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: April 24th, 2015

Rather than languishing in beta for all eternity, Heroes of the Storm is launching on June 2nd! Sure, there will be no further wipes and the game goes into open testing on May 19th, but that’s not the same as launching. Why? I’m glad you asked!

Here are other testing news stories.

Oh, hey, we never did explain how an open test with no wipes and a cash shop is different from launch, did we? Check out our full testing list just past the break!

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Massively Overthinking: Overcoming ‘Barrens chat’ culture

Tonight’s Massively Overthinking aims to address a core problem facing the whole internet, not just games: antisocial behavior. Our question comes from Kickstarter donor Katie MacAlister, who wonders,

What can be done to combat the “anonymity on the Internet breeds douchecravats” mentality that pervades MMOs? Barrens chat, trade chat…for every “good” soul, there’s a handful of twits. What can the MMO world do to fight this?”

I asked our writers about the best ways players and studios can overcome this ever-present problem.

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EverQuesting: A guide to EverQuest II’s dungeons

It’s no secret that EverQuest II has a plethora of quests. The moniker surely fits: There are so many quests that it’s impossible to do everything in a zone before out-leveling it. But you could just as well call it EverDungeon! Unlike many games that have a dungeon or two per zone or level range, EQII has an abundance of them; a player of literally any level has a selection to choose from when preparing to go for a dive. There are many different types to cater to different whims, be it open public dungeons, instanced group dungeons, raids, mini zones, and even two-man solo instances. There are even small instances within other dungeons! Now top it all with the ability to mentor or chronomentor (which opens up all the dungeons you’ve already leveled past) and the repurposing of lower-level dungeons to level 95+ Fabled Dungeons and there’s a seemingly endless supply of them to do.

With so many, how do you know where to go? If you are looking for a certain type, level, or just want to make sure you don’t miss a single one, this guide is for you — it lists out the available dungeons to help you decide where you want your next trip to be.
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Perfect Ten: The 10 things every MMO’s official site should have

Are you ready to have you mind absolutely blown open? Because I have an astonishing truth to lay at your feet: While doing this job, I visit a lot of official game sites. A lot of them. Pretty much constantly.

Here’s an equally astonishing truth: Most of them are terrible. And I’m sure basically every person out there who has been forced to navigate through official MMO sites would probably agree with me. Like designers of many other websites, the designers seem to be absolutely certain that I want one thing when I go to the site when what I really want is something entirely different.

Let’s codify this, then. There are a lot of features that every game’s official site should have that very few of them actually do; today, let’s talk ten features that pretty much every official MMO site ought to have… which a depressing number of them lack, sometimes for really incomprehensible reasons.

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Flameseeker Chronicles: Hands-on with Guild Wars 2’s Stronghold PvP

The PvP team at ArenaNet is steadily gearing up for the release of the Heart of Thorns expansion, with the PvP-inclined among the Guild Wars 2 playerbase being treated to a 24-hour open beta Stronghold event last week. I don’t know about you lot, but I found the Stronghold open beta experience to be very interesting and perhaps even game-changing for me. I was invited along by the team to join forces with other journalists and ANet staff, including Game Director Colin Johanson, in an epic battle across the Champion’s Dusk map during the day-long playtesting period.

My name is Tina and I am PvP-phobic. I have an embarrassingly poor track record in PvP, opting instead to sink my time into PvE adventures rather than bashing my toon against the might of other players. PvP usually switches me right off, presenting a very steep learning curve that’s quite unforgiving for a curious explorer like me. But I put my dread aside and threw myself headlong into the perilous fray of Stronghold this week in order to sum up the experience for an edition of Flameseeker Chronicles… and was pleasantly surprised!

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Global Chat: Are WoW Tokens worth it?

The debut of World of Warcraft Tokens into the game’s economy has caused quite a stir, particularly after the prices plunged during the first few days. Alt:ernative Chat discussed the economics 101 aspect of the event but ultimately posed a few soul-searching questions for buyers.

“Was it worth it?” she asks. “All that time it took to ‘make’ that money in game, is this a fair exchange for the real world money you’ve currently freed up? What if Blizzard turned around tomorrow and vastly restricted your ability to make gold in the future? Most importantly of all, do you now feel a greater obligation to play the game because you had to work for it in a different fashion than simply stumping up US/AU Dollars?”

To that all I can say is: Time is money, friends! In this week’s blogosphere safari, we look at the backstory of SWTOR’s Revan, ponder the merits of joining a multi-game guild, and read an analysis of Guild Wars 2’s elite skills.

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Tamriel Infinium: The 18 words an Elder Scrolls Online newbie needs to know

One of my favorite things about the storytelling in Elder Scrolls Online is that the quest-givers don’t fill their dialogue with exposition regarding Tamriel lore. For instance, NPCs will throw around terms like Ayleid and Dwemer as if you are just supposed to know what that means. That’s not to say they don’t share a lot of expository dialogue; it just usually contains the information that you need in your quest, not the story behind the story.

I thought it fitting to give you a list of terms and names that you will run into while playing the Elder Scrolls Online that you need to know, especially if you’re a novice to the franchise. I’ve run into most of these myself, and I reluctantly admit that I wasn’t sure exactly what they meant. For instance, what’s the difference between Tamriel, Nirn, and Mundus? The Prophet seemed to use these terms interchangeably in his dialogue, but they certainly mean different things, and he’s not using them arbitrarily.

So this week, I’m going to do something different from what I usually do. I’m going to make a lexicon of sorts. I have 18 terms that I think you should know going into ESO in order to understand the deeper meaning behind some of the quests that you will be running.

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Wisdom of Nym: Final Fantasy XIV’s big finale

Let me warn you upfront: If you have not yet finished the last major story patch of Final Fantasy XIV and you want to make sure not to see or read any spoilers, please, do not read this article yet. There will be spoilers. Spoilers will flow fast and furious. Your desire to not be spoiled is both entirely understandable and one that I wish to honor as much as possible, so please, turn back now. I won’t be offended.

That having been said, it’s past time to talk about what happened during the last patch. I made some predictions, and several of them were wrong, but what we were left with is downright fascinating. It gives us a framework for what comes next in the story while also dramatically changing the landscape of the game, and while there are some people with a great deal of irritation at the story’s twists and turns, I don’t share that dissension. I am psyched.

Again, spoilers past here. You have been warned.

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EVE Evolved: How many subscriptions does EVE have?

Two weeks ago, a mathemagician over at The Nosy Gamer published some interesting calculations showing that EVE Online‘s subscriptions may have dropped by around 18% in the past two years. CCP has always prided itself on the fact that EVE has grown year-on-year since release, but the last official number we heard was when it reached 500,000 subscriptions back in February 2013. Players have taken the company’s silence since then on the matter of subscriptions as an admission that subs have been falling or at least not growing for the past two years.

So where did this 18% figure come from? It was extrapolated from estimates of player participation in the last two CSM elections, and the reasoning behind the number seems pretty good in the absence of any official announcement. It will probably not come as a shock to anyone if this calculation turns out to be accurate, as EVE‘s concurrent player numbers have also seen a roughly 20% drop since 2013. As development on EVE has been very well-received over the past two years, I’m inclined to believe that the drop in activity has more to do with trends in today’s gaming habits and purchasing choices. Online gaming seems to be going through an evolution, and the mandatory subscription model may be becoming obsolete.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I run through a set of calculations to work out how many subscribers EVE really has, determine where the reported 18% drop is coming from, and ask whether this is a trend CCP can fight.

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LOTRO Legendarium: Why LOTRO needs a progression server

At some point this year — Turbine isn’t saying when, yet — Lord of the Rings Online will be making an effort to consolidate server populations. It’s a good move, considering that this MMO has quite a few servers and the players are too spread out. I’m hoping that transferring players from low-pop servers will grow the community and forge new friendships.

As I whole-heartedly support merges (or whatever PR phrase you want to use to avoid that dreaded term), what I am going to say next will sound really strange: I think the studio should open up a new server. And not just any old ruleset server, but a progression server.

I’ve been jealous of seeing games like EverQuest roll out this type of special ruleset because it seems like such a fun idea that few other studios are willing to implement. Well, I think a progression server would be a huge shot in the arm for LOTRO and could be a marketing boon if done correctly. Or maybe I’m simply mad in the head. Either way, I’m going to muse on what a progression server would look like and how it could help the game!

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Betawatch: April 17th, 2015

Path of Exile has another big update on the way! It has fun new skills like Golems, Warcries, and Golemcries! Maybe not so much with the last one. The point is that there’s an update, it’s in testing, and you can help test it if you follow the right steps. Glorious!

Other testing news from around the test-web-blog-o-sphere (patent pending on that nightmare portmanteau, for the record):

You want some more testing goodness? Well, read on for our full list, ladies, gentlemen, and those who fall into neither category! There are more tests to be had.

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Infinite Crisis has basically made me a MOBA fan

It’s 1989. My buddy and I are in a comic store and raising our eyebrows at this odd little one-shot called Gotham by Gaslight. You probably know it; the cover is all greens and blues with a gargoylish and scarier-than-usual Batman perched on a 19th century rooftop.

We didn’t realize it at the time, but we were looking at the first in a series of Elseworlds entries that transported familiar heroes and villains into exceedingly unfamiliar locales and circumstances. Fast forward to 2006, when DC’s Infinite Crisis arc officially dubbed this weird steampunkish world “Earth-19.” Fast forward some more to 2015, where three of the 41 champions in Turbine’s new Infinite Crisis MOBA hail from this alternate earth.

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WoW Factor: The WoW token and the upcoming patch

Since the last edition of WoW Factor, two big things hit World of Warcraft in quick succession. The first is that the much-discussed WoW Token finally went live, meaning that anyone who wants to buy gold legitimately or buy subscription time for gold has an option to do so. The second is that patch 6.2 hit the test server, and unlike the rather anemic patch 6.1, it promises to have a bunch of stuff for players to digest and enjoy.

It doesn’t have flying, but then, we just had that discussion.

There’s a lot to unpack here, so it’s best to start from the oldest point and work our way forward, and that means the token. On the one hand, tokens represent a big shift away from how the game has always operated, but at the same time it’s also a fairly minor shift in the grand scheme of things. And if you had the gold to afford one, you’re even helping the game’s somewhat stymied economy.

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