Brianna 'Bree' Royce

Editor-in-Chief

Bree is an unrepentant escapist with a predilection for MMOs. When not compulsively proofreading cereal boxes and newspapers, she can be found modding, PvPing on the auction hall, and touring the Next Big Thing with her guild on a quest for the elusive perfect game.

Working As Intended and Ask Mo are her pet op-ed columns, but she also pens Daily Grinds and compiles both Massively Overthinking and the Week in Review. You can hear her ramble about MMOs every week on the Massively OP podcast. If you're nice, she'll even talk about something other than Star Wars Galaxies.

Personal blog: Skycandy
Twitter: @nbrianna
Favorite MMOs: SWG, CoH, Glitch, GW2, GW1, WoW, MH

Camelot Unchained works on trading, the UI, and building code ahead of July’s beta

July 4th is getting closer, which means the Camelot Unchained team is in high gear polishing up the build for the beta that’s finally set to launch come Independence Day. Last week’s dev update was relatively short for the longwinded CSE; there were no player tests this weekend, but the studio discusses its asset decluttering rules, building code, a big UI update, class animations, chat UI, character creation, the trading system, and the trait system. Maybe the most interesting bit (for regular players) is actually the screenshots at the very end of the update on the Dragon Fang scenario.

“The hill we are currently climbing in the assembly of this map, is the creation and placement of these large, SPIKY, rock walls, growing outward from the Place of Power which resides in the center of the map,” explains CSE’s Tyler Rockwell. “All these rocks also need to be very performant so we can have hundreds of players fighting it out in this zone. Next week we’ll try and finish up placing the majority of these assets to show off more of the map in the update!”

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VR-based ARK Park has patched in free locomotion and better tutorials

How’s virtual reality dino land ARK Park doing since its early access launch one month ago? Magic 8 Ball says reply hazy. Steam’s aggregated review score is currently “mixed,” with even even positive reviews admitting the game lacks content and scope, which lines up neatly with our own impressions of the game.

Snail (apparently rightly) believes one of the game’s major problems is the movement system, and it’s just addressed that with what it’s calling a “major update,” which is already being received well by the community.

“One of the biggest issues is locomotion. You wanted free movement so here it is! Our dev team has been working hard on the movement system and now you have the option to choose between teleportation and free locomotion.”

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The Daily Grind: How much MMO game info should be hidden from the players?

A blog post on The Psychology of Video Games blog a few weeks ago seems relevant to our interests: It explores the “pleasure paradox,” which basically suggests that humans crave certainty, but once we get it, we’re bored. Experiments showed that subjects “said they would prefer to be less uncertain, but the results show that their happiness would have been diminished” if they actually were. We like a good mystery!

Consequently, author Jamie Madigan argues, games should take advantage of this human quirk – say, by rewarding us based on some hidden modifier but not telling us what we did to earn it.

In a weird way, that’s something ancient MMORPGs did by accident: Information was so obfuscated that playing was as much trial and error as anything, and game mechanics were an unintentional mystery. And something like, oh, websites publishing every single mage spell combo in Asheron’s Call? It killed the magic. So does every elitist in your group spamming DPS meters in chat in the modern era.

How much MMO game info should be hidden from the players? And is the “pleasure paradox” the reason?

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MMO Week in Review: Politics and MMOs mix just fine (April 22, 2018)

Were you too busy gaming this week to pay attention to MMO news? Get caught up every Sunday evening with Massively Overpowered’s Week in Review!

If you thought it was possible to keep politics out of MMOs, you’re sadly mistaken. This week saw multiple news stories : the end to the court cases that saw the Bossland bot makers escape financial ruin, the CSGO swatting case in which police who killed a man will apparently go uncharged, the Russian Telegram crackdown that’s blocking multiple MMOs (and other services) in the former Soviet state, and the war on lockboxes (and the online games that abuse them) as waged by the Dutch Gaming Authority.

Read on for the very best of this week’s MMO news and opinions.

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Betawatch: Defiance 2050’s closed beta, ESO’s Summerset on the PTS (April 20, 2018)

Beta testing for Elder Scrolls Online’s Summerset expansion – as well as the free update 18 that’ll launch alongside it – began this week as the chapter rolled out to the PTS, with plenty of glimpses at new housing and wearables on the way. What else is new in MMORPG testing this week?

Did we miss anything? Drop us a note in the comments, then check out our traditional list of all the bits and bobs currently malingering trucking along in some form of testing.

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Ultima Online grants returning veterans F2P bank space – kinda – and bans 83 players

If you trekked back into Ultima Online earlier this month when it converted into a free-to-play game, maybe to check out your old account, you were probably startled to realize that your entire bank was frozen by the gods. Welcome back; oh and by the way, you can’t access any of your stuff! What, you didn’t need any of your gold, runes, gear, or reagents, did you? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Needless to say, it annoyed even me when I was swapping between my subbed account and my husband’s freebie account.

Broadsword had said it was still working on the situation, and as of Monday night, a partial fix was on the test server and has since rolled out to the live servers as of today, though it won’t please everyone:

“All Endless Journey accounts will receive a base amount of 20 items (bank expansions can increase the max item count to 28). Any account over the max limit will be able to view their full banks but will not be able to remove any items at this time. In the near future we will be adding the ability to remove items from the bank that are over the set max limit. Please check it out and give us your feedback, if all goes well we will be putting this out to Origin tomorrow and WW by Wednesday.”

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TERA has revamped all its lockboxes based on player feedback

Never let it be said that complaining about lockboxes doesn’t help. While TERA isn’t doing away with its lockboxes, En Masse did post last night that it’s overhauled its lockbox system based on player feedback.

“Every strongbox you open – including the ones you’ve had in your inventory since forever – will include something that you, the players, find useful,” says the studio. “This means that each and every strongbox now has a chance to drop the important ‘jackpot’ items you’ve been clamoring for – and no longer contain the items you told us were just not that important to you. Furthermore, we’ve reduced the ‘leveling’ strongboxes to a single box with a focus on fashion so you look good while you level.”

Check out the whole list of what’s in which box – and the new caps on how many can drop for you depending on your levelband. If you’re a hardcore TERA player, we’d love to hear what you think.

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Go down gamblin’: The Big Fish Casino game ruling in Washington spawns more lawsuits

So here’s an interesting case that could impact online game development in the US. Apparently, a few weeks ago the Ninth Circuit of U.S. Court of Appeals determined that a casual game, Big Fish Games’ Big Fish Casino, includes illegal gambling. You might be thinking, duh, it’s got casino in the name, of course it’s gambling, but that had nothing to do with the appeals decision, which returns the case to the lower district to reconsider. The ruling instead hinged on the fact that users have to keep buying chips (if they fail to come out ahead in their winnings of said chips, which they probably do because that’s how casinos work) to keep playing.

“Without virtual chips, a user is unable to play Big Fish Casino’s various games. […] Thus, if a user runs out of virtual chips and wants to continue playing Big Fish Casino, she must buy more chips to have ‘the privilege of playing the game.’ Likewise, if a user wins chips, the user wins the privilege of playing Big Fish Casino without charge. In sum, these virtual chips extend the privilege of playing Big Fish Casino.”

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Australian courts deny Valve’s final appeal in Steam consumer protection case

Looks like Valve is really going to have to pony up in that four-year Australia consumer protection case, which finally drew to a close today when the courts denied the gaming platform company’s final appeal.

Back in 2014, The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission took Valve to court in the country over Steam’s refund policy. Two years later, the Aussie courts found that Valve had insufficiently advertised and provided refunds to Australian Steam customers such that it violated consumer law in the country, though it did not believe Valve intended to deceive or mislead consumers. It fined Valve the $3M AUD, roughly $2.16M USD (then), which Valve appealed. Then in January of this year, Valve petitioned the Australian High Court for “special leave” for what’s basically a final appeal to set aside the ruling and fine.

Now, that court has denied Valve’s right to be heard, meaning the federal ruling against Valve will stand.

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Defiance 2050 blasts its way into closed beta this weekend

Defiance 2050’s closed beta – for PC, anyway, since the console version’s beta testing has been delayed – is set to launch here not long after this post hits the front page of the site.

“Let the fight begin Ark Hunters! Closed Beta is finally here and we’re excited for players to experience the brand new class system and weapon enhancement systems in Defiance 2050. The PC Closed Beta event starts Friday (4/20) at 10:00 AM Pacific Time and extends all through Sunday to end on Monday (4/23) at 10:00 AM Pacific Time.”

Reboot participants this weekend will be testing the Mt. Tam and Madera story mission areas, the Liberate the Lost co-op instance, the Assault class, the new class system and tree, and the new itemization system. What won’t you see? The rest of the planned classes, PvP, achievements, and the cash shop. Oh yeah, and for your trouble, you’re getting a sweet “Beta Blazer” title. Sound off if you’re giving it a go!

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Star Citizen deep-dives the guts and glory of the character customization system

Cloud Imperium Narrative Director Dave Haddock joins the Around the Verse crew for this week’s episode of the Star Citizen community video. The majority of the studios, the devs explain, are already moving on to the next quarterly release – that being the 3.2 alpha.

But the highlight of the episode is the first iteration of the character customization system that rolled out in 3.1. It’s a pretty complicated system under the hood that hooks together everything from facial structure, hair, eyeballs, and then colors and textures for all of those bits, all properly tagged and linked together to make it easy for artists to add new assets. Hats and hair pose problems too, as any MMO player who’s even been annoyed by clipping can attest. The whole episode is below!

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The Daily Grind: What keeps you logging into MMORPGs over a long period of time?

Earlier this month, Pantheon’s community team tweeted out a question that keeps coming back to me: “What motivates you to play an MMORPG for long periods of time, as in months, sometimes, years?” My first reaction was a pretty common one I bed and was true for me for a long time: friends and guildies! I certainly played some games far longer than I would have otherwise because I wanted to hang out with friends (EverQuest in particular is coming to mind).

But in recent years, when I already “see” my friends and guildies every day in external chats, I’d found games need some other draw too. Housing is probably the biggest one. I don’t usually get sucked in for dailies or anything like that, but give me a house that I love and want to keep up – that I’ll not only log in for but pay for, as my continuing Ultima Online fees prove.

What keeps you logging into MMORPGs over a long period of time?

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Massively Overthinking: What we really mean when we talk about ‘difficulty’ in MMORPGs

Massively OP reader Steve wants us to revisit the Daily Grind on making death more meaningful without making it more annoying. His letter was long, so let me paraphrase a bit:

“It feels to me like underlying point was, ‘MMOs are too easy, so how do we make them harder?’ The question of video game difficulty is something that is seldom ever tackled head-on, as it tends to draw out a somewhat vocal minority. There are so many worthy topics about how people define difficulty, twitch skills vs. depth, easy vs. hard, difficulty vs. accessibility, easy vs. engaging, shallowness vs. depth, and so on. These are things I’d love to really see discussed more online, and very few sites will actually touch it. But I think that MOP’s community is overall mature enough to actually have some discussions about this without it devolving into a fist fight.”

I’m sure you’ll prove him right! Right, guys? Guys? So let’s talk about MMO difficulty in this week’s Massively Overthinking. What do we really mean when we talk about “difficulty” in MMORPGs? Are games easier than they used to be, and if so, is there something studios should do to change that?
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