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American families are gaming together more than ever before

Just in case you have a friend who is still under the delusion that video games are a niche entertainment market, you might want to point them in the direction of this report from the Entertainment Software Association.

According to a new 2017 study, 65% of American households don’t merely play video games — but do so on a regular basis. A slightly higher percentage of households, 67%, own some sort of video game device (and 11% of households have a VR set). What’s up, you two-percenters?

While kids certainly make up some of the demographics here, it’s actually adults who are the majority of household gamers. The report said that the current average age of a gamer is 35 and that 72% of household gamers 18 years of age or older.

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Funcom’s Joel Bylos on the difference between MMOs and survival sandboxes

Funcom’s Joel Bylos features in a Twitch interview on Gamasutra this week talking up Conan Exiles and explaining the core difference between server-based survival games versus Funcom’s “old MMOs,” as the interviewer put it. Bylos’ answer actually makes a lot of sense.

“[In] The Secret World, we focused very strongly on making really cool and interesting content and story, and the idea was to make it interesting to play. The thing is, with an MMO, a lot of focus goes into repeatable content. A lot of focus goes into things like ‘I’m gonna run this dungeon six times’ or 20 times or 200 times, right? So we need reward systems that give you tokens, that let you build or buy better items. There’s a lot of itemization discussion in MMOs. In a game like Conan Exiles, people are going to lose stuff, and we know that. We need to make it so that they can keep rebuilding stuff, keep creating stuff, keep progressing in the game, but not necessarily wanting them to go, ‘Oh, I want you to go grind this dungeon 50 times so that you can do the next dungeon – slightly harder.’ So [Conan Exiles] is not so much about this very small percentage of power increase to increase your character’s progression. That’s what I would say is a big difference in these type of games.”

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The Exiled goes free-to-play for its third season

The Exiled, the PvP MMO formerly known as Das Tal, is making some business model changes.

When it launched into early access back in February, it did so under an essentially old-school B2P model, complete with a seven-day limited free trial. That trial has now been dissolved, or rather made unlimited, and replaced by a fully free-to-play period that will last through all of season three.

“In order to make it easier for new players to get into The Exiled we have decided to get rid of the 7-day trial period during Season #3. Yes, that means that you and all of your friends can play The Exiled for free for the coming four weeks. Just start the game and you’re in. You can (and should) still buy a Supporter Pack to unlock more character slots and get unique visuals for your character but it is not required anymore to play the game.”

The buyable upgrade packs still exist, and it’s not entirely clear whether future seasons will adopt the same model — this could be just a test to get more players hooked.

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Korean studio Move Games resurrects ASTA on Steam

When I mentioned in our newsroom that I was working on an ASTA post, nobody believed me, but it’s true: ASTA: The War of Tears and Winds is getting another lease on life.

You’ll recall that Webzen originally ported the game westward in 2015, soft-launching in an open beta here after the game had sunsetted in Korea the same year — and after having been in development since 2010. However, Webzen gave up after a year, sunsetting the western version this past October.

MMO Culture noticed that the game has popped up on Steam, however, with a posted release date of April 26, 2017, and a brand-new publisher: Move Games Co., Ltd., which is reportedly well-versed in picking up and relaunching Korean games for different audiences. According to the Steam and Facebook updates, the game will grant all registered players a “beginner’s gift” bundle for showing up. What is dead can never die.

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The 2022 Asian Games will include e-sports events

Go ahead and keep mocking e-sports, but they are only getting bigger and more respectable as they keep creating tremendous piles of money. In addition to winning coveted spots on television and earning floor space in casinos, now e-sports are inching toward the Olympic stage, at least in Asia.

“The Olympic Council of Asia and Alisports of China today announced a strategic partnership to bring the Electronic Sports video game phenomenon to the official sports programme of the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China,” declares a press release from earlier this week. “E-Sports, which is enjoyed by millions of youngsters around Asia and the world, has already been added to the OCA’s 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games (AIMAG) in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, this September as a demonstration sport.”

Youngsters! Aww.

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Carbine Studios is hiring for an unspecified new project

The general consensus for WildStar has been that the game is running on borrowed time for several reasons. That’s a sad conclusion, but an understandable one. And so that probably also means curtains for Carbine Studios, and… wait, the studio is hiring people? For a new team to work on a new project of some sort? They’re not just sitting around and waiting for things to come crashing down?

All right, if one of you wished for this on a monkey’s paw, you need to tell someone now before the consequences shock and horrify everyone.

The listed positions are for Concept Art, Graphics Engineering, Tools Engineering, and Combat Design, which… could mean lots of things. If not for the fact that the listings state this is part of a new team for a new project, it’d be easy to assume this was an attempt to shore up WildStar, but the fact that it is for a new project is enough to light one’s imagination on fire. What happens next? We don’t know, but we sure are excited to find out.

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Massively OP Podcast Episode 113: Avatar vs. toon

Do you want to date my space avatar? She’s a star and she’s hotter than a supernova by far. Or maybe you’re a loony tooner? What’s the socially acceptable way to reference your character in an MMORPG without coming across like some weirdo from another gaming era? Bree and Justin will devote their lives to figuring out this question.

It’s the Massively OP Podcast, an action-packed hour of news, tales, opinions, and gamer emails! And remember, if you’d like to send in your own letter to the show, use the “Tips” button in the top-right corner of the site to do so.

Listen to the show right now:

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What virtual reality immersion researchers are up to will ‘shock’ you – literally

OK, virtual reality fans and frenemies, here’s a fun thought process: How do you simulate haptic feedback when your arms are waving around in the air? When you pretend to grab a mug of coffee, pick up a ball, or clock someone in the jaw, how does the game world sell immersion to you?

One answer might be electric muscle stimulation — yep, they’re gonna shock you. Researchers at the Hasso-Plattner Institute in Germany are apparently trying to mimic the muscle response and feel of touching, pushing, or lifting items in virtual reality with micro-shocks in actual reality.

It’s not really as “shocking” as it sounds, as anyone’s who’s ever experienced this sort of thing in its existing form as muscle therapy can attest (I can, and it actually worked, I’m still surprised to say). At its worst, it sort of feels like weird tingling or zingy pressure, not pain. It’s a cheap process, but it’s also goofy as heck, and if you were annoyed at having to plop on a giant headset for virtual reality, just wait until you have to tape a bunch of electrical nodes up and down your arms.

Source: Plopes via Motherboard via Slashdot. Thanks, Sally! No regrets on the headline.

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Analyst suggests Tencent’s new global games service will compete with Steam

If you’re not a big fan of Steam’s dominance of gaming trends in the west, maybe you think a competitor will do the service some good — and a competitor does indeed to appear to be on the way.

A tweet lobbed by Niko Partners games industry analyst Daniel Ahmad on Easter sent games journalist scurrying to cover his claim that Tencent is planning a relaunch of its existing games platform as a global Steam-competitor dubbed WeGame. The existing service, Tencent Games Platform, already has 200 million users in China, but when relaunched, it’ll service the west too, beginning with a release of 100 games from primarily western developers. Gamasutra reports that Stardew Valley and Don’t Starve are already on the platform, the latter having sold a million copies there in its first month.

Tencent is already the largest gaming company in the world and according to Bloomberg is currently the 10th largest publicly traded company on the planet. Massively OP readers know it best as the company that owns League of Legends studio Riot Games.

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Amazon job posting reveals New World details

A job listing for a player relations specialist may be inadvertently giving us a glimpse of a few details concerning Amazon’s upcoming New World MMORPG.

Tucked inside the job posting is a description of New World:

New World is a massively multiplayer, open-ended sandbox game that allows you to carve your own destiny with other players in a living, hostile, cursed land. How you play, what you do, and whom you work with or against is up to you. Live on your own amidst the supernatural terrors or join with others to build thriving civilizations. In this evolving world that transforms with the changing of the seasons, weather, and time of day, the only limit is your own ambition.

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Greg Street discusses balancing League of Legends for all skill levels

How do you balance a video game? It’s kind of an ongoing question, but it’s also one that Greg Street (aka Ghostcrawler) has been answering for years with work on both World of Warcraft and League of Legends. He gave a panel on exactly that topic for League of Legends at this year’s GDC, and you can now watch that hour-long talk in the video just past the break. And it’s a worthwhile topic from the start because he’s talking about balancing not for the best players or the worst, but for everyone.

This is important; balancing for new and inexperienced players only produces a game that doesn’t have the depth needed for long-term play, while balancing solely for veterans creates a game that’s impenetrable for newcomers. So how do you make a game that’s fun for people getting into the genre for the first time as well as people who eat, sleep, jungle, and repeat? Check out the video below (courtesy of Gamasutra) for one possible answer.

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Pearl Abyss might be hiring for a Black Desert Southeast Asia localization

It’s always tricky to suss out unannounced plans for a developer from nothing more than job postings, but that’s never stopped anyone before. Pearl Abyss, the developer behind Black Desert, is looking for a Southeast Asia Business PM right now. The ideal candidate will have knowledge of at least one regional language, prompting a question of whether or not the company is planning to expand the game into the region with official servers for Southeast Asia.

Obviously, nothing has yet been announced, up to and including a question of whether or not the hire would be relocated or if it would be a remote position. But there’s also nothing saying that the company won’t open a new branch office in the region to oversee a localized version. At the moment, all that can be said for certain is that a watchful eye has been turned upon Southeast Asia, and if you live in that region… well, you may have a localized version of the game soon.

Source: MMO Culture

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Disney’s new Star Wars land is half an MMO

Everybody’s doing sandbox MMOARGs these days — including Disney.

Disney World in Orlando has been working on a new Star Wars ride, glad news for anyone who barfed on the old one over the last couple of decades. But Disney is getting more than an updated ride: The Star Wars expansion land part of the park nabbed an extensive panel reveal during this past weekend’s Star Wars Celebration, and it definitely shares a bit in common with live-action MMOs.

“We wanted to build new Star Wars stories, new Star Wars destinations,” Disney Creative Exec Scott Trowbridge says, echoing thousands of giddy game devs before him, “but this time you can be in the story.”

To that end, Disney is setting the new area on a new-to-the-franchise planet, within the new trilogy timeline. Attendees will fly the Millennium Falcon as one of the “rides,” and what they do during one trip will affect the trip of the next batch of guests, with “total immersion” as the goal. You’ll also be picking… a faction.

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