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

The Daily Grind: What do you do in MMOs to calm down?

At the risk of giving you more information than you all want to hear, lately my anxiety issues have been reaching a fever pitch. But you know what tends to calm me down? Daily quests. Running through the motions on Yavin 4 in Star Wars: The Old Republic, befriending the Vanu Vanu in Final Fantasy XIV, even just flying about for a spot of repeatable content in Star Trek Online. Give me something repetitive that takes just enough brainpower to keep my attention but can still largely fall back on muscle memory, and I’m happy.

The nice thing about MMOs is that they frequently feature activities that can be very comforting. Maybe it’s as simple as flying about while farming or gathering. Perhaps you feel much better when you do a bit of roleplaying. I know one friend who was calmed by turning on Flight in City of Heroes and just gliding around various areas of the city, not doing anything, just roaming. So what about you? What do you do in MMOs to calm down, or do you find just playing an MMO to be the opposite of calming?

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WRUP: Accidentally making Optimus Prime edition

It will probably come as no surprise to those of you reading that I’ve been taking part in a weekly tabletop roleplaying game for the past several months, but that ended this past Wednesday. Ended with a fun and fitting conclusion, yes, but still ended. I am a bit unsure about how I ended up turning my character into Optimus Prime, however. Yes, I made a sentient golem as part of the setting, but my goal there was more about having a character without clearly defined gender cues. What I actually wound up doing was leading an entire movement of fellow automatons seeking freedom from the long-diluted bloodline that created us.

Also, we set a lot of places on fire, but that wasn’t really ever my fault.

Obviously, that is not something I’m playing this weekend. I’m playing something else. So is the rest of the Massively Overpowered staff, and being as this is our weekly installment of What Are You Playing, we’re going to tell you what we’re playing. And then, if you would be so kind, you can tell us what you’re playing down in the comments. Seriously, it’s always cool to see.

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The Daily Grind: Which fantasy race has gotten too tropish for your liking?

Poor dwarves.

Generic humans aside, I’ve always had a fondness for dwarves in fantasy literature and games. They feel less Mary Sueish than those arrogant elves and more serious than the goofy takes you often see with gnomes and goblins. The dwarf I know and respect is one who exudes capability, strength, loyalty, and brute fighting force.

Unfortunately, dwarves have all but been run into the ground by the trope steamroller, which has forever painted them as vaguely Scottish underground axe murderers who are too obsessed with gold and their own beards. Fantasy MMOs have done dwarves no favor by recycling these tropes again and again. I really wish that a game would come along that would dare to use a race like dwarves but in a non-stereotypical fashion.

Are there any fantasy races that are too tropish for your liking? What would you like to see done with them?

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Exploring ‘The Video Game Debate’: Cognitive performance and your brain on games

So far in our exploration of the topics in Rachel Kowert and Thorsten Quandt’s book The Video Game Debate: Unravelling the Physical, Social, and Psychological Effects of Video Games, we’ve tackled the state of modern game research, online games and internet addiction, moral panic and online griefing, and the role of games in education (and vice versa). Today, we’ll focus on video games and cognitive performance — your brain on games!

I was recently reminded that for a long time gaming was identified as something that could, at minimum, be used to master reaction times. In 1982, Chevy Chase of all people actually highlighted both the potential and fear of the power of games in terms of their impact on cognitive performance.

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Alien life discovered in Elite Dangerous — and it’s not what you think

Ever since Elite Dangerous dropped its Horizons expansion and allowed players to land on planet surfaces, captains have been scouring the galaxy for interesting sights. Well one player has found the following definitive proof that we’re not alone in the universe: barnacles.

Yes, you read that right. Giant alien barnacles with a strange symbol on them were discovered on Merope 5C, and once the awe of this find wore off, giddy players did what they do best by trying to blast it with mining lasers. “As I type this, I can hear weapons fire,” one captain posted. “If this does end in war, then we clearly started it.”

The discovery of the barnacles wasn’t by accident; Frontier had been giving clues to the community about the possibility of extraterrestrial life for a while now. If you’re in-game, you can check out the stellar barnacles for yourself at -026.3496°, -156.4044°. Alternatively, you can get an eyeful of barnacles (and hear what kind of weird noise they make) after the jump.

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WoW Factor: The importance of class fantasies

Here’s a fun thought exercise for you all: explain the differences between Fire Mages and Destruction Warlocks in World of Warcraft. But before you do so, let’s make things a little more interesting by saying that you cannot use abilities, rotations, or resources to differentiate between the two of them. In other words, you can’t differentiate them based upon what they do; you can only differentiate them based upon what they are.

In this case, it’s not very difficult. Fire Mages are masters of fire magic through careful study and practice. They’ve mastered the art of flame almost as a thought exercise, specializing in the most destructive form of arcane application but still primarily devoted to learning. Destruction Warlocks, meanwhile, have forged pacts with demons to borrow the intrinsic powers of the nether realms. It’s possible – even probable – that those pacts will eventually have an additional cost, but for the time being the Warlock may use demonic powers for personal gain.

This is the importance of class fantasies and why they’re important to the game moving forward. And it also demonstrates the problem with them, and it hints at why these fantasies have suddenly become more important with Legion.

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Crowfall details the goddess Illara and launches its pantheon guide

There’s no doubt that the gods of Crowfall are powerful. But the last of the lot to be revealed – Illara, mother of cats – is the one deity that could save her followers from the Hunger. She possesses the knowledge to do so. What she lacks is even the slightest inclination; she doesn’t care about that or find it interesting enough to focus on those affected. No, Illara is busy dealing with her own pursuit of arcane knowledge, and nothing else around her garners her attention.

In other words, cat.

Illara’s reveal as the final member of the pantheon comes along with a new section of the Crowfall website dedicated to the pantheon. If you’ve missed one or two of the deities revealed along the way or just want to refresh your memory about someone, you can do that now with minimal difficulty.


TERA apologizes for the last producer’s letter, content gulfs

Yesterday’s letter to the TERA community went over like something of a lead balloon. Sure, the game had its best year ever, but players are going to be waiting for an extended time for any further update. Senior Producer Matthew Denomme took to the forums yesterday to mollify players with an apology and an explanation for the lengthy wait between major updates.

In short, the process of communication between En Masse Entertainment and Bluehole Studios means that the American localization team gets a variety of options about what to release next as content, but all of the release candidates would have major impacts on endgame items. Bluehole, in the middle of reorganization to improve its communication and deployment of updates for the American players, was unable to provide anything to serve as an interim build. The community as a whole seems to be responding positively to the humility and frankness of the letter; one could use this entire incident as a case study in improving community relations after mistakes are made, really.

Source: Official Forums; thanks to Vunak for the tip!


The Daily Grind: What’s the best pay-to-win MMORPG?

Here’s an odd question from a Massively OP reader: What’s the best pay-to-win MMO on the market?

I know pay to win is a dirty, dirty slander in the MMO community. However, as I’ve gotten older and real life concerns like owning a home, holding down a 50-hour-a-week, mentally taxing job, and maintaining a marriage take a lot out of me. I don’t have the time or energy anymore to min/max my gear, grind up levels, and devise clever boss strategies for raids. I want to come home, give a developer a portion of my disposable income, and instantly be allowed to kick ass and/or obtain the best pixels. So what are my options?

To me, the interesting question here isn’t how to define pay-to-win but how to define best. I mean, people were trading Ultima Online and EverQuest accounts back in ’90s, and that was technically pay-to-win — you could buy fully built characters, castles, the works, all from other players. And yet it never seemed to truly wreck the game for everyone else the way cash shop-based P2W games seem to be ruined. Clearly, it can be done. So what do you think? What’s the best pay-to-win MMO on the market for someone who doesn’t recoil in horror at the thought of P2W?

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Star Trek Online holds a recovery event for the rest of January

The galaxy of Star Trek Online has just finished dealing with a destructive war against a race of almost incalculable age and power. There’s a lot of rebuilding to be done at this point. So the game is holding a rebuilding event for the remainder of January, starting right now and running until January 28th. But that rebuilding effort isn’t just a matter of bonus rewards for players; it’s entirely based on how much effort players contribute.

For the first week, players will be tasked with completing fleet projects and earning Fleet Credits. Based on how successful that effort is, players will subsequently unlock a bonus mark event for everyone the following week which could be a 25% bonus, a 50% bonus, or even a 75% bonus. So contribute this week and get something better next week. That seems like the sort of rebuilding process everyone can get behind.


Elite: Dangerous has sold 1.4 million copies

After a solid year’s worth of updates and the first pass of planetary landing mechanics, Elite: Dangerous has hit a grand total of 1.4 million copies sold. Average play time for a given copy is apparently sitting at 60 hours, which comes out to 84 million hours across the many copies of the game in circulation. That’s a lot of danger.

The game’s availability for three different platforms (Mac, PC, and Xbox One) doubtlessly helps its overall sales, of course, as does the addition of Horizons to the game. It might not be your personal favorite space game, but it’s pretty decidedly a success at this point.

Source: Frontier Developments press release


The Division’s beta will start this month… probably

Fans of the much-delayed title The Division can look forward to the beta test starting this month… probably. Maybe. The odds are high. Nothing is certain, of course, and nothing has been formally announced by Ubisoft, but it looks pretty likely thanks to the UPlay mobile app listing the beta as starting in January.

Of course, an app listing an incorrect date wouldn’t be unprecedented, but it does at least suggest that the beta is probably going to land at some point this month. The game is also meant to launch in March, which means that January and February are more or less the only possible testing windows remaining. There’s about half of January still to go, so keep your eyes peeled for more information.

Source: WCCFTech via VG24/7


The Daily Grind: What MMO character type would you be happy to never see again?

It occurred to me the other day that Star Wars: The Old Republic doesn’t actually have a pet class. Every class can sort of have a pet, yes, but no class actually serves as a dedicated pet class. And I don’t miss that; I tend to dislike pet classes on a whole, so it’s a welcome change. But that got me thinking about other archetypes for MMO roles that don’t exist in games.

At launch, City of Heroes didn’t have the “stealthy sneak-up-and-kill” archetype; that was added later. Guild Wars 2 was long resistant to pure tanks or healers, although it had several other similar archetypes. World of Warcraft has lots of everything, but nothing has ever fit the role of bardic “supplemental support/DPS” from other games.

None of this is counting archetypes that you might see constantly that you’d be happy to be rid of, to boot – I’m perfectly fine if the next game I play doesn’t support building a lightly-armored AoE damage-dealer. And we can probably leave out teleporting plate-wearing casting doombots and the games which allow you to make one (looking at you, Darkfall). But what about you? What sort of MMO character type would you be happy to never see again?

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