Massively OP Interview: Exploring LOTRO with the Tolkien Professor

If you are looking for a bridge between you and the sometimes dense (but quite popular) works of J.R.R. Tolkien, then you could do no better than to sit at the feet of the Tolkien Professor. Dr. Corey Olsen has been teaching about Tolkien and his collective works for years, providing understanding and fostering discussion in a way that is always interesting and accessible.

Recently, Olsen started up a new course at Signum University (where he is both the founder and president) called "Explore the Lord of the Rings on Location." This free, public course meets every week for a lecture through a chapter in Tolkien's famous trilogy, followed by a "field trip" in Lord of the Rings Online to locations mentioned. It's been a highly publicized event so far, with Standing Stone even creating a special lecture hall in Bree for the series. Interested parties can attend in person in the game, watch via Twitch, or catch up with afterward on the series' YouTube channel.

We caught up with Dr. Olsen to talk about the making of the course, the history behind his university, and his interaction with the long-running MMORPG.

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LOTRO starts testing player housing improvements

One of the most requested and most delayed requests by the Lord of the Rings Online community over the years is a revamp to the game's limited housing system. While a complete overhaul isn't happening right now, the good news is that Standing Stone is starting to test some big improvements that will allow players more freedom in placing housing decor.

The main change in this upcoming patch is an adjustable housing hook system that sounds similar to what's used in SWTOR: "You can now adjust the precise location of interior housing decorations once they are placed in a hook. The decoration hook UI now includes four scroll bars that allow decorations to be rotated as before, but also to be moved east/west, north/south, and up/down. Exterior housing decorations continue to only allow rotation."

The test server patch also includes additional chat channels and premium housing writs to facilitate the transfer of the newer houses.

Source: Patch notes

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The Daily Grind: What is your favorite MMO magic system?

While there are plenty of similarities among magic systems in MMOs (hey, how about you cast another fireball? There you go, champ!), there is a lot of variety as well. I'm always attracted to systems that put some though into their design, such as Guild Wars 2's illusion-based Mesmers, the mix-and-match Necromancers of Vanguard, and Lord of the Rings Online's wordy Rune-keepers.

At the very least, I have to applaud developers who at least put in the effort to gussy up the same mechanics in a new outfit. But when a team eschews the tired magic tropes and starts to get imaginative with spellcasting? That's when I perk up and pay attention.

What's your favorite MMO magic system and why?

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Paradox Interactive is making a World of Darkness werewolf game

Those still licking their wounds over the years-old demise of the World of Darkness CCP MMO can howl with delight that IP-owner Paradox Interactive is further exploring the franchise in an upcoming werewolf title.

Paradox announced this week that it is facilitating the creation of a Werewolf: The Apocalypse adaptation. The game sounds like a single-player experience, as the gamer will take on the role of a werewolf warrior attempting to "save the world with fang and claw."

Cyanide Studio is handling the actual development of the game, which will come out on both consoles and PC. It may not be the game that MMO fans had hoped to see, but it is still nice to see Paradox utilizing the license in some way, shape, or wereform.

CCP Games sold White Wolf and its IPs to Paradox Interactive back in October 2015 following a failed attempt at producing a World of Darkness MMORPG.

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Dungeons and Dragons Online hypes Dragonborn race, Ravenloft expansion, and sentient weapons

In 2017, Dungeons and Dragons Online will officially add its third campaign setting to its melting pot with Ravenloft. Executive Producer Rob Ciccolini wrote in his producer's letter that the "fan favorite" setting would come later this year as the game's third expansion along with sentient weapons.

Ravenloft is only a part of DDO's grand plans for the year. Ciccolini said that the fun will begin with Update 34 (which contains a new dungeon and the reaper difficulty level), the game's 11th anniversary event, Update 35 (which will add the playable Dragonborn race), and Update 36 (which will return to the Forgotten Realms). The expansion and a further update will wrap up the team's plans for 2017.

We spoke with Ciccolini and the team at Standing Stone Games this week about DDO and the studio transition. Standing Stone said that the Ravenloft expansion "could include new playable race or races as well."

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Fox creates virtual and augmented reality games studio

Emerging from the efforts of Fox Innovation Lab, a new games studio called FoxNext has arisen.

Fox announced the new studio this week, saying that it will consolidate current gaming efforts while pursuing new titles. These include "virtual and augmented reality productions," such as Fox Innovation's 2016 The Martian VR Experience and upcoming projects based on the Aliens and Planet of the Apes franchises. Salil Mehta has been named president of FoxNext.

"Extending our storytelling to new platforms in new ways is a constant focus for us as we look to build more touch points with consumers every day. Building on the momentum we’ve already seen in this area via the Fox Innovation Lab, FoxNext represents a natural next step in defining our long-term vision in this arena," commented Twentieth Century Fox Film CEO Stacey Snider.

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EverQuest senior game designer Josh Augustine moves over to World of Warcraft

Former PC Games editor and EverQuest senior game designer Josh Augustine announced yesterday that he's made a move to a position on a different MMORPG: World of Warcraft.

"I'm overjoyed to announce that I'm joining the World of Warcraft quest design team at Blizzard," Augustine wrote on Twitter. "One of my life goals and a huge honor!"

Augustine previously worked on several of SOE and Daybreak's titles during his tenure at the studio, including the original EverQuest, the ill-fated EverQuest Next, and Landmark.

Source: Twitter

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Stitch together your own playable bodies in Crowfall

Do you have any qualms about playing with dead things in video games? How about playing a dead thing itself? Crowfall will offer both opportunities with its necromancy crafting profession.

"Crowfall's vision for necromancy is not the same as traditional fantasy RPGs, where you raise pets from the dead and force them to do your bidding," the team explained. "While that does sound pretty cool, necromancy in Crowfall is more about digging up desiccated body parts, restoring them, and combining them in such a way to make a playable character class."

Necromancers will assemble ingredients and harvest body parts to work on the assembly of a new "vessel" for their own or others' use. As it is the only way to jump into the skin of an archetype that has superior and customized stats than the default selection, the devs anticipate necromancy to be a profession in constant high demand.

Source: Crowfall

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Star Citizen fends off pirates (the fun kind)

One thing that's for certain in the future of interstellar expansion, and that is the assurance that plucky pirates will take their Jolly Rogers out to the stars to follow the call of treasure and conquest. So don't act surprised if you encounter one or two -- or two hundred in Star Citizen.

In the latest episode of Around the Verse, Director of Community Engagement Ben Lesnick explained how players are dealing with buccaneers in the game: "With Star Citizen Alpha 2.6 we introduced a pretty exciting new game mode called Pirate Swarm. Pirate Swarm is essentially a 'gauntlet mode' that throws you against wave after wave of enemy planes. Unlike our previous gauntlet mode, Vanduul Swarm, Pirate Swarm has a whole variety of different ships, ranging from the M50 interceptor to the Constellation multi-crew ship."

You can read the full transcript of the episode courtesy of the folks at Relay or watch it for your own bad self after the break.

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Massively OP Interview: Standing Stone on LOTRO, DDO, and Daybreak

It's been quite a month since Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons and Dragons Online announced that they were breaking off from Turbine as part of a new studio called Standing Stone Games and being published by none other than Daybreak Game Company. Players have had to deal with equal parts excitement and anxiety over this new course (with old developers). Does it bode for a brighter future, more of the same, or the beginning of the end for these beloved titles?

While Standing Stone has been communicative over the past month, we wanted to dig deeper into the decision to form the new studio, its relationship with Daybreak, and plans for both DDO and LOTRO going forward. To wit, we sat down with Standing Stone Executive Producer Rob "Severlin" Ciccolini, Lead Designer Ben "DrOctothorpe" Schneider, and Community Manager Jerry "Cordovan" Snook to discuss this major transition and its possible impact for these two MMO game worlds.

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EVE Online starts the process of electing its next player council

When the winter is coldest on the coast of Iceland, CCP lugs out its 20-foot wooden alpine horn and blows a signal that can be heard across the Atlantic. The sound awakens all EVE Online players from their hibernation and lets them know that it is time once again to form the next Council of Stellar Management.

Starting in February, EVE Online will begin the process of electing a player council to advise and provide feedback for CCP on game matters over the next year. During February, players can apply and be processed as potential candidates. In March, the community will vote on their favorites, and in April, the 12th CSM will be announced at this year's EVE Fanfest.

One detail of note for this year is that all players -- even free-to-play accounts -- may apply to join the CSM. The current CSM is participating in a second and final summit at the end of January in Iceland.

Source: EVE Online

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Pokémon Go made $950 million in 2016, but players aren't walking as much

There's no doubt that last year was phenomenal for Pokémon Go, as the popular app racked up an astounding $950 million in revenue by the end of 2016.

A study by App Annie credited Pokémon Go's success to the combination of simple mechanics, social features, AR gameplay, and the popularity of the Pokémon franchise. "To put Pokémon Go’s success in a broader perspective, its global consumer spend in 2016 exceeded the total worldwide box office gross of Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice," the study said.

One of the touted benefits of the augmented reality game is how it got players moving. According to Niantic, collectively players logged 8.7 billion kilometers walked so far. However, a study in a British medical journal found that while most players started out by walking much more in the first week of play, by week six they were back to their old habits and any health benefits from the game were negated.

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Albion Online previews Royal Continent layout

Say goodbye to Albion Online's Royal Isles -- and hello to the all-new Royal Continent!

In its upcoming Galahad release, Albion Online is wiping out its old archipelago in favor for a map redesign that spans an entire continent and several biomes. "We decided to take the opportunity of the upcoming wipe to also redesign the Royal Isles. We quickly realized we could make a series of significant improvements with relatively little effort on our end, and create a far better Royal Continent without slowing down our overall game development," the team wrote.

The Royal Continent will be the starting point for all players in the game. The landmass is designed as a pie, with a metropolis hub at the center and six "slices" containing their own biomes and main cities. The end result, the devs said, is a map that offers better progression and is more space efficient.

You can take a look at the work-in-progress map after the jump!

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