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 Game Archaeologist: The rebirth of The Realm Online

Debuting in 1996, The Realm Online (or, as it is sometimes shortened, The Realm) became one of the first online RPGs to overlay graphics on top of its MUD core. The game’s flat 2-D graphics were simplistic, even for the time, but the novelty of the massively multiplayer environment sparked enough curiosity among players to keep it populated and running for 22 years now.

It’s no secret that The Realm has fallen into near-obscurity, particularly with the current owners performing little in the way of development or promotion. Emerging from the emulator scene, Jordan Neville and a group of fellow IT geeks took it upon themselves to help The Realm experience the rebirth that it sorely needed.

This is coming to a head with June’s re-launch of The Realm Online, a new and improved version of the classic MMORPG that will run in parallel with the older and largely abandoned edition. We sat down with Neville to talk about the challenges and delights of giving The Realm another shot at life — and why you may want to check it out for yourself.

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Betawatch: Bless Online arrives with a hearty dose of troubles (June 1, 2018)

The day we all thought would never come finally arrived, Bless Online is here! First it was in the head start, then it was fully into its… open beta? Early access? Whatever it’s calling itself these days. And it is having some pretty serious issues. So what we’re learning here is that the beautiful dream you have might not hold up to the cold light of reality.

Other beta news, huh?

Wow, there’s more bad news in there than any of us thought. Let’s try to assuage any of that bad taste with the list of games in testing just below, although some of that might have put another bad taste in your mouth by swapping test phases without us noticing. If that’s the case, do let us know in the comments? That’s helpful.

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Choose My Adventure: Final Fantasy XI makes me feel like dancing

Some weeks you have more time or less to do stuff. I managed to get a fair chunk of time in for Final Fantasy XI for my first week with the game, but circumstances conspired that I just didn’t have as much time for my second. So I had to reluctantly admit that I would only be able to get up to around level 20 on dancer after I unlocked it.

It would have been higher, but you know, there was some rigamarole that had to be done ahead of time to unlock the job; you understand, I’m sure.

There’s a very different feeling to the game at this point just because of the differences in leveling process, because historically FFXI has often been a game in which progress was slow and laborious. It was reliable past a certain point, yes, but it always carried a certain risk with it. Nowhere is that more evident than when you’re dealing with the advanced job quests, which could sometimes feel like balancing on the edge of a knife back in the day.

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EverQuesting: Seven must-dos with your free EverQuest II level 100

We are smack-dab in the middle of the free level 100 giveaway in EverQuest II for all existing accounts. If you haven’t made your character yet (perhaps you are having trouble choosing between all the races and classes EQII has to offer), you have until Thursday, June 7th, 2018, to do it. And make it I would! Don’t miss out on this opportunity: Now is your chance to see and do things you may never have before, especially if you’ve you’ve been away from the game a long time and/or have never had this high of a level before. This is even a good opportunity for current players who don’t own the latest Planes of Prophecy expansion thanks to the sneak peek period.

OK, so now that you are making one, what can you do with a newly minted level 100? Sure, it may not be the best idea to immediately take it into a max-level raid; you might want to get a good feel for what the skills and abilities are first before some hard-core play. But there are a number of activities that are perfect for your fresh-from-character-creation fighter/healer/scout/mage. Here are seven must-dos to experience while you have the chance!
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Hyperspace Beacon: The sorry state of roleplay in Star Wars: The Old Republic

Since the server merges, the Star Forge server has unofficially become the roleplay server for Star Wars: The Old Republic. And roleplaying’s fight to remain a relevant way to enjoy this MMORPG has never been tougher. Roleplayers, if nothing else, are resilient. We are still in the game and attempting to find our place in this world where there is little support for our gameplay style from the developers.

Some of you might remember the late ’80s, but for those who don’t that was a period of time when the only thing keeping Star Wars alive were the RPGs. Timothy Zahn would not pen Heir to the Empire until 1991, the best video game we had was arcade-only made in ’83, and The Phantom Menace was well over a decade away. This was the period of time that the keeper-of-canon Pablo Hidalgo started his quest to become a part of the Lucasfilm family. It was the time when only two things were keeping the Star Wars alive: the Kenner toys and West End Games’ Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game. We know it wasn’t the made-for-TV Ewok Adventure movies.

Roleplayers have been the undercurrent that has kept the franchise alive, even during the dark times — during the prequels. What is their current status in SWTOR?

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Perfect Ten: MMO features that help players express individuality

When you play a single-player game, you automatically feel quite special and unique. You are, after all, the very centerpiece that the entire game revolves around and caters to. Your ego soars high like the eagles and cannot be tamed.

This all changes when you step into a massively multiplayer environment. Suddenly we’re one of a crowd, a fish swimming among other fish made of the same templates. We’re part of the swarm of Chosen Ones destined to save the world. In that environment, it’s easy to lose that sense of individuality.

Happily, MMORPG designers have long given us ways to differentiate ourselves from the rest of the crowd if we so desire. There are plenty of avenues to express our creativity, inject our own personality and desires, and otherwise reclaim that sense of individuality in these virtual spaces. Today we’re going to march through a list of 10 ways that players can express individuality in their MMOs.

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The Survivalist: How Aberration saved ARK

It’s no secret that plenty of people have felt disappointed by Studio Wildcard, disillusioned by decisions and direction. I was among that crowd. It reached a point where I had to give thought as to whether or not I felt I could continue to support the company. Added to that was the feeling of been there, done that in ARK: Survival Evolved that made logging in a drudgery. Not even the unexplored spaces of procedurally generated maps, Scorched Earth, or Ragnarok could rekindle that fire and entice me to delve back in with the regularity of my previous adventures; there just wasn’t enough to keep my interest or heart in it. I was reduced to mostly just making sure my dinosaurs were fed (because no way could I stand the thought of letting them die!). I had to decide, was it now time to move on?

And then came Aberration.

It is no exaggeration to say that Aberration saved ARK for me. Right when I was ready to relegate my ARK adventures to only memories, I found myself sucked back in. And I dived in with gusto! More than just logging in more often, I am back to thinking about the game even when I am not online. I am making long-term plans for my ARK: Aberration life. And I have clocked numerous lengthy play sessions that probably should have ended sooner but I got caught in the “just let me do this one last thing…” trap multiple times.

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Flameseeker Chronicles: Deep-diving Guild Wars 2’s A Bug in the System (part 2)

I have had plenty of time to digest the rest of Guild Wars 2‘s  A Bug in the System since the first part of my deep-dive went live, and I can’t wait to finally bring you the second half of my thoughts on the story so far. The episode was an absolute delight to play through and the creative direction for the episode really shone through. From clever mechanics to lore-rich environs, this episode really did have it all, and I just can’t wait for instalment three!

In this edition of Flameseeker Chronicles, I’ll finish off my summary and appraisal of the latest story drop, including my high and low points as I wrap up. Just as with the first part, this article is best read after completion of the episode if you’re worried about spoilers, though tags will be used where needed to avoid the biggest spoilers.

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Wisdom of Nym: Slicing through Final Fantasy XIV patch 4.3

You know, it’s kind of rough to get through all of the content of a new patch in one day, especially when you can’t just huddle up in the house all day. I appreciate that. I got myself through the majority of Final Fantasy XIV‘s patch in one day, though, so I can’t help but feel a measure of pride about that fact. That meant a new dungeon, a new alliance raid, and a new trial on the same day, along with… like, so much crafting.

There’s a lot of crafting involved.

Regardless, now we’re on the other side of the patch and can start examining it as a whole. So, as I so often do, I will start with the obvious centerpiece and move on to the more peripheral stuff piece by piece. While I will do my level best to avoid spoilers herein, I can’t make an absolute promise about it, nor can I save you for the comments. Especially since the story this time around was… well.

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EVE Evolved: Last-minute advice on Abyssal Deadspace in EVE Online

There are just two days to go before EVE Online‘s Into the Abyss expansion lands on May 29th, introducing its new Abyssal Deadspace solo PvE feature. Players will use abyssal filaments to travel into Abyssal Deadspace pockets that exist underneath space throughout the EVE universe, risking their ships in challenging procedurally generated encounters. It’s in these instanced solo encounters that players will come face to face with The Triglavian Collective, a bizarre and twisted subspecies of human with powerful new ships and a new type of subatomic particle weapon called the Entropic Disintegrator.

This new solo content is intended for players of all skill levels, with the lowest tier sites being easy enough to complete in a well-designed tech 1 cruiser and higher tiers requiring considerably more expensive gear. Each site contains 3 randomly generated pockets of deadspace to defeat within 20 minutes, after which time the pocket will implode and destroy your ship. The prizes for risking it all in these dungeons include blueprints to build player-controlled Triglavian ships, plans for Entropic Disintegrators, and Mutaplasmids that can randomly mutate the stats on existing items.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I follow up on last month’s article on preparing for the Into the Abyss expansion with some last-minute guidelines on preparing your ships, how to use drones effectively in Abyssal Deadspace, and useful tips and strategies for tackling the sites.

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One Shots: The cream of the shuttercrop

What do you get when you ask MMO players with bulging folders of screenshots to pick their very, very best to show off? An absolutely amazing array of visual delights, that’s what.

Zyrusticae kicks off our look at the MOP community’s best-of-the-best screenshots with this view of what I think is Blade and Soul: “Just one? Really? Just the one? Boy, you really know what to say to induce absolute decision-making paralysis in me, don’t you? Well, after much deliberation, I just realized that it had to be this one. There is no other shot that gets my attention as much as this one does. The absurdly saturated, bright blue color palette in contrast with the autumn colors… yes, it does my heart good.”

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The Daily Grind: Which MMO has the best in-game cosmetic options?

With the changes made in Legion, World of Warcraft wound up with a pretty great system for cosmetic outfits. Unfortunately, it also has some notable problems, starting with the fact that there is a fairly narrow range of different cosmetic options actually available in the game. Every robe, for example, has the same basic geometry as every other. The expansion helpfully adds a few more bits and bobs, but it kind of points to the fact that the best cosmetic system in the world doesn’t help if the game’s cosmetic options are lacking.

Of course, that simply raises the question of which MMO has the best cosmetic options. But more than that, which MMO has the best in-game cosmetic options? It’s all well and good if you love the costumes in Black Desert Online, but if you feel like all of the good ones are available only on the cash shop, it rather cuts down on your practical choices. So which game do you vote for the best options available just through the game, regardless of the cosmetic system?

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LOTRO Legendarium: Why Mordor fails and Northern Mirkwood succeeds

When Lord of the Rings Online turned its sight toward Mordor, it had been running off of a rather hot streak. Not perfect, mind you, but the past couple of years had seen a lot of great content come into the game. Gondor itself was beautiful and, taken together, a full expansion’s worth of content. Minas Tirith is one of the most breathtaking cities ever created for an MMORPG (performance issues aside). The game reached its 10th anniversary and had us all buzzing about with the new scavenger hunts.

And then… and then we knew we were finally headed into Mordor. That in itself was a monumental moment for many players, and I lost track of how many friends I saw taking screenshots of themselves “walking into Mordor.”

Unfortunately, this ultimate moment of storytelling in a story-heavy, IP-grounded game ended up being a disappointment. Mild for some, crushing for others. From my perspective, I say without malice that Mordor, as an expansion and a region, failed. Today we’re going to touch on the multiple reasons why this is, as well as how Standing Stone Games is getting its groove back with Northern Mirkwood.

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