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Exclusive Columns

Columnists - Som Pourfarzaneh

When he's not Wolverine-ing, Dr. Som Pourfarzaneh is playing tons of RPGs and MMOs. In his weekly column, he takes time to opine about the two genres and the many issues they face.

Minorities in Gaming - Theorizing Representation As Revolutionary

General - Columns

The question of representation in video games is not a new one, and continues to spark all kinds of discussions that range in topic and intensity. On one end of the spectrum, there are individuals and groups who advocate for the most possible diversity in gaming. On the other, there are camps who posit that there is no issue of representation in video games, or that it’s not a worthy topic of discussion.Posted Jan 29, 2016 by Som Pourfarzaneh

Five Things We’d Like to See from Sword Coast Legends

Sword Coast Legends - Columns

Sword Coast Legends (SCL) is one of those games that, if it grabs you, can keep you entertained for a good long while past what you might expect. It was greeted with a mostly rocky reception when it released (see Rob’s review for reference), and was critiqued for a number of items that have led n-Space and Digital Extremes to provide free DLC updates moving forward.Posted Jan 22, 2016 by Som Pourfarzaneh

MMO Predictions for 2016

General - Columns

The MMO genre can sometimes feel like a whimsical sea of shifting sands, but it’s not without its axioms. Open betas will almost always mean soft launches, game development benchmarks will take longer than expected, and Vanguard: Saga of Heroes will always be one of the best-conceived and poorly-executed MMORPGs ever made. Yet, sometimes the sands shift enough to reveal patterns for those who are good enough at predictions to get a glimpse of what awaits for MMOs, RPGS, and other games. Posted Jan 8, 2016 by Som Pourfarzaneh

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel Review - Charming in its Antiquity

General - Columns

In many ways, Trails of Cold Steel’s JRPG trappings and gameplay struggle to remain relevant in an evolving genre. Yet, paradoxically, it’s the game’s conventional approach that makes it appealing, a reminder of the formula that has made JRPGs so popular, with several ease-of-use additions here and there to make it more accessible in the contemporary milieu. If you’re looking for something new to play on your Vita or PS3, you’d be hard-pressed to do better.Posted Jan 1, 2016 by Som Pourfarzaneh

Merry Christmas from the Black Desert Online Beta

Black Desert Online - Columns

It’s rare that an MMO comes across my desk for which I don’t have much background or context. It’s rarer still for that MMO to be in closed beta, with a lot of localization work and polish needed, and still leave a tremendously positive impression. Enter Black Desert Online (BDO), the upcoming fantasy MMORPG from Pearl Abyss and Daum Games, which just completed its first CBT this week.Posted Dec 25, 2015 by Som Pourfarzaneh

Celebrating The Force Awakens with SWTOR

General - Columns

I have a confession to make: my excitement for the release of a new Star Wars movie is surpassed only by my crotchety aversion to large crowds and general laziness to buy tickets on time. So while it’s going to be a week or so before I get to see The Force Awakens, and I’ll be avoiding the internet for fear of spoilers throughout that time, I’m doing the next best thing: jumping back into Star Wars: The Old Republic.Posted Dec 18, 2015 by Som Pourfarzaneh

Divinity: Original Sin: Enhanced Impressions

Divinity: Original Sin - Columns

I may have missed the boat on Divinity: Original Sin’s vanilla release, but with Larian Studios’ relaunch of the game in October, I was determined not to make the same mistake twice. I’ve been blundering through the Enhanced Edition’s wonderfully expansive content for fourteen hours or so, and have yet to scratch the surface of its open-ended gameplay and story.Posted Dec 4, 2015 by Som Pourfarzaneh

The Multiplayer RPG Experience: Part Two

General - Columns

Several months ago, I wrote a piece about the potential for multiplayer RPG experiences, drawing a comparison between MMOs and single-player RPGs. Considering classic titles like Baldur’s Gate and newer ventures such as Star Wars: The Old Republic, I posited that there might be a middle ground between co-op modes in traditional single-player games and player character story arcs in modern MMORPGs. Posted Nov 6, 2015 by Som Pourfarzaneh

Starting Anew with WildStar: Reloaded

General - Columns

I’ve always considered WildStar to be a great game with a lot of promise. I’ve praised it, I’ve critiqued it, and I’ve suggested it as one of our Five MMOs for Experienced Players. Carbine Studios’ flagship MMORPG has seen a lot of improvements and additions since its launch over a year ago, culminating in the free-to-play rebranding as WildStar: Reloaded last month.Posted Oct 30, 2015 by Som Pourfarzaneh

Guild Wars 2 - Heart of Thorns is Here!

General - Columns

A lot has happened in Guild Wars 2 since its launch over three years ago. We’ve seen two Seasons of Living World content, changes and additions to sPvP and WvW, and a recent transition to free-to-play. As substantive as these features may be, they none of them can match up to the hype and scope of a canonical expansion, which ArenaNet is poised to deliver with Heart of Thorns.Posted Oct 23, 2015 by Som Pourfarzaneh

Three Things RPGs Can Learn from Shadowrun Returns

General - Columns

I’m usually late to the party with most games, and Shadowrun Returns hasn’t bucked that trend. I’ve just completed the initial campaign for Harebrained Schemes’ isometric single-player RPG, and enjoyed several aspects of it that are great models for most roleplaying games moving forward. Here are three that stand out most prominently!Posted Oct 9, 2015 by Som Pourfarzaneh

Do You PvP?

General - Columns

A couple of weeks ago, we looked at some different types of endgame, including PvP as one of the principal activities available in an MMORPG once you hit the level cap. Of course, many modern MMOs offer some kind of player-versus-player interaction throughout the leveling process, even going as far as to incentivize low- and mid-level arenas through XP gain and gear rewards. PvP is one of my favorite diversions in an online game, both while leveling and as part of the endgame.Posted Oct 2, 2015 by Som Pourfarzaneh

What’s Your Preferred Type of Endgame?

General - Columns

It’s often said that in level-based MMORPGs, the endgame represents a completely different gameplay experience than that which precedes it. Some developers have gone as far as to say that it’s at the level cap where the game actually starts - which is ludicrous if you’ve spent over a hundred hours grinding through content just to make it there.Posted Sep 19, 2015 by Som Pourfarzaneh

Five Ways to Get Ready for Guild Wars 2’s Heart of Thorns

General - Columns

At PAX Prime 2015, ArenaNet finally let the release date for Heart of Thorns out of the bag, giving us about a month and a half to prepare for Guild Wars 2’s first official expansion. If you’re like me, you’ll be scrambling to finish the current Living World content and level your alts by October 23. Here are five ways that you can prepare for Heart of Thorns!Posted Sep 11, 2015 by Som Pourfarzaneh

What Constitutes an RPG?

General - Columns

I like to think of myself as fluent with the most up-to-date discussions about all manner of video games, but I always seem to find myself playing titles from a generation behind the curve. I know I’m not the only one out there who hasn’t yet played Mass Effect 3, but by golly, it’s on my shelf of 360 games, and I’ll get to it.Posted Sep 6, 2015 by Som Pourfarzaneh

Is There a Better Alternative to Questing?

General - Columns

Games like EverQuest and World of Warcraft have given us so much, providing the conceptual framework for the majority of MMOs that have been released over the past decade plus. Most contemporary MMORPGs, although distinct in their own right, emulate one or more tropes from their predecessors, which in turn were inspired by other video games and pen-and-paper RPGs.Posted Aug 28, 2015 by Som Pourfarzaneh

Returning to The Elder Scrolls Online

General - Columns

The release process of modern MMOs seems to have settled into a normative pattern: Game X gets announced, pre-purchase packs go on sale, closed betas are marketed, and open beta marks the informal launch. These phases are followed by a more official kickoff down the road, which may or may not include a rebranding as free-to-play after a certain amount of time.Posted Aug 14, 2015 by Som Pourfarzaneh

The Case for the Mobile MMO

General - Columns

Like a lot of our readers, I was raised on PC gaming, with an equal interest in consoles. The disparate platforms represent different experiences for me, in that my desktop has always been an MMO, RPG, and general Steam machine, while my PS4 and other consoles have been gateways to first-party content and other games not available (or runnable) on my PC. Posted Aug 7, 2015 by Som Pourfarzaneh

Five Games to Watch in the Second Half of 2015

General - Columns

It’s hard to believe that it’s July, and we’ve already seen a number of highly-anticipated titles release in the first half of the year. Pillars of Eternity, The Witcher 3, and Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward are all out, The Elder Scrolls Online has launched on consoles, and there have been open beta or “live” releases for Trove, Heroes of the Storm, and Skyforge. Posted Jul 24, 2015 by Som Pourfarzaneh

Lost Dimension’s Vision and Judgement Systems

Lost Dimension - Columns

Lost Dimension is one of those rare games that encourages you to get to know your NPC compatriots, while at the same time pressuring you to think carefully about whom you decide to buddy up with. Atlus’ upcoming scifi RPG puts party management at the forefront of its gameplay, and ties all of its systems back to the decisions you make about your compatriots.Posted Jul 17, 2015 by Som Pourfarzaneh

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