event coverage

PAX East 2017: The Elder Scrolls Online's battlegrounds are exactly that

My absolute first appointment at PAX East 2017 was to stop by The Elder Scrolls Online display to check out the new battlegrounds coming up with the game's Morrowind expansion. This should not have been difficult to do, but it was made quite difficult by unnecessarily awful traffic. Seriously, it was bumper-to-bumper through long stretches of the Mass Pike, despite the fact that there was barely any snow falling and no road accumulation. I was a little bit late, in fact.

Why am I telling you this story? Because the reality is that it's the most interesting story that I have beyond the title line.

I don't mean to imply that I was disappointed by The Elder Scrolls Online's battleground gameplay because I wasn't. It was solid! I would go so far as to say it was exactly what your mind pictures when you put the game's title and "battleground" into the same sentence. The problem with describing it is just... well, again, it's exactly what your mind pictures. It is a battleground, and it is in The Elder Scrolls Online. That's it.

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The Daily Grind: What were you disappointed to not hear about from PAX East?

As the man on the ground at PAX East this year (and every year), I bear the brunt of your displeasure if there was something I straight-up did not attend or cover. If you were really hoping to hear about Quake or Mass Effect: Andromeda or Whatever Other Non-MMO Games Were On The Floor I Wasn't Keeping Close Track from me, all I can do is shrug and apologize for disappointing you. I had the appointments I had, and I did the best I could with what I could actually be told.

Of course, this is more about what you were disappointed about that specifically swirled around the soul. Were you disappointed by the lack of an on-hand demo for TERA's console version? The non-presence of DC Universe Online? A dearth of new announcements for Conan Exiles or The Secret World? What were you disappointed to not hear about from PAX East? Were there specific games or studios that you feel didn't offer enough if anything to convention-goers?

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PAX East 2017: Introducing Rend, a three-way survival sandbox from Frostkeep Studios

I don't really like survival games, typically -- I understand why a lot of people do like them, don't get me wrong, but I don't care for them myself, for a whole forest of reasons. To make a survival game that I want to play, you have to really come at the genre from a side angle, which can be hard to do while retaining the things that people like about the genre.

At this early juncture, I can't say that Rend (official site) will do all of that. But I can say that the groundwork is in place for something that might be worth getting excited about.

I was incredibly fortunate to be granted one of the first meetings with Frostkeep Studios and a first look at Rend itself, in a conspiratorial PAX meeting on the second floor of a fish restaurant on the Boston piers. It felt a bit as if I were being shown something that should not be seen, some artifact of great power that had been hidden away from prying eyes. Perhaps that's as it should be.

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PAX East 2017: Citadel Studios on Shards Online's switch to Legends of Aria

Big changes for MMOs frequently involve giving up almost as much as you gain. Not so with Legends of Aria, the not-actually-new title from Citadel Studios. Legends of Aria is Shards Online, you see, but it's also not Shards Online. It's everything you liked about Shards Online, but it's also placed into a larger context in which the ideas behind the game can have more space to develop and grow. If you liked the game before, you'll like it now, but if you didn't like the game before, you might think a bit more fondly of it once you see the changes.

The short version is that Legends of Aria has a robust "main" server set up. That means a large-scale map, plenty of things for players to go find, and a variety of different regions with different environmental effects. It is, in other words, a full-scale MMO which you can play as much as you'd like. But it's also a full-scale MMO that allows you to look at what the developers have done and say that you don't like it... and then make your own version of the game server.

We spoke to the folks from Citadel at this year's PAX East. Read on!

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PAX East 2017: Hands-on with the surprisingly fun Kritika Online

It's pretty much a rule of nature that at least one game is going to be far better and more fun to play than I expected on the PAX East show floor. This has been true every year, and while the past couple of years have involved my spending a bit less time on the show floor overall, I've still walked away with some surprises. This year, it was Kritika Online.

What I expected from Kritika Online was... well, nothing particularly impressive. I didn't expect it to be bad, but that was because I didn't expect much from it at all. It was a game that En Masse was bringing over that sounded, at a glance, like the sort of game which fades from memory shortly after you play it. What I actually got was a game that has a clean purpose and remarkably fun mechanics, like the pure product of an MMO marrying a Dynasty Warriors clone.

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PAX East 2017: Jumping and climbing through Chronicles of Elyria's pre-alpha

I admit to my weakness: Despite years and years of games using it again and again, I still enjoy the simple gameplay benefits of jumping between ledges. I like parkour. Admittedly, I like it in a purely academic sense, as my actual vertical mobility is somewhere between "no" and "hell no," but I like games that allow you to dash hither and yon, springing from wall to wall, running along things, all of that fun stuff.

The pre-alpha build of MMORPG sandbox Chronicles of Elyria on display at PAX East did not feature that. It featured parkour that was more on the level of God of War's process of mantling ledges, jumping between them, and so forth. Still, that's a welcome change from the fact that far too many MMOs don't even grant you that degree of mobility. Even in games that encourage you to move about with jumping puzzles and the like, how many MMOs allow you to actually use your hands to grasp a ladder?

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PAX East 2017: Final Fantasy XIV's Q&A panel

At the time of this writing, there's just over a hundred days until Stormblood launches, expanding the world of Final Fantasy XIV for the second time. We'll no doubt learn more about the expansion before that launch happens, but the second day of PAX East gave players a chance to ask about the game directly from the producer and director himself, Mr. Naoki Yoshida. He's kind of a big deal.

Much as the team has done with previous PAX East events, Yoshida took both pre-written questions from fans on the show floor and live questions taken directly from the audience in attendance. While there were no huge revelations, there were plenty of tidbits for players to chew on as the game moves along through the remaining months until the launch of the second expansion. And, of course, there's plenty of stuff to speculate about, but isn't there always?

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PAX East 2017: Talking Conan Exiles on the show floor with Funcom

If you're a fan of Funcom and the games it makes, Conan Exiles probably has you breathing a bit easier than you have in a while. It's an indisputable success for the developers, who have been in a difficult financial situation for the past several years. Now they've got a pretty big hit on their hands, big enough to take out a sizable booth on the PAX East show floor to demonstrate the harsh survival of the game.

I had a chance to chat with some of the Funcom staff on site as well as an opportunity to play the game a bit myself. (Although that was mostly an exercise in getting gored by rhinos and eaten by alligators, so MJ is probably the better source of information on the game mechanics.) They revealed to me just how big of a success the game has actually been for Funcom, hitting its twelve-month sales goal in 30 days. That's significant however you slice it, especially when you're discussing a buy-to-play game rather than a subscription setup.

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PAX East 2017: En Masse tells us all about TERA's console port

Putting TERA on consoles seems like it's the most obvious combination of games and platforms ever conceived. Even more than Super Mario Bros. and the NES controller, or Star Wars and awkward dance sequences. I was happy to get a chance to talk a bit about the recent announcement of the console port with En Masse at this year's PAX East, and the obvious question that sprang to mind wasn't about why it is getting a port but why it is happening now instead of earlier.

In a word? Timing. When TERA originally launched, it was the middle of the life cycle for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and neither console was really a perfect match, according to the studio. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, on the other hand, are both more powerful systems and systems designed from the ground up to be suited to online connectivity and interaction. The result was that it was the right opportunity for the team to make the port happen, with all of the stars aligning perfectly.

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PAX East 2017: Naoki Yoshida on Final Fantasy XIV's new jobs, old jobs, and future patches

It would be fair to say that Final Fantasy XIV fans treat Naoki Yoshida like a rock star, and he carries himself like one: not with unnecessary swagger but with the smooth confidence of someone who has a lot going on beneath the surface and knows exactly what he's doing. This is part of why it's always a joy to interview him, as few other developers can (or will) provide such thorough answers to even the most incidental questions.

Obviously, sitting with Yoshida meant that I had to ask him a fair number of questions about Stormblood and what's coming with the expansion, but I also had to ask about the last patches of Heavensward and quality-of-life improvements. So there's a lot to chew on, some of which has been rumored before now, some of which has not, and all of which is highly relevant before the game's community Q&A panel takes place at PAX later today.

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EVE Vegas 2016: EVE Online is finally getting a real tutorial

One of EVE Online's developers once described the new player experience with the line "Welcome to EVE, here's a Rubik's cube, go f**k yourself," and he wasn't wrong. EVE has a well-earned reputation for being a difficult game with an incomprehensible user interface, and new players are just dropped into it at the deep end. CCP has tried to overhaul the new player experience several times over the years and even implemented an achievement-style Opportunities system, but 51% of new players still quit by around the two hour mark.

This was the monumental problem inherited by CCP Ghost, the weird chap who showed us all a scan of his brain at EVE Fanfest back in May. Ghost had some interesting ideas for revamping the tutorial using a story based approach, and this weekend at EVE Vegas 2016 we got to see the final result of this work in action along with details of how it was designed. Under the codename of Inception, the first stage of EVE's new fully voiced story tutorial will be going live with the Ascension expansion on November 15th. After seeing the Inception tutorial in action, I finally see what has been missing all this time and realise that EVE has never actually had a proper immersive tutorial before.

Read on to find out what makes EVE's upcoming Inception tutorial so different, how it was designed, and what the future may hold for EVE's new player experience.

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EVE Evolved: Alpha Clone economics, bragging rights, and restrictions

Yesterday at EVE Vegas 2016, developer CCP Rise held us spellbound with tales of his recent misadventures in EVE Online recently when pretending to be a newbie. With free alpha clone accounts on the way, the devs wanted to prove that a well-informed player in an alpha clone could engage in a wide range of activities and even see success in PvP, and CCP Rise naturally rose to the challenge. Starting with only the skills trainable by an alpha clone character and no ISK or assets, he quickly got on his feet and made enough ISK to start engaging in frigate and cruiser PvP and net some very nice solo kills against veterans.

Rise's success came as no surprise to me, as I've done similar experiments with small group PvP and I know just how effective cheap tech 1 cruisers can be. I recently showed how free users could be nearly as effective as well-trained subscribers in the same ships, and yet the myth that they will be simply cannon fodder for the elite pervades the comments sections in articles throughout the web. Developers have said that they intend for free play to be a viable long-term play style, and it should be possible to extend the system in the future. We may even some day get specific challenge clone states for those who want bragging rights or hardcore clones with permadeath.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I debunk the myth the alpha clone system is an endless trial, examine the potential impact of alphas on both EVE community culture and CCP's financials, and look at a few ways the clone state system could be expanded on.

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Here's what to expect from Final Fantasy XIV's Fan Festival livestream

The second convention for Final Fantasy XIV fans is arriving in just a little more than a week, and if you don't already have a ticket, you're not going to be going there. It's been sold out for quite some time. But that's all right; you can get in on a limited form of the event via the game's livestream, which allows you to watch all of the events, all of the panels, and even pick up the exclusive items for attendees.

Players will be able to pick up a costume based upon the main characters from Final Fantasy X (a Tidus costume for male characters or a Yuna costume for female characters) along with a special minion, and the stream is available for purchase for fans outside of the US. If you don't opt to purchase the livestream, you'll be unable to watch any part of the festivities, although yours truly will be on the ground and offering coverage while the fan festival is going down. So yes, you'll hear about the next expansion here as soon as we know, or you can watch the livestream and know as it happens..

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