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]

EVE Evolved: Is EVE Online becoming too safe?

EVE Online is often painted as a harsh universe without rules where you could have your entire net worth destroyed or swiped right from under your nose, a reputation that has been well-earned over the past 14 years. Emerging in an early MMO industry that was rapidly becoming obsessed with keeping players safe and happy, EVE stood out with its harsh death penalty and anything-goes ruleset. Stories of high-profile heists and massive battles are still the main types of news that come out of EVE, a narrative that underpins much of the official marketing of EVE even today. It’s been something of a double-edged sword for the game’s popularity, attracting some players on the promise of emergent PvP-oriented gameplay and dissuading others with the threat of extraordinary loss.

Despite this outward appearance, the past few years have seen an odd shift in EVE‘s development direction with the apparent goal of making the game a lot safer. Small improvements such as the Weapon Safety system and warning popups help prevent players from making fatal mistakes, but it’s the citadel asset safety and reinforcement timer mechanics that have been most striking. Player-built citadels are completely invulnerable for all but a few hours per week, and even attacking them in that short period is a painful experience as you have to defeat it three separate times over the span of a week and none of the station’s contents even drop as loot. Highsec is now littered with hundreds of structures that simply aren’t worth attacking, and I’m forced to ask whether the citadel reinforcement mechanics are overkill.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I discuss gameplay being designed with loss-aversion in mind and lay out some of the problems with the citadel asset safety and reinforcement mechanics.

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One Shots: MMOs are serious business

As we all well know, MMORPGs are a Serious Business indeed. We must treat them reverently and with our utmost due diligence as we perform tasks vital to saving the world. No frivolity and mirth-making is allowed within these virtual worlds; we toil, we strive, we forge the future in sharp lines of progress.

Oh what am I kidding: We’re totally goofballs. If you can’t cut loose in an MMO and have fun with your friends, what’s the point? I feel that Kenji Takeda has it right with this week’s headlining picture from Final Fantasy XIV, as you can sense the high spirits and laughter that were driving this moment.

Next week, we’ll get totally serious again. Probably. Maybe. Possibly. Well, there’s an outside chance, you never know.

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The Game Archaeologist: When Hellgate London got Flagshipped

It seems that it really wasn’t too long ago that I was filling in the time between night classes by boning up on video game news. I was drinking up all of the hot up-and-comers, such as Age of Conan and Warhammer Online, when I caught word that the maker of Diablo was trying to do the same thing again, only more online, in 3-D, and with a cool modern-day/futuristic/horror vibe.

There’s no better way to put it than to say that from the start, Hellgate: London looked all kinds of cool. Oh sure, you can scoff now with your perfect 20/20 hindsight, but I’m betting that more than a few of you thought the same with me around that time. Diablo but with guns and an online persistence — how could we not be intrigued? One of my most vivid memories was being torn between the idea of buying a lifetime subscription deal for $150 or not (again, this was before the free-to-play era, but also before the era of us spending the same money on alpha access. I’m just saying that you can’t judge me.).

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Chaos Theory: Guide to Secret World’s Illuminati faction

Kirsten Geary. That is almost all you have to say when talking about the Illuminati faction in The Secret World. That’s because the infamous KG (as she signs her memos) is practically the personality of the organization — at least as far as players are concerned. As the player handler, she is the main contact point for everyone putting on the blue. However, there is more to the faction than her. Lots more! Not that I can tell you all of it; that would spoil the game! But I can tell you some, in case you are considering rolling one when Secret World Legends hits the scene.

After laying out the gist of factions last week, I’m shifting my efforts to looking at each one individually. Today we’ll peek behind the curtains of the Illuminati so you can get a look at the inner workings. Don’t worry: I promise to make this as spoiler-free as absolutely possible.

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Choose My Adventure: Getting started in Neverwinter

Oh boy, Neverwinter! I am legitimately excited about this cycle’s Choose My Adventure pick, in no small part because the only reason I have not yet played Neverwinter in any serious capacity is because I am an idiot. Or cursed with more enthusiasm than with actual free time. It’s kind of a fifty-fifty split, here.

See, I still remember first seeing Neverwinter in person at PAX East one of these years. (All of the PAX Easts kind of blur together in a mess of overcrowded convention halls, Boston weather, and occasional hotel stays.) I have more or less no attachment to the original games in the franchise, and frankly it looked like it was going to be pretty great. I was really looking forward to playing it myself.

Instead, I think I just played a lot of other games and never actually even installed it. I’m sure I had my reasons. I’m not sure they were good reasons, though.

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The Daily Grind: What seemingly unrelated things make you want to return to old MMOs?

Lately, I’ve been feeling a very explainable pull back to Final Fantasy XI. It’s easy to explain because, well, it’s the game’s 15th anniversary and I’ve been reading a lot of vintage FFXI humor. What’s not so easy to explain is why there’s a certain time of year, every fall, when I get perfectly nostalgic for killing things in Gustaberg. That specific region. I don’t even like Gustaberg, but every year, like clockwork, September rolls in and I think I should go back to visit.

Why? I couldn’t tell you; I also know there’s a certain point of summer that always makes me want to play World of Warcraft, and playing Mass Effect 2 always makes me think of Star Trek Online fondly. These things don’t line up to the same timeline, I don’t have strong associations between the two, but these seemingly irrelevant experiences line up in my memory. What about you? What seemingly unrelated things make you want to return to old MMOs? Is it a time of year? Certain movies or songs? Or even just hearing the right turn of phrase?

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Perfect Ten: My MMO hate list

One thing that I strive for in my professional career is basing things on sources more robust than my own biases. That’s not to say I believe I can remain entirely dispassionate and objective at all times; it just means that while I might have my biases, I need more than just that bias to say something is good or bad. I may not like gender-locked classes, for example, but if a game with gender-locked classes does well for itself, there’s more going on there and it’s worth examining.

But sometimes you just need to rant about stuff.

Hence, this list. This is not an objective list in any way, shape, or form. These are just things that tick me off about MMOs  and have always ticked me off about MMOs, and their absence will often give me a more positive impression of a game no matter how little it may be justified. In the words of George Carlin, I don’t have pet peeves; I have major psychotic [REDACTED] hatreds, and it makes the world a lot easier to sort out.

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Global Chat: Die inventory management die!

Do you have inventory management with the passion of a thousand burning suns? Have you lost most of the vision in your left eye from squinting at rows and columns of tiny icons and their descriptive text? Do you feel like you’ve wasted a month of your life doing nothing more than shuffling around fictional items in your fictional backpack?

MMO Gypsy wants you to know that you’re not alone: “After 15 years of MMOing, I do not know a single MMO player who enjoys spending time sorting and moving around inventory; limited storage, tedious micro-management of too many (useless) items and having to move around inventory that’s bound to location, are decidedly unfun activities after a short time. This is not the kind of mini-game I want to spend my precious time on while playing games!”

That rant kicks off a great string of MMO blogger posts today, including a check-in with World of Warcraft clones, a look at pet classes, and the birthdays of two long-running games.

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Wisdom of Nym: Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward in review – the trials

At a preliminary glance, I think we’ve got about three more weeks of this particular feature, including this column. That sounds like a lot, but hey, I want to give Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward the space it deserves for a proper evaluation. And to the surprise of almost no one who has listened to me ramble on about this stuff before now, I have a lot to say about the expansion. At least we’re through a good portion of it now!

I’ve also gone back through and re-titled some portions of this series simply because numbering wasn’t doing any favors to the overall structure. So if you’re looking through the roundup, it should be easier to tell what each installment is all about.

The “trials” category is, of course, pretty broad; it covers Alexander, the full alliance content, and the Primal fights. It’s also where we start running into some content where I personally just sort of nod and opt out… but we’ll get to that in the column itself. Onward! We can see the endpoint!

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Guild Chat: How do you deal with chronically inactive MMO guildies?

Welcome along to Guild Chat, the column through which I band together with the Massively Overpowered readership to solve the guild-related issues of readers in need. This submission comes in from reader Question, who has recently been having trouble with prospective guild members hogging attention and spots for extended periods of time without actually desiring to become a productive member of the guild. The problem for Question doesn’t lie in the fact that these people delay membership or never join at all, but is more to do with the guild resources that are wasted in training these members for spots they never take up, so he wishes to find a solution to more quickly identify these cases to prevent this waste.

Read on for Question’s full submission and my take on the matter, and don’t forget to leave your thoughts on the eternal-promise types in the comments.

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One Shots: Lonely hearts

Are gamers really lonely? Do we flock to MMORPGs as a response to that? I’m pondering these thoughts today following the response of a call for screenshots that captured the emotional state of loneliness. There were several entries, which makes me think that being alone, even together, is something that’s often on our mind.

In this vein, Rees Racer has an example from — of all games — Winning Putt Online. Seriously.

“Despite several different modes of team play in Winning Putt Online, sometimes it’s just you and your putter left to walk off the 18th green after a round, wondering how it all went so terribly wrong,” Rees writes. Mental note: “Rees Writes” would be an interesting PBS kids-type show.

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The Daily Grind: Do you think useful MMO tools get misused by the community?

DPS meters, in theory, are a really great tool for players who want to push the envelope in content. That is, however, just in theory. World of Warcraft has made them more or less ubiquitous bragging mechanisms. Heck, even if they could be useful, they lack a lot of useful data; simply knowing that someone is doing lower DPS doesn’t necessarily provide a lot of information as to why. And since they’ve become almost constant bragging tools, most people who aren’t interested in that side of gameplay react negatively to meters no matter how important the meters might be.

Of course, it’s hardly the only example of a useful tool becoming less useful via implementation. Players can turn lots of things into ego manipulation. Do you think useful MMO tools get misused by the community? Does it seem that good tools wind up being used either for unintended purposes or find their useful elements get sidelined? Or do you think it’s more a matter of emerging uses that are equally as valid as the intended use?

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Whatever happened to Alganon, Ryzom, and Forsaken Legends?

Ever find yourself wondering, “Whatever happened to so-and-so? We never hear about that MMO in the news any more! Is it still running? Does it still have a loyal community? How will I find out about these things if I am too lazy to Google it?”

Well, that’s what I’m here for, gentle readers. The response back in March to the first column in this series was positive enough that it warranted a follow-up with a different trilogy of games to investigate. In today’s post, we’re going to see what’s going on (if anything) with Alganon, Ryzom, and Forsaken Legends, three titles that haven’t been in the spotlight for a while.

Have suggestions for future installments in this series? That’s what the comments are for, brah.

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