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Exclusive Columns

Columnists - The Social Hub

In this bi-weekly column, Christina Gonzalez records her thoughts on the ups and downs of online communities.

Why Nostalgia is Necessary

General -  Column

It’s a very common sentiment to hear from people that they want more complex, hardcore MMOs. This is something that even though the age of the hardcore, demanding MMO, where things took forever to happen, where fast travel wasn’t happening, and where lines built up around other players or in-game areas for buffs or completion, is mostly locked in player nostalgia these days.Posted Dec 8, 2014 by Christina Gonzalez

Can Goats Teach MMOs to Be More Fun?

General -  Column

With the announcement of games like Grass Simulator, and I Am Bread, it seemed like the horse that is the quirky, physics-based simulator game was about to be getting its proverbial execution and subsequent beating. Yet, Coffee Stain Studios, developer of Goat Simulator, unleashed Goat MMO Simulator update upon gamers last week, showing that you can invigorate a game in an unexpected way. The best part may also be that it’s free DLC for the original game’s owners. Posted Nov 24, 2014 by Christina Gonzalez

WildStar’s Gambit and the Community’s Power

WildStar -  Column

WildStar is going through a time of transition. There’s no way around it. Server populations have been on the decline. Key Carbine team members like Jeremy Gaffney, Chris Lynch, and Stephan Frost left for various reasons and that was before NC Soft let roughly 70 people go. The update timeline was officially stretched. About a month ago, the Shade’s Eve Halloween event and the Christmas event, Winterfest, would not be held at all. Megaservers were announced and implemented. Posted Nov 13, 2014 by Christina Gonzalez

The Spotlight Falls on Draenor

World of Warcraft -  Column

With Warlords of Draenor almost upon us, World of Warcraft is riding a bit higher these days. Player numbers are up, and the hype is kicking in for the release in just a couple of weeks. Yet, Warlords of Draenor is being released in a different MMORPG mood and market this time around, even for Blizzard. Warlords promises a mix of advancement and nostalgia, and it really couldn’t come at a better time.Posted Oct 28, 2014 by Christina Gonzalez

Room for Creativity – Is Sandbox the Only Way?

General -  Column

With changes coming to several games, and the release of others like ArcheAge, I’ve been thinking about player-driven systems and the space a game’s story leaves for players in between. Do things like story, scripted elements, and even predetermined politics necessarily stifle player involvement and fun? Is a sandbox the only way to give players room to feel in charge of their own destinies, or are there alternate paths to make this happen?Posted Oct 13, 2014 by Christina Gonzalez

Titan Seemed Made For All & That Was its Downfall

General -  Column

Hearing the news that Blizzard had canceled the MMO project it had codenamed Titan after seven years of development, I can’t say I was surprised. What I really was was curious just what the game was planned to be. Leaks emerged soon afterward, and if they are to be believed, Titan might have been a game that offered something for every type of player. Yet the ambitiousness of the project could also be why it ultimately failed before ever being fully realized. Posted Sep 29, 2014 by Christina Gonzalez

The Community is Your DM in Upsilon Circuit

General -  Column

With most players opting to play solo at least some of the time, the rest of the player population becomes a series of props to some, PvP fodder to others, and to the rest, members of the guilds and groups they play with. At PAX, a game in development called Upsilon Circuit looks to do something different. Blending action RPG, a dash of MMO, and reality TV game show, along with a touch of audience participation, the greater community’s role is emphasized even more. Posted Sep 15, 2014 by Christina Gonzalez

Free to Play, ArcheAge, and LoL - Is Riot’s Model Better?

General -  Column

Last time around, I discussed free to play and so-called entitlement in the MMO community. While I do think that some are called out or made to feel guilty for simply enjoying what developers and publishers are putting out, that could’ve perhaps been a narrower discussion. Again, this time around, payment models get another look, and it’s in part due to some recent topics that have come up in both the greater gaming community and among MMO players. Posted Aug 18, 2014 by Christina Gonzalez

We Are Not ‘Entitled’

General -  Column

The whole notion of MMO gamers being “entitled” is way overblown. There, I said it. We’re at the point where we’ve seen a couple of major releases this year so far, and we’re seeing talk all over the place --from gaming publications, to social media to forums--about whether the releases that came with subscriptions attached should or will go free to play, and how long that will take. Posted Aug 4, 2014 by Christina Gonzalez

The Wrong Way to Do Free to Play

General -  Column

Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade and the developers’ decision to limit free players to the deliberately weaker Ork Boyz is a troubling precedent in the freemium game space. It’s not unheard of for some games to limit your race choice based upon how much you are or aren’t paying. This is the situation in the upcoming PvP-oriented game, and it’s concerning.Posted Jul 21, 2014 by Christina Gonzalez

The MMO Isn't Over - It's Evolving

General -  Column

Recently, I read a piece proclaiming the MMO "era" to be over. While the genre has undergone some shifts through the years as both technology and gamers change, the genre isn’t on life support. While certain trends have held and others faded, MMOS are still being made, played, and planned. The genre is evolving, just as it evolved after 2004, and continues today. We seem to be on the verge of a new chapter right now, in fact.Posted Jul 7, 2014 by Christina Gonzalez

Why We Need a Little Chaos

General -  Column

With the World Cup going on, I’ve been thinking about events, big and small. Events can bring people together around any game, and it’s no different when it comes to MMORPGs. Though in some of the more modern MMORPGs, sometimes it feels like things are a bit on autopilot. Everything is programmed in and left hands-off, and it makes me nostalgic for the days of active GM participants and the sometimes chaotic world of active live events in games. Posted Jun 29, 2014 by Christina Gonzalez

MMO Marketing - Why the Community is More Important than Ever

General -  Column

Last week, Goblinworks’ Ryan Dancey released plans for the upcoming Pathfinder Online alpha test. Given the game’s debt to its Kickstarter backers, involving the community isn’t a surprise, but the degree of transparent design and the alpha’s lack of an NDA shows both an openness to feedback and suggestion and confidence in the project. It’s also a really great example of the greater influence of community input on MMO design and marketing.Posted Jun 9, 2014 by Christina Gonzalez

The Changing Impact of Servers on Communities

General -  Interview

Servers. Some might think about them in purely utilitarian terms, but for others, servers conjure up all sorts of notions. With megaserver technology becoming somewhat more common in newer titles and even in older games undergoing some revamps, the idea of what a server is and what that means to a player is shifting. Yet things are changing on both ends, with larger environments and smaller ones taking hold in the genre. What might this mean for communities?Posted May 26, 2014 by Christina Gonzalez

We Must Stop Poisoning the Well

General -  Column

MMORPGs have come a long way from the time when choices were few and the announcement of a new game was something people generally got excited over. These days, it seems like the announcement of a game in development is opening the gates for an mass game of ‘let’s predict what will go wrong with this project before it even launches’. While there’s nothing wrong with discussion, the rise in social media granting voices to the community seems to have also led to a sour edge to it all. Posted May 12, 2014 by Christina Gonzalez

How Founder’s Packs Can Do Better

General -  Column

Recently, Trion unveiled Founder’s Packs for ArcheAge. While you will be able to play the game for free at launch, you can secure guaranteed beta access and numerous other perks much sooner for a fee. This is similar to what SOE has offered for its upcoming EverQuest Next: Landmark. Trion also offers “support” packs for its upcoming release, Trove, that run up to $2500. These aren’t limited to MMOs, as MOBAs have also started to get into the founder’s pack game.Posted Apr 28, 2014 by Christina Gonzalez

There’s Nothing like Launch

Elder Scrolls Online -  Column

We’re on the verge of a couple of major launches. The first, The Elder Scrolls Online will already have had its first early access players by the time you read this. The other, WildStar, is coming in just about two months. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to discuss MMO launches, and why, despite the bumps and kinks, it is one of the best times for establishing community.Posted Mar 31, 2014 by Christina Gonzalez

The Subscription Model - A Matter of Expectations

General -  Column

Subscriptions. From where we are right now, the topic is worth revisiting. The Elder Scrolls Online is set for release in just a couple of weeks, while WildStar will be debuting in early June. Some feel that the subscription model is outmoded, with a contingent of players that agree that a free to play game attracts them more. Despite some games launching with subscriptions and then converting to a hybrid model, a couple of studios are trying again. Posted Mar 17, 2014 by Christina Gonzalez

The Impact of WoW’s Instant Boost to Level Cap

World of Warcraft -  Column

Last week, word got out that Blizzard had set its price for boosting a character to level 90 after the World of Warcraft Warlords of Draenor expansion is released. There was already speculation going on, given previous leaks that included surveys with Blizzard asking players how much boosting a character up to cap was worth to them. It was thus pretty inevitable that we were going to see this sort of thing come to the shop. The settled upon price, as we know now, is $60.Posted Mar 3, 2014 by Christina Gonzalez

Why ESO’s ‘Slower’ Pacing Leaves Me Optimistic

Elder Scrolls Online -  Column

MMOs have evolved in many ways, but sometimes players want to sit down and enjoy a good multi-course meal spiced with good conversation, music, a couple of drinks, and spending time with one another over a quick fast food stop. Leveling speed is a topic for debate, and it's been brought up as both a positive and a negative aspect from the press impressions for The Elder Scrolls Online. Posted Feb 17, 2014 by Christina Gonzalez

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