science

Battle Bards Episode 126: Out of this world

It’s time to boldly go where no podcast has gone before — by exploring MMO space themes! It’s perhaps the flat-out goofiest and silliest Battle Bards episode to date, so you’re going to have to excuse a whole lot of diversions, arguments, and giggles. Because that’s what space does to people? We do not know. This episode is also notable for Syl’s all-time greatest quote, “Planets are usually in space.” Usually.

Battle Bards is a bi-weekly podcast that alternates between examining a single MMO’s soundtrack and exploring music tracks revolving around a theme. MOP’s Justin co-hosts with bloggers Steff and Syl. The cast is available on iTunesGoogle PlayTuneInPocket CastsStitcher, and Player.FM.

Listen to Episode 126: Out of this world (or download it) now:

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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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Hearthstone’s Boomsday Project expansion has launched – log in for your freebie card packs

Hearthstone’s Boomsday Project expansion is live today with its typical goofy scenario, this one revolving around World of Warcraft’s Netherstorm zone and a gobbo mad scientist enjoining players to crew his lab of “bleeding-edge scientists” for mischief and mayhem. What else?

“No project is deemed too difficult (or too dangerous) for Dr. Boom and his colorful team of scientists, engineers, and researchers. In The Boomsday Project, players will encounter raw, unfiltered science in the form of irresponsibly powerful Omega cards, which become incredibly potent when played at 10 mana crystals. They’ll also be inexplicably attracted to the new Magnetic keyword, which allows Mech minions to merge, combining their attack, health, and abilities to form mind-blowing amalgamations of doom. In addition, unwilling participants will be subjected to Projects, maniacal spells that appear to be mutually beneficial to both parties. And players will surely handle the immensely powerful new Legendary Spells, representing the pinnacle of scientific achievement, in a proper and responsible manner.”

Blizzard has goodies in store for “early adopters”; if you log in right away, you’ll pick up some freebie card packs as well as a random class legendary or hero card.
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The Daily Grind: How do you define ‘hardcore’ gaming?

Quantic Foundry’s latest report from its gamer motivation study is well worth your time to read, but for this morning’s Daily Grind, I want to focus on one specific takeaway: the apparent gender divide over what constitutes hardcore gamer. As Nick Yee explains,

“For men, playing a game seriously means being able to beat other players at it. For women, playing a game seriously is more likely to mean having completed and done everything there is to do in a game, and to leave traces of your personal flair in the game while doing it. For Hardcore female gamers, playing a game seriously is more akin to patiently creating and curating a work of art. And it’s a powerfully evocative alternative to how we typically conceptualize what a ‘hardcore gamer’ is. [… ]This gender comparison between Hardcore and Casual gamers also highlights the difference in coverage of different motivations: Male Hardcore gamers are below average in Fantasy (being someone else, somewhere else) and Story (elaborate plot and interesting characters), whereas female Hardcore gamers are consistently above average across all gaming motivations.”

How do you personally define “hardcore” in the gaming context? Are you hardcore if you’re into blowing shit up with “guns and explosives” and “specializing into competitive gaming”? Or are you hardcore if you’re into “developing a broad interest in all aspects of gaming”?

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World of Warcraft’s creative director asks players to ‘be patient’ regarding the story

Why do people care so much about the story in World of Warcraft, to the point that they are rioting across social media and freaking out in the comments? That’s something WoW Creative Director Alex Afrasiabi has addressed in a rather timely new interview with him out on Aussie website Science Alert this week; he argues that story is what motivates players to do – and to justify – what they do in MMO worlds.

“If you look at story as a layer that we put atop the game, it’s a motivational factor in the things that you do and your actions in the world and it gives them consequence and weight,” he says. “It puts emotionality behind things. Why am I killing gnolls anyway? Just a bunch of furry dudes that are minding their own business. Without the story, that activity becomes meaningless – and in some ways potentially mean, right? Well, as soon as you find out that the gnolls keep raiding the orphanage and they’re eating children – which they’re not but let’s pretend they are. That suddenly gives you the urge to stop these gnolls at any cost! Story explains your actions as a player and gives you the ability to choose the things you want to do and the method you want to do them in. […] So it’s integral to the gameplay. Integral.”

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Enter to win a Star Trek Online Leeta Tactical Bridge Officer on Xbox and PS4 from PWE and MOP

Are you hyped for Deep Space Nine in Star Trek Online? Victory is Life launched on console last week, complete with a journey to the Gamma Quadrant, the Deep Space Nine crew, the Jem’Hadar playable faction, bumped level cap, seven new episodes, and more goodies. And to celebrate the release for console, PWE has granted Massively OP a bunch of goodies to raffle to our PS4 and Xbox One readers! We’ve got codes for the Leeta Tactical Bridge Officer, 25 apiece for each console.

Do note that PS4 codes are restricted to North American players; the Xbox One codes are universal. And if you win, you’ll need to complete the tutorial with a Federation or Klingon character to redeem the codes.

Read on to enter to win!

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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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The Daily Grind: Do you tilt toward sci-fi or fantasy in your MMOs?

I always found it weird that bookstores always shoved science fiction and fantasy subgenres together, kind of like a “here’s a general section for geeks but we’re not going to try to differentiate between any of it.” I’ll acknowledge that there is a lot of crossover and flow between the two, even when it comes to MMORPGs.

Recently I’ve been searching for a sci-fi title to scratch that spacefaring burning in my soul. Elite: Dangerous has proved problematic without a joystick, and EVE Online is far too hardcore for my tastes. Maybe No Man’s Sky is finally ready to check out? Perhaps. At least there are more space sims and futuristic MMOs on the way!

Do you find that your tastes tilt toward sci-fi or fantasy in your MMO gaming, or are you balanced right in the middle?

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Hearthstone delivers a funny Boomsday Project short story, runs Midsummer Fire Festival

Yes, the Hearthstone team is having way, way too much fun with the loopy insanity of the upcoming Boomsday Project expansion. It’s so much fun, who could call it work? Not the person who wrote this new short story that steps into the Boom Labs to look at the mad science in progress. Plus, if you read carefully, you might catch a glimpse of one of the expansion’s newest cards.

Hearthstone is currently enjoying the heat of the Midsummer Fire Festival. In addition to enjoying some special theming, players can earn a new fire emote, take part of a fiery tavern brawl, and earn double gold from quests. This event will conclude on July 30th.

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What made Fortnite so ridiculously popular? Anticipation is baked into both the loot and the gameplay, says one psychologist

Over the weekend, I was chatting with the mom of my son’s friend and let slip that I’m a video game blogger. Her reaction? “What do you think of Fortnite? Is it so big because it’s free-to-play?” Our kids aren’t even old enough to play this game, and she knew all about it and wondered about its runaway success.

The truth is, there are lots of reasons for Fortnite’s success, more than I had time to mumble out in small talk. Jamie Madigan on The Psychology of Video Games blog took a stab at answering the same question this week, and his answer is probably not what anybody is expecting.

“I think Fortnite Battle Royale’s secret sauce has to do with something that’s kind of obvious once you think about it: random chance. I don’t mean that Fortnite’s success is due to luck. Rather, I mean that Epic smartly leveraged the power of random rewards in their design for the game, and that’s one of the main reasons it’s so popular.”

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Three quarters of European gamers don’t even understand what the heck lootboxes are

A new report on GIbiz suggests that most gamers are pretty darn clueless about lootboxes, which probably won’t surprise anyone reading here. Researchers for the publication surveyed gamers in Western Europe and found that barely more than a quarter of gamers even know what they are. More than half (we assume) of those who seem to have no opinion on whether lootboxes are a plus for the gaming experience (a quarter think they suck). But the reaction differs depending on the way the question is phrased.

“We also asked gamers if they thought loot boxes made them think more positively about game companies, 54% had no opinion, 10% agreed with the statement, whereas 37% disagreed. In fact 20% ‘strongly disagreed’ that loot boxes made them feel positively about the companies that used them, which suggests that loot boxes create some negative feeling among some consumers.”

That said, almost half of those familiar with lockboxes suggested that lootboxes make them less likely to buy games with them, so there’s that.

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Hearthstone unleashes mad science with The Boomsday Project expansion

Anyone notice how Hearthstone seems to have the best art team and the biggest sense of humor of the entire Blizzard studio? It certainly doesn’t have restraints on its creativity or insanity, as evidenced by the announcement of its latest expansion pack, The Boomsday Project.

Coming on August 7th, The Boomsday Project takes players on a tour of Dr. Boom’s mad science lab and his “irresponsible experiments.” The expansion contains 135 new cards, including nine additional legendary spells. Players will contend with new types of cards such as Projects, Magnetics, and Omegas.

Single-player lovers will be treated to the Puzzle Lab, a solo experience that reportedly (but don’t quote us on this) involves puzzles. There’s a $50 pre-purchase bundle that’s up right now that tosses in a gold legendary and card backing for those who drop a half-C on it.

Go on a mad science bender after the break!

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Journalists and academics clash over the World Health Organization’s ‘gaming disorder’ classification

Ever since the World Health Organization decided it will include its “gaming disorder” classification in its upcoming disease classification manual revision, game journalists, mainstream journalists, and academics have been enjoying a field day fighting over whether it’s justified and what the ramifications will be. As we’ve previously noted, according to WHO,

“Gaming disorder is characterized by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour, which may be online or offline, manifested by: 1) impaired control over gaming; 2) increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities; and 3) continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”

Eurogamer, for example, ran a story from an editor who discussed how he personally was addicted to World of Warcraft. He calls the opposition to WHO’s classification “juvenile,” suggesting that it’s really about “the fear of facing up to uncomfortable truths about game design.”

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