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

Star Citizen alpha 3.2 hits the PTU as backers play with mining, grouping, and pixel ships

The Star Citizen Reddit is abuzz today – and no, not just about EVE Online’s “Venture Capitalist” skin bundle joke, although they’re doing that too. Nope, they’re buzzing because Cloud Imperium has opened up the testing for the alpha 3.2 build on the PTU for a much broader group of players, including subbers and wave-one PTU backers.

The focus of this leg of the test is mining in particular – scanning, extracting, and prospecting need a work-through. The patch also buffs up the grouping system, turrets, shopping, G-force effects, and orbital quantum travel. And it actually adds some of those old pixel ships that somebody keeps buying, including the Anvil Hurricane and Aegis Eclipse. Pew pew.

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Elder Scrolls Online offers Steam downtime compensation as review-bombing hits ‘mostly negative’

Earlier this week, we covered the messy business between Elder Scrolls Online and Steam – specifically, that Steam logins for the game have been toast for the last couple of weekends, leading to some gigantic threads on both Steam and Reddit (2600+ comments now on Steam) as people found the game entirely inaccessible. Now, it doesn’t appear ZeniMax has it completely sorted yet, but a forum note says it’s working on a solution – and in the meantime, it’s offering compensation.

“To give everyone an update on the recent complications with ESO on Steam, we’ve been having conversations with Steam to fully understand what’s causing the downtime and login issues, and will update everyone as soon as we have information to share. In the meantime, we do plan to grant all Steam players an extra Psijic Vault Crown Crate since not everyone was able to login during last weekend’s giveaway event. These crates will be delivered to your account after the next PC maintenance, tentatively scheduled for July 2. Thanks for your patience, everyone. We’ll provide another update as soon as we can.”

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Shroud of the Avatar suffers layoffs, saying ‘right-sizing’ is needed ahead of episode 2

It appears as if Portalarium is suffering some layoffs and downsizing in the wake of the launch of Shroud of the Avatar: The studio’s Starr Long admits to “adjusting [the] team size” in a forum post written yesterday.

“Now that we are almost complete fulfilling our Kickstarter promises (brewing coming online in R55, physical rewards shipping very soon, progress being made on castle defense, etc.), we are adjusting our team size to better match our current monthly revenue. This will give us the balance we need to begin work on Episode 2 while ensuring we can support the online service. To do that means having, at least for now, a smaller team. Right now we will shift our focus from creating new content to polishing our existing systems. This means making a stronger new user experience, fixing bugs, reworking the quest system, performance improvements, user interface polish, and more. At the same time we will continue the Tier adjustments in progress which will rework our existing scenes to more appropriate difficulty levels based on our current player population.”

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ARK Survival Evolved promises Extinction expansion for November 6

Exctinction is coming! Wait, that’s a bad thing… unless you’re a player of ARK Survival Evolved, where Extinction is just the name of the game’s next expansion.

“Finish your journey through the worlds of ARK in ‘Extinction’, where the story began and ends: on Earth itself! An Element-infested, ravaged planet filled with fantastical creatures both organic and technological, Earth holds both the secrets of the past and the keys to its salvation. As a veteran Survivor who has conquered all previous obstacles, the ultimate challenge awaits: can you defeat the gigantic roaming Titans which dominate the planet and complete the ARK cycle to save Earth’s future?”

Intriguingly, Studio Wildcard has apparently begun calling the survival sandbox a “dinosaur action-adventure game.” Huh.

Launch on PC and console for the expansion is a pretty long ways off – November 6th – but the studio is promising new skins and themed drops between now and then. It’ll be free for players with the season pass or explorer’s pack, with an upgrade fee for everyone else.

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Closers launches Violet character, nukes the fatigue system on July 3

En Masse has big plans for its action MMO Closers, the studio announced in a press release today. Not only will Closers launch new swords toon Violet in the upcoming July 3rd patch, but it’ll also get rid of the much-hated fatigue system that effectively capped how many dungeons and other content players could do every week – unless they paid for the VIP sub or loaded up on stamina gear. It was particularly penalizing for newbies, too, as their caps were significantly lower.

“En Masse has heard the feedback from players about Fatigue and is delighted to announce that the in-game Fatigue system will be permanently removed July 3. Removing Fatigue allows gamers to spend more time pursuing more achievements, finding elite loot, and improve the overall Closers gameplay experience.”

Violet sounds pretty nifty herself; she “utilizes her Phase Force abilities in conjunction with her devastating sword attacks to ravage all enemies within sight” alongside her “personal assistant Hyde.”

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Video game industry groups across the globe reject WHO’s ‘gaming disorder’ classification

As we noted yesterday, the World Health Organization has gone ahead with the inclusion of “gaming disorder” in the publication of its most recent edition of its disease classification manual, in spite of heavy criticism from independent academics as well as admittedly biased trade organizations. In fact, a group of those organizations – representing the video game publishing industry in the USA, South Africa, Canada, South Korea, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, and 10 countries in western and northern Europe – submitted their own statement on WHO’s decision, once again noting the potential for “moral panic” and “abuse of diagnosis” following the unjustified classification. The most compelling argument remains the scientific one:

“There is strong disagreement among experts on the inclusion of video gaming in the ICD-11 list, and the issue has been heavily debated since 2016 when 36 internationally renowned and respected mental health experts, leading social scientists and academics from research centers and universities – including Oxford University, Johns Hopkins University, Stockholm University and The University of Sydney – opposed the inclusion in an Open Debate paper,” the group writes, pointing out that in the intervening two years, WHO’s second proposal all but ignored those researchers, prompting a second paper from academics that “alerts on the weak evidence base, stressing that the ‘burden of evidence and the clinical utility should be extremely high, because there is a genuine risk of abuse of diagnoses.'”

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Smed weighs in on Sony’s historical PlayStation crossplay hangups

Sony’s managed to piss off a whole lotta gamers over its unwillingness to play ball on Fortnite. As we covered last week, the PlayStation 4 giant has refused to allow cross-platform play between the PS4 and the other big consoles, notably the Xbox One and the Switch, which has led YouTubers to blast the policy, as you basically need to run multiple accounts (and potentially buy all your cosmetics twice) if you like to move between devices.

Last night, John Smedley – MMORPG players know him best as the former President of Sony Online Entertainment and then Daybreak – gave his own take on why Sony used to be so stubborn about console crossplay in response to a GameOverGreggy tweet about Fortnite.

“When I was at Sony, the stated reason internally for this was money,” Smed tweeted, referring to his time at the company prior to 2015. “They didn’t like someone buying something on an Xbox and it being used on a Playstation. Simple as that. Dumb reason, but there it is. […] If we keep the pressure up this problem goes away.”

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More MMOs pledge to fully remove Red Shell spyware, including Secret World Legends

At the beginning of June, we covered The Elder Scrolls Online’s implementation of spyware program Red Shell, which is designed to track specific information about players and PCs logging into the client, like where on the globe they live. At the time, as fury blazed across Reddit, ZeniMax’s Matt Firor apologized for Red Shell, saying the company was “experimenting” with it and didn’t intend to patch it into the live build, and therefore it would be patched back out.

As it turns out, there are plenty of other games with Red Shell, or parts of Red Shell lingering. Redditor Alexspeed75 has been keeping track of games accused of running the spyware. Most notable on the list for our readers is Funcom; while the studio removed the Red Shell code from Conan Exiles in May following player complaints, players still found parts of it in The Secret World as of last week. That, Funcom has told Redditors, was an error, as it patched out the code last year.

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Guild Wars 2’s next episode, Long Live the Lich, launches June 26 – here’s the trailer (finally!)

Who had June 26th for Guild Wars 2’s next big thing? Oh, everyone? Because we had gobs of time to speculate in the delay deadzone? Right right.

Yes, ArenaNet just announced that episode 3 of season 4, dubbed Long Live the Lich, will finally, finally roll out next week on June 26th. If you know even a little bit about Path of Fire, you really don’t need me to tell you which lich we’re talkin’ about here.

If you do need me to tell you, I’m still not gonna. It probably means you’ve not played the expansion, in which case, the big ol’ sale ANet just dropped is right up your alley; the game is half off right now.

Trailer incoming! It’s promising a new legendary warhorn, the Domain of Kourna map, a new roller beetle mount, and the new Deepstone fractal.

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The Daily Grind: Do you prefer ‘work’ simulation MMOs to more fantastic game worlds?

In the comments of my piece on Raph Koster’s book last week, a commenter brought up the idea that mimicking the real world in MMOs was a “sad” sort of “obsession” – why would we want to work in a video game in our spare time, he was essentially asking, when we could do something fresh and creative with our video game spaces instead?

I took a stab at answering the question, supposing that just because we can theoretically do a job in real life doesn’t mean we are realistically or physically able to do it, and exploration of the unreachable can be fun. A post on the Psychology of Video Games blog answers it even better: Author Jamie Madigan writes that games like Farming Simulator 17 and Euro Truck Simulator do so well precisely because people like to explore those types of jobs in a low-stress, who-cares-if-I-run-my-semi-off-the-virtual-autobahn environment. “These games remove the worst of the uncertainty, helplessness, ambiguity, and consequences for failure that come with those real world jobs and turn them into game systems that are interesting and fun to interact with,” he argues. “They give players clear goals, unambiguous feedback, winnable challenges, and predictable rewards. All things that most jobs sadly don’t consistently provide.”

That certainly explains it: I really hate thinking about money in real life, but I love playing around in MMO economies where my market mistakes simply don’t matter.

How about you? Do you prefer simulation MMOs to more fantastic game worlds? Or something in between? And is there an activity that you love in MMOs but hate in the real world?

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Cuisine Royale is the goofy reskin the battle royale genre deserves

Be careful what you wish for! Apparently, Gaijin (you know it from WarThunder) ran an April Fools’ day joke mode for online shooter Enlisted that proved so popular that the company spun it out into a standalone battle royale game. But this one takes the PUBG frying pan and runs with it. Literally.

Cuisine Royale is an all-kitchen-warfare Battle Royale game with the most honest system for Loot Boxes ever,” the devs write. “Dinnerware will finally be able to show off its true potential: Use a colander as head protection, equip a wok as a formidable breastplate, or strap on a massive waffle maker to be protected even against the largest calibers of weapons.”

Gaijin says the game will start off free-to-play and will “probably will become paid later to cover servers maintenance costs.” It’s also promising “the most honest system for loot boxes,” with free-to-open, fully transparent boxes “scattered around the battlefield.”

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The World Health Organization advances its ‘gaming disorder’ classification in spite of heavy criticism

The World Health Organization has gone ahead with the inclusion of “gaming disorder” in the publication of its most recent edition of its disease classification manual. It’s expected to be adopted by member nations next year and won’t take effect until 2022. According to WHO,

“Gaming disorder is characterized by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour, which may be online or offline, manifested by: 1) impaired control over gaming; 2) increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities; and 3) continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”

The organization announced its proposal for the new classification last year and was met with considerable pushback from a wide cross-section of both industry partisans and independent academics.

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PUBG admits to reusing assets but argues that doesn’t make it an asset flip

Tired of hearing the words “asset flip”? PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is too. Apparently at E3 last week, PUBG creator Brendan Greene gently joked that he “want[ed] to kill” people who claim his game maps are an asset flip. Now, PUBG Corp. communications lead Ryan Rigney has jumped into the fray on Reddit, where he addresses long-running accusations and rumors on the platform that the game’s maps are “either outsourced or entirely built using store-bought assets.”

“The first thing to understand is that if you’re just starting up a team, you’ve got to lean on asset store work because that’s the only way you can spin up a game fast, and for a reasonable price, to quickly find the fun. Hiring an art team of 40 people to ‘try a game’ and ‘see if it’s fun’ is simply not a smart way to work—this is what the asset store is for! It’s a great resource for teams that want to work smart.”

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