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Massively Overthinking: Being Uncle Owen in MMORPGs

Ever since the tone-deaf SOE proclamation that nobody wanted to play Uncle Owen in an MMORPG, contrary me has consciously fought that very stupid idea. A whole lot of people wanted to play Uncle Owen, then and now, there and elsewhere. Star Wars Galaxies was a game half full of Uncle Owens. I spent a lot of time literally becoming a moisture farmer as my own form of rebellion. And yet, as I realized while debating with my husband a few weeks ago, the person I really wanted to be was freakin’ Lando. And most MMORPGs don’t allow that either — it’s Luke or GTFO.

Such is the argument made by a recent PC Gamer article, which in its own precious mainstream way argues that “MMOs need to let you be an average Joe” to get out of the clear “creative slump” they’re in.

“With their scale and permanence, MMOs give us the chance to be citizens in a make-believe world we create with the help of our fellow players. When it’s left up to us what kind of role we want to fill in that world, everybody’s immersion benefits from being surrounded by all types of characters with vastly different stories.”

For this week’s Overthinking, I asked the staff to chime in on the concept of Uncle Owen in MMORPGs. Do you play this way? Do you wish you could? And is it the way forward?

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Tamriel Infinium: Five things to do while waiting for Elder Scrolls Online’s Morrowind early access

I have always found this part of the development cycle to be the worst part. Right now, we are sitting at the point in Elder Scrolls Online when you really don’t want to move forward progressing your character because some of the endgame or character progression, in general, will change next week. However, you are very excited about what is to come in the next expansion, and you really want to play ESO at the same time.

It’s a strange phenomenon, and one that is unique to MMOs. When Skyrim was about to release Dragonborn a few years back, it had been a little bit since we had visited Skyrim. For me personally, I had a little game called Star Wars: The Old Republic that I had been playing, so when Dragonborn came out, I replayed Skyrim to refresh my memory before jumping into that expansion. However, MMOs are meant to be played all the time, and well, we’ve been playing ESO this whole time leading up to Morrowind. How do we do to channel our excitement?

Well, I have some fun suggestions for every Elder Scrolls fan. These are my five suggestions for things to do while waiting for ESO: Morrowind to release.

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Massively Overthinking: Is the MMO genre facing an identity crisis?

MMORPG blogger and MOP commenter Isarii (@ethanmacfie) recently published an excellent video positing that the MMO industry is facing a “massive identity crisis.”

“The MMO genre has sort of walked away from the things that made it unique and has faced an identity crisis since then as MMOs have reinvented themselves as these big giant titles trying to appeal to as many people as possible,” he argues. “As a result, you end up with MMOs that try to do things that smaller scale games tend to do better while not doing any of the things that make MMOs themselves unique.”

The whole video is worth a look-and-listen as he pins down what exactly does make MMOs unique and which MMOs have excelled as actual MMOs (protip: It’s everything from EVE to SWG to WoW, so don’t think this is about subgenre elitism at all). What do you think? Is Isarii right? Is the genre facing an identity crisis? And how do we solve it? That’s what our writers will be debating in this week’s Massively Overthinking.

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The Stream Team: Charging into KOTFE’s Chapter IX in SWTOR

Massively OP’s Larry and MJ wrapped up KOTFE’s Chapter VIII and are charging right into Chapter IX as their Choose My Alignment adventure continues in SWTOR. First up: Meet with some of the new alliance members that will be helping to take down the Eternal Throne. Join us live at 2:00 p.m. to make any of those important decisions that come along. As a bonus, thanks to a donation by Sray, the duo will be giving away one SWTOR digital starter pack so someone new can also dive in and start checking out the Knights of the Fallen Empire for themselves.

What: Star Wars: The Old Republic
Who: Larry Everett & MJ Guthrie
When: 2:00 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

Enjoy the show!

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Ask Mo: Massively OP donors, your badges are almost here

Hiya folks! Earlier this year, the Massively OP website underwent a big change: With Livefyre shutting down, we switched over to a brand-new commenting system. While the positives have outweighed the negatives so far, one thing we couldn’t easily port to the new comments was the badge system that we’d originally commissioned. It allowed us to reward our most generous and loyal Kickstarter and Patreon donors with a clear symbol of their awesomeness. And we’d like to get that restored!

So over the past few months we’ve been working on a new badge system, and I’m happy to say that it’s almost here! The tech is functioning and the art is almost complete, which means it’s time to start figuring out who gets what — just in time for a whole bunch of you to ding 24 months on Patreon.

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Exploring TellTale’s Guardians of the Galaxy ‘crowd play’: A dual group dynamic

I have sort of an odd relationship with “story” in gaming. JRPGs really got me into gaming and inspired me to focus on my writing voice(s). Though the quality of narration in MMOs are just bad, some of my early experiences with the genre (particularly Asheron’s Call‘s GM driven story arcs that gave players a way to interact with lore as a group) opened up the possibility of group narratives, especially for those who roleplayed. In fact, as odd as it may sound, I think RP PvP in general showed me just how strong of a feature it can be for someone like me, from virtual Darkfall pirates trying to steal my boat to Star Wars: The Old Republic Jedi fighting for alignment while my bounty hunter simply struggles to make the most money while making the fewest enemies.

Still, sometimes we don’t want to go grind through 20 mobs to get to the next part of the story, or suffer through a raid dance to choose the fate of a character we’ve been interacting with solo. It’s one of the reasons I figure MJ and Larry’s Choose My Alignment is so popular: You still get that story vote without having to be a member of the actual group. It’s odd, being an older MMO player who still sometimes struggles with accepting solo play in MMOs, but the story aspect is the part I get. It’s actually the main thing that kept me in SWTOR.

But there are other options for this kind of play, primarily through TellTale Games and its Crowd Play feature and new game, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series. Don’t worry story fans, as I’ll keep this article spoiler free!

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Global Chat: Happy 10th birthday, LOTRO!

With Lord of the Rings Online hitting its 10th anniversary this past week, plenty of bloggers are enjoying the festivities and recalling some of their favorite memories of this beloved MMO.

Lina looked back at her earliest beta impressions of LOTRO and laughed at how she saw the game as “rather stiff, lifeless, and drab” (she since changed her mind). Wilhelm went through the game’s history and noted that the MMO was “a leader in the conversion to a free-to-play model, citing a huge boost in players and revenue to accompany the change.” And Roger recalls the changes: “Looking back now at these early days of LOTRO, the most pronounced difference was the fact that much of the game was designed to be completed in a group or fellowship.”

Is it still a game worth playing? Syl recently returned to LOTRO after a long absence and found it welcoming: “I’ve only been back a few days and already had more friendly encounters and met more silly helpful people on Laurelin than I otherwise would in years.”

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Hyperspace Beacon: The three key problems with SWTOR’s War for Iokath

Unlike some gamers, I actually like Star Wars: The Old Republic’s Trooper storyline. In fact, one of the most meaningful choices in the whole game is made by the player in the Trooper’s arc. After spending several missions with an operative for the Republic, you are faced with a choice that will leave her dead or kill many Republic senators whom you have never met before. It’s a tough call for a character that is supposed to be loyal to the Republic and loyal to the crew. No other choice in any of the other class stories was as difficult for me.

Because of his proven ability to create meaningful moments like those in the Trooper story, I have been happy to see Charles Boyd at the helm of the creative side of the latest updates to the SWTOR experience. But I was disappointed by War for Iokath from a storytelling perspective. And I was especially disappointed by the less-than-meaningful choices players had to make in this update.

I’ve held off talking about Update 5.2 because I like to focus on the positive in the MMO genre, but I think it’s time to face what has to be one of worst updates I’ve seen for Star Wars: The Old Republic. Let’s examine why I felt so cheated, and let me know if you agree with my assessment in the comments.

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Star Wars: The Old Republic prepares celebrations and promotions for May 4

Ah, the fourth of May, a day of celebration for Star Wars fans due to its similarity to an iconic line from the franchise: Han Solo telling Chewbacca, “Hey, hair buddy, happy fourth day of May.” Or something like that. Star Wars: The Old Republic is getting in on the celebration with a new trailer (which you can see early just below, if you want) and a special astromech droid pet for free to anyone who logs in before May 8th. As Anakin said in the prequel trilogies, “You can always get a free astromech droid on the fourth day of any month, especially May!”

The game is also offering a variety of sales on direct-sale items like the Cathar species, new hairstyles, and the Defiant Vented Lightsaber. You can also pick up a free version of the ultimate Knights of the Eternal Throne pack with a Twitch Prime subscription, and you can enjoy some doubled experience through May 15th. All of these should help you celebrate 5/4/17 in style. So enjoy some adventures in the Old Republic, and let all of it bring to mind the iconic words of Obi-Wan Kenobi: “Luke, today is the day after the third of May but before the fifth.”

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SWTOR sweetens the rewards for Iokath dailies, preps double XP event

Today’s patch for Star Wars: The Old Republic aims to improve the quality of the new Iokath daily mission hub in both performance and rewards.

Some small bugs are being addressed in Patch 5.2.1, such as one that prevented players from (re)gaining Dorne or Quinn as a companion on the planet. But of infinitely more interest is word of better Iokath rewards, such as more command experience and credit explosions, for doing dailies. The studio also added loot in the level 51 to 64 range for veteran and master flashpoints and fixed some niggling issues with the Gods From the Machine operation.

SWTOR fans are going to want to log in starting May 4th. Players will get a free astromech mini-pet through the 8th and enjoy a double XP event through the 14th to celebrate the “May the 4th” unofficial holiday.

Source: Patch notes

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Massively OP Interview: Ashes of Creation on a new way to MMO

Today, Ashes of Creation takes a big plunge into an all-or-nothing Kickstarter campaign. Over the past few months, the MMO seemed to come out of nowhere to stun us with an ambitious design, well-crafted videos, and a team of experienced industry vets who seem passionate to make the next generation of online RPG.

For this occasion, we sat down with Intrepid Studios CEO Steven Sharif to talk about the Ashes of Creation’s crowdfunding campaign, the studio’s design philosophy, and the next steps for this upcoming MMORPG. Does this game deserve your support? Will it rope in widespread interest? Let’s see if Sharif can make the case.

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One Shots: Through the portal?

The other day, Bree was complaining about how so many screenshots from modern MMORPGs suffer from a bland and monochrome palette. Coming to the rescue, then, is our team of expert One Shotters, scouring online games for vibrant looks and colors!

Zulika Mi-Nam kicks us off with this delectable piece of Portal Knights scenery: “The last few days I have been playing Portal Knights. I guess it is like a Stargate/Minecraft combo? It scratches the same itch that EQ Next did for me, not that I was a builder. I just like exploring and some type of progression. This is more combat oriented though.”

How’s that doggy going to get down, Zulika? Throw that dog a bone already!

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Massively Overthinking: Are MMORPG players a minority in their own genre?

Deep in the comments of the MMOs-vs.-survival-sandboxes thread from last week, reader miol_ produced a beautiful comment about how MMO players have become a minority in their own genre, which he then expounded upon for us in this provocative email.

“I’ve reached the opinion, that since the launch of WoW and its clones, the ‘original’ MMO-playerbase became a minority in their own genre. Before, we were but hundreds of thousands of MMO players, but then came Blizzard with WoW and its legions of fans in the dozen of millions at its peak, starting to dictate what the new success of MMOs should look like. Even if we others tried to vote with our wallet and feet, we became a minority, having only a fraction of our initial influence, while many devs tried desperately time and again to find ways to get at least a portion of the new Blizzard playerbase.

“Am I wrong with that perception of history? Am I totally missing something? Or are ‘we’ are slowly becoming a majority again, now that WoW and its clones are seeing steadily declining numbers (instead of us winning more players to ‘our side’)? How do we lobby better for ‘our cause’? Or can we only wait and see, until the genre is small enough again? Or is it too late? Have we ourselves grown too far apart into our even more niche corners of personal taste since SWG, while production costs and our demands for production value have skyrocketed at the same time? How could we come closer again?”

Let’s tackle miol_’s questions in this week’s Massively Overthinking.

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