of their systems. Choose My Adventure is not a light undertaking; it's a real adventure -- hopefully -- through an unfamiliar world. I knew I would need the community's help in deciphering the winner.

And what a winner!

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Free for All: My top four MMOs for relaxation

Trailers, Video, Lord of the Rings Online, Culture, Game Mechanics, Wurm Online, Opinion, Vanguard, Free-to-Play, Casual, Virtual Worlds, Free Realms, Free for All, Livestream, Sandbox, Housing, Player-Generated Content

Wurm Online screenshot
Say you come home from a long day's work, dreaming about the vacation that you've yet to take and how nice it would be to turn off your brain for a while, to kick back and watch the wide world walk by. Unfortunately, vacations cost a pile of money. You have to pay someone to watch the dogs and water your plants and work is a real pain about letting you out of the shackles even for a week.

The good news is that much of the benefit of vacation comes from the mental release. Sure, nothing beats the real, true feeling of pressing your toes into warm water and sand, but it can be fun and relaxing to visit virtual worlds, to take in virtual sights and sounds. MMOs are perfect for blowing off some steam, for taking a moment to realize just how nice it is to have access to such landscapes from the comfort of your desk.

Here are some of my favorite virtual worlds that bring on that feeling of relaxation.

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Free for All: Recapping Mabinogi Iria Saga chapters four to six

Fantasy, Video, Events (In-Game), Game Mechanics, Lore, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Casual, Virtual Worlds, Humor, Mabinogi, Events (Massively's Coverage), Free for All, Livestream, Sandbox

Mabinogi screenshot
It's time for another recap of the last three Mabinogi Saga Iria chapters. If you'd like a full recap of what exactly the Saga Iria is, check in on our previous coverage, but the short verions is that it's a grand, sweeping saga that is spread out over 12 episodes. In it, the player is cast into not only the role of the hero but the role of the villain. It's a complicated story, so you could also get caught up via the livestreams embedded past the cut (and the previous ones as well).

Of course, the very best way to enjoy the chapters is to play through them yourself. But Mabinogi Community Manager Sabina won't be joining you as she joined me in the livestreams, will she? So, watch on for her take on the game! I found some familiar challenges in these chapters, challenges that pushed my abilities as a player. I wouldn't have been able to survive these chapters without the help of the community and the advice of fantastic players. Thanks to them, I have learned things about the game and its systems that I would have never experienced on my time budget. So let's get to the recap! (Just be very aware: This article contains many spoilers!)

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Smaller virtual bodies affect how people see the world

Culture, News Items, Virtual Worlds, Miscellaneous

Inevitably worth addressing when discussing child-like bodies.
How much does the size of our virtual bodies influence our behaviors? It doesn't seem like it'd have much of an effect, but according to a recent study it can cause a greater impact than you might speculate. Researchers placed several subjects in special motion-capture suits, then presented the subjects with a body that had adult proportions or childish proportions, even though both bodies were the same size.

The result was that participants in the childlike bodies were more likely to identify as children rather than as adults, exploring more child-like environments and behaving less like adults. It's worth keeping in mind that these behaviors happened within motion-capture suits designed to simulate actual movement in virtual bodies, so how much of this would transfer to MMOs is questionable. But it's an interesting set of variables to consider, especially in terms of how much we identify with our avatars in the game.

[Thanks to David for the tip!]

Cubeworld launches into paid alpha

Betas, Launches, New Titles, PvP, News Items, PvE, Virtual Worlds, Miscellaneous, Sandbox, MMORPG

Cube World, developed by Picorama, is billed as a voxel-based, randomly generated, action-adventure RPG with borderless worlds and infinite character progression. It's not exactly an MMO, but it's pretty darn close: It also has a crafting system, PvP combat, and cooperative play via LAN or the web. If that sounds like something you would enjoy, you're in luck: Cube World's paid alpha phase has officially begun.

Well, sort of. In order to get into the alpha, you'll need to pay for the game via the Picorama shop. In order to use the shop, you'll need to register. And thanks to what the developer claims are regular denial-of-service attacks, registrations are currently disabled. Foiled again.

In the meantime, you can get an extremely limited taste of the game's looks by checking out its mini demo.

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