It's a busy time on the test servers at NCsoft and Sony Online Entertainment. Patches for the former's City of Heroes and Tabula Rasa and the latter's Pirates of the Burning Sea and Star Wars Galaxies are imminent (or in the case of SWG, just out).
Pirates developer Flying Lab has announced that the swashbuckling MMO's next patch, 1.3, will go live on the test server on April 8th. The patch will include a user interface overhaul, a duelling mode, revamped player-vs-player rewards, some new environments for on-foot combat missions, more group-focused seafaring missions, and the long-awaited, much-delayed completion of the French colonial capital, Pointe-a-Pitre.
Watch out for Eurogamer's equally long-awaited, much-delayed review of Pirates of the Burning Sea on the MMO channel later this week.
No longer awaited is the latest update to labelmate Star Wars Galaxies. Chapter 9: The Fury of Exar Kun was released to subscribers on Thursday last week. The update includes a new heroic encounter with the spirit of Sith Lord Exar Kun and new additions to the Collection and Storyteller systems. If you log in before Chapter 10 is released, you also get a Galaxy Kiosk for your in-game home. It is apparently not a vending machine for lady chocolate. Details at the official site, and a 14-day trial is available there for the curious, too.
(Speaking of Star Wars MMOs, rumours persist that LucasArts has a replacement for Star Wars Galaxies in development somewhere - but that it's not, as some thought, a Bioware-developed Knights of the Old Republic game. Watch this space for further developments.)
Staying in the realms of science fiction, NCsoft told the Tabula Rasa community on Friday that patch 1.7 for the game would be up on the test servers some time next week. It features some tweaks to enemy respawns and behaviour. More interesting is news that they're working on bolstering some social features of the game - clan-owned control points and a clan prestige system. But the general lack of major new content updates in the offing for Tabula Rasa is telling.
Not so for its older sibling, the stalwart superhero MMO City of Heroes. Issue 12: Midnight Hour will offer a very sizeable update for the game, and news hit the official boards on Friday that it was going into closed beta this week, indicating that it's coming soon. Issue 12 introduces the Midnight Squad faction and a related time-travel plotline, taking players to the Roman era (and unlocking Roman-style costumes). There are two new epic villain archetypes, access to new sets of powers for every character, and a bunch of major gameplay and UI improvements.
NCsoft is clearly committed to City of Heroes in the long term - as it said when explaining the decision to introduce advertising to the game last week. We'll have more on Issue 12 on the MMO channel around the time of its release.