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Virtual Worlds

Glitch art book shatters fundraising goal

Screenshots, Culture, MMO Industry, Free-to-Play, Virtual Worlds, Crowdfunding

Glitch art book shatters fundraising campaign goal
Glitch may be down, but it's not out. The whimsical, non-violent MMO closed its doors on December 9th of last year, but fans of the game still hold its memory close to their hearts.

That's exactly why former art director Brent Kobayashi (AKA Meowza, AKA Kukubee) decided to gather together everything that he and the Glitch art team designed over the years, including never-before-seen concept art and some worlds that didn't make it to the game. Through Indiegogo (one of the many alternatives to Kickstarter), Brent set up a project to raise $17,000 for production of a hardcover book showcasing the art of Glitch. But as happens with the internet, the initial goal was shattered with the current money raised at just over $105,000 with 34 hours left to go on the campaign.

The good news is that this book will certainly become a reality. The better news is that you still have time to grab one for yourself!

[Thanks to Sounder for the tip!]

Free for All: Adventure Time's nostalgia is MMO drama done right

Fantasy, Real-Life, Video, Culture, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, Browser, Virtual Worlds, Free for All, Family, Miscellaneous

Glitch screenshot
I've tried to explain my love for a bit of melodrama several times over the years. It's sort of a hard thing to explain. I like a good bit of "sad" in my MMOs when I can get it, and I can say that I enjoy some measure of drama as well. Sure, many MMOs have a dramatic storyline quest here or there, but more often than not, the game forgets to be a world and rushes us off into yet another combat assignment.

The fact is that it's very hard to find the balance. We all want a good story, but many of us just want to get to the good stuff. The loot. The treasure. The virtual glory. I've had a hard time explaining my want for a game that makes me feel real emotion and explaining why I enjoy those feelings. Well, the PBS Idea Channel on YouTube did it much better than I ever could, and it used the popular Cartoon Network series Adventure Time as the perfect example of why nostalgia is a powerful and universal thing.

When it comes to video games, I believe nostalgia is even more powerful than loot.

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Massively Interview: Dr. Lawrence Sanders on MMO loyalty

Sci-Fi, Aion, EVE Online, Lineage, Lineage 2, MMO Industry, Free-to-Play, The Secret World, Casual, Virtual Worlds, Interviews (Massively's), World of Tanks, TERA, Miscellaneous, PlanetSide 2, Age of Wushu

Beyond amazing character design, compelling narratives, and the presence of dragons, there is one thing that all MMOs depend upon for success: player loyalty. Without returning subscribers, a loving community, or folks dropping a few dimes in the cash shop now and again, MMOs simply wouldn't be a feasible way for a games studio to do business. Smart development teams have player retention departments tasked specifically with tracking and analyzing the rise and fall of player allegiances and finding ways to leverage loyalty is becoming an increasingly important aspect of the creation process.

Even the non-gaming world is getting in on the fray. Back in November, researchers at the University at Buffalo School of Management published a study tracing the roots of player loyalties in a variety of MMO environments. The study outlined the mentalities of MMO gamers and the things that successfully encouraged them to keep coming back for more looting, more grinding, and more /hugging. Most importantly, the study declared that an MMO that increases loyalty by just 5% can increase profits by 25-95%.

We sat down with Dr. Lawrence Sanders, co-author of the study, to dive a little deeper into the researchers' methods, results, and plans for future MMO investigation.

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Free for All: The second annual Frindie Awards

Real-Life, Sci-Fi, Asheron's Call, Contests, Culture, PvP, Ryzom, The Matrix Online, Wurm Online, PvE, Opinion, Second Life, Vanguard, RuneScape, Free-to-Play, Browser, Mobile, Casual, Virtual Worlds, Mabinogi, Kids, Alganon, Free for All, Family, Miscellaneous, Enter at Your Own Rift, Sandbox

Frindie Awards logo
It's time once again for the Frindie Awards, my attempt to shine some light on the best indie, browser-based, free-to-play, and unusual MMOs that are all-too-often ignored by press -- and players. This one is for the little guys! Well, mostly. It's also for those games that seem to have passed under the collective radar of Massively readers or that seem to be very misunderstood.

Picking the winners this year is just as hard as it was last year, maybe even harder. 2012 was an incredible year for MMOs, so I would rather have just put together an article that highlights every single favorite. In the end, it's more helpful to make myself pick out a winner. It's a rare thing for some of these games to even receive a nod on a major website, something I still can't figure out. Either way, it's best to think of all of the MMOs on this list as my favorites from 2012.

Anyway, let's get to the awards!

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Female avatars are likely to be more exposed than their male counterparts

MMO Industry, Second Life, Virtual Worlds, Humor, Miscellaneous

I'll take three gallons of eyebleach, please. Do you also have a brain scrub I could borrow?
You really needed to be told this, right? You may not have been sure whether a lady-type avatar was more likely to be closer to naked than a manly-type avatar. If you were dying to know and really had no idea, there's an actual study now to get you all informed.

Anna M. Lomanowska and Matthieu J. Guitton went into Second Life and examined 404 (192 male and 212 female) avatars of the humanoid-but-not-furry type. They found that 57% of lady-type avatars had less than half of their skin covered, compared to only 10% of masculine-type avatars being similarly exposed. Lomanowska and Guitton were not privy to the actual sex of the folks controlling the avatars.

Do you feel enlightened?

Rise and Shiny: Star Stable

Real-Life, Video, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Browser, Casual, Virtual Worlds, Kids, Family, Rise and Shiny, Livestream, Miscellaneous

Star Stable screenshot
Star Stable is what many would refer to as a "kid's game." More accurately, it could be described as a game for tween girls who love horses, but during my time with the game, I found that most of the players I met and talked to and most of those I saw on the official Facebook page seemed to be between the ages of 17 and 40. The players I chatted with in game and during my livestream of the game were over 19 (some well over), so it would be most accurate to describe the game as a linear world of adventure for horse-lovers to explore. While on horseback. With other players on horseback. There, perfect.

There is the slightly glaring issue of every character's being gender-locked as a female rider, but I have no issue with it. The MMO stems from single-player games about a young girl and her horse, as I understand it, so playing as a girl fits perfectly. No "sexism" banners need be waved; for every one example of a game like Star Stable I can show you 100 examples of games that force women to play as men or represent them as scantily clad weaklings.

So how much fun is it to ride around on virtual horses all day? Pretty darn fun.

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MMObility: Why the closing of Glitch matters

Screenshots, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Browser, Casual, Virtual Worlds, MMObility, Sandbox

Glitch screenshot
When it was announced that Glitch was closing, I felt a blend of shock and sadness. Glitch is one of my favorite MMOs, but it's special for a number of reasons. The game achieved a lot in a crowded market that is filled with the same gameplay, same lore, and same stock characters that we have seen for years, and it achieved all of this within a Flash-based browser environment.

The official announcement gave us a lot of clues as to what happened, but it looks like the money was just not enough to keep the game afloat. It's also very possible that the money was enough, but just barely. Running a business is hard, and running an MMO that is so unique and unusual can be the same as living paycheck to paycheck. It's stressful and scary when the future is never certain... sometimes it's easier to call it quits.

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MMO Blender: A real-time Farmville MMO minus the Zynga

Real-Life, Business Models, Culture, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Casual, Virtual Worlds, Miscellaneous, Sandbox, Crafting, MMO Blender

FarmVille screenshot
Let's talk about FarmVille for a minute. Yes, I mean the Zynga-produced FarmVille, the one that helped social gaming become what it is today. There are a lot of things that have been said about the game, like "it's not even a game" or "it preys on gamer's addictive natures" and all sorts of sufficiently evil-sounding things. Say what you want about the evil monster that is Zynga and make all the jokes that you can about FarmVille and other social titles, but I want to tackle it from a different view. Let's look at it as the sandbox game that it is and use that example to invent a brand-new MMO, although I'm sure ours would not meet with even a fraction of the success that FarmVille has.

FarmVille is arguably the most popular sandbox title in the world. We've defined "sandbox" a million times on this site, but it's easy to see just how open and flexible FarmVille is. Is it limited to the confines of its unique set of tools and designs? Of course, but so is every sandbox.

FarmVille has successfully introduced the wonders of sandbox gaming to people who might never give a similarly described game a chance.

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Free for All: Ryzom - when a server merge feels right

Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Screenshots, Culture, Events (In-Game), Ryzom, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Roleplaying, Virtual Worlds, Free for All, Post-Apocalyptic, Sandbox

Official Ryzom screenshot from Facebook
I wonder what you readers thought when you read about Ryzom's latest issues. If you've been playing for a long time, you'll feel a sense of deja vu as yet another server merge or account tweak is being forced on the playerbase. If you're not familiar with the game (why haven't you tried it yet?), then it's likely the recent announcement of server merges and character wipes was a sure sign of failure. Ah, failure: the go-to word for those who don't want to investigate the normal goings-on in the MMO world.

MMOs, especially indies, can leap from owner to owner and server to server quite easily. It's not unusual to say the least. Ryzom has been through more of these changes than I care to recall, but the core game and long list of veteran characters have remained -- that is, until the developer announced that, along with the merge, characters would be wiped. Players flipped out. The forums were filled with intense conversations, and even non-players were astonished.

Consider the Darkfall announcement by contrast. Some Darkfall players are apparently looking forward to the character wipe. But Ryzom is not a FFA PvP title. Roleplayers are very happy in Ryzom; I am one of them. Luckily the developers tweaked the decision, and now I have been playing on my old character, back in the world of Atys.

Was the decision a good one? I think so.

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Rise and Shiny: Mortal Online

Fantasy, Horror, Galleries, Screenshots, Video, Bugs, Game Mechanics, Previews, PvP, Opinion, Virtual Worlds, Rise and Shiny, Livestream, Sandbox

Mortal Online screenshot
There are so many issues and subjects to cover this week, thanks to the limited time I spent in Mortal Online, a free-for-all PvP sandbox by Star Vault. I've played my share of MMOs that are similar to Mortal Online, games like EVE Online, Darkfall, Ultima Online, Wurm Online, Salem, and others. Essentially the idea is to set players loose in a massive, open world that is closer to "realistic" than standard themepark MMOs. Players might spend time farming or fishing or hunting down other players or mobs. It's generally a good idea to prepare yourself for a lot of running around, hiding, and slowly figuring out what to do when playing a FFA PvP sandbox.

Games like Mortal Online provoke questions like "Why is nudity an option at all?" and "Why is there stamina (and other realistic features) alongside magic and no permanent death?" I've learned to forget those questions and just take each specific FFA MMO as it is. Mortal Online stands alone in many ways. Unfortunately, being known as a buggy mess is one of those. I've played many buggy MMOs in my time but have enjoyed myself immensely in some of them (remember, I hosted an early Vanguard: Saga of Heroes podcast!), so I wasn't scared of jumping into an MMO that was supposed to be rough to say the least.

What did I find? Well, I found a ton -- and I mean a ton -- of bugs. But I also found a pretty cool community (yes, I just said that) and some grand adventure. Let me break it down.

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Previously on MV TV: The week of September 22nd

Fantasy, Video, Aion, EverQuest II, Classes, Events (In-Game), Interviews, Previews, Wurm Online, Opinion, Ultima Online, Vanguard, Guild Wars 2, Free-to-Play, The Secret World, Casual, Virtual Worlds, Humor, Allods Online, Community Q&A, Livestream, Sandbox, Dungeons, Crafting, Previously on MV TV, Anniversaries, Housing

Previously On MV TV banner
It's that time of the week again, people! Time for those unlucky few who missed our livestreams as they went live to click beyond the cut and enjoy my favorites of the week. It's hard picking them out, so I reach out to the team and ask which ones deserve to be highlighted. Honestly, all of the livestreams deserve the spotlight, but it should be no surprise to find out that individual streamers find their own streams to be the best of the best. I tend to agree, and every week I am surprised at just how no-nonsense and informative our streams are. Be sure to bookmark our livestream schedule calender so that each week you can tune in to your favorite. Feel free to suggest titles for streaming and to chat it up with our streamers live as they play!

This week we have MJ returning with her favorite games like EverQuest II, Aion, The Secret World, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, and Guild Wars 2. Richie joins in with his current favorite, Guild Wars 2, and I round things off with an hour spent with the Ultima Online developer team, a goblinball session with community leaders in Allods Online, and a tutorial on building a house in Wurm Online! Trust me, if there is one goblin-kicking, dev-interviewing, house-building livestream series that you should watch, it's this one!

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Rise and Shiny: IMVU

Video, Culture, Game Mechanics, Previews, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Casual, Roleplaying, Virtual Worlds, Humor, Rise and Shiny, Livestream, Miscellaneous, Sandbox

IMVU screenshot
I can see now what many of you might say about IMVU, especially after watching the embedded video. I know that many players will find the game, the world, and the virtual social connection nothing but an excuse for strangers to get together to talk dirty. As soon as I saw the game, I knew that it was trying to cover a few different bases, but I never worried about the appearance of virtual sex or sleazy creeps. Remember, I've been playing Second Life since 2004, and even that world is horribly misrepresented when someone says it's "nothing but virtual sex." That's simply not true.

IMVU is a much more stripped-down social experience than Second Life, but it still holds its own. I actually found myself enjoying the heck out of certain aspects probably because I like a game to actually work as promised. IMVU runs in a browser-like environment but still looks respectable most of the time.

I am as surprised as anyone that I had a darn good time.

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Previously on MV TV: The week of September 15th

Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Super-hero, Video, Aion, City of Heroes, EVE Online, EverQuest II, Culture, Game Mechanics, Previews, Opinion, Vanguard, Guild Wars 2, Free-to-Play, Casual, Virtual Worlds, Humor, Community Q&A, World of Tanks, Livestream, Miscellaneous, Dungeons, Previously on MV TV

Previously On MV TV banner
Ah, what a week in livestreaming for the Massively crew! Luckily, no one was discouraged by the fact that I was unable to stream my usual amount because I was waiting on a new PC to arrive. What brave soldiers, what fearless souls! I begged them to go on without me, and... well, they did. Pretty easily, actually. Be sure to bookmark our livestream schedule page so you won't miss another!

Anyway, what did we do on to stream? Well, tons of stuff. I took some of the very best streams from last week and assembled them in one easy-to-swallow pill. All you have to do is sit back, relax, and watch the wackiness! Like what? Like Richie taking on some more Guild Wars 2 in beautiful HD; MJ leaping bravely into The Secret World, EverQuest II, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, City of Heroes and Aion; and Mike PvPing in EVE Online and World of Tanks. I rounded things off with my one stream of the week: a look at IMVU, a social MMO for those who really, really like to go goth.

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Why I Play: Free Realms

Culture, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Casual, Virtual Worlds, Free Realms, Kids, Family, Sandbox, Crafting, Why I Play

Free Realms screenshot
Free Realms has been going really strong, as far as I can tell, since the beginning. I definitely remember the distinct buzz that came from the beta, and I remember bloggers and podcaster friends proclaiming that the game was going to go gangbusters. We MMOers often forget just what sort of impact certain titles have made on the market. As soon as these special titles are released into the world, we become used to them and often take them for granted.

Free Realms has always been one of those special titles. But think about it: We hear from it regularly but often forget to notice just how packed with players it can be and how much variety in gameplay it offers. In fact, Free Realms is probably one of the least appreciated sandboxes in the world of MMOs right now because it has been so successfully integrated into the MMOsphere.

Yes, I said sandbox. Yes, I'm serious. I'd go so far as to say that Free Realms is almost a perfectly designed sandbox, although some of its design is not for everyone. Like Mabinogi, another underappreciated open world of a game, Free Realms might turn off the typical sandbox aficionado, who might not like its graphics or young audience. That's unfortunate because the world of Free Realms is more vast that many of us think.

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Rise and Shiny: There

Video, Culture, Opinion, Casual, Virtual Worlds, Humor, Livestream, Miscellaneous, Sandbox

There screenshot
I remember years ago staying up very late, usually on the weekends, chatting about politics or religion in a wonderful social MMO called There. My wife and I would join a bunch of online friends to haunt parties and other gatherings, often getting booted out because we would bring up sensitive topics or would act too silly. There was a great world to cut my social MMO teeth on. I had already been playing Ultima Online and EverQuest starting around '99, but There was a brand-new experience. I loved it. Social MMOs are a rare thing, often ruled by half-naked people and driven by mature themes. While There did have its "private parties" (if you know what I mean), it was generally a friendly place with a better creeps-to-normal-people ratio than other social MMOs.

The game shut down in 2010, and I honestly thought it was gone forever. Somehow I missed the fact that it relaunched not so long ago, and this past week I was able to not only log in to the game but resurrect my avatar from all those years ago.

Unfortunately, the game seems largely empty, but I do normally visit MMOs during the day. Still, I took a few screenshots and compared them to older ones just to show how things have changed. What a week. What a nostalgic, wonderful week.

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