Columns Category

Enjoy a run-down of our recent long-form pieces, both game-specific and more general. You might also be interested in our list of all of our columns and recurring articles. [Follow this category’s RSS feed]

The Daily Grind: What would you do if you could reboot any live MMO?

It’s kind of crazy to me that Final Fantasy XIV is not only still running but is successful, has a thriving population and a third expansion being announced later this year, and managed to do what so many games would love to do with its successful reboot. Sure, some elements of the original game were lost in the transition, but a lot of what people loved was preserved, and a whole lot of new people came into the game as a result. It worked out well.

Of course, part of why it worked was because Square-Enix had plenty of money and basically could tear down and rebuild the game from the ground up. It seemed risky at the time all the same.

So today, let’s play a hypothetical. Let’s say that you can reboot any MMO currently live and operating, from Champions Online to World of Warcraft, and you don’t have to worry about budgets in the process. Which MMO would you pick, and what would you want to do to it?

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Global Chat: Getting a handle on Legends of Aria

One of the great benefits of reading the wealth of MMO blogs out there is that you can touch base on a huge variety of games that you might not have time to play. Haven’t gotten around to checking in with the indie sandbox Legends of Aria? The blogosphere has you covered!

While Superior Realities thinks that there’s a “skeleton of a good game” in Aria, he wasn’t won over by the closed beta: “After about thirty minutes of dealing with bugs, spectacularly tedious and old school gameplay, and generally terrible design, I decided life was too short.”

Inventory Full felt that the game had featureless maps but probably deserved a longer look, and Levelcapped said that Aria is “so damn close to being an Ultima Online sequel that it’s both wonderful and blasphemous at the same time.”

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The Game Archaeologist: Digging up the history of City of Heroes

For the longest time in the early 2000s, MMORPGs scared me off. They looked too obtuse, too grindy, too ugly, and too unapproachable for my tastes. It took a special title to really draw me in with its more casual friendly structure and colorful graphics. In early 2004, I found myself entranced with this superhero MMO that let me be whatever type of caped (or non-caped) crusader I wanted to be. From then on, there was no going back with my interest in these types of games.

I assume that many MMO gamers owe a great debt to City of Heroes for the way that it introduced, encouraged, and excited them about MMOs. It was a new type of online game, one that boasted an unbelievably flexible character creator and invested in the fantasy of playing as a superhero fighting villains all across Paragon City.

Today we’re going to kick off a Game Archaeologist series looking back at City of Heroes. And as with any remarkable superhero, we have to begin with its origin story. Where did it come from? How was it made? Let’s find out!

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Betawatch: Fallout 76 starts beta testing in October (July 27, 2018)

Good news for those of you patiently (or not-so-patiently) waiting for Fallout 76 to enter beta testing, you have a date! Slightly worse news, that’s not until October of this year, so you’ll still be waiting a while yet. So that will either encourage you to continue patiently waiting or become less patient, I guess.

On the subject of patient waiting, Camelot Unchained has its new beta date planned for July 31st, so mark that in your calendars.

You could channel that impatience into reading up on some other beta news, if you were so inclined. That would be pretty chill and would make up for the wait, right? Maybe?

  • There are launch plans for Boundless, which should come as something of a surprise for everyone. It’s supposedly reaching launch on September 11th, which isn’t even all that far away.
  • Speaking of strange MMOs moving toward wider access, Occupy White Walls is heading to Steam in the near future! That is also good news to, well, anyone who enjoys art curation or just some of the weirder MMO options in the wild.
  • It felt pretty down to the wire, but Fractured successfully funded over the past week, so that’s going to be moving forward. So we’ve got a little time to wait until testing arrives, but that’s fine.
  • And moving on from strange MMOs and on to strange MMO actions, MapleStory 2 sold out of its founder’s packs, which is odd as the packs in question were not physical objects to be sold. Life is hilarious!

Those of you who have more impatient energy may want to do one of two things at this point: accept that being impatient is unlikely to be dispersed by sitting and reading, or hop along down below to our list of MMOs in testing. You can also follow up that part by letting us know if something in this list is filed incorrectly, as that helps us out a lot and we appreciate it.

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WoW Factor: Dissecting the dumb plan in World of Warcraft’s War of Thorns

There’s a lot to be upset about with the World of Warcraft Battle for Azeroth prepatch. There’s stuff that just doesn’t feel good any more (and yes, go ahead and make your own jokes there about the implications of that statement, it’s justified). There are bugs and issues that weren’t adequately tested. There’s the fact that this expansion is really doing a grand job of screwing up lots of characterization.

But with the pre-expansion event, we can look at a whole list of incredibly dumb things done just in this bit of the story.

We only have the first half of the event live right now, of course, and there are lots of dumb choices surrounding this (the fact that the story is in this order, for example), but for today we’re going to be confining this solely to in-universe criticism. And there’s still a column’s worth of intensely dumb decisions being made by someone who is supposed to be a capable military commander, based on all of the military commanding she did for ages.

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Hyperspace Beacon: Making roleplay events deeper in SWTOR (or any other MMORPG)

From time to time, I like to break from talking about the latest news from Star Wars: The Old Republic to talk about what I enjoy most about the setting that BioWare provides: a roleplay platform.

Of course, I’ve talked about the good and the bad of the game as a roleplay platform on many occasions, so I’m not going to dive into that today. Let me say up front that it’s not a perfect platform for roleplay, but I love roleplay in MMORPGs. I also love Star Wars, and this is the platform we have right now. Hit me up in the comments if you’d like to continue that conversation.

This week, however, I’d like to take apart how I construct an event for whichever SWTOR RP guild I happen to be a part of now. For anyone that might have taken part in an event that I created, you would know that I usually handle them similarly to a tabletop RPG event. I like to use a dice system to determine certain outcomes. The type of dice system usually does not matter because ultimately it’s the story and character choices that make for a great event, not the dice system.

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Perfect Ten: The best expansions for specific MMOs

Looking over the past two decades or so, MMORPGs have grown by leaps and bounds with regular releases, events, and (of course) expansion packs. Hundreds of expansions have now flooded the scene, with some of the longest-running titles seeing upwards of two dozen or more.

That got me thinking: Which expansion was the best? Not overall, I mean, but the best for each game that it serviced? Every MMO player harbors strong feelings about which was the best expansion for the titles they enjoy, and I have read many articles in which expansions were ranked, reviewed, and debated.

For this week’s Perfect Ten, we’ll be trying to put a finger on the best expansion for 10 specific MMOs. I’ve taken the additional step of polling the Massively OP staff to give me input on MMOs that they have played extensively over the years. So what’s the best? Let’s find out!

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EverQuesting: Ranking our favorite EverQuest II expansions

I was recently asked which EverQuest II expansion was the best. The best! I didn’t know how to answer that really: I am not especially great at labeling something as such because tastes differ, so my answer wouldn’t be the same as another player’s. And more than that, there are 14 of them (17 if I stretch it to include Adventure Packs) to think back on over the last 13+ years. That’s a lot of info that can kind of blend together as you adventure throughout Norrath.

But it got me to thinking: What are my favorite EQII expansions? Which expansions stand out, and which ones slipped away from memory? Which ones do I like best, and why? Do I prefer best bang for the buck or better features? Those are questions I set out to answer this week, so please join in this not-really-a-ranking discussion of the best of EQII’s expansions.

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Wisdom of Nym: Final Fantasy XIV gets to hunt some monsters

It hardly needs to be said at this point that the new way of doing things with Final Fantasy XIV‘s live letters has proven to work out, well, about as successfully as people accustomed to the company and fan translations had predicted. (This is to say that it involves lots more people getting upset at half-translations and no actual benefits for the community.) But we still do have new stuff to look forward to, and that starts with the big collaboration event starting in about three weeks. It feels closer, but that’s how long it’s actually going to be before Rathalos of Monster Hunter World stomps on over.

Beyond that, we also got our first gander at patch 4.4, even if it felt like only the barest of glimpses. So the point is we have plenty to look forward to in the near future, and even more in the more distant future. So let’s start talking about it, starting (rather obviously) with what we know most about already.

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EVE Evolved: Four changes to improve EVE Online for new players

A few months ago, I created a new character and ran through the new player experience for an article on how to get new players to stick with EVE Online. One of the first things I did was change some of the default settings, followed by re-arranging the chat windows, modifying the overview settings, and fixing the camera field of view. I’d usually dismiss this as me just being used to having the screen set up just the way I like it, but the truth is that the default settings new players are exposed to could really stand some improvement.

At the same time, there are a few gameplay changes that would undoubtedly help improve EVE Online‘s long-term retention of new players if CCP Games would commit to investigating them. War declarations need a serious overhaul to allow groups of friends to safely form social corporations, for example, and lone players should ideally be directed more forcefully toward corporate recruitment.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at four relatively low-impact changes which I believe could have a positive impact on new players and long-term retention.

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One Shots: Party animals

Apologies for the disruption in the normal One Shots schedule over the past couple of weeks, but we’re back and freakishly abnormal! Everyone behave themselves while I was gone? Good.

I don’t exactly know what’s going on in our headlining picture this week, but it looks like it is both the most exciting and unsafe party ever held in Secret World Legends. Of course, it’s all taking place on platforms without handrails that are standing over bottomless pits, so it’s not like a couple of baseball bats are going to make that much of a difference. Swing away!

“You can’t have a party with strangers without mentioning all the Megaversary fun in Secret World Legends as we all mob giant Beehemoths,” posted Hikari. “This event has been so much fun, it really captured the soul of The Secret World we remember.

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The Daily Grind: Are you less inclined to enjoy an MMO in beta testing?

Writing is not a matter of having no bias, it’s a matter of being aware of your bias and attempting to correct for it. That comes up for me when I write about MMOs in betas, because my default assumption is to do less and have a slightly harsher view. Considering my love of persistence in MMOs, this is probably not a surprise. I don’t want to play the lesser version of the game when all of my progress is going away! Save me for launch, please. Especially for expansions for World of Warcraft, which I have no doubt I am going to actually play anyhow.

This is not a universal feeling. Some of my friends prefer playing in beta titles, simply because while the game is in beta you can test things freely without worrying about spending your points wrong or anything similar. It’s like friends who used to play on the City of Heroes test server most of the time, partly because everything got reset every so often and thus never got stale. So what about you guys? Are you less inclined to enjoy an MMO in beta testing? Do you actually prefer it?

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The Game Archaeologist: Kesmai’s Air Warrior and Legends of Kesmai

Most studios would be overjoyed to have pioneered one significant advancement in video game history, but then again, most studios aren’t Kesmai. While it’s not a household name today, it’s reasonable to say that without the heavy lifting and backbreaking coding that this company shouldered in the ’80s and ’90s, the MMO genre would’ve turned out very different indeed.

Previously in this space, we met two enterprising designers named Kelton Flinn and John Taylor who recognized that multiplayer was the name of the future and put their careers on the line to see an idea through to completion. That idea was Island of Kesmai, an ancestor of the modern MMO that used crude ASCII graphics and CompuServe’s network to provide an interactive, cooperative online roleplaying experience. It wasn’t the first MMO, but it was the first one published commercially, and sometimes that makes all the difference.

Flinn and Taylor’s Kesmai didn’t stop with being the first to bring MMOs to the big time, however. Flush with cash and success, Kesmai turned its attention to the next big multiplayer challenge: 3-D graphics and real-time combat. Unlike the fantasy land of Island of Kesmai, this title would take to the skies in aerial dogfighting and prove even more popular than the team’s previous project.

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