Andrew Ross

Andrew Ross usually covers E3, MOBAs, MMO-ish multiplayer games, and game related studies for Massively OP. He's a hardcore PvPer who delivered pizzas to shard defender supply runners in Asheron's Call's Shard of the Herald event, fried fish during Darkfall's World War 1 and 2, and killed many alliance members in World of Warcraft for picking "his" flowers. He is a terrible jungler, but can usually stay on the road in Mario Kart.

Leaderboard: Do you use built-in voice chat systems with strangers in MMOs?

I’ve been playing a lot of Monster Hunter World when time permits, and while I’m enjoying the game, I’ve noticed it’s been, well, oddly silent. Initially, I thought maybe it was just a PlayStation 4 thing. Then a friend who roped me into playing with her told me she felt the Overwatch PC crowd was much worse than the console crowd, but since she’s not much of an online gamer (and lacks a PC), I shrugged that off too.

However, as I’ve spent more time in online games that aren’t MMOs lately, I’ve noticed that don’t really use voice chat with strangers, even when it’s built into the game – maybe even especially when it’s built into the game, depending on how I feel about the community. I didn’t bother in World of Warcraft, and apparently EVE players aren’t into it much either, yet Heroes of the Storm is going to get it years later despite uproar. It’s not that I dislike voice chat; I’ve just been around the internet and feel that most randoms can’t be trusted with unmoderated chat.

What about you, readers? Do you use default voice chats? Maybe only with fellow PC users or to help keyboardless console users? Let’s take it to a poll…

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Perfect Ten: The top 10 sexiest monsters of Monster Hunter World

I remember my first time. Unlike many hunters, I didn’t stalk her. In fact, she bumped into me. I was just strolling down the beach, collecting some bugs and BAM! There she was. Larger than life. I was a little scared, and I admit I tried to hide in a bush. She saw right through it. She chased me a bit since, well, I was hiding in a bush, but admittedly, she was also a predator. She wanted me, badly, and I kind of wanted her. We moved from the beach to the forest and even went on a bit of a mountain hike where I was finally able to mount her. I gave a few quick stabs before pulling out my big sword, deeply penetrating her and finally cutting off her tail. Tail cutting is kind of what I’m into…

…eh? I’m talking about my experience in Monster Hunter World, of course. Although, come to think of it, some of the monsters are kind of sexy if you really think about it. You do want to thank about it? Well, considering the season, I guess I can we can try a top ten of the sexiest monsters of Monster Hunter World. I’ve already consulted with one of our sexperts and veteran hunters, Matt Daniel. We had some deep(ly uncomfortable) conversations about criteria and decided to rely on our… um, “gut” instinct. I’ll be going beyond looks and dip into monster personality plus kink factors. There won’t be any discrimination between newcomers or old veterans, and all genders are welcome here. Just, um, no rotting flesh, no matter how great your personality is. Sorry, Odogaron.

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Re-examining Asheron’s Call’s Shard of the Herald event on its first deathiversary

Although the Asheron’s Call series has now been dead for exactly one year today, it’s far from forgotten by fans. It was admittedly a cult classic, and as the youngest of the “Big Three” graphical MMOs, it was the easiest to ignore, especially as it used an original sci-fi/fantasy setting rather than, well, something with elves.

MMO AC converts I’ve met regularly said the game was more solo-friendly and more story-driven than Ultima Online and EverQuest, receiving monthly updates that felt like downloadable content before DLC was a common industry term. These weren’t simply automated addons but events that were often curated in a fashion that is similar to Game Masters in tabletop RPGs, meaning that those who built the scenario sometimes participated as their own lore characters, placing themselves at the mercy of their own game and community. While several events in both AC1 and AC2 made use of this kind of interactive story-telling style, none is better recalled than the first event: The Shard of the Herald.

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Monster Hunter World hands-on: Our first impressions of the PS4 launch

Hey fellow hunter! Did you also enjoy the Monster Hunter World weekend betas as I did? Wondering if the full version is the same? Well here’s the short answer: Nope! Article finished, time to go back to hunting.

Just kidding! While the release version of the game isn’t the same as what you played, it’s still recognizably a Monster Hunter game. We’ll talk more about the online experience once the game’s been released to the masses for awhile, but a few hours in with a review copy of the launch product have answered some questions and concerns that came up during my beta experience.

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Pokemon Go adds monthly community events, summons giant (pokemon) whale

Still playing Pokemon Go? Wish you were, but couldn’t find a group to raid with? Or maybe you are in a group but want to fill out the roster a bit more? Good news! Niantic will begin doing monthly community events for the game starting January 20th. The plan is for Niantic to host a monthly event “starring a special Pokémon, which will appear frequently around the world for just a few hours.”

While that sounds like a good way to distribute regionals more, the kicker is that the Pokemon caught during the monthly event also will have an exclusive move. Naturally, the first Pokemon is Surfing Pikachu, but before you wander off to join the rest of us waiting for Squirtle Squad Squirtle, you should know that other bonuses will also be in play, such as increased XP or Stardust, plus Lure Modules activated during the event will last for three hours. It’s probably not going to help build communities as well as in-app social media communication option, but it’s a start.

The timing’s quite nice, as Niantic recently released a new Legendary whale, Kyogre, who (like Groudon) has Mewtwo-esque stats for those of you still pining away for EX Raid passes, but has been difficult for many trainers to catch.

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Academics weigh in on ‘gaming addiction’ claims

We’ve previously discussed that according to the Manual of Mental Disorders and the industry standard Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, gaming addiction isn’t a thing.

But new research says otherwise. The Independent is reporting that The International Classification of Diseases, last updated 27 years ago, may be throwing in with a “yes” in its update. Part of the reason appears to be a 2016 University of Oxford study in which fewer than 2 out of 3 participants indicated signs of addiction. Lead author Dr. Andrew Przybylski particularly noted that the issue is an “internet gaming disorder” but admitted that “the study did not find a clear link between potential addiction and negative effects on health.” The researchers themselves concluded that their findings’ “evidence linking Internet gaming disorder to game engagement was strong, but links to physical, social, and mental health outcomes were decidedly mixed.”

It doesn’t end there though. The World Health Organization will also add “Gaming Disorder” to its 2018 international classification of diseases.

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The Daily Grind: When did you last humanize an opponent in an MMORPG?

It’s that time of year, dear readers. As it says in the holy book of that one deity (probably Lawful Good), “Peace on earth and good will towards your fellow gamers.” Or, well, something like that.

But seriously, even as a non-religious person, I know this is the time of year to reach out to my fellow humans. As a gamer, I know we get worked up over the unfair ganks, the auction house snipers, the whales drowning in skins… but at least today, try to reflect on a few times you were put in a situation that humanized your opponent. I’ve talked about past instances before, but I’m still working on it. In fact, just this month, I finally met my long-time Pokemon Gym rival in person. And she was so nice. We’d both noticed that we’d been trying to ease up on the other and even talked a bit about custody terms for our turf. Meeting her face to face (and finding out her husband instigated a lot of the battles!) made me glad I kept an open mind about the nature of game-enforced factions, and now my group’s got a new, active raid partner.

What about you, readers? When was the last time you considered your MMORPG opponent’s perspective or met your enemies in a neutral area and bonded?

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Pokemon Go is getting an immersive AR+ augmented reality mode for Christmas

It’s an exciting time to be a Pokemon Go player! It’s been only about a week since the introduction of generation 3 Pokemon and a literal game-changing weather addition, but data miners at Silph Road have already noticed something new. While the recent holiday event announcement confirmed the sale of the new star piece item among other goods, 20 new water and ice Pokemon, increased ice type spawns, and free single-use incubators from December 22-25, we also received news of a huge AR update in league with what we’ve seen for the upcoming AR game Walking Dead: Our World. While data miners think it may work with Android’s ARCore, Niantic’s press release only talks about accessibility for Apple’s ARKit on devices running iOS 11.

Admittedly, this means that AR+ is a feature that only a fraction of the player base will be able to experience. The fact that using this mode also gives players additional experience points and stardust (the game’s rarer currency for leveling Pokemon) is disappointing for those left out, but it makes sense as the new catching method seems rather involved.

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Hands-on with Monster Hunter World’s weekend beta – and how it compares to Dauntless

I won’t lie: The Monster Hunter World beta on console last weekend isn’t going to give you the best sense of the full monster hunting experience. It won’t let you explore the world like Link in Breath of the Wild. And it won’t scratch the full MMO-experience itch.

That being said, as someone who’s played multiple iterations of the series and deeply exploring the gaming genre as a whole, I found that MHW still surprised me with its freshness.

Old dog, new tricks

When I first heard about Dauntless, MH’s closest cognate, I was impressed. Simplifying certain parts of the MH experience for a broader audience sounded like a great idea. The game’s execution experienced at E3 and on my own made me feel like it has a potential audience. However, post-E3 MHW leaks had me geeking out hard. While Dauntless has its own weapon combos, art style, and direction, a lot of the more palatable and streamlined design is going into MHW instead – and it’s launching sooner.

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Raining outside? Sidewalks covered in snow? Better run out and play… Pokemon Go!

It’s an interesting time to be a Pokemon Go player. Niantic’s put out two events that greatly reduced the game’s grind and setting community goals, granting regional ‘mon back-to-back. But the company still seems susceptible to weird missteps in its progress, and the latest news only reinforces that reality. Not only is the company slowly releasing new Pokemon later this week, but it’s rolling out changes that ensure real-life weather affects the game.

While Niantic (wisely) didn’t mention whether fires, sandstorms, or lightning are included in the new mechanics, effects like sun, rain, and snow are, which still might seem like a bad idea if you live in a place that has seriously bad weather. Depending on the weather, you may see more Pokemon that fit in with the environment (and you’ll snag some bonus stardust) while you’ll also find that relevant move types increase in damage. In other words, Niantic is incentivizing you to play Pokemon Go in terrible climate conditions. Even fog is included, and while I’d love to see more mysterious Pokemon spawning in my fog-heaven-hometown, maybe enticing out-of-towners who aren’t used to driving in it at 3 a.m. with rewards isn’t the best idea Niantic’s ever had.

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Pokemon Go’s EX Raid invite system still baffles core players

Niantic’s recent Pokemon Go event succeeded where the Pokemon Company failed, with POGO players catching over 3 billion Pokemon well before the end of the event. I felt pride for my community and had begun thinking that despite the other event being for an enhanced version of a proper Pokemon game released last year, maybe Niantic was starting to better understand its audience.

Maybe that’s still true. However, it may also be that its game developers’ goals don’t align with players’. Just last week, POGO players were told that big changes had hit the game without the need for a client-side update. Our rewards were sweeter, cherished ‘mon returned to the raid boss list, and best of all, the exclusive, automated, invite-only EX Raids granting the only current way to obtain the strongest Pokemon, Mewtwo, would be granted to players who raid frequently and had ground-out reputation. This would replace the seemingly random system we’d been dealing with since the release of EX raids.

Apparently, though, the EX Raid changes either aren’t live or Niantic’s statements about how they would work were inaccurate.

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The Soapbox: Evaluating gaming monetization through the lens of Nintendo’s mobile history

Bloggers and journalists throughout the online gaming industry have been talking about monetization a lot lately. It’s not just lockbox/gachapon scandals, or their relationship with gambling, but basic monetization and what we want from it. Games, after all, don’t make themselves; we have to pay for something to make that happen. But some gamers seem to view free-to-play games as a game that should be free, not one to be supported if it earns respect. And on the flipside of that, far too few game studios give off a vibe not of experimenting with monetization but of maximizing profits above all else while barely veiling their greed.

However, outside the MMO world, there is a company that’s been doing it “right” for a long time: Nintendo. The AAA developer/publisher is known for both innovation and hesitance, following in others’ footsteps with great trepidation, trying to figure out the ins and outs while entering the mobile market long after it’s been established. The company recently released a new mobile title, but what’s interesting is that it and the company’s last four games are all different genres with different monetization strategies. Exploring these titles and their relationship to their monetization plans will not only highlight the potential success of the models but hint at why they work and how they can be curbed into models gamers and lawmakers can better accept.

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Monster Hunter World’s community will be bolstered with multiguilding

It’s interesting how Monster Hunter World, a game that is supposedly being made to specifically target western players, is adopting functionality that I’d imagine all gamers everywhere would appreciate. While portability, one of the series’ main draws, is being sidelined again, social structure is actually being enhanced with the release of squads or “circles,” MHW’s answer to guilds and clans.

Both of the above articles I’ve just linked to you focus on general social play, like the 16-person social areas, ability to arm wrestle for fun, and the chance to pick up various kinds of quests, but in-game support for long-term social groups is quite new to the series and is probably of more interest to MMO fans. Past MH games have had friends lists, but communities have largely been left to themselves to create clans, similar to how old-school online gamers (and some modern ones) built websites and created clan tags before developers gave them in-game tools to manage and label themselves.

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