Columns Category

Enjoy a run-down of our recent long-form pieces, both game-specific and more general. You might also be interested in our list of all of our columns and recurring articles. [Follow this category’s RSS feed]

Hyperspace Beacon: Is SWTOR losing its MMORPG cred?

One of the recurring gamer complaints about Star Wars: The Old Republic is that it’s becoming less and less an MMORPG over time. With Knights of the Fallen Empire’s fresh emphasis on the solo story, how is SWTOR going to still feel like an MMO? And I agree that the MMO aspects of the game have been downplayed or outright lost in BioWare’s promotion of the game. BioWare has now added solo-mode flashpoints, and even the upcoming Eternal Championship will clearly focus on single-player bouts against NPCs.

It would be disingenuous of me to say that SWTOR is perfect and has everything that an MMO should. But the game hasn’t lost its MMO cred, and if we examine it closely, we can see that it’s actually gained some of its credibility back as an MMORPG. Of course, the flaws still exist, so today, let’s talk about where SWTOR’s cred stands by examining some of the major things that people usually point to discredit the game, and let’s also talk about some things that rarely get mentioned that could sway opinion one way or another.

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Wisdom of Nym: The next stop on Final Fantasy XIV’s magical expansion tour

The next expansion for Final Fantasy XIV will be announced this year. We all know it. I suppose there’s a chance it won’t happen, that the fan festival isn’t going to contain any announcements of the sort, but only in the super-technical sense that it could happen rather than any realistic outcome. So another expansion is being revealed in nine-ish months, and that prompts the obvious question: Where are we going now?

This isn’t an idle question, either. The fact that the first expansion brought us to Ishgard meant that the entire story of the game went in a different direction than if we had gone elsewhere, focusing upon the known but somewhat intentionally vague Dragonsong War and making it the central point of the story. As we prepare for the next expansion, I can see three obvious areas that may lead us onward into the world, and each one brings with it certain assumptions and stories that we have yet to hear.

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MMO Mechanics: MMORPG mechanics predictions for 2016

In the last edition of MMO Mechanics, I looked back on 2015 and the mechanics I managed to squeeze into the column: We looked at fast travel, barriers to exit, and some mechanics tied to previously untapped IPs, but I haven’t yet talked about my hopes and expectations for 2016. I was quiet during the various discussions the Massively Overpowered team had about 2016 and what it might bring to the MMO scene, so I owe you guys some predictions! Rather than being too specific here, I’m going to look at the industry trends that are most likely to create new mechanics or at least heavily innovate on existing ones.

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One Shots: This little piggy went to market

I love me a good in-game marketplace. It always makes me think of commerce, of adventure, and of clashing worlds. Too bad we’re usually sprinting through them in MMOs at 35 mph, eh?

So thank goodness that reader Jayle decided to slow down and take this picture from Black Desert: “I took this shot during the first beta. Just thought it’d be of interest, I haven’t seen many shots of Calpheon. Black Desert really has captured that working market city feel.”

Come with me, little piggies. Let us go to market and procure some roast beef.

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The Game Archaeologist: Online gaming service providers of the ’80s and ’90s

As graphical MMOs took off in the 1990s with the advent of games like Neverwinter Nights, The Realm, and Ultima Online, many of them did so with the help of gaming service providers. It might be hard to imagine today, but back before the web was ubiquitous, people who wanted to go online usually did so through a specific service provider that functioned as both a gatekeeper to the internet and a purveyor of specific games and programs — some of which were completely exclusive to those companies. Console players might understand these best by thinking of them as similar to how Xbox Live and the PSN operates.

Thus, if you wanted to access, say, The Shadow of Yserbius in the early ’90s, your only recourse was to sign up for Sierra On-Line and pay a monthly membership fee (as well as a possible additional game fee) to that provider. Slow speeds, primitive (or no) graphics, and hourly costs were the norm and made it difficult for these services to gain mainstream traction.

Over the span of a decade-and-a-half, these companies jostled for supremacy and customers, even as their whole existence was eventually rendered moot by the reshaping of the online culture and the loosening of internet restrictions concerning for-profit ventures. By the 2000s, PC service providers had largely disappeared, leaving most MMOs to be accessed by specific clients. Today we’re going to blitz through a list of some of the big names of these gaming service providers and the online titles that they used to draw in fans.

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WoW Factor: The importance of class fantasies

Here’s a fun thought exercise for you all: explain the differences between Fire Mages and Destruction Warlocks in World of Warcraft. But before you do so, let’s make things a little more interesting by saying that you cannot use abilities, rotations, or resources to differentiate between the two of them. In other words, you can’t differentiate them based upon what they do; you can only differentiate them based upon what they are.

In this case, it’s not very difficult. Fire Mages are masters of fire magic through careful study and practice. They’ve mastered the art of flame almost as a thought exercise, specializing in the most destructive form of arcane application but still primarily devoted to learning. Destruction Warlocks, meanwhile, have forged pacts with demons to borrow the intrinsic powers of the nether realms. It’s possible – even probable – that those pacts will eventually have an additional cost, but for the time being the Warlock may use demonic powers for personal gain.

This is the importance of class fantasies and why they’re important to the game moving forward. And it also demonstrates the problem with them, and it hints at why these fantasies have suddenly become more important with Legion.

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Perfect Ten: Top 10 obscure MMORPGs

I’ve seen a lot of desperate requests in my day in which players are asking for games outside of the normal sphere of popularity and MMO mainstream (such as it is). We all know what the big games are, the ones that get the lion’s share of the publicity, press, and popularity. But all of that attention can easily blind us to those titles that are quite good if not as well-known, and I believe it’s those MMOs that many players are seeking when looking for an alternative to the games they’ve been playing for years.

So today we’re going to explore a list my top 10 recommendations for “obscure” MMOs. These are games that might not be on the tips of everyone’s tongues but have earned a solid reputation in some way and might offer a different experience than the same-old that you’re used to seeing. For this list I’m mostly sticking with released or playable titles that have good word-of-mouth behind them, are still in operation, and have generally run under the radar for most of their lifespan.

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EverQuesting: A 2016 franchise forecast for EverQuest Next, EverQuest, EverQuest II, and Landmark

We’ve looked back at 2015 for the launched games EverQuest and EverQuest II, the long-lasting beta of Landmark, and the MIA-and-presumed-dead (by some) EverQuest Next. Now it is time to look ahead at 2016. Instead of noting what we know, we get to speculate on what could be. What is on the horizon for this franchise? How will Norrath weather the next four seasons? Obviously a working crystal ball would be ideal right about now, but without one, we are left with trends, hopes, and outright wishful thinking. In 12 months we’ll see just how many of these were accurate predictions! Here’s what I see happening, what I want to happen, and what needs to happen in this next year for my favorite franchise.

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Choose My Adventure: In which my Shroud of the Avatar plans are foiled

Hello friends, and welcome to the next installment of the Shroud of the Avatar edition of Choose My Adventure. Last week, as I’m sure you remember, I had but one choice for you to make: Should my Shroud of the Avatar character choose to follow the path of Truth (i.e., Mage), the path of Courage (i.e., Fighter), or the path of Love (i.e., Ranger)? Well, the votes are in — they have been for some time now, really — and the path of Mage-Truth came out on top, but it was a close competition; Mage-Truth edged out Ranger-Love by only 13 votes.

This, all things considered, makes the current situation rather convenient. See, there was ah, uh… a bit of a hitch, you might say. But don’t worry, everything’s fine! I mean, I’m sure everything is fine, like, on the cosmic scale or something. But to those of you who came out in droves to force me down the path of Mage-Truth, I’m sad to say that your efforts were for naught. Whoops.

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Flameseeker Chronicles: Examining Guild Wars 2’s winter 2016 update plans

Guild Wars 2 Game Director Colin Johanson dropped a massive amount of information about the direction development will take in the first quarter of 2016 and beyond in his Q1 state of the game update yesterday. This is the second of this sort of update since the launch of Heart of Thorns and it most definitely hasn’t disappointed in its scope and breadth of information. General comments on ArenaNet‘s development rationale paired up with plenty of welcome Q1 improvements that will begin rolling out as soon as January 26th as well as more far-reaching outlines for the rest of 2016 that cover future expansion development, more fractals, a major overhaul of WvW, and the commencement of the Living World Season 3. With so much ground covered in one dev post, I thought it’d be helpful to summarise that information and add my thoughts for this edition of Flameseeker Chronicles.

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Hyperspace Beacon: How to make a million credits in an hour of SWTOR

I can’t help but attempt to find some of the most efficient ways to make credits in Star Wars: The Old Republic. I have written guides on how to make credits through dailies and how to be extremely efficient about accruing money, and normally, I would link you to my former articles because many still hold up, but any previous guides that I made about making money can now be thrown out the window because with the launch of Update 4.0, the whole meta-game has changed.

Many long-time players have found their own ways of making a lot of credits in SWTOR. It’s not that difficult, really. But when I say that earning credits in this game isn’t very difficult, it doesn’t hold much weight because I’ve been playing the game since before launch. And let’s be honest, I have a lot of junk just lying around begging to be sold on the GTN. But Knights of the Fallen Empire changed the game for everyone, and you don’t just have to take my word for it: This article is the evidence.

Now that the hype of the new and improved story has faded, it’s time to figure out some other things to do in the game. Of course, there’s queued, instanced PvP or taking on the biggest baddest boss from last year’s operations. You need a new goal. How about that Wealthy title you earn by having 10 million credits? Today’s Hyperspace Beacon will teach you how to earn that wealthy title really quickly with a guide on how to make a million credits in an hour or less.

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Wisdom of Nym: A musing on malaise in Final Fantasy XIV

There’s no question in my mind that Final Fantasy XIV is still one of my favorite games of all time. It certainly doesn’t lack for things to do, even now. Between the setting, the aesthetic, and the mechanics of the game, I’ve vastly enjoyed it through launch until now. And yet lately there seems to be something in the air, some distant sense telling me – and several other veteran players, by my own unscientific examination – that maybe right now it should just be allowed to lie fallow for a while.

You can, of course, read that as a natural consequence of any game you play for an extended period of time. But I think there are reasons that this is hitting now, when I know full well that if I wanted to there are definitely things I can do in the game. I do not want for content by any stretch of the imagination. So why, then, do I not want to play that content? Why now? What’s different about this situation?

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EVE Evolved: Three things you don’t want to miss in 2016

In the previous edition of EVE Evolved, I looked back at some of the big highlights EVE Online throughout 2015. It was a year that revolutionised practically every aspect of EVE‘s day-to-day gameplay with a flood of updates, that broke the stranglehold the game’s largest alliances had on territory, and that seriously advanced the in-game storyline in an awesome direction. It was also a year of new beginnings for developer CCP Games, with the studio releasing the rights to World of Darkness, securing a $30 million investment in its VR labs, and making a deal to bundle its upcoming VR dogfighter EVE: Valkyrie with the retail model of the Oculus Rift.

As we close the book on 2015 and begin writing the first chapter of a new year, it’s an appropriate time to the look forward at what’s to come for EVE Online in 2016 and speculate on what awesome stuff might be just over the horizon. The Citadel expansion is just months away and will let corporations of any size carve out their own little corners of the galaxy. The Drifter invasion of known space and the recent Upwell Consortium storylines will continue to play out in live in-game events that you won’t want to miss. New server hardware will be a welcome improvement as the game may finally be growing again, corp changes will help newbies get into the game, and new PvE features will encourage activity again.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at three big things happening in EVE Online in 2016 that you definitely don’t want to miss out on.

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