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The staff of gets together to bring you some behind the scenes insights on stories, the industry and the site itself.

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Contributors: BillMurphy,MikeB,garrett,SBFord,Grakulen,

Community Spotlight: Cross-Faction Communication

Posted by MikeB Wednesday February 23 2011 at 9:37AM
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This week's Community Spotlight focuses on the thread "Cross-Faction Communication in MMOs" by nolf. Nolf uses his thread to brign up the cross-faction communication debate, some like the idea, some loathe it. How does nolf and the recent of the feel about it? Find out below!

An interesting debate cropped up on a game's forums recently that I was curious to hear people's thoughts on.

On an upcomming release the issue of whether cross-faction communication should be implemented arose.  Personally, I am for it (for reasons I will probably get into during the disussion of this thread).  Very valid points were raised on both sides of the debate, and I was curious to find what the folks here in the MMORPG community had to say about it.

Why are you for or against cross-faction communication in your MMOs?

What features (if it is included) make it livable or unlivable for you?

Ichmen feels it depends on the game and the way factions are setup:

depends on what you mean by cross-faction. 

if you are talking something like red vs blue, ya cross chat is good yet bad. 

its good to ego boost on bashing your enemies hard for X item/location. but its also bad do to the "spying" (though this is doable without cross chats) as well as people just being pricks over it and bashing everyone not of their faction.

now if you allow cross faction teaming ya its required. 

ultimately id say it would depend on the game/context its used in. im for it yet against it. simply because it can and will be abused

Dnomsed gets right to the point:

Chat restrictions are an outdated game restriction and should not exist.  Even in faction based pvp games, irc, vent, teamspeak bypass in-game communications.  All chat restrictions do is cut your potential community by up to 50%.

Luv_bug is staunchly against cross-faction communication:

No cross faction communication is great, its what allows people to have an emotional investment in fighting, because all you share is combat and a desire to avenge what the other has done to you. In knight online daily wars never got old cuz you wanted to crush those human scumbags ;) Wouldn't be quite the same if you were chattin it up all the time. Everybody always wanting to break every restriction to chattin with your friends. Use a phone if you wanna talk to your friends, or make some in game ones. Man/woman up!

I'm kind of undecided on the issue. I've played in games where you could speak to other factions and in games where you could not and I found not being able to being a bit unnatural but not game breaking for me. It certainly cut back on the shit talking a b it, but in Warhammer Online you totally knew the guy was talking smack after he killed you if he said anything right after, garbled or not, you know it was smack talk. I played Star Wars Galaxies and City of Heroes for years and in both cases you could talk to the enemy faction (Villains in the PvP Zones). Both time it resulted in tons of smack talk and at times people wouldn't even fight, instead they'd just argue with each other over chat.

Jury is still out for me. What do the rest of you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Sigh... I'm playing CityVille

Posted by BillMurphy Tuesday February 22 2011 at 12:14PM
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I don't know why.  I don't know what made me click on the invitation.  But I just started playing Zynga's latest "watch plants grow" game, CityVille.  I will freely admit that my wife and I used to play FarmVille like so many other poor addicted saps.  But I quit that habit.  I shook it and never looked back.  We both did. 

Zynga's games have a reputation for being mindless, requiring little actual thinking or skill, and also for gouging your wallet when you want to progress beyond your tiny little farm/city/frontier.  I would normally say that this is all true, except now that I'm playing CityVille I find myself actually enjoying it.

It's not a title that's going to replace any of my normal games of choice.  But I would actually say that with CityVille (and even FrontierVille if you've played it), Zynga's actually finally in the business of making real games.  Do they still try to make you spend your hard-earned money on different colored theme decorations, or energy so you can play more than five minutes at a time?  Yes.  But you never really will find yourself needing to spend any money, and the building and maintenance of my city is perfect for killing a few minutes at work or at home when all I want is to kill just a wee bit of time.

Building your city is still just "harvesting" and managing materials like your goods and your funds.  But it's also networking with other players/friends, and franchising businesses out to their city.  The goal is simple: make your city as massive and as happy as possible.  You will do some farming, which supplies goods to your businesses.  You'll collect rent/taxes from your residents, and you'll keep your businesses supplied and your city pretty (which increases your payouts). 

SimCity it is not.  But as a casual game on Facebook, it's startlingly appealing.  In fact, I think it's time I start filtering through Facebook's many games to see if there are some other quality (and perhaps more "core") strategy games out there.

GDC Next Week

Posted by garrett Monday February 21 2011 at 1:00PM
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Next week kicks off our first major game convention of the season. The Game Developers Conference is a must attend if you work in the gaming industry. The show has highlighted trends and industry milestones for years now and continues to be the first stop on the major show tours for the year.
We will be in full force at GDC next week bringing you as much content as possible on games and developers who will have a lot to show this year. With 2011 picking up some of the slack from 2010 in terms of big game releases, there should be a lot to see.
Our schedule continues to fill up, we are very lucky to meet with teams first hand and find out what is going on with the 2011 games. I for one am looking forward to some Guild Wars 2 information as well as TERA, The Secret World, and other top games.
If you will be at GDC next week definitely find us and say Aloha! Not only will we be covering MMOs but we will also be covering on the RTSGuru front as well. It may seem like a lot but we are going to make sure we give you guys the best coverage on any games we see.
Hopefully we’ll see some of you there!

Community Spotlight: Your Favorite MMO Setting?

Posted by MikeB Thursday February 17 2011 at 4:09PM
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This week's Community Spotlight focuses on the thread "What genre would you like to see an MMORPG based on?" by Teala. In the thread, Teala polls the community in an attempt to discover what genre of MMO her fellow gamers would like to see developed.

Below is the tally of votes as of this writing:

 Fantasy (Elves, Dwarves, Dragons, Princesses, Sowrds and Sorcery) - 11.4%
 Sci-Fi (Space, Spaceships, Aliens, Other Planets, laser guns, futuristic gadgets) - 10.2%
 Western (Cowboys, Indians, Mountainmen, Goldrush, Train Robbers, Marshalls, Banditos) - 10.2%
 Historical (Pre-historic, medieval europe, Victorian Age, ancient China, medieval Japan) - 14.8%
 Post Apocalyptic (after mankind almost does themselves in) - 3.4%
 Sports (football, baseball, basketball, car racing) - 0.0%
 Steampunk (best you look this up - google it) - 12.5%
 Cyberpunk (best you look this up as well - google it) - 25.0%
 Other - If you choose other please explain what "other" is in comment below. - 12.5%

So, what are individual members of the community saying? Let's find out!

Loke666 wants a reprieve from elves, magic and the like, and to that end he would prefer a new MMO based on the events of history:

Historical. There are a lot of periods that would make excellent MMOs ((Western is kinda historical too, more or less at least).

No magic, no healing, no elves.

England 1066, Germany during the 30 year war, the American independance war, France in the 17th century (3 Musketeers online?), Scandinavia 10th century... And so many more that would make great settings including a half historical CIV type of MMO.

None of the other choices is even close in possibilities. And fantasy MMOs have been done to death.

Horror have potential as well, I would love a Lovecraft based game set in the 30s.

VirusDancer would actually like to see a fusion of several genres:

A fusion.

Although it would likely have a primary genre going for it, it would actually be a fusion of several elements to provide a more open world than commonly found in those that focus on one and perhaps dabble in others as mere fluff.

WoW offers a form of high fantasy and beginning steampunk.  Pre-Apocalyptic events attempt to drive the story at various times, as Azeroth is always facing destruction from some Tom, Dick, and Harry.  It touches upon quite a few genres, but generally does so as mere fluff that never really gives that overall feeling that any of it matters.  You may or may not be surprised to find how many different genres are creeping around in the game.

So imagine something like WoW - slowing it down, taking it off rails, opening up certain areas, and breathing some life into those other genres instead of just showing a slideshow with some muzak playing in the background.  Aim high instead of going for that lowest common denominator in a money grab.

Meowhead offers a lengthy and quite interesting take on the question:

Other is obviously the best choice, because it also includes everything nobody ever thinks about.  Other is going to be the answers that come out of left field, the stuff that makes people go 'Oh my god, I never thought about that, but it's so perfect.'

I'll just list a couple others here, though obviously some of them are pretty silly that doesn't mean they're not dancing around the borders of a respectable idea.

West Side Story:  The MMORPG.  Forget Conan or Star Wars or Lord of the Rings... if you're going to do an old IP, do it right!

Picture it now in your mind!  Elaborate dance battles, your gang and another gang meeting up in an alley and prancing around while flicking your switchblades and mastering your sneers.  The intrigue, the drama, the romance!  Equip your hair grease +4 for extra badassery.

Fashionpunk.  Somebody else stated Dieselpunk is the most overlooked genre, but c'mon, how many Fashionpunk series can you list off the top of your head?  (I can think of exactly one)  In the future, as computers get smaller and smaller, they can be woven into every square inch of fabric, threads woven together to make artificial musculature and hidden battle systems.  Play as either an expert fashion designer, or a runway model!

Fight on the runway... to the DEATH... explore seedy back alleys and stunning high couture shops for just the right kind of thread.  It's not enough to merely create killer clothes, they have to look good too!  Anybody can slice up another person with monomolecular wire, but a real model makes it look good, and makes sure the blood spatters are ARTISTIC.

In the same general theme as historical (but not quite), how about a time travel MMO?  Be able to travel from location to location in space AND time, mass groups of players trying to alter history the way they like it!  This could be a great setting for a sandbox.

Slightly related, how about a time-slip MMO?  Stranded in the time of the dinosaurs, fight to survive and rebuild civilization.  Don't even have to make up monsters, just drag out an encyclopedia of dinosaurs and it's all the amazing monster design a game designer could ever feasibly want.

What about a kung-fu movie MMORPG?  Not swords and sorcery style kung-fu, but... anybody here ever played Shenmue?  Think that, but on an MMORPG scale.  Explore a fight-oriented version of the 80s, mass street fights and underground kickboxing clubs, tour the world of martial arts while seeking vengeance for some random stereotypical reason (Probably your sister got kidnapped, or your dad killed, or maybe you're the fresh faced new kid trying out his martial arts in a real world setting.  Whatever!  Man, there's a billion of these movies to draw from)!

I personally would like to see a Western MMO, which is a setting that really hasn't been explored much (if at all) in the MMO space. While some may claim the sandbox is dead, I think a Western MMO would be the perfect catalyst for the revival of this much loved sub-genre of MMOs, and if Red Dead Redemption is any indication, there is definitely at least a basic interest in the setting itself.

What MMO setting would your preferred MMO be based on and why? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Dead Space 2 is Terrifying

Posted by BillMurphy Tuesday February 15 2011 at 6:14PM
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When not logged into DCUO or Rift lately, I've been putting a little time into Dead Space 2.  I do this only when it's light outside and when my wife's around to keep a hand on my back and a fresh diaper nearby.


Okay, not entirely seriously.  But it is a really scary experience.  I can't recommend it enough for those who like a little horror in their gaming.  I never really got into the first title, but that's okay because the title comes packed with a "previously on Dead Space" feature that catches you up on the events of the original.  No sooner does this happen than you're presented as the main character Isaac in a straight jacket and being set free because all hell has broken loose... again.  You have amnesia about what's happened since the first game, and you're suddenly left to your old devices and the help of a stranger to get to safety and obtain a grasp on the situation.

The atmosphere in the game is absolutely palpable, and while it relies largely on darkness and classic horror movie techniques it works because you're the on experiencing it all through Isaac's eyes.  And I couldn't help but wonder how if ever an MMO developer would make a truly horrific online experience.  The problem with online gaming and horror revolves around the fact that the material in an MMO is repeated often and unless it's dynamically generated it will become expected, and not scary in the least.

But then I think of games like Valve's Left 4 Dead, and I remember that even years and hundreds of hours later that game can make me jump in my chair and panic like no other.  There will be a horror MMO sooner or later.  It will be interesting to see what kind of scares may be in store for World of Darkness and The Secret World.  But I suspect those games are looking for a more macabre feel than fearful. 

What I think has the best chance of making a truly scary MMO experience is actually Undead Labs' zombie MMO.  But really, we know next to nothing about that one either.  Still, as I play through Dead Space 2 and share the fear with my wife, I can't help but wonder what kind of experience a massively scary game could bring... and if it could even be done.


Posted by garrett Monday February 14 2011 at 1:23PM
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This weekend I had the chance to play Darkspore in Beta. For anyone who is a fan of action RPGs Darkspore has a number of core factors that you will love. It also offers PvP and insane levels of customization on your squads. It also has a great story and game play similar to Diablo and Torchlight.
In a nutshell the game has many elements that MMOs should heavily factor in before they launch.
For me, Darkspore is a game that spans playerbases. Now, hear me out on this. I played the game with my son who is just about old enough to get into video games. He plays Torchlight and some of the Ipad games, but nothing too indepth yet. Darkspore was a great game for him to try because it dealt with monsters, DNA, mutations, and space. What kid now-a-days doesn’t like those topics. The game play was managable for him and he mastered moving and fighting very quickly.
That is not to say the game is easy by any means. It is one of those, easy to play difficult to master titles. In playing through the campaign mode the environments are awesome ranging from destroyed planets held together by shield style technology to amazing colorful worlds full of life. Either way there was a lot to see on the environments created.
The story line is interesting and covered a unique look at the future with genetic enhancements. One thing about the game that I really like is no humans. Every monster created by players has great abilities and lots of customization. Sure the classes and styles of play exist in the squads you choose, but overall there is a lot of room to be creative.
Choosing three heroes for each mission is great too. It allows you to pick and choose from your stable of heroes and bring the skills you might need for certain worlds. In many ways this was great for kids who like the variety in what they play and are able to switch between heroes with no penalty. If one of your hero’s starts to lose health you can swtich to another and continue the fight, a great option for getting out of tough spots, or to just have fun with.
I am a big fan of Wizard 101, a game that on the surface looks like it is for kids. Once I played the game there was a lot of elements that appealed to hardcore players. I know many older players who join Wizard 101 with their kids and get sucked into the game play and world, as if it was a normal grown up MMO.
Darkspore is much darker than Wizard 101 in terms of story and graphics. Yet it is a great game for kids who want to learn about genetics, science, and maintain an action genre feel. It also appeals to hardcore players who love to explore new worlds and create new characters. I think Darkspore is a great game that will span both the casual and hardcore gamer audience. If you are a gamer dad or mom, this is a perfect game to play with your children.
Unfortunately we did not enter the PvP area of the game, this is I think were you will get much more competative play. When it becomes available in beta we will definitely check it out. For now, definitely look for Darkspore when it comes out as a game for both hadrcore and casual players. If you are a parent looking for a game this will definitely appeal to both you and your children.

Community Spotlight: Stop Making Up New Words For Things!

Posted by MikeB Thursday February 10 2011 at 4:34PM
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This week's Community Spotlight focuses on the thread "Stop making new words!" by bastionix. Bastionix is frustrated by the lack of uniformity for common terms or commands across the MMOG genre:

I don't like when developers invent silly new words for the same thing.

A /tell became a /whisper in WoW.

A group became a party in WoW.

A guild became a linkshell in FFXI and FFXIV.

server is a shard in Rift, a realm in WoW.

Stop making up new words that mean the exact same thing please, it's just confusing.

Kyleran offers the counter-argument:

Every developer adds their own flavor to their games and UI, /tell might not have been descriptive enough, /whisper makes more sense.

Guilds fit one lore, but in other games there's been clans, tribes, corporation, warbands and linkshells, the concepts the same, no reason to maintain the same name thorughout though.

A server tends to be one single box, as opposed to a realm or shard which represents an entire game universe, regardless how many hardware elements there are. From a RPing perspective I prefer the more elegant terms.

Variety is the spice of life, and language has already been reduced down too much, I prefer things to be more interesting.

Meowhead takes issue with some of the specific examples such as /tell and /whisper, noting the commands' history in MUDs, which predate MMOGs:

... man, back 18 years ago I was playing games that used both 'tell' and 'whisper' as commands (Tell being a long distance version of whisper, basically)

MUDs, MUCKs and MUSHes have had all sorts of variant of those commands.  This seems like a particularly weird complaint to me, because using various terminology for private communication predates graphical MMORPGs.

I'm sure it may be even older, from online shared chat programs, I'm not sure.

VengeSunsoar notes that this sort of thing isn't really limited to MMOGs, but occurs in just about every industry:

Making up new words for the same thing happens in every industry.

I still remember feeling irritated way way back in school when I released that Anaeobic Alactic, the phosphagen system, ATP-CP system, and probably a few other names I've forgotten were all different names for the exact same energy system.

A bit irritating and confusing until you figure that out.


A somewhat related subject came up today between myself and a former colleague, but it had more to do with what developers or publishers often do to re-categorize their games and how that can be quite annoying. For example, the new Neverwinter game coming from Cryptic Studios is being referred to as an "OMG" (Online Multiplayer Game) or Vogster's classification of CrimeCraft as a "PWNS". Let's get some uniformity here, CrimeCraft is basically an MMOFPS and the Neverwinter game is a CORPG (Cooperative Online RPG). Basically, if it fits into MMORPG, MMORTS, MMOFPS, etc, use it. Let's not come up with new terms just for the sake of it.

Of course, in the end, this is all simply a pet peeve of mine and not exactly a serious complaint, but yes, it can be annoying as it only ends up confusing people who aren't incredibly familiar with the genre.


Posted by BillMurphy Tuesday February 8 2011 at 7:35PM
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I got run off the road on my way home today.  I was in the left lane on a semi-busy street, just minding my own business when a white Isuzu Rodeo in the right lane (and slightly ahead of me) decided he was going to turn left across both lanes and down a side-street.  I probably should have let the guy hit me, but my reflex was to try and avoid him so I turned the wheel hard to the left and slid in front of his car up over the curb and three feet of ice and snow... narrowly missing power lines and a phone pole. 

The Isuzu Rodeo barely paused and drove on down the side street while I got out of my car to assess the damage to my front end.  This is not an example of kindness.

Now I'm fine, and the damage to the car is nothing my deductible can't cover.  But the way in which the person driving the Rodeo just drove on by, slowly enough and gazing at my getting out of my car to know that he'd caused the accident just made me a wee bit angry.  And though there were dozens of onlookers, no one even checked to see if I was alright or if I needed help.  Maybe I'm naive, but that just seems like something one should do automatically.

So I'm asking you all, in both real life and in our virtual lives... be kind to people.  Even if you're not at fault for an accident.  Be kind.  If you see someone in need of assistance on the side of a road, check if they're okay.  If you see someone in your game of choice about to bite the dust during an encounter maybe lend a hand. 

Sure it doesn't always pay dividends for you, but kindness goes a lot further than you might think. 

Community Spotlight: The First Thing You Look For in a New MMO

Posted by MikeB Thursday February 3 2011 at 9:40AM
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This week's Community Spotlight focuses on the thread "The first thing you look for in new MMORPG's?" by Inzra. While the discussion is still early, it's a solid subject and we'll be highlighting some of the community's thoughts so far. Oddly enough, the OP never offers his take, so let's jump right in then!

Just about everyone couldn't hold back from offering a laundry list of things, but they all start with something so let's go with Phry first:

1. for me would have to be the community, which means that social interraction, should be comprehensive and well supported. any game that lacks that as a baseline, is for me, unplayable.

2. UI, any user interface that is overly complicated or requires at least 3 hands to operate is a fail, UI's should be simple and straightforward, and, customisable.

3. gameplay, call it the fun factor if you will, if its frustrating then forget it.. too easy.. meh.. highly repetitious.. no chance.. fun = varied and challenging.. not easy though.. but how close a game gets means the more fun it ultimately is.. for me at least.

4. graphics/sound etc.. icing on the cake really.. they make good games great, or not..

MMO's should be about interacting with other people after all, or why bother playing them?

Kuvajokeri looks for the game's theme first:

For me personally, I think the first thing I look up is the theme of the game. I prefer (cliché-ish) high fantasy themes, so the first thing I normally do is check out some screenshots of the game to see if the game world seems "fantasy" enough.

Only after that do I look up the other features of the game. I prefer games with minimal instancing/world loading screens, so that's one of the things I look up, the level of "seamlessness" of the game. There are some exceptions to this for me, such as LOTRO, so I won't get any further into it.

Ihmotepp will instantly dismiss a game if it has a cash shop:

The VERY first thing is whether or not there's a cash shop. If there's a cash shop, I dismiss it, and don't look further, but that only takes a minute or two. F2P, got a cash shop? Ok, not interested.

Second thing is art style. Not quality of graphics and animations, but the style of the artwork. Is it realistic, representational, anime, etc.

I'm going to look at the game a long time while I play, and the graphic design has to be appealing to me.

For example, I've just never liked the art style in WoW. It's to bright and cartoony for my tastes.

I'm also not a big fan of anime, but it's ok if it's subtle.

This is a tough question for me as well. I think the theme / art style are probably the first thing I consider, though I am not sure this is a conscious thing. If I can't see myself enjoying playing a character in a type of world then all the rest of the features probably won't matter as much to me. World of Warcraft is a good example, I've never been a fan of the Warcraft art style (more specifically Warcraft 3) and so when the game was coming out I dismissed it simply due to that. None of the art, from the character designs, to the itemization appealed to me, so I saw no point in getting into it as I'd never really care about anything. It didn't matter that everyone and their grandma (in this case, literally!) was playing it.

Beyond that, I look for a good character customization system. I love Star Wars, but I don't want to be playing Attack of the Clones if you catch my drift!

Flu Season = Gaming!

Posted by BillMurphy Tuesday February 1 2011 at 5:38PM
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My wife currently lies in a Nyquil induced coma, speaking of weird things like how her left eye is telling the right what to do and that she wants a fudge sundae - but with strawberry and nuts.  It's the flu.  Not a dangerous one, and one I shouldn't be scoffing at as I'm sure I'm bound to contract it myself.  But there are wonders to the powers of the flu.

Am I evil if I say it's only redeeming quality is that I have guilt-free time to play Dead Space 2 and DCUO without feeling like I'm ignoring my betrothed?  Is it sick that I almost want to get sick so that I can batten down the hatches with DayQuil and go on a gaming bender?

As a major snow and ice storm sweeps the midwest and my fair state of Ohio, I'm reminded that while winter's cold can be an utter mood-killer it also usually means I get a lot of reading done, a lot of movies watched and hopefully a lot of gaming. 

I'm an eternal optimist.  I can't help it.  When people complain about being struck with a cold, strep, or sinus infection, etc. I'm the first guy to tell them that it could be worse and at least they get some time off from work to watch Maury Povich.  So here's to the winter weather, the flu it brings, and the realization that even a nasty bug can't keep you entirely down.