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MMOs are stagnating and need to stop relying on Pavlovian trickery

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MMOs are stagnating and need to stop relying on Pavlovian trickery

The modern MMO is a curious dichotomy. It’s a risky genre in flux: subscriptions are out, free-to-play with microtransactions is in, and the threat of declining player retention looms over the games like a giant blade waiting to fall. Yet MMOs struggle to do anything new. They go through the same song and dance, aping design and features from games covered in cobwebs. 

It’s a genre that should be so broad that few MMOs look alike, but barring a few exceptions like PlanetSide 2 and EVE Online, they all share so much DNA they could be the product of rutting cousins. When you fire up a new MMO, the sense of “been there, done that" is so pervasive that it begs the question: “why are we doing this again?"

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Oculus VR and Facebook are building a 1 billion-person MMO

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Oculus VR and Facebook are building a 1 billion-person MMO

There are over 7 billion people on this funny looking marble, and over 1 billion of them are active Facebook users. The social networking company and its recent acquisition, Oculus VR, want to put them all in headsets and have them play the world’s biggest MMO, in VR. 

Speaking at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference on Tuesday, Oculus VR’s Brendan Iribe told attendees: “This is going to be an MMO where we want to put 1 billion people in VR" after announcing the company’s new project. 

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Star Wars: The Old Republic's Galactic Stronghold expansion delayed until August

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Star Wars: The Old Republic's Galactic Stronghold expansion delayed until August

Star Wars: The Old Republic’s housing expansion has been delayed. As anyone who has ever watched Grand Designs can tell you, it always takes longer than you think it will to build a house. And BioWare is building a few. 

“We have been listening to what you, our players, were hoping to see from the Galactic Strongholds expansion," said senior producer Bruce Maclean. “When playing early builds of Galactic Strongholds it became that clear that our June Early Access date was simply not enough. For this to truly feel like an expansion, it needs to include the full set of features, including those originally coming later in the year.“

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The Candyman cometh: World of Warcraft gets eggcited about Noblegarden

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The Candyman cometh: World of Warcraft gets eggcited about Noblegarden

The citizens of Azeroth sure like to celebrate, in between going to war and travelling across time and space, that is. For the next week, World of Warcraft will be infested with sweets, eggs and people dressed up as rabbits. A traditional Noblegarden celebration, then. 

As always, there are a plethora of activities offering respite from the never-ending quest to slaughter just about everything. 

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Final Fantasy XIV boasts 2 million registered accounts, causing moogle habitats to shrink

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Final Fantasy XIV boasts 2 million registered accounts, causing moogle habitats to shrink

Some people have been playing Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. 2 million of them, according to Square Enix, and it's, no surprise when you read our A Realm Reborn review.

This isn’t 2 million active players, instead counting every registered account worldwide. That’s still 2 million copies sold, however, since Square Enix’s MMO is one of the few subscription based MMOs left.

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Guild Wars 2's April Feature Pack will improve the quality of life in Tyria

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Guild Wars 2's April Feature Pack will improve the quality of life in Tyria

The first season of Guild Wars 2’s living world ended last month, with the death of the conniving Scarlet Briar. It was a narrative a year in the telling, with a plethora of updates pushing the story forward, adding new content and new challenges. But with that over, ArenaNet has moved their gaze to the game’s systems. This has lead to the April Feature Pack - an update focused entirely on balance tweaks, improving existing systems and “quality of life" changes.

The big features of the update, which will be live within the day, include the new wardrobe system, revamped traits and the megaserver. I had a chat with Guild Wars 2 game designer Isaiah Cartwright to get the skinny on what to expect when the patch is rolled out. 

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The Elder Scrolls Online fansite creates a trading system because ZeniMax Online won't

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The Elder Scrolls Online fansite creates a trading system because ZeniMax Online won't

ZeniMax Online decided not to create an auction house or any serious trading system into The Elder Scrolls Online. I’d say commerce in TESO is very Dark Ages, but the early medieval era actually had markets, traders and some form of organisation. 

So it’s come down to players creating a system. A marketplace that doesn’t exist in-game, but in the TESO Elite fansite, devised by players. The official TESO Twitter account has endorsed the system, probably so the developers can get back to squashing all the bugs that have been plaguing the game since launch. It's an odd endorsement, though, as ZeniMax previously defended its no auction house stance by saying such things ruin game economies and trivialise getting good gear.

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World of Darkness MMO gets a stake driven through its heart

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World of Darkness MMO gets a stake driven through its heart

Put away your bloodsucking dentures, because as of today, CCP’s World of Darkness MMO is no more. CCP’s Atlanta studio has been hit hard by the cancellation, with 56 employees losing their jobs. Some have been offered positions in other parts of the company, while the remaining staff will focus on developing games in the EVE universe.

“The decision to end the World of Darkness MMO project is one of the hardest I’ve ever had to make," said CCP CEO Hilmar Veigar Pétursson. “I have always loved and valued the idea of a sandbox experience set in that universe, and over the years I’ve watched the team passionately strive to make that possible."

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Azeroth Choppers: World of Warcraft does American Choppers, and nothing makes sense any more

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Azeroth Choppers: World of Warcraft does American Choppers, and nothing makes sense any more

It can’t be real, but it is. Azeroth Choppers is a bizarre reality web show that pits two teams, one led by Blizzard wordsmith Chris Metzen, the other led by art director Sam Didier, against each other as they build custom choppers. 

That shouty man from American Choppers will be helping them. What chopper is the best chopper is up to fans, as they’ll vote on which bike ends up in World of Warcraft. 

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H1Z1 will be a massive sandbox, where you can farm, build a town or drive around hunting zombies

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H1Z1 will be a massive sandbox, where you can farm, build a town or drive around hunting zombies

H1Z1, SOE’s post-apocalyptic MMO, was unofficially revealed yesterday when details emerged from the Game Talk Live podcast before it aired. What we knew was vague, though - there’d be forts, PvP, zombies and burning stuff down. 

Now that the cat’s out of the bag, SOE head honcho John Smedley has taken to Reddit, providing a plethora of details about the upcoming MMO. It’s now sounding like less of a zombie MMO, and more of a humongous multiplayer survival game that just happens to also have zombies. Like DayZ, admittedly, but perhaps more ambitious.

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H1Z1 is a post-apocalyptic MMO from SOE where you can burn everything down

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H1Z1 is a post-apocalyptic MMO from SOE where you can burn everything down

Sony Online Entertainment’s newest title, H1Z1, is a post-apocalyptic MMO that’s lousy with the walking dead. SOE president John Smedley made the reveal on the Game Talk Live podcast, which goes live later today. 

"H1Z1 is an MMO that allows players to take on the role of an apocalypse survivor who is in a world that is filled with zombies," Smedley said on the podcast. "A world! Not just a little tiny server."

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The Crew launches this autumn, when you'll be able to make America your race track

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The Crew launches this autumn, when you'll be able to make America your race track

Ivory Tower’s vehicular MMO, The Crew, is launching on PC this autumn, Ubisoft announced today. It was pushed back last year, but managed to impress more than a few people when it was shown off at E3 in the summer. 

Along with a release window, The Crew gets its first gameplay trailer, taking a look at four cars with different capabilities as they drive across the slimmed down but still massive facsimile of the United States.

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We can rebuild him: Blizzard showcases the new and improved male tauren

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We can rebuild him: Blizzard showcases the new and improved male tauren

The extensive surgery on the population of World of Warcraft continues, as the march to Warlords of Draenor progresses. 

Blizzard’s thrown up an extensive look at the changes to the fun-loving cows, the tauren. The studio’s animators chimed in, breaking down how they updated the male tauren’s animations, emotes, facial expressions and overall look. He’s shaping up to be a handsome fellow. 

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Craglorn is The Elder Scrolls Online's first Adventure Zone, and it's not for riffraff

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Craglorn is The Elder Scrolls Online's first Adventure Zone, and it's not for riffraff

The Elder Scrolls Online launched last week - here's our Elder Scrolls review - and ZeniMax Online is already showcasing new content, due out later this month, in the form of the game’s first Adventure Zone, a veteran area with group PvE, new instanced delves and leaderboard challenges. 

Craglorn will be the sort of place you go once you’ve exhausted the 1-50 content, where the story quests and side-quests require groups to overcome. 

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Better together: ArenaNet spills the beans on how Guild Wars 2's megaservers will affect other features

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Better together: ArenaNet spills the beans on how Guild Wars 2's megaservers will affect other features

ArenaNet announced the Guild Wars 2 megaserver system a couple of days ago, as part of the April feature pack. It matches players from the same region with the same interests - in terms of how they play Guild Wars - and chucks them all into the same map. And if a chum is on a different map, you can just jump to their version of the world and play together. 

But a big, sweeping change like this naturally impacts other aspects of the game, such as world bosses, map events and guilds. ArenaNet has broken down how these features will evolve to make them fit with the megaserver system. 

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Become a recruitment mercenary with the EVE Online Recall Program

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Become a recruitment mercenary with the EVE Online Recall Program

Space can be a lonely place: it’s big, most of it is empty of things larger than a particle and no one can hear you scream. If you’re an EVE Online player, and you lost a beloved wingman whose witty banter you miss, or you long for the days when you used to play games of cat and mouse with a wiley nemesis, you can now bribe them back into the game.

CCP has set up a Recall Program, allowing pilots, tycoons, miners and CEOs to send invites to a lapsed players, giving them seven days of free game time, potentially netting themselves rewards in the process. 

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Star Conflict gets Oculus Rift support, chucking your eyeballs into space

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Star Conflict gets Oculus Rift support, chucking your eyeballs into space

Star Conflict, the free-to-play space combat MMO, just got a big update. If you’ve already got your hands on an Oculus Rift, you’ll be able to flit around the stars, getting in high speed chases, all without the distractions of the real world. 

Gaijin Entertainment and Star Gem Inc. have also added Linux support on top of the Oculus Rift update, which means it now supports Windows, Mac and Linux. 

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Ultima Online and Dark Age of Camelot developers working on sandbox MMO, Shards

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Ultima Online and Dark Age of Camelot developers working on sandbox MMO, Shards

An MMO might seem like a huge risk for a brand new studio’s first ever game, but with Citadel Studio’s pedigree, it makes perfect sense. Founded by Ultima Online, Dark Age of Camelot and Warhammer Online devs, it would be stranger if Citadel wasn’t jumping head first into the realm of MMOs. 

The inaugural title from this new studio, Shards, takes inspiration from Ultima Online, building on that stalwart foundation to create an online sandbox, where players can customise their experience. Citadel’s goal? “To change the face of player collaboration forever." Ambitious, then.

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The Elder Scrolls Online: Everything We Know

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The Elder Scrolls Online: Everything We Know

The Elder Scrolls series has been adamantly single player for 20 years. No longer. Zenimax formed a new studio of MMO veterans to take all the lore and lands of Tamriel and turn them into a place for thousands of players to collaborate and compete.

Set a thousand years before the events of Skyrim, the Tamirel of The Elder Scrolls Online is one cleaved in three by warring factions. You’ll fight alongside your faction comrades for control of Cyrodiil. It’s The Elder Scrolls alright but not as we’ve ever played it.

 

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State of Decay MMO probably happening, definitely

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State of Decay MMO probably happening, definitely

State of Decay was a little bit like a zombie survival MMO, but instead of other players, you worked with really inept NPCs who you could sometimes play if they hadn't already gotten themselves killed by running through a horde of zombies screaming "I'm delicious! I'm delicious!". 

Undead Labs had clear MMO ambitions, and with the acquisition of Patrick Wyatt, co-founder of ArenaNet and En Masse, it looks like they are gearing up to that big undead MMO they've always dreamed of. 

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