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Virtual Worlds

PAX South 2015: Why aren't MMOs more social?

World of Warcraft, Culture, Economy, Events (Real-World), MMO Industry, Endgame, Star Wars Galaxies, Virtual Worlds, Events (Massively's Coverage), Crafting, MMORPG

PAX Panel
On Friday, Alex Albrecht from ZergID and formerly of the Totally Rad Show headed up a PAX South panel about the social side of MMOs, inviting Patrick Mulhern from Lorehound, Jenesee Grey from Camelot Unchained, and me to join to discuss community in MMOs and why it's seemed so absent in recent years. Meg Campbell from YouTube moderated the panel discussion, calling us the PAX MMO guild.

I admit that I considered naming this piece, "How Star Wars Galaxies did everything right and World of Warcraft did everything wrong" because I am obviously biased. But I really was completely surprised at how much SWG came up during the panel. Many former Galaxies players will tell you that there was a lot about that game that was pure crap, but when you talk about the social implementations of SWG, there just aren't many games that compare.

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MMOs and gaming psychology, part two: Interview with a researcher

Culture, Interviews, MMO Industry, Opinion, Virtual Worlds, Miscellaneous

lotro
Following yesterday's article discussing current research on psychology and MMOs, we have today our conversation with Dr. Rachel Kowert herself, the lead author on the paper that originally prompted these articles. Kowert, unlike many other researchers in her field, has established gamer cred; her earliest experiences were playing basic games on a Tandy computer with her brother, but the first game to really grab her was Super Mario Brothers. Her favorite game of all time is Final Fantasy 6 (Final Fantasy 3 in the US), and most recently she's played Banished and The Sims 4.

Late in Kowert's Master's degree studies, her supervisor told her about an influx of parents expressing concern about their children's gaming habits. Finding information on the topic to help ease concerns proved difficult due to a severe lack of on-point research. This is what prompted her to switch her research focus to game studies.

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The science of language, community, and MMORPGs

Culture, Interviews, MMO Industry, Opinion, Virtual Worlds, Miscellaneous, MMORPG

Johannes Jansson
Back in August, Massively wrote a little post about Swedish research on MMOs and language learning. That article provoked me, a gamer and teacher of English for speakers of other languages (ESOL), to hunt down the original research and talk directly to the researchers, Dr. Liss Kerstin Sylvén from the University of Gothenburg and Dr. Pia Sundqvist from Karlstad University, to better understand their research and findings.

Note that we'll be talking here about games and language learning specifically, not other forms of game-related education. Also, Sylvén and Sundqvist don't consider themselves "gamers." Sundqvist remembers Pac-Man as her first game, both admit to playing Angry Birds on their cell phones, and Sundqvist is "allowed" to sometimes watch her 17-year-old son play League of Legends. I find this interesting because they are non-gamers who seriously consider games capable of being educational without specifically being developed to do so. This isn't a simple merger of a hobby with work; this is work in a field of interest that's still being explored.

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The Game Archaeologist: The return of Habitat

Fantasy, Culture, MMO Industry, Virtual Worlds, The Game Archaeologist

habitat
After over four years of writing for Massively, I've ceased to be surprised by how bizarre and unexpected this industry can be. However, if you had told me a few weeks ago that, of all things, Habitat would be coming back online, I would have laughed mightily in your face.

And yet, that's exactly what's happening. The Museum of Arts and Digital Entertainment has taken up the challenge to restore LucasFilm's Habitat to working condition and then, for the first time ever, open this original virtual world up to the internet to play. Museum staff, former Habitat devs, and volunteers have been wrestling with the old code and hardware to make this happen, and I can think of no better topic for this week's column than to look at how this 28-year-old game for the Commodore 64 will emerge blinking in the light of the modern era.

I reached out to MADE's director, Alex Handy, to chat about the project and get clarification concerning what steps will need to be taken between now and the moment the switch is thrown to power up Habitat.

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Mark Kern starts new studio, raises $1M for VR MMO

Video, MMO Industry, New Titles, Virtual Worlds, Miscellaneous, Virtual Reality

mek
Ex-Red 5 CEO Mark Kern has been a busy little bee since his departure from Firefall. Kern established a new studio called MEK Entertainment with associates from Red 5 and Blizzard, raising $1 million in seed funding for his next project.

While it doesn't have a name, this project is reportedly an MMO designed for the Oculus Rift. It will use retro-style pixel art and depend heavily on "creative contributions" from the game's community. "We can't build it alone," Kern said. "I've been looking for a way to let more gamers and modders realize their own virtual worlds, and I think we found it."

Kern cited inspiration from other titles such as the SNES, Terraria, Starbound, and (of course) Minecraft. You can watch a teaser for the MMO after the break.

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Second Life's Linden Lab confirms new virtual world in development

MMO Industry, New Titles, Virtual Worlds

Second Life
Linden Lab has confirmed that it is currently working on a new virtual world in the spirit of Second Life. According to an official statement at New World Notes, this new project will be "an open world where users have incredible power to create anything they can imagine and content creators are king." If that sounds exactly like the description for Second Life already, the studio points out that, "The next generation virtual world will go far beyond what is possible with Second Life, and we don't want to constrain our development by setting backward compatibility with Second Life as an absolute requirement from the start."

But Linden Lab assures current Second Life users that this doesn't spell the end for their favorite virtual world. "Second Life has many years ahead of it," the statement continues. "And in addition to improvements and new developments specifically for Second Life, we think that much of the work we do for the next generation project will also be beneficial for Second Life."

A video of the developers meeting that discusses this project is expected to be released soon.

[Thanks for the tip, Zenaphex!]

The Secret World ARG fails to fund

Horror, Culture, The Secret World, Virtual Worlds, Post-Apocalyptic, Crowdfunding

TSW
The Secret World's spin-off alternate reality game, The Black Watchmen, failed to meet its crowdfunding goal of $100,000 this week. As a result, all donations will be refunded and the team will hand out in-game outfits for its supporters.

The team hasn't said die yet, stating: "We are working hard to find alternative solutions for funding this great project and we hope we will be able to count on you in our future endeavours."

Currently, the team is doing a post-mortem and considering its next steps. Some of the possible options for future funding that the team is looking at include a Kickstarter campaign and a publisher. The Black Watchman was intended to be a long-running persistent ARG based in The Secret World universe.

Rust, H1Z1, and the emerging 'survival MMO' genre

Betas, Opinion, Virtual Worlds, First Impressions, Post-Apocalyptic, Sandbox, H1Z1

Rust_town
I'm naked and alone again, but that's OK. After having to level up in other games a million times, deal with boring tutorials, repeatedly turn in quests that add no value to my play time, and then watch as my guild slowly bleeds members to the next MMO asking us to repeat the whole ordeal, "naked and alone" is actually nice. Well, maybe just the naked part.

And that, my friends, is the horror-survival/post-apocalypse genre. I love MMOs, but recent themeparks and building games have left me wanting something a bit more dangerous but still not a pointless murderfest. For the most part, these games are less about levels and quests and more about finding items to make sure you don't die. Hunger meters, diseases, and limited supplies in a world filled with enemies who loot you certainly feels like a good throwback to classic RPGs mixed with the multiplayer I've been craving since Asheron's Call first hooked me on MMORPGs.

But community-wise, these games have seemed more like lobby shooters than MMOs, which for a long time made me hesitate to try them. If you've been finding yourself in the same situation, hopefully my little plunge into this bloody genre will give you some ideas of what to expect.

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Oculus wants to build a billion-person MMO

Culture, MMO Industry, Virtual Worlds, Virtual Reality

The Rift
Say what you will about the Oculus-Facebook marriage, but one thing the partnership doesn't lack is ambition. Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe told a TechCrunch Disrupt audience that his firm is looking to build "an MMO where we want to put a billion people in VR."

How MMO this MMO will actually be is at this point theoretical, and Iribe admitted that it's both far in the future and that it may end up as a number of separate worlds rather than a single one.

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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