blogosphere

EVE Online gives love to planetary interaction, looks back at an all-female pirate gang

Creating and maintaining planetary colonies in EVE Online isn’t exactly new, as the system dates back to 2010. But the developers have deemed it high past time that they give this creaky system some love with the upcoming Into the Abyss expansion.

“Most of the changes are aimed at making setup and maintenance of your colonies less painful, especially when it comes to all the clicking that is currently involved in setting up a colony,” CCP said in a dev blog on the system. Lots of changes to planetary interaction are in the works, including a new planetary colonies window to help you keep track of your projects.

And while things get ordered down on the surfaces of planets, out in space it’s still the anything-goes sandbox that EVE has always been. One interesting piece of the game’s history that was recently documented by PC Gamer was the story of the Hellcats, an all-female fleet that pushed back against the notion that the MMO is strictly a game for men. The fleet only ran for two-years, but its legacy still lives on today.

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Crowfall improves its time-based skill leveling

Similar to how skill training works in EVE Online, Crowfall uses a time-based skill-up system that accrues points whether or not the player is online. The dev team took some time recently to evaluate how the system was working out in testing and decided that it could benefit from some improvements.

While a dev blog goes into depth on the minutiae of the tweaks, the gist is that the entire system will accrue points in a “time bank” for players to spend on skill nodes when they log in each session. Many of the skill trees have been streamlined as well.

VIP players are going to have an advantage over regular players with this system, as they will get a much larger time bank (30 days vs. three days) and the ability to train two types of skill trees at once instead of one.

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Massively Overthinking: What we really mean when we talk about ‘difficulty’ in MMORPGs

Massively OP reader Steve wants us to revisit the Daily Grind on making death more meaningful without making it more annoying. His letter was long, so let me paraphrase a bit:

“It feels to me like underlying point was, ‘MMOs are too easy, so how do we make them harder?’ The question of video game difficulty is something that is seldom ever tackled head-on, as it tends to draw out a somewhat vocal minority. There are so many worthy topics about how people define difficulty, twitch skills vs. depth, easy vs. hard, difficulty vs. accessibility, easy vs. engaging, shallowness vs. depth, and so on. These are things I’d love to really see discussed more online, and very few sites will actually touch it. But I think that MOP’s community is overall mature enough to actually have some discussions about this without it devolving into a fist fight.”

I’m sure you’ll prove him right! Right, guys? Guys? So let’s talk about MMO difficulty in this week’s Massively Overthinking. What do we really mean when we talk about “difficulty” in MMORPGs? Are games easier than they used to be, and if so, is there something studios should do to change that?
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Battle Bards Episode 119: Skyforge

Believe it or not, it’s the Battle Bards’ fifth anniversary! From its weirdly humble beginnings back in 2013 to our arrogant ramblings here in 2018, coverage of MMO music must continue! In today’s episode, we’ll be listening to a surprisingly good soundtrack: Skyforge. Yes, that Russian sci-fi MMO from the Allods team that lets you grow into your ego as a god. Groove on these tunes and see if there’s a new sleeper soundtrack waiting for you!

Battle Bards is a bi-weekly podcast that alternates between examining a single MMO’s soundtrack and exploring music tracks revolving around a theme. MOP’s Justin co-hosts with bloggers Steff and Syl. The cast is available on iTunesGoogle PlayTuneInPocket CastsStitcher, and Player.FM.

Listen to Episode 119: Skyforge (or download it) now:

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Elder Scrolls Online’s new video summarizes the snobby elves of Summerset

Just as Morrowind was much more than elves, so is Summerset, but it’s hard for the elves in this elven kingdom not to take center stage. ZeniMax is demonstrating just that with its latest Elder Scrolls Online video and dev blog, which describes the Altmer as stereotypically pretentious, vain perfectionists who are traditionally isolationist. In other words, they aren’t all going to welcome your outlander self just because their Queen has opened the borders.

“When building Summerset, the primary thing that we were trying to show was the history of the people who live there,” ZeniMax explains. “Players can explore the ruins of ancient Elven architecture throughout the zone, and see in the cities how the more recent High Elf civilization has continued to build on top of those ancient foundations.”

You can check out that video down below, then hit up today’s earlier piece, which includes some of the new bits that just hit the test server!

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SuperData examines the lootbox controversy’s effect on EA and the gaming industry

How big a deal with the lootbox controversy that finally hit the mainstream last year? Pretty big, SuperData argues. In a new blog post, the analytics firm argues that “the loot box controversy hampered Star Wars Battlefront II out of the gate” as shown by the game’s monthly active users compared to its predecessor’s, and that the resulting dumpster fire has caused publishers to rethink lootboxes and self-regulate or at least modulate their greed – an effect we’ve already seen in the MMO industry too.

“At the upcoming E3, we’re likely to see presenters announce ‘no loot boxes’ or that paid content is ‘cosmetic only’ in order to get on the good side of creators and hardcore gamers,” SuperData predicts. “Loot boxes won’t disappear anytime soon given their success in games like Overwatch (over $600M of loot boxes sold through February 2018). In the short term, though, ‘No loot boxes’ will be the game industry’s own ‘gluten free water’ — and we’re likely to even see this slogan used to market titles where loot boxes would not make sense such as adventure games.”

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Saga of Lucimia defends Star Citizen’s slow progress, Shroud of the Avatar’s transparency

One of the challenges for indie and crowdfunded MMORPGs is surely the nature of their development: plugging along without much fanfare, with players seeing only one part of the equation. Saga of Lucimia has a piece out meant to show what that behind-the-scenes iteration looks like in the construction of an in-game asset as it travels from art concept to 3-D model to textured asset to something that’s added to the world by a different team entirely. But then what might be a mundane art blog takes a sharp turn to talk about other MMORPGs and their communities and expectations.

“There’s a major disconnect with some players when it comes to the misconceptions regarding iterations over the course of the game’s development,” argues Lucimia Creative Director Tim “Renfail” Anderson. “We see a lot of anger around the ‘net in regards to how things change over time with almost every MMORPG’s development, with many claiming the developers lied about how something was going to work, or how something was perceived as being a certain way, and then when it doesn’t work out quite the way players perceived, they claim that the developers deceived them, and that the launched product isn’t anything like what was initially discussed during the development process. The perfect example of this is Star Citizen/Squadron 42.”

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Global Chat: Giving Project Gorgon a try

With Project Gorgon now out on Steam early access, many first-time visitors to this strange game are feeling out the world and its systems. So what are they discovering?

Tales of the Aggronaut said that he was “hooked” when he put in a good weekend: “Part of the charm of this game is that it plops you into the game with no real warning or advisement about what you should be doing.”

“There’s never any doubting the sheer personality evident in every aspect of the game,” recommended Inventory Full. “The enthusiasm and good nature of the tiny development team sweeps all cynicism away.”

Project Gorgon not your cup of tea? Join us after the break for blog essays on Second Life, RIFT Prime, Shroud of the Avatar, and even Dungeons & Dragons!

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Massively Overthinking: The best of PAX East and GDC in 2018

The past couple of weeks has been wild as we dispatched writers to GDC in San Francisco and PAX East in Boston to gather up and bring back everything they could on the MMORPGs large and small on the spring convention circuit. In fact, as I type this, we’ve got Brendan in Reykjavik for EVE Fanfest too! So for this week’s Overthinking, we’re rounding up our coverage and then reflecting on the best and worst as we pick out what most excites, surprises, and disappoints us: First the roundups, then our thoughts. Read on!

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Noted statistician blasts 2013 paper that links aggression and video games

Last month, as part of our ongoing dialogue about video games and violence, we covered a brand-new paper that found that playing video games didn’t make adults more violent. The important takeaway was that the study was a longitudinal study that spanned two months of testing, one of the first – probably the very first – to cover that expanded length of time. Down in our comments, our readers argued over whether or not even two months deserved to be called long-term; a lot of gamers really want to see much longer-term studies to more definitely counter the politically tinged anti-video game rhetoric currently festering in the US.

And we’re not the only ones debating that very question. MOP tipster Eliot pointed us to the blog of Columbia University statistician Dr Andrew Gelman, who takes issue with a totally different paper, this one from 2013; its title also claims to represent a “long-term” study and in so doing made it into a peer-reviewed journal (with over 100 citations, not to mention news articles, since), in spite of the fact that it’s not actually long-term at all: Subjects played 20 minutes a day for three whole days.

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Crowfall’s 5.5 pre-alpha is live with female centaurs, player vendors, and a new map

Crowfall is ready to push its pre-alpha testing phase to the limit. A new dev video from ArtCraft this week shows off some of the new content in its 5.5 version, focusing on its new map, Wrath. Wrath includes new adventure zones, which are basically high-stakes PvE areas. I spy lots and lots of spiders! There’s also a new high-elf companion, the female Centaur variant, badges, updated visuals for specific spells and weapons, and the new health and recovery system. Crafters and merchants are in for a treat too, as player vendors are totally in. It’s starting to look pretty slick.

And that all means it’s time to break the servers! “The Pre-Alpha 1 through Beta 3 test groups are encouraged to log onto the LIVE servers and keep an eye on the in-game Global chat channel for announcements about concentrating on single servers and specific areas,” ArtCraft says. “You’ll often be playing with and against members of the Crowfall dev team as we gather data related to scalability. This is very important to ensure fun, speed and stability for players, so we need as many Crows as we can get piling onto the servers.”

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Here’s how Sea of Thieves is addressing brig and respawn griefing

Rare isn’t completely oblivious to the griefing going on in Sea of Thieves, even if it probably hoped gamers wouldn’t notice so damn much of it. A blog post from Executive Producer Joe Neate explains that it’s attacking griefplay from multiple angles.

  • Insta-brig abuse will be stymied by management tools that give players the power over whether they are open to matchmaking in the first place. Matchmaker filtering by mic status and language will also be possible.
  • Rare is changing ship respawn view distance so the ship that sunk you can’t immediately find you and do it again and again.
  • And the studio is pushing players toward scuttling in the event that their ship is taken over and they’re repeatedly murdered by the invaders. “We’ll assess this before taking further steps,” Rare says. “We are also considering options around moving ships to other world instances if they are caught in a griefing situation.”

What would have been even better is if Rare had listened to alpha players (or any griefplay observers from the last couple of decades) and fixed it before launch, but we’ll take it.

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Massively Overthinking: How do you maintain your health while binging MMORPGs?

Kotaku put out a piece this week on how to game without wrecking your body, something that’s probably bound to come up in the average MMORPG player’s life. It’s filled with basic tips like “drink water, ya moron” and “sit up straight” and “don’t eat garbage” and “look at stuff other than the screen” but there are also some useful tips in there like “stretch before you binge” – including your hips and wrists, which you might otherwise overlook.

For this week’s Overthinking, I’ve asked the writers to expound on two things: first, the most unhealthy video gaming moment or habit they’ve ever had, and second, one specific thing they do to keep themselves from completely destroying their bodies when their hobby has become their career.

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