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

TERA's EU branch claims player numbers have 'risen massively'

We see a lot of odd press releases around here, many of them loaded with vague commentary on how well a game is doing or how big it is. This one from TERA's EU branch today is definitely up there with those that make you wonder whether you're spying doublespeak or a funky translation that somehow lost the details.

"Gameforge and Bluehole, Publisher and Developer of TERA, proudly announce that players numbers of the MMO have risen massively since the game is available through the Steam platform as well as gameforge.com. Since the launch TERA has held a spot in the top 30 of F2P on Steam and received lots of positive user reviews."

Risen massively.

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EVE Online addresses PLEX overhaul Aurum conversion but not insider trading

Last week, we covered CCP's new plan to change EVE Online's 30-day sub currency, PLEX, by effectively breaking it into smaller chunks and turning it into more of a cash shop currency that's more easily fungible and tradeable.

It was an announcement not without its detractors, as Massively OP's EVE columnist Brendan Drain explained over the weekend: Some players were miffed that PLEX will be transportable without the risk of ship-to-ship movement, while others grumbled about the short-term effect on the market and poor conversion rates for the secondary currency, Aurum, and the lack of conversion for players with fewer than 1000 Aurum. And as is common with such in-game economies, still others are up in arms over apparent market corruption, as it appears that players with insider information began trading ahead of the announcement to manipulate the economy -- as Brendan suggests, likely a CSM (player council) member privy to information ahead of the embargo lift.

Today, CCP posted an update meant to assuage some of the concerns about the new program.

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Snag an AQ3D 'GDC blade' from Artix and Massively OP

Back at GDC, AdventureQuest 3D whipped up a special in-game sword for folks who stopped by the booth: the GDC Blade. But as Artix's reps told me, the studio felt bad that regular players -- who couldn't attend GDC -- weren't able to pick up the blade.

That all changes today, as the studio has granted Massively OP 1000 codes for these exclusive swords for our readers! Click the Mo button below (and prove you're not a robot) to grab one of these keys!

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Elder Scrolls Online plans in-game jester-themed festival events for April Fools' Day

It's time to be sorry you whined and moaned for holidays in The Elder Scrolls Online. Or not sorry. It depends on whether you enjoy April Fools' Day, I suppose, but I suspect the upcoming Jester's Festival has the potential to annoy everyone who begins each new life in TESIII: Morrowind by murdering Fargoth.

"The Jester's Festival kicks off on March 23, at 10:00am EDT. If you'd like to show off your zany side, you can travel to the pavilions that have been set up just outside the cities of Ebonheart, Vulkhel Guard, and Daggerfall. At each location, you will find one of three Jesters in extremely convincing dress up as either King Jorunn, Queen Ayrenn, or King Emeric. Talk to each Jester to receive a uniquely mischievous task once per day for the duration of the festival."

Completing these quests will see you rewarded with an obnoxious hat, "fun new consumables" (read: probably pranks), trees and standards for your housing plot (what?) and "mementos" including "The Pie of Misrule," which is unlikely to be the kind of pie you eat.

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Overwatch's Orisa is live today, Blizzard considers map editor

Tankbot Orisa is live in Overwatch today for those of you not too busy jacking into Andromeda. While she'll be accessible on all three platforms from the get-go, she won't be live in competitive play for a bit longer while players get used to her.

The PTR has also been testing victory condition tweaks and buffs for Lucio.

Enjoying the early March feature that let you tweak the settings on your game modes? Wouldn't a map editor be even better? That's something Blizzard's Jeff Kaplan says it's considering, but it's not in the immediate future:

"We are extremely open-minded about releasing a map editor for Overwatch someday. But because Overwatch was made with a brand new engine, this is not a small task or one which can happen any time soon. We have this on our long-term road map and believe heavily in user-made content. But there are many challenges ahead of us and it will be a very long road before our editor can be made available to the public."

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Blade & Soul switches to larger, slower updates with brand-new Secrets of the Stratus

Blade & Soul is rolling out a massive expansion next month, one NCsoft says "marks a shift in pace for the game."

Dubbed Secrets of the Stratus, it goes live on April 12th with the seventh act of the storyline, an overhauled skill system, a new solo/casual open-world area called Celestial Basin, floors 16 through 20 of Mushin's Tower, and Naryu Sanctum, "the most difficult 6-member heroic dungeon to date."

"Moving forward, NCSOFT will offer larger and more ambitious expansions on a slightly slower release schedule," the press release says this morning. "This means players will have more time to experience and master content without having to feel rushed by the next update."

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The Daily Grind: What one thing should MMORPGs do to increase player retention?

Zubon at Kill Ten Rats recently spied a lovely tidbit over on Dr Richard Bartle's blog. Bartle, I shouldn't need to type, is considered one of the founding fathers of the MMORPG genre, having inspired through his research the infamous Bartle test. So it should be no surprise at all that he sees online worlds in everything: As his piece explains, he examined a document intended for advising universities on how to improve their student retention rates -- and Bartle realized it read like an "MMO newbie-retention handbook."

"A place where people can hang out between teaching events and make friends? Check. Organised groups led by experienced students that you can join? Check. A communication channel for students just like you? Check. A method of finding other people who are interested in the same things you are? Check. Fun tasks for people with different skills working together ? Check. Easy challenges with small rewards to get you into the swing of things? Check."

It's worth a quick read, especially for the cake joke, but I want to focus your attention on retention and stickiness specifically for the purposes of today's Daily Grind. Do you agree that developers should be spending more time on retention? And what one thing should MMORPGs do to increase player retention?
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Shroud of the Avatar: Kas Ruins, custom NPCs, and marble columns

Shroud of the Avatar's 219th newsletter has arrived! Of note is the segment on the Kas Ruins, whose biome is based on the Rockies and Grand Tetons of the US but could easily be pulled straight from Lord of the Rings.

Portalarium has also requested that backers entitled to submit NPCs for inclusion in the game do so for the village of Harvest, a farming community and waystation in Estgard. I would totally claim that town crier and make him say rude things, but that's why I'm not a game designer.

The devs have also uploaded more info on their charity work, the full telethon, and notes for the offline mode save game format changes.

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Grim Dawn reveals Necromancer class for this year's expansion

Guess who's getting a Necromancer class this year! If you said Diablo III, well, I can't tell you you're wrong because that's also happening. But I'm talking about Grim Dawn.

"Although they primarily engage in the weaving of magic, necromancers are aptly equipped to enter the fray in close quarters, or to weave their death magic into ranged weaponry. Do not for a moment think that a cornered necromancer is easy prey," Crate posted following a lore dump on the new class today.

Players should look forward to a number of masteries currently in development, including Drain Essence, Raise Skeletons, Necrotic Edge, plus skill that help you "shatter the souls of your enemies to conjure violent wraiths," "bolster your minions with necrotic powers, "fill the battlefield with disease and rot," and generate "cruel new ways to dispose of your pathetic enemies."

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Path of Exile on virtual reality, auto-sort, and offline play

Path of Exile's latest dev Q&A has a few nuggets of interest for followers of the MMOARPG. What caught our eye? Don't expect an auto-sort button in your inventory bins.

"I had a good conversation recently with David Brevik about how large items that require manipulation in the inventory help simulate the 'weight' that items have in other RPG systems," Grinding Gear Games' Chris Wilson says. "It may be inconvenient to have to organise items, but it makes them feel real. Simplifying this down to auto-sorting or single-slot-items is a road we don't want to take our game down."

The team does, however, have a plan to someday add an alternate skillbar and new skills, but not shapeshifting, extra zoom tools, virtual reality, or an offline version of the game. Why no offline? Not only would it be a waste of resources, but "the game will never be in a state where the servers have to be shut down for financial reasons."

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Leaderboard: The Elder Scrolls Online Morrowind 'chapter vs. DLC' fee debate

In the comments of a Daily Grind last week, a few commenters tangeted into debate about The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind pricing.

See, the original "ESO Plus" deal for ESO subscription holders granted them full access to all future downloadable content (DLC) forever and ever, as long as they were subscribed to the game. Morrowind, however, has been marketed not as DLC but as a "chapter," meaning it will not be subject to the Plus promises, and so everyone will have to pay for it. Grumbling ensued.

"Suppose I paid BMW a monthly fee to drive [BMW] cars," commenter Odin wrote. "I could drive whatever I want as long as I paid. They announce a great new car I want to drive. I cant wait, but they tell me, "This isnt a car; it's an automobile. You have to pay extra.'"

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Conan Exiles on this week's patch, The Purge, and a 'partial wipe'

DualShockers has a new interview out with Conan Exiles' Joel Bylos. It's from GDC, but it's still worth a look given that it includes info on this week's patch. For starters, expect to see the new decay system (it's been renamed as the "ruins system" now), the planned dye system, new weapons, and the promised thrall updates -- eventually, players can expect alchemists, engineers, sorcerers, and beastmasters as thralls. Don't expect mounts until summer, though. Crafters, a heads-up for you: Since crafting progression is getting a revamp, "players will get to repick all of their recipes."

The Purge is also a hot topic for future updates -- basically, it'll be a massive AI invasion with special thralls and an eye toward wrecking your server's best stuff. Can't let that happen, now can we.

Meanwhile, following player outcry over the excessive duping and exploiting going on there, Funcom has announced it will partially wipe the official servers.

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Star Citizen will drop DX11, avoid DX12 support

Over the weekend, Cloud Imperium fielded questions from players on some of the more technical elements on display in Star Citizen's last Around the Verse. Turns out that some major DirectX changes are on the horizon.

"Years ago we stated our intention to support DX12, but since the introduction of Vulkan which has the same feature set and performance advantages this seemed a much more logical rendering API to use as it doesn't force our users to upgrade to Windows 10 and opens the door for a single graphics API that could be used on all Windows 7, 8, 10 & Linux," explains Director of Graphics Engineering Ali Brown. "As a result our current intention is to only support Vulkan and eventually drop support for DX11 as this shouldn't effect any of our backers. DX12 would only be considered if we found it gave us a specific and substantial advantage over Vulkan. The API's really aren't that different though, 95% of the work for these APIs is to change the paradigm of the rendering pipeline, which is the same for both APIs."

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