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Wisdom of Nym: Checking out Final Fantasy XIV’s patch 4.3 notes

As it always has been, so it is again; we’ve got our next patch for Final Fantasy XIV just around the corner, and thus we have a new set of patch notes to peruse well ahead of the actual patch. But we don’t have the full list of new items, which is frustrating. Especially if you’re thinking about which furnishing items you want to move around and so forth, because really, what other stuff is important in a given patch? Endgame progression? Who cares.

Reading through the patch notes is always a bit like some sort of ersatz holiday, because you already know the majority of the things you’re getting but not all of the details until the patch notes come out… and then the patch notes deliberately obscure some things so you still don’t know everything. But I can live with not knowing exactly what quests are in Return to Ivalice just because I can see that there are a lot of them. So let’s start taking this apart before we get to actually play it.

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The Game Archaeologist: Warhammer Online

When it comes to notable years in the MMORPG genre’s history, 2008 stands out as one of the most significant. World of Warcraft’s debut onto the scene in 2004 caused an upheaval in ways far too numerous to go into detail here. Suffice to say that its overwhelming popularity drew the attention of game designers who looked at the staggering numbers of players and found themselves envious of the potential to grab a slice of that money pie.

Many projects went into high gear following WoW’s launch, with plenty of them trying to copy the formula and structure that Blizzard established in the hopes of making it at least partially as big as that game. So-called WoW clones began to pepper the market and there was a sense that gamers were ready to move on from World of Warcraft to the next generation of MMOs. In many players’ minds, this would be either 2008’s Age of Conan or Warhammer Online, two big-budget MMOs with strong IPs that carried a lot of the weight of expectation.

Little did anyone realize that 2008 represented a bubble that was about to burst on the industry and the WoW clones that followed — including Warhammer Online. Today, we’re going to take a look at “bears, bears, bears,” the high hopes of Mythic Entertainment, and how WAR became a casaulty on its own battlefield.

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First impressions of State of Decay 2: Frolicking fun with friends and zombies

State of Decay 2 is out, and I know, I know, it’s not an MMO, but it does have online multiplayer in a shared world, as long as someone’s hosting. And I’ve been thoroughly sucked in.

Here’s the thing: It’s survival, it’s got a bit of a story, and you can immediately deal with griefers in the post-apocalypse and never have to see them again. I had great experiences with friends and foes alike, and I think some of you might feel the same if you give it a whirl.

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Hyperspace Beacon: The SWTOR Summer roadmap might get you back into PvP

Star Wars: The Old Republic producer Keith Kanneg just dropped the next roadmap earlier today, outlining the features upcoming before September and a little bit beyond. Although he didn’t give much detail about the future of the story for the game, he gave us enough hints that we can speculate about the direction it’s headed.

At the very top of the roadmap post, Kanneg thanks everyone for such a great first year as producer of SWTOR and hopes that everyone enjoyed the traitor storyline. The story ends with a lot of questions unanswered, but unfortunately, those questions will not be answered until sometime after September according to the post. However, it’s possible that some of the setups this summer are pointing toward what the developers have planned.

Kanneg said the devs have been listening to players and “as a result, [they will] be making a lot of changes based on your feedback, beginning with our PvP plans this summer.” 2018 will be the summer of PvP for SWTOR, so let’s break down everything that the developers are doing.

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Choose My Adventure: Starting fresh-ish in Final Fantasy XI

This is actually a Choose My Adventure that I was somewhat reluctant to do for a long time, simply because… well, in some ways, it goes against the entire spirit of Choose My Adventure. Or at least the spirit that I’ve always used as a guiding principle for these columns, for however much it matters.

The goal of Choose My Adventure has always been to take someone who is either wholly unfamiliar with a game or at least not an expert at it and throw them into a game with as little support as possible. There’s no way that I can realistically hit the level cap and make major headway into the endgame, of course, but I can at least try a game with fresh eyes and see how it plays, while presenting those thoughts in a non-tedious fashion.

And then we have Final Fantasy XI, which I cannot possibly look at with new eyes because I know this game very well. If I had to list the MMOs I know best, FFXI would probably be third or fourth on the list. Which is why for a long time I didn’t bring it up, because… I know all of this stuff, right?

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Chaos Theory: A changing of the guard in the Secret World Legends

As a fan of the wonderful world that Secret World brought us, do you cringe or grin with excitement when Secret World Legends news pops up? Do you waffle between tell me more and no news is good news? I’ve been on both sides. Who can blame us? We’ve weathered everything from financial woes and the corresponding closure concerns to a complete reboot. And now, we’re experiencing yet another changing of the guard. The Creative Director position that has migrated from Ragnar Tornquist to Joel Bylos to Romain Amiel has been vacated, and a new lead designer is taking over; Amiel left Funcom last month to pursue different endeavors, leaving Chris “Nirvelle” Meredith in charge.

You can’t have a big change like this without people worrying that something will happen to their favorite conspiracy-laden game; it’s inevitable, like the sass of Kirsten Geary. The big question is, will this latest development in the structure of developers ultimately fall on the fear or cheer side of the fence? Will the recent momentum be lost? Is this just one step on the continued track of new content, or will the train be totally derailed?

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Perfect Ten: How MMOs can become more accessible

Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, I was remarkably reluctant to enter into the field of MMORPGs despite being a perfect candidate (a gaming geek who loved fantasy and sci-fi RPGs). All of the reasons that I had at the time for stalling really could have been boiled down to a single word: accessibility.

MMOs back then looked — and probably were — very inaccessible. They had a payment barrier. They required a lot of setup and hardware. Their interfaces were cluttered and their gameplay interactions were obtuse. Frankly, I got the impression that a lot of them were a mess that was only understandable to those who had put in hundreds of hours to decipher the format.

When MMOs started to become more accessible, particularly with City of Heroes, World of Warcraft, and Guild Wars, I eagerly jumped in. Those three titles in particular made giant leaps forward in opening up these games to the first-time player. But that doesn’t mean that MMORPGs have arrived at universal accessibility just yet. Here are ten areas that studios could be improving in order to make their titles more appealing and understandable to outsiders.

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Returning to Conan Exiles: Praise for Funcom’s progress on PvE and PvP

As some of you may remember, I wasn’t terribly impressed with Conan Exiles when it first went into Early Access last year. It wasn’t exactly that the game was rough, but just more of the same: free-for-all PvP with people constantly zerg killing each other, now with slavery and some dragons!

But Funcom has done a lot to flesh out the game since then. My GDC look at the game gave me hope, and although the PvE conflict switcharoo is really upsetting, I actually have to say that, mechanically, Funcom has won me over. While I normally track my playtime, I have to admit that I spent far too much time playing Exiles. Sadly, I didn’t get to experience clans, god summoning, purges, teleportation, massive battles, or slavery, but it wasn’t from a lack of trying. In fact, Conan Exiles should give all of us, PvE players included, a reason to pay more attention to the survival genre.

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Wisdom of Nym: The last batch of Final Fantasy XIV patch reveals

You know, I seriously could have sworn that I publicly predicted the next Final Fantasy XIV patch would be out on May 22nd. But alas, I can find no record of it, and thus I get no credit for predicting it correctly. Other than with myself, but I try to generally avoid putting to much stock in that.

Regardless, the important thing here is that we’ve got our next patch date and we’re ready to go with all of the corresponding anticipation. We’ve also got the spoiler-filled trailer that’s going to prove almost impossible to decipher until we watch it again after playing all of the stories and say, “oh, that’s where that scene is from,” so that helps too.

So let’s piece together what’s going to be our last column working from partial information, before next week we have patch notes to look over and analyze in greater detail. There’s even a 24-hour maintenance cycle to prepare for, you know.

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EVE Evolved: Getting new players to stick with EVE Online

EVE Online has the odd distinction of being one of the most impenetrable MMOs on the market today and yet also one of the stickiest. Few new players make it past their first week or month in EVE, but more of those who do scale that infamous learning cliff tend to stay for several years and become part of the community. Many of the most active veteran players have even admitted that EVE didn’t really click for them the first time, and for some it took them several attempts before they finally got hooked.

This anecdotal evidence seems to mesh quite well with CCP’s own brutal retention statistics, as we heard back in 2016 that over 1.5 million people had signed up new accounts that year but just over 50% of them quit within the first two hours. Even after the free-to-play option was added to eliminate the biggest barrier of entry for new and returning players, retaining more of those players in the long term is still proving difficult. So what is it that prevents new players from really clicking with EVE even if they want to, and what can be done about it?

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at some of the factors that make EVE difficult to penetrate, the importance of joining a corporation, and a few things CCP could do to help with player retention.

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LOTRO Legendarium: A whirlwind of activity in Lord of the Rings Online

If you haven’t noticed already, an extended silence from me in this column space usually means that I’ve taken a break from Lord of the Rings Online for a while. I come and go from the game usually a few times each year now, but Mordor took a heavy toll on my interest and I had to rest and rejuvenate even longer than normal this time around.

Right now I’d say my current activity is “dipping my toes back into the water,” but so far I am finding that water inviting and comfortable. Northern Mirkwood is absolutely gorgeous and a complete 180 from the dreary landscape of Mordor. I’m very much looking forward to questing more there while trying to resist the urge to roll up an alt that I’ll never be able to fully level at this point.

For me, the wide-open beauty of Middle-earth’s landscape in this game is its biggest draw. It’s what makes this MMO “feel” so different than any others that I’ve played, and I am applauding the efforts of Standing Stone Games to continually add to it. I spent a full night doing nothing but touring around the Halls of the Elven-king and geeking out about its mentions from The Hobbit. It’s such a beautiful location and a great example of how the team is not phoning it in during LOTRO’s 11th year.

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Choose My Adventure: Ultima Online, we didn’t need to do this

Yes, this is going to come in as the shortest Choose My Adventure series, but I feel it’s got a good reason to be so. I went into Ultima Online with a very simple question: Is the game worth playing now as a free-to-play title for the curious? I very quickly got the answer to that question: No. Definitely not. And writing a whole lot more on it is just going to continue to harp on that point.

That’s not to say that there aren’t at least a few more words to be spared on the subject, of course. There are a lot of games with a free-to-play option that players have said don’t feel like free-to-play titles; you can technically play without paying, yes, but the game doesn’t seem to want you there and keeps hitting you with paywalls. That wasn’t the problem I ran into with Ultima Online, though. If anything, it seemed like the game didn’t want me there at all. Not as a free player, but as a new player.

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Change history in Path of Exile’s Incursion League starting June 1st

If, like me, you are still quite disappointed from the announcement that the beloved Bestiary League won’t be included in the core of Path of Exile, perhaps Grinding Gear Games can interest you in the game’s next league? Opening its doors on June 1st, Incursion continues the studio’s tradition of offering new content every three months. But it’s more than just a league: Incursion has all the trappings of an expansion.

What is Incursion? Producer Chris Wilson and I sat down to discuss the ins and outs of this next step forward for PoE, which in actuality is a step back — in time. While I may not be able to go back in time to quell those hopes of keeping my bestiary, Incursion will have me going back to manipulate my access to an ancient Vaal temple so I can return and loot it for treasure in the present. Wilson described the league as having two layers: one’s a place where you go and kill monsters in every room in a timed trial like Breach, and the other’s a deeply strategic temple building for a customized zone experience.

After we explored the new content, Wilson made the vision clear. “Our philosophy with Path of Exile releases: The two important things to do are to add compelling new content for people to play and compelling new ways for the players to play it.” With every new league I wonder if GGG can hit that mark, and every time I chat with Wilson I think, By Jove, I think they’ve got it! Read more

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