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Shroud of the Avatar: New outfits, new zones, and charity aid

Shroud of the Avatar's latest newsletter begins with a bang, at least if you're a fan of costumes. Portalarium is showing off both clockwork armor and Ardoris-themed robes and outfits expected in the next release.

The team further explores the North Drachvald Spur in a mountainous area of Novia that was heavily inspired by Mt Rainier in Washington State and is expected to debut with update 39. Zenos, an island encountered along the Path of Truth quest arc, is also profiled; it's due in R38. The darker images in the gallery come from K'rul, one of the game's open PvP zones and is likewise due in R39. Recently, SOTA has been accompanying its extensive (and most welcome!) image-dumps with videos of the in-progress zones too; we've included those below.

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The MOP Up: No Man's Sky gets shielded (January 22, 2017)

The MMO industry moves along at the speed of information, and sometimes we’re deluged with so much news here at Massively Overpowered that some of it gets backlogged. That’s why there’s The MOP Up: a weekly compilation of smaller MMO stories and videos that you won’t want to miss. Seen any good MMO news? Hit us up through our tips line!

This week, No Man's Sky made the jump to the Nvidia Shield, giving players a new way to experience this space sim. We’ve got that plus stories and videos from NeverwinterTrove, and more, all waiting for you after the break!

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One Shots: Healin' skellies in Shards Online

When the NDA is away, the cats will play -- and take screenshots! Bless our dear community for documenting upcoming MMOs as they venture into these virgin territories.

ZulikaMiNam had some fun in one game that I haven't seen much from readers yet: "Since there are no NDA restrictions imposed for this alpha weekend kickoff over at Shards Online I will post some pics from there. I accidentally healed a skeleton while trying to heal myself. So my name turns grey and anyone can kill me now. Time to lay low for a bit."

Are you still laying low? You can... probably come out now. That skeleton owes you a life debt for that heroic action.

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The Daily Grind: Is there any MMORPG slang that you just do not get?

A funny thread on the MMORPG subreddit last week reminded me that gaming slang is anything but obvious.

"I just now realized that OOM means Out Of Mana," wrote Redditor Pigmyz, "And I've been playing MMORPGs for 6 years." That led to a long thread about other gaming terms people had misunderstood through the ages.

My first year working for the site way back when, a writer submitted a piece to me for review, and I said "gtg," since that's what I was used to saying for "good to go" in MMO groups. The writer said, "No wait, proof my piece first!" thinking I'd meant "got to go." Last time I used that one!

How about you? Is there any MMORPG slang that you just do not get, or that you only figured out after a long period of confusion?

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Massively OP Interview: Exploring LOTRO with the Tolkien Professor

If you are looking for a bridge between you and the sometimes dense (but quite popular) works of J.R.R. Tolkien, then you could do no better than to sit at the feet of the Tolkien Professor. Dr. Corey Olsen has been teaching about Tolkien and his collective works for years, providing understanding and fostering discussion in a way that is always interesting and accessible.

Recently, Olsen started up a new course at Signum University (where he is both the founder and president) called "Explore the Lord of the Rings on Location." This free, public course meets every week for a lecture through a chapter in Tolkien's famous trilogy, followed by a "field trip" in Lord of the Rings Online to locations mentioned. It's been a highly publicized event so far, with Standing Stone even creating a special lecture hall in Bree for the series. Interested parties can attend in person in the game, watch via Twitch, or catch up with afterward on the series' YouTube channel.

We caught up with Dr. Olsen to talk about the making of the course, the history behind his university, and his interaction with the long-running MMORPG.

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LOTRO starts testing player housing improvements

One of the most requested and most delayed requests by the Lord of the Rings Online community over the years is a revamp to the game's limited housing system. While a complete overhaul isn't happening right now, the good news is that Standing Stone is starting to test some big improvements that will allow players more freedom in placing housing decor.

The main change in this upcoming patch is an adjustable housing hook system that sounds similar to what's used in SWTOR: "You can now adjust the precise location of interior housing decorations once they are placed in a hook. The decoration hook UI now includes four scroll bars that allow decorations to be rotated as before, but also to be moved east/west, north/south, and up/down. Exterior housing decorations continue to only allow rotation."

The test server patch also includes additional chat channels and premium housing writs to facilitate the transfer of the newer houses.

Source: Patch notes

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WRUP: Jurassic Park is a pretty bad movie edition

It's time for us to just admit this as a species: Jurassic Park is not a good movie. I know, you have fond memories of it; I do too, aside from the fact that I remember being disappointed with it even as a child because it was more interested in "rawr scary dinosaurs" than actually showing off these magnificent, enormous animals. But the movie is about five minutes of cool, memorable moments mixed in with a bland, overlong plot that's mostly just people running around scared as everything gets ruined.

The science doesn't hold up, the characters are thin pastiches (including Jeff Goldblum being slimy enough to leave a residual bad taste in my mouth), and what made the movie work in the first place was how enormously compelling those dinosaurs look. That part still can impress viewers; not much else does. So "Chris Pratt and a team of raptors vs. invisible T-Rex" is really more of a lateral move for the franchise.

That's all, folks. Oh, right, What Are You Playing is here. Let us know in the comments!

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The Daily Grind: What is your favorite MMO magic system?

While there are plenty of similarities among magic systems in MMOs (hey, how about you cast another fireball? There you go, champ!), there is a lot of variety as well. I'm always attracted to systems that put some though into their design, such as Guild Wars 2's illusion-based Mesmers, the mix-and-match Necromancers of Vanguard, and Lord of the Rings Online's wordy Rune-keepers.

At the very least, I have to applaud developers who at least put in the effort to gussy up the same mechanics in a new outfit. But when a team eschews the tired magic tropes and starts to get imaginative with spellcasting? That's when I perk up and pay attention.

What's your favorite MMO magic system and why?

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World of Warcraft posts initial patch notes for patch 7.2 testing

The initial build of World of Warcraft patch 7.2 is up for testing now, but be fairly warned: It's not all of the patch. It's not even necessarily a majority of the patch; as confirmed by community manager Lore, the main focus right now is stability and testing the new Demon Invasions, which means that players can expect to see many further iterations before the patch goes live. There's an entire chunk of stuff coming with the Broken Shore, after all.

You can peruse the patch notes for this first build now just the same; they include some nice additions like a "Sets" tab for transmog collections, higher item scaling for World Quests, and more options for gaining reputation from Emissaries past Exalted. You can also take a look at some of the new models already in the patch, including new class mounts of various hues and a long-overdue new model for Trade Prince Gallywix.

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Chaos Theory: My Secret World 2017 goals

When the year-end Massively Overthinking asked about game resolutions, I honestly answered that I don't really make any because I hadn't ever done that and didn't expect to start. Many of the goals I make as I play throughout the year are pretty specific to what is happening at that time and what I feel inclined to do right then. But the topic stuck with me, and I began thinking about what goals I did have in The Secret World.

Once I started thinking about it in concrete terms, I was able to pinpoint a few more things I'd really like to accomplish this year. It turns out there are some that are more overarching than just an in-the-moment whim. So here they are: my 2017 TSW goals. At the close of this year, you can help me gauge how well I did. (Ironically, since this column was usurped by other topics hogging the spotlight for a couple of weeks, my first goal has already been achieved. Go me!) And please, add any goals you have in the comments!

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Star Citizen fends off pirates (the fun kind)

One thing that's for certain in the future of interstellar expansion, and that is the assurance that plucky pirates will take their Jolly Rogers out to the stars to follow the call of treasure and conquest. So don't act surprised if you encounter one or two -- or two hundred in Star Citizen.

In the latest episode of Around the Verse, Director of Community Engagement Ben Lesnick explained how players are dealing with buccaneers in the game: "With Star Citizen Alpha 2.6 we introduced a pretty exciting new game mode called Pirate Swarm. Pirate Swarm is essentially a 'gauntlet mode' that throws you against wave after wave of enemy planes. Unlike our previous gauntlet mode, Vanduul Swarm, Pirate Swarm has a whole variety of different ships, ranging from the M50 interceptor to the Constellation multi-crew ship."

You can read the full transcript of the episode courtesy of the folks at Relay or watch it for your own bad self after the break.

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Massively OP Interview: Standing Stone on LOTRO, DDO, and Daybreak

It's been quite a month since Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons and Dragons Online announced that they were breaking off from Turbine as part of a new studio called Standing Stone Games and being published by none other than Daybreak Game Company. Players have had to deal with equal parts excitement and anxiety over this new course (with old developers). Does it bode for a brighter future, more of the same, or the beginning of the end for these beloved titles?

While Standing Stone has been communicative over the past month, we wanted to dig deeper into the decision to form the new studio, its relationship with Daybreak, and plans for both DDO and LOTRO going forward. To wit, we sat down with Standing Stone Executive Producer Rob "Severlin" Ciccolini, Lead Designer Ben "DrOctothorpe" Schneider, and Community Manager Jerry "Cordovan" Snook to discuss this major transition and its possible impact for these two MMO game worlds.

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The Daily Grind: Is in-game advertising the MMO genre's post-lockbox future?

Massively OP reader Sally Bowls pointed us to a fun piece on Frankengadget this week about Final Fantasy XV and its overt product placement. "Final Fantasy XV tricked me into buying Cup Noodles" through a "beautiful, devious combination of empathy and nostalgia," the author laments. The story content promoting the noodles seems like the sort of cheesy fake marketing you'd get out of a Mass Effect game -- I'm Commander Shepard, and this is my favorite X on the Citadel! -- only it's real.

Sally suggests that we're all still fighting the lockbox gambling battle -- and losing -- while the marketing departments of online game studios are already dreaming up their next trick, which might just be an old trick that never took hold in MMOs, at least not yet. "I think the next outrage is going to be ads and product placement," Sally writes. What do you think? Is in-game advertising the MMO genre's post-lockbox future? And if it is, do you prefer that to lockboxes?

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