Free for All: How a smaller workload affects my MMO playstyle

Genia Brain Storm screenshot

As I’m sure you have all heard, we recently went through some budget and workflow changes here at Massively. For me, the revamp meant that I went from three columns, several livestreams, and the occasional news post down to a single column and an occasional stream or feature.

A strange thing has happened, but I can’t say that it’s uncommon in the industry: Once my workload decreased, my gaming MMO habits changed. I have been sort of reset to the position I was in before I worked so much for this site, back to when I was a silly blogger who wrote and played just for fun.

Allow me to explain.

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Source: Engadget

The Stream Team: Breaking a world record with Age of Ascent

Age of Ascent screenshot

If you’ve ever wanted to be part of gaming history, check out this livestream with Massively’s Beau Hindman and members of the Age of Ascent developer team. They’ll be attempting to literally break a Guinness World Record for the largest videogame PvP battle, currently standing at 4,075 players! Age of Ascent launched its Kickstarter yesterday and is offering pledge rewards from special in-game ships to dinner with the devs. Join us live at 3 p.m. EDT.

Game: Age of Ascent
Host: Beau Hindman
Date: Friday, March 14th, 2014
Time: 3:00 p.m. EDT

Enjoy our Stream Team video below.

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Source: Engadget

Free for All: Why developers need to stop apologizing

RuneScape screenshot

Remember the old saying “confidence is attractive”? Well, it is. It’s possible that we’ve all been the victim of a confident person at one time or another, whether we’re buying that extra add-on for our cable package or “investing” money into a Kickstarter. This is exactly why an MMO developer needs to be confident and keep the apologizing to a minimum.

Apologies come in many different forms. Over the course of our lives, we spend a lot of time giving and receiving apologies. It’s not as sinister as it sounds; saying “sorry” helps cut down on confrontation and can even help to form new relationships. Unfortunately it’s also very easy to apologize too much. In this age of indie development and crowd-funding, developers need to be aware of when they are saying sorry too much, and players need to watch out for overly apologetic people.

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Source: Engadget

Free for All: Five reasons to continue loving MMORPGs

RuneScape screenshot

It’s been all gloomy around here lately, hasn’t it? Well there’s a good reason for that, as you might know. Luckily I have survived the cuts that affected much of the AOL Tech network, although that means that Rise and Shiny and MMObility, my two other regular columns, will be consolidated into this one. While it might seem like less work for me, in actuality it means that I have less room to tell you, fair reader, about all of the fantastic MMOs that continue to come out.

Yes, I said continue to come out. It’s easy to become a Seymour (“I hate my interests!”) in these days of non-stop hype, but the truth is that the MMO genre has continuously pumped out content for many, many years and will keep doing so for some time. So to celebrate the fact that three of my columns are now coming to you in one megacolumn, I thought it’d be fun to remind ourselves just why we enjoy this hobby.

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Source: Engadget

Rise and Shiny revisit: Stronghold Kingdoms

Stronghold Kingdoms screenshot

Stronghold Kingdoms is probably one of my top favorite MMORTS titles out there. There are many reasons it holds a special place in my slightly crumpled gamer heart, and I will be sure to get to those, but there are also many gameplay elements that could use some improvement. It’s a pretty typical MMORTS in most ways; players build up a town, trade goods, fight each other, and swear loyalty to others. In fact, the genre is quite bloated with games that perform in largely the same way, many of them being delivered to us within the browser.

For many players, these defining characteristics are exactly why they are attracted to the genre. In the same way, shooter fans appreciate many of the same basic mechanics from game to game, and trading card players need specific systems in place in order to feel satisfaction. So the existence of these repeated designs is not a problem for me.

It’s especially not a problem in Stronghold Kingdoms.

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Source: Engadget

MMObility: A newbie's look at the fantastic Therian Saga

The Therian Saga screenshot

I’m tired today. I was up too late playing The Therian Saga, a new browser-based MMO by Studio Virtys. It’s a seemingly simple game and might even appear to be easier than it is, but I have found these last several hours of play to be more immersive and satisfying than much of what I have played over the last several months. Essentially, the game is an in-depth representational game, meaning that most of the time you will spend your time giving commands and watching — or waiting for long periods — for the commands to work out. Think of the gameplay sort of like Words With Friends with some real-time combat. No, you won’t be spelling against your enemies, but the pace is definitely casual with optional, faster combat.

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Source: Engadget

February will be a big month for PlanetSide 2

PlanetSide 2 screenshot

PlanetSide 2 continues to gain updates and new content. It’s still pushing itself to be the best place to find massive battles with the most players, and a recent host of tweaks, fixes, updates and changes have made many MMOFPS fans very excited for the rest of the year. So what’s happening to the MMOFPS in the month of February?

We asked Matt Higby, Creative Director for PlanetSide 2, to explain just that.

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Source: Engadget

Free for All: What my Raptr stats say about my gaming style

Raptr stats screenshot

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Raptr, the free game tracking service and social network. I used it much of the time when it first came out but then fell out of love with it when it stopped detecting many of the indie and browser-based MMOs that I played. I picked it up again recently and have been attempting to keep it going any time I game. I like being able to communicate with people through the network, but I mainly enjoy looking over my stats as a gamer to see just how flighty I can be.

The system isn’t perfect, of course. Either I need to set the app to start when my PC does, or I just need to get better at remembering to start it when I begin a gaming session. And even though I play many, many different types of games and MMOs, the network still doesn’t automatically recognize many of the smaller titles I like to play.

So even though there are some gaps in my wall, I thought it’d be interesting to look at the info there to see just how much gaming I am doing.

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Source: Engadget

The Stream Team: Revisiting Stronghold Kingdoms

Stronghold Kingdoms screenshot

Beau is revisiting Stronghold Kingdoms, a game that he really liked before. Will he like it again, even with all of its changes? Come check out this stream if you like MMORTS games and strategy!

Game: Stronghold Kingdoms
Host: Beau Hindman
Date: Monday, February 17th, 2014
Time: 4:00 p.m. EST

Enjoy our Stream Team video below.

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Source: Engadget

Rise and Shiny: Inferno Legend

Inferno Legend screenshot

This week’s game was a giant gamble, one that I should have known would not have worked out at all. The problem is that I have this crazy inborn optimism that tells me that even though many MMOs look and play the same way, you never know how they truly play until you actually play them. I’ve literally played hundreds of MMOs for this job and probably a hundred or so before that, so I’ve seen my share of games that look one way and play the other.

So this week I decided to go ahead and roll in Inferno Legend, a new MMO by GameBox, even though it appeared to be an auto-player like League of Angels from a few weeks ago and other titles before that. I picked my character from five different classes: the Cyclops, Vampire, Samurai, Faerie, and Mummy. I barely got past the incredibly bad voice-acting that was presumably supposed to add life to the characters and popped into the game.

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Source: Engadget

MMObility: Line of Defense Tactics is a fun start for an IP

Line of Defense Tactics screenshot

Line of Defense is an upcoming MMOFPS created by 3000AD. It looks like an interesting twist on the shooter genre, complete with large battles and vehicles to control. It offers only a beta sign-up right now, so if you are interested in diving into the LoD universe, you can download the newly released Line of Defense Tactics standalone game. It’s not an MMO, but it still introduces players to the IP. If you’re a fan of real-time turn-based combat and challenging gameplay, you might want to give it a go on your portable device or PC.

I downloaded a version of Tactics from Steam and tried it on my Android tablet as well. Both experiences felt pretty much the same, and my game save synced between both devices easily. Today I am going to cover the mobile version mostly, but it should be noted that the PC version looks and acts pretty much identically.

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Source: Engadget

Free for All: Can roleplay rise above the sexy stuff?

Velvet Sundown screenshot

Recently I logged some time in Velvet Sundown, a new pseudo-MMO that places players into small, instanced roleplay groups of 11 characters aboard a ship in order to solve a mystery or to otherwise “win” a roleplay session. It sounds strange, but it really is a very interesting idea. Each character has a different angle on the game, and depending on how that character interacts with the others, he or she also has many different ways of achieving goals. The game also offer a decent text-to-speech tool that gives more life to the characters.

I logged in and was assigned to play the character Malik, who was something of a wise man. My apparent goal was to find a spy, hire a thief to steal secrets, and look for other players who were from the same background. I was also assigned the task of blessing people in the hopes of gaining new disciples.

Excited, I logged in and approached a group of players. Almost as soon as I did, I was disappointed. Within minutes several players were talking non-stop about women’s underwear. At first I thought it was part of the story, but then I realized it was simply another great roleplay opportunity taken down by a few jerks.

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Source: Engadget

The Stream Team: Braving Inferno Legend

Inferno Legend screenshot

Inferno Legend is a new title from ChangYou, the former publisher of Zentia and many other current games. Will this game have the same magic that Zentia did? Beau’s about to find out. Join him in the chat room to ask about the game!

Game: Inferno Legend
Host: Beau Hindman
Date: Monday, February 10th, 2014
Time: 4:00 p.m. EST

Enjoy our Stream Team video below.

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Source: Engadget

Why I Play: Neverwinter

Neverwinter screenshot

I have to say that for all of my yapping about needing to play MMOs that allow me to freely roam and to explore a virtual world and live a virtual life, I sure am a fan of linear themeparks. Who isn’t? In fact, show me someone who now claims to be the enemy of all things themed, and I’ll show you someone who at some point enjoyed the benefits of a good themepark, most likely World of Warcraft. I’m not sure why there’s any shame in admitting that one enjoys a good romp through a virtual storybook, but I sure do. In fact, I often depend on it in order to get me over lazy sandbox slumps.

Neverwinter is one of my favorite themeparks out there. There are quite a few reasons it works so well, many of them obvious. I’d like also to point out some of the reasons Neverwinter might work so well for certain types of players.

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Source: Engadget

Rise and Shiny revisit: Alganon's new expansion

Alganon screenshot

It’s been quite a while since I dived into Alganon, the indie MMO by Quest Online. The game has had a bit of an up and down development cycle, but I always found it to be a pretty unique game with a nice mix of mechanics. Granted, according to many readers, the game is nothing but a World of Warcraft ripoff thanks to its similar avatar graphics, but the game is only as similar to World of Warcraft as most other themepark titles are. There are quests, skill trees, and other things in Alganon that you’ll find in a score of titles, but Alganon also offers a few things that together make for a pretty unique combination of gameplay in spite of superficial similarities to other games.

The game is still rough around the edges, however, and needs some patching and tweaking in order to be nearly as polished as many other titles. The team is small, and I tend to forgive small teams for the these oversights as long as the game runs smoothly for the most part. Alganon does run smoothly and offers quite a few interesting and immersive systems.

Let’s go over what was added with this expansion as well as what’s still missing.

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Source: Engadget

MMObility: Exploring the confusing world of mobile MMOs

Mobile MMO screenshot

The mobile MMO market has sort of come to a standstill, at least in the Western market. There are always new or incoming mobile titles that are MMO-like and even a handful of new fully fledged MMOs, but most of the ones I come across are either relative copies of current games or blatant repeats of current designs. There’s just not much that is new coming to the table right now. It’s a bit depressing because mobile devices are perfect delivery systems for massively multiplayer gaming, and yet so many developers are cutting down standard MMO design to fit into the mobile world.

What I would like to suggest is a rethinking of MMOs for mobile. I’d like to see developers stop with the idea that mobile players are gaming the same way they do on a console or PC. Instead, I’d like to suggest that developers get to know how players interact with mobile devices and how that affects how and how long they play. Mobile MMOs should behave differently, but not so differently that they are no longer MMOs.

There are many different types of games you will find when you search for “MMORPG” on Google Play or the App market. Most of them are not MMORPGs, however.

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Source: Engadget

Defining sandparks within the MMORPG space

MMO screenshots

One of the most common subjects of debate and conversation on Massively focuses on sub-genres. While I think we can all agree on what the letters in “MMORPG” superficially mean, things become a little muddier when we talk about the different types of MMOs and what falls where on the MMO spectrum. There are MMORTS titles, MMOs that offer city-building and massive strategy, and MMOFPS titles, shooters that host thousands of players, for example. We even talk about MMO-like games, or games that are multiplayer but not massively concurrently multiplayer, like MOBAs.

And what about games that toe the line between sandbox and themepark, games that offer a bit of sand in their parks or linear questing in their virtual, open worlds? Themeboxes? Sandparks? Let’s talk about what makes these MMO mutts so important and so fun to play. I’ll list some examples of games that could fit the hybrid definition, but feel free to chime in with more.

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Source: Engadget

Free for All: Thoughts on SOE's mass MMO sunset

Free Realms screenshot

Sony Online Entertainment recently announced the upcoming closure of not one or two but four of its titles. Those titles are Free Realms, Clone Wars Adventures, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, and Wizardry Online. The announcement hit most of us pretty hard, even those who weren’t active or interested players. Four titles just feels much more like a move of desperation than one or even two games. And for players like yours truly, MMOs like Free Realms and especially Vanguard hold a very special place in our hearts.

Having said that, I will never wager solely on perception. It’s my guess that SOE does indeed know what it is doing and that some of this is due to licensing issues, new games from similar developers, or an attempt to streamline an already fat lineup in order to get ready for one or two massive new titles. In other words, there is no conspiracy. It’s most likely that this decision was due to boring old business.

I decided to break down what each game meant to me in the hopes that the confessional will get me ready for the upcoming sunsets. Here’s to hoping.

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Source: Engadget

The Stream Team: Alganon's new expansion with Beau and the devs

Alganon screenshot

Join Beau Hindman and members of the Alganon team as they explore some of the features of the brand-new and long-awaited expansion. Come ask questions, or if you’ve never seen it before, check out the gameplay during our livestream!

Game: Alganon
Host: Beau Hindman
Date: Monday, January 27th, 2014
Time: 4:00 p.m. EST

Enjoy our Steam Team video below.

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Source: Engadget

Rise and Shiny: League of Angels

League of Angels screenshot

I do not enjoy writing guide-like articles. I am no fan of reading walls of text that detail how to “properly” perform in an MMO, and I will not break my policy this week. It wouldn’t really matter, anyway, because this week’s Rise and Shiny game comes from the mind-bogglingly strange genre of hands-off browser-based MMOing. I’ve discussed the massive, massive success that browser-based gaming has seen in China and other places, but I always preface that discussion with a warning: It is not going away. There are plenty of players in the West who will (and do) gladly participate in this hands-off gaming. There is nothing so special about Western gamers — and their tastes — to prevent our MMOs from becoming single-click level races, and nothing more.

I should have known as soon as I saw League of Angels that the game would ask nothing of me but to babysit the mouse and keyboard, making sure that neither ran out of juice. Sure, a player will occasionally need to look up from his Wyatt Earp biography to read two or three words of text on the screen, but generally the game does all of the work.

That leads me to the two questions that always pop up when I play a game like this: Who does enjoy such a title, and why make such a title in the first place?

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Source: Engadget

Why I Play: Defiance

Defiance screenshot

As I did with RIFT when it was announced, sent to beta, and released, I gave Defiance a bit of a hard time. Sure, I dug the shooter aspect of it, but its attachment to the television show and (what I took as) promises of interactions between both the game and show had me giving the game the side-eye. Yeah right, I thought, this will be some sort of “revolutionary” game. Well, I was half right. That means I was also half wrong.

The game is not really revolutionary in many ways, but it does do many things that have never been done before. The more I play it, the more I see that the game developers and producers of the show sold the entire thing the wrong way from the start, but “the show will grow on ya, don’t worry” would not make for a good tagline, and “the game is damn fun and does away with all of that level-based stuff that plagues RIFT” would probably not look too great on the game’s website.

Either way, I’m glad I’ve stuck with the game and the show. The game, especially, has provided me with hours of entertainment. In order to illustrate how I enjoy the game, I think it would be easiest to detail a typical evening of play.

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Source: Engadget