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The Daily Grind: How much time do you spend on aesthetics in MMOs?

You don’t want to know how much time I’ve spent carefully decorating my characters’ living spaces in Final Fantasy XIV. Or maybe you do; it is kind of on-brand. And the reality is that it’s about as much time proportionally as I’ve spent decorating strongholds in Star Wars: The Old Republic or assembling outfits in World of Warcraft or carefully choosing which sort of nacelle looks better on my ship in Star Trek Online. Let’s just round up and say that it’s a lot of time.

Keep in mind, many of these things aren’t just time spent arranging things. Decorating a house in FFXIV means time spent deciding on furnishings, figuring out where to get them, usually gathering a lot of items to craft and crafting tons of furniture, then placing all of it. A new outfit in WoW means having most of the look, but having to go run one dungeon or another a few times for the last necessary drop, then color-coordinating the bits that look almost right but not quite. So what about you? How much time do you spend on aesthetics in MMOs? Is it a big part of your playtime, or do you just focus on the functional and then move on?

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Crowfall hosts an hour-long art Q&A stream

When your game maintains an aggressive schedule of streaming, it can be a bit of a problem when your usual streaming host isn’t available one week. But Crowfall soldiered on with a new community Q&A; it’s just one with a different focus this month, as lead environmental artist Jon O’Neal took over hosting duty to show off and answer player questions about the art of the game. And considering you’re looking at said art all of the time, it makes a certain amount of sense.

The whole video can be watched in its archived form just below, so if you were ever curious about the process of grayboxing or moving from early concept sketches to finished art, you ought to give it a look. O’Neal also shows off elements like the aesthetics of the Stoneborn, so you can get a feeling for what the full game world will look like in action. Set aside a chunk of time and watch the whole thing below.

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City of Titans introduces its costume designer while teasing character creation

We haven’t seen the character creation for City of Titans just yet, but you know that’s going to be an important part of the game. You can’t have a proper superhero title without proper superhero costumes, after all. The latest piece on the official site is interviewing one of the development team’s costume designers and talking about the development behind the scenes, but both it and the video accompanying it promise that the actual creation preview is coming very soon.

Kayla “Z06” Bianchi talks mostly about her own gaming history and preferences in the little interview, but you can also see some of her work for both the concept art and interior level design. If all you’re interested in is the prospect of seeing how you can make your character, check out the video just below. (It’s a teaser, not a full trailer, so be fairly warned.)

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Conan Exiles is working on making the UI more communicative and creatures more expressive

The team behind Conan Exiles has been working hard over the past week, but a lot of that work has gone to the art team over the past week. Sure, it’s important that the vanguard team has been working on making sandstorms do damage to players while also fixing issues with NPC weapons, but the art team has been hard at work giving creatures more expressive telegraphs to work with the combat system.

And that isn’t all the art team is developing; creatures in the world need to feel more expressive in general, so they’re getting more idle animations and environmental interactions to boot. So you’ll see fewer critters just hanging out and more of them doing things that make sense for those animals.

There’s also work being done on the UI to make everything feel immersive, fun, and easy to understand at a glance. Check out the full newsletter to see all of the ways in which the team is working hard to make the game the best it can be.

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Conan Exiles is moving forward with lava flow and combat revisions

Do you have strong opinions on the flow of lava? It’s possible you’re a trained scientist who knows when it looks right or wrong, but it’s also possibly you just like nitpicking. Either way, Conan Exiles is making sure that the molten flow of lava in the game looks nice and authentic. You probably won’t be burnt to a crisp from convection, so realism is still going right out the window, but it’ll look nice just the same.

The weekly update has more in it aside from just that, of course; the combat team is working on lock-on targeting systems in prototype stages to test out how that change will affect the overall feel of the game’s combat, while the art team is developing some cute cats and new crossbows. Check out the latest dispatch to see everything that’s changing in the near future and is already in the works for future updates.

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The Daily Grind: How much do aesthetics impact your playstyle choices in an MMO?

How your character looks affects your enjoyment of an MMO. This is almost a tautology; you spent time in the character creator, obviously, so you have some investment. But I think it goes beyond even that. Some of our playstyle choices come down as much to what looks cool and feels neat from a visual standpoint as it does with any other considerations. Give the exact same mechanics to a different set of visuals and people will often feel differently, even if the actual play is the same; witness the number of people in World of Warcraft with strong feelings about which Hunter spec got a gun and which one got a bow, even when the mechanics are functionally identical.

Every game has certain choices that look particularly cool – enormous capital ships in EVE Online, Red Mages in Final Fantasy XIV, several Elite specs in Guild Wars 2. There’s an obvious effort to make these things look cool, first and foremost, often to the point of enticing people who otherwise might not play with these particular options. So what about you, dear readers? How much do aesthetics impact your playstyle choices in an MMO?

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World of Warcraft shows off the caster animation changes coming in patch 7.3

Casting spells has been a cornerstone of World of Warcraft since the game launched, and while the models and particle effects have gotten better, not much has been done about the actual casting animations themselves. The upcoming patch 7.3 revamps these animations, and a new entry on the official site takes a look at how the animations are being changed, including the new idle stances for the various casters to make their poses look as distinctive as wielding a weapon.

The animations also include different looks for spell effects to distinguish things like Mage frost magic from Shaman frost magic. You can check out a quick look at the animations in the video just below if you’re curious to see everything in action, or you can read through the whole article to understand why Arcane Missiles now looks like fireworks popping on your target. (It still has the four-pronged burst, don’t worry about that part.)

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Final Fantasy XIV asks players to help design some new furniture

Are there furnishings you wish were in Final Fantasy XIV but keep not getting added? Perhaps you can take matters into your own hands with the game’s new furnishing contest. Players are tasked with either creating a drawing or a 3-D recreation of a desired bit of furnishing, with the top 100 entries earning a set of in-game items for cosmetic purposes. And, perhaps, seeing the furnishing end up in the game.

There are no promises about that one, of course, but it seems like the logical next step.

Players may enter the contest at any point before Monday, August 28th, with the winning entries to be selected and announced around November 10th, 2017. Exterior fixtures and decorations for houses are off-limits, but any other furnishing you can come up with (including outdoor furnishings) is fair game. So you can build a bookshelf for the game and actually see it show up in the game, if it’s a good enough bookshelf.

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The Daily Grind: Do MMOs go overboard with particle effects?

There was an old joke among myself and some of my friends playing World of Warcraft about how it was convenient that bosses are all big so you can see them through the spell effects. Of course, there’s some truth to that. Even in a dungeon, it’s easy to lose sight of a boss under the effects of a few people hitting the same target; in content with large groups, you can often lose sight of the boss completely beneath an explosion of special effects.

It’s neat to have effects to go along with your abilities, of course; seeing the flare of something happening to your targets is part of how you know you’re doing something. But City of Heroes in particular had people claiming they couldn’t even see what was happening half of the time, and there are certain bosses in Final Fantasy XIV with facing-reliant attacks where it’s hard to not just pray you’re avoiding where the blob of spell effects is facing. What do you think? Do MMOs go overboard with particle effects?

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Neverwinter is making maps look creepy again and strongholds more small-guild friendly

The bright side for environmental artists working on Neverwinter’s next module is that so much of the content takes place in familiar areas. That means you can reuse old maps without designing everything from the ground up. But how do you take those areas, make them look creepy, and then drop them back into the game? A new post by environment artist Ryan Dao walks through the process of taking existing locales and giving them a coat of evil paint. (Which is paint that looks evil, mind you, not paint which shows up when adjacent clerics use Detect Evil.)

It’s interesting stuff not just for fans of Neverwinter but for anyone interested in the process; Dao talks about putting together environmental objects, then using bits and pieces of those objects to kitbash further pieces of decor to create a unified look while also streamlining the process. You can also see plenty of before-and-after shots for comparison purposes, so it’s definitely a process that works.

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Ship of Heroes asks for early UI feedback

The UI matters a lot in an MMORPG — at least if you’re going to be staring at it pretty much constantly while you’re playing the game. So what should the Ship of Heroes UI look like? Yes, “like the City of Heroes UI,” the game is already there on that point. But what about colors and positioning? That’s what the developers are asking with the latest dispatch from the development team.

Two different early versions of the UI are available for fans to examine, mostly differentiated with colors for health/resources and the style of the game’s hotbars. Future would-be players are invited to offer feedback on the game’s forums about which version looks better and which one no one should ever want to use, although it’s hard to make many long-term decisions based solely on UI screenshots. You’re supposed to hide the UI before you take screenshots, after all.

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League of Legends looks at how it brought back a winter-themed map design

One does not play League of Legends in a quest for diverse play environments. This is kind of the nature of the MOBA; you have a wide array of different heroes to throw up against one another on a very limited number of very predictable maps. So it’s all the more important that those individual maps feel fun and diverse to play on. LoL rose to the challenge with a winter-themed Summoner’s Rift, but just like any good story, it almost didn’t happen… until the team found a way to make a fast and convincing winter wonderland.

The remake of the Summoner’s Rift took the better part of a year to implement, and the understanding had been that replacing the map with a winter-themed version would require the same amount of work for something only available briefly. However, a new procedure allowed the team to isolate specific portions of the textures, which allowed for a quick illusion of snow that took weeks, not months. You can see the process in short just below and read about the whole journey on the official site.

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Mortal Online revamps all of its racial textures

Rebuilding a game’s models is hard and somewhat grueling work. Luckily, you can get some of the same impact at times by just providing better textures for those models. Mortal Online‘s most recent patch has revamped racial textures across the board; you can see the old texture on the left in the header image, while the new one is on the right. Every race should look just a bit better now, and all without touching the underlying models.

The game is also running its usual holiday event, with the Krampus wandering around rather than anyone in a red suit with a white beard. If you’re inclined to go visit and pick up some presents while the event is running, now would be the time. And hey, you’ll look better than you did last year when the holidays rolled around; steady progress, there.

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