Magic The Gathering Arena’s card releases will sync with physical card releases

Remember a few weeks ago when Wizards of the Coast announced Magic The Gathering Arena, an online card game headed up by former Turbine prez Jeffrey Steefel? We’ve got a little bit more info today, as PCGamesN reports the studio aims to release cards inside the game in sync with their physical release in the real world.

“Our goal is to definitely have card sets released day and date. [… ] So when you see a release in the physical world you should be able to see it in MTG Arena. You’ve seen a little bit of our experimentation with this with Magic Online so far where [card releases] sometimes even earlier than day and date release.”

The plan won’t surprise MMORPG players, as we’ve been watching PWE’s Neverwinter sync up with WOTC’s real-world D&D releases for several years now. In fact, that might just be one of the properties that helped WOTC get over its apparent past fears about leaks, as chronicled by PCGN.

And what about Cryptic’s Magic The Gathering MMO announced back in June? No news yet.

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Elite Dangerous’ 2.4 update today heralds ‘The Return’ of the Thargoids

When Frontier’s servers return to service today, Elite Dangerous will have a shiny new update. Patch 2.4 The Return promises “more mysterious and exciting things,” a plain allusion to the “return” of the Thargoids, the extra-dimensional aliens that have previously served as the game’s “scary dogmatic alien” trope and is now here to… well, I guess you’ll see. If you live that long. Muahahah! Sorry. They’re actually kinda cute.

There’s more to the patch, of course, including new save slots and hairdos in the Holo-Me system, new planetary bases in Colonia, bounties and ship purchasing penalties for murderers, an improved inbox, new missions, updates to the route plotting system, search and rescue contracts, improvements to the galaxy map, and a whole bunch of bug fixes.

Back in August, our own Andrew Ross, who’s admittedly more of a PvP sandbox guy than a space sim guy, struggled to love the game, but it’s had a good summer: Not only did Elite pass 2.75M sales, but China’s Tencent poured $23M into Frontier, purchasing a 9% stake.

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Video game voice actors and big studios tentatively ink deal to end 11-month strike

Almost a year ago, SAG-AFTRA – that’s the voice actor wing of the massive SAG – issued a strike against a round of video game companies following a year and a half of failing negotiation on behalf of the voice actors in our games. Activision, Electronic Arts, Disney, and WB Games were just some of the largest studios selected as targets for the strike, which was at least ostensibly focused on better working conditions and proper compensation, in particular for residual bonuses based on the sales of a title. It got pretty dirty along the way as game companies launched a deceptive spoof guild website intended to confuse actors and acclaimed actors like Jennifer Hale called studios’ obstinance a “war on the middle class.”

Now it appears that strike will finally come to an end, as multiple sites report that SAG-AFTRA and the 11 companies have reached a tentative agreement as of last weekend. It still has yet to be reviewed and signed, but it’s looking likely, as the actors got most of what they wanted, including proper medical care, transparency about the nature of the roles they were being asked to take (if not about the games themselves), and a secondary payment structure based on the number of sessions worked for a game – not based on sales, as originally demanded.

According to Polygon, it was the longest strike in the history of the 84-year-old guild.

Source: Polygon, SAG press release

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The Daily Grind: Where do you stand on the Fortnite-vs.-PUBG feud?

Ever since Bluehole threw down a gauntlet at Epic’s feet over the similarities between PUBG and Fortnite’s battle royale mode – or more specifically, over Epic’s conflicts in regard to the Unreal Engine it furbishes and on which both games run – I’ve noticed the mainstream narrative is about whether it’s “illegal to rip off” a game mode that’s existed for decades. I suspect MMO players may see it differently.

See, Bluehole isn’t some new studio to MMO players; it built TERA in Korea. It was also the studio that was sued civilly and prosecuted criminally (successfully) for ripping off NCsoft years ago. Multiple Bluehole employees were accused and convicted of stealing trade secrets, “copious amounts of confidential and proprietary NCsoft information, computer software, hardware, and artwork relating to Lineage 3” from NCsoft.

Moreover, MMO players have already seen how conflicts just like this one between studios and engine developers can absolutely sink games. At the end of 2015, the MMORPG sandbox community watched helplessly as it appeared the studio behind Hero Engine held The Repopulation studio hostage, ultimately forcing the game offline and then buying out the game from its original developers in what seemed an unwelcome, hostile takeover acceded to in desperation.

So with all that in mind, this morning’s Daily Grind is multifold: Where do you stand on the Fortnite-vs.-PUBG feud? Who’s in the right, legally and morally, and does it concern you for engine/game relationships in the future?

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Uncharted Waters Online picks up a new publisher, plans October relaunch

Lash the sails, there be rough sailing ahead for Uncharted Waters Online! But beyond that? It could be a voyage of unimaginable bounty for this seafaring MMORPG.

This past week, Uncharted Waters Online announced that it has picked up a new publisher in the form of Papaya Play, having ditched the previous operator, OGPlanet. Current service is scheduled to end on September 29th, leaving the game offline for a couple of weeks. Then, on October 18th, UWO will be relaunched on Papaya Play’s global game portal.

The new handlers said that once it gets the title up and running on its service, it has plans to release more content for the current Age of Revolution expansion cycle.

The Battle Bards podcast recently gave Uncharted Waters Online’s soundtrack a listen and covered it in a full-hour episode. Avant garde podcasting, that.

Source: Uncharted Waters Online, press release

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Battleground Europe brings vintage WWII warfare to Steam

Even an old dog can find itself a fresh young pup in the right circumstances. Battleground Europe, originally known as World War II Online, finally made the jump to Steam last week as one of the newest full-scale MMOFPS games on the platform. This, despite the title being over a decade and a half old at this point.

It looks as though the title has reverted back to the original World War II Online title for the Steam launch. As of September 22nd, the game saw an increase of 45,000 players sign up for new accounts, which is no doubt sorely needed for this aging MMO. The small indie team is using this momentum as an opportunity to push out more improvements, such as newer art models and a streamlined tutorial.

“Population levels remain substantially higher than we have seen in years, routinely around the clock,” the team posted. “We’re very happy to report this progress and these production items coming (more not listed here) are intended to help bolster that success even further.”

Source: Steam

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Kritika Online opens up its test server for its next update

The next patch for Kritika Online is on its way, and this time you get to try it before you… well, play it. (You’re not buying it, it isn’t for sale.) Yes, the game’s test server is open for testing out patch v401 before it goes live, although the most intensive period of testing has already passed. But the good news is that even if you missed this patch, the test server is slated to remain active in the future, so future patches will still need your testing and evaluation.

The net result is also that you can see the not-quite-final patch notes well before the patch goes live. Fractured Memories allows you a different way to advance your characters across your entire account by remixing and pulling in all of the game’s available content; success nets you points for the new account-wide Ability system along with the usual gear. There’s also new Xanadu side quests and party trading, so you’ll have plenty to do with the patch whether you jump in to test or wait for the full release.

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Shroud of the Avatar preps 46th release, focuses on ‘player direction’ inside the world

It’s almost the end of the month, and you know what that means: Shroud of the Avatar’s monthly update. R46 is due out this Thursday, a day after the current free trial period ends. Portalarium has posted a top 10 list of priorities for updates, the current version of which highlights load times, client FPS, loot rewards, story polish, AI, UI, the newbie experience, locatlization, launch prep, and improved player direction, something our own Eliot Lefebvre isolated as a problem during his recent CMA series with the game. As the studio put it,

“Currently we rely on some very subtle and ‘immersive’ indicators for information in the world (ex. piles of skulls to indicate scene difficulty). We are going to provide much clearer indication of information. For example, on the overworld all towns will have clear indicators of their town type (POT, NPC, etc.). We will also indicate whether you have a quest in a scene, a clearer label of the scene’s difficulty, perhaps even an indicator of what services a scene might provide (bank, mail, blessings, etc.). We will also start providing more on screen indicators of this information, so that while you are in a scene you will better know what kind of scene it is, what difficulty it is, whether you have quests in the scene, etc. We will also work hard to polish the maps and compasses to better guide you to and from your quests, homes, services, points of interests, scene exits, etc.”

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PSA: Get your free Discovery uniforms in Star Trek Online

Did you get a chance to watch the debut of Star Trek: Discovery over the weekend? It is pretty exciting to see the first new Star Trek TV show since 2001 make it to the airwaves (or, more accurately, the streaming subscription waves).

Naturally, Star Trek Online players are no doubt wondering how and when Cryptic will be integrating Discovery’s looks and stories into the space MMO. And the answer to that, at least for right now, is that all players can dress up their characters with the new uniforms from the show — for free.

From now through October 6th, PC players who log into the game can grab a free Star Trek: Discovery uniform package from the C-store. Console players, don’t fret: This promotion should be coming your way soon enough.

Source: Star Trek Online. Thanks Flatline4400!

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The Stream Team: Showing off Villagers & Heroes Starfall expansion with devs

Have you seen Villagers & Heroes Starfall expansion yet? You could have since the expansion launched a week early! Really, how often does that happen in the MMOverse? That blew Massively OP’s MJ mind, and she’s diving in to check things out. Even better, she’s got devs giving her a tour and showing off the expansiony goodness, so bring your questions and join us live at 3:00 p.m. to chat about all things Starfall.

What: Villagers & Heroes
Who: MJ Guthrie
When: 3:00 p.m. EDT on Monday, September 25th, 2017

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The Repopulation’s next patch is on the way, and so is more visual lore

Fans of The Repopulation have been waiting for the game’s next patch for a little while, but it shouldn’t be much longer now. A new post on the official forum explains that it was ultimately a matter of custom scripts executing in just the wrong ways, creating way more files to be saved and bundled with patch revisions. That’s hopefully been fixed by the new management at Idea Fabrik and is being addressed, but that’s also the reason for all of the delays.

The game’s developers are also looking to the next stage of development by revamping the game’s existing map and giving more distinct visual identities to each faction’s individual architecture. The game’s extant lore isn’t being well-conveyed visually, according to the same post, so the goal is to help reinforce and emphasize the lore and worldbuilding that’s already in place.

Last but not least, the post also notes that backer rewards are being worked on, with the important caveat that funds for those backer rewards have not actually gone to the new management in charge of the title. But they’re still a priority.

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Wisdom of Nym: Deep-diving Final Fantasy XIV’s leveling structure

I do a lot of leveling in Final Fantasy XIV. This is, in part, because I am stupid; for several dumb reasons I have my main character and six alts, which is not seven only because Balmung is currently locked. (As soon as that changes? Seven.) I also have a spreadsheet tracking my progress across every character that currently has me finishing up – as in, bringing a single job for each alt and every class for my main – in early November. So I spend a lot of time thinking about leveling. And I think the game is better than it’s ever been in Stormblood, in leveling as well as other departments.

Of course, there are people who aren’t as happy about it, for understandable reasons. There are dead spaces for every job in the current leveling setup, levels where you get either nothing or no impactful additions. (A trait boosting your primary stat is definitely important, but it doesn’t really change what you’re doing.) It’s even prompted some people complaining about how late certain jobs get their core mechanics and how the level sync works.

So let’s talk about all of this. And more to the point, let’s start by explaining why a lot of the staggering of abilities amounts to, in fact, a good thing.

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Lord of the Rings Online tested Dungeons of Naerband and the Court of Seregost this past weekend

Did you take part in the last dungeon testing on the Lord of the Rings Online test server? If so, you’ll have the context necessary to appreciate all of the changes that have been made to the two new dungeons coming with the next patch. If not… well, maybe you got to try out the Dungeons of Naerband and the Court of Seregost over the weekend. The developers were eager to see how the dungeons feel at level 115 and how everything shakes down with a new balance pass.

“We would particularly appreciate any feedback you may have on the difficulty of the instances at level 115 (tier 1 or tier 2),” wrote SSG. “On Friday evening(9/22), Saturday 9/23, and Sunday 9/24 members of the QA team will be looking for full groups running those instances (in particular the 6-person ‘The Dungeons of Naerband’) and will offer a lotro points code to a randomly selected player from those full groups a few times throughout the day.”

There were, of course, various additional game changes, balance adjustments, tier 11 crafted gear, and new UI options for players to explore, even if they headed to the test server without a full group.

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