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The category collects all of our more meta features and posts, like The Daily Grind, letters to the editor, and posts about the state-of-the-site. [Follow this category’s RSS feed]

Massively OP Podcast Episode 128: Geeks at Disney World

On this week’s show, Justin and Bree talk about a beloved MMO going mobile, the end of Guild Wars 2 (in a manner of speaking), the start of Dark and Light, LARPing at Disney World, and more!

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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Bless Online’s Rebuild Project homes in on character growth

Following the cancellation of the western version of Bless Online, Neowiz surprised everyone by announcing that it would be publishing the game here in the west on its own. Then last week, it announced a “Rebuild Project” for the whole game, which is expected to allow Neowiz giant do-over on everything from making gear feel more important to character progression, plus the revamped combat, unique class skills, better mount and pet content, a non-sucky crafting system, a tighter UI, and new PvP content. We’ve presumed that upgrades to the game overseas will eventually make their way to the version being promised for the west, particularly given that it was supposedly canceled originally over “quality standards” and “technical difficulties [that could not] be overcome.” Indeed, the long delay was at least in part a result of the combat system do-over Aeria said the game needed.

Since then, the entire official Korean site has been taken over with a huge “REBUILD” banner and Neowiz has published a fresh dev blog outlining the project’s seven main goals and homing in on the first: character growth. Google Translate isn’t exactly trustworthy here, but the gist seems to be that the studio finds the leveling up process both opaque in terms of power and limited in that gear capped progress. Under Rebuild, items themselves will pick up durability and reinforcements, what sounds like an evolution system for weapons, plus a disassembly system for junk.

Check out the whole thing on the official site — just bring your Korean dictionaries!

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The Daily Grind: When was the golden age of MMOs, or has it happened yet?

A year ago, we all tackled an Overthinking topic on the golden age of MMORPGs — whether there ever was one, and when precisely it might have been. One thing we didn’t much discuss? Whether the golden age hasn’t actually happened yet.

That idea bubbled back up in my brain this past week, when Microsoft exec Phil Harrison told GI.biz that the golden age of games — “democratisation of platforms, democratisation of technology to make content” — is yet to come.

“When I started out, 80% of your development budget would be writing your 3D engine, and you’d have to throw that way every time you make a new game. It’d almost be like a filmmaker throwing away the Panavision camera and reinventing another one each time they went to make a film. We’ve got to the point where the reach is there, the tools are there, the distribution is there, the ability to stand up an online service is there. And we can now start thinking about what happens when you have very believable worlds, very believable graphics, very sophisticated AI, what happens when those things co-exist? That’s a very interesting future.”

Harrison is talking about the gaming industry on the whole, of course, but we can drill down — MMOs are all about believable worlds and AI. What do you think? When was the golden age of MMOs? Or is our golden age yet to come?

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The Daily Grind: What’s your biggest pet peeve about early access MMOs?

Early access is kind of a garbage system for the vast majority of gamers. Yes, yes, I know, some games and game types just wouldn’t be made without it, and this is probably better than having no options at all. But the whole system is saddled with bullcrap, from unpaid testing and exploits and wipes to scope creep and content cuts and delays and outright abandonment. And, ahem, charging for expansions and housing plots and cosmetics while supposedly still in a test phase. It feels like perpetual amateur hour and I’m sick of it.

And yet for all that, there are a couple of things that really bug me more than anything else, and one of them is putting paid demos out there without female characters, with extra frowny-faces for making female avs a stretch goal. Even if a team says the male character is just a placeholder and that it’s working on the ladies, it still bugs me, as if we’re afterthoughts. Sure, non-transparent, non-early-access games do this (or related sins), but somehow it seems more obnoxious when gals are left out (and men are treated as generic/default) in tandem with the studio asking us for cash upfront.

That’s just one frustration among many, however, and obviously those of you who don’t play primarily women aren’t going to care quite as much as those of us who do. So what’s your biggest pet peeve about early access MMOs?

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WRUP: Fine ways to waste your life edition

Acquire the world’s largest collection of unopened expired mayonnaise jars. Start a band with the goal of having the world’s best cover of 4’33”. Develop an extensive database and software designed to allow people to see which state comptrollers through history would win in a boating contest. Run for president of your bedroom by campaigning around the neighborhood. Use a dedicated scientific experiment to determine exactly how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. Devote your life to finding an insult that upsets owls.

Sent letters to celebrities using cut-out magazine letters indicating that you hope they are all having great days. Translate “Baby Got Back” into Aramaic. Find out which Whole Foods in the nation will let you stand in the produce department while yelling out the names of Transformers for the longest period of time before you are thrown out. Write nonsensical introductions to What Are You Playing. Learn how to install and have passionate opinions about various versions of Linux.

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Massively Overthinking: Building a better MMORPG economy

We are on a roll with the epic questions for Overthinking lately! “The recent article about monetization got me thinking about just how much most modern MMOs are still trying to replicate real-world capitalist economies,” MOP Patron Avaera begins.

“Virtual currency is usually earned proportional to various measures of virtual effort that are intended to be wealth-generating activities – selling loot earned from skillful PvE hunting, selling crafted goods made from resources gathered over time, owning items or land that generates tradeable material over time. However, virtual effort doesn’t have the quite the same limitations, scarcity, and creativity as real-world effort, and these systems seem prone to exploitation by users/bots that can easily outmatch casual players in terms of how much virtual effort and time they can expend, leading to various RMT problems and artificially distorted economies. How would you go about avoiding this problem, if you had the god-like powers of a game designer? Is there a way to set up a virtual economy so that it isn’t prone to exploitation by bots or gold-farmers, and will we ever see a virtual game currency that can truly be exchanged with a real one?”

I posed Avaera’s question to our staff to mull over.

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Grab a Hand of the Gods: SMITE Tactics Egyptian starter pack from Hi-Rez and MOP!

In celebration of the open beta launch of Hand of the Gods: SMITE Tactics, Hi-Rez Studios has granted Massively OP a bajillion keys for Egyptian Starter Packs for the game. It grants a trio of cards (Cataclysm, Magma Slam, and Geb) for PC players to help ya get started. Click the Mo button below (and prove you’re not a robot) to grab one of these keys!

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Massively OP Podcast Episode 127: EVE walks no more

On this week’s show, Justin and Bree recount the odd history of Walking in Stations, debate the Mordor pre-order, tackle a trio of MMO updates, talk with ARK’s soundtrack composer, and more!

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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Bless Online is being heavily overhauled by Neowiz before coming west

Back in June, Neowiz and Aeria Games/Gamigo confirmed that they’d mutually ended their partnership to make Aeria the western Bless Online publisher. While initially the studios stated the MMO had been canceled for our region and wasn’t coming westward at all thanks to “quality standards” and “technical difficulties [that] cannot be overcome,” Neowiz quickly moved to suggest that it would be publishing the game here in the west on its own, presumably with the combat system do-over Aeria had begun and Neowiz said it was continuing.

Now we have a better idea of just what that means.

Yesterday Neowiz announced what it’s calling the “Rebuild Project” for the whole game, which will allow the studio to “abandon the current structure and make it from scratch,” gutting some of the game’s underlying systems and content and adding new. Specifically, Neowiz says it’s making gear feel more important to character progression, revamping combat, retooling class skills and unique feel, creating variety and fun for mounts and pet content, adjusting crafting to not be “useless,” and improving the UI experience. New PvP content (a capture-the-flag map?) is also under development for August; the screenshots in this post show the new area.

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The Daily Grind: Which MMORPG is the worst for duos?

As I’ve been playing Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind the past week or two, my husband has been watching me from the depths of his Overwatch games, toying with picking up a Morrowind copy for himself to join me. The thing is, we both know that the game experience in ESO is sometimes hindered by the addition of more people, as the throngs of people plunging past me into my sneaky missions demonstrate on the daily.

It reminded me of something blogger Syncaine wrote earlier this year about ESO: “It’s very obvious a huge chunk of the game is aimed to be played solo, and not only do you not benefit from bringing someone else, in many cases you are punished or annoyed.”

I can think of a lot of MMOs that are great for duoing, but I don’t think I’ve ever thought about the absolute worst MMO for bringing a friend along for basic leveling and questing, and for all its petty annoyances, I suspect ESO isn’t that far down the list. Which MMORPG would you argue is the worst for duos?

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The Daily Grind: Which MMO IP should Disney themeparkify next?

Following Disney’s announcement of the Star Wars Hotel in the Galaxy’s Edge Disney subpark this weekend, my MMO guildies were joking about using the location for a guild meet-up in a few years. (Well, they were joking; I was serious! Teenage Bree would literally be shrieking incoherently over this thing. I practically still am.) The new bit is basically a Star Wars LARP hotel where you walk around in costume (and presumably in-character).

“It’s unlike anything that exists today. From the second you arrive, you will become a part of a Star Wars story! You’ll immediately become a citizen of the galaxy and experience all that entails, including dressing up in the proper attire. Once you leave Earth, you will discover a starship alive with characters, stories, and adventures that unfold all around you. It is 100 percent immersive, and the story will touch every single minute of your day, and it will culminate in a unique journey for every person who visits.”

So basically, it’s an MMORPG that skips right past VR and into real life. Will it be awesome? It’s going to cost a fortune, so probably — although if Westworld is any guide, people will still pay fortunes to show up and be idiots. My guildies will probably just spend all their time playing sabacc in the cantina, so we may as well just stay home and save the dough.

But Star Wars is my particular obsession; I’m sure you folks can think of other IPs, specifically MMO IPs, that would work even better for a bajillion-dollar vanity LARP. Which MMO IP should Disney themeparkify next? (Points to whoever says Revival first!)

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WRUP: The interactive Massively Overpowered museum edition

Here at Massively Overpowered, we’re always pushing the boundaries of ways we can expand the understanding of the public while brushing up against the absolute boundaries of what is actually legal. That’s why we’re happy to announce the new interactive Massively Overpowered museum, where not only do you get to interact with the exhibits, but we encourage you to. We don’t give you a choice.

To start the experience, we throw mildly expired meat at you as soon as you’ve paid the $20 entry fee. Then we open the trap doors and fling you into the roaming cat exhibit, where several wild cats of varying degrees of ferocity will come after you. Once you’ve experienced the depths of our cat exhibit, we then open the door to the Live Current Sparking Through Open Wires exhibit.

Some people might say that we’re trying to simply defer the costs of a disastrous attempt at establishing a poorly constructed grocery store in a region infested with wild cats by pretending that it’s a museum. To that, we say that it’s What Are You Playing time and you should let us know when to expect you at the museum.

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Massively Overthinking: Consumer protections in the MMORPG industry

Veteran Massively OP reader Miol says he’s exhausted by a recent string of stories in which MMO companies screw gamers over, one after another: ARK Survival Evolved, Albion Online, Skyforge, and now Black Desert all figure into his list, just from the last week.

“I want to ask what more can gamers do to protect themselves and everyone else as consumers than speak up? It feels exhausting to always stay vigilant and feel upset all the time, since games, as an everchanging medium, give devs so many opportunities to screw us over with every single patch or update. And the worst immediate consequence seems many times a meek apology for what they’ve done, only for them to try out something different that maybe could go over unnoticed.

“You guys have reported about this UK watchdog group ASA, who investigated No Man’s Sky, but even they dismissed the tons of complaints about false advertising. Steam did declare some changes to advertising on their platform, but I still don’t see them taken place. If even those big negative stories don’t have that much of an impact, what hope is there for all the smaller communities, spread thin globally? There was a recent wave of gamers imploring each other to not pre-order, but that ebbed away fast enough, when the next shiny pre-order advantages over other players were presented. But even so, this still can’t protect you from what may happen after the launch!

“As said by Bree many times: Merely quitting won’t help either, as the studio will never know why most of the times. But also sending feedback for nine whole days didn’t help Skyforge players to make its devs to scramble! So what else could we do? Or should we just take rotating shifts to call them out?”

We’ll take the first shift right here in Overthinking.

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