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The softer, gentler side of MMORPG life. [Follow this category’s RSS feed]

PSA: Black Desert is $10 for 10 days

It’s always a great day when a buy-to-play game goes on sale because then you can pick it up and just sit on it for as long as you like while feeling vaguely smug that you got in for a discount. Case in point: Black Desert is on sale today for $9.99 to pick up the game’s Starter Package. Buy that and you have it, period, forever. It’s all yours. That’s a pretty good deal for an entry-level access to the game.

If you want to go a bit higher class, you can also pick up the game’s Traveler’s Package for $19.99 or the Explorer’s Package for $34.99, each of which includes three seven-day passes for your friends to try the game as well. It’s a pretty solid discount, and the only restriction is that it’ll only be hanging around until September 26th. Which is still more than a week away, so you’ve got plenty of time to think about whether or not you’d like a new MMO for $10. Sometimes life is fun.

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Star Citizen: Around the Verse teases Citizen Con, Roberts endorses Dual Universe

On this week’s Around the Verse, Star Citizen’s Chris Roberts and Sandi Gardiner are back and teasing Citizen Con, which kicks off October 9th. The episode includes a report from the Austin studio (mainly focusing on sound effects and the live ops teams), a deep-dive on the databank-studded inforunner Drake Herald, and a behind-the-scenes all about the interactive music system.

Intriguingly, Roberts also posted a classy endorsement of Dual Universe, a future rival sci-fi sandbox that hit Kickstarter last week. “I encourage you to check out Dual Universe’s trailer [and] Kickstarter,” he writes. “There is certainly quite a few similarities between what Dual Universe and Star Citizen are both aiming to achieve, but that’s not a bad thing! Space games are not a zero sum game. Different games, even with similar feature sets can have wildly different sensibilities and play experiences. Choice and a little friendly competition is always a good thing. It’s a great time for space games, and I look forward to welcoming Dual Universe to the growing brotherhood.” See? Classy.

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Massively Overthinking: Prestige systems in MMORPGs

Last week, an interesting question dropped into our team inbox. It was from a game developer — I don’t know for which game — named Matthew.

“As a developer, I’d be really interested to know what MMO gamers think about the idea of a ‘prestige system’ in an MMO, akin to Call of Duty’s, to encourage players who reach the endgame content to play through the game again from level 1 (with a different approach). Especially in the context of a game that has enough choices and options to make replaying the game interesting. My small studio doesn’t have the resource to produce an expansive endgame, and this seems like it could be a viable option.”

There are a handful of MMORPGs that try this already — Mabinogi is coming to mind — but it’s very rare in the RPG genre in general, and I bet you guys can think up a few reasons why. So let’s tackle the question for this week’s Overthinking: Which games have prestige systems that encourage you to replay your character from level 1, why do you think it’s so rare in MMORPGs, and how would you like to see such a system play out in a genre that prides itself on character development and permanence?

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Self-driving cars are learning to drive with Grand Theft Auto

So it turns out that people were right when they said that self-driving cars were a terrible idea. We were all in favor of them; it seemed like a nice chance to relax, stare at the scenery, and possibly game while three sheets to the wind and without asking someone to pick us up. But researchers from Intel Labs and Darmstadt University in Germany are teaching the vehicles to drive using Grand Theft Auto, which means that self-driving cars will collide with other vehicles, drive on the sidewalk, and attempt to hide from police investigations by parking in a paint shop.

Jokes aside, the system being used is pretty awesome, using the environments of the games as a way to place the vehicles in real-life situations without any risk to human life. It’s a complex process allowing the vehicles to “see” and analyze a large number of objects in quick succession, thus providing valuable data to be used in finished models. If you’ve got any interest in the technology, it’s well worth a read. And if the next time you play Grand Theft Auto Online you notice that someone in your group seems to be moving rather robotically, maybe you should cut that player some slack.

Source: MIT Technology Review; thanks to Stemline for the tip!

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Solo players are welcomed to Craglorn with The Elder Scrolls Online’s One Tamriel

When Craglorn first arrived in The Elder Scrolls Online back in 2014, it had a robust selection of content for max-level grouped players and a constant radiating wave of death for anyone exploring solo. This was intentional; the area was meant as a max-level challenge zone, and the designers were adamant that you should be grouped when you went in or you should expect to die repeatedly and painfully. With the introduction of the One Tamriel update, however, solo and grouped players of all levels will be able to dive into Craglorn and explore what the area has to offer.

The video below shows off some of what you can expect when you return to Craglorn, with a story that all players can complete and a variety of puzzles and activities for all sorts of playstyles. Overland content, daily quests, and dungeons have also been thoroughly adjusted for new and returning adventurers, so even if you think you know all there is to know about the region, you’ll find something new to explore. Check out the video down below, and keep your eyes peeled for our interview about the redesign in the near future.

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Perfect Ten: The worst-squandered IPs in online gaming

There are always going to be differences in opinion about what should be done with an IP based upon a franchise. That’s just natural. The same core universe could be used to make a sprawling sandbox with weak combat but a robust non-combat market and profession system, or it could be used to make a combat-focused experience that focuses on energetic fights, nifty story moments, and little else. In both cases, even if you don’t like the end result, you can understand exactly why the IP was used for this.

Our column today is not about those games. No, this is about games that completely failed to make use of their licenses to IPs, produced totles that did not in any way logically follow from the license that was given, or otherwise took pure gold and turned it into something… less than gold. There’s room to debate whether some of these IPs would ever make good MMOs, but boy, the uses we have were pretty bad.

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World of Warcraft opens testing for patch 7.1, Mythic Keystones coming next week

The team behind World of Warcraft: Legion is wasting no time. The expansion didn’t even launch a month ago, but patch 7.1 is already hitting the test realm, giving players a peek of the new content contained within. That means new quests, the newly revamped Karazhan (which requires some followers with high item levels to unlock), new reputations, and all sorts of other additions. Wowhead has a full listing of the patch notes from the launcher, although it goes without saying that this is merely the first testing build and may include significant changes over time.

While there’s no estimated date of arrival for the patch yet, there’s a definite date of arrival for Mythic Keystones. These enhancing items will arrive on September 20th along with the first bit of raid content for the expansion, allowing players to crank up the difficulty of a Mythic run in exchange for escalating rewards over time. If you’re already sick of the Mythic dungeons, it should be good news; if you’re still taking your time on walking to the level cap, it’s still nice to know it’s coming.

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This is how the world of Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen is built

Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen’s September newsletter features an interview with Lead World Builder and Lead Environment Artist, John “Montreseur” Diasparra, who explains the process of putting Pantheon’s world together bit by bit.

“The process begins when I get a nice thorough lore document hot off the press from [the Lore Master and Lead Writer]. The world building team gets together for a series of meetings where we go through the document, all the moods, the histories, the conflicts, who is involved, and all those juicy details,” Diasparra says. “[After the meetings] I start getting a picture of the impact I can have on the player using all the great information that gets vetted. With that fire burning bright I start hitting the pipeline, and one of the most important early steps is collecting as much reference material as I can. For example if it’s a set of ruins I look for style, age, type of wear; was it just rained on for a 1000 years? Was there a battle? To answer those questions I use real life examples of sorts of areas. To gain inspiration for the fantasy elements, like if it needs a giant metallic, magic mechanism floating with particles for example, I find smaller elements to help me bring that together as a whole.”

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Mercy gets less love in the latest Overwatch patch

Are you tired of seeing Mercy’s Resurrection use as a Play of the Game in Overwatch? Because dedicated support players were probably pretty tired of seeing Torbjorn get Play of the Game highlights whilst he got blown up and his turret racked up kills. But you’re getting your wish, as the latest small patch to the game should decrease how often Mercy’s Resurrection gets highlighted.

The patch also increases the speed of the payload in Eichenwalde and addresses some persistent bugs, like missing sound clips for large kill streaks and incorrect arrows in Hanzo’s bow. Competitive play has been tweaked slightly as well, with a new competitive tier legend and a new splash screen for completed matches. They’re little things, but they should make your play experience a bit better. Unless, of course, you liked getting Play of the Game on Mercy.

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Elder Scrolls Online goes offline ‘to prevent further rollbacks’

The Elder Scrolls Online is apparently suffering a round of emergency maintenance following the return of servers after regular patch maintenance this morning. The game has been hampered by a series of connection issues across both North America and Europe on all platforms all morning and into the early afternoon EDT (which is prime time in the EU), according to the game’s Twitter account.

“This maintenance is necessary in order to prevent further rollbacks and loss of character progress,” ZeniMax wrote on the official forums. “We’ll update this post as each server is back online.”

It sounds kind of ominous, but we assume they just mean that folks logging in are being stymied and losing progress. More when we have it.

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World of Warcraft hotfixes bugs and tweaks some gameplay balance

World of Warcraft players are still adapting to the novelty of Legion, but the current play environment isn’t entirely finished. It’s still being tweaked by degrees with the most recent hotfixes, which clear up certain bugs like non-bear druids shifting into bear form no longer experiencing resource decay, but they also address balance issues for certain classes and rewards. Warlocks, for example, will now regenerate to three Soul Shards out of combat instead of just one, allowing more interesting gameplay solo and when opening pulls against bosses.

Warriors will enjoy a reduced cooldown on Colossus Smash, while no one will enjoy no longer grabbing bind on equip items as rewards from world quests. (The goal is to ensure that your more powerful rewards from an ascending item level reward you rather than alts.) There are also other smaller issues, like withered not throwing rocks properly in the withered army training scenario, so there’s likely at least one or two things to like in the latest small patch.

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Crowfall shows off the lore of the Bog Bear

It’s important to remember that Crowfall takes place in a fantasy world with fantastical creatures. Sure, there are sieges and politics to consider, but there are also critters roaming around like the Bog Bear, which appears to be what happens when a bear and a Final Fantasy coeurl love each other very much and have several generations of ominous-looking children. That’s nasty enough on its own, but it gets far more intimidating when it’s been warped by the Hunger into something that’s still bear-shaped but clearly is no longer a bear.

The lore behind the game is kind of creepy when you think about it.

Is it too early in the day to be scared by ethereal undead bears? That’s all right; you can check out the Crowfall art team playing some tabletop Dungeons & Dragons in a video just below. The team plans to livestream another session tonight, so if that seems like a good show to you, you may want to check that out.

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