Avabel: A Rough Draft For Emerging Tablet MMORPGs

Posted on Apr 14, 2013 under Gaming News | 1 Comment

Avabel avatars are detailed and cute, with the anti-gravity hair and stylized fashions we love in import RPGs. I was pleased to discover that female avatars default to a jacket, skirt, and boots, and not a battle bikini. I did see the occasional pants-free outfit in world, but I had no trouble looting and buying all kinds of armor. Running around half-naked is a fine option but an unpleasant default, and Avabel gets that exactly right.

Via Avabel: A Rough Draft For Emerging Tablet MMORPGs.

Popularity: 7% [?]

Fallout MMO Beta!

Posted on Jun 17, 2010 under Beta | 1 Comment

That’s right! Sign up for the Fallout MMO beta!

Photo courtesy of Interplay Entertainment

How about some non-E3 news for a change.

Today Interplay launched their beta sign-up and teaser website today for their upcoming Fallout Online MMORPG, or Project V13 if you want to keep calling it that.

Via MMOCrunch

Popularity: 5% [?]

TERA

Posted on Jun 14, 2010 under Gaming News | 1 Comment

TERA already won my love with their gorgeous concept art. (A larger version of the picture above is my laptop’s wallpaper — and that’s saying something, considering I get new game assets in the mail every day) I’m really excited to see their new MMO at E3

En Masse Entertainment, a new breed of game publisher focused on delivering highly anticipated online video games to Western audiences, announced today that it will present the first hands-on demo of its flagship Action MMO title, TERA™, at the upcoming Electronic Entertainment Expo 2010 in Los Angeles. The hands-on demo will focus on TERA’s groundbreaking action combat system, which allows players to step into a world where their actions, teamwork, and combat expertise—not statistics—give them a chance to become true heroes in the face of danger.

“At E3, people will have the chance to experience firsthand what makes TERA‘s gameplay so exciting,” said En Masse CEO Dr. Jae-Heon Yang. “Select media will form a party with varied roles and venture forth to experience their first battle using our innovative action/adventure style combat system. During the show, players will see how TERA is changing the rules of MMO combat.”

TERA is an innovative Action MMORPG with rich graphics and animations where players fully control their characters through the game’s dynamic battle system. Player actions in TERA can change the balance of power in a world threatened by dark powers as six allied races work together to protect their world. The game, which is currently in development for PC, will launch in North America and Europe in 2011.

Popularity: 9% [?]

Beta Opp: Zodiac Online

Posted on Feb 13, 2010 under Beta | No Comment

Zodiac Online is a new free-to-play, turn-based MMORPG opening an open beta test. Zodiac Online adds turn-based battles to the usual F2P fantasy MMORPG, making combat simpler, with less of a learning curve, hoping to cater to players new to MMO combat.

Zodiac Online offers an environment inspired by Chinese mythology. The twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac feature prominently, as does the mythical Jade Emperors. Players take on the role of a “zodiac envoy,” helping in an epic battle between humans and demons. Sign up here!

Popularity: 6% [?]

Kill 10 Rats And Bring Me Their Tails!

Posted on Jan 04, 2010 under Discussion | No Comment

Guest author Lexton “Lunarhound” Collins discusses the upcoming Guild Wars 2, believable NPC drama, heroic errand-running, and shares his perspective on what makes a good MMO great.

Most gamers, both fans and detractors, would agree that MMO’s need shaking up. It’s happened before, when City of Heroes and, shortly afterward, World of Warcraft made camp grinding a thing of the past and brought quest-based advancement to the mainstream. Suddenly, characters had purpose-driven lives. Other games followed suit, and life was good in cyberland.

Now, several years later, gamers are growing weary of the new grind. It’s tough to ensure that every single one of the hundreds of quests necessary to keep an MMO going are interesting, and players are growing weary of the endless variations on “kill ten rats and bring me their tails”. Mini dramas acted out by NPC’s cease to feel immersive when sticking around for a minute afterward lets you watch the world reset before your eyes so that the next players in line can ride. Collecting exclamation marks and running errands for people too lazy to deliver their own letters or fight their own battles feels less like an adventure and more like checking off a list of chores. Few want to go back to the way things were, but developers, and many players, seem to be finding it difficult to see a way forward.

There have been efforts to do something different but they’ve gone largely unnoticed. Guild Wars came hot on the heels of World of Warcraft, and attempted to remedy many of the ‘theme park’ issues that came with a static world that had to reset each quest for the next player by making heavy use of instancing. Players see each other in towns, but once outside, you and your party had your own private copy of the world. This allowed them to change things permanently based on your actions. Unfortunately, this lead to many players not considering it a real MMO and, despite its commercial success, it didn’t inspire many imitators. Additional problems came from the fact that players could not jump, climb or swim and the world was full of invisible walls that forced strict adherence to the current mission path. Dungeons & Dragons Online came along a few years later with a similar world structure coupled with much better implementation of the mission-based game play and a great new action combat system, but the facts that it couldn’t (at the time) effectively be played solo and it required a monthly fee, it also ended up being relegated to niche status.

Now, Guild Wars has a sequel on the way. ArenaNet was very secretive about it for quite some time after its announcement, and even now information is limited, but what is beginning to emerge paints an interesting picture of a title that is trying to shake up the genre all over again. With the inclusion of open world areas and much greater mobility (players will be able to jump, swim and climb as they can in most other MMO’s), as well as new attitudes toward creative use of instancing, they might actually succeed this time.

In a preview at Eurogamer, back in August, lead designer Eric Flannum states that “I think I can safely say that you won’t see a single exclamation mark floating above a character’s head in Guild Wars 2.” This one little sentence makes for a pretty bold statement considering the direction of MMO’s for the past few years and, luckily, he elaborates:

“We actually don’t have a traditional RPG/MMO quest system… Instead what we’ve got are Events. Think of them as group-orientated activities. This is one of the many things that will encourage the player to explore the world – you can wander through and never quite know what you’re going to see. You might come across a fortress that’s being attacked by centaurs, or it might be that the centaurs attacked half an hour before you got there and they hold it now. You might start walking along a road you’ve walked a hundred times and suddenly there’s a caravan traveling along that road that you may not have seen, and you can go help that caravan out.”

Supposedly, these events will form a complex web within any given public area, spawning new ones and phasing out old ones based on cause and effect. An older example given is that of a dragon attacking a bridge. Players can band together to defeat the dragon, which might open up a new chain of events that can be participated in. Alternately, they might fail, choose not to help, or simply not be there when the dragon attacks, which would result in the bridge being destroyed and a completely different chain of events opening up, revolving around repairing the bridge. The difference between this and something like Warhammer Online’s public quests is that they will not simply reset repeatedly so that players can do them over again. The assertion that there will not be a traditional quest system seems to indicate that public areas will consist of countless such events and, rather than wandering around looking for someone with an exclamation mark to tell them what to do, players will spend their time looking for something actually happening. The potential of such a system to change the way questing is seen in online games is staggering.

That isn’t to say that all adventuring will be completely directionless. Each player will have a personal quest chain to play through that reflects his or her own character. From an interview with MMORPG.com in December:

“When a player creates a character in Guild Wars 2, they will be able to answer many questions about their personal character history. These answers will help determine your personal story in the game. As many fans have theorized, one of the first things you choose is a ‘subdivision’ of your race, which provides a more personal feel to your character’s history. For the humans, that means their ancestry–Elonan, Krytan, Ascalonian and Canthan–and also their social status as gentry or commoners of the city of Divinity’s Reach. For charr, it primarily means their legion, whether Blood, Ash, or Iron. The asura choose between the three most respected colleges of learning; Synergetics, Dynamics, and Statics. The sylvari follow the path of their seasonal cycle, or the time of day in which they awakened, being Dawn, Day, Twilight or Night. The norn choose their personal totem, and may choose to walk in the path of bear, snow leopard, raven or wolf. From these and other initial determinations, a wealth of personalized storylines develop, so that each player in the game experiences a story that is individually tailored to their character.”

According to ArenaNet, these choices, though part of character creation, will not affect class or power in any way. Their sole impact is on the player’s own personal narrative. This sounds tantalizingly like the Origins system in Dragon Age: Origins, and is an exciting thought when considered in the context of an MMORPG.

There’s no telling, of course, how much of an impact any of this will have or how well it will be received until the game is available to the public in some form. And if these claims were being made by a smaller developer without the experience or budget to back them up, they might be only a faint cause for hope at best. But ArenaNet has the budget and the talent to back up its big ideas, and it has already proven with one successful series that it knows what it’s doing.

Most seem to believe that the ultimate feat for an MMORPG would be to topple World of Warcraft. I’m not so sure. I think the ultimate measure of success is moving the genre as a whole forward. With a new approach to quest content, a strong focus on providing the player with a personal storyline, and the lack of any sort of monthly fee, Guild Wars 2 stands poised to do exactly that. Will it topple World of Warcraft? I doubt it. But it may force Blizzard to change in order to compete, which would almost certainly lead to other games following suit. Now that would be an accomplishment.

Popularity: 6% [?]

Hello Kitty Online

Posted on Aug 12, 2009 under Beta | No Comment

Sign up for the North American closed beta of Hello Kitty Online!

Or watch the trailer here:

Popularity: 15% [?]

WarCraft Down In China

Posted on Jul 12, 2009 under Discussion | No Comment

I blogged from Beijing last year about World of WarCraft access in China. Technical difficulties were keeping nerdy expats from accessing servers from outside China, and when you’re in China, you know that a sudden “technical glitch” preventing you from accessing a previously available site means that something is going on that the Chinese government doesn’t want you to know about. (See also: inability to connect to YouTube, Twitter, Blogspot, etc. during the current Xinjiang unrest, last year’s torch relay protests, that stuff that didn’t happen in T-word place, etc.)

Although it turned out to be real technical difficulties, we spent a long time worrying about what had gone politically sensitive in Azeroth. Was it a Free Dun Morogh rally?

Anyway, seems like there’s there’s another technical issue with WarCraft and in the Middle Kingdom, and this time it’s the China-based servers, not the foreign ones, affected.

The handover should have gone smoothly. Blizzard had decided to change its Chinese handling company for World of Warcraft from The9 to Netease.

And so on June 7th the WoW closed down for the handover but has yet to come back again.

Apparently Blizzard and NetEase are “working around the clock” to get the service restored to millions of Chinese users, but after three weeks there’s still no show.

The result has been long waits to enter Taiwanese servers as Chinese players swamp them.

via Boomtown – PC.

Popularity: 19% [?]

D&D Online Beta Opp

Posted on Jun 13, 2009 under Beta | No Comment

Sign up for the upcoming closed beta of Dungeons & Dragons Online! DDO is a free-to-play MMO launching later this summer.

Apply for the DDO beta!.

Popularity: 18% [?]

Game Review: Sims 2: Castaway on the DS

Posted on Jun 03, 2009 under Game Reviews, Nintendo DS | 35 Comments

One day, you’re standing on the dock, waving goodbye to a friend, when you slip and fall and land in a crate, which is sealed and loaded onto a cargo ship, which is caught up in a storm and your Sim is shipwrecked on a deserted island! Your poor shipwrecked Sim must survive on this island, at first by finding food, building a shelter and starting a fire.

The zaniness we love about the Sims arrives in Castaway once you’ve gotten a handle on sleeping and not-starving. Your Sim can build an SOS sign for Dharma initiative-style airdrops of random things, like a victrola or a candy bar.  As you collect island items, you can cook tasty dinners (your Sim was getting tired of bugs and raw fish), make new clothes, make tools or decorations, build a new house, make a canoe and just create all kind of island crafts. You can even make and play an ocarina! And, as you explore more, you’ll also befriend the other island refugees, and check out the ancient temple. All tropical islands have an ancient temple, don’t you know?

I’ve written such angry things about sparkly pink shopping games as “girls’ games”, that I hate to admit when I fall into a traditional girl pattern, but, well, I love pretend cooking. I like it in World of WarCraft, too, if that make me sound any less like an eight-year-old girl. I also like making Sim clothes and playing dress-up. Castaway avoids being an unappealingly feminine game by also having survival puzzles and mini-games about fish-catching and fire-building. Oh, and the game’s not pink, which is always good in my book.

Sims 2: Castaway seemed to make much better use of the DS interface than Sims 2. In the regular Sims 2, you’re forced to ignore the stylus, and use the clumsy buttons to navigate, but you can’t put the stylus away completely, because you need it to select menu options that really should be hotkeys or at least accessible by arrow keys. Sims 2: Castaway takes better advantage of the DS-specific interface, using either the stylus to move, and even creating minigames that require use of the microphone. The top screen is used to display the meters that are very familiar to Sims players.

One interface annoyance is the crafting book. When crafting, your Sim cannot create multiples of the same item. You need to select the crafting spot, tap Craft Things, then click the item you want to make,which leads to a screen showing you what materials will be reguired. On this screen, you must click Make. Then you’ll see a picture of what you’re making, and you must click OK. Then you see a picture of what you made, and you’re forced to click OK one more time. If you want to make a duplicate (or a second item), you’re back at the crafting book, and you need to do it all over again. And if your item is on the second or third page of the crafting book, it can be even longer. And if you need three of one item to make something special, well, seems like EA figured out how to most of the suck the fun from a crafting game.

I was a big fan of Sims 2 for the computer, so I expected to like Castaway. It was even better than I expected, with the exotic island theme, a zany but cohesive storyline, and all the adorably realistic animations we expect from the Sims.

Popularity: 24% [?]

Florensia Battles

Posted on May 20, 2009 under MMOGs/MMORPGs | 9 Comments

From VerticalWire:

Lava-plateau-map-pk-zone_thumbBurda:ic, a leading publisher of online games worldwide, have announced that war is about to break out between the Royal Army and the Pirates of popular free-to-play MMORPG Florensia! Two existing in-game maps will be converted from standard adventuring areas into new player vs. player (PvP) War Zones for level 40 and above: the Hidden Port in the Pirates of the Black Dragon Base and the Rainbow Highland on Chester Island. Additionally, an all-new War Zone map, the Lava Plateau, will be added on Magnel Island.

Buccaneers beware, you’ll need a keen eye and fast fingers upon arrival to these new areas, as players are free to attack anything that moves… even if that happens to be a fellow adventurer. It’s every man, soldier, and pirate for himself on these battlegrounds, and it’s up to each player to decide his or her own fate. Help the Royal Army clear the areas of monsters and earn a boost in the ranks. Kill other players, and the Pirates are sure to take notice.

A war is brewing on the high seas of Florensia, and these new PvP War Zones are just a taste of the seafaring adventure and mayhem on the horizon!

For more information about the War Zones, scheduled to be added early next week, visit http://www.florensia-online.com/.

Popularity: 15% [?]

Beta Opp: Wonderking MMORPG

Posted on May 13, 2009 under Beta | 1 Comment

An upcoming MMOPRG from NDOORS:

Wonderking_artwork_mandius_thumbNDOORS Interactive today officially announced their newest title, WonderKing. Planned for release in the second half of 2009, WonderKing is an unconventional MMORPG from the developer Ryu & Soft that is designed for gamers of all skill level. The beta is scheduled to launch early this summer.

“With the success of Atlantica Online and Luminary: Rise of the GoonZu in the US, we feel the market is eager for a variety of MMO games,” said Peter Kang, CEO of NDOORS Interactive. “WonderKing’s introduction to the North American market will offer a truly encapsulating experience for gamers of every taste and preference.”

WonderKing is a 2D, side-scrolling MMORPG that takes players on an adventurous journey with story-by-story quests, much like a fantasy novel. Along the way, players will travel from beautiful beaches to murky marshlands and frigid snowfields as they battle to save the world. Don’t let the lack of a third dimension fool you, as this game is a highly developed MMORPG, including features such as:

• Home Town System: Players can personally decorate a private room where they can rest and store items and trophies.
• Pet System: Adorable, loyal AI animals will aid in hunting, item collecting, and other tasks.
• Class Change: The game allows players to focus their character’s abilities and change between classes to learn powerful techniques (mage, swordsman, thief, and scout).
• Mounts and Vehicles: Get moving with a variety of vehicles to ride and animals to mount, providing boosts to attack and defense.
• Castle Battles: Engage in PvP battles using siege warfare across castles.
• Crafting and Cooking: Weapons, food, and potions can be made to give players an edge in battle.

Designed for gamers of all ages, WonderKing is set in a vibrantly colorful world and features some of the most uniquely creative character designs and gorgeous graphics in any game. As with all of NDOORS’ titles, the game is 100% free-to-play.

I’m not sure what makes it an “unconventional MMORPG”, it looks like a standard anime adventure game to me. (Not really complaining, I like that genre, but I don’t see what makes it unique) Watch the trailer and decide for yourself, or sign for the beta here.

Popularity: 17% [?]

Magic World Online Official Launch

Posted on Apr 16, 2009 under MMOGs/MMORPGs | No Comment

Fight

Magic World Online, a new free-to-play MMORPG will officially launch on April 18th.

After months of open beta, MWO finally comes to a new era. On April 18th, 2009 the official launch will begin.

In the past few months, we have fixed a lot of bugs in the game and also we have improved this game in a lot of aspects upon the opinions of players. Thanks to all the MWO players! It is you who help us to make this game a great one!

Via Magic World Online.

Popularity: 14% [?]

WoW Extras Without Leaving The House!

Posted on Mar 31, 2009 under Gaming News | 2 Comments

Do you play WoW? Want to shop for upgrades and playtime without leaving the house? Instead of having a monthly fee debited from a bank account, some World of WarCraft players are using WoW game cards. These game cards offer 60 days of online playtime, and they can be sent as a code to your email for instant access, so you can buy World of WarCraft playtime immediately. While shopping online, you could also upgrade your basic WoW game with Burning Crusade and/or Wrath of the Lich King by buying a WoW battle chest. Gaming without leaving the house. That’s gamer convenience!

Popularity: 13% [?]

China’s Gamers

Posted on Mar 30, 2009 under Discussion | 8 Comments

It’s not often when my interests in China and gaming collide. Nate, of the China blog Orientation, recently posted on Chinese gaming habits, particularly the huge numbers of MMO gamers in wang ba, or net cafes.

China contains an undulating 59 million online gamers. Despite the fact that 47m of them play free-to-play games, this is a massive amount. To put that into perspective, the 2007 estimate of England’s population was 51,092,000 while the 2008 census quoted America as having 306,068,000 million people. Imagine the entire country of England plunking down and playing a game everyday. Keep in mind that these are only online PC games.

The majority of Chinese gamers, though, seem to play in net cafes and not on personal computers. (Although this may be changing, I saw plenty of Beijing teens with their body weight in personal electronics, and laptops can’t be far behind). Playing in net cafes instead of at home changes the gamer culture quite a bit. No more jokes about nocturnal gamers living in their basements, although there are plenty of 24-hour wang ba for late-night gaming sessions.

Also, fewer games rely on the purchase of software (I’ll save the discussion of China and software piracy for a different post!), since one copy will be installed in the cafe and anyone who comes by will use it. Instead, games have an in-game cash shop or an hourly fee. While talking about Runes Of Magic, Lexton Collins credits the Asian game community for bringing us the free-to-play MMO model.

I also wrote on Chinese net cafes and gaming culture over on  Wang Ba: Gaming In A Strange Land on CNReviews. (It feels a bit odd to quote myself, but it’s better than re-writing my description):

Chinese net bars sell computer time by the hour, and most also sell juice, soda, candy, snacks, and instant noodles, the Chinese equivalent of a Hot Pocket. You can also buy cigarettes, smoking isn’t just permitted in net bars, at times I think it’s mandatory.

The library-like silence of an American net cafe is gone, replaced with the usual thousand-decibel cellphone conversations, Tudou or Youtube videos, and shouts from the boys playing CounterStrike. It might not be the most conductive environment for working, especially when compared with the headphones-wearing crowd back home, but the cheery shouts of videogame victory don’t need translation.

Another thing Nate noticed was the divide between guys playing combat-heavy games and girls spending their internet time using QQ, China’s answer to AIM. Chinese girls do play games but it’s more likely to be something cute on a handheld game or on their mobile phones than hardcore PC games.

I’m sure Chinese netizens and Old China Hands will see this as a very surface analysis, but it’s very interesting to me, to see how the gaming sub-culture translates into other countries! Share your thoughts in the comments!

Related: Travel in China is like a Fantasy Novel, Living In China Is Like an RPG.

Popularity: 19% [?]

Golemizer: Free Steampunk MMO!

Posted on Mar 30, 2009 under MMOGs/MMORPGs, New Press Releases | 16 Comments

New content for Golemizer, a browser-based steampunk MMO:

http://www.golemizer.com/expansion1/blimp.pngBlainville, Canada – March 30, 2009 — Dave Toulouse, an independent game developer, announced the first free content expansion, Diluculo Island, for the free web MMORPG Golemizer. A free 2D steampunk MMORPG, Golemizer requires no download or plug-in to play and features a rich sandbox environment.

Following the path of a mysterious scientist named Dr. Grant, players will discover an island where strange creatures, the bymizins, are living. Are they friendly? Are they hostile? Players will have to find out for themselves while facing the many dangers of the island like giant spiders, zombie velociraptors and the terrifying X-Rex (a steam powered dinosaur).

Along a storyline of 100 new quests, the Diluculo Island expansion features:

- Over 200 new zones to explore
- 3 new golems that players can create (zombie velociraptor, mecha repair-o-tron and even the X-Rex)
- 10 new skills available to all characters
- New island themed items that players can buy to customize their cities and dungeons
- The first vehicle in Golemizer, a blimp that can be built by players!

To meet the requirements of the constantly growing number of players and NPCs (over 10 000), Golemizer has recently been moved to a new server to provide the best gaming experience possible.

Since its release in September 2008, more than 19 000 players have roamed the creative world of Golemizer. In their journey, they have created 1 200 quests using the player quests creation system, crafted over 800 000 items and created more than 5 000 new zones using the player dungeon system.

I know I already have a long list of games to play… but the combination of crafting and steampunk makes me want to check this one out.

Popularity: 26% [?]

Runes Of Magic Cinematic Trailer

Posted on Mar 14, 2009 under Beta, Gaming News, MMOGs/MMORPGs | No Comment

The new free-to-play MMO RunesofMagic has their first cinematic trailer up! It’s called Rise of the Demon Lord! I know “free-to-play MMORPG” and “cinematic trailor” don’t usually go together, but as guest auther Lex said in our recent review of the Runes Of Magic beta, RoM offers more than the usual free MMO

Don’t forget, Runes of Magic officially launched on March 19th. If you’re playing the beta, rumor has it that all servers are going offline on March 18th to get everything ready for the official launch.

Via Runes Of Magic Official Cinematic Trailer Released! WATCH IT! – Runes of Magic – Curse.

Popularity: 15% [?]

League of Legends Beta Sign Up

Posted on Mar 04, 2009 under Beta | 11 Comments

League of Legends beta signup has begun. League of Legends describes itself as a “competitive online game set in an imaginative world”, but not an MMORPG. Players are heroes fighting for control in the lands of Valoran. Here’s the trailer:

Interested? Sign up for the League of Legends beta here.

Via League of Legends.

Popularity: 12% [?]

Guest Review: Runes Of Magic

Posted on Feb 24, 2009 under Gaming News | 6 Comments

Lexton “Lunarhound” Collins was kind enough to review the upcoming MMORPG, Runes Of Magic, for us. Lexton has been playing the open beta of Runes of Magic for a few months now. Here he discusses Runes of Magic in particular and the free-to-play gaming model in general. Runes will be officially released on March 19th, 2009.

Free online RPG’s have been around for a while now. Besides the text-based Multi User Dungeons of old, games like Runescape were experimenting with free-to-play models years ago. The model has evolved, and in places like Korea and other parts of Asia, free is the primary way of doing business. Furnishing players with a downloadable client and unlimited play time at no cost, then giving them the option to purchase extra goodies in a ‘cash shop’ has proven to be very profitable. In the eyes of the Western gaming public, though, these titles have never come close to living up to the heavy-hitters; the ones hyped on major web sites and in magazines, who put out a fancy box with a 60.00 price tag and expect a further commitment of 15.00 or so a month for the privilege of playing. The free to play titles have always been seen as second rate, and not without reason. Many of them are very poorly translated, have atrocious customer service, are sorely lacking in the depth and game play departments, and are often just plain ugly.

And now, there’s Runes of Magic. It’s aiming squarely for a more Western feel, with WASD controls (though point and click is still available for those who want it), a heavy focus on quests, brisk advancement pace, higher localization standards, and a user-friendly approachability sorely lacking in many other free games. Its creators are determined to prove that you can make a free MMO that’s just as good as any of the more expensive ones out there.

One way it’s doing this is by blatantly copying the current best. The term ‘WoW clone’ is tossed around a lot these days, but it usually doesn’t have much basis in fact. Here, though, the similarities in both graphics and game play are immediately obvious. While die hard fans of the game will protest mightily that this is absolutely not World of Warcraft in any way, an honest assessment quickly proves this to be wishful thinking. The aesthetic isn’t identical, but it comes extremely close sometimes. While it might have been nice if they’d set themselves apart a bit more in the art department, it’s hard not to feel that adopting the same interface, control scheme and core play mechanics was the right thing to do. If you’ve played WoW before, everything will feel immediately familiar and the learning curve, at least when it comes to the basics of getting around and playing with the UI, will be reduced to almost zero. If you haven’t, the same intuitiveness that makes Blizzard’s masterpiece so easy to get into will still ensure that you spend more time playing than learning how to play in Runes of Magic.

In many ways, it almost feels like an improvement over WoW as far as features are concerned. Visual customization options for your character are more extensive, with sliders for adjusting height and resizing various body parts. Once in the game, the customization options expand via the cash shop, with purchasable facial tattoos and the option to dye your clothing and mount in the colors of your choice. All players are granted a free house, without any rental fees, early in the game. This can be upgraded to larger sizes, decorated with furniture that grants a rest bonus similar to WoW‘s, equipped with crafting tools, and used to store possessions. Besides the standard instanced dungeons, there are varieties with randomly generated maps that yield a special treasure at the end. There’s a dual class system, allowing you to mix and match abilities from any two classes. It’s possible to wipe the stats from a favorite piece of equipment and transfer the stats of a different piece to it, so that if you find a great new breastplate but like the way your old one looks better, you can keep both the appearance of the old and the benefits of the new. The interface is even modifiable via XML, and a sizable collection of useful addons can already be found at curse.com.

What it doesn’t have down quite yet is World of Warcraft’s amazing diversity of environments. Nothing here looks bad and, taken individually, each area actually looks pretty good. But there are very few surprises or (excuse the pun) “wow” moments. The game has the basic fantasy staples – green fields and forests, dark caves, snowy mountains – but very little of the raw creativity that makes WoW so stunning. Blizzard‘s environments are brimming with personality and a sense of artistry that elevate them above standard fantasy fare, despite that being exactly what they are. Azeroth has a real sense of place. Taborea doesn’t. It’s not boring and it’s not bad, it just doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be besides a traditional pseudo-medieval fantasy RPG. The developers haven’t yet figured out how to capture that sense of wonder that seeing Darnassus or the underground tram for the first time can evoke.

One place where more creative energy has been spent is on the story. Taborea’s background is involved and interesting. There are no scene-setting cinematics or mood-setting cut scenes to draw you into it – you’re just dropped unceremoniously into the world – so some players might not take enough interest to pay attention to what the NPC’s are saying. If you do, you’ll be treated to a rather unique (as fantasy MMO’s go) pioneering storyline. Unfortunately, this will probably be lost on a large portion of players, as the fairly simple goals of many of the initial quests (talk to him, give this to her, kill that) don’t seem to be worth the large blocks of text that precede them.

The dual class system is interesting and useful, but can often feel cumbersome. Though each class holds up well on its own, the fact that your secondary eventually provides all of your base stats with a bonus means that going without one will leave your character crippled later in the game. Because each of your two classes must be leveled independently (you can swap your primary and secondary at your house, and only the primary is able to gain experience points or raise its skills), it often feels as if you’re being forced to play two characters. Some won’t mind this, but those that don’t have as much time to devote to the game or simply don’t like playing alts will likely find it irritating. The flip side of this is that the system allows for a lot of great options and it really is fun to play with different class combinations. If you enjoy a traditional paladin character, a knight/priest fits the bill and comes with the added benefit of being able to change to a full-on healer if the need ever arises. What if you like tanking but aren’t so fond of the low damage output? Try a knight/warrior or knight/rogue. A rogue/mage can hurl fireballs from the shadows as well as holds its own in melee, a mage/priest can both dish out serious punishment and make up for its lack of fortitude with healing spells, and a warrior/scout can hold its own in both melee and ranged combat. The individual classes feel complete on their own, but each pairing also feels like its own specific class, with its own strengths and weaknesses. It’s just too bad that it has the downside of requiring you to essentially level two separate characters.

One of the features that could still use a bit of work is upgrading. Runes of Magic features an upgrade system that allows you to bolster the power of your equipment in several ways. One is with runes. Through defeating enemies and dismantling equipment, you’ll be able to gain runes that can enhance equipment with various bonuses. How many bonuses one piece can support depends on how many rune slots it has. With the use of a special device that you’ll acquire early in the game, you can combine lower tiered runes of the same type into more powerful, higher tiered runes of that type. This all works fine. What isn’t so polished are the direct stat upgrades through the use of jewels. Certain special jewels offer the chance to increase a piece of equipment’s base stats, with the risk that you could also get nothing at all, or even a downgrade. Each increase will put a +1, +2, etc. after the name of the equipment, up to +6. The problem with this is that increasing a piece of equipment to the point that you’ll notice any tangible benefits is so low as to make the entire system almost pointless. Getting to +1 after a few tries isn’t too difficult, but beyond that, the chance of failure or a downgrade seem to be so much higher than the chance of an upgrade that it’s not even worth the effort. The jewels are expensive and you can often end up spending thousands of gold with no positive result, or even a negative one, to show for it. Worse, these jewels are offered for sale in the cash shop. While their tooltips clearly warn of the chance of failure or downgrade, they don’t highlight just how high that chance is, and several players have already complained of spending significant amounts of real money hoping for an upgrade, with nothing at all to show for it. What’s even more baffling is that the upgrades, when successful, are so slight. If the developers were so afraid of equipment becoming too powerful, it’s hard to understand why they decided to include the upgrade system at all.

All in all, Runes of Magic is a pretty impressive package. It has a solid beginning, it’s at least as good as a lot of other games that require a fee, and it puts a number of features from the genre’s best in one place. There’s nothing revolutionary about the game design itself, and if you’re sick to death of traditional MMO’s, it likely won’t do anything for you. What makes it stand out is the fact that, despite a few flaws (and it’s still early enough that they could be worked out), it’s both free and a genuinely good game. If you’ve played pay to play MMO’s in the past, it’s easy to forget, while playing this one, that it doesn’t have to cost anything. Though it falls just short, it comes closer than any other completely free game has to being able to stand toe-to-toe with the big boys. Hopefully, it will become popular and visible enough that it will start a trend.

Popularity: 22% [?]

Indie Game Mag and Momo

Posted on Feb 08, 2009 under Gaming News | No Comment

Indie Game Mag is a new magazine about — no points for guessing — independent games. Now, I don’t mean to bash the bestsellers, I love my World of WarCraft and my Sims2 just as much as the next gamer, but fun, creative indie games are often underrepresented in games journalism. It’s sad that so many really creative games get overlooked in favor of same-old mechanics and gorgeous graphics of a lot of mainstream games. IndieGameMag focuses entirely on new games from small developers, there’s no World of WarCraft or Gears of War here!

A few days ago, Indie Game Mag ran a crazy contest for the best ad that game companies could come up with in 24 hours. The winner would receive a full-page ad in the March issue of Indie Game Mag.

The winner was none other than the guys behind my squirrel friend Momo!

Guess the guys at IndieGameMag can’t resist Momo from RotoAdventures either!

PS Don’t forget to check out the upcoming March issue of Indie Game Mag for my review of Chains!

Via The Indie Game Magazine: Impromptu Ad Contest Winner.

Popularity: 18% [?]

Buying WoW Characters

Posted on Jan 28, 2009 under Discussion, MMOGs/MMORPGs | 1 Comment

Have you ever thought about buying a high-level World of Warcraft toon? I’ve definitely thought how cool it would be to instantly have a level 60… or level 70… or level 80, especially since max level is always just a few levels higher than I am!

Some people buy World of WarCraft accounts to keep up with high-level friends or just to try end-game toys without grinding their way there. There are a lot of reasons to buy a character for WoW or Warhammer Online or your MMO of choice. Or maybe you just need a little extra gold, and it’s quicker to pay for it than grind.

There’s also a large group looking to sell WoW accounts, but I get too attached to my characters. By the time I get to a decent level, I wouldn’t want to get rid of my toon! If you’re a powerleveler, it could be a good way to make a little extra money. Sell off your old character, or your extra in-game cash, and start over!

Whether you are buying or selling, just remember to be careful! And enjoy your new MMO toons!

Popularity: 16% [?]

MyTribe Mystery Solutions

Posted on Jan 28, 2009 under PC Games | 45 Comments

I started playing MyTribe a while ago, and I think I’ve finally unlocked all the MyTribe mysteries!

This is the first time I’ve given any hints on ThumbGods, so this is your warning! Spoilers ahead! If you want to solve the mysteries on your own, don’t keep reading! How about a nice article on the World of Warcraft font instead? Or the history of the console? Or what I thought about MyTribe — the no-spoilers version? Seriously, stop reading now!

Still here? Ok, here are instructions on how to solve the mysteries on MyTribe.

These are for the Grubby Games single-player game! Go here for solutions to the mysteries on Facebook’s MyTribe, or here for advice on building the Great Ark and going to the second MyTribe Island.

download My Tribe!I knew the big red rock was iron, especially when my tribespeople who were scientists started to drop broad hints. You need someone who is legendary in science and in construction to access this. Once you do, you get a bonus on work that uses tools.

Like the iron-red rock, I knew what the fish skeleton rock was but my tribespeople didn’t. A legendary rock-gatherer can break it open, and then a legendary scientist can examine it. Tada! Now your tribe has 50,000 more science points!

For a star-carved rock, use Stardust on a tribesperson, and then drop that person on the rock. Quickly add 3 more stardusts… don’t worry that it cost 4 Stardusts to solve the mystery, because now Stardust will drop more frequently on the island. For the moon-carved rock, do exactly the same thing with Moondust for more frequent Moondust drops.

A legendary scientist can tell that this ancient fountain is special, maybe even the Fountain of Youth! Once she does, you can use fountain water in potions.

For the strange bush, first make a fertilizer potion from guano, sea water and stardust and pour it on the strange bush. Then have a legendary farmer look at it. Ta-da! Now you have a special berry bush, and you can use these berries in potions.

Only someone with 100 strength can move that weird old stump. Tribespeople with high strength tell you there’s something special under it, but you need to get someone to max physical strength to move it. Once they’ve moved it, it needs special care. Make a potion of fish, sea water and stardust to make it rain (or just hope). Your muscle man may need to tend it again, and then your old wither stump grows into a strong iron wood tree.

Are you looking for the solutions to the mysteries for MyTribe on Facebook?

Popularity: 100% [?]

FusionFall is Released

Posted on Jan 17, 2009 under Gaming News | 11 Comments

A review of the pretty, but ultimately unsatisfiying, new kids’ game, Fusionfall.

FusionFall is gorgeous.

Wait, that’s not how to start a review. Let me try again.

[fusionfall.jpg]

FusionFall, the new MMO from Cartoon Network, takes place a few years in the future. Players must help the Cartoon Network
crowd, including older versions of Dexter and Deedee and the Powerpuff
girls (as well as some other faces I’m too out-of-touch to recognize)
must try to save Earth from the evil overlord Fuse of the evil green
Planet Fusion. Combat was blood-free, zapping clearly-defined bad guys,
as is appropriate for a kid’s game.

And this game is gorgeous. Did I mention how pretty?

I loved the anime, teenage versions of the PowerPuff girls. Player
characters are also anime-influenced. Character creation offers a lot
of options, not quite City Of Heroes
level, but much more customizable than the average MUD. By doing this,
FusionFall avoids the common MMORPG problem of having dozens of
identical avatars running around, an annoyance I remember in EverQuest2 and sometimes in low-level WoW characters.

Read the rest at Simpson’s Paradox » Blog Archive » Pretty, Pretty FusionFall

Popularity: 9% [?]

11,000 Gamers Attend Virtual Wedding

Posted on Jan 12, 2009 under Discussion, In The Media, MMOGs/MMORPGs | 1 Comment

Ah, gaming romance. I love stories like this, because they ruin the stereotype of anti-social gamers, and the stereotype that all gamers are men.

LAND O’ LAKES, FL– JANUARY 12, 2009– Artix Entertainment’s MMORPG AdventureQuest Worlds was the setting for the December 29th wedding of longtime Artix gamers Bello and Merca which was broadcast live starting on www.aqworlds.com with over 11,000 gamers in attendance.

The bride, who is a retailer, and the groom, who is a pre-school teacher, have been avid Artix gamers for three years. They live in southwestern Missouri and decided to share their union with fellow gamers worldwide.

“We thought this was a unique opportunity to do something memorable,” said Bello.“We decided to go with AdventureQuest Worlds because we’ve been playing Artix games for years now and almost feel like we’ve been a part of Artix Entertainment’s maturation as a gaming company.”

Read the rest at OVER 11,000 GAMERS ATTEND ADVENTUREQUEST WORLDS ONLINE WEDDING Gaming Industry | Press Release by MCV

Popularity: 14% [?]

Press Release — DOMO Weddings!

Posted on Jan 07, 2009 under MMOGs/MMORPGs, New Press Releases | No Comment

Gametribe.com, the premier destination for Free-to-Play games starts 2009 with a great update to come on January 7th!

We are happy to introduce the Marriage system for all the lovers!
Declare you Love and get married to unlock extra bonuses with your
partner.

To prepare a great wedding ceremony, you can now get the two
beautiful Ring of Devotion (to give energy to the partner) and Partner
Pager (to summon the partner at any time).

Depending on the rings set you choose (Plain, Gold, Platinum or
Diamonds), you will have access to the different wedding costumes
(Chinese, Japanese and Fantasy) and wedding places (Chinese, Church and
Fairytale).

Invite all your friends, prepare a special banquet, it’s a unique moment!

If you want to get married, you can also try the Lover’s quests:

- Devoted Love in Darkdale lvl 20

- Mutually Love in Swan Lake Basin lvl 25

- Everlasting in Blakatoa lvl 30

- Loving Forever in Grassgreen Square lvl 35

- Never regretting Giantwood Forest lvl 40

These quests give wedding dresses and love titles!

Another big feature coming is the Potential Development Instructor
(meet him at the Eversun Dojo). He will give you several quests that
will let you reach the new cap, the level 62!

New items and goodie bags:

• Permanent Emperor’s New Hat and Bounty Hunter Costume available until January 21st

• Purple Butterfly Wings

• Devil’s Wings

• Wedding Venue Lease Contract: for couples to enter a wedding place another time

• Costume goodie bags available until February 4th:

o For girls: Bestial Girl costume, Wild Girl costume and Fairy Horn

o For boys: Red Ghostly Gown, Blue Ghostly Gown, and Demon Horn

• Special riding Pet goodie bag available until January 21st: you may get a permanent Lil’Dairy Pu or Pure White Pupu!

The new update will be available to players after the weekly Wednesday maintenance window.

DOMO is a Free-to-Play social MMORPG based on ancient Chinese
mythology. Join with thousands of other gamers in an amazing
anime-inspired world where you can socialize, form friendships, craft
and master a variety of jobs, all within the underlying quest of trying
to solve the riddles of the ancient myth of the Kunlun Mirror.

To download and play DOMO visit the game’s official website through www.gametribe.com.

Via DOMO: Love is all! Gaming Industry | Press Release by MCV

Kind of makes me wish WoW had special romantic quests!

Popularity: 13% [?]

New Videogame Gigs

Posted on Jan 05, 2009 under Gaming News, MMOGs/MMORPGs | No Comment

The MMO Gamer and Gamasutra have a list of new game developer gigs, including one in Germany:

These are NOT entry level openings, of course. But there are jobs out there for creative game developers.

Via MMOG Industry Job Openings Week 1 : The MMO Gamer

Popularity: 10% [?]

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