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]

Hyperspace Beacon: A happy accident in Star Wars The Old Republic gives us hope for the future of CXP

The last couple of weeks have been really rough week for Star Wars: The Old Republic from a technical standpoint. The Umbara update itself gave us a handful of bugs, including some that were very difficult to bypass. Then players also noticed a couple of extreme bugs that were deemed exploits. Community Manager Eric Musco acknowledged the exploits, and for one of them, he emphatically said do not do it. “Following the bug being fixed we will begin to investigate the impact of the exploit and what action is required,” he said on the forum. In the past, those actions have ranged from a slap on the wrist to a three-day suspension to revoking future access to that account. I don’t think things will get that harsh for this exploit, but I do foresee players losing the items gained. I’ll get to the specifics of that later.

What was most interesting was BioWare‘s handling of the second major bug. Under normal circumstances, if players circumvented the normal rate of character progression, the MMO developers would stop everything they were doing and fix the bug immediately, or at very least, they would tell players to stop lest they be punished. Instead, Musco said on the forum, “Until they are fixed next week, enjoy them. We tried to fix the bug, the bug didn’t want to be fixed.” He actually encouraged people to take advantage of the bug.

Let’s talk about that, why it happened, and why this happy accident is one of the best things that’s happened to SWTOR in a long time.

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Perfect Ten: MMOs that changed their names

Names and titles fascinate me. While sometimes they have no deeper meaning than to sound pleasant and be memorable, a label can indicate purpose, history, and connection. MMORPG names are, of course, as varied as the stars in the sky, with many of them slapping “online” or “age of” somewhere in there to designate their category. But every so often, we witness a game that changes its name as part of its development and business evolution.

Today I wanted to run down 10 MMOs (well, nine MMOs and one expansion) that received notable name changes over the years. I’m not going to talk about games that created a weird rebrand for a business model shift but mostly stuck with the original title afterward (such as DDO Unlimited or WildStar Reloaded), but instead games that had vastly different names than what they ended up using.
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Flameseeker Chronicles: Getting to grips with Guild Wars 2’s Path of Fire mounts

ArenaNet dedicated last week to all things mounts, so it stands to reason that I’d simply have to provide you with a run-down of the flashy new expansion inclusions for Guild Wars 2: Path of FireRather than filling a perceived travel efficiency gap, the steeds created for PoF include a fairly extensive suite of travelling tools that help set them apart from the run-of-the-mill mounts in more traditional MMOs. These mounts are built to feel weighty and move realistically, changing how the player interacts with the virtual environment and allowing for more freeform map designs than ever before.

In this edition of Flameseeker Chronicles, I’m going to discuss all things mounts and dig into the development rationale behind them. I’ll weigh in with my thoughts on how the mounts might impact future map development and change how we approach travelling in Tyria as well.
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Wisdom of Nym: Breaking down what we know about Final Fantasy XIV 4.1

I’ve been gathering, crafting, and fighting my way up in Final Fantasy XIV in preparation for 4.1. Not that I haven’t been enjoying the game on its own, of course, but it seemed likely that 4.1 would bring a new set of beast tribe quests, more stuff to nab from the 24-person run, plenty of new main scenario lore… you get the idea. It seemed like the sort of thing I’d want to be as prepared for as possible, in other words. And here it comes in just about a month! That’ll be nice.

Of course, the lengthy anniversary broadcast didn’t reveal everything we’re going to be hearing about for the patch; it was more of a tease than a full rundown. But we can derive a lot from that tease alone, so let’s talk about what we’ve heard so far for patch 4.1. We’ll know more around the middle of the month, but we’re here now.

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EVE Evolved: Get ready for EVE Online’s Lifeblood expansion!

EVE Online‘s upcoming Lifeblood expansion was officially announced last week, and it’s landing a lot earlier than expected. Though it appears that Lifeblood is the winter expansion CCP Games has been talking about since EVE Fanfest 2017, it’s actually launching next month on October 24th. It includes the new Upwell Refinery structures, a total overhaul of moon-mining and advanced material reactions, a full balance pass for the ships used by free-to-play alpha clone characters, and some all-new PvE gameplay in high-security space.

We talked to EVE‘s Executive Producer Andie “CCP Seagull” Nordgren about the plans for new highsec gameplay back in April, and it sounded pretty damn exciting. CCP plans to use the new advanced AI that powers the roaming NPC mining operations to create an ever-evolving landscape of AI-driven conflict that players can affect. The first steps in that plan are arriving with Lifeblood in the form of Pirate Forward Operating Bases and Resource Wars, which ask players to help local factions fight back against the encroachment of pirates. This should make life a hell of a lot more interesting for players in high-security space, while the new moon mining gameplay is expected to set nullsec on fire.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I dig into the Lifeblood announcement and feature list, and ask how players can get ready to make the most of next month’s expansion.

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One Shots: In the altogether

Warning: After the break is a shocking depiction of human nudity and the bravado of a squirrel that seeks to save you from nightmares for the next two weeks. It is all thanks to that online weirdness generator called Final Fantasy XIV and beloved reader Skoryy, who is incredibly quick with that screenshot key.

This is from Skoryy’s private photography gallery entitled, “Random MMO Funny Faces.” Gaze in awe and dumbstruck horror after the break, then read on because we’ve got a whole bunch of interesting player shots for you to admire when you tire of trying to peek around that bushy tail.

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LOTRO Legendarium: Is Mordor too difficult?

If there’s one topic of discussion that I’ve been hearing a lot in world chat, on the forums, and among my kinship, it’s about Lord of the Rings Online: Mordor and its huge jump in difficulty.

It is pretty much the first thing you notice when you head through the Black Gates to the land beyond. Mordor is waiting there, ready to chew you up and spit you back out. Until you start getting the new quest gear rewards and bump up your Light level with it, progress is agonizingly slow. And even after a zone or two, it’s far from a walk in the park. Mobs hit hard, have deep health pools, and often are packed together so that pulling just one is an impossibility. I’ve probably died more times these past few weeks than the last two years in LOTRO.

It’s almost like I’m playing a different game. Once or twice, I’ve rested my forehead against my desk and typed out in frustration, “It feels like this expansion wants to abuse me!” And I hear nothing but sympathy in response from those feeling the same.

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Betawatch: Destiny 2 storms to PC (September 1, 2017)

The open beta for Destiny 2 finally hit the PC, and while I’m generally reluctant to say that anything is the preferred platform for a given audience (people get excited about platforms I personally would never have expected), in this case it seems fair. The beta has, of course, run into some issues, but people seem to have enjoyed it even without getting to take a trip to a nice farm. Plenty of space to run around in that farm.

Also, while it seems almost like a joke to say this, it really happened: ARK: Survival Evolved finally launched. If you were waiting for launch? You were waiting for now. It has happened.

More news? You’ll no doubt hear more with the convention this weekend, but let’s go nuts anyway.

All right! Are you pumped to scroll through a whole list full of other titles currently in testing, possibly incorporating more surprises along the way but probably not? Jump on down below, then, and if you see something which ought not to be there, do let us know down in the comments.

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Global Chat: Has No Man’s Sky finally arrived as a full-featured game?

It’s been a year since the disastrous and controversial launch of No Man’s Sky, a game with failings that included, among many others, a lack of multiplayer when it specifically advertised itself as such.

But has the space exploration game finally arrived now that it’s sitting on several patches is far more robust than its launch incarnation? Virtual Bastion thinks this may be the case.

“The new updates, Atlas Rises included, appear to build greatly upon the simple notion of giving players things to do, from crafting homes to completing actual missions. Certainly, the game isn’t perfect: Slow progression is still a problem, dreadful inventory management remains, and promised in-game multiplayer has yet to be realized, but the fact remains that No Man’s Sky on August 2017 is a far cry from No Man’s Sky of August 2016.”

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EverQuesting: Guide to EverQuest II’s Days of Summer reward event

Did you hear about EverQuest II multi-month Days of Summer reward event? If so, lucky you! Here is an event that was launched with so little fanfare that even though I am playing every week. it completely slipped out of my mind — even after I learned about it the first week! It’s also an event that rewards players with some pretty snazzy rewards if they complete each of the weekly quests, so missing out entirely will make you lose out on a familiar, level 100 gear, housing decorations, a prestige house, and more. So many goodies! That may be because this summer event is akin to prelude events before expansions as it is aimed at helping people gear up for the upcoming expansion. Now don’t you wish you knew more about it? Well here you go.

The good news is that even if you hadn’t heard a word about it until now, it’s not too late to start; the event runs from August 2nd, 3:01 a.m. EDT, all the way until October 3rd at 2:59 a.m. EDT. The even better news is that players need not have completed the quest in the week it was first offered. You just have to complete them in order. I proved this by starting the event during this week’s week five quest. The bad news is that not only do you have to be level 100 to be able to see all of the rewards on the event vendor, you also need to own Kunark Ascending to complete some of the quests. The even worse news is that only those who have paid for membership can access the quests at all.

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Choose My Adventure: The why behind Shroud of the Avatar

Finding the fun, I’m sorry to say, was a bit on the fleeting side.

The problem isn’t that Shroud of the Avatar suddenly stopped having any of the redeeming features I noted last week; no, the stuff I found there is still there this week, and it’s not as if I can’t find any of that fun. The problem is the one that shows up reasonably often in situations like this. Having found the fun and gotten the shape of how the game’s mechanics are going to go for a while, the game ran into the related but also different problem wherein there’s nothing to advance for.

It’s not that I lost the fun, then. It’s that the fun was in some ways contingent upon having a reason to level up, and once that tenuous connection of goals was lost it wound up leaving me with the question of why, exactly, I was doing this. I never found much of a solution to that, either, so that’s not a good sign.

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The Daily Grind: What MMO tutorial experience is your favorite?

The best way to learn how to play most MMOs is to already know how to play them. Heck, there are major parts of games you just can’t teach with tutorials. There’s no way for EVE Online to really explain its sprawling player-run conflicts to a new player, and it’s hard to really give players in Final Fantasy XI a clear picture of how the game will run to various different zones with a bunch of NPCs when all of this was communicated by players back in the day.

Still, there are games that try harder than others to offer useful tutorials. World of Warcraft, for all its faults, puts a lot of effort into making low-level play feel engaging and dynamic so that new players will stick around and understand the game. But what about you, dear readers? What MMO tutorial experience is your favorite? Is it one that gave you the best understanding of the game you were about to play, one that was doing its best to get out of your way, or just one that you feel particularly attached to?

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Perfect Ten: The 10 saddest MMORPG stories

Every MMO tells a story through the run of its life. A lot of those stories are pretty happy, too. Ultima Online may not be the most happening place in the world right now, but its story is about launching a genre and then running for two solid decades. That’s a pretty great story. However much it’s become a tale of mismanaged expectations, World of Warcraft kind of became the most popular thing for a long while and brought in tons of new people to the hobby. Even titles with sad endings often have bright stories; the end bit for City of Heroes sucks, but everything leading up to that was a gas.

And then you have these 10 titles. These are titles where the whole story is a tragedy, start to finish, and in many cases the tragedy isn’t necessarily over, but the story is still just plain sad. There are reasons, of course, maybe even good ones, but the result is that the narrative for these titles is pretty sad all the way through.

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