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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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WoW Factor: World of Warcraft’s Battle for Azeroth feels like Cataclysm all over again

It took me a long time to identify what felt off about World of Warcraft’s upcoming expansion. Something was definitely bothering me, but the thing was is that we know exactly what an expansion with the bare minimum effort looks like now, and it sure as heck didn’t feel like Battle for Azeroth was Warlords of Draenor But Again. Yet something kept nudging at me, some comparison that was just slightly eluding me as I dutifully tested new quests, new system revisions, and so forth.

Then I realized that the whole thing was basically Cataclysm and it clicked.

Mind you, I say this not as an indication that the expansion is nearly as bad as Cataclysm was. (There’s still far too much of the actual game to see, for example.) But far from my own optimistic excitement, it feels like the expansion is making a lot of the same missteps as that particular black mark, and it doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence.
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Tamriel Infinium: The bizarre lore of the Hist in Elder Scrolls Online – and how it could matter in Mirkmire

Although our next Elder Scrolls Online venture into Black Marsh is still many months away, I thought I would take a moment to talk about the Argonians. But as intriguing as the Lusty Argonian Maid might be, I will save that discussion for another article and less kid-friendly website. (Side note: Wouldn’t it be hilarious if part of the Mirkmire DLC was finding out the origin of the Lusty Argonian Maid?)

What I would actually like to discuss today is the center of the Argonian religion and mythology: The Hist. It’s hard to tell sometimes if the Hist is an actual god-like presence or if it is mythology built up by the Argonians. Maybe it’s both. So if you’re ready for a drug-induced trip into the core of Argonian culture, keep reading. But if you’re not ready for what has to be the weirdest trip into Elder Scrolls lore, you might want to turn back now.

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Perfect Ten: Endless dungeons in MMOs

Most MMO dungeons are normal songs. You start out and you have a pretty clear picture of the beginning, middle, and end; they don’t really change up much. But the endless dungeon is like improvisational jazz. Sure, there’s a beginning and often a fairly reliable end, but the space in the middle can be filled with all sorts of things. You don’t even know what’s going to be there until you’re already in the thick of it. It could be filled with creme! (Probably not, but hey, life is weird sometimes.)

Our reader Arsin asked us a while back about MMOs with endless dungeon modes of some sort, and well, we do our best to find these things out. The goal here is to have an online-only game with randomly generated content between the start and end. Arguably some of these might not fit your personal criteria, but that’s all right; there’s plenty of variety here!

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The Survivalist: Using Conan Exiles for a virtual tabletop campaign

So I’ve been thinking. (A dangerous pastime, I know!) And I have actually been formulating an idea. And that is using a survival game like Conan Exiles to run a guided player campaign. You see, way back when as I was first playing D&D and other tabletop campaigns, I dreamed of the ability to play them in virtual reality. Can you imagine it? Instead of saying, “I cast a fireball,” you actually just do it! It is still a dream; a VR experience is not quite possible yet, but when I found MMORPGs I felt it was one step closer. I could see my actions play out in an adventure. However, for the most part it was an already scripted adventure according to the game devs. In some cases there were tools for players to make their own adventures (and boy, have I celebrated those!), but there were still more like story vignettes in a larger world out of the game master’s control. To  really have a fully-crafted experience, you need greater control than what the MMORPGs afforded.

And then came survival games. Now there is a whole world you can take control of and run a story campaign. Granted, they aren’t perfect, but survival games offer more tools for creating a robust visual player campaign a la tabletops. And that’s exactly what I am planning in Conan Exiles.

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Wisdom of Nym: Final Fantasy XIV’s beast tribes ranked, the top ranks

The fun thing about ranking the beast tribes of Final Fantasy XIV is that before I started in on this, I actually had no idea who would wind up where. I knew there were some tribes I liked more than others, but the actual final rankings surprised even me. Mostly toward the top; some entries, like the Lupine, were always going to be low on the list. But who would have thought that the top spot would go to…

Well, you’ll have to read for that. For now, let’s just make sure you’re caught up with the bottom ranks and the middle ranks. We’ve got five tribes left to go, and so by process of elimination you no doubt have a relatively clear picture of what tribes have to be here in some order, but let’s count them down. Starting with number five, just past the break. (The other four are further past the break.)

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The Game Archaeologist: A history of EverQuest’s expansions

I don’t know if EverQuest holds the crown title for the MMO with the most expansions, but I’m sure it’s among the top three if not at the number one spot on that list. It’s astounding to count them up and realize that two dozen expansions have come out for that game between 2000 and 2017. That averages to a little more than one per year!

Today I want to pay tribute to the 24 expansions of EverQuest by going through them, one by one, and seeing how they grew and enriched the game over the past decade-and-a-half. I would also love to hear testimonies in the comments as to which EverQuest expansion you enjoyed the most!

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Hyperspace Beacon: Take your SWTOR PvP to Rishi!

OK, I’ll come right out and say it: I love the Rishi stronghold. The Star Wars: The Old Republic developers have outdone themselves. I will unlock that whole stronghold as soon as it’s available on the live servers. It will be expensive, even for me. But I will do it, and I will not regret it.

Star Wars: The Old Republic, an MMORPG that has taken some hits for not doing things right for its community, might be turning some things around with its latest patch 5.9.2. Of course, this latest update puts a lot of focus on PvP, but for an MMO that places the story as a major pillar of its design, we know that PvP will never be its only focus on any patch.

Even though I admit that I love the new patch and stronghold, I am not blind to its flaws, so let’s take a tour of the new stronghold to examine the good and the bad.

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Perfect Ten: Best MMO debuts by year, 2007-2017

Continuing from my previous column, I’m going to be running through the second decade of graphical MMORPG launches and picking the best title to debut in any given year. From doing the first decade, I know that this thought exercise isn’t always fair; some years have several great contenders, while others see one mediocre one rise due to a lack of competition.

Still, it’s kind of fun to look back at MMO history and to see which game was really the best of that year. And if you ever felt sore that a particular title got overlooked, well, consider this a retroactive awards ceremony of some sort.

Let’s dive right in where we left off with 2007!

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Flameseeker Chronicles: Unpacking Guild Wars 2’s PR nightmare

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll have noticed that two Guild Wars 2 developers were cut loose last week after a heated Twitter exchange that was initiated by narrative lead Jessica Price. What started off as welcome insight into the problems with player-character narrative development in MMOs turned into a PR horror show when the dev felt slighted by a comment received in response to her musing.

The internet is alight with opinions on the drama and ArenaNet’s response to the comments made by Price and her coworker, so in this edition of Flameseeker Chronicles, I just had to address it myself.

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Wisdom of Nym: Taking a spin in Final Fantasy XIV’s Heaven-on-High

Heaven-on-High is not quite the same as the Palace of the Dead. That is not surprising; they’re different places with different lore and slightly different goals for their place in Final Fantasy XIV’s overall breadth of content. But they’re both part of the same food group, so there’s also the basic expectation that Heaven-on-High will be, functionally, Palace of the Dead 2. Which is… not inaccurate.

This is, in summary, an iterative take on the idea already established rather than a whole new frontier of content. It has both good sides and bad ones, and by and large I think it’s an improvement over the first version of the Deep Dungeon content. That doesn’t, however, mean that this take is flawless. It doesn’t even mean that every addition even enhances the overall experience. So let’s start prying into the dungeon from my first several runs, picking out the good parts from the negative and seeing what works for the future.

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EVE Evolved: Improving EVE Online’s organisational tools

Throughout most of EVE Online‘s lifetime, players have developed their own third-party applications (and yes, spreadsheets) to help organise and enhance their gameplay. We’ve got skill training calculators, websites for keeping track of structure fuel, databases full of information on items, and advanced industry and market tools that look like they belong to real world stock brokers. Most large alliances also now use Slack or Discord to organise out of game, have their own dedicated voice comms servers, and use tools like Jabber to notify members of important events.

CCP Games itself has added some brilliant in-game tools over the years that help players organise too. We now have a great in-game Calendar and event system, a customisable notification popup tool, corporation bookmarks, and an official smartphone app. We even have the ability to simulate and share ship fittings, and a new Agency panel that helps new players find content near them. These are all extremely useful productivity tools, but with a few improvements I think they could be even better!

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I discuss a few improvements I’d love to see for EVE Online‘s calendar, Agency interface, and official mobile app that would help players organise and work together more easily.

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Jukebox Heroes: Six more groovy tunes from MMOs you’ve never played

As an MMO music collector, I’ve gathered some really obscure soundtracks over the years, including ones from games that people don’t even remember existing, nevermind having actually played. I won’t lie: Some of these soundtracks are downright forgettable. They might have one or two halfway decent tunes tucked among them, but they certainly do not have enough good tracks to justify a whole column on them. Once in a while there might even be a gem that can be sifted from the pile, but these end up being anomalies.

Back in 2016 I posted a quick list of six great tunes from MMOs that most people had never played, and today, I’m going to do another. Sure, maybe there are a few of you out there who did log into these games back in the day, but chances are that a majority of readers on the site did not. In some cases, the music is all that remains of a long-lost experience.

So let’s see what gems we might uncover today!

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