Path of Exile has 'a lot more expansions coming'

Pretty much every MMO player dreams of sitting his or her favorite developers down to get the honest and direct truth. While Grinding Gear Games isn't making house calls (yet), the dev team did make an effort to satisfy community curiosity by tackling an assortment of 30 submitted questions about Path of Exile.

There was some concern over the potential for a bug flood when the expansion drops this fall. GGG said that it's on top of it: "There's a lot changing in 3.0.0 so there's a lot of scope for problems to creep in unless we find them. To deal with this, we've expanded our QA team over the years and it's currently the largest it has ever been. In addition, we're running a beta for 3.0.0 specifically to find problems before they affect the live realm."

There was no confirmation regarding a launch date for the expansion, but the team did discuss lengthening the ignore list, trade improvements, the Xbox One launch, and controller support. The team also hinted that there are "a lot more" expansions being planned for the MMO.

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Shroud of the Avatar's new 'outskirts' maps should be a big help for newbies

Shroud of the Avatar's latest newsletter -- its 220th for those keeping track at home -- got a fresh coat of paint to celebrate, and as usual, it's stuffed full of screenshots. Some of those pics feature the Verdantis Mines, a gemstone-studded underground area, and the Kas Ruins (Helm's Deep, anyone?), both being built for Release 41 or 42. There's also a spotlight on a player-owned town, Owl Sky City, and a ton of videos on Obsidian Cabalist weapons.

What caught my attention, however, was the Solace Bridge Outskirts section, as its entry marks a bit of a design shift for Portalarium. "For several years now our backers have been providing us feedback that the first few hours of our game have several major issues," explains the studio. "Those issues include too many loading screens, scenes that are too small, and starting towns that include player housing / vendors. As we shift our focus to improving the New User Experience (NUE) and as we are able to measure new player progress through events like our recent free trial we realize that we must address these issues sooner versus later."

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The Stream Team: Helping HEX's lost gnomes

Now that Massively OP's MJ has finally gotten one group of HEX's lost gnomes to safety, she can move on to other adventures.  But there are more stranded gnomes, and she can't just leave them there, all sad and cowering in fear.  So she's heading back across the desert and facing more giant worms in order to rescue the rest. Join us live at 4:00 p.m. as MJ battles more worms.

What: HEX
Who: MJ Guthrie
When: 4:00 p.m. EDT on Monday, March 27th, 2017

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Ashes of Creation really wants you to grok its node system

We've teased upcoming Ashes of Creation for its "nodes," and apparently Intrepid Studios agrees that they're confusing, as the MMORPG has released a dev blog this afternoon explaining just what they are, again.

"Nodes are a pre-set location, wrapped in a zone of influence, in our world that can form into towns of different sizes. These sizes range from a small camp to a sprawling metropolis. The size of the towns depends on the contribution by players and how far they’ve advanced the Node. Players do not create the footprint of a Node, but within that footprint they do have the ability to own land. Players who are part of the government for a specific Node will have the ability to modify building types and services further, but for the most part, a Node will grow along its own specific path (think about this more as NPCs building these towns out, rather than PCs individually putting buildings and walls up). A Node’s contribution area is larger than the actual town itself, allowing for players to adventure while building upon the town. We call the contribution area the Node’s 'Zone of Influence,' and it’s the area where players help to advance the Node they are in."

Nodes can grow into towns, and players who perform activities within their boundaries contribute back to the node (and vice versa), but the size of the municipalities is limited; there can be only so many huge, sprawling metropoleis at a time, after all. Nodes will also have a determined type -- military, divine, economic, and scientific -- which will provide benefits to the associated activities.

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The Game Archaeologist: How DikuMUD shaped modern MMOs

Even though there are hundreds and thousands of MMOs spanning several decades, only a small handful were so incredibly influential that they changed the course of development for games from then on out. DikuMUD is one of these games, and it is responsible for more of what you experience in your current MMOs than you even know.

Of course, that doesn't mean everyone knows what DikuMUD is or how it shaped the MMOs that came out after it. You might have seen it used as a pejorative in enough comments that you know it is loathed by many gamers, but I find that there are varying degrees of ignorance about DikuMUD in the community. What is it, exactly? Why is it just the worst? And is it really the worst if we like the games that can point to this text-based MMO as a key ancestor?

Today we're going to dispel the mystery and myths of DikuMUD to lay it out there as it was and is today.

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World of Warcraft 7.2 Tomb of Sargeras survival guide and patch notes

Blizzard has just dropped its official survival guide and patch notes for World of Warcraft 7.2: The Tomb of Sargeras, which is loading for launch tomorrowday.

Amusingly, 7.2 does not actually feature the Tomb of Sargeras, or at least it won't tomorrow; the raid itself will open once the patch settles in, par for the course for WoW (and other Blizz properties, for that matter) nowadays. What is going live, however, is the new Broken Shore zone, the Cathedral of Eternal Night dungeon, challenge artifact skins, rebalanced legendaries, new traits, and more order hall research options, plus proper flight privileges, long a source of contention in the community.

While you wait, check out out own look at the ramifications of the patch and the content cycle, and don't forget the survival guide tucked down below, as well as Blizzard's ongoing sale.

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Sims Online emulator's test server sees strong community interest

The underground revival of The Sims Online is seeing marked interest from the community, as players are checking out the current FreeSO beta. In fact, a month ago, the team set up a Sunrise Crater test server and has been pleased to see the activity that it has generated.

"At max, we’ve sustained 350 concurrent players in around 60 lots, on one server box," the team reported. "There are just over 2,000 lots on the map, and 11,521 avatars in existence. Cumulatively, sims have §75,528,319 in the bank, and have bought §92,393,467 worth of objects (191,956 objects)!"

A wipe will eventually hit the test server, but this won't be coming for a while. The lead developer said that players shouldn't expect any major new features soon, as he needs to finish up his Masters project first. So for the time being, "bug fixes and stability" are the mantra of this game. FreeSO actually had to downshift from an open beta to a closed one back in early January due to the server getting swamped.

Source: FreeSO

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Mark Kern's Em-8ER on omniframe classes, THMPR animations

Mark Kern's crowdfunded MMO-shooter Em-8ER has a slew of new videos out this week featuring animations for the THMPR, finishing off the mech's "basic animation set."

"Next up is our test terrain and skybox, then importing the animations into Unreal and wiring everything together," Kern says. Over the weekend, he also posted a "draft spec" on the powered armorsuits in the game known as "omniframes." They're basically the game's equivalent of classes; Kern likens them to building a deck in a collectible card game. Warframe-ish, maybe?

Back in February, we covered how the name "Em-8ER" came to be, but that's probably not going to stop you from snarking, is it? Kern himself is well-known to the MMORPG genre thanks to his involvement with Firefall and the vanilla WoW community. He has previously discussed his plans for this shooter, including "serial Kickstarting" and a Firefall-esque foundation that doesn't "drift over to 'WoW with guns' again." Studio Crixa has raised $23,000 to date through crowdfunding and has since offered Firefall players credit toward the new game.

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Wisdom of Nym: Speculating on the healer skills Final Fantasy XIV could delete

Tomorrow, we're getting the end of the Heavensward story quests in Final Fantasy XIV, which means I need to start looking at Heavensward as a whole. For now, however, we can look forward to Stormblood and ask ourselves what we're not going to be using any longer as healers. And this wrapped up just before the final story patch, so I feel rather satisfied about how that timing worked out.

I'd say "all according to plan" if I remembered actually planning it this way.

As with previous installments, I'd advise you to take a look back through past articles in this series; the first one has tanks and the general philosophy, while the second column tackles melee damage and the third tackles ranged damage of all flavors. Today, we're finishing things off with healers. That's kind of a tangled mess with every option other than White Mage, but we'll plot a course.

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Kickstarter celebrates 10,000 funded games projects

Kickstarter announced last week that donors have officially backed 10,000 funded games projects.

That's almost 2.5 million people pledging $613 million; more than half of those donors backed multiple projects. The numbers encompass all games, not just video games, but it's still meaty, and it's come a long way since the 2013 $100 million pledged mark.

Kickstarter's own tracking page says there have been 121,758 successfully funded projects to date, with almost $3 billion in pledges. The success rate overall has fallen in the last five years, from 44% in 2012 to just under 36% as of today.

Statista shows the games category specifically in fifth place behind music, film and video, publishing, and art as of January. Journalism, we'd like to note, is down at the bottom in terms of success rates, making us eternally grateful to our backers who helped us beat the odds.

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Blizzard is rolling out StarCraft: Remastered for hardcore fans

It's been a very long time since StarCraft was first released. By this point, the original game is just part of the landscape, and the gameplay itself has aged pretty well. The game has not, however; it was never really designed for modern systems, and the graphics look like a blurry mess between story cutscenes that are literally talking heads on monitors. It's the sort of game that's ripe for an upgrade with a delicate touch, something that doesn't touch the actual game but adjusts the metaphorical wrapper. You know, like what Blizzard announced for StarCraft: Remastered.

No changes will be made to the actual gameplay, game balance, or so forth of StarCraft with this release; however, the developers are promising modern matchmaking and Blizzard app integration along with redone graphics (complete with the ability to zoom in and out), re-recorded audio and music, and new comic book-style scenes between missions to tell the story more organically. If you've never really moved on from the game, this is unambiguously good news; you can put your long-in-the-tooth Brood War CD away and still get all of the same actual gameplay.

Source: Blizzard press release

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