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Why I Play

Why I Play: APB Reloaded

Screenshots, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Free-to-Play, All Points Bulletin, Crime, Why I Play

Why I Play APB Reloaded
Those of you who have followed me on this quaint little internet of ours for any reasonable amount of time know that I'm a sandbox guy. I love freedom, choice, and the leg room to explore and build to my heart's content. I'm not a big fan of PvP, general chat, bored griefers, or people acting like idiots. But in direct contrast to this claim, APB: Reloaded is one of my all-time favorite MMOs.

APB: Reloaded is one of those games that I happily jump into when I'm feeling bored with other games or just miss real action. When I'm solo, it's a bit of an outlet for any stress or frustrations I might have because I can just be a complete jerk and it's part of the game. But when I'm with a group, the dynamic changes completely. Sure, the game has its problems and is notorious for the lag and cheater issues, but that doesn't really affect why I play the game.

Then why do I play APB: Reloaded?

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Why I Play: DC Universe Online

Real-Life, Sci-Fi, Culture, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Casual, DC Universe Online, Why I Play

DC Universe Online screenshot
I've played pretty much every superhero MMO that has come out since 1999. That means City of Heroes, Champions Online, Marvel Super Hero Squad Online, Hero Smash, and of course, DC Universe Online. There's something about superhero culture that speaks to all of us, and I think the feeling of roleplaying better or cooler versions of ourselves is the key. I tend to roll characters who are almost too much like me. They're superheroes, sure, but a bit weaker, smaller, and thinner than your usual caped crusader. Fortunately, almost every title has let me experiment, although sometimes my character has to resemble me... after working out for many years and wielding cosmic rays.

At first, DC Universe Online did not impress me as much as some of the others. It did have several issues when it launched, some that are still in need of fixing, but over time, SOE has shown just what a priority continuing development is. Patches are frequent and robust, the item mall is restocked with cool items often, and the transition to free-to-play gives players more choices than ever before.

But that's all technical mumbo-jumbo. This column is called Why I Play, not "Here Are Some Details About This Game." So why exactly do I find myself logging into DC Universe Online every week?

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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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Why I Play: RIFT

Fantasy, Culture, Game Mechanics, Opinion, RIFT, Why I Play

Yeah, the vortex is normal.  Killed real estate values a few years back, I tell you what.
For those of you who desperately need to know why I play RIFT in one line, I'll make it easy for you: I play RIFT because I really used to like World of Warcraft.

When World of Warcraft first launched, it was difficult to explain just how astonishing the game really felt. The innovations that it brought to the table have become so commonplace over the years that we forget how stunning they really were. And when I first logged in, I had visions of what the world could support, the things that could be done, and the ways that players would get to explore hidden vistas and small corners of the world.

As it happened, World of Warcraft went along quite well for several years, but somewhere along the line the magic faded for me. I can point to exactly when, but that's not the goal because RIFT seems to catch a lot of those dropped promises and put them into the game. And it's a game of extremes, with summits and valleys aplenty, but there's enough to like that I don't mind the bad so much.

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Why I Play: EVE Online

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Culture, Professions, PvP, Opinion, Sandbox, Why I Play

Why I Play title image
Sci-fi MMO EVE Online is possibly the most polarising online game in existence. It has some of the genre's most loyal fans and spawns some of its biggest news stories, but most people just can't stand the user interface and gameplay. It's been called boring, overcomplicated, and a griefer's paradise, but even those who don't play it often still watch from the sidelines as each insane story of theft or corruption emerges from the sandbox. Most games can only keep my attention for a few months at a time, but somehow I've played EVE for over eight and a half years.

I've heard it said that EVE is a long-term commitment, a statement I find hard to argue with as at only 26 years old I've been playing EVE almost continuously for a third of my life. It's not just been a game to me; at times it's been a way of life, a refuge from stress, a way to stay in touch with friends, and even a place to learn skills that can apply to the real world. Thanks to Massively, my attachment to EVE has even grown from a hobby to a career in writing and games journalism. I've had numerous periods of low activity in EVE and even quit for months at a time, but something always brings me back to the world's biggest sci-fi sandbox.

In this article, I look back at what drew me to EVE initially, some of the unusual factors that have kept me playing EVE over the past eight years, and the reason I'm still motivated to subscribe to this day.

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Why I Play: Mabinogi

Fantasy, Screenshots, Culture, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Casual, Roleplaying, Mabinogi, Sandbox, Why I Play

Mabinogi login screenshot
How do you define a sandbox MMO? In my opinion, sandbox MMOs are often described in ways that are much more complicated than they deserve. To me, they are simply MMOs that allow players to play how they want by providing systems -- real, game-impacting systems -- that foster unique character growth. These systems can be represented in a lot of different ways, however. You might grow a unique city in an MMORTS or customize an avatar in a social sandbox like Second Life. The general rule is that there are no rules in a sandbox, within the limits of the particular game, of course. Even then, sandbox players can be some of the most stringent rule-makers and followers. Just ask a Darkfall or EVE Online player how to get the most DPS and she'll rattle off a series of rules, essentially providing a class cheat-sheet. In other words, sandboxes are much like their themepark cousins, only with many more choices for character development. The themepark rules might be left out of a sandbox, but the sandbox communities often fill the void with new guidelines.

Mabinogi provides so many systems to grow a unique character with that it's ridiculous. I can easily log in and spend an hour just decorating my avatar, crafting goods, exploring new areas, flying around in the hopes of stumbling across trouble, or growing my character by leveling any one of the possible hundreds of skills. However you describe a sandbox, Mabinogi should be one of the first on the list of examples. Let me show you three reasons why.

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Why I Play: Vindictus

Fantasy, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Vindictus, Why I Play

Why I Play  Vindictus
I've noticed a curious trend among the Massively staff when it comes to the Why I Play column: The writers here tend to choose games you wouldn't necessarily expect them to choose. MJ Guthrie, who is the wind beneath our Wings Over Atreia, wrote about why she plays the Secret World. Patrick Mackey, our former Champions Online caped crusader and lately our League of Legends legend, wrote about why he plays Global Agenda. Shawn Schuster, our boss-in-chief, wrote about the little MMO that could, WURM Online. Jef Reahard, our stalwart sandbox supporter, wrote about Lord of the Rings Online. And Larry Everett, our Jedi master, wrote about, well, Star Wars The Old Republic, but my point is that the Why I Play column seems to be a place for us to write about the games we play when we're not "gaming."

That brings me to my choice for this week: Vindictus. Each week, I express my fondness for RIFT, EverQuest II, and various kid-friendly MMOs, but about a year ago, I began to do an MMO walkabout and sampled a bunch of games, many of which I livestreamed with Massively's Jeremy Stratton. I really enjoyed most of the MMOs we played, but one that stood out for me was Vindictus. There's something about the game that makes it my favorite game away from gaming, and I'll attempt to explain why in this week's Why I Play.

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Why I Play: Glitch

Betas, Screenshots, Culture, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Browser, Casual, Humor, Miscellaneous, Why I Play

The Rook artwork
As I began to write this column, it struck me that there are some people who do not actually want to play Glitch by Tiny Speck. I wanted to change the usual title of this column to "Why, of course I play Glitch!" but then I thought about my editors glaring at me from across an email. I guess I should explain my love for Glitch, the type I normally reserve only for certain wonderful titles like RuneScape, Dark Age of Camelot, Mabinogi, Wurm Online, Ryzom, MilMo, or even World of Warcraft years ago. I apologize, but it's a bit hard to explain something that seems so obvious.

Some people probably consider Glitch a game for younger players or for players who are not as serious about their digital lifestyle. Why Glitch would not be taken as seriously while a game like Darkfall or (ironically) World of Warcraft is considered a more serious gaming venture is beyond me. But then, I think all gaming is silly... that's why it's wonderful.

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Why I Play: Anarchy Online

Sci-Fi, Anarchy Online, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Why I Play

Why I Play Anarchy Online
If I only had more time. If only I had all the time in the world to game to my heart's content without giving up the other aspects of my life that are precious to me. If only I could go back in time and tell myself to play Game Y instead of Game X.

Ah, wishes and horses. Both are full of poop! But if wishes could be horses, I'd love to have some time to go back and play Anarchy Online hardcore.

I don't know what it is about this game that keeps calling me back with its retro appeal. But every year I go through a phase when I download the client and re-enter the world of Rubi-Ka for another attempt at mastering this 11-year-old title. It doesn't stick, but the fondness and desire remains. Why do I play it? I'm going to be coy and make you work for the answer.

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Why I Play: The Secret World

Fantasy, Horror, Real-Life, New Titles, Opinion, The Secret World, Why I Play

The Secret World screenshot
I can't stop! No, seriously -- I had delusions of sneaking this article out a week earlier than scheduled, but that involved actually tearing myself away from Kingsmouth long enough to log out and write. And you can see how well that turned out! It's hard enough trying to do so now; every time I think about The Secret World, I want to jump right back in and... um, excuse me a moment, I'll be right back...

Hey, I just needed to test something in-game for this article, honest! Though if the test was to be able to log in and right back out of TSW, I failed. I checked what I needed to and thought to myself, "Just five more minutes." Before I knew it, too many hours flew by. And this was not an isolated incident, either. As much as I enjoy playing MMORPGs (anyone who has heard me in a game can attest to that!), it has been quite a while since I truly reveled in my time in game and champed at the bit to get back in when I had to leave. It's no secret that I have been waiting for this game for years now, and I have to say I am not disappointed. Funcom's newest release has truly ensnared me.

So what is so compelling about The Secret World? Do you have a minute or five?

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Why I Play: EverQuest II

Fantasy, EverQuest II, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Why I Play

Why I Play EverQuest II
EverQuest II has always been a funny beast to me. I was not raised on a steady diet of SOE MMOs like some, and when EQII rolled around in November of 2004, I decided to go with some lesser-known title from Blizzard instead. I'd heard bad things about SOE in general, and EQII looked just as inaccessible as EverQuest did on the store shelves. Plus, to put a final nail in the not-interested coffin, I hated the graphics.

I still do. Hate the graphics, that is. If someone was to award MMOs for Most Blandly Generic, Plasticy Models Straight from the Uncanny Valley, EverQuest II would be a shoo-in.

Yet the years wore down my mostly semantic objections to giving EverQuest II a go, and after a few false starts, I spent a few wonderful months in the game last year after it went free-to-play. While I couldn't sustain interest in this on top of all of the other titles I was playing, I'd heartily recommend EQII to anyone complaining about tapped-out content in other MMOs. EQII is the Super Walmart of MMO features and content, far eclipsing most other competitors.

Here is why I played and why you might want to, too.

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Why I Play: RuneScape

Fantasy, Screenshots, Culture, Opinion, RuneScape, Free-to-Play, Browser, Casual, Miscellaneous, Why I Play

RuneScape screenshot
It's hard to explain exactly why I enjoy playing RuneScape. Heck, it can sometimes be hard enough to find gamers my age who would even give the game a try. Many are dead set on maintaining a state-of-the-art gaming machine, so why waste it on a browser-based game? Actually, there are so many reasons, I hope I could get to it all in one piece. Bear in mind that I really have no "main" game to call home. I have browser bookmarks for literally over 100 games, and I'm always on the hunt for more. If I am gaming, it's usually for the sake of writing about the game.

RuneScape is one of the few titles that I find myself coming back to when I don't need to game, when I am just looking for something fun to do or a world to explore. RuneScape has it all, to the point that it can almost be too much.

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Why I Play: Vanguard, Saga of Heroes

Fantasy, Opinion, Vanguard, Why I Play

vanguard
"How is Vanguard?"

If there's one question that comes up time and time again, it's that one. It experienced a launch disaster, lack of content post 35+, bugs, duping, exploits, performance issues, and the sad "parking lot layoffs," yet Vanguard: Saga of Heroes always seems to generate buzz any time it comes up in conversation.

There's a certain aura surrounding this game, and even though it languished with low subscription numbers for years, it always seems to attract attention when it's covered at Massively. There's something about Vanguard that kept me playing solidly well past launch and still pulls me back from time to time. With a free-to-play launch just around the corner, it seems like the perfect time to explain why I play Vanguard.

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Why I Play: RIFT

Fantasy, Opinion, RIFT, Why I Play

RIFT
Is it possible for a top-tier MMO to come out of nowhere and bowl you over? Considering that I follow these games not only for a hobby but as a writer for Massively, I always assumed the answer to that was "no." Until it happened, that is. Until RIFT.

It's not as though RIFT was a big secret or anything, but up until the late hours of 2010, it was very low on my -- and many of my friends' -- radars. I often got it confused with TERA, for Pete's sake! It wasn't until I got my hands on it at PAX that year and then saw how huge the beta got that I realized there was more to this supposedly generic fantasy title than I'd assumed. It truly felt like it came out of nowhere, and before I knew it, I was enjoying what became one of my favorite games of 2011.

So why did I play RIFT, and why do I still log in on occasion today? Trust me, it's not for the Elves.

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Why I Play: Global Agenda

Sci-Fi, PvP, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, MMOFPS, Global Agenda, Why I Play

Global Agenda screenshot
Among the Massively staff, I'm known as the obsessive competitor who plays every game in a hardcore fashion. It's no surprise that I gravitate toward high-skill, difficult games that test skill instead of the typical MMO grinds. But it should be a bit of a surprise that I don't really like competitive shooters. Shooters take a lot of the elements I really love about competition such as mindgames and positioning and marginalize them in favor of raw aiming and twitch reflexes. I'm fond of saying "You must be this tall to ride this ride" when it comes to shooters that are very twitch-based.

Global Agenda is a different beast than other shooters, though. The competitive shooter market is saturated with class-based shooters whose emphasis is more on teamwork than on aiming, and Global Agenda really takes it to eleven. Aiming is still important, but it's hardly the most important skill in the game, and every class has a way of minimizing the need for aiming skill. In fact, most of the more effective builds in GA don't require aiming. The emphasis in GA is on teamwork, mobility, and good decision-making. Even though it's a shooter, I find it really easy to spend far too much of my time playing it. It's just great fun.

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