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Halloween events across the MMORPG verse, 2017 edition

Hey, you. Yeah, you, dude leeching candy from the bucket you bought “for the neighborhood kids.” And you, lady still trying to decide between “Princess Leia” and “lazy zombie” for your costume (go Leia, duh). Put all that aside and get into some MMOs instead! Halloween is only one night in real life, but in MMORPGs, it goes on for days or even weeks. Some studios will probably even forget to turn it off! Others will let you run around with a flaming pumpkin head mask for all eternity!

Here’s what we’re looking at this year for Halloween across the MMORPG verse.

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Activision secures patent for software to trick you into buying cash shop stuff, seriously

Hey, gang, this is absolutely wonderful. Activision has filed and been granted a patent for software designed to push you into buying cash shop crappies through the most insidious means possible. The breakdown is fairly straightforward: Once you buy something, the game’s matchmaking software will push you to a match where that something would be very effective or where another player’s purchases would influence your purchases, thus creating positive feedback and inspiring you to buy more! Isn’t that grand?

For those keeping track at home, this is starting to cross the line from gambling over to extortion, which is not a pleasant road to be walking. If you thought microtransactions amounted to a cash shop wholly separate from gameplay and you never had to worry about it influencing anything else, you were wrong.

Activision’s official statement is that this was simply a patent filed for exploratory software and it has not been implemented in any games. Said statement does not include phrases like “will not,” of course, so draw your own conclusions about when and whether it will show up. You can also draw your own conclusions about how shady it is, but the answer is pretty decidedly “super shady.”

Source: Kotaku, Rolling Stone; thanks to OneEyeRed and Leiloni for the tip!

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Guild Wars 2’s Halloween event heralds new mount skins and new content

Guild Wars 2’s Halloween festivities have officially begun! The Mad King’s gala has a few new additions this year, including new themed guild decor, new daily achievements, new Halloween minis, a new race event in the Labyrinth (and yes, mounts are allowed), and new armor. Expect quite a bit of polish and bug fixing for Path of Fire zones as well, plus a new mounts tab.

Why would you need a new mounts tab? Well! The mount skins rumors swirling earlier this week appear to have been proven true, as the cash shop’s been updated with this:

“Spooky Mounts Pack: Help your new buddies celebrate their first holiday in style with these gruesome-yet-family-friendly costumes. They come in a five-pack so nobody’s left out, and you can even dye them to match…whatever you’re supposed to be dressed as.”

Now there’s an interesting precedent, I think you’ll agree! Datamining has revealed even more - click for spoilers!

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EVE Evolved: EVE Online’s free-to-play upgrades are pretty damn generous

You’ve probably heard by now that EVE Online is giving its free-to-play alpha clone characters a massive boost in power in December about a month after the launch of the Lifeblood expansion. The news has been spreading through the gaming media since it was announced last week at EVE Vegas 2017 and the reception online has been generally positive. Some existing players are worried that the change might even be too generous, with fears that veteran players may let their subscriptions lapse and play for free, or that the new skills might be abused to create an endless army of ganking alts.

There’s no doubt that the changes will help to close the power gap between subscribers and free players and will open up new avenues of gameplay. Free players will finally be able to fly tech 1 battlecruisers and even battleships, and cross-training for multiple races will unlock multi-faction ships such as the Sisters of EVE exploration ships. Alpha clone players will also finally be able to use tech 2 weapons and fly many of the ship setups flown in massive nullsec wars, though the way that the new skill limit is being implemented may actually benefit old and returning players more than new ones.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I dig into the free-to-play changes, briefly examine the power gap between free and subscribed players, and look at who will benefit most from the change.

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Perfect Ten: Why no one should recommend World of Warcraft ever

Last week, MOP’s Justin (friend to man and beast alike) posted his list of MMOs he would recommend people play. It was a pretty good list! It wasn’t the list I would have written, but that’s why we’re separate people and not a single fused mass pulling ourselves along on withered, inhuman appendages. That would cause lots of problems in our respective marriages, for one thing. Also, it’d probably render us ineligible to collect multiple paychecks.

One thing I did not ask, however, was why he didn’t include World of Warcraft as a game he would recommend, even though some of our readers wondered it aloud. I would think that the reason for that would be pretty obvious, given that it was a list of Justin’s recommendations. But because I do love being contrary, there’s a good list of reasons why no one, ever, should recommend World of Warcraft as a game to be tried. Under any circumstances. Let’s even make it a nice round dozen reasons… but then subtract two, for no good reason.

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Naoki Yoshida apologizes for Final Fantasy XIV housing mess, outlines future plans

If you missed this particular bit of drama, here’s the TL;DR recap. Final Fantasy XIV releases patch 4.1, which includes the new housing wards. Those wards are gone before the first hour has passed, meaning that the vast majority of people who wanted something for housing didn’t get anything. A light is shined, yet again, on the fact that housing in the game has serious design issues for availability. Clear on all that? Great, now you can appreciate the official response from director Naoki Yoshida.

No, this is actually a good thing.

Yoshida’s response explains, in no uncertain terms, that the team vastly underestimated the number of people looking forward to housing in Shirogane and will be working to add additional housing plots for the game’s next major patch. There’s also the implication that sales and even structure for these plots may be notably different, as the team is reviewing a great deal of feedback to prevent the Shirogane issues from showing up again. To avoid speculation, nothing will be announced on this until it is ready. While it’s too early to say exactly what form this will take, it seems clear that the complaints about how badly housing has been handled will result in some changes.

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But seriously, lockboxes suck, even if the ESRB doesn’t think they’re gambling. Stop buying lockboxes.

So, MMO players. Are you tired of hearing about lockboxes and gambleboxes? It feels like we’ve been complaining about them for like six or seven years now, probably because we have. It wasn’t cute back when City of Heroes was trying it, nope. Heck, it wasn’t cute back when Star Wars Galaxies was trying it with card packs. Now it’s every damn game, and it’s gone way beyond MMOs. I’m not sick of hearing about it myself. I’m just sick of dealing with it like a pestilence making me hate the games and developers who exploit them.

Maybe there’s a light at the end of the tunnel: As more AAA online gaming studios figure out that lockbox gambling garbage is a fast ticket to easy money, more mainstream gamers are catching wind of the scam and raising objections, so it’s not just MMO players all by our lonesomes anymore. Indeed, this week multiple game critics, YouTubers, and review services have come out against lockboxes, from Boogie to TotalBiscuit, the latter of whom has called for ESRB intervention. Reviews aggregator OpenCritic has further said it’s “going to take a stand against loot boxes” by taking crappy business practices into account. The ESRB doesn’t care, by the way, and as blogger Isarii has pointed, the self-regulatory body has conveniently twisted the meaning of gambling to avoid dealing with the problem, thereby failing to protect us from it, but that’s just making people angrier.

So hey, you know what, studios? Keep screwing up with lootboxes. Keep attracting mainstream anger, keep disrespecting us, until it all boils over, one way or another, and you can’t exploit us anymore. And in the meantime, people? Stop. Buying. Lockboxes.

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Final Fantasy XIV launches patch 4.1 (and no, you can’t get a house)

Yes, Final Fantasy XIV has dropped patch 4.1; if you were trying to get a house, you both already knew that and are already out of luck. To the surprise of absolutely no one who has seen this happen before, housing sold out within moments of the servers coming up, something that has been joked about on the game’s subreddit for months now (there’s a reason they call it Shirogane Savage). This is, of course, not a new problem. Further analysis on that problem can wait until… oh, let’s say tomorrow; this system isn’t becoming less messy before that.

On the other hand, there’s still plenty of other content in the patch to enjoy, with an expanded main scenario, new Beast Tribe quests, the Royal City of Rabanastre, and so forth. You can check out the full patch notes on the official site (although some of the items are still not listed in the notes) and check out the trailer for the patch down below.

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EVE Vegas 2017: CCP announces new EVE-based mobile MMO Project Aurora

At the opening presentations of EVE Vegas 2017, CCP Games announced that it has teamed up with mobile developer PlayRaven to produce a totally new free-to-play mobile MMO set in the EVE Online universe. Currently codenamed Project Aurora, the new game won’t be connected to the EVE universe directly but is thematically set in EVE and has some similar gameplay elements such as territorial warfare and corporation politics.

Each player in Aurora will take command of an upgradable space station, from which ships can be dispatched to gather resources and capture territory. You’ll find yourself on a star map with other players doing the exact same, and can forge alliances, form corporations, and betray other players just like in EVE. The goal is to fight for possession of ancient artifacts in the centre of the map that you can then use to fix a broken ancient stargate and move onto the next map. Each jump brings you one step closer to the ultimate goal of reaching the center of the galaxy — I’ll take a pause here for those currently experiencing No Man’s Sky flashbacks.

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Exclusive Guild Wars 2 interview on Path of Fire’s launch and philosophy

Spurred on by my excitement for Guild Wars 2‘s second expansion, Path of Fire, I reached out to ArenaNet shortly before release to secure a post-launch interview to ensure all my most burning questions could be answered. I drafted my questions not long after launch, and while I most definitely wished to discover whether the initial launch hiccups affected the immediate uptake of the expansion, beyond that I sought more information on the development of such a decisively different expansion than Heart of Thorns was.

This launch diary installment will share ArenaNet’s responses to my PoF questions: Mounts, elite specializations, and the new maps were huge topics of discussion aside from the more general launch and development questions I had. Read on!

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Flameseeker Chronicles: One week into Guild Wars 2’s Path of Fire

I’ve had my hands on Guild Wars 2‘s second expansion for a week and some change now and have built up a more solid picture of Path of Fire in that time. I have to say that I’m still just as impressed as I was when I wrote my first launch diary entry: I’ve completed the main story at this point (though I’m getting ready to rerun it again to bank achievements I missed on the first run-through), and aside from my launch weekend issues and some niggly mechanics along the way, I’ve been blown away by the quality offered in terms of story content, mount mechanics, and the new elite specialisations.

In this edition of Flameseeker Chronicles, I’ll continue my launch coverage by discussing some more in-depth points that I’ve noted now that I’ve had a full week of play time (although it’s been over a week, the EU connection issues largely killed the first few days for me), and I’ll also look at some not-too-surprising but still greatly appreciated benefits the expansion has had on Central Tyria and Heart of Thorns zones. Please note that there will be some spoilers below, both through images used and inferences to story encounters, even though I’ll make an effort to avoid them for main story arcs.
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Guild Wars 2 Path of Fire launch diary: Initial impressions

My initial impressions on Guild Wars 2’s Path of Fire launch are rather late to the table, owing to some fairly significant connection issues since launch that ran up until yesterday, but I’m delighted to share my first thoughts on the second Guild Wars 2 expansion with you at long last. I really count yesterday as my first day of play since the instance creation issues prevented me from progressing my Path of Fire story chain until then, so although I’ve had all weekend, this first launch diary entry will simply detail the things that I noted within the first day of play.

Don’t worry about story spoilers being contained below: I’m not ready to share story details with you yet and wouldn’t even if I could! Expansions are a long time in the making and fans deserve to enjoy all that entails first-hand without it being spoiled. Anything at all problematic will be marked with spoiler tags just in case. Enjoy my list of the good, the bad, and the janky, and check out my screenshot gallery at the end of the article too (though skip this if you don’t want location spoilers).

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20-year-old Ultima Online is going free-to-play (kinda) and getting player-generated quests

In preparing tomorrow’s birthday piece for Ultima Online, I confidently wrote that Ultima Online was not going free-to-play because that’s what the devs always say, so stop asking. Turns out that’s not quite accurate, as during the game’s real-life 20th anniversary celebration yesterday, the Broadsword team announced that Ultima Online is getting a free-to-play mode.

The mode is called The Endless Journey, and according to players in attendance, players who take advantage of it will find it’s somewhat similar to the existing trial for the game, only it’s usable on existing accounts. You’ll have a (extremely) limited trial-only banking inventory with no access to your “real” bank, no access to housing placement, and several other limitations, including not being able to use ghosts to spy in certain high-PvP areas and being forbidden to multi-box. It is not clear how vendor purchases will affect freebie players.

It does seem players who decide to upgrade their accounts will still be expected to subscribe (and presumably purchase future expansions), just as the game is played right now, which makes it F2P only in the limited style of EVE Online. As one UOSS moderator put it, it looks like “the equivalent of a very limited F2P, but probably wouldn’t meet the standard definition of a ‘real’ F2P+purchases game,” chiefly because you can’t do much in the game without both a home and full bank access. (I tend to agree – it’s actually worse than the existing free trial accounts, only it also works on existing accounts.)

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