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8 Good MMORPGs to Play With Friends

I’ve slowly come to an important realization. The time in my life where I could truly dedicate myself to a single MMORPG has past. It sounds like a bummer for someone bearing MMO Bro as a moniker, but it’s not so bad. My only complaint is the difficulty it presents when it comes to socialization. Spending time to build up friendships in a game I might not play in a few months is tough. Fortunately, many a gaming friendship has persisted throughout the years (both of the online and offline variety). For that reason I’ve been looking more into good MMORPGs to play with friends. These are either games I can start off soloing and bring friends in later or join an existing friend who’s really enjoying themselves.

Just like players who prefer solo vs. group content, what makes an MMORPG good to play with friends is highly subjective. The key aspects to me are some form of level scaling or horizontal progression, a focus on group content, alt encouragement, and bonuses to playing with a consistent group. The below list is roughly ranked from 8th to 1st, but I’ve avoided a true “top 8” this time around because of the inherent subjectivity.

Neverwinter

neverwinter good mmorpg with friends screenshot

Neverwinter is a Dungeons and Dragons inspired MMORPG. Thus, it unsurprisingly includes dungeons and dungeon offshoots called skirmishes as a primary method of advancement. These can be tackled by groups of five players and make for a fairly balanced challenge. Players can also create their own dungeons using the Foundry system so tabletop players may also enjoy making and sharing their scenarios with friends.

There’s also some form of downleveling for friends who want to play Neverwinter with their lower level pals. Unfortunately it’s only available for dungeons and not the shorter skirmishes, with the exception of a Call to Arms event. The Calls to Arms skirmishes allow players of practically any level to play together in a special event. They just don’t tend to run for very long. The level scaling isn’t super well balanced either as higher level players maintain their improved skill ranks. This can lead to the lower level player feeling somewhat useless. Nonetheless, the wealth of group oriented content in Neverwinter with some option for players of disparate levels earns Neverwinter a spot on this list.

Play Neverwinter for free here.

Elvenar

Elvenar playing with friends

The vast majority of city builders revolve around killing other players. These leads to two issues – paying to actually win and elimination of friends from the world. Elimination doesn’t really make for a very good MMORPG to play with friends. Elvenar solves these issues for players who want something casual to play from their browser but still enjoy the interaction with others. Elvenar is a purely PvE city builder with a multitude of options to assist other players.

Neighborly Help is one such concept that will reward you with gold for donating resources to another player. Of course that means others are also encouraged to donate to you. Moving outside of the city building and into combat, Elvenar recently added Fellowship Adventures. Players can assist each other in an asynchronous adventure where each player conquers challenges individually. The game’s turn based combat strikes a good balance between browser simplicity and tactical challenge. It is sadly missing any sort of real time cooperative element. Hopefully one day the developers will tack that on too. While Elvenar is far from perfect, it’s a good option for friends seeking a lower time commitment browser MMO.

Play Elvenar for free here.

Final Fantasy XIV

final fantasy xiv good to play with friends image

There’s no doubt that Final Fantasy XIV is a great game. However, most of that is geared towards story or playing with a consistent group of equally dedicated players. There is downscaling for dungeons, but I don’t find this as rewarding as other MMOs. The real reason that I think Final Fantasy XIV is a good MMORPG to play with friends is because of the game’s job system.

This is one MMO game that has basically eliminated the need for alts because players can change jobs (i.e. classes) at the drop of a hat. There are base job level requirements for many advanced jobs, which encourages players to “start over” with a lower level job. There’s a little more to it than that, but the system is easy to explain. More experienced players can dedicate a lower level job to playing with particular people. Eventually those jobs levels will manifest in usage either through subclassing or flexibility for higher level content.

Buy Final Fantasy XIV here.

Rift

rift good mmorig play with friends image

Rift has always struck an interesting balance between group and solo play. A lot of content revolves around the game’s titular rifts that require players to work together to close. They’re fun but can deliver a samey experience after a while. That community system has evolved over the years into instant adventures which provides level scaled quests for up to twenty players. It’s a very appealing feature when typical MMORPG group caps of 4 to 5 just don’t cut it.

In addition, Rift offers a mentoring and sidekick system. When enabled, this will scale grouped players up or down based on the zone’s content and the party members’ levels. Some will really appreciate that Rift allows for level scaling for those who want it without necessarily forcing it upon everyone. The ability to play with a large group of friends without relying on endgame raids is also fairly unique among MMORPGs.

Play Rift for free here.

Warframe

warframe mmorpg with friends image

What makes Warframe so good to play with friends is very similar to Final Fantasy XIV’s appeal. There is no level scaling in this game, but there is a plethora of warframes which play differently in a manner similar to MOBA characters like in League of Legends. Each warframe has it’s own level, but there are a number of factors that separate this approach from simple alt characters.

The biggest of these factors is the existence of mastery ranks. These are metalevels gained from ranking up companions, weapons, and warframes. Higher mastery ranks grant access to more tools, increases starting mod capacity, and raises many daily limits. It’s also a bit easier to increase mastery ranks with fresh warframes and weapons as they level up faster. Speaking of weapons, those also level up in this game, which increases mod capacity. If all of that isn’t enough, players can also reset a warframe’s rank to change polarities (which alters which types of mods can be slotted). These features can make Warframe feel like a grindy MMO at times, but on the bright side there’s a lot of flexibility for friends seeking an MMORPG to play with one another.

Play Warframe for free here.

Guild Wars 2

guild wars 2 mmorpg to play with friends image

Guild Wars 2 launched with a mission not to waste people’s time with grinding for items and levels. Though that’s arguably a core concept of the genre, Guild Wars 2 has largely succeeded in eschewing the common progression treadmill. Levels come fast and, thanks to zone downscaling, allows players to explore low level areas without sacrificing some semblance of challenge. But leveling up together in zones is just part of what Guild Wars 2 offers friend circles.

World vs World (WvW) is an ongoing massive struggle between three servers that resets weekly. Servers of players will rank up or down according to the results. Upon entering WvW all players are bolstered to max level. Small groups can often be effective in contributing to the war, but there’s plenty of reason for your small group to join a larger one. Now, GW2 is not only a very good MMORPG to play with friends who like PvE or PvP combat but is also great for those who like exploration. The lands of Tyria are littered with jumping puzzles that can be fun to solve together. There’s a little something for everyone to experience, and it can all be done as part of a team.

Play Guild Wars 2 for free here.

Eve Online

eve online good mmorpg to play with friends image

For the group of friends that would rather kill another group than kill AI controlled critters, I present Eve Online. This an MMO that’s great for friends because of the skill system and combat structure. It takes almost no time for a player to effectively pilot a baseline frigate. While these light ships can’t compare to cruisers or capital ships in terms of sheer firepower, they have their own roles in battle. They’re also speedy and make for great pirate ships or guerilla tactical strikes. A band of friends can easily have a blast as a group of frigates roaming the vastness of space.

Another core feature of Eve Online is that the skills train in real time. More casual players won’t fear the sensation of getting lapped by their more hardcore companions. For groups that can’t always play on the same schedule, it alleviates a lot of anxiety that can come with getting into a new MMO. Eve Online is all about an endgame that starts immediately and everyone is welcome to join in. The PvE features aren’t really the most exciting though so be prepared to fight against others sooner or later.

Play Eve Online for free here.

Elder Scrolls Online

elder scrolls online good for friends image

Late last year, Elder Scrolls Online made a huge change that’s completely altered the accessibility of the game. One Tamriel went all in on level scaling by adjusting lower level players up to the game’s soft level cap. This level scaling was in effect all the time and meant that with the exception of a few higher level dungeons, anyone could go anywhere at any time. In my opinion, the game shifted into a much stronger Elder Scrolls feel that rewarded exploration. At the same time, it opened the doors for friends with different interests and different time commitments to play with one another.

There is a ton of content to discover in Elder Scrolls Online: solo dungeons called delves, public dungeons, skyshard hunting, questing, instanced dungeons, three faction PvP, and more. And all of it can be played alongside one’s buddies and/or significant other. I’ve been able to attract a lot of people to ESO, and that’s largely due to One Tamriel. In my mind, Elder Scrolls Online is not only good, but is the best MMORPG to play with friends right now. But like I said before, it’s all subjective.

Buy Elder Scrolls Online here.

Friend Up!

Some of the above titles also offer refer a friend programs. If you find a new MMORPG that strikes your fancy, do a little research. You might find that inviting friends can bring rewards for both the inviter and invitee. And of course if you feel like there’s a game missing from the list, add it in the comments. We are talking about MMORPGs that are best played with friends after all. The more the merrier!

 


Must See Places: Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR)

Are you new to SWTOR or are you considering giving the game a try? This article will guide you to the places of the galaxy you don’t want to miss. Join Ravanel Bro on a dazzling tour to five must-see planets in Star Wars: the Old Republic (SWTOR).

Note: this article contains spoilers from the Star Wars movies Episode IV – VI. It does not contain any story plot spoilers for SWTOR and is safe to read for players who haven’t yet finished the entire game.

SWTOR screenshot with the landscape of Alderaan, with pine trees, wild animals and snowy mountain tops

1. Alderaan

Star Wars fans will recognize Alderaan as the home planet of princess Leia, which is briefly shown from space in A New Hope before blown to pieces by the Death Star. SWTOR allows players to explore this planet almost 4000 years before the disastrous event. Juicy detail: Alderaan is not the peaceful planet Leia describes. Warring noble houses fight for control of the world. You can experience the noble power plays firsthand when helping House Organa or House Thul during planetary and class stories.

Must-see spots are the Elysium, the ancient place of Alderaan’s peace council high up in the clouds, and Organa Palace, the future home of princess Leia. Players visited the latter en masse at the end of 2016 during a player organized wake in honour of Carrie Fischer’s passing. Of note is also Alderaan’s unique transportation system of tamed thrantas. These peaceful creatures will fly you over the mountain tops. You will find plenty of opportunity to enjoy Alderaan’s mesmerizing mountain landscapes from dizzying heights. Finally, you are able to admire the indigenous animal that inspired Leia to call Han “scruffy-looking nerf herder”. Many friendly nerfs will cross your path during your travels.

Travel advice: Alderaan is a relatively safe planet, provided you keep your distance from competitive Houses and hostile wild animals. It is designed for players of level 28-32.

SWTOR screenshot of the landscape of Taris, showing ruins of large buildings overgrown with trees and wild rakghouls

2. Taris

Taris is a must-visit for every self respecting Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) player. Three hundred years have come to pass since the events of KOTOR I and civilization is taking its first careful steps into recolonizing the planet. A vast wilderness infested with dangerous rakghouls surrounds small islands of courageous settlers. Must-sees are the crash site of the Endar Spire and the deserted pod races. Players can find out what happened to the people that went looking for the Promised Land (KOTOR I) during the quest Chasing History. But even if you didn’t play KOTOR Taris is worth visiting: the landscape features a beautiful mixture of lost civilization and lush wilderness.

Travel advice: Your safety cannot be guaranteed past the designated colonization camp perimeters. Tread with caution: rakghouls infest the wilderness beyond. Taris is designed for players of level 16-20 (Republic) and 32-36 (Empire).

SWTOR screenshot with the landscape of Voss, showing yellow grass, trees with red or yellow foliage, a rocky environment and a huge sun in an orange sky

3. Voss

Voss is often mentioned as SWTOR’s most beautiful planet due to its soft orange sky and autumn colored foliage. On top of that, it is unique to SWTOR: it is not mentioned in any Star Wars movie, game or book. The planet is inhabited by two races that are engaged in a conflict: the reclusive, force sensitive Voss and the tribal Gormak. The Voss’ houses are colorful and inspirational; much of its furniture can be acquired by the player for their stronghold. Recommended for visiting is the Shrine of Healing. This holy place holds a datacron that gives lasting power to players who have assisted the Voss with their troubles.

Travel advice: Voss is relatively safe to explore, provided you keep your distance to dangerous wildlife and hostile Gormak tribes. The Nightmare Lands in the northeast are said to turn explorers insane and are not to be visited without a guide. Furthermore, tourists should never touch the stone tablet in the Gormak Lands if they value their life. Voss is designed for players of level 44-47.

SWTOR screenshot with the landscape of Tatooine: a desert with rocks in the distance and one of the suns in the clear blue sky. Two banthas roam in the foreground.

4. Tatooine

Who isn’t in love with the two-sunned desert planet, featured in so many Star Wars movies? Sandcrawlers, jawas and sand people. Banthas, krayt dragon skeletons and a sarlacc pit that looks just like the one Boba Fett took a dive in… Tatooine has it all. Note that Republic and Imperial players land in a different area of Tatooine. Both towns (Anchorhead and Mos Ila) have their own feel, so it pays off to visit with characters of both factions. The Tatooine air balloon will take you on a stunning trip over the desert and might just reward players with something special. Wealthy players may buy a stronghold on Tatooine for 1,8 million credits, allowing for a permanent residence under the two suns.

Travel advice: Don’t venture too far into the desert or you might hit an exhaustion zone. Tatooine is designed for players of level 24-28.

SWTOR screenshot with the landscape of Zakuul: huge dark skyscrapers lighting up in the night

5. Zakuul

Only discovered recently, Zakuul is another planet unique to SWTOR. Located in Wild Space, this ancient and advanced civilization has managed to elude the gaze of the known galaxy for centuries. Architecture fans will find plenty to look at in the city, while lovers of nature might enjoy a hike in the Endless Swamp. The Palace of the Eternal Dragon comes highly recommended. Players can explore it during the Knights of the Eternal Throne (KOTET) story.

Travel advice: Zakuul is perfectly safe, unless you are an enemy of the Eternal throne; in which case you can expect to be regularly met by hostile skytroopers. Players need to own the Knights of the Fallen Empire expansion in order to gain access to the planet. It is designed for players of level 60-65.

Want to see more? Click on the images below to enlarge.

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Guide to Couples MMO Games for Valentine’s Day

What better gift is there for that special someone than spending some quality time together in a virtual world? Maybe you just started dating and want to get to know each other better. Maybe you’ve been a couple for a decade. No matter the length of a relationship, MMO games offer opportunities that simple cooperative games can only fawn over in jealousy. After all, the only thing better than hanging out together is doing it in front of other people. This Valentine’s Day, don’t just show off how great of a couple you and your partner are. Do it in one of these MMOs that lets you flaunt it to thousands of other players.

Elder Scrolls Online

valentines day mmos elder scrolls online

Rings of Mara aren’t explicitly for romantic couples, but it sure is appealing for them. This cash shop item only needs to be purchased by one partner, presumably whoever’s turn it is to pay for the next date. Afterward, head to a Shrine of Mara in one of the major city hubs. Then pray to Mara and boom! Your two characters now earn +10% EXP when playing together. If you really want to go the extra mile, a tuxedo and a wedding dress are also available in the cash shop. And since Valentine’s Day is all about showing off to everyone else in the world, you better buy them.

V-Day MMO Flaunt Score: 5/10

Sound good? Read our Elder Scrolls Online review here.

Revelation Online

This system is pretty cool. It actually lets you court your significant other by simply playing together. Activities such as questing, clearing dungeons, grinding on mobs (and/or each other), or mentoring will generate love points. Love points can be spent on costumes, buffs, and emotes. After reaching a certain love point threshold, you and your partner will qualify for a wedding (which can be between same or opposite gender characters). Marriage will bring even more benefits including your partner’s name in your title, buffs, and new “married person” abilities. Hilariously, it costs 10,000 gold divorce mutually and 300,000 gold to “force” a divorce. Commitment is no joke in Revelation Online so the flaunt level is pretty damn high here. Valentine’s Day itself brings costumes and emotes each year.

V-Day MMO Flaunt Score: 10/10

Sound good? Read our Revelation Online review here.

Lucent Heart

valentines day mmos lucent heart

Lucent Heart has a standard list of MMORPG features until you get to the “Cupid System” bullet point. Then you realize this game is the perfect cheap date compromise. Once Cupid matches two players as Soul Mates, they gain some unique gameplay opportunities. Grouping with a Soul Mate adds extra EXP for both partners. That’s pretty standard. But then they get special Soul Mate Dungeons, the responsibility of growing a “flower” together, and access to lovers emotes that provide temporary buffs. That’s right – Lucent Heart actually rewards you for obnoxious PDA. It’s amazing! Of course, official marriages are also included. The tricky part to all of this is you can’t manually select someone as your Soul Mate. You must use this matchmaking system which randomly partners you with someone. There are guides out there for “rigging cupid” though so don’t be too worried.

V-Day MMO Flaunt Score: 10/10

Eden Eternal

Beginning a relationship with someone in Eden Eternal is as simple as right clicking their name and inviting them on a date. Assuming your partner accepts (you are actually dating each other, right?) you will each earn a 10% EXP buff and a specialized ‘Couple’ tab on your social screen. This will keep track of Luv Coins (to buy skills), a couple’s only message board, and Lover skills. If the couple wants to take the next step, they can get married. There are some steep requirements before marriage though. The couple must have been dating for longer than 30 days, have both reached level 50, and must pay a hefty bit of coin for the wedding. In return, they’ll be granted a firework show for all to see and a ring that grants +2% to all attributes.

V-Day MMO Flaunt Score: 8/10

Final Fantasy XIV

valentines day mmos final fantasy xiv

If you’re feeling particularly optimistic about your lovely Valentine then you can go with Final Fantasy XIV’s eternal bond. It might just marriage by another name, but it sure does sound a lot more…permanent. There’s some good and bad to say about Final Fantasy’s progressive system that allows characters to marry regardless of gender, race, region, or allegiance. The wedding attire in FFXIV is pretty sweet (see above). The ceremony can be pretty extravagant too if the couple ponies up a collective $40 USD.

You will undoubtedly impress onlookers with the spectacle, but the long term result is disappointing by comparison. The couple is awarded a 2-seat chocobo, the ability to teleport to one another, and an embrace emote in addition to their wedding clothes. Rubbing your love into people’s faces like a scene from Twilight for a full day is commendable, but ultimately it’s just one day. Like Revelation Online, Final Fantasy gifts emotes and costumes for its V-Day content.

V-Day MMO Flaunt Score: 7/10

Sound good? Read our Final Fantasy XIV review here.

La Tale

Similar to Eden Eternal, La Tale lets you court another player. It’s nice to have some options before tying the knot in an MMO. Valentine’s Day is for gaming couples new and old alike so jumping into marriage might not be the best course of action. Luckily, in La Tale couples receive stat increases for playing together, a healing skill, and an EXP buff. Married players get a sweet ring that builds affection points through slaughtering innocent monsters while partied together. These will give the happy couples buffs that they can show off to other party members. Excellent.

V-Day MMO Flaunt Score: 8/10

Dragon Blood

Once you hit a certain level you gain the ability to propose. A wedding date must be set after the proposal is accepted. It cannot be canceled unless express permission is given from the Dragon Temple Priest. Assuming nobody gets cold feet, the wedding will commence on the chosen date with wedding gifts for guests and rings for the newlyweds. These rings are not just for show as they will boost tons of stats. They also open up new skills as the rings absorbs the couples’ love from playing together. Unfortunately, the level requirement isn’t super easy so both partners will need to show their dragon dedication before their romantic dedication. The main plus of Dragon Blood is that its a browser game so you can both get some Valentining in during work hours.

V-Day MMO Flaunt Score: 5/10

Sound good? Read our Dragon Blood review here.

Age of Wushu

valentines day mmos age of wushu

Age of Wushu is one of those few MMOs with an intimacy system. After adding someone to your friends list (in this case, your Valentine’s Day sweetie), players will earn Intimacy Points for playing together. Intimacy Points basically give you and your friend/partner mega stalker abilities on each another.

If you want to take things to the next level and get married in Age of Wushu, you’ll need to commit real world financial resources to the game’s developers. Both players must pay for VIP status before taking their vows. Additionally, one of four level weddings must be paid for with in game money. And Age of Wushu is about as traditional at it comes here, with the male needing to front the entire bill. On the bright side, the weddings are pretty fancy. At the highest tier, a 28-man palanquin will carry the bride to the altar and ten heralds will loudly proclaim the ceremony. After the delightfully unnecessary wedding display, guests can cheer on the couple. If they cheer loud enough, they all get gifts! Finally, marriage comes with tax-exempt trading, married couple titles, a unique skill, and unique items.

V-Day MMO Flaunt Score: 9/10

Fiesta Online

With Fiesta Online, you go big or you go home. This MMO is great for a Valentine’s Day couple that is serious business. Wedding is the only romantic option, but it is a blast. First, an announcement is made to the entire server that you two are the best couple of the day. Then you get to invite guests to a special wedding chapel to participate in the ceremony. Wedding attire is highly recommended but not required. Afterward, the priest will grant you a stat bonus for partying together, a permanent wedding pet, and the ability to summon your partner. Of course, if you’re like me and my wife, you will troll summon each other for the rest of time. Ain’t love grand?

V-Day MMO Flaunt Score: 7/10

Sound good? Read our Fiesta Online review here.

Ragnarok Online

OK, truth time: a lot of these MMOs don’t have anything to offer but marriage. Like Fiesta and Eden Eternal, players will need to level and pony up some cash before reaping any romantic rewards. Like a lot of older MMOs, Ragnarok Online unfortunately only allows opposite gender marriages. If this affects you, plan your characters accordingly! The wedding ceremony will grant the couple a few unique skills and amusingly disable attacking for a while. Ultimately, getting far enough in Ragnarok Online to get married really shows more commitment to the game than to one’s partner.

V-Day MMO Flaunt Score: 5/10

MapleStory

valentines day mmo maplestory

MapleStory’s marriage system is pretty simple. Buy a ticket and get married. The ticket costs about $5 cash, which is actually pretty cheap for couples compared to some other MMOs.┬áThe wedding isn’t all that amazing outside of the Vegas style chapel sign. The only saving grace is that your wedding photos will be published on the MapleStory website for all to see.

Of course there’s also a near-mandatory $5 price tag for a ‘Commitment of Love’ ticket. This ticket is necessary to get any actual benefit out of being married. Every 100 days of marriage will grant the (hopefully) happy couple special quests and an upgraded wedding ring. This can go on for up to 1,000 days so there’s potentially four Valentine’s Day worth of content in MapleStory. It may not be the highest quality or the flashiest, but quantity counts for something! Unfortunately, Valentine’s events in MapleStory feel more like Candy Crush than anything lovey dovey with its solo-centric consumable rewards.

V-Day MMO Flaunt Score: 6/10

If I missed any other MMOs with some romantic element or frequent Valentine’s Day events for couples, let me know. I found it pretty odd that Valentine’s Day quests are fairly solo driven both in terms of content and rewards. Having events is certainly a plus, but most of these aren’t going to drive couples to play the game together. The games that scored the best offered unique advantages for playing with a partner, extravagant emotes or weddings, and/or a numeric relationship score.

Playing games online as a couple is something that should really happen more often. These MMO games should help couples spend some quality time together this Valentine’s Day. While they’re at, show as much digital PDA as possible to sicken everyone else. Isn’t that what Valentine’s Day is all about?


Your Guide to Taking Great MMO Screenshots

If you follow a lot of MMO blogs, you’ve probably seen a lot of good screenshots, and perhaps wished to replicate that level of quality yourself. Or maybe you just want a good visual record of your virtual adventures. Whatever your motivation, there’s an art to taking the perfect screenshot, and our guide can help you master it.

A first person shot of tanking the Sha of Pride in World of Warcraft

Figure out how:

An obvious tip if there ever was one, but still worth saying. For most MMORPGs, taking a screenshot is very easy. Most come with a simple hotkey to take screenshots, usually print screen or a function key. Just check the key binding section of the options menu to find it.

Some don’t make it quite so simple, though. For those games, your best bet is to use some kind of third party software. I prefer Steam for this — it’s a simple, easy solution. Even if an MMO isn’t available on Steam, you can usually get it work via the “Add a Non-Steam Game to My Library” option. If it doesn’t work at first, try running Steam with administrator privileges.

For example, I run Star Wars: The Old Republic through Steam because the game’s innate screenshot function has the distressing tendency to not work during cutscenes and conversations.

Hide your UI:

Unless you’re looking to highlight some element of the interface, you should always hide it before taking a shot. Otherwise, it will serve only to clutter the shot, distract from whatever you were trying to take a picture of, and generally make the shot look sloppy.

The good news is the large majority of MMOs allow an easy way to hide your UI. A lot of games seem to have settled on alt + Z as the preferred hotkey combo for hiding UI, but some use different methods. In Elder Scrolls Online, the key is not bound by default and has to be assigned manually. I bound it to Insert.

A screenshot of the city of Elden Root in Elder Scrolls Online

Hiding your UI can be a little dangerous in action shots, but you’ll learn to quickly hide and then restore your UI for a perfect shot. Generally hotkeys will still work even with the interface hidden, too, so with a little practice you can hang in fights without UI for longer, giving you more chance to grab the perfect shot.

Learn the tricks:

I started simply taking the occasional shot of things that struck me as pretty or interesting, but as I’ve grown more serious about my screenshots, I’ve started to find various little ways to enhance my shots.

Say you’ve got a sweet new outfit for your character and you want to record it for posterity. Sure, you can just take a shot then and there and call it done, and that’s fine. But if you want, you can do better.

Find a spot in the game that would serve as a good backdrop — ideally a place with good lighting and maybe some aesthetic or story connection to your character and their new outfit.

Next, consider your pose. Your character need not simply stand there as they model their new duds. Find a good emote, or capture them in the middle of a fight for that heroic flare.

A screenshot of Zakuul's Spire in Star Wars: The Old Republic

You needn’t settle for the most obvious shot when it comes to environments or other subjects, either. If you find a gorgeous vista in-game, don’t just grab the first shot that presents itself. Find the perfect angle, even if it’s from some place your character wouldn’t normally go. Climb onto a box for more height, or circle around the area until you find the angle that grants the best view.

Recently I was treated to a beautiful view of Zakuul’s Spire by night while playing through Knights of the Eternal Throne, but a large handrail was blocking my shot. My solution was to jump in place and take my shot at the parity of the jump. This eliminated the handrail from view and let me take in Zakuul in all its glory.

Take many shots, keep the good ones:

According to Steam, I’ve taken a bit over 1,600 screenshots in Star Wars: The Old Republic since I started playing about a year ago. However, if I navigate to the file where I aggregate all my MMO screenshots, I’ve kept only around a third of those.

Opportunities for a good screenshot can be fleeting, so I try to seize them whenever possible. If at any moment anything seems like it might be worth grabbing a shot of, I make sure to do so. Often it turns out that my shots weren’t as good as I was hoping, or there was an opportunity to take a better shot of the same thing a moment later.

When in doubt, take the shot. It’s easier to trim the fat later than it is to go back and recreate a beautiful shot that you missed out on.

A shot from The Secret World's Rider event

This is especially true when trying to go for action shots. Animations play very quickly in combat, and a split second can mean the difference between an awesome shot of your character swinging their sword like the epic badass they are, and an unintentionally hilarious shot of them screaming into their own armpit for some reason. If you’re trying to take a good shot in-combat, it’s best to take many shots in rapid succession and hope for the best.

Even in quieter moments, it’s not always fun to spend several minutes figuring out the perfect angle for a shot. The point is still to play the game, after all. It may be better to just grab a bunch of different shots from the available angles and figure out which one you want to keep later.

Always be ready for the perfect shot:

You should always be on the lookout for good screenshot opportunities. Cinematics, major boss fights, and pivotal story moments are always good fodder for screenshots, and you should always have one hand near the screenshot button at such moments, but the opportunity for a great shot can arise at any time. Some of the best screenshots I’ve ever taken have come in the course of fairly mundane gameplay.


StarCraft II: Nova Co-op Guide

Nova is one of the most powerful commanders in StarCraft II’s co-op mode, but she has an unusual playstyle that can take some adjustment. I already offered some tips when I wrote up my first impressions of Nova, but now I bring you a more detailed breakdown.

A promotional splash screen for co-op commander Nova in StarCraft II

Whether you’re new to co-op in general or just new to Nova, the following guide will help you get your bearings and begin calling down the thunder on Amon’s forces.

Economy, upgrades, and army composition:

Naturally, you should begin by making SCVs. Try to avoid queuing up multiple at a time, but make sure production is continuous. As soon as you can spend 100 minerals without compromising SCV production, begin construction on your first Refinery. Build the second as soon as the first is finished.

Once you can spend 150 minerals without compromising SCV production, dispatch another SCV to begin building your Barracks.

I usually cap out at sixteen SCVs mining minerals at the main base. This is a bit lower than the game recommends, but it frees up more supply for your army, and the resources you lose are pretty negligible. If you haven’t unlocked Automated Refineries yet, make sure to also have exactly three SCVs at every Refinery.

I don’t count the SCV building the Barracks toward the cap of sixteen. He will be used to build the rest of your base. Start with an Engineering Bay, then a Factory, then a Starport, then an Armory. Remember to attach to Tech Labs to your production facilities as soon as possible, and I also recommend assigning them to control groups. I assign each production building to its own group, but you can also assign them all to one and tab through them as needed.

Nova never has to build Supply Depots, allowing you to focus on other matters.

Nova blasting zombies on the co-op map Miner Evacuation in StarCraft II

Once the main base is constructed, you can dispatch the spare SCV to your expansion, which may already be established by this time. The exact timing of your expansion will vary based on the map, but generally you should start building it as soon as possible. I usually assign fourteen SCVs to mining minerals at the expansion.

You may quickly find yourself floating extra minerals when playing as Nova. In StarCraft II, we’re trained to spend our resources as quickly as possible, but as Nova, it can actually be beneficial to float large sums of resources at times, due to the high costs of her units and top bar abilities.

I recommend trying to get a squad of Marines out as quickly as possible. Nova’s Marines are so strong that they can generally hold off early attack waves all on their own. Try to get their Super Stim upgrade at the tech lab (assuming you’ve unlocked it) as quickly as possible.

I also recommend getting Nova’s Ghost Visor upgrade at the Ghost Academy early on. It allows you to never have to worry about cloaked units and helps to target Sabotage Drone.

Moving into the midgame, you can focus on building your army. Regardless of circumstance, I’ll always make Marines and at least some Marauders. They’re versatile and cost-effective units that are always beneficial.

You should also always make as many Ravens as possible. Their most important ability is their repair drone, which provides crucial healing to your expensive units, but their other abilities are also strong. Their turrets can tank a lot of damage when deployed in front of your army, and their missiles provide significant AoE damage.

One of Nova's enhanced goliaths in StarCraft II's co-op

Beyond that, Nova has more options than just about any other commander in co-op, so it really depends on the situation.

Ghosts’ Snipe ability is amazingly powerful, especially with the Triple-Tap upgrade, but it does only target biological units, so I usually only make Ghosts versus Zerg or an infantry-heavy Terran. EMP can be good against Protoss, but it’s very micro-intensive.

If you’re facing Terran or Protoss air, Goliaths should be a priority. If you’re playing on Temple of the Past or Miner Evacuation, Siege Tanks are a good investment. Remember to deploy their Spider Mines regularly.

I’ll use Liberators to supplement my force if facing enemy air compositions or playing on Void Launch, but I generally don’t recommend using them as the backbone of your army.

I generally don’t make Hellbats or Banshees as Nova. They’re not bad, but they don’t offer much that other things can’t do at least as well.

Always remember to get the Tech Lab upgrades for any units you’re using. They’re all worth it, with the possible exception of the Liberator upgrades and EMP when not facing Protoss.

Using Nova:

Nova has two combat modes, with the second unlocked at level three.

I tend to focus on her Stealth Mode. It allows her to attack air, and her Snipe is useful for taking big chunks of health off dangerous targets like Hybrids.

Nova's Sabotage Drone ability in StarCraft II's co-op

However, the most powerful tool of her Stealth Mode is undoubtedly Sabotage Drone. In fact, Sabotage Drone is one of the best abilities in all of co-op. It’s completely undetectable and therefore completely unavoidable. Send a drone into an enemy base for a guaranteed burst of AoE damage that can instantly kill all but the toughest units and structures.

Sabotage Drone has a relatively short cooldown, and you should be using it as often as possible. Often I’ll separate Nova from my main army so she can begin softening up later targets even as my army is dealing with a current objective.

After level nine, Stealth Mode also allows Nova to nuke targets, dealing massive damage in a huge area. Like Sabotage Drone, I tend to use this before attacking, but it can also be useful in the middle of fights. Nukes do not cause friendly fire damage in co-op.

Assault Mode is more niche. Its main tool is a conal AoE shotgun blast that deals bonus damage versus light units. It’s devastating against things like Zerglings, Zealots, Marines, and Hydralisks, but fairly underwhelming otherwise.

Assault Mode also gives Nova a short cooldown teleport that shields her. This is important to keep her alive while she’s blasting away at the front lines, and can also be a useful mobility tool.

Assault Mode’s level nine unlock is a Holo Decoy. The Decoy is something that seems good on paper but whose usefulness is limited in practice. It has very high health and damage, but you can’t control it directly, so it tends to stay in the general vicinity of where it was first summoned, and you can’t be sure it will be attacking what you want it to. I usually throw it out in the middle of a big fight and hope for the best.

Top bar abilities:

Nova's Griffin air strike ability in StarCraft II's co-op

Nova also has a number of powerful global abilities accessed from the top bar. Uniquely, they cost minerals, though their cooldowns tend to be very short.

The first ability is Defensive Drone. This summons an immobile drone that will apply shields to friendly units when they’re attacked and has a decently long duration. The drone can be killed but is fairly tough.

This a very strong ability that should be used early and often. Don’t hog it for your own troops, either. It’s a great way to support your ally if your armies are separated.

The other top bar ability Nova begins with allows you to instantly revive her in the field if she’s killed, with the cost determined by how much is left on her revival timer. You should almost always use this immediately, unless you’ve somehow gotten Nova killed during a period where there is little or no fighting.

At level two, she unlocks the Griffin Airstrike ability. This is an expensive ability at 1,000 minerals, so you probably won’t use it much in the early or midgame, but it can be a great tool in the lategame, dealing massive damage in a large column.

Note that there is a slight animation delay between casting the Airstrike and its impact, so it requires careful targeting. A good strategy is to send a Sabotage Drone into an enemy base then use its vision to target an Airstrike into the unexplored areas (Ghost Visor can help you know where to aim). The unengaged enemy will simply sit there as the Drone and Airstrike deal ruinous damage.

The Airstrike also happens to be the perfect size and shape to deal incredible damage to both trains and their protectors on Oblivion Express.

Nova nukes the enemy in StarCraft II's co-op

Finally, at level five, Nova gains Tactical Airlift, which allows her to pick up a large number of friendly units and instantly teleport them to any place you have vision, for the low price of 200 minerals. This is a fantastic ability whose potential cannot be overstated. It’s especially great for protecting locks on Lock and Load, but it has applications on every map.

Mastery points:

In the first set, I prefer Nuke/Decoy cooldown reduction. Even at full mastery, the Airstrike will still cost 700 minerals, which is still a lot.

For the second, unit attack speed is definitely superior, though I still put some points in Nova attack speed just for funsies.

For the third, unit life regeneration should be your first priority, but once you’ve sunk five to ten points into it, you start to run into diminishing returns pretty fast. Spend the rest on Nova’s energy regeneration.