Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Runewaker's Guardians of Ember Looks Awesome

If you haven't yet heard of Guardians of Ember, do not turn in your MMO expert diploma just yet: while the game has indeed been in development for some time by Runewaker, it has been kept under covers until it accomplished a state the publisher was happy with. Now that it has been uncovered, it looks like it will enter early access for testing purposes fairly soon. Judging by the screenshots released by the developer, the game is indeed in an advanced stage and it looks great. What it's looking to accomplish is a sort of hybrid experience between action RPGs (like Diablo III) and MMOs and - provided it does it well - it may indeed be on to something. Lots of people love Hack'n Slash action and Diablo III's popularity is living proof of that. Many of these fans would love to see more depth added to the game though and that's exactly what Guardians of Ember may provide through its MMO elements.

What exactly are we looking at though? Guardians of Ember offers a total of six classes and four races, and a handful of randomized dungeons, which allow for different settings on difficulty. There's also a solid crafting system at work, not to mention the housing component, which allows players to decorate their own dwelling the way they see fit. In addition to all that, there are ranked and unranked PvP options as well.

While most of the game features are already implemented, the team is ready to learn and to improve it in various ways. The main quest-line - which players can already embark on - provides some 30 hours of entertainment, and it can be explored with 5 of the 6 classes.

Another thing that's certain about Guardians of Ember: it will be buy to play.

Philip Thalberg works for GGnet, the world's top spot for Overwatch rankings and competitive gaming in general. 
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Monday, September 5, 2016

A Look at Torn Banner's Mirage: Arcane Warfare

If you're into disemboweling your opponents in various, creatively gruesome ways, while splashing their blood up and down the walls of the map you happen to be playing, Torn Banner's Mirage: Arcane Warfare may indeed be the game for you. The game has had a 12-minute trailer/gameplay action video released the other day at the Pax West convention in Seattle, looking to offer an insight into the alpha build of a title which is set to fill several shoes apparently. From the said footage, one gets the impression that Torn Banner are revisiting their Chivalry IP, diluting it with a touch of magic to try to turn it into a sort of medieval-themed Overwatch.

Mirage is essentially a multiplayer FPS, which is based on skill and allows players to use a combination of magic and melee to destroy their opponents. The game features no fewer than six different classes, starting with the stealthy assassin and wrapping up with massive brutes and powerful mages. The game is reportedly focused on making players feel truly in control of their weapons and magic abilities.

As far as the trailer is concerned, Mirage: Arcane Warfare isn't particularly impressive from a graphical point of view, in its current state. The animations are chunky and the various fatalities which occur every step of the way, lean towards the ridiculous rather than the impressive. Obviously though, we need to bear in mind that what we're seeing is but the alpha version of a game that may yet grow to be impressive in every way.

The environment already looks more than decent, with its own personality and cartoon-like charm. It is also easy on the eyes in terms of opponent-spotting.

The alpha testing of Mirage: Arcane Warfare is set to kick off sometime in September and registrations are already accepted at the official site of the game.

If you prefer to annihilate your opponents in less gruesome ways, then consider putting your skills to the test and play live dealer casino games instead.

Philip Thalberg has been covering Overwatch events for GGnet since the launch of the game. 
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Ever, Jane - a MMORPG With a Huge Accent on "RP"

People who are ringing alarm bells heralding the imminent demise of the classic MMORPG genre, have probably not looked deep enough under the surface to see that there is in fact still new blood being pumped into this old and weathered industry, and that some of the new and upcoming titles are simply jaw-dropping. Ever, Jane is the perfect example in this sense. Now, this game is much too niche to be hailed as the potential savior of the classic MMO scene, but its take on the role-playing aspect is indeed nothing short of a breath of much-needed fresh air.

Based on the world created by Jane Austen through her novels, the game will take players to grand balls instead of raids, and dinner parties instead of dungeons. Players' sharpest weapons shall be oration and writing skills rather than swords and the likes, and the stats will include factors such as social status, kindness, reputation and duty. The focus shall obviously be on the role playing element above all-else, and in this respect, Ever, Jane harkens back to the MMOs of the early 2000s. Graphics, character customization and visuals are secondary and - in their current state - rather unimpressive indeed.

Currently in open-beta stage, the game is already populated by players who are dedicated to its RP focus, so if you join and roam around a little bit in the game world, you're likely to find yourself pleased with the way the game is shaping up, if you are a fan of this era/world/style of course.

The game picked up some $110k through Kickstarter in 2013 and its open beta was launched just about a week ago. Admittedly, Ever, Jane is not for everyone, but it doesn't aim to appeal to everyone. It has a very specific target-audience, and its mission will obviously be fulfilled if it can cater to those very specific needs.

Philip Thalberg has been involved with e-sports since 2004. 
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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Current Impasse of the MMORPG Genre

The MMORPG genre - especially in its traditional form - may not be dead as some people claim, but it is certainly in a major impasse. There is little to no infusion of fresh blood into the scene, and the big moneymakers are still the flag-carriers of ages past, which are all well past their primes and by some measure: on their way out. WOW - which is having its latest expansion, Legion, released in a few days - is obviously still a moneymaker sticking to its old-fashioned, subscription-based monetization model. Others, like Elder Scrolls Online and DC Universe Online, are clinging on to life, having adopted a hybrid, free-to-play model. As far as the big picture is concerned though, the genre is definitely hurting and - like the RTS genre before it - it looks headed to the dustbins of gaming history.

What is the problem though? One of the driving forces of this MMO decline stems - rather paradoxically - from the very popularity of the genre, which gave birth to scores of low-quality games, clones of successful titles and clones of clones, which have diluted the quality and created a culture of free content, that came right back to bite the legit titles where it hurt most: in the wallets.

This is why titles which cost tons of money to develop are nowadays free...Star Wars: The Old Republic" comes to mind here, which cost northward of $200 million to develop and which is now free to play. While the free premium content is definitely a short-term plus for players, it is an entirely unsustainable model from the point of view of the industry.
The MMO clone-culture had another major victim as well: the quality of the story and at the end of the day, of the game-play. Let's face it: most of the dime-a-dozen/free MMOs have their players hacking away at generic monsters for what seems like eternity, for no discernable reason whatsoever...

Philip Thalberg has been working for esports news site GGnet since 2004. 
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Monday, August 29, 2016

People want Dark Souls combat, but I want its map design

I often hear "I want a MMO with Dark Souls combat"... but apparently, everyone is forgetting how amazing the map design is in Dark Souls, and MMO developers should take notes.

In Dark Souls, everything is connected to each other in genuine ways. Hard monsters roam near easy monsters, there is a deep underground level (and upper level), there are a lot mazes, it's slow-pace, etc. And more often than not, you will get lost for a while and then enter a door that suddenly puts you way back at the beginning, mindblowing the hell out of you.

Now, THAT is what exploration is. Usually, MMOs tend to have a huge world that is simply unrealistic. Everything is vast, but there's no depth to anything. Buildings, characters and objects are scaled in a way that you can see everything without having to even explore it. Everything is either too small or too big. Perhaps it's good for big scale PVP, but it's terrible for an actual PVE experience. People say exploring stuff in Guild Wars 2 is awesome, but I thought it was boring as hell. You don't feel like an adventurer, you feel like a tourist being told where to look at on a bus trip.

With a smaller scale map, you can create a much more complex map with a lot more depth. Also, you get to meet more players along your way, creating a real MMO world. Instead of seeing them one mile away, you see them right beside you.
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Monday, August 15, 2016

Warspear Online Gets Major Boost with Engineer's Madness Update

Ok, Engineer's Madness is actually more than just an update...it may even qualify as an expansion pack in some people's books, as it carries all the traits of one: it adds new lands, raises the level cap, there are new bosses included in it as well as new items and accessories, not to mention the new storylines and the tons of new content.

Warspear Online, a superb little MMORPG available on mobile for those nostalgic of the retro look of the first such games, has indeed been out for a while, and it has - by all accounts - long been overdue for an update. Engineer's Madness delivers that update and much, much more.

Even though it's a mobile game, Warspear is the Total MMO Package. It lacks none of the defining features of PC-based MMOs: it has beautiful, retro graphics, it has quests, solo dungeons, raid dungeons, guilds and PvP...

Though - as said above - it delivers tons of content in different ways, the Engineer's Madness update is centered around the Engineer, a top boss endowed with sophisticated behavioral mechanics which make him extremely difficult to defeat, even in teams. In addition, there are no fewer than 9 mini-bosses included with the update, each of whom control their own little turf, except one, who likes to roam around.

The new area is called the Flying Islands, and it's where all the new content is focused. The character level cap has been raised to 28, and there are new legendary and rare items to equip once those higher levels are reached.

The Crafting System has been overhauled as well. Craft development levels have been raised to 17 and 18, which not only means that new rare and unique items can be crafted, it has also become easier to craft these items.

The update is available through Google Play.

Philip Thalberg has been involved with the eSports scene since 2004, working for the world's top competitive gaming destination.
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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Rift Is the MMORPG You Should Be Playing Right Now

When it comes to MMORPGs you have a lot of options to choose from. The genre has seen the introduction of more than a dozen new games in the past year alone, making it more difficult than ever to pick the right MMORPG to invest hundreds if not thousands of hours into.

Among the many options sits Rift, a game that has experienced remarkable success since its release. You may have heard of it, and you definitely have a friend who has tried it, but you might not be aware of just how profound of a game it really is.

Rift celebrated its five-year anniversary this year, and is stronger than ever. Whether you're looking for a new MMORPG to sink your teeth into, or just want a game to keep you busy during the Summer, Rift is a game that you should strongly consider playing. Let's go over why.

A Master of Outdoor Content

Rift makes a strong effort to encourage players to head outside of cities and explore its beautiful landscapes. Set in the fantasy world of Telara, there are several elemental planes that serve as the perfect opportunity for outdoor content.

As its name implies, the game has Rifts that spawn at various outdoor locations. These are tears in the fabric of reality that challenge the well-being of the world’s inhabitants. Players are compelled to head to a Rift when it opens and engage in something that isn’t common in modern MMORPGs: organic open-world group content. This content brings people together at notable locales, from the Kelari stronghold of the Ember Isle, to the forgotten ruins of of Brevane. Players must coordinate to be successful at these locations, many times with strangers, and are rewarded for their efforts.

Zone Events further incentivize players to head outside of the main cities that they usually dwell in other MMORPGs. These range in style, from assisting NPCs, to destroying notable foes. Most importantly, they always include a narrative that helps provide context as to why players are participating in the content.

Although Rifts and Zone Events are remarkably popular, they aren't the only way that outdoor content is encouraged. The introduction of Instant Adventures has been wildly successful with players, providing a solution for the age old problem in MMORPGs where it's difficult to find other others players to participate with in world content. Within the user interface players can seamlessly queue up and be placed in a group alongside other players looking to conquer content in a given zone.

Due to the success of these types of content, Rift isn't just a MMORPG about instanced content. You are introduced to social outdoor content early on and it remains a significant element of the experience even at level cap.

Diverse Instanced Content

Not all of Rift’s content is outdoor-oriented. Players can participate in a variety of focused content ranging from Dungeons, to Slivers, and Raids. Each of these types of content denotes the number of players that participate in them, which consist of 5-players, 10-players, and 20-players respectively.

In the case of Raids, there have been several released since Rift’s launch. These are the greatest challenge that players can face within the game, and require remarkable teamwork among players. They are also where the most powerful gear is located, making them an attractive option for players looking to stand out. The amount of effort put into these has made them a main attraction among MMORPG fans who enjoy raid progression.

But not all players have to sign up for a raid schedule alongside hardcore players in order to be successful at level cap. Dungeons and Slivers are great in number and have a large volume of items for players to acquire. These require a smaller number of players to participate in making them a much more inviting choice for the average player.

There are also Chronicles, which are one of Rift’s neatest ideas. These are dungeons designed for one or two players that provide a means for experiencing the endgame story of Telara without having to commit to large-scale group content. Casual players have gravitated toward Chronicles, as well as friends who want to dive into content without relying on strangers.

Option-Oriented Class Design

In a world where MMORPG class design leans toward homogenization with simple, limited spec options, Rift reminds us of how exciting it once was to have a wealth of options.
Rift’s Ascended Class System includes nine tiers in a tree style system, with two to four options per tier. As you progress toward the top of the tree you gain access to powerful active and passive abilities that alter the way you play the class, so you'll have a great sense of impact on your playstyle as you make decisions along the tree path. Placing points in a tree also makes your affinity increase, granting you access to base skills, as seen on the bottom of the image below.

What’s most remarkable about the system is when you make a character you choose from one of five Callings: Cleric, Mage, Primalist, Rogue, or Warrior. Within your Calling you have access to up to 10 Souls, which are effectively the specs of the game. You can have three of these equipped at any given time, allowing you to cross-specialize.

The nature of this system grants you access a seemingly endless number of options for how you want to play the game. It also allows you to enjoy many playstyle flavors from a single Calling without feeling like you need to level up a whole new character to mix things up.

For example, let’s say you make a Warrior. As you level up you can choose to play that Warrior as a traditional Champion, a Paladin, Warlord, or even a Beastmaster. Each of these disciplines is very distinct in style and has its own pros and cons. Experimentation is encouraged, to say the least.

An Inviting Free-To-Play Environment

A transition to free-to-play has been a death knell for many MMORPGs. For Rift, it’s been the signal of a new chapter, one that is more inviting than ever before.

Rift is considered one of the most welcoming free-to-play MMORPGs in existence due to its lack of invasive counter-features. Without spending any money, players are able to complete a journey to level cap and participate in the endgame content described above, and more. There is a great sense of freedom for all players in the game, even those who choose not to spend money.

However, players have the option to pay a small monthly fee to gain “Patron Benefits”. These include login rewards, boosts to currency and loot acquisition, as well as perks that include faster travel speed and instant access to the bank and class trainer. Each of these things have been tailored to make the game experience a little more convenient without providing any major advantages.

The benefits of the Patron system are seen as favorable for players who find themselves deeply interested in the game, yet are never mandatory. Meanwhile, players who would prefer to enjoy the experience while adhering to its free-to-play nature don’t feel punished like they do in nearly every other free-to-play MMORPG. In essence, Patron players pay the tab so that everyone can enjoy the game at the cost of their liking.

One of the greatest outputs of this thoughtfully crafted free-to-play system is it’s much easier to invite friends to play the game. The low barrier of entry is a huge boon to groups of friends who enjoy playing games together.

A Strong Legacy

Rift has been on the market since March 2011. Since that time it’s received three expansions and a multitude of major updates. It has also been the recipient of strong seasonal event support.

This support will continue with the debut of Starfall Prophecy, a brand new expansion coming to Rift this year. Starfall Prophecy will bring with it a new level cap of 70, along with an option to earn all new legendary powers across all of the game's more than 50 souls. There will also be a new area called Comet of Ahnket that houses five new zones, as well as new challenges including two dungeons and a raid. Within these areas you can earn new upgrades such as Eternal items and Planar Planar Fragments that enhance your gear.

This new content has been built with veterans in mind, as well as for new players who have never experienced the game. Pre-orders will even include an instant level 65 boost so anyone can make the quick jump to high level and head to Comet of Ahnket to enjoy the latest content that it has to offer.

Rift has been well-received among critics and users alike, with a strong review average and accolades ranging from MMORPG.com’s Game of the Year to Game Developer’s Choice Online Awards.

Put simply, Rift is one of the best MMORPGs on the market, and has gotten better over time. We encourage you to try it out if you haven't already. You can sign up and download the game here.
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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Transformers MMORPG Coming to Mobile

Fans of the Transformers franchise will be delighted to learn that their favorite robots in disguise are coming to their mobile devices in the shape of an MMO which is presumably set to be launched sometime in 2017. The developer behind the upcoming game is Kabam and it has teamed up with Hasbro to attempt to draw attention yet again to the franchise which has had its ups and downs over the years. Michael Bay's movies can be considered a bane or a boon for the Transformers, depending on one's position on the matter, but one thing is certain: they have definitely done a lot to make the franchise as well-known as it is today.

Furthermore, while it will contain movie references and elements, Kabam's game isn't centered upon the movies, a fact clearly indicated by Kabam's partnership with Hasbro and not with Paramount. According to the developer though, the game will be supported with movie content, whenever such a move makes practical sense. Whatever the case, the MMORPG nature of the game is certainly a bit of a surprise, considering the very fabric of the Transformers universe and the platform on which it shall all unfold.

According to Hasbro's Mark Blecher, his company is always committed to creating authentic Transformers experiences across all platforms where fans of the franchise are present. Therefore, the partnership with Kabam represents but the first foray for the company into the mobile space. With that in mind, it's easy to see that a lot will hinge on the success/failure of this first attempt for Hasbro and for the Transformers franchise in general.

Currently, there's no official word on when the game will be released, but it's safe to assume at this point that we're probably looking at 2017...

Philip Thalberg has been involved with eSports and with GosuTeam since 2004. 
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Monday, August 1, 2016

Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen Release Date and Updates: Modern MMORPG Will EverQuest Qualities?

Back in March, Gamers Nexus had an interview with the MMORPG visionary Brad McQuaid to discuss the direction that 'Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen' will take.

EverQuest had a lot of firsts; it is the first who was able to marry social and technological advances together. And speaking of marriage, there are many who have met in EverQuest and have married. Needless to say the game was first of its kind, with many people having their second lives in that game.

However time went by and people move-on as so with many things, the idea of 'EverQuest' will no longer work today-even with a better engine and upgraded graphics.

Needless to say, the man behind 'EverQuest' is now working with Visionary Realms (Developer of 'Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen') and he is hoping to blend some classic elements of RPG with modern RPG.

Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen is hoping to bring back some mechanical and social elements of older games.

When McQuaid was asked about his visions for Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, he answered;

"The main thing we want to bring back is a social game - a cooperative game, where players need each other [and] have time to make real friendships with each other. They can really call the game a home. It's not a situation where you're just wandering around an online world, you come up to an instanced dungeon, and the server picks a bunch of random people to go with you and you never see them again.

" It's definitely about that shared experience - that social cooperative nature of the games. I think that's the biggest thing that we need to bring back [...] to massively multiplayer games.

"A lot of our audience - they've played the old games. We also want to appeal to the newer generation that wasn't even around for the first generation of MMOs. They've enjoyed cooperative play - playing Call of Duty - but they've never really experienced it playing with their friends against the environment in a persistent world. [But] a lot of people have grown up, they've got responsibilities now - spouses, jobs, et cetera.

A lot of the needless repetition - too much grinding, sitting there for hours working on factions - and we're trying to keep the sessions shorter. You can sit there and play as long as you want, but the way we're setting up the quests, we're targeting about a two-hour session so that a person can still log-on with his friends, play a couple hours, and have a sense of accomplishment.

Achieve something, progress their character, get some item they needed, and it doesn't have to be this 6-, 8-, 10-hour, crazy session because it's just not compatible with people's lives anymore. They've got responsibilities."

You can watch the full interview for Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen below:
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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Is Pokemon Go Rooted in Traditional MMOs?

For the last few weeks, the world has been - by and large - gripped by Pokemon Go fever: everyone's playing the AR-based title everywhere, but little do people know that they are in fact partaking in a MMORPG experience, or rather in one which stems from the MMORPG world. Indeed, the roots of the game reach all the way back to what's essentially a still functioning MMO fossil these days: a game known as Meridian59, which was one of the world's first 3D MMORPGs. The link between the two games was drawn up by none other than Niantic founder John Hanke, and if anyone knows anything in this regard, it has to be him.

More closely related to Pokemon Go is of course Ingress, a game Hanke worked on back when Niantic was still part of Google, but the idea for Ingress had been sown in his mind way back in his Archetype Interactive days, when he worked on Meridian59.

Ingress was launched in 2012, and it was a central part of Google's push into the world of gaming. The Ingress player base was decent and the game collected a treasure-trove of real world data which was needed for its AR and which was also shared with game developers. Needless to say, Ingress is still "powering" Pokemon Go in a way...after all, the currently wildly popular Pokemon game was born from Ingress being meshed with the Pokemons.

According to Hanke, Pokemon Go will continue to be maintained and supported as an MMO, which essentially means that it is treated as a living, breathing and continuously evolving game, through regular updates and continued support, unlike the iteration-based model of various Pokemon games. The bottom line is that in Pokemon Go, we're dealing with a hybrid, which has apparently retained all the positive features conferred to it by its MMO heritage.

Philip Thalberg works on the International 2016 news section of the world's top eSports destination. 
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