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

The Daily Grind: What could MMO taverns do to get you to stick around?

I have vague memories of ArenaNet talking about Guild Wars 2 taverns prior to its launch and how these spaces would be more than window dressing. Maybe that was a dream or something, but I’ve always respected the effort to make one of the most iconic of RPG locations — the tavern meeting place — more useful and engaging. Warhammer Online, too, was touting tavern brawls that would take place as public events.

We’re so conditioned to run in and out of such places that unless we are roleplaying for some reason, chances are we never stay for more than a few seconds. And that’s kind of a shame, because I like the idea of players spending some time in bars unwinding. I heard a myth of a dead MMO that used to put such an emphasis on this, but it was probably all bunk.

What could MMO taverns do to get you to stick around? Would you hang out for minigames, gambling, special events, or special buffs?

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Hearthstone’s newest expansion has a new card that’s causing balance issues… with animations

When a new expansion arrives in Hearthstone, there will be balance issues. That’s almost inevitable; you know it’s going to happen, it’s part of the nature of the beast. What seems a little bit unusual is the fact that this particular card is causing balance issues simply due to animation locks. The legendary Shaman card Shudderwock is causing problems due to the nature of its special abilities, which replays every single Battlecry effect on your side of the board through the whole game.

This is obviously powerful, but this can also wind up cycling through an extensive and long animation cycle that ultimately leaves your opponent unable to actually play, which is clearly not an intended function of the card. The functionality will be revisited next week, so hopefully players will not long have to suffer a strategy of winning via animation locks. There’s a charming meta nature to it, but it still feels cheap.

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Closers invites players to take part in new challenges at the planar gate

If you’ve got a need for some new challenges in Closers, possibly of the planar variety, you’ll get plenty out of the new Planar Gate challenges asking for players of level 73 and above to take on some raid fights. You’ll need a group, of course, but you can get new gear and accessories, so it’s all good.

“But I play Tina most of the time,” you muttered, “so I can’t get to 73 or above!” But you can now, friend, because this update also raises Tina’s level cap to 75. Now everyone wins! There are even some new outfits for Tina in the Academy bundle featuring all of the glasses you could want for one character.

The update also includes login bonuses to give you a taste of what’s available in the aforementioned planar raids as well as more costumes, new crafting options, and so forth. And you can enjoy all of this today, which means you need not sit around waiting for the patch to arrive. You may have to wait to go home to play it, but no one can really help with that.

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PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds adds map changes and red zone shrinkage

Brendan “PlayerUnknown” Greene does not have kind words for people who dislike the red zone in PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. In his own words, people who die to the red zone are just not good players, and thus deserve to die in the red zone until they get better, because it’s so obvious that it’s arriving. His statements were unambiguously in favor of the red zone working in the way it did at the time he made those statements.

So, naturally, the most recent patch for the game shrinks the size of the red zone and its duration.

The patch also contains three new areas on the map for players to fight over, along with faster grenade spawns and an assortment of bug fixes. There’s also more testing going on for the game’s Codename: Savage, if you’re curious to see how that new map is coming along. All good things for the future of the game.

Source: Polygon, Steam

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EVE Fanfest 2018: Andrew Groen on the sequel to his popular EVE Online history book

One of the most common comments you’ll see in articles about big events in EVE Online is that it’s a lot more entertaining to read about than to play, and that’s certainly true if what you’re reading is Empires of EVE. Written by EVE Historian Andrew Groen back in 2015 and published thanks to the support of over 3,000 players through a crowdfunding campaign, Empires of EVE tells the story of some of EVE‘s earliest and most deadly wars and political schisms.

Cutting through all of the propaganda and player self-motivations in a political sandbox like EVE is no small task, and it’s complicated by over a decade of shifting loyalties, misinformation, propaganda, and misremembered events. Andrew is uniquely equipped to cut through many of those issues, collecting as accurate historical records as possible and delivering it all as a coherent, deeply compelling narrative that even plenty of non-players have thoroughly enjoyed. Andrew recently announced that Empires of EVE had broken the 15,000 sales mark, and at EVE Fanfest 2018 he announced a sequel is now in the works.

I caught up with Andrew at Fanfest to find out how the first book’s success has affected him and what the future holds for Empires of EVE: Volume II.

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Star Trek Online is finally adding playable Cardassians with its next expansion

A playable faction of Cardassians has been something Star Trek Online fans have wanted more or less since the game wanted, to the point that there was no small amount of consternation around the idea of a new faction being added that wasn’t the Cardassian Union. But fear not, lore fans; the release of Victory is Life will indeed see playable Cardassians for both the Klingon Empire and the Federation. That’s really all you need to know to be excited if you’re a fan of Star Trek.

Want a little bit more on the game? Fear not, the developers also have you covered when it comes to how the game’s leveling will work for the expansion’s level cap increase. Perhaps most importantly, players need not fear another tier of ships; Tier 6 remains the top end and there will be no additional lore ranks added. Check out the full rundown to get an idea of what the game will have in store for you, along with a breakdown of the experience needed to acquire the increased levels.

Source: Leveling, Playable Cardassians; thanks to Jake for the tip!

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Lineage 2: Revolution talks about server merges, new servers, and more content coming in May

Server merges happen. You may not want them to happen for a game that you’re playing, but they’re sometimes just a simple necessity. Of course, if a game is doing well, you’d rather see new servers cropping up rather than merges. So how do you feel about both happening at the same time, which is exactly what’s taking place in Lineage 2: Revolution? (It’s fine if your answer is “confused.”)

Yes, the game is merging down several of its lower-population servers into new servers to help bulk up the game’s population and improve matchmaking, while also preparing for a new server for everyone who wants to start fresh at the same time. It’s just a little bit unusual. The good news is that characters will be deleted during the merge only if a player hasn’t played in 30 days, has no transaction history, and has no characters over level 10; otherwise, characters will possibly need renaming but nothing more.

The game is also preparing for castle sieges and new dungeons with its May patch, so there’s a good reason to get server populations up now rather than later. And considering that the game is apparently boasting about being a top-grossing mobile title, it’s clearly doing something right despite server merge oddities.

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Bot-maker Bossland’s legit game flops, Germany rejects Blizzard’s US court victory and won’t enforce damages

Are you surprised to be hearing about Bossland again? We’re surprised to be reporting on it. The German-based botmaker made headlines for the last few years thanks to ongoing litigation provoked by its sale of cheat, bot, and hack programs for multiple Blizzard games. Blizzard had pursued Bossland across multiple continents in an attempt to shut down the cheat programs, which Blizz argued violated its copyrights and cost it significant amounts of money to fight – money it was therefore not spending on its own games and customers. The drama finally culminated in 2017 with victories for Blizzard in a German Supreme Court ruling and a California federal court case that awarded Blizzard $8.5M in damages.

Though the German courts recently ruled not to enforce the US court’s decision (on the grounds that it considered the minimum statutory damages awarded to be excessive and punitive), Bossland ended sales for almost all of its hacks at the end of last year; as of today, the only ones remaining are for non-Blizzard games, specifically Final Fantasy XIV and Path of Exile, though according to the group’s latest newsletter, there’s a PUBG one tucked on the forums too.

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Secret World Legends’ new lead designer wants to know what you want in the game

The new guard is moving into Secret World Legends following the surprising departure of Game Director Romain Amiel. Chris “Nirvelle” Meredith is taking over in the lead designer spot, offering players a quick rundown of his history with Funcom as well as some tantalizing hints about where the game will be heading in the future.

If you were hoping for bigger hints than “more missions to flesh out New Dawn,” you may be somewhat disappointed with those hints, but they are hints.

Meredith is also looking for feedback from players about what can be added to the game that isn’t there currently; players are asked to leave suggestions about what one thing could be added to the title for the future separately from the usual feedback threads. It’s a chance to have your voice heard about the longer-term development of the game, so if you’ve got ideas and want them to be known, now is your moment.

Source: Official Site (Thread 1, Thread 2)

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Next year’s EVE Fanfest won’t be in Iceland, obviating your efforts to properly spell Reykjavik

Last autumn, when CCP Games began dumping assets and studios and VR holdings overboard, it also sent almost all of its EVE Online community team packing too. At the time, it caused some players to wonder about the fate of EVE Fanfest as well as its spinoff versions like EVE Vegas, so we were all relieved to hear that this year’s Fanfest would go on as planned.

But CCP is apparently planning a shakeup of its gatherings. Next year’s event won’t be held in Reykjavik, Iceland, breaking a 14-year tradition to hold it in CCP’s own back yard. The company says it’ll instead hold 2019’s events across the continents, so there will be one in Europe, as well as Australia and the US (Vegas and one on the east coast too). CCP further says that’ll hold one event inside one player’s home, which is definitely something I do not want to have to clean for, so I will not be entering the video contest for that, but you folks definitely should. We’ll bring the popcorn.

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Guild Wars 2 plans bonus harvesting weekend, backs player artists crowdfunding a GW2 tarot deck for charity

So here’s something Guild Wars 2 doesn’t do much: special weekend bonus events. This one’s probably more about getting folks to buy harvesting tools and check out the new gathering upgrade system than about getting players to forget about that whole spyware thing that hit just before the weekend, but it works for both, yeah?

“[S]tarting on April 20, you can get neat bonuses by applying resource-gathering implements to rocks, trees, plant life, and your mortal enemies!” ArenaNet says. Through April 23rd, players will “gain a 33% chance of increased gathering yield when mining, logging, and harvesting” and snag double experience in open-world PvE and WvW when gathering.

In other Guild Wars 2 news, if you’re into tarot cards or just pretty art, check out the Tyrian Tarot deck project put together by a collective of Guild Wars 2 player artists. The Indiegogo campaign for the effort – which is sponsored and approved by ArenaNet, so don’t worry about that – has already almost doubled its original ask. Pledges are effectively preorders for everything from postcards and prints of the art to a full deck, all boasting GW2-flavored artwork. Aaaand the best part is that all of the profit goes to charity: the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

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The Soapbox: Three augmented reality game problems (most) MMOs don’t have – and one thing they do so much better

I’d like to think that I’m kind of a healthy gamer. While MMOs take a lot of time, the nice thing is that their downtime can lead to forming bonds, or give you time to exercise. Augmented reality games can give you both at once, especially Pokemon Gosince it’s the best-known ARG we have (and the mountains of merchandise make it easier to stand out as a fellow player).

However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, and I’m not just talking about game mechanics that have plagued Niantic games since at Ingress. I remember playing that title and thinking, “Man, this game is dangerous! There’s no way they’ll just clone this for POGO, right?” And yet, here we are. But I can’t put all the blame on Niantic, especially after my time with ARG competitor Maguss. Some things just seem inherent to the genre.

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Police who killed innocent man during Call of Duty swatting incident won’t be charged

At the tail end of 2017, a Call of Duty swatting incident in Kansas took the life of a completely innocent man after police killed him following a fake tip to the wrong address.

As we’ve previously chronicled, California resident Tyler Barriss reportedly called Wichita police to detail a supposed murder/hostage/arson in progress, using the address of what he apparently believed was one Call of Duty player intended as the focus of the ensuing police harassment, as provided by another player and played out live on Twitter. The address used, however, was apparently for a completely unrelated person, father of two Andrew Finch, who was subsequently shot and killed by police after opening his door. Barriss was charged with involuntary manslaughter and extradited to Kansas, having tweeted an admission of guilt and being suspected of multiple other incidents, including a bomb threat.

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