Culture & Community Category

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

The Soapbox: What the Mass Effect Andromeda kerfuffle ought to teach us about games criticism

Today is the official release of Mass Effect: Andromeda, which was preceded by the frankly baffling decision to allow people access to an early build of the game ahead of time. Or perhaps the final build without everything enabled? The point is that you could play a bit of it if you were willing to drop some money. That seems like a bad idea that we've been dealing with in online-game-land for a long time, but regardless, it gave people the opportunity to see some of this RPG ahead of time.

This, in turn, allowed the typical internet trolls to find any and all animation flubs and then happily declare that it was all the result of one woman working on the game and handling all of the animations. Which, you know, is a conclusion that would be helped significantly if the woman in question actually worked in that role on the game, which she did not.

Obviously, the game under discussion is not an MMO. But it is symptomatic of two all-too-common problems in gaming culture that are worth noting to people who do not have balls of spiders in place of a soul. So let's talk about those.

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Lord of the Rings Online sends players to the Black Gate with today's Update 20

The path of Lord of the Rings Online has always pointed, inevitably, toward Mordor. Update 20, live today in the epic MMORPG, brings players within striking distance by adding three new zones (Dagorlad, the Slag-hills, and the Noman-lands) with quests and storytelling bringing players to the Battle of the Black Gate. It's about leading the charge to Sauron's very doorstep, and you're going to be taking part in it. And it's probably not going to end with chuckles over drinks as Sauron reveals this was all a big misunderstanding.

Players will also be able to help supply the Host of the West for battle and explore two new resource dungeons in both solo and group mode while moving through volume IV, book 8 of the game's epic story. There are also plenty of quality-of-life improvements and UI improvements to make your trek to the very doorstop of evil that much more pleasant.

Massively OP's Justin Olivetti trekked into LOTRO this past weekend and produced a guide on what to expect from the update -- get caught up before you log in!

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Master x Master announces closed beta, adds City of Heroes' Statesman

Today's good news for Master x Master fans is that the game has a closed beta coming up. The next test will be between April 6th and April 27th, ahead of the game's full launch in the summer. All of that is good news, but it kind of gets overshadowed by the game's other simultaneous announcement of a new hero in the game's lineup... Statesman.

Yes, from City of Heroes. Someone decided to add one of the most loathed characters from a dearly departed game that many fans are still upset about losing. It's one of those rare situations where you're not even sure what to be upset about first.

The bright side is probably that Statesman at least seems to play true to form, so he's got all sorts of melee abilities, moves around quickly, and can activate Heroism as his ultimate ability. And he's from a game that NCsoft shut down, we cannot stress that point enough. Just... check out some screenshots and a trailer down below; no one here is sure how to feel at the moment.

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The Daily Grind: What one thing should MMORPGs do to increase player retention?

Zubon at Kill Ten Rats recently spied a lovely tidbit over on Dr Richard Bartle's blog. Bartle, I shouldn't need to type, is considered one of the founding fathers of the MMORPG genre, having inspired through his research the infamous Bartle test. So it should be no surprise at all that he sees online worlds in everything: As his piece explains, he examined a document intended for advising universities on how to improve their student retention rates -- and Bartle realized it read like an "MMO newbie-retention handbook."

"A place where people can hang out between teaching events and make friends? Check. Organised groups led by experienced students that you can join? Check. A communication channel for students just like you? Check. A method of finding other people who are interested in the same things you are? Check. Fun tasks for people with different skills working together ? Check. Easy challenges with small rewards to get you into the swing of things? Check."

It's worth a quick read, especially for the cake joke, but I want to focus your attention on retention and stickiness specifically for the purposes of today's Daily Grind. Do you agree that developers should be spending more time on retention? And what one thing should MMORPGs do to increase player retention?
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Skyforge explains tweaks to the Cathedral and the Tower of Knowledge

There are few feelings as negative as being unable to catch up. That's been a major problem with Skyforge's Tower of Knowledge for a long time. Players who were already well advanced had no problem upgrading the tower rapidly, which in turn unlocked new benefits; by contrast, new players would struggle to earn enough resources to upgrade the tower, thus falling further behind the people who were already ahead. It was one of the problems that the developers aimed to fix with the adjustments to the building last week, as explained in depth in the most recent post on the official site.

The Tower of Knowledge no longer requires credits, but instead is upgraded based on enemies defeated with a maximum cap on daily upgrades. You can also unlock powerful Prototypes from research within the tower. The Cathedral has also been improved by making it far cheaper and much more potent in its effects which avoids its previous status as the least desirable building to upgrade. So these changes are all good, unless perhaps you prided yourself on being a god of good urban planning.

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How to farm 570 LOTRO points in under three hours

One of the interesting quirks of Lord of the Rings Online's free-to-play setup is that players can earn premium currency -- LOTRO points, or LP -- through various in-game activities. Since LP is otherwise purchased with cash and can be used to buy quest packs, cosmetics, classes, and even expansions, earning that currency through gameplay can be a literal money-saver.

What if you could get a good chunk of LP in under three hours? LOTRO player Edward Gibson mapped out and executed a run in which he used a brand-new character to farm 570 LP in two hours and 43 minutes by completing deeds. The player did use a couple of skill and deed boosts to assist with the effort.

Check out the following video to see how this feat was performed and perhaps be inspired to replicate this farming pattern to help you earn your next LOTRO store purchase.

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Guilded gives a new online tool for recruiting, organizing, and running player groups

There's a new entry on the block for online game guild organization and recruiting: Guilded. This site purports to be your one-stop shopping experience for players looking for guilds and leaders looking for a home for their groups.

Guilded officially launched on March 17th and offers free tools to any player organization that wants to make a home on its site. These tools include online calendars, shared documents, discussion boards, custom applications, guild chat, profiles, and integration with gaming networks and Discord. It's also a useful place for free agent players who are guild shopping and looking for particular specifications.

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Wisdom of Nym: Final Fantasy XIV's removed skills, Ranged/Caster edition

Well, folks, by all reasonable estimation we're going to have the final story patch of Heavensward next week. Why? Because there's no more March for it to exist in after that. So it seems like a reasonable prediction, and it also gives me just enough time to finish up with these Final Fantasy XIV skill predictions before I want to move on to reviewing the expansion in hindsight anyhow. So everybody wins, if I double up today.

The first installment is all about tanks, while the second installment is all about melee DPS. As always, the usual disclaimer applies that this is all speculation, not absolute fact; I don't have a clearer picture than you do about how abilities are actually being arranged. If you think I'm wrong? I might very well be wrong! All I can do is justify what I say and make my case. Let's move on.

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EVE Evolved: What's the deal with EVE's PLEX changes?

This week CCP Games announced that some big changes are on the way for PLEX in EVE Online. The PLEX or "30-day Pilot's License EXtension" is a virtual item that represents 30 days of subscription time and can be bought for cash and then sold to other players for in-game ISK. This simple mechanic has proven to be one of the most important innovations in the subscription MMO business model over the years, allowing players with lots of in-game wealth to effectively play for free while permitting cash-rich players to buy in-game currency without funding dodgy farming operations that can disrupt the game world. Dozens of games now support some kind of player-mediated currency roughly like PLEX.

The proposed changes are intended to simplify EVE's business model by merging PLEX with the microtransaction currency Aurum. Players will also be able to put their PLEX into invulnerable account-wide PLEX Vaults that are accessible at all times rather than having to move the valuable items manually by ship. There's been significant backlash from the EVE community over the newfound invulnerability of PLEX, plans to delete some microtransaction currency from the game without compensation, and the possibility that someone leaked the announcement to friends early in order to make a profit. So what's the deal with these PLEX changes, and why are some EVE players going nuts over them?

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at the upcoming changes to the safety of PLEX, the opportunities that more granular PLEX could have for EVE, and why players are up in arms over plans to delete Aurum from thousands of accounts.

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Remembering EverQuest Next

Is it too soon -- or perhaps too pointless -- to wool-gather about EverQuest Next? After all, that MMO project is deader than dead, so dead in fact that it killed off Landmark just to be thorough.

YouTuber Daily Quests assembled a short video remembering the brief, hopeful, and ultimately disappointing saga that was EverQuest Next. It's good as a refresher course if you forgot how this all went down or perhaps as a method to roil up the blood if you have achieved a state of perfect calm.

If you can stomach the pain, check out the video below!

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Master x Master introduces Koom and Vonak

Eager to know when everyone gets to play Master x Master? We can't tell you that, on account of not actually knowing. Still, the game is introducing us to two new heroes, so forward motion is still happening! This pair is Koom, an enormous stone juggernaut, and Vonak, a spindly guy with a popped collar and two guns. Care to guess which one is the defensive hero and which one is the assault?

That's not a trick question, by the way. It's pretty obvious. Koom is a huge dude made of stone, he's all about defense. That should not be a difficult evaluation.

As always, the videos for both characters show off their abilities and some of the customizations available for the characters to tweak abilities and attack. You can check out both videos down below, and presumably join the "eagerly waiting for a beta announcement" crowd.

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One Shots: The Candy Man

If you have a sweet tooth or diabetes, you may want to avoid the temptation that we're about to put in your path with today's headlining picture from the MOP community. It's... the Candy Man, as delicious as he is deadly.

"On the topic of sweets, this screenshot from Heroes of the Storm is one of my favorite things ever," writes Little Bugbear. "Sometime it's difficult in MOBAs to find a character and skin that fit you perfectly. For me Kandy King Muradian's pink beard and overwhelming decadence makes it the pinnacle of MOBA skins."

Amen to that. I just want a small nibble, is that so bad?

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The Daily Grind: Will World of Warcraft hold its 7.2 patch until June?

On October 24th, World of Warcraft launched patch 7.1, which contained a lot of not-quite-ready-for-launch Legion features and a bit of content. Since then, the game hasn't really launched any content. Sure, patch 7.1.5 launched in early January, but that just added the Brawler's Guild back to the game for content (which, admittedly, has a lot of new boss fights). We're looking at a content gap that's starting to spread out a fair bit already, and patch 7.2 is coming out... well, eventually?

Of course, MOP's Bree and I are in pretty close agreement about when it's coming out: June. Because that's when a new Final Fantasy XIV expansion and The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind both launch, so they're going to want to try to kneecap both of those launches.

At least from this side of the fence, that's a pretty dumb plan. It's the same plan that was in place for patch 6.2 of Warlords of Draenor, which wound up with lots of complaints about the delays, and it doesn't seem to have really crippled the launch it wanted to "intercept" there, either. Still, it's the sort of plan that Blizzard has used in the patch, and with two big competing releases in the same month it seems almost absurd to think it wouldn't be tried. So what do you think, dear readers? What do you think the odds are of WoW holding its next patch until June? And how much grousing do you expect if people are waiting that long for more content?

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