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]

Betawatch: June 26th, 2015

Is there anything as marvelous as finding out that your game got so heavily exploited that the whole game needs to be wiped? If you’re playing Ark: Survival Evolved, let us know what that’s like. Fortunately for players, there’s now a bounty system in place for hacks and an official server for folks from the site, so that’s awesome.

Other stuff happened with testing this week, too! We were told about it, and it did in fact happen!

And yes, there are more games in testing, which we’ve linked down below. If you know of something else that’s in testing or swapped phases without us noticing, please, do let us know down in the comments if you would.

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Massively Overthinking: Random encounters in MMORPGs

This week’s Massively Overthinking question comes to us from Kickstarter donor TheChiHawk, and it’s coming from an unusually not-so-massive corner of gamesdom for us:

Are there any MMORPGs that employ a Left 4 Dead 2 type of “director feature”? It occurred to me that I still play L4D2 somewhat regularly because it continues to be fun due to the random element each time you play the same campaign. By contrast, the static layout of every single MMO I’ve played stands in stark contrast; you always know exactly what needs to be done. BORING! L4D2 would seem to be a perfect model for keeping things fun and uncertain with each new dungeon delve in an MMO. Why hasn’t anyone incorporated this into MMO games?

The director feature TheChiHawk is talking about is basically an AI governor for the whole game — with a twist. I’ll let the Left 4 Dead Wikia explain:

The Director, sometimes referred to as the AI Director, or simply as AID, is the artificial intelligence of Left 4 Dead that features a dynamic system for game dramatics, pacing, and difficulty. Instead of set spawn points for enemies, the Director places enemies in varying positions and numbers based upon each player’s current situation, status, skill, and location, creating a new experience for each play-through. The Director also creates mood and tension with emotional cues such as visual effects, dynamic music and character communication. Moreover, the Director is responsible for spawning additional health, ammo, weapons, and Special Infected, like the Witch or the Tank.

So let’s talk about MMO AI! I posed Chi’s question to the MOP team. Which MMOs have similar features? How do they work? Do they solve any major problems with MMO AI?

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Perfect Ten: Weirdly specific quests we keep encountering in MMOs

You know how you wince whenever you think of typing /played into your MMO and realize just how many hours you’ve given to a pretend world? I can only cringe at the thought of seeing a tally of how many in-game quests I’ve performed since 2001. At least 20. Probably more.

Game developers are quick to tell you that there are really only a small number of quest archetypes, including “kill 10 rats,” “FedEx,” “click glowies,” and “escort the suicidal NPC.” Yet within those categories are thousands of sub-types of missions, from the unimaginative to the truly bizarre. The best ones arrest our attention, keep us enthralled, and leave us wanting more.

Having done so many quests over a decade and a half, I’ve noticed that even some of the stranger quest sub-types tend to pop up across a spread of MMOs. When you’re done killing 10 boars for their livers, take a gander at this list of weirdly specific quests that we keep encountering.

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Massively Opinionated: What is the biggest PR mistake an MMO’s ever made?

The Electronic Entertainment Expo presented a lot of opportunities for public relations mistakes, which led me to wonder about the biggest mistakes an MMO’s ever made, the topic of today’s Massively Opinionated debate vidcast! We also have multiple questions from the Patreon backers, and an interesting question about changing MMO systems mid-stream.

This week’s panelists hail from all over the internet: Mike Byrne is the Editor-in-Chief at MMO Bomb, Cosmic Engine can be found on YouTube doing video game reviews, and Tina Lauro can be found right here on MassivelyOP and the Predestination game website.

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Marvel Heroics: How to get the most for free in Marvel Heroes

One of the questions that I received after my debut Marvel Heroes column was, “Can you explain how to play this game for free?” And sure, I could’ve been snarky and replied, “You just boot up the game and play without spending money on it,” but then I realized that this was asked by one of my friends who is twice my muscle mass and I should probably not tick him off.

Actually, it’s a good question. Players going into Marvel Heroes for the first time are often understandably wary about the ins and outs of its business model, all the while nervously twitching in anticipation of the moment when the game decides to slap down a pay wall or shove a guilt trip down their throats for not coughing up cash. The truth is that this game is remarkably generous in what it gives for free and rarely if ever pressures you to buy. I spend money on this game because I want to, not because I have to.

But if you wanted to play 100% for free and get the most out of it? There’s a guide for that too, and it’s after the break!

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Tamriel Infinium: The restoration of Elder Scrolls Online’s Orsinium

Bethesda, the parent company of ZeniMax Online studios, had an amazing showing at E3 this year, but unfortunately, no one from the Elder Scrolls Online team was there to talk about anything that was happening with the game despite the console launch landing literally the week before. I don’t want to speculate on how much Bethsoft actually cares for the game — and maybe they’re all too busy working on the launch — but I am quite disheartened that there was no presence at all.

I guess I can be happy that we did get a fly-by trailer and some never-before-seen images of Orsinium. And we did get a tease of the Dark Brotherhood at the very end of the trailer. Unfortunately, it was a tease similar to one we saw about a year ago. Don’t get me wrong; I’m truly excited to see the Imperial City and all the rest coming to the game; I’d just like to have seen more than a couple of fly-bys.

Still, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t important to Elder Scrolls legends or the story of ESO. So let’s discuss everything we saw in the ESO E3 trailer.

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Guild Chat: Taking down the dominant guild leader

Welcome along to Guild Chat, our comfy place for discussing all your guild dramas in a fun, frank, and empathetic way. You know the drill: Together, we’ll get to the heart of readers’ problems, helping them make the most out of their guild. Take a seat! Just pop that old suit of armour onto the floor… there you are. Now that we’re all settled, let’s have a look at this edition’s hot topic. This time, we’re going to tackle a question submitted by Samantha that asks for our help in dealing with a bad egg that’s holding her guild back. As a nice little twist, the player in question is her guild leader, and Sam’s fellow guildies are starting to feel weary with all the friction too. Read Sam’s question in full below to really get to grips with her gripe, and don’t forget to offer her a helping hand in the comments.

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The Daily Grind: What’s your first priority in a new MMO expansion?

The start of Heavensward access in Final Fantasy XIV has me running around like it’s the end times. I need to level the new jobs, I need to advance in the storyline, I need to get to work crafting and gathering… basically, I need to be doing anything and everything other than what I’m actually doing. The joys of trying to write about a new expansion!

Of course, I’m going to bet that the vast majority of you reading don’t have quite that particular collection of stresses; you can just enjoy what you’re doing. So when you get your hands on a new expansion (or major patch/DLC, if you prefer for your game of choice), what’s your first priority? What do you want to do right away, above and beyond everything else?

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The Game Archaeologist: Seven MMOs operating on borrowed time

Most everyone who knows me well will acknowledge that I’m not generally a cynical, dark person. I’m not rooting for games to fail, for the industry to crash, for developers to be banished to the wastelands for their sins, or for the cultural return to Parcheesi. So while you might read the title of today’s piece as rather grim, understand that this is more a public service announcement than a cantankerous gamer dancing on the yet-to-be-dug graves of online RPGs.

Every MMO will die, and some of those much sooner than others. Right now there are seven games that are probably not long for this world, although in this industry you never quite know, do you? But if you have any interest in the following titles, I would recommend getting in to play them now — before it’s too late and you end up posting tear-laden nostalgia pieces on Reddit, wishing for one more day in that world. OK, that might be too grim. I’m not saying that all of these are on the verge of being shut down but that they’re operating on borrowed time and have a very uncertain future.

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Betawatch: June 19th, 2015

You could be forgiven for sort of forgetting about The Division. No matter how much it might have interested you at first, the game kind of dropped off the radar for half of forever. But now it’s on track for a winter beta and a launch next year, and we found out a bit about the game from E3, like how you can hunt rogue agents. (We also got our hands on it on the show floor, which might have been to its detriment.)

In other news:

We also have our usual list of betas past the break. Is something amiss therein? Why, tell us in the comments!

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Punching dinosaurs in ARK: Survival Evolved

Five minutes after I logged into ARK: Survival Evolved, I punched a fish. A few moments later, I punched a tree. Shortly thereafter, I mustered the courage to punch a dinosaur, and while that didn’t go as well as I would have liked, I did in fact survive.

ARK is one of the ubiquitous early access survival sandboxes littering Steam these days, but because of some glowing recommendations and because dinosaurs, I opted to forego my usual bias against paying to test and dropped 25 bucks on the title.

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Massively Overthinking: The value of MMO voice chat

This week’s Massively Overthinking question was shot over to us from Kickstarter donor Celestial, and it’s all about voice chat in MMOs.

Do you use a voice chat program while gaming, and if so, which one do you primarily use? Mumble, TeamSpeak, Ventrilo, RaidCall, Razer Comms, Skype, or some game-integrated solution (WoW, DCUO, LotRO, etc.)?”

And furthermore, do you actually like voice chatting, or is it just something you do because you have to for certain gameplay situations? Let’s discuss the pros and cons of voice chat vs. other types of chat in general!

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Perfect Ten: MMO terms that have overstayed their welcome

My original plan for this week – during the few moments that I was capable of coherent speech rather than just babbling about the upcoming Final Fantasy XIV expansion – was to give you lovely folks a drinking game. Each time you see certain things come up in indie MMO Kickstarters, take a shot. And I might still do that one day, but I decided against it for two reasons. One is that it feels a bit like punching down, which I don’t like to do.

But the second reason, and the more important one, is that not all of the fault can be laid at the feet of indie Kickstarters. The part where you expect to build a functional MMO on a budget that won’t pay for a single programmer, yes. Pretty much everything related to Greed Monger, that’s on you. But some of these terms come up over and over because they’ve been bludgeoned into formless masses now, and so it’s not really the fault of the indie folks that you can throw these terms in front of more or less everything.

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