Developer Appreciation: NCSoft and Carbine Studios

Developer Appreciation: NCSoft and Carbine Studios

This was originally posted on MMO Games on 27 April 2016. It is being re-posted here to archive the work I have done in case the original website ever shuts down.

This week is Developer Appreciation Week—a blogging event that began in 2010 with the intention to simply shed positive light on the gaming industry, and appreciate the game development teams that have done so much for the MMO genre. You can read more in detail about this years’ event at Tales of the Aggronaut.

Belghast puts it succinctly in the introductory blog post.

“The good folks in the games industry enter it because they love video games, and often times have a life long goal of ending up there. The industry itself is a really rough one, and we can all see how caustic the communities can be when they turn against a game or an individual.”

Today, I want to share some appreciation for NCSoft and the Carbine Studios team.

Carbine Studios Developer Appreciation

Carbine Studios was founded in 2005 by seventeen former members of the World of Warcraft team. Carbine Studios was acquired by NCSOFT in 2007, and now functions as a subsidiary of them focusing on their own game, WildStar, as well as providing a great outlet for community interaction.

I want to give a shout-out and a big “developer appreciation hug” to all of the developers that reside at Carbine Studios, both currently and formerly. While I will be focusing on some more current members to thank, specifically for their work and dedication, it should be noted that overall neither of these games would be around if it wasn’t for everyone involved throughout their time at NCSoft. So, to the development and community team working at NCSoft, whether it be on Blade & Soul, WildStar, or any titles that comes our way, thank you for all your hard work and dedication!

Blade & Soul Developer Appreciation

Akli “Youmukon” Amichi – Youmukon is one of the Community Managers for Blade & Soul, focusing on the French community for the game. His main role is to be the link between the Community of Blade & Souland NCSOFT’s different teams scattered around the world. Prior to working on Blade & Soul, Youmukon was the French Community Manager for WildStar. Outside of Blade & Soul, Youmukon enjoys various interests, and is always interacting with the community—in both English and French. That’s dedication, folks. Thank you, Youmukon, for all your hard work on both titles and being front-and-center for the games you love.

Jonathan Lien – Jonathan is the Assistant Producer for Blade & Soul, and does a little bit of everything—gathering and analyzing feedback, building test plans, and planning strategies. He has worked hard to adapt Blade & Soul to a Western audience while preserving the integrity and core experience of the original game. He goes out of his way to listen carefully to feedback of the fans and takes care to make the game the best experience for the players. He is extremely active on Twitter, engaging with fans and listening to them. Thank you, Jonathan, for your hard work and dedication to keeping Blade & Soul’s heart.

Julianne Harty – Julianne is the Brand Manager for Blade & Soul. She is one of the experts on the team, and the hub from which the information comes through, including trailers, art assets, and even obscure lore. She believes that the community is the most valuable asset to the game and tries to engage them as much as possible. She works hard to incorporate feedback and suggestions, and she pays attention to the community voice in order to make Blade & Soul the best it can be. Thank you, Julianne, for always taking the time to value the community.

Nicolas Coutant – Nicolas is the Producer (NCSOFT West) for Blade & Soul and also serves as a communication hub for the game. He helps coordinate the team internally and has worked hard to help remove the stigma associated with Korean MMOs. He has helped to provide an experience to players that helps to shatter their prejudices and initial conceptions of Eastern MMOs. He hopes to always provide the best to the community. Thank you, Nicolas, for your constant dedication to the genre and the game.

WildStar Developer Appreciation

Chad “Pappy” Moore – Pappy is the Creative Director for WildStar, but he is best known as one of “the lore guys” for the game. His dedication to the game is second to none, and his passion for making the game better always shines through. He has recently implemented “DevConnects,” a series to engage the community to better understand what the players want from the game, and he has been following through on these suggestions to the best of his ability. Thank you, Pappy, for your constant consideration and interaction with the playerbase of  the game.

Kristen “Caydiem” DeMeza – Caydiem is the Senior Content Designer for WildStar, and has dabbled in almost everything the game offers players. She is one of the developers who goes out of her way to encourage community interactions, and is always available to answer questions and concerns, even if she has to answer with, “I don’t know, but I’ll pass the information along.” Thank you, Caydiem, for always being one to interact with the community and address their concerns as soon as possible.

Deirdre “DD” Hollis – DD is the Community Manager for WildStar. She started as a part of the community team and has worked her way into the role of Community Manager. As her handle (Sunshine) suggests, she is a ray of sunshine to players by always being the most positive she can be on both social media and live streams. She is always available to answer questions, or shoot the breeze, and makes it a point to be as knowledgeable on player concerns as she is able. Thank you, DD, for always being there when players need a pick-me-up and an ear to listen to with concerns for the game.

Gary Astleford – Gary is the Senior Story Designer for WildStar, who goes out of his way to interact with the community for any of their lore and story related questions or concerns. He spends time weekly carving out hours in which he answers questions and thoughts related to obscure WildStar lore via long Twitter threads with players, and he is always excited to share new tidbits of lore that are coming. Thank you, Gary, for being “the story guy” we get excited to converse with.

As I mentioned before, there are so many Developers and Community Relations members that deserve recognition at Carbine Studios for their work, dedication, passion, and love they’ve put into these games and their fan communities. Show your developer appreciation today by thanking your favorite Carbine developers for all the hard work they put in day-to-day to make our lives a little more fun.

August 2019 Note: This post is (27/31) of the Blaugust 2019 event! You can find out more about Blaugust over at Belghast’s blog. I (Chestnut) created a Twitter list of all participants. UltrViolet created an OPML file of all the bloggers to import into your feed reader.
Atlas Reactor Closed Beta Preview

Atlas Reactor Closed Beta Preview

This was originally posted on MMO Games on 16 April 2016. It is being re-posted here to archive the work I have done in case the original website ever shuts down.

Atlas Reactor is a new team-based tactics game by Trion Worlds, featuring a new form of turn-based combat with a twist, as players take strategic turns in combat simultaneously. The game features competitive team-based combat, a wide variety of “freelancers” (heroes) to choose from, PvE content via bot matches, and the Atlas Reactor Closed Beta brings us even more fun.

The customization available in the game is huge, and it keeps growing. Unique customizations include taunts, used to trigger an in-game highlight of the character allowing players to get closer to their favorites. There are also character skins, titles, user banners, and more.

I met with James Karras, Senior Producer, and William Cook, Lead Designer, to discuss the Atlas Reactor Closed Beta changes, which released on Thursday, April 14, 2016.

Meet Freelancer Elle

The Alpha introduced a new freelancer, Oz, and the Atlas Reactor Closed Beta introduces Elle. She’s a Firepower Freelancer, described as a cold-hearted assassin who just really likes to make a big old mess with her shotgun. Elle has one of the coolest primaries in the game with a targeting arc that can change shape from long and slim to short and wide. She is also the first freelancer to have an ability to dash one square and fire in the same turn, which can be used twice in a row.

She also has a free action to use in addition to other abilities where she can place an invisible drone on the ground. Enemy players will know that something has been placed, but they won’t know where the bot is located. The bot can be detonated at any time within three turns, when it will automatically self-destruct.

Elle has another ability, Overcharge, which grants additional damage to the next shot taken, including her Ultimate ability—a gigantic shotgun blast that deals knockback to everyone that gets hit, including Elle. It’s an interesting twist on freelancer abilities, and one that the developers hope to continue as they release more characters.

Introducing Seasons

Seasons are something new being implemented in the Atlas Reactor Closed Beta, and they include a story made of multiple chapters, challenges, contracts, and other rewards. The chapters follow the story of Atlas Reactor, and each season introduces new elements to it. These stories change throughout the year, and introduce chapters every few weeks.

In the closed beta, players will be trying out the first few chapters of the story and providing feedback for developers on how the system feels. It was built with the players in mind, and it tries to break down the barrier between free players versus those spending cash on the game. The story itself cannot be progressed without playing through it, and it will be available to read in full once a season closes.

Contracts and challenges that go along with the Seasons provide big rewards, including XP and crafting components. Rewards are gained by leveling, and include loot matrices (the equivalent of loot chests), which hold cosmetics such as taunts, banners, and emojis.

Levels can be purchased, and only correspond to acquiring cosmetic items. Karras and Cook made it clear that there is no way to buy power in Atlas Reactor, only cosmetics. Levels are being tuned in the Beta, and the XP gain is linear, which mean the experience needed to go from level 1 to level 2 is the same that’s needed to go from 58 to 59.

Any cosmetic items earned in a season are archived, and they cannot be earned past the season except for special events. The goal is for these seasonal items to still be available by special means, however, they’re much more difficult to obtain once the season is over.

In the future, the developers are looking to implement things such as objective-based game modes, ranked modes, additional maps, more freelancers, and spectator mode. Spectator mode is something they plan to try after Closed Beta has been running for a few weeks.

Crafting For Fun

New season-specific crafting materials are given out from completing challenges and contracts, and more loot matrices can be crafted from these materials. There are some matrices that can only be crafted, and some that can only be obtained through play.

Anything opened from loot matrix’s that are a duplicate can be broken down into materials again so that nothing is wasted. The developers wanted to set up a system so that all types of players can participate to the fullest extent.

Community Participation

Karras and Cook know that their game is different from other games on the market, and getting feedback during the Atlas Reactor Closed Beta is extremely important to them. They need to know how the seasons run and want to know if players are engaged and having fun.

To facilitate this, a community rewards program will be unlocked for those that purchase a Pre-Sale pack. Missions for this program were unveiled on Thursday, and are about building a community for the game, as well as excitement for the official release. Karras and Cook noted they, “wanted to build stuff that we would have fun with as players and devs.”

Atlas Reactor Closed Beta Access

The Closed Beta servers are open 24/7 for testing. Any players who played in the February Alpha, or earlier, is automatically added to the Closed Beta. The developers wanted to reward those players for helping to shape the game into what it is today.

Anyone else who doesn’t want to wait can grab a Pre-Sale pack to obtain access immediately. The lowest cost option is $10 USD and includes $10 USD worth of cash-shop money to spend on freelancers, skins, and more. Players can also sign up for the closed beta on Atlas Reactor’s website. Invitations to the Atlas Reactor closed beta will be sent out every so often to those who have signed up, however, there is no guarantee that anyone who signs up will obtain access to the closed beta.

There is no NDA on the Atlas Reactor Closed Beta, and the developers are excited to see what kinds of content their players share through Twitch, blogs, Twitter, Reddit, and other social media platforms.

August 2019 Note: This post is (26/31) of the Blaugust 2019 event! You can find out more about Blaugust over at Belghast’s blog. I (Chestnut) created a Twitter list of all participants. UltrViolet created an OPML file of all the bloggers to import into your feed reader.
Help Greenlight: Seduce Me 2

Help Greenlight: Seduce Me 2

This was originally posted on QueueTimes on 11 April 2016. It is being re-posted here to archive the work I have done in case the original website ever shuts down.

Seduce Me 2: The Demon War is an otome game looking for members of the gaming community to greenlight the game for release on Steam. The game itself had a successful Kickstarter and will be releasing in May 2016. You’re probably asking, “Why should I Greenlight this?”. There are a number of reasons, but first, let’s cover some background information.

Update – April 11, 2016 6:30PM PST

As of April 11, 2016, the game has been greenlit on Steam! However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t valid points to be applied to other otome games, so give it a read anyway. Who knows, you may end up being interested in the game!

A Quick Otome 101

For those not in-the-know, the Wikipedia definition of an otome game is:

…a story based video game that is targeted towards the female market. Generally one of the goals, besides the main plot goal, is to develop a romantic relationship between the female player character and one of several male, or occasionally female characters. This genre is most established in Japan, and is mostly made up of visual novels and simulation games (particularly dating sims).

Otome games are not to be confused with eroge (a pornographic or erotic video game) or bishojo (a game centered around interactions with attractive females geared toward heterosexual males).

There is a lingo to otomes which could be an article in itself, but instead I want to cover just the few I’ll mention in this article.

  • Route: This is a way to denote a branch of plot for a specific character. Some characters can have multiple routes (and therefore, multiple endings). These are usually determined by choices you make throughout the course of the story.
  • CG: Literally “Computer Generated [Illustrations]”, it is a short-hand for the beautifully illustrated and detailed stills that accompany otome plots after triggering a scene via a specific choice. These are artwork outside of the typical cutouts on a background.

Seduce Me: The Otome

Seduce Me 2 is a sequel game to the free-to-play Seduce Me: The Otomeavailable on Steam. The original game is a Western-based PG-16 otome written, directed, and programmed by Michaela Laws. The plot revolves around Mika, a high school senior who inherits her grandfather’s estate. Upon arriving at the estate, Mika finds five injured gentlemen in the foyer, whom have been attacked by some mysterious and dangerous people. Mika soon discovers that the gentlemen are incubi, and out of sympathy for their current situation offers them a home. The question then becomes, does she want them to leave.

Seduce Me makes it a point to offer both human and supernatural routes, as well as same-sex and opposite-sex relationship routes—something that is severely lacking in the otome world. Laws also makes it a point to provide the route’s Happy ending to players regardless of whether they decide to pursue or forego a sexual encounter with the character-of-choice—an extremely positive message missing in many modes of media.

The art is also drawn in more of a mesh between Western and Eastern styles, making it easier for Western audiences to enjoy the CGs and connect with the characters.

Seduce Me 2: The Demon War

Michaela Laws is back for the sequel to the original game, expanding the story and taking us to the world of the incubi (the Abyssal Plains), and pursuing story that was only briefly touched upon in the first game.

The game includes six romanceable routes—five opposite-sex and one same-sex, and this time around includes more variation of endings, including some Bad ones. It is fully voiced in English, and the script is longer than the original game script with less routes. In short, it’s a whopper of a game!

Why It’s Important to Greenlight Seduce Me 2

There has been some talk on why kickstarting and funding otomes is important to the genre. In short, it comes down to an argument that is familiar to anime fans from the 90s. If Eastern companies see that there is a Western audience willing to pay for these to be localized, they are more likely to release them, thus increasing exposure for the genre, allowing more people to join in the fun. That means fans are going to need to vote with their wallets.

However, in this case, there is no wallet necessary to vote to see this particular game on Steam. In fact, it’s a Western-created otome, which can help open the doors to more people becoming interested in Eastern-created otomes. If the player-base for otome games can grow by introducing players to them through Western-developed themes and stories, we can help to bridge the gap in understanding of Eastern cultures (which can be a huge turn-off if you don’t know anything about them).

Not only that, you’ll be supporting a game and development team that strives to bring equal representation of sexual preferences and protagonist genders to the otome world, which will in turn bring more players to the genre, as well as helping to pave the way for other games to seek equal representation. A demo of the gameis available for play for any whom would care to experience what the game is like before Greenlighting.

All it takes to Greenlight is a simple click of your mouse. Whether or not you yourself plan on playing this game, it is an important step toward bringing more otome games to the West, and it’s not something otome fans can do alone.

August 2019 Note: This post is (25/31) of the Blaugust 2019 event! You can find out more about Blaugust over at Belghast’s blog. I (Chestnut) created a Twitter list of all participants. UltrViolet created an OPML file of all the bloggers to import into your feed reader.
What Wildstar Can Learn From The Secret World: Part 1

What Wildstar Can Learn From The Secret World: Part 1

This was originally posted on QueueTimes on 4 March 2016. It is being re-posted here to archive the work I have done in case the original website ever shuts down.

Two of my favorite games are The Secret World and WildStar, in no particular order. The Secret World has been Buy to Play since December 2012, and has a large chunk of time riding the “free to play” wave under its belt. By comparison, WildStar went Free to Play in September 2015. The Secret World recently reworked their membership benefits, and there are quite a few things Carbine could learn from Funcom in this regard.

An Aside on RNG Boxes

First, I’d like to cover something outside of membership benefits that WildStar can take a note on. One of the big things in WildStar right now is the unhappiness with RNG boxes. The Secret World capitalizes on RNG bags and boxes as part of their holidays, and has added a feature, recently, that WildStar would be wise to look into if they plan to keep using these RNG boxes. In The Secret World, when a player purchases a RNG bag with real-life money (via Funcom points, or bonus points), the bag drops a Lucky Coin.

These coins can be turned in at a vendor to purchase some dropped items from these RNG bags if the desired item wasn’t obtained, assuming the player has enough coins. Generally the vendors contain the rarest of the drops, as well as a few recolors of some items. Also of note is the fact that RNG bag drops are not character bound, allowing players to buy or trade the items despite being cash shop items. Many players feel this is a fair system, and utilize the vendor a fair bit. If WildStar would implement something similar, I think it would help to quell some of the anger associated with RNG boxes.

Now, let’s get to the Meat and Potatoes. The Secret World and WildStar are two different games with two different systems. For the sake of comparison, I’m going to be summarizing what each benefit of membership provides to players to try to better form a base for said comparison.

Member Benefits in The Secret World

Membership in The Secret World costs 15 USD monthly, unless you are a Grand Master (someone who purchased the Lifetime Subscription while it was available), and provides the following benefits over buy to play players.

Increase to all experience gained

Experience (EXP) in The Secret World works differently than in other MMOs. EXP is used to give you Ability Points (AP) and Skill Points (SP). These are used to fill in your Ability Wheel, or in layman’s terms, to purchase your weapon spells and proficiencies. Once a player has filled their Ability Wheel to their liking, AP and SP can be applied to purchase and work towards other forms of progression for their character, including: auxiliary weapon skills (a third weapon type, including items such as rocket launchers and whips), Augments (which attach special effects to weapon spells), and AEGIS (a mechanic to penetrate mobs’ shields with specific damage types, and purchased from EXP gained specifically from quests in Tokyo). There are wheels for all of these, and players will always need EXP to fill these in, making EXP extremely important for continued character progression.

Token capacity increase

The cap on tokens members are able to gain have been increased by 20%. Marks of the Pantheon (MoP), an end-game token used to purchase gear, Augments, etc., had the cap raised weekly, and both Black Bullion (BB) and MoP had their total capacity increased by 20% as well.

Reduction to mission cooldowns

Quests in The Secret World are called Missions. Having a reduction from 18 hours to 8 hours makes it easier to pick-and-choose to complete daily instead of running missions that may not be a favorite (stealth and sabotage missions, anybody?). It is even more important when players enter the “endgame” missions in Transylvania and Tokyo which have a default cooldown of close to three days, making the cooldown reduction an extreme benefit for those pursuing endgame.

Reduction to Raid lockouts

Raids used to have a three-day lockout, and have now been reduced to 18 hours. Most games have a week-long lockout, so The Secret World was shorter to begin with. However, this will benefit progression-focused guilds working on Nightmare Kills of the newest raids, as well as gearing up alts and new raiders.

Free Anima Leaps

Anima Wells are spawn points throughout the world used to either fast-travel in a zone, or somewhere your anima spirit releases so you can run back to your corpse (or, interestingly enough, complete various missions in this form).

Increase to all Black Bullion gained

Black Bullion (BB) is one of the currencies in The Secret World gained via completing quests (from the very first quest you complete and every one after) and various objectives in PvP as well as through weekly challenges. It can be used to purchase Quality Level (QL) 10 gear, which is equivalent to end-game starter-blues in other games, as well as upgrade these QL 10 gear and glyphs (slotted bonus stats). It can also be used for fun cosmetic things—such as costumes and titles. Black Bullion is also used to upgrade AEGIS and Augments.

Item Store Discount

Members receive a 10% store discount, while Grand Masters receive a 20% store discount. I think almost anybody would agree that a store discount is a good thing. Especially when…

Bonus Points every 30 days

Members and Grand Masters receive 1200 Bonus Points (a $10 Funcom Point equivalent) every 30 days, which are valid for six months. This is a nice chunk of change to spend monthly just for paying your monthly subscription, especially with the store discount in place.

Two Lockout Timer Reset items every 30 days

These items completely reset the cooldowns on all missions, raids, and scenarios (dungeons). Some people may not use these items at all, whereas other people may use them for progression reasons, or just to be able to help friends run content.

Loyalty Rewards

The way The Secret World handles Loyalty Rewards is unique. Rewards are provided at 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, 180 days, and every 180 days after that. However, the rewards are handed out based upon how much subscription time has been paid for upfront. Grand Masters receive all the rewards immediately. If someone purchases a 90 day subscription up front, they will receive up through the 90 day rewards. The rewards also never go away if a subscription is canceled, and when re-subbing, members pick up where they left off for rewards and subscription time towards them.

All in all, The Secret World’s system is competitive, fair, and has lots of benefits to all types of players, whether they be focused on end-game content, are new players, like to play casually, enjoy various competitive levels of PvP, or are hardcore raiders. Next time, we’ll take a look at what WildStar offers, and how they stack up.

August 2019 Note: This post is (24/31) of the Blaugust 2019 event! You can find out more about Blaugust over at Belghast’s blog. I (Chestnut) created a Twitter list of all participants. UltrViolet created an OPML file of all the bloggers to import into your feed reader.
TSW Revamps Member Benefits

TSW Revamps Member Benefits

This was originally posted on QueueTimes on 9 February 2016. It is being re-posted here to archive the work I have done in case the original website ever shuts down.

Today, Funcom’s The Secret World implemented their re-worked membership benefits. These new benefits include:

  • Loyalty rewards based on days purchased
  • 30% increase to all Experience earned
  • 50% bonus to all Black Bullions gained
  • 8-hour Mission cooldowns (down from 18-hours)
  • 2 Lockout Timer Reset items every 30 days (resetting all active cooldowns for Missions/Raids/Scenarios)
  • 1200 Bonus Points every 30 days ($10 equivalent, valid for 6 months)
  • 10% Item Store discount (20% for Grand Masters)
  • 20% token capacity increase
  • 18-hour Raid lockouts (down from 3-days)
  • Free Anima Leaps

So far, players seem overall excited and happy with the membership changes, which previously included just the store discount and bonus points (of two different types). The second type of bonus point, Veteran Points (VP), are being phased out. The Veteran store is still available to those with VP left to spend, but will disappear once that VP has been spent. There is no word, yet, on if items will be reskinned (or not) and released in the Item Store, though Community Manager Andy “Odonoptera” Benditt, has asked players to reach out to him with any questions they may have about the new system.

Funcom also released their Valentine’s Event today, ending on February 23. New bags and items are available at various vendors, including a new mount and pet. Bags purchased through the item store will award Lucky Coins. Two bags may be purchased from a vendor daily throughout the event, but will not provide Lucky Coins upon opening.

August 2019 Note: This post is (23/31) of the Blaugust 2019 event! You can find out more about Blaugust over at Belghast’s blog. I (Chestnut) created a Twitter list of all participants. UltrViolet created an OPML file of all the bloggers to import into your feed reader.
Animal Jam Review

Animal Jam Review

This was originally posted on MMO Games on 9 January 2016. It is being re-posted here to archive the work I have done in case the original website ever shuts down.

As a gamer parent, spending time with your children and fostering their enjoyment of similar hobbies is important, but it can be extremely difficult with the number of children’s games compared to adult games—especially for MMO players. However, here at MMOGames, we’re going to give you some ideas of games to play with your children, and even let them begin their own adventures! First up, we’re going to take a look at National Geographic’s Animal Jam.

So what is Animal Jam (also referred to as AJ)? Animal Jam is a children’s MMO where they create and customize their animal avatars and “dens” (houses), adopt mini-pets, go on adventures, attend parties, and explore real life animals and other life sciences. The game itself is geared towards children ages ten and above—mainly “tweens”.

Upon entering the game for the first time, a cheery female voice over prompts users to choose from a small selection of stylized animals—such as a panda, rabbit, wolf, tiger, etc.—and then create a first and compound last name from pre-populated choices on a wheel, which can also be randomized (there is no way for users to create their own name from scratch).

Once a character has been created, children will create a username and password. Usernames are limited to specific words, with some that are unable to be used at all. For instance, I attempted to use “ggchestnut”, and found that “nut” was not a valid word that could be used as a part of the username, nor could leet speak variations (such as nu7) be used. It is a valiant attempt from the developers to help curb kids from acting inappropriately.

Next, children enter their parents’ email address, though if they have their own they could easily enter it themselves. Children must agree to the terms of service before jumping into the game, with a friendly voice over reminding them “don’t share personal information with anyone online, and remember, be nice and have fun!”.

Once your child signs up for the game, an email will be sent to the parent email address they provided—hopefully not their own. This email asks parents to provide consent for their child to play Animal Jam. If consent is not provided within fourteen days, the child’s account will be deactivated. Upon providing consent, parents will be prompted to create a parent account. From here, there are various controls that parents can turn on or off to limit what their child can do within the game with chat functions, trading, purchasing, etc.

The first thing children do is learn how to move their character by pointing and clicking where they want to go—much like any action RPG on the market today. Then children are prompted to customize their character’s colors and markings, and they are given a quest to show them how to utilize the emotes available in game. Users are then let loose in the world to explore.

The game is free to play, and utilizes two main currencies in the game—gems, which are earned by logging in daily, playing games, and completing adventures; and diamonds, which are a currency available to those subscribed. The subscription has a few perks including customizing nameplates, enabling past two character slots, and some costume unlocks.

Children can play by exploring the world, playing games, attending parties, or participating in adventures. Levels are something that aren’t necessary, as traditional MMO progression isn’t a big focus of the game. Completing adventures does, however, raise the character’s “Courage Level”, which didn’t seem to do much aside from bloat an achievement number.

Adventures required reading short amounts of quest text, and being able to move the character in an efficient manner to avoid monsters, or bring them to Venus Fly Traps to be eaten. The objectives were simplistic, but entertaining, and the story progressed in an interesting way, sure to keep the attention of many players.

Parties are another big draw of the game, and are a place for players to go to talk, trade, buy special items, and play games. Some parties are seasonal, such as the AJ Birthday Party. Most parties are available to free players, whereas some others are exclusive to those paying for membership. Some parties are also locked on the animals that can attend. They also offer special stores to purchase items for costuming and decorating player dens.

Community 6/10

While the game has a limited chat, which can be restricted even more within the parental controls, it seems that children know no bounds when it comes to bullying and sexual content. In my own experiences, sitting in the main city of Jamaa, I encountered numerous players spamming for trades and adventures. I also saw multiple conversations between players with abusive tones and foul language not filtered because the children put numbers in between the letters.

The one upside is that the process for self-policing is simple, and was used by the children in an empowering manner. Those being bullied were able to stand up to their bullies by asking them to stop, and then saying that they were going to report them. Assuming the players being bullied used the straight-forward reporting system, bullies were whisked offline scant moments later.

Safety 8/10

Animal Jam is committed to the online privacy and safety of children and is certified by the BBB CARU program. The Better Business Bureau’s Children’s Advertising Review Unit® was founded to promote responsible children’s advertising, and evaluates child-directed advertising and promotional material to ensure truthfulness, accuracy, and consistency. In short, the program aims to minimize the marketing and advertising of products to children—a big issue with many parents.

As previously mentioned, parents have an account where they can monitor things such as their child’s playtime, as well as regulate what children are allowed to do within the game regarding interactions with other players. This is a feature lacking in many games, and is something to be commended as an attempt to get parents involved.

Safety does take a hit from the volatile behavior of the community, however. If I were a parent, I would feel unsafe with my children being exposed to this online bullying, which is a large problem nowadays on various platforms.

Innovation 6/10

Animal Jam doesn’t break much of the status quo when it comes to games geared toward children. The game itself is a virtual-world counterpart to the National Geographic Kids magazine. The game itself is based around learning about flora and fauna in a world where they are disappearing and the environment needs help.

There are bits of educational content sprinkled throughout the game in various forms. You can discover creatures in the wild and receive a blurb about them. There are posters and museums that the characters can visit, and there is also educational video content featuring National Geographic herpetologist Brady Barr (host of Dangerous Encounters with Brady Barr), and marine biologist Tierney Thys (a National Geographic explorer).

The games, some of which are educational, range from simplistic to age-appropriate for ten-year-olds and above. The simplistic games were more reminiscent of games that could be played with toddlers just learning to manipulate a mouse and keyboard and just discovering nature. In fact, I would offer up some of Animal Jam’s simpler games as wonderful free-to-play alternatives for young toddlers and pre-school aged children that are drawn towards the life sciences (with parental guidance and help, of course!).

Gameplay 7/10

While movement was easily explained at the start of the game, children (and adults) without experience in simpler virtual worlds, such as Club Penguin, may find Animal Jam confusing at first. As a gamer with experience in multiple MMOs, figuring out the system in Animal Jam was confusing at best, and irritating at worst.

Many times I would open up a new window to retrieve the Help site to check on what various things mentioned in the game were, or where I could find a particular UI element. The UI became easier to understand the more I used it, but the first hour or so was excruciating to try to remember where certain things were, especially if they were small elements.

Graphics/Sounds 9/10

Some children’s games have music that becomes irritating fast, for both adults and children alike. The music in Animal Jam, while simplistic and on the short side, was whimsical, and fit the different zone themes well. It was pleasant to listen to on loop for a decent amount of time, and was reminiscent of The Sims franchise. The graphics are cutesy and stylized and make the world feel more fantasy-like.

Value 8/10

The game itself is free to play, with reasonable membership options available, starting at $6.95 USD recurring monthly, to a year’s membership at $57.95. Gift certificates can also be purchased to add membership time onto an account.

The real value, however, comes from the content within the game that families can discuss, including using the community as a talking point for bullying, playing nice, and being safe in both the virtual and real world. Time management and gaming limitations are other skills that can be learned via Animal Jam, with utilization of the Play Timer feature in the parental controls.

Asking children what they’ve discovered in their journeys within the game is another wonderful conversation starter to keep in touch with your child’s gaming experiences in Animal Jam. Who knows, they may even teach you something about the environment and natural sciences that you didn’t already know!

Overall 7.5/10

As an MMO player looking to start a family, finding games I can experience with my future children is of importance to me. I would hope that most of my child’s play time would be with me, but I would feel moderately safe allowing my child to explore and adventure without supervision for limited periods of time due to the parental controls.

August 2019 Note: This post is (22/31) of the Blaugust 2019 event! You can find out more about Blaugust over at Belghast’s blog. I (Chestnut) created a Twitter list of all participants. UltrViolet created an OPML file of all the bloggers to import into your feed reader.
The Secret World Christmas 2015

The Secret World Christmas 2015

This was originally posted on MMO Games on 29 December 2015. It is being re-posted here to archive the work I have done in case the original website ever shuts down.

The Secret World launched its Christmas event for 2015 on Thursday, December 17th. The event will run approximately two and a half weeks; until January 4th, 2016. With Christmas hot on the heels of the release of Issue 13, there are no new Christmas missions available, but the developers have provided the players with a plethora of new items from two new bags including, but not limited to: a snowboard mount, new costumes, and two new companion pets–mini-Hel and Krampus.

While some fans are disappointed that there will not be any new content for this years’ Holiday season, there are still three events from prior years to go back to, and for newer players to devour.

The End of Days

In 2012, the world was going to end, according to the Mayan calendar–or at least our interpretation of it. Who wouldn’t decide to capitalize on such an event? Luckily, The Secret World did just that.

While the current version of “End of Days” is a series of quests, there are stories of various events that took place during 2012: hoards of undead shambling about and three giant harbingers of destruction that roamed the world. Now, players get a trail of quests to lead them to the final boss–Bolon Yokte’ K’uh, along with in-depth lore, and a tinfoil hat.

Completing these for the first time was exciting but a tad difficult. The quest location isn’t made obvious by a starting breadcrumb, and each consecutive step was slightly irksome to figure out. Amongst the group of new players I’m a part of, the consensus was that while the final boss is fun, and a tad difficult, the overall design of the missions and their lack of information definitely show how much the game has improved in both providing breadcrumbs and leaving enough open space to allow for exploration and puzzle solving.

Meet the Krampus

In 2013, The Secret World introduced a new event titled “A Mother of a Season,” which most players lovingly refer to as “the Krampus event”. The Secret World excels at taking real-world events, and mythology, and turning them into something new within the world the game inhabits. In this instance, they combined Krampusnacht with Niflheim and Hel.

Krampusnacht, also known as Krampus Night, is the night before the Feast of St. Nicholas when a wicked devil appears in the streets to cart away evil children to either drown them, eat them, or drag them off to Hell. There are variations to the tale and the way Krampus looks, but he is always a devil with cloven hooves, horns, and black or brown hair.

Throughout the world, players will find Krampus wandering about. After attacking them, the Krampus will attempt to run away back to Niflheim–an icy dimension of Hell within the game. In Norse Mythology, Niflheim is one of two primordial realms, the second being Muspelheim, a dimension of fire. Within Niflheim, players need to destroy multiple Krampus to discover the secrets to summoning Hel herself, whom in Norse mythology is a daughter of the trickster god, Loki.

These missions, as before, are lacking in breadcrumbs. It was difficult to figure out what to do first, especially considering there aren’t many missions outside of completing Niflheim and summoning Hel. The group consensus within the new players group was that it was too difficult to complete coming in with an average QL of 7.5 among us. After multiple tries, the group decided to go back to completing missions unrelated to the Holidays at hand, to possibly come back to later with some help from Sanctuary to complete as two groups instead of one.

A Magical Flute

Upon logging in, one receives a text message to head to the London theatre to partake in a viewing of Mozart’s opera, The Magic Flute. Things go awry, however, and players are sent to Venice to discover clues within Saint Nicholas’ masonic tomb to stop an evil plot that is afoot.

This mission from 2014 capitalizes on what The Secret World is best at–connecting real-world objects to those within The Secret World. The opera in question, The Magic Flute, was composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and premiered in September of 1791 in Vienna. The plot revolves around a young man, Tamino, who is given a magical flute by the Queen of Night who turns sorrow into joy. The Queen’s servants send Tamino on a mission to rescue the Queen’s daughter, Pamina, from capture. Tamino and Pamina must then undergo various trials and challenges before they are able to escape and to bring about a new age of brotherhood to man.

The opera itself has ties to the Freemasons, Mozart himself being one. The opera is also influenced by the Enlightenment philosophy of liberty, progress, reason, tolerance, and fraternity, with large allegorical inferences within the smaller plot details. These influences scream to be used within an environment such as one developed in The Secret World.

This quest is not for the faint of heart, or those of lower QL gear. This warning has kept the rest of the newer players away from the Holiday event, knowing that if Hel was difficult, the Flute would be even more so.

Final Thoughts

As a newer player to The Secret World, there is still so much I am discovering in the game, and I am always excited to learn more of the lore. As I have mentioned before, the biggest selling point that brought me back to the game is the story-driven content that the game excels at. Knowing that I have all of the prior Holiday events available to me is an appealing thing, however, it is also sad that Christmas events don’t seem to hit a stride like the Halloween events do until the Magic Flute.

I can understand gating content, however, I would love to see these missions be adjusted to be a tad more new-player friendly. Whether it be lowering the QL level required to be more in-line with the QL 6-7 available in The Blue Mountains or making content more desirable. It feels as though something should be done to make things more accessible.

While the Halloween events were by no-means easy, they were something a group of newer players were able to complete without trouble, aside from being content-gated by not having started Kaidan. The Secret World can learn from itself by taking a look at its Halloween events, emulating what makes these great for new and old players alike, and then copying this formula into their Winter Holiday events.

August 2019 Note: This post is (21/31) of the Blaugust 2019 event! You can find out more about Blaugust over at Belghast’s blog. I (Chestnut) created a Twitter list of all participants. UltrViolet created an OPML file of all the bloggers to import into your feed reader.
The Secret World Halloween 2015

The Secret World Halloween 2015

This was originally posted on MMO Games on 31 October 2015. It is being re-posted here to archive the work I have done in case the original website ever shuts down.

Here Comes Halloween

The Secret World launched their Halloween event for 2015 on Tuesday October 27th. The event will run three weeks; until November 17th, 2015. There are new quests, and all of the Halloween content from previous years is being reactivated so that players can experience it if they never have before, as well as repeat specific content they may have enjoyed previously. There is also a new dance and new bags available, and players will be able to purchase last year’s bags from the Item Shop for the dance and items contained within.

There are two new bags–one called Haunted Sundries which is available from participating in the event, as well as for purchase in the Item Store, and the Sack of Samhain Revels, available only from the store. They contain new outfits, masks, and other items, including the new Ghost Rider inspired motorcycle Romain “Tilty” Amiel showed off and gave away during “The Streaming Ones” on Friday October 23rd, called the Geist Rider Bike. It is worthy of any Ghost Rider fan, and is a rare item that is sure to be a crowd pleaser.

This year’s event is called “The Seven Silences”, which focuses on a piece of lore and turns it completely on its head. It is impossible for Secretworlders to die, (some may call them immortal) and it seems that one has been able to commit suicide. It was also noted during the stream that there will be at least one tie-in mission to Funcom’s newest game also released Tuesday: The Park. There are already tie-ins from Solomon Island that link The Park to The Secret World, and this will be one more nugget for all the lore-fiends to devour.

Previous Years’ Events

In 2012, the first event, Samhain, included various missions (quests), achievements, and lore based around The Cat God. The mission chain began with an investigation mission, arguably some of the best quest content-type in the game, forcing you to search the web and build upon your knowledge of the world in-game, as well as outside of it. Kingsmouth residents have lost their cats, and in this world, it can’t just be that they ran away. Your role is to investigate what is going on, and from there, you’ll need to locate a portal so you can stop the summoning ritual and save Kingsmouth. For the moment, anyway.

In 2013, the Halloween event build upon the previous year’s events with a total of ten more missions to expand the story in Kingsmouth. So much for saving them last year! These missions deepen the stories of the characters within Kingsmouth, and delve into their past, and their present. The missions give us more of a window into the relationships amongst the inhabitants of Kingsmouth, and they are very interesting to complete.

Last year introduced a brand new Halloween event called The Broadcast, which focused around conspiracy theories related to numbers stations. Numbers stations are an odd duck with a cult following–they are radio broadcasts that utilize synthesized voices to read out strings of numbers, or incomprehensible coded messages that loop. Number station conspiracy theories have been referenced throughout pop-culture, including: Lost, Fringe, Welcome to Night Vale, and even Call of Duty: Black Ops. It would be only natural for The Secret World to join the following and create an entire story revolving around the conspiracy.

Why I’m Excited

As a newer player to The Secret World, I am excited to learn more of the lore in the game. One of the big selling points that brought me back to the game is the story-driven content, which the Developers of the game excel at. Knowing that I can complete all of the Halloween-related events from the beginning is a very appealing thing, especially since some of the past years’ content builds upon itself, and upon the general lore of the game.

There’s so much to enjoy about the game in general, one of my favorites being Investigation-type missions, where you must take the time outside of the game to complete research, and find tools (for instance a Morse Code reader) to help you on your journey within the world. There are no holds barred, and that makes the game extremely immersive and in-line with our day-to-day lives. The Secret World feels as if it could actually exist.

The developers don’t hold back when it comes to creating story in The Secret World, and they often re-use characters and locations to deepen the story and create, a deep and interesting world. There is a broad story behind these characters and missions, and these stories extend past the zones they are located in. The cadre of characters aren’t just named NPCs with fluff stories, but instead have a rich history behind them and their abilities, as well as how they came to be in the ever-darkening world that is The Secret World.

Why It’s The Bee’s Knees

The Secret World is a world full of intrigue, the occult, secret societies, and mysteries galore. It is steeped in horror and dramatic anticipation in many modes via storytelling, music, video and investigation. Every day there are ghosts, goblins, and things that go bump in the night from a plethora of locales and sub-cultures–it’s Halloween every day in The Secret World.

While there are many games that create events inspired by Halloween, in many different fashions, The Secret World is the game that does it right, and does it best. The missions are full of depth, and not justa repeat of dailies and instances–there is a story worthy of any horror junkie out there. One could argue that if it’s Halloween every day in The Secret World, the game’s Halloween events themselves must be like Christmas.

August 2019 Note: This post is (20/31) of the Blaugust 2019 event! You can find out more about Blaugust over at Belghast’s blog. I (Chestnut) created a Twitter list of all participants. UltrViolet created an OPML file of all the bloggers to import into your feed reader.
WildStar Casual Friday with Chad Moore

WildStar Casual Friday with Chad Moore

This was originally posted on QueueTimes on 12 October 2015. It is being re-posted here to archive the work I have done in case the original website ever shuts down.

Lore is the foundation of every awesome game experience that you ever have. If you ain’t got lore, you ain’t got nothin’. – Chad “Pappy” Moore, October 9, 2015

On Friday October 9th, the Wildstar Casual Friday stream focused on Chad “Pappy” Moore going around and playing a bit on his Dominion toon, with Micah Whipple asking him questions about lore, and questions posed in the Twitch chat. Before this, however, Chris Thomas (@CRB_Buiden on Twitter), Lead Software Engineer, came on for a short time to give an update on the server stability issues that were plaguing the game at launch.

Chris said that while the game is getting more people, the additional servers have been helping a great deal. There have been no real queues since Wednesday, and the reports of lag are decreasing significantly. The extra realms are still just temporary relief for queues, lag, and helping to squash any bugs currently being found, and are helping the Developers get close to the stability and play experience that they want everybody to have.

Chris could only stay for a few minutes as he is still very busy trying to keep everything up and running well, but Pappy wanted to give a big “hats off” to the engineering team, “who’s really stepped up and gotten it done in the past week”.

Micah asked Chris when he planned on merging the servers. Chris replied that they definitely still plan to do so, but they don’t want to put a timer on it, yet. The goal at the moment is to provide a great play experience for everybody in the stability department, and make sure that this stability does not change when the servers merge together. As such, once they feel they reach this point, the servers will merge back together.

An FAQ was also launched recently on the WildStar Knowledge Base on how to remove Two Factor Authentication without Customer Service. While the article was mentioned on the stream, it was not mentioned that if you do remove the authenticator from your account, you will lose the bonuses attached to it (the free mount and XP bonus). Before leaving, Chris let everyone know that if you have lag, or are running into other bugs, it’s important for you to report these so things so they can be taken care of ASAP.

After Chris left, Pappy transitioned to the Casual Stream by stating that he was, “going to show you what an actual player does!”, picking on Micah for having only a low-level toon. Pappy was playing a female Mechari Stalker who was currently level 23 out in Auroria. He was about to jump into war with the Osun at the Fort Glory quest hub. Pappy had decided to roll up a Dominion toon because it was finally time to, “go out and take care of business”.

Micah posed various questions from the chat to Pappy throughout the stream, including the following exchange regarding his Vindball shirt:
Micah: Can we buy your t-shirt?
Pappy: This t-shirt is actually a limited edition 2009 Whitevale Walatusks Special Vindball Champions shirt from back in the day.
Micah: What is Vindball?
Pappy: A sport played on Nexus that may or may not actually become a reality at some point in the future.
Micah: By reality you mean…?
Pappy: I don’t know what I mean but that’s all I’m going to say about it!

Since Pappy was questing in the Osun area, Micah asked Pappy a bit about the lore of the Osun themselves. As you’re questing, you will find that the Osun were a creation of the Eldan, and something catastrophic happened to their civilization long ago. However, now that people are showing up on Nexus, they are coming out of hiding and trying to reclaim their civilization and their ancient secrets. Which we, the players, will need to stop or else things could get bad.

A viewer asked if it was possible to cure soulrot. Pappy answered that soulrot can be cured, although it is extremely difficult to do so, and most of the time it’s not something you can come back from. For those that didn’t know what soulrot was, Pappy explained it as an elixir created by the Osun Dark Witches to enslave the people they conquer, which you will run across multiple times throughout the course of the game.

In the spirit of banter (and probably just to give Pappy a hard time) Micah pointed out at this time Pappy had failed his challenge and “didn’t even get Bronze”, and Pappy argued that he was distracted by answering questions and talking about lore.

Other questions in the stream included the following.

Q: Are there any plans on future content?
A: They can’t announce that on stream, but they do have some planned events coming up. There is the Hoverboard zPrix Invitational coming up on October 21st, which may or may not line up with a date from a film intentionally. Pappy exclaimed, “It was just a coincidence that it just happens to be the same time!” There is no Thanksgiving event this year, and no current plans to do so, however any holiday could be turned into a game personification if there was enough interest in it. Micah also mentioned that Shade’s Eve is coming up starting on October 19th, and there were other events going on that you could find at the article on their website.

Q: When can I play as a Lopp?
A: Pappy said that he honestly never thought that the Lopp would have become as popular as they have been. He wants to personally have a Kurg mount so that he can hardcore RP his own Lopp Fur Trader vibe. Pappy also encouraged viewers to start a #KurgMount movement on social media, because he knows some people that might be able to, “make it happen”.

Q: Are there Aurin scratching posts?
A: Pappy wanted to know if the viewer was asking because “you’re an Aurin, or because you’re Dominion and trying to put the Aurin down?”

Q: Are you playing on a PvP or PvE server?
A: Pappy replied, “I don’t want that PvP stuff to get in the way of my story!”

Q: Which Lore is cooler–Exile or Dominion?
A: Pappy admitted that he thought Dominion lore is cooler, if he had to choose between just the two factions. “It’s super deep, if you really dig into it, it ties the story of Nexus together.”

Q: Are male Aurins the flashier of the sexes to attract mates?
A: Pappy said that Aurin males are the more hot-headed of the genders. The female Aurin are more of the, “Hey, let’s chill out and hang and have fun and be positive” while the males are more “OCD”. Male Aurins like to puff up their chests a little bit. He concluded that, “yeah, they might be a little bit like that”. Pappy himself has never played an Aurin male, though he does have an Aurin female Esper he got to about level 3. He mainly plays Granok Males for “obvious reasons”.

Some more banter ensued between Micah and Pappy, and various notes popped up during this banter.

  • They have new plans to feature the Cryoplex Arena SOON™. The arena itself is currently out, however they’ve made some changes to it, and the new “actual” version will be ready in a future patch.
  • Pappy feels that Kurtenacker is the most talented composer “maybe in the entire world, but definitely in the business”. There are more than nine hours of original music in WildStar, and you hear it all the time. Lots of players have mentioned that WildStar is the only game where they “leave the music on” because it’s just so inspiring, and every zone is so different.
  • Pappy explained what Tales Keys were as he picked one up. They are pieces of lore for in-game “pulp novels” called Tales From Beyond the Fringe that are all about the “cool stories that have taken place in the WildStar universe”. You can collect these throughout the world, and they all have custom covers done by the “super-awesome-super-talented concept team”. They also unlock posters in your housing decor.

Jeff Kurtenacker happened to be in-house, so he was brought onto the stream. He talked about how he loved writing and continuing the write music for the game, because it was such a diverse universe. “Where else can you write quirky user salesman car music versus epic space themes?” Jeff asked.

Pappy and Micah both had questions for Jeff, and Jeff provided some pretty interesting answers.

Q: What are some of the musical inspirations of Auroria and the Osun?
A: Jeff described the Osun theme as a lot of big, low brass. It’s slow and lumbering with lots of trombones and tubas, and meant to be powerful and dark when you encounter the Osun for the first time.

Q: When you’re creating music, are there any other ways to layer it depending on the situation?
A: Jeff explained there will be times when the Osun and Eldan themes get merged together that kind of depends on what’s happening based on the lore. The Eldan theme does appear in the Osun theme because they were created by the Eldan. Using crossover themes and weaving themes together from a lore standpoint is important to tell the stories musically. To tell where they came from. Jeff joked he also does this, “just to make sure I don’t get fired!” He also mentioned that the Mechari have Eldan themes woven into their music.

Q: Tell us about the Shade’s Eve music?
A: Jeff admitted that the Shade’s Eve music was one of the most fun things he’s ever worked on, especially since he got to express his “Inner Danny Elfman”, because The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of this favorite movies. He was able to take the Dominion and Exile themes and make them sort of “Halloween-i-fied”, which was a “real, fun challenge”. He was also able to give Shade’s Eve its own theme, so that the capital cities get their own music, and the actual Shade’s Eve Instance gets its own music. Jeff explained that it was fun to do something “different, creepy, and quirky” which isn’t something he gets to do very often.

The stream wrapped up with one final question for Jeff on what he’s been working on lately. He mentioned “Donatelli’s leaky tweet” where he posted a screenshot of “something he shouldn’t have”. He’s been creating some music for that that’s “mysteriously beautiful with dissonant tones,” and mentioned that “if you like the music from Farside”, which he described as spacey and ambinet, that you are “going to like this, because it’s like [Farside] but with a little more adventure.”

August 2019 Note: This post is (19/31) of the Blaugust 2019 event! You can find out more about Blaugust over at Belghast’s blog. I (Chestnut) created a Twitter list of all participants. UltrViolet created an OPML file of all the bloggers to import into your feed reader.
WildStar Launch Update DevStream

WildStar Launch Update DevStream

This was originally posted on QueueTimes on 2 October 2015. It is being re-posted here to archive the work I have done in case the original website ever shuts down.

On October 2, 2015 WildStar’s afternoon stream went from the Casual Friday layout they’ve been exploring recently into a WildStar Launch Update DevStream with Chad “Pappy” Moore, Omeed Dariani, and Chris Thomas, Lead Software Engineer (who was excited to participate in his first stream). Chris is responsible for all the game systems (outside of combat) that the designers use to make neat things for the players, as well as all the server structure involved in the back-end.

The three of them wanted to do a stream today to make sure that the players knew what was going on behind the scenes with the issues they have been encountering. It was noted that the big issues of the past few days, lag and queue times specifically, have been due to a specific part of the megaservers’ process being extremely taxed with the high demand of players.

With no time for excessive banter, the team launched right into the biggest announcement from last night: the spin up of new servers. The developers didn’t want to add extra different servers, but instead wanted to add in new ones with the intent to merge them back together easily and quickly later-on. There is no current ETA on when the servers will be merged together because they want to make sure it works correctly the first time, and prevent any further bugs. It was briefly mentioned that there are Realm First achievements available on the -2 servers, because it was easier to leave them on than trying to turn them off, and creating characters on a -2 server will give you free extra character slots (which will go away when you delete these extra characters).

Players who have already logged in will be defaulted to the last server they logged in on, and new players will be defaulted to the lowest population PvE server, so double-check the server you’re on before playing to ensure you’re with friends.

These new servers are being implemented as a short-term goal to address the lag and queue issues players are experiencing as a whole, giving developers extra time to get megaservers up to speed (and size) for the player demand. The demand for the game is “unbelievably huge”, and Pappy exclaimed being, “blown away by how many new players want to play”, noting that the coding team is “working around the clock”. Omeed added in that they have everyone working in shifts, as the downtime is necessary for people to recharge and get some much-needed sleep.

Another issue that cropped up with the implementation of these new servers was an issue with the limited time free-transfers. There is currently a fix for this in testing. While transfers are something that has been detailed as a part of the business model for the game, Carbine is opening up free realm transfers in the interim to allow people to get on and play on the -2 servers as they would like. There is a comprehensive FAQ available on WildStar’s website for those interested in how to prepare their toons for transfer. It was also noted that there is a seven-day cooldown between transfers.

The “Character Loop Bug” was also discussed a few times throughout the stream for people joining late. There is a fix in the work for this bug. The reason it happens is there is some sort of issue on a players’ character when loading in (items not appearing, LAS issues, etc.) and instead of throwing the character into game with an error, they are being kicked back out onto the character-selection screen. During high times of demand this bug is more likely to happen, especially as it continues to happen to a larger number of people. Their best advice for now, until they are able to implement a fix, is to just keep trying, and keep in mind that the more people trying to bypass the bug can make the issue worse.

A few questions were addressed during the stream, including both the positivity and negativity of the community. First, the three on-stream Devs thanked the people in the community promoting positivity about the game, and being patient with the time it will take to fix some of these issues. The negativity was addressed by asking players to keep in mind that while a corporation can sometimes be a faceless entity, they themselves are people, too, and are working their hardest for everyone to get into the game.

Pappy discussed that the other teams who don’t work on coding are offering as much support as they can both internally and externally. They are volunteering to talk to people with frustrations; they are trying to respond individually as much as possible; and they are trying to be open, transparent, and as communicative as possible. If you hit up one of the social media channels for WildStar, someone will be in touch ASAP.

Developers are looking for specific feedback on two matters. First, if you are having issues filing a Customer Service ticket, and if you are having any Launcher crash issues. Omeed said to put in a CS ticket (if you are able), or get in touch with them via the @WildStarOps twitter, through Reddit, or on the forums.

Omeed stressed that while things are currently intense, MMOs themselves are a long-term investment, and that WildStar isn’t just a week-long game. The development team as a whole is trying to get the game to a state they want as soon as possible, but it may take a little bit of time to iron out specific issues.

August 2019 Note: This post is (18/31) of the Blaugust 2019 event! You can find out more about Blaugust over at Belghast’s blog. I (Chestnut) created a Twitter list of all participants. UltrViolet created an OPML file of all the bloggers to import into your feed reader.