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]

The Daily Grind: What MMO has the worst possible maps?

When I think back about the ways in which MMOs have improved over the 15-ish years I’ve been playing them, my thoughts invariably turn to one of the biggest tools in your MMO arsenal. I speak, naturally, of the honorable map. Humble in stature yet great in impact, the map is how you know where you’ve been, where you’re going, and where you need to sell your garbage after you’ve gotten to your destination. Or they do now, anyway; for a long time I remember MMOs having maps that were only marginally better than “utterly useless.”

Seriously, I think I got more navigational help out of the pack-in fold-out map for City of Heroes than the actual in-game map for a disappointingly long stretch of that game’s lifespan. This is not the way a map should be.

Fortunately, maps are generally a fair bit better at this point, but several of them could still use improvement. World of Warcraft still lacks good labeling on the overall zone map as opposed to the minimap for things like vendors, and an awful lot of maps lack elements like Final Fantasy XI’s user-defined labels (which were a nice feature of some overall terrible maps). So what do you think, readers? What live MMO has the worst possible maps?

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EVE Evolved: EVE Online’s case for asymmetric and asynchronous gameplay

If there’s one thing that EVE Online does better than any other MMO on the market today, it’s persistent gameplay on massive scales. The now-famous Bloodbath of B-R5RB in 2014 involved 7,548 players over the course of almost 24 hours, and the Siege of M-OEE8 at the end of 2016 peaked at 5,300 separate players all piled into the same star system at the same time. Hundreds of thousands of players live and fight in the same single-shard universe, and EVE‘s largest corporations have more members than the total population on some other MMOs’ shards.

But what about the smaller end of the scale? MMOs aren’t just populated by monolithic organisations bent on galactic domination, and a growing proportion of today’s gamers play online games solo or in smaller groups. Features such as Upwell structures and the new PvE gameplay have clearly been designed with a wide range of gameplay scales in mind, but EVE has never really got past the problem that bigger groups are almost always better. Could the solution to this problem be found in small-scale asymmetric and asynchronous warfare opportunities?

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at why EVE‘s massive scale makes it so compelling, the problem that massive scale introduces, and the case for more asymmetric and asynchronous warfare.

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Wisdom of Nym: Materia and stats in Final Fantasy XIV

When Heavensward was the current expansion for Final Fantasy XIV, we were introduced to the idea that you could meld materia onto valuable endgame gear. It was a big shift, made only slightly smaller by the fact that pretty much every single job required the exact same melds without the slightest amount of consideration. You didn’t really need to think about it except for a handful of cases, and even in places where melding something else might be useful (like melding just enough Piety for Black Mage to get another cast off), you weren’t going to be suffering if you just ignored it.

This has changed somewhat in Stormblood. At this point, melding is a simple game, but it’s more complex than it gets credit for, while also perhaps being a bit simpler than it needs to be. Or perhaps it’s just as complex as it needs to be. It’s a multi-faceted issue, in other words, and one that deserves more nods than it gets.

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One Shots: To new beginnings!

It’s a new year and a new you! Well, probably the old you a few days past the expiration date, but that doesn’t mean you’re completely useless. For example, you probably have enough mental cognition and digital dexterity to log into an MMORPG and create a new character before you dissolve into an unslightly mess of bones and goo.

To celebrate the debut of 2018, the Massively OP legion is out in force to create new characters with all sorts of crazy resolutions!

First up is CapnLan: “My first character creation for the new year is technically an old one. I recovered my old FFXIV character from 1.0 but they had me run him through the new character creator when I logged in for the first time. I touched him up a bit with some new options and went for a stroll around Ul’dah. Here’s a quick shot I took of him with all his hilariously outdated 1.0 gear in front of the New Year decorations on the main street.”

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Global Chat: Love the farm, hate the farm

How do you feel about grinding in MMOs? What about farming? These questions can elicit a wide variety of answers, from shrieks of dismay to enthusiastic head nods. Depending on the situation, grinding and farming can be something to be enjoyed, to be endured, or to be avoided at all cost.

The Game Freak Show says that he has a love/hate affair with grinding and farming, and it presents all sorts of muddled emotions, especially when gated mechanics are thrown into the mix: “While I have forgiven the grind in many RPGs for sucking away my time, this disturbing trend of games that do not have a harsh grind because they’re flawed or made for a different audience, but to force people to drop more cash on the table is something I can’t.”

Continue on for a look at Kritika Online, Dungeons and Dragons Online’s Ravenloft, the best solo MMOs, and more!

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The Game Archaeologist: Neocron

It’s the distant future. The high-tech battle armor you wear sharply contrasts with the ruins of civilization that you traverse. You spot an enemy and raise your pulse rifle, firing off shots as you strafe to cover. Technology hasn’t solved the issue of war; it’s just raised the body count.

PlanetSide 2? Nope — this is Neocron, the quite-forgettable MMOFPS from the way-back era. I like to call it “that game with the most regrettable cover art in the history of video games,” but that isn’t quite as snappy.

Going into this article, I have to admit that I previously knew absolutely nothing about Neocron other than the fact that it was a sci-fi MMO that vaguely reminded me of Anarchy Online. Oh, also the fact that nobody I know or perhaps ever will know played it. Was it just a myth? A practical joke to make us believe in an MMO phantom? Only sifting through layers of dust and grime would produce results, so I rolled up my sleeves and started digging.

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Betawatch: A new year, a new closed beta (January 5, 2018)

Here we are, in the untamed wilderness of 2018! It feels a lot like 2017 so far, except that it’s a year later. Also, at least here, it’s buried under snow. Also, Global Adventures has moved into its closed beta test, which is new. You can get in on that, although you should feel fairly warned that it’s going to have a wipe prior to open beta, so fairly warned be ye.

For the most part, it seems that studios were still remembering that they have to get back to work if they’re going to enjoy the new year. But we still had some movement on the beta front, so that’s all right. Examples of such are listed below.

That’s not a bad way to kick off the year, huh? There’s going to be more this year, we’re sure, but we’ve still got a list past the break of the games we know to be in testing. If something has skipped into launch or seems to have quietly shuttered while evading our notice, do let us know down in the comments. It’s very helpful and we appreciate it.

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WoW Factor: The fate of the class orders post-Legion, part 2

Back before the winter break, I took a look at how the various class orders are going to handle the increased conflict between the Horde and the Alliance. The short version is “in a variety of ways.” Some of them are going to care a lot and it’s going to make a big difference; some of them are just going to continue on or split up. Or, at least, they would if the developers felt like giving them a proper send-off.

They definitely deserve one, mind. The question remains whether or not they will get one.
But regarldess of that, there are still a half-dozen class orders that I didn’t cover before, and they’re just as important as the first batch. So let’s finish up the second part of this particular series looking at the other half of the class order halls, starting with one that really seems like it ought to be renting office space in Dalaran most of the time anyhow.

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Choose My Adventure Year in Review: DC Universe Online, Shroud of the Avatar, Guild Wars 2, and Secret World Legends

As our review of the past year of Choose My Adventure rolls onward (a bit longer than originally planned), we enter what I think of as the trifecta of disappointment. Why? Well, the word “trifecta” is fun to say. Try it a few times. Also, because the were three titles among the back end that were pretty notably disappointing.

There are always going to be titles with Choose My Adventure that don’t connect as much with me; after all, the games that I play on a regular basis are not chosen based on a random number generator. But these titles in particular are disappointments, each for their own reasons. And then, in the middle, there’s a game that is far closer to “not mine, but not bad,” which is a different matter altogether. Life, in short, is a rich tapestry.

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The Daily Grind: Where do you turn for your MMO guidance?

The great part about MMOs is that they’ve embraced one sort of crowdsourcing almost from the moment they first existed, and that’s crowdsourcing information. It’s never been hard to find information about the best builds for an MMO, what abilities work best, and so on. It’s all just waiting out there in handy, easy-to-read guides.

And the fact that often lots of that information disagrees or contradicts itself is just icing on an awful cake! So now instead of being confused, you’re confused and don’t know who to believe.

Of course, we usually tend to find our sources early on and stick with them as long as we can; we all know that there are good sources and worse sources. So our question today is where you turn for your MMO guidance. Official forums? Reddit? Game-specific sites? Your friends in the game? Shrugging and doing your best to work things out on your own? Random number generation?

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Hyperspace Beacon: Three things SWTOR could add in 2018 to turn itself around

Star Wars: The Old Republic did not have a banner year in 2017. It was the first year since the launch year that did not include an expansion. And the expansion that it released in late 2016 didn’t actually live up to its expectations.

Despite this, we did see some good things come out of 2017, like a couple of new PvP maps and some great changes to group finder. But what kinds of things can we see added to or improved upon in 2018 that would make up for this underperformance? Well, I have three of them. And I have done my absolute best make them realistic and doable with the existing team of developers. Let’s talk about that.

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Perfect Ten: The best MMO updates and expansions of 2017

Last year was positively stuffed with updates, expansions, and cool stuff. A lot of years I struggle to remember which major updates happened in the past year, due partly to my own faulty memory but due largely to the simple fact that not a lot of them really stuck out for me. This year? We were awash in updates. Some games literally gave me multiple choices about which update I thought was “the best” just because, well, there were so many.

So the list that follows is, honestly, a fragment of what could be chosen. At least one of them is something you will probably disagree with. And that’s fine, because thankfully, last year (as mentioned) contained tons of great updates for people to enjoy. So without further ado, let’s delve into the best updates of 2017 and gush for a bit about how many cool things got added to games last year.

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Guild Chat: The best MMORPG advice of 2017

There’s no more perfect time to reflect on the last twelve months than when you’re ringing in the new year, so that’s precisely what I plan on doing in this edition of Guild Chat. More readers in need have been helped than ever before by both my musings on the topic at hand and the useful perspectives offered in the comments, and some of the submissions have really stretched my MMO agony aunt credentials! It’s been a whirlwind of officer meltdowns, guild fragmentations, adapting to new content types, and deciding when and how best to leave an unsuitable guild, and I’m very glad I have the MOP community with me to weigh in on these issues too.

In this edition of Guild Chat, I’ll take a look at some of my favourite 2017 entries and will showcase the brilliant ways in which MOP readers have enhanced the article with their insightful comments, adding new perspectives or simply approaching the submitter in a way that makes the advice make sense. Here’s to a wonderful 2018!

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