turbine

American studio known primarily for Lord of the Rings Online, Dungeons and Dragons Online, and the Asheron’s Call franchise.

The Stream Team: Beginner's luck in Asheron's Call

There's still a huge world in Asheron's Call to explore, and Massively OP's MJ hasn't quite made it out of the tutorial yet! Time is a-ticking, so she's got to speed it up if she wants to experience more of the game. Luckily, Andrew will be joining in to help guide the adventure -- and keep MJ from getting sidetracked! Can beginner's luck also keep her alive once she starts facing real threats? Tune in live at 3:00 p.m. and let the duo know the best places to visit and best mobs to meet.

What: Asherons Call
Who: MJ Guthrie & Andrew Ross
When: 3:00 p.m. EST on Monday, January 23rd, 2017

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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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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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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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Dungeons and Dragons Online hypes Dragonborn race, Ravenloft expansion, and sentient weapons

In 2017, Dungeons and Dragons Online will officially add its third campaign setting to its melting pot with Ravenloft. Executive Producer Rob Ciccolini wrote in his producer's letter that the "fan favorite" setting would come later this year as the game's third expansion along with sentient weapons.

Ravenloft is only a part of DDO's grand plans for the year. Ciccolini said that the fun will begin with Update 34 (which contains a new dungeon and the reaper difficulty level), the game's 11th anniversary event, Update 35 (which will add the playable Dragonborn race), and Update 36 (which will return to the Forgotten Realms). The expansion and a further update will wrap up the team's plans for 2017.

We spoke with Ciccolini and the team at Standing Stone Games this week about DDO and the studio transition. Standing Stone said that the Ravenloft expansion "could include new playable race or races as well."

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The Stream Team: Trying out Asheron's Call before it's gone

If you wait too long, sometimes you will miss out, and Massively OP's MJ almost missed out on seeing the world of Asheron's Call. With the doors closing at the end of this month, MJ has to jump in now to try and experience a bit of it before it's gone. Join us live at 4:00 p.m. to share your memories.

What: Asheron's Call
Who: MJ Guthrie
When: 4:00 p.m. EST on Friday, January 20th, 2017

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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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Dungeons and Dragons Online starts testing Update 34's Tower of Frost

The first big content update for Dungeons and Dragons Online is being put through its paces on the test server right now, which means that everyone can get a sneak peek at what is coming with Update 34: Death or Glory.

The centerpiece of the patch is a free dungeon called the Tower of Frost. Players can start accessing this instance on level 14, in which they will explore a wizard's tower and either succeed... or be toast.

Another big feature coming with Update 34 is the new reaper difficulty for dungeons. This super-tough mode contains 10 adjustable levels of additional difficulty and is far harder the the game's elite mode. With the higher challenge comes even more rewards, but chances are it will just mop the floor with you and then laugh haughtily afterward.

No release date for the update has been given, although it could be as soon as "next week." Get your video previews of Update 34 after the break!

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Choose My Adventure: The most depressing road trip in Lord of the Rings Online

You know, if my first exposure to Elves had been in Lord of the Rings Online, I would probably think that they were the most depressing species in existence because they're basically prepping for the most depressing road trip ever. Maybe for all of the right reasons, but still.

For those of you who are even less aware of Middle-Earth as a setting than I, the gist of things is that the time of the Elves is nearly done, and they are soon to journey to the West. This is kind of a natural side-effect of the whole to-do about the eponymous Rings, where the Elves can't stick around without them; I'm not entirely clear on the details, there, but the short version is that this is the close of a cycle for the entirety of the race.

So most of your early stuff is based around the fact that the Elves are not, in fact, going out to party and enjoy themselves while Sauron is on the march. Instead, it's all about preparing for the most depressing road trip of all time.

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Wizards of the Coast forms new digital games studio led by Jeffrey Steefel

Magic the Gathering and Dungeons and Dragons might be getting an online upgrade in the near future. In a letter written this week to the Wizards of the Coast community, President Chris Cocks told fans that the company under his new leadership would be pursuing "exciting moves" to deliver better digital experiences to its players.

To  help with this, the company has formed a digital games studio led by former LOTRO Executive Producer Jeffrey Steefel and staffed with other MMO and games industry vets. The studio will handle Magic Online and other video game initiatives involving Wizards properties. Wizards is also building a publishing team to bring these games to "unexpected settings, genres, and platforms."

Cocks teased some possible projects that the studio might be creating: "What would it be like to throw fireballs as a Planeswalker in an MMO or quest for treasure with your friends in a D&D augmented-reality game?"

Source: Wizards of the Coast. Cheers, Vaeris.

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Perfect Ten: The MMOs with the most unclear futures in 2017

A little while back, I took a look at the healthiest games in the MMO space at this time. That was a nice, uplifting list, wasn't it? And all of those titles continue to do just fine, even if one or two might have had a few bits of shocking news along the way.

Unfortunately, this is not an industry in which health is assured. Games can be high-quality and beloved, but they can still be shut down by outside forces. And that's not counting games that just come out in the wrong time period or launch in an unrecoverable state.

That may sound grim, but we're already staring at the first two shutdowns of 2017 in the near future, and both of the titles being killed are surprises. One of them might have wound up on this list if it weren't being shut down, but at this point, it is. So let's look at the MMOs with the most unclear futures and start hoping for the best.

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Global Chat: Elder Scrolls Online renaissance

As I peruse a hundred or so community blog posts every day, it's fascinating to me to see what games the MMO blogosphere as a whole is playing and discussing. We sometimes end up flocking to certain titles based on recent announcements or because others are talking them up pretty heavily.

One game that's been getting a lot of mentions on blogs lately is Elder Scrolls Online, with players generally enthusiastic about how it's shaped up into a pretty decent MMO. "It's a really solid game that’s much better than the game that launched," writes Occasional Hero. "Visually, I would probably rank it second behind Black Desert Online for the best-looking MMORPG out there," touts Endgame Variable.

Elder Scrolls Online not your thing? No worries; we have articles covering The Secret World, LOTRO, RIFT, and more in today's community blog roundup!

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