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First impressions of World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth, part 3: Narrative

All right. Strap yourselves in, folks, because this is when we have to start talking about narratives and story and intended emotional reactions. In short, this is where World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth becomes a seriously messy piece of work, because this is an expansion in which the game posits that maybe colonialism is super great and native peoples are evil villains in league with dark powers.

Yes, that’s a thing that happens. No, we’re not going to leave it there, but I’m trying to minimize spoilers before the cut.

I’ve said on Twitter before today that the game feels like a $500 million movie with $50 spent on the script, and that still rings true. A ton of effort has been put into the presentation of this expansion, and there’s nothing to do but praise all of that; there’s honestly very little to fault in any part of the presentation of the story. The faults all arrive once you start examining the actual text of that story. And boy-howdy, that’s a mess.

Fair warning, people, there will be spoilers below.

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Tamriel Infinium: Three key takeaways from the Elder Scrolls Online Murkmire teaser

Hopefully, everyone saw the Elder Scrolls Online presentation at Quakecon. If not, I’ll have that whole video just past the break. Game Director Matt Firor and Community Manager Gina Bruno stood on stage to give an overview of what ESO has in store for the rest of the year. Of course, Wolfhunter launched a couple of days ago, but I was definitely more interested in the Murkmire presentation.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: I believe that Black Marsh is the area of Tamriel that ESO will ultimately be known for, and that’s because no other game in the Elder Scrolls series has touched that area of Tamriel with any significance. Firor explained what we would discover in Murkmire, but I believe his last line explained it best: “Along the way you’re going to get a really deep dive into Argonian culture, philosophy, and religion — really, what drives them, and what makes them so weird.”

During the presentation, Firor and Bruno gave us our first look at the Murkmire DLC in game. During this one-minute clip, we didn’t see much, but I’ve pulled it apart. And I’m going to hopefully reveal some things that you didn’t notice.

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First impressions of World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth, part 2: Content

The first part of this first impressions series yesterday was all about the mechanical changes made for this expansion. This time, I don’t want to talk about the mechanics of World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth; I want to talk about the actual content. Not the narrative text, but just the actual moment-to-moment stuff you’re doing in the game. Which, I think, is what this expansion is going to be judged on at this stage by a lot of people.

Put simply, the game could have the best combat it has ever had with the best gear enhancement system conceivable, but if the actual things you had to fight were a boring slog, no one would like it anyway. Solid content covers a multitude of sins.

There are several people who would likely argue that Legion had some of the best content we’ve ever seen in WoW, and while there’s room to debate that, I think it’s definitely worth considering. So BfA started off on something of the back foot, and that was exacerbated by the fact that it has not one but two continents to fill out almost entirely separate.

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First impressions of World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth, part 1: Mechanics

Hey, there’s a new World of Warcraft expansion, right? When did that happen?

There’s a bit of snark there, but perhaps less than you might think. The weird thing is that Battle for Azeroth kind of does feel as if it just dropped without warning; it was outside of the usual release schedule for expansions, with a long lead-in, as if the final product just showed up on our collective doorsteps one day. Assuming you were already logged on and had your pre-orders set, you could just jump right in and start the expansion, which hearkened back to the days of midnight releases after a fashion.

Needless to say, there’s a lot to talk about with the expansion so far. Now that it’s actually live we can see the mechanics and the story with all the polish that’s intended, with nothing left behind a curtain (other than Warfronts, anyhow). Coming off the well-received Legion, this expansion has some pretty big foot gear to fill, and it’s fair to wonder if any expansion wouldn’t feel like a bit of a downturn… but let’s not start there. Let’s just start in on one aspect of the game and go from there.

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Massively on the Go: Our basic guide to Pokemon Go gameplay and questing

Pokemon Go has come a long way since its early days of just catching and gym battling. Those are still core gameplay elements, but there’s a bit more to it now. It’s not just about catch and release, but catching specific Pokemon, catch several in a row, catching with a specific kind of throw, and more, mostly thanks to questing.

Yes, there are quests in POGO now, including dailies. I’m not just talking about the old system either. Now, at the very least, you want to catch one Pokemon, spin one PokeStop, and do one “Field Task,” the game’s equivalent of dailies. If you understand that, you can probably stop here, but for those looking to dig a bit deeper, keep reading.

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Wisdom of Nym: Hunting the monster in Final Fantasy XIV

Patch 4.36 sure seems as if it’s has been dragged out. Realistically, that’s not what has happened at all; the time between patches has remained pretty consistent, and with the next big Final Fantasy XIV patch planned for September this is just about the right time. But something about 4.36 having big content just makes the whole thing feel overextended, as if we’ve been sitting and spinning our wheels for an extended time however untrue that may be.

My big plan for this week was to try out the Monster Hunter World crossover because I was honestly less interested in Pagos. (Yes, I like the idea behind Eureka, but there are only so many hours in the day.) I honestly found the experience a bit… not bad, necessarily, but just underwhelming. It was neutral. And I think some of it comes down to how the game has been increasingly handling its crossovers and whether or not those are, well, good things or less-good things.

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The Survivalist: Excited for ARK’s Extinction

I finally broke down and watched ARK: Survival Evolved’s Extinction trailer. It’s not that I didn’t want to! On the contrary, I was very interested to get that glimpse; I just wanted to wait until we had even more info about it so I could really delve into it. But since that doesn’t seem to be coming about, I couldn’t hold out any longer. It is the conclusion of the multi-expansion story arc after all, and we’ve just gotten all excited about ARK’s story!

After watching the trailer, my anticipation level inched up a few notches. The teaser hints at answers to some long-held questions, and I am excited to take on the all-new survival challenges. Helping to amp that enthusiasm up are the monthly Extinction-themed content drops: Say hello to some bionic dinos! (They even lay tek eggs!) Perhaps Extinction will be quite a grand finale. I definitely look forward to learning, and sharing, more as we learn about the expansion.

All that said, there’s still that little bit of nagging disappointment at the lack of attention older maps get, especially the original game. Who knows though, perhaps once the final game is out and done the devs can turn some attention back to fixing those issues with the island.

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The Game Archaeologist: City of Heroes’ launch history and the Marvel lawsuit

In our first part of this series looking back at the stupendous history of City of Heroes, we saw how the idea for this superhero MMORPG germinated from a tech millionaire who took his love for RPGs and comic books into the online world. Cryptic Studios was founded in 2000 with the intent of developing a new type of MMORPG, one with a superhero bent set in an original IP.

While the development period was fraught with difficulty, including a messy design, delays, and the departure of the studio’s co-founder, City of Heroes took shape by 2004 and finally entered into live operation that April to the delight of thousands of fledgling superheroes.

Today we’ll be walking through the next few years of this game’s lifecyle, including its launch, the initial issues, and a serious lawsuit that threatened to kill the game dead.

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WoW Factor: World of Warcraft’s market saturation and the pull of vague memories

Here’s something a little different: Usually, before I write a World of Warcraft column (or any column), my assumptions and data are pretty firm before I put them down on paper, else I wouldn’t be writing it in the first place. This is one of the reasons that, for example, I spent so much time showing my work when trying to predict the launch date for Battle for Azeroth; that was all about hard numbers, so it was easy to check math and assumptions in an obvious fashion.

But in this particular case I’m exploring a concept that I’m still playing with and researching, something that may turn out to be somewhat erroneous. To wit: I suspect World of Warcraft expansions have switched from selling to existing customers and into reclaiming old customers as a primary design focus.

It might seem like an odd assertion, but I think it’s an interesting thing to consider and may help shed light on a number of design decisions, several of which I think are pretty bad ones. But for this particular column I’m not interested in analyzing the merits of design choices; I’m interested in presenting the evidence and showing how it lines up in a more neutral fashion. Because I think it can shape some interesting thinking.

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Massively on the Go: A guide to (re)learning how to catch Pokemon in Pokemon Go

So, you’re in Pokemon Go, and you just saw a Pokemon. You clicked the little beast and now are in the catch screen. Just straight flick those balls at the Pokemon and hope for the best, right? Wrong! I mean, you can do that, but with very little training, you can throw curveballs, drastically increasing your capture rates, allowing you to complete special quests/tasks. When you combine your new technique with new items to get more candy/dust for your effort, you’ll be amassing an army of digital beasties in no time!

Tracking Pokemon

Especially for those of you played in the very early days in America, Pokemon catching has changed. The “step” system is gone. Instead, Pokemon are often by PokeStops. You can click on the bottom right of the screen to see nearby Pokemon, click the one you want to track, and the game will highlight the area you should search for it. Pokemon with a grass icon can be, well, just about anywhere not near a Stop.

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Perfect Ten: 10 MMO features that deserve widespread adaptation

You know what gets me excited about upcoming MMOs? It’s certainly not the list of expected systems and features that have since become standard for most games in this genre. Good-looking fantasy online RPG? Neato, that’s terrific, but what else are you selling?

No, what truly grabs my attention is when a dev team uses its imagination and comes up with a creative feature that makes me sit back and say, “Wow, I wish they all had this!”

It’s a shame that we have seen plenty of these systems over the years that were tried maybe once or twice but never adapted into the greater sphere. Today we’re going to come up with 10 examples of such features that truly did try something revolutionary (or at least pretty cool) but haven’t seen follow-ups in games since.

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Massively on the Go’s guide to returning to Pokemon Go: Focus on community

I’ve noticed a bit of a renewal for Pokemon Go thanks to large improvements by Niantic starting with Generation 3. With raids, quests, real-world weather affecting spawns, trading, and friends, the game’s drastically changed since release. But as my fellow Massively OP reporters Brendan Drain and Tina Lauro Pollock have both returned to the game, I’ve also noticed that coming (back) to the game can be a bit confusing.

There are a lot of in-depth guides out there, but there is so much going on with the game that for a real newbie, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Instead, I’m going to go point by point, top priority to bottom, in a way that lets you get back into the game quick and easy, using long-term but relevant tips and resources. Power players and veterans can skim these articles and add their own advice in the comments section, but my job is going to put you on the road to being a capable Pokemon trainer.

Today, we’re going to start with community.

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Wisdom of Nym: Why Final Fantasy XIV’s role actions didn’t work

Tucked away in the latest live letter was a bit of information that seems like it’s more relevant than its rather humble placement would seem to indicate. In the not-too-distant future, Final Fantasy XIV is going to remove all limitations on role actions. You can use all 10 of them at the same time! Goodbye, literally any remaining shred of character customization, you will not be missed.

Or rather, you will, but not for what you did but what you were supposed to do.

The big problem with role actions, simply put, is that they never actually accomplished their stated goal at any point. It’s part of the game’s complex relationship with character choices and actions I’ve discussed before, but seeing as role actions are soon going to be altogether yanked from their current state, it seems worthwhile to examine why they didn’t work and what (if anything) would be helpful in replacing them.

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