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]

Why I keep returning to Lord of the Rings Online

I got sucked into Lord of the Rings Online last weekend and I’m not sure why. There’s no new Hobbit movie forthcoming (thank funk). I haven’t reread Tolkien’s books lately, either, so that’s not the reason. I guess it’s just that time of year when I look around at the MMO space, see a mass of uninspired grindparks, and think to myself, “Well, at least I can wander through Middle-earth!”

This pilgrimage happens once, if not twice annually, and while I don’t know how long my current sojourn will last, ultimately all that matters is that I’m having a great time with it.

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WoW Factor: In the wake of BlizzCon’s Legion content

Well, folks, we’re officially living in a post-BlizzCon world. Until the next one. The point is, we’re done with that convention, and all that’s left is considering what is coming next for World of Warcraft and how close we got to all of the various elements that I said we really needed to come out of the convention. So how did Blizzard do?

Pretty well, actually. If you missed the four liveblogs I did and didn’t see my reactions in real-time, I suppose that’s news. (The Grand Magistrix has power over time.)

As with any convention, there was good and bad. Now that we’ve all had a few days to digest the information that’s come out of the weekend festivities, it’s a good time to examine the systems that were announced, the order of the presentation, and how well the job of managing expectations while building hype has been achieved. It’s not perfect, and it’s too early to call it even a return to form, but this far nothing has knocked my cautious optimism off the rails, so that’s something.

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Massively Overthinking: Is IP-blocking in online games a necessary evil?

This past week, news about Black Desert’s IP blocking has reminded me once again how IP-blocking, region-locking, and the resulting isolated MMO communities are becoming far too normal and making it harder than ever to meet and team up with people around the world, which is part of the magic that brought so many of us to the genre in the first place.

It’s also brought some community ugliness to the fore.

Some people argue that IP blocking and the ensuing regionalization of MMORPGs is necessary because it ensures that groups can communicate in the same language and aren’t forced to suffer the side-effects of low pings from groupmates far away. And others… well, there’s no other way to put it: Some people are openly, proudly xenophobic in their desire to keep servers free of one specific nationality or other.

Are you as weary of IP blocking as I am, or do you think there are cases when it’s justified and more of a help to an MMO community than a hindrance? These are the questions I posed to the MOP writers in this week’s Massively Overthinking.

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Chaos Theory: How my walk in The Park gave me hope for The Secret World

In the beginning, there was surprise. Funcom is making a single-player experience based on The Secret World?! After a few seconds that shock melted away into excitement. Oh heck yeah — sign me up! Who hasn’t thought that TSW could make a killer single-player game (if not already be one, heh)? Then came the eagerness and anticipation as I waited for The Park, compounded even more by getting a taste of the game during my tour, then made nearly unbearable as I stared at the game on my Steam list while waiting to stream it. Finally, Halloween came and I was able to dive headfirst into the experience, full of hope, excitement, and even a little nervousness. And why not? It felt like a first date with TSW’s future. If things went well, the studio would be in a better place, which would mean more security for my favorite MMO. Success could mean good things for TSW, from more exposure to more development resources. First impressions were important.

I’m not normally one to kiss and tell, but The Park was not a disappointment. Everything about that date was awesome. I spent three full hours alternating between running and tiptoeing while exploring every nook and cranny, examining every single scrap of paper. (How I missed one achievement, I still have no clue!) It was a roller coaster ride — at one point literally — of emotions that was worth every second. And everything about the game tells me it is a portent of good things to come.

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Perfect Ten: How playing MMOs can make you a better person

I like to think that I’m a better person now than I was when I first loaded up Final Fantasy XI. That’s how long I’ve been playing MMOs: I loaded up that game on the day it launched, started playing, and have looked back many times since. It’s nearly a third of my life, and I’ve gone from being just some guy to being… still just some guy, but some guy who has a career analyzing and writing about these games. And in the process, I think and hope I’ve become a better person.

Do I credit all of that to online games? Of course not. That’d be ridiculous. But I do think that playing MMOs can make you a better person. Not should, and not necessarily will, but I think that with time and experience, the possibility is there that they can. And I think that when taken in the right spirit, these lessons can help you be a better person in your day-to-day life. No, not by trying to get stronger by wandering out and smacking random wildlife with a sharp bit of metal but by applying lessons elsewhere.

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Ask Mo: The absurd advantages of MMO guilds

A Massively OP reader named Ohnix recently sent us a question just perfect for Ask Mo. Let’s debate guilds!

I play EverQuest II quite a bit (and EverQuest before that) and have come to ponder if guilds are unintentionally dividing the membership base by making guild-specific achievements for raid-level content. This mechanic appears to focus a select few players from a single guild into a specific goal and that does not allow for mixed guild raids to form and perform the same raid to gain the same achievement. In the long term this mechanic isolates the members of each guild from each other and therefore diminishes the opportunities for individuals or smaller groups to participate. There are not always exactly enough players to fill each raid for the folks who would like to raid.

I’ll go a step further: I’ll say that guilds and guild achievements divide MMO communities and playerbases period.

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Marvel Heroics: The joys of pet ownership

I’ve always been a sucker for vanity pets in MMOs. It’s not just the layer of customization and ownership pride that lugging along one of them provides but the feeling of having a loyal companion join me on my many adventures through these worlds. Plus, they’re something else to collect that can actually be used, albeit typically in limited ways.

So I was overjoyed when I first started playing Marvel Heroes to discover not only that the game had a pet system but that pets actually had a purpose. Since then I’ve accumulated a half-dozen pint-sized pals and almost always had one of them out, even if Doctor Doom ended up giving Doom H.E.R.B.I.E. the stink-eye because of the pale imitation.

Today let’s talk about how you get pets and what they do for you!

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Wisdom of Nym: Analyzing Final Fantasy XIV’s patch 3.1 notes

There are a lot of things that I really like about Final Fantasy XIV, a fact that should come as a surprise to practically no one reading this column. This specific week, however, I’m happy that the game’s developers have a longstanding tradition of making the patch notes for large patches available well in advance of the actual patch. Sure, certain elements are omitted before the full notes, such as the recipes that could otherwise lead to widespread market inflation, but the gist of the notes are available in advance.

Patch 3.1 is no different, and as such I’ve had a couple of days to mull over the notes. The obvious big features like Void Ark and the exploratory missions are things to be discussed as the patch is actually played, and you know that’s going to be the subject of the column over the next few weeks. But some things can be analyzed just from the notes, and so I’m going to examine the notes, consider what we know, and rant about a colossally dumb decision that has been made.

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Guild Chat: Wrestling with guild permissions and controlling leaders

Pull up a pew and get comfortable, dear readers: It’s time for another advice-filled installment of Guild Chat, my own little corner of Massively Overpowered in which I join forces with the MOP community in order to tackle some tough guild dilemmas. Pushy leaders, drama llamas, and raid team friction are nothing when we pull together to tackle the issue! The topic at hand this week comes from a reader called Nathaniel who is stuck between a controlling guild leader and a roster full of potential that is getting tired of being denied the perks of guild membership. Let’s see if we can’t alleviate Nate’s woes together.

For the full problem, see Nathaniel’s submission below, and don’t forget to add your two cents to the comments section.

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One Shots: Don’t be crabby

I don’t think I could take the blow to my ego to boot up and play something called Dragomon Hunter, but then again, I am one of those refined upper-class British types whose monocle falls into my tea every time someone does something mildly inappropriate.

Reader Vexia is more woman than I, as she sent in this headlining pic. “Lately, everyone has been understandably caught up in the expansion buzz,” she writes. “However, this past weekend my attention was completely captured by this cute new import MMO: Dragomon Hunter! Under its uber-cute exterior, the game has some surprisingly deep systems, one of which lets you catch monsters to raise on your ranch or ride around as mounts! Onward, my crabby steed — to victory!”

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The Game Archaeologist: The PLATO MMOs

In tracing the history and pre-history of MMORPGs in this column, we’ve spent a lot of time outside of the 2000s and into the explosive ’90s, the experimental ’80s, and even the extraordinary ’70s. Early pioneers like MUD1, Dungeons & Dragons, bulletin board systems, Habitat, Island of Kesmai, and even Maze War have all contributed to the development of these games we enjoy today.

But I think we’re going to outdo ourselves this week. We’re going to go back further than ever before in the The Game Archaeologist time tunnel. When we arrive at our destination, we’ll see that MMOs started germinating within a decade of computers being able to talk to each other.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you nineteen-freaking-sixty-one.

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Betawatch: Asta hops to the west (November 6, 2015)

It’s interesting to watch the progress of Asta as a title. The game shut down rather quickly in its native country, but it has entered its first closed beta in the US and is hoping to do better this time around. That’s a bit of an odd pedigree, yes.

Hey, we’re deep in the throes of a convention this weekend, but there hasn’t been a whole lot of hard dates for betas. But there’s still new beta stuff going on this past week.

Oh, yes, and there is that whole long list just past the break for those who want even more stuff to watch for. Let us know if something skipped phases, launched, or… well, in one case, unexpectedly changed its name without us noticing. Seriously, who does that?

Check them out, and let us know if something has changed without us noticing. It happens from time to time.

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MMO Burnout (finally) plays The Crew

I broke down and bought The Crew on PC, mostly because it was briefly on sale for 13 bucks. I’d been meaning to pick up Ubisoft’s open-world racer ever since its December 1, 2014 release date, but one game led to another, and frankly, all the lukewarm reviews bumped it down my list.

I’m here to tell you that it’s not as bad as major gaming outlets made it out to be. It’s not anywhere close to an MMO, though, which is why I’ve been playing it for MMO Burnout!

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