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MMO Money Magazine

Writings on the business of fun: Virtual Worlds and Real Money Makes Online Gaming a Big Business. My economic view on the world of online games - without the hype.

Author: Inktomi

Dear NCSoft, My Aion account was hacked and I lost everything. Please refund my time.

Posted by Inktomi Friday January 29 2010 at 1:35AM
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 I know that it is not possible to travel backwards or even forwards in time. We are not going to have a metaphysical conversation here. What I feel would be good customer service and would heal relationships between NCSoft and its customers is by taking care of the victims of the latest hacking spree going on.

Backstory.

In recent posts I gave a good friends story of how her account was hacked and how badly she was treated by customer service. The first thing I asked her was, “Did you get your gear back?” and the second after she told me no I asked, “How long will it take you to earn it back?” Her answer was “Weeks.”

As an MMORPG gamer and veteran I know how long it takes to get endgame gear in the first place. Now to have to regrind all that back is annoying to say the least and time consuming. She told me that a few of the dungeons are at least 3, 6 to 9 hours to complete! There are no insurance policies for virtual goods.

You are not alone.

Is what I said to comfort her. I simply googled ‘aion accounts hacked’ and got a slew of forum complaints from other victims of their Aion accounts hacked. Here are the links if you want to read some of the other horror stories I found.

Account hacked! What will NCSOFT do?

My wifes account was hacked today.

Account hacked second day in a row.

NCSecurity: Phantom Hacker Steals Aion Account

Account hacked, what do I do?

Husbands account hacked...

 Can you see the trend here. One or two in not a problem, but there are a lot more I didn't post. It seems to be the same cause and effect is happening while the company does nothing to help the customer other than restore their accounts. And in some cases even slow to do that.

A worst case scenario.

Imagine you come home to your house/apartment to find your front lock is changed and your key does not work. After finally breaking the door down you walk it to a ransacked apartment. Your electronics are gone, so are your jewelry and even your old microwave. It has to be one of the worst feelings in the world to find out you are robbed. You may be lucky to have insurance on your stuff; you call the police, fill out a report and hope for the best. It still doesn’t remove that gross feeling of being invaded and you cannot even begin to calculate how much you lost monetarily.

The bottom line is you could have protected yourself as best as possible, if someone is determined to rob you, they will. And it’s not your fault you were robbed. The best you could do cut your losses and move forward. But what did you really lose?

You lost your time. When it comes down to money, you have to look at the time it took to make the money to buy that DVD player and Xbox you lost. The jewelry might even be heirlooms that are irreplaceable. It will still take a long time to build it all back. I think your first investment would be of course new ways to secure your home so it never happens again. At that point any help is a relief.

My proposal.

I’m willing to fight for you. My dedication has always been to the honest paying game player like myself, this is why I write mMO MONEY.

In my opinion I feel NCSoft should give at least 2-3 free months of gametime subscription to anyone who had their account compromised. As well as Aion customers they can also be held accountable for customers of Lineage and Lineage II,City of Heroes/Villians and Guild Wars as well. If their security is bad for Aion, it has to be for their other games too.

I think it’s also very important to improve their security too. They removed their gameguard before going live and maybe it wasn’t a good idea to do so. I also know that it created many technical issues, but I would rather have that than lose weeks or months worth of my efforts because of faulty security.

Here’s my strategy.

There is a website that offers a free online petition service: http://www.petitiononline.com/ if you, the MMO community would be kind to collaborate with me for this cause, or are a victim of NCSofts’ faulty security and would like some retribution. Then give me some feedback and your support, please. In the meantime I am going to write a thesis on WHY they should be giving their customers the time to replace some of the equipment they were robbed of from these terrible hackers. I think they least they could do are to give 2-3 free months of subscriptions to their customers. Don’t you agree?

I’ll post it and I will start a largescale petition to rally the community to stand up for themselves against NCSofts weak response to this problem. What do you think? Any and all feedback is welcome. This is not the first time an online game account was hacked so this is  going to send a message to NCSoft but hopefully change the way that all MMO distributors will approach their games security and most important how they treat you, loyal customer.

It’s you loyal customer, who pays his $14.99 a month not matter what, and who is the most important person at the end of the day. Don’t you think it’s time these game companies started treating you like one?

I am starting a forum post here for your feedback. Thanks in advance =)

Play safe,

Frank Inktomi

NCSoft to Hacked Aion Customers: "It's your fault."

Posted by Inktomi Wednesday January 27 2010 at 4:18PM
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 Just to follow up on a previous article about members of the Aion community having their accounts hacked and losing everything. I received a despondent call from my friend from Aion who had her account hacked. The story is pretty sad and very simple.

After she stayed on hold 3 hours to talk to an NCSoft rep she was greeted by a young woman who sounded polite yet annoyed. And after stating her case and producing the necessary proof that she actually was the account holder. The rep told her that it was her fault because she probably downloaded something, gave her password out or used it in a third party forum.

"Uhhh no", she said to these allegations.

After the rep scolded her repeatedly making excuses on how it was THE CUSTOMERS FAULT and restored her accounts with new passwords. They did not restore any equipment and explained it was because she was careless with her account information. Meanwhile there was no record of where or how she gave her account information out. When she stated that the only place she went was Aion Armory and the official forums she was greeted with, "Oh well ..."

Then she goes on to explain that this is unnacceptable for being on hold for THREE HOURS only to be treated as a criminal. The rep then goes on to explain that it's not her problem because there is not enough people to handle the high number of calls coming in due to this problem.

Way to be guilty before proven innocent and to pass the buck. Classic corporate america move.

Ok NCSoft officially you are a ...

Is that a way to treat good paying loyal customers?

Is this a proper way of marketing your product for future customers?

How can you actually train employees to treat customers as though they are the problem?

Now clearly we can see in Scott Jennings article today about MMO Fail-bombs that THE CUSTOMER IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING!

I might know one or two things about video games, not as much as others. I might know one or two things about economics, finance and maybe a little marketing.

But I do know one thing: The customer is always right.

And we speak with our wallets! And we should not tolerate this type of treatment.

I calmed her down with my Brooklyn Steakhouse analogy: If you went somewhere and they served you great steak with roach in it and then when you told the waiter the chef came out and blamed you? If you had this kind of bad service would you continue to eat there? Probably not. Because you are not only paying for the food, you are paying for the experience of having a nice dinner out.

I think the problem is we (the mmo community) are so starved for good steak we are ready to eat any old piece of meat. We don't mind if the waitress is nasty or if it is cooked wrong, we got a seat at a posh steakhouse. "Ohhh look honey, a fly in your soup!" As we pick out the fly and laugh nervously over it, we keep eating, picking through it slowly for any more instectia. 

I've seen quite a few businesses fail due to faulty marketing and poor customer service. So if you or anyone you know has had problems with NCSoft over their accounts, mainly due to it being hacked. Please let me know, I would like to hear your personal stories.

Play safe,

Inktomi

Rash of Hackers Plague Aion Customers, NCSoft slow to respond.

Posted by Inktomi Monday January 25 2010 at 1:56PM
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 Dear Community,

I have many friends that play different games and lately I have been getting reports from my friends that play Aion, that many NCSoft accounts have been hacked. One report from the Aion Online forums here.

It seems that keyloggers are exploiting an unknown system to get players usernames and passwords. They have been witnessed by fellow legionairres that they will log on and change your password. After that they walk straight up to an NPC and sell all over your gear and I guess send the Kinah out to whatever account they want to.

This is unacceptable!

But there are a few ways to protect your account:

  • Keeping your user name and password to yourself; never sharing your password with others, including NCsoft staff.
  • Using good judgment on how you communicate in-game and out-of-game.
  • Protecting your computer system from being accessed by others (hacked).
  • Protecting your computer system from viruses.

Taken directly from the NCSoft Support FAQ.

I got a call this morning from a good friend telling me she lost her account to a hacker. But what she did to protect herself was take screenshots of all her gear and her banked equipment. Also take pictures of your Stigma stones also. 

I have reports that NCSoft has been restoring accounts and replacing certain parts of gear. Some people have had their accounts restored in 48 hours, some it took over a week. Unfortunately they have been overwhelmed of reports of hacked accounts and are working diligently to get things resolved I am told.

If you have found your account to be hacked follow these steps: 

  •  1. Be patient, it took me 1 week + for a reply, and it doesn't matter how many petitions you put in.
  • 2. Have ALL information ready for when they ask you, these can include serial keys accounts, character names etc.
  • 3. Don't be alarmed if you find your AION account banned, it was probably due to Gold Sellers using your acocunt to advertise.
  • 4. Be respectful, when you send E-Mails and petitions remember these are people you are talking to, and as much as you are pissed off they are only human.
  • 5. Since your account got hacked there is a chance you may have a keylogger, so make sure to either scan or do a FULL reformat like i did to minimise the risk of your account being re-stolen.

 Hopefully this problem can get resolved quickly before it's starts having a negative effect on the entire Aion community. 

Play safe,

Inktomi

 

P10F2P: Regnum Online

Posted by Inktomi Saturday January 23 2010 at 9:22AM
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Not a bad for a free game if you like playing a fantasy version of capture the flag.

Stats

Origin: NGD Studios, Argentina

Free: Yes, with premium service and Item Shop

Wiki: Yes

PVP: Yes

Active since: May 24,2007

Short description: Small Active Community

     For the 8.5 hours I played I was quite please with the fact that I didn’t need to spend $1. The community was fun, active and engaging. The map was large, open and explorable although the mobs were duplicated too much. This game surprisingly has room for a considerable amount of immersion and even could favor the secret roleplayer in you.

Functionality and Ease of useValentines day is early?

Technical support: A
Ease of use: A
Functionality: C
Stability: C

 Downloaded ok, needed to open a few ports and it worked fine. Not a big client and the website is easy to navigate through. I was actually smart and sent out an email to customer support. I received one back the next day with a link to the troubleshooting FAQ. I was glad it wasn’t an automatic return email.

 The server is very laggy and I experience a lot of slingshot lag. Means it will set me back a few feet or motions every time it lags. It feels like a cheap version of groundhogs day and it gets annoying trying to walk down the same road ten times. I crashed twice and had to use the three finger salute to reboot the game, but I was back in the game no problem. Remember, the servers are in Argentina.

Graphics

UI: D

Character design: D

Environment: C

Animation/Avatar movement: F

 The UI was basic to use the gentlest of words.  The navigator/compass only works for premium members and there is no way to customize. Maybe I’m spoiled but there was no easy way to compare equipment. Now how do I know if sword A is better than sword B? I had to switch them out and flip on the character screen to see the different in stats.

 Character design was pretty bad. Sorry, I played with the settings all the way up and it didn’t help. I saw no difference in any of the emotes and expressions. Movement was stiff, quirky and I thought I was playing a game that looked like it could have run on a Commodore 64. I am not being harsh, just honest.

 The good part is that the environment is large, colorful and densly populated with mobs. Most are really just cookie cutter design of either biped, quadruped or insect. The map is big, I did about 2 or more hours of exploring and I was able to move around without a level restriction; enabling me to wander into enemy territory where I was ganked a few times.

Sound

Ambient: D

Interaction: D

Soundtrack: F

 No voices whatsoever! The ambient sounds are non-existent and the only thing that saved a D was that it rained and I could hear the rain. Most of the mobs sounds are the repetitive and similar. I hit a wolf, a bear, a spider, a fish-person-wannabe-murloc it all sounds the same. Actually, all the sounds were repetitive while a lame fantasy soundtrack kept playing in the background.

 Turn the sound off and put your iPod on high.

Community

Population: B

Helpful: A

Economy: B-

 There is no auction house that I know of and most of the money I made was from selling to the NPC. I did see some trading go through on chat. For chat there is a general tab for local convo and a realm tab for players of your own race. You cannot talk to other players in either one of the two opposing realms or races. This adds up for the immersion and roleplay value.

 Actually for the simplest of games it has an active and vibrant community. I saw no spam and it was a refreshing change from the last two games I played. The area I was in wasn’t densely populated but there is always something going on in chat. Since this is a game that the main mechanic is PVP it is important that the realm communicates and they do.

 Even though I did run into a few people that didn’t speak English they were nice and helpful. This is an internationally based game with a diverse community. I asked a few questions in R-chat and got reasonable and polite responses. The most important thing is I could talk in chat and that is something that I took for granted. But now I have learned how to appreciate even more while working on this series.

Gameplay and Mechanics

Gameplay: B

Mechanics: B

 This was a very hard category to grade Regnum for. So I gave it a B for Basic and that is exactly what it is.  It’s not the regular MMO you are playing it for, it’s the possibility of the HOW you could play Regnum Online.

 Regnum is a PVP game, don’t get it twisted. The entire focus is getting high enough level to “hang” in PVP. The wiki says it’s 37 but the community suggests 50, the highest level in the game. And from there on it’s capture the flag in a large map littered with castles and keeps, split up amongst 3 factions/races/realms.

 The three factions have contested areas that you can take over a castle and it gives you faction benefits while leveling there. You can also upgrade a keep you have control over to give it better defense to oncoming attacks. I thought that was interesting enough but it was costly to do so, as it should be. There is many quests to do, so it doesn’t feel like a grindfest up front, but I did a little grinding anyway. But it’s not a huge part of the game, it’s not about leveling here, it’s about having an experience while pvping.

 After reading the announcements that come across the screen I could tell a certain keep was under constant conflict. So I walked to it where I saw quite a few players hacking and slashing at the opposing players and NPC’s. It looked like fun but I didn’t last long there, I was only level 6. Heh, heh. The skills you use are simple and is upgradable through a trainer. You can pick from two special schools from your class: Warriors can choose either to be Knights or BARBARIANS! Thunder…Thunder…THUNDERCATS! Don’t ask.

 Now here’s the catch on Regnum’s potential. If I was someone who was interested in PVP and was looking for something for an immersive PVP experience or roleplay I would love it. That’s what I got off of ROL, not the commercialized raiding and stylized PVP rewards then this might be for you. There is so potential to get into this game with a group of friends and have an immersive experience. It doesn’t just give you everything up front like other MMO’s do. The navigator is just a compass; you really have to look for quest npc’s and areas. The map is simple and yet there are so many things shown on it. If you followed Beau’s Immersion Project Rules with a small (or large) group of people I see you having a great time. Don’t let my critical opinion sway you, Regnum Online has value and the best part of it is it’s free. Which brings me to my next category.

 Currency, Subscriptions and Item Shop

 What can I say, it’s free. Ingame currency is gold and the Item Shop currency that NGD uses is Ximerin. There is a scale involved if buying Ximerin, on the low side you can buy 4,000 for $5 USD and get 800 for a dollar. On the high you can buy 56000 for $60 USD and get 933 for a dollar. I don’t ever see you needing that much, but hey, you never know.

 Most of the important premium stuff would be a mounts for $10, that’s for you Darren! Everything in the shop is pretty cheap and doesn’t unbalance the PVP at all. It mostly cosmetic armor paints leveling aids and potions. Potions as I saw aren’t buyable ingame and not that they are a necessity but I was starting to struggle a little bit without potions, but it’s not a game breaker.

 I could play this game for zero dollars, it would make my experience much more immersive. “When I started out in MMO’s they didn’t SELL potions, you had to make your own! And the only place to make them was up a big hill where I had to walk in the snow!”

Category grade: B

The Bottom Line

Overall: C

I would be hard pressed to give this game dedicated time in my schedule, this doesn’t make it a bad game; just something I would play on the regular. Unless, I was looking for some really cheap PVP or an immersive roleplay experience; neither things that I look for in MMO’s but I know there is people that do.

 I try to look at games from an objective angle, so objectively I give Regnum Online a solid C. It has things that could make it a great game, but not sure if the company has the resources to implement them. Sadly, it is going to be uninstalled to make room for my next few trials.

 Stay tuned because I have been playing Mabinogi and actually started to like it, mainly why this article has taken so long to come down the pipe.

 Play safe,

Inktomi

Sega shutting down Phantasy Star Universe PC and PS2 Servers March 31st, 2010.

Posted by Inktomi Friday January 22 2010 at 12:53PM
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More lambs for the slaughter: Direct from a Sega forum post by amin Edward@Sega.

Attention Phantasy Star Universe players,

We regret to announce that the PC and PlayStation2 servers for Phantasy Star Universe will be closing as of this March 31st, 2010. 

SEGA would like to extend its sincere thanks to those who have played on the PC/PS2 servers over the past several years. The final update for PC/PS2 servers will be this January 29th, 2010, which will start the long-awaited MAG+ event. This event will receive the same updates & web support as the event on the Xbox 360 servers.

Please note that after January 29th 2010, no new PSU subscriptions will be available for purchase for PC/PS2. Those who are subscribed as of that time will be able to play, for free, until service closure. 

The schedule is as follows:

• January 29th 2010: MAG+ event begins for PC/PS2 and Xbox 360 servers.

• January 29th 2010: No new PC/PS2 PSU subscriptions will be available for purchase.

• January 29th 2010: Free play for PC/PS2 PSU begins. No more billing cycles will take place on or after this date.

• March 31st 2010: PC/PS2 servers / service closure, the PlayStation2 and PC versions of Phantasy Star Universe online play will not be available after this date, however, please continue to enjoy the Single Player version of the game.

To clarify, anyone who has had a valid PC/PS2 account (and has not been banned) will be able to play during this period.

For those who play the Xbox 360 version of Phantasy Star Universe: SEGA will continue to support, in full & with regular updates, this version of Phantasy Star Universe. This includes bringing currently unreleased and anticipated content to the XBox 360 servers. We will be able to provide more details on future Xbox 360 PSU content over the coming weeks and months.

While we are sad to see the PC/PS2 version of Phantasy Star Universe end, the year 2010 is the 10th anniversary of Phantasy Star Online -- and this server / service closure is helping to pave the way for bigger and better things for the Phantasy Star franchise in the very near future!

Thank you all again for the support and great times together with us here at SEGA playing PSU! We look forward to seeing you again in our new adventures!


The good news is it will be free until then, the bad news is if you played on these servers for years then you lose all. 

Power of 10 F2P: Flyff

Posted by Inktomi Tuesday January 19 2010 at 10:45PM
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Flyff was the longest 8 hours in my entire history of gaming.

Stats

Origin: Aeonsoft, Korea

Free: Yes

Wiki: Yes

PVP: Yes

Active since: December 5th, 2005

Short description: Simple Animated Grindfest

I’m going to give Flyff a fair shake as I would a game that I had fun with. But I really had to dig deep to get through the trial, luckily I found a way to have fun.

Functionality and Ease of use

Technical support: - Not needed.
Ease of use: C
Functionality: A
Stability: B

The game downloaded and installed without a hitch. Actually I did it while I was writing my Cabal review. Although the controls themselves are simple, I did go to a few of the help windows to find some functions. I found that 5 categories were blank with just ‘plcholder 1’ or ‘plcholder 12’ stated. So the helpful pang is not that helpful!

Not helpful at all.

There isn’t much of a tutorial or beginners quests to show you around the place and familiarize yourself with the UI. This is supposed to be a game for younger generations, if I was really new to mmogs, it would have confused and frustrated me. That hurt Flyff’s overall rating in the category. Other than that, the game crashed twice and lost connection once, not terrible but I would expect better performance from a 5 year old game.

Graphics

UI: B-

Character design: C

Environment: C

Animation/Avatar movement: C

The simple graphics and repeated mesh in a large sprawling environment gave me a feel of artistic emptiness. Cartoonish design and close to no choices in avatar design left me again with a plain joe and jane. The movements in battle are cookie cutter and lackluster. Much more could have been done with the areas surrounding areas, just plain hills with a river cutting through doesn’t give me the feeling of exploration. I did find some interesting little places though, I will show you more through this post.

The UI is simple, plain and unconfigurable; offers no customizability whatsoever. The UI does have a slot to put your skills into so you can use them in succession with just one button, much better for grinding.

Sound

Ambient: D

Interaction: D

Soundtrack: F

Why this was almost a fail for Flyff? Because I do not like listening to elevator music while playing a game, even though most people including myself turn off music and I turn to iTunes. I am so grateful for Paul Oakenfolds podcast! And the ambient sounds for the mobs and combat were dismal to non-existent. Whack, whack whack… waaaaaa! And the mob rolls over. Overall, it seems that sound was an afterthought to the developers of Flyff.

Community

Population: C

Helpful: D

Economy: C

I logged into a sea of personal shop bubbles and gold trader spam. Local chat in towns was a joke because of the amount of spam rolling through. It seems no one speaks unless its n whispers, guild and channel chat. I had no interaction until someone added me to a random guild, that is what saved Flyff from a total F in the category. However no one in the guild spoke English, that’s beside the point.

The economy to be based on player trade through shops, unless there is an auction house I couldn’t find. I read in an article that the game mechanics are set up that you will never receive armor or weapons you can use to promote trade. This in turn causes overpricing that I could see was true in some of the shops that I looked into.

There is a lot of players with shops set up, I also saw a few grinding in the field with me without even saying a word to each other. This game is a soloist dream in the early levels. If you are a socializing player like myself it will quickly have you reaching for the phone to take your mind off the grinding; there isn’t even any decent local chat to read.

Gameplay and Mechanics

Gameplay: C-

Mechanics: C-

You log into the game and start grinding. There are little to no quests, no quest assistance in your navigator or your log. The mobs are clumped in the fields in a succession of levels. You will kill a little spudnik to a regular spudnik to a giant spudnik until you are ready to move to the next area. Which are only a few feet away; I got bored of grinding I went exploring to find large areas barren of any type of “life”. I also found out that my character had a superjump and could jump straight up mountains and other parts of the geography.

Then I started to have fun with it, getting myself into random areas where I didn’t belong. I ended up running into a high level mob, got pwned and rezzed over at a higher level island. I did some exploring there until I found out I couldn’t handle the mobs, they were too high level. I re-rolled another VAGRANT! You will be able to take you 1st real “job” at 15 then another one at 60. There was no way I would ever see 60 but I gave 15 a run for its money.

To level the game seems to throw the grind in your face off the bat. There is PVP, but I witnessed no duels, but you can duel someone in the game. I was trying to talk to one guy to get a duel going, no luck. I don’t think he spoke English. Flyff does offer guild wars, arena battles and there is a PK server. If you are interested in reading more about the quests, mechanics or PVP check the Wiki; it was helpful for me.

 

 

 

Cost

The currency of choice ingame is penya and the item shop uses gPotatoes. I see the Gpot cards at any 7-11 or Target (pronounced Tar-jay) when I look at what they have in stock. So finding ways to use the cash shop wouldn’t be a problem. The translation to USD is $.01 to 1 gPotatoe. Cheap right? Well almost everything in the CS is at least a few hundred Gpots or better.

The CS or Cash shop as I call it seems to have many different items, from Amplification scrolls to wallpaper. Costumes are $10 - $18 for a set, they are permanent. The grinding bundles (that’s really what they are called) are $15 - $30 each, who knows how long they last. This seems massively expensive and again, I have no problem funding a hobby; but there is no way in the world I would drop hundreds of dollars into this game. And that’s what I can see happening with long term players.

Category grade: C (seems cheap and easy to buy stuff with Gpot cards, but once you get sucked in…)

Summary

I am a supporter of the theory that there is a game out there for everyone. But Flyff is not for me. I prefer a game with slightly more defined graphics and gameplay. I don’t mind the grind, but don’t make it a base mechanic of the game. I do need a community and if I didn’t want to talk to anyone, I would shut my phone off and play Fallout 3. Then I could really feel like the last man on earth, or close to it.

  I found most of the experience fun by exploring different areas; I even found a no-fly zone. Fighting mobs that were one shotting me and laughing about it to burn down the rest of the time I needed to write a clear, I said 8-10 hours and I am sticking to it. I just hope that the others aren’t as boring as this one was.

The Bottom Line

Overall: C-

Uninstalling (immediately) to make room for Regnum Online and never looking back. I left one character in a tree and the other in a sea of spam and I would not recommend it to others. I know that if someone wants to grind, just grind and only grind I might refer them. But none of the gamers that I know would speak to me again if I gave them Flyff as a referral. I like my friends, thank you.

Stay posted as I play Regnum, which of what I read is based out of Argentina. Wish me luck!

Play safe,

Inktomi

 

Power of 10 Free to Play: Cabal Online

Posted by Inktomi Tuesday January 19 2010 at 2:28AM
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   My goal is to try as many of the obscure ones for the one or maybe two undiscovered gems. I predict at least one will end up on my hard drive and may even get me to spend some money in a cash shop. I will be grading all of them and posting a short review for each.

After the ROSE Online fiasco that is still unresolved I turned my sites to the second on my list which was Cabal Online.

Stats
Origin: Korea
Free: Yes, free digital download
Item shop: Yes
Wiki: Yes
PVP: Yes
Active since: Korea 2005, North America 2008, EU 2006
Short description: Action RPG MMO


Functionality and Ease of Use
Technical support: - Not needed.
Ease of use: A
Functionality: A
Stability: A
Category grade: A


I went to the Cabal Online site, opened an account, downloaded and installed it without a hitch. I had to open a few ports and the game has run for about 10+ hours without any seizes or crashes to desktop.

Graphics
UI: C
Character design: C
Environment: B
Animation and Avatar Movement: A
Category grade: C

 I was actually surprised by the vibrant colors and the layout of the small areas in the beginning stages. The reason why I gave it a B in environment is that it seems that a lot of the background is repeated. You can see 100 of the same trees in an area called Bloody Ice, but I still like the fact that it will send me via teleports to different themed areas. Desert, snow and jungle are the three areas that I was in unless I was in an instanced timed quest, that room was just a cookie cutter four walls, a floor and a bunch of mobs.


Downside, the UI is not customizable at all but very simple. Many small windows showing skills, character stats and inventory. Everything is very readable and workable. I just like a customizable UI to give me extra buttons for my skills. And you do get a lot of skills.

There is strength in the character animations, all are different according to the skill that’s used. There are areas where people can beat on dummies and raise their skill points, I watched for a few minutes and was pretty impressed by the higher level animations. There was one where the guy leaped in the air, did a spin and came down in a brilliant blur of color. Very cool.

   The mobs are basic without being dull. A zombie looks like a zombie and a snake looks like a snake, the details are nice and colorful; unlike older games I have seen where the mob is 2 colors and one animation. These actually have different styles of attacks and you can tell the difference. I liked the look of the game.

    Is it as detailed as I seen other games? No, but it’s not a horror show and some of the higher level gear and costumes that players wear look great. However, the general design of the base character is very generic and you will start the game as either Plain Jane or Plain John. Your gear and pet is how you’re going to be able to discern yourself from other players.

Sound

Ambient: B

Interaction: B

Soundtrack: A-

Category Grade: B

I almost forgot about sound. What I found interesting about Cabal is that it has an OST jukebox on it's website with the theme music for different areas. And it's not bad, mostly alternative rockish sounding and an ambient trance-ish feel to it. A- because it can get repetitive, but not lower than that because it can be turned off very easily. Now if you could add in your own music, that would be a plus.

Besides that the sound isn't bad, nor is it stellar, but not cheezy as I said before.. The background music really saved this category.

Community
Population: B
Helpful: A
Economy: A
PVP: - not experienced
Category grade: A-


What can I say other than people play Cabal Online. After you log in you can choose 2 servers with up to 8+ different nodes to play in. The most populated one was Novice and all the others were populated also. When I logged in I saw other players running around doing quests, grinding (yes, it happens here) and dueling.


There are higher level players that will give out random buffs, mainly because it helps raise their magic skills. This is a nice mechanic of the game that helps everyone, same as in FFXI where you could stand in a hi-pop area and just give out buffs to raise your healing skills. The duelers were respectful and I saw some spam from bots, but it can be turned off and it’s not overly obnoxious.

Gold spammer bots is the difference between an A and a B for this category, I know it turns a lot of the western community off, but it is part of the economy. That is functioning and this could be a reason why the game is thriving. Almost all of the equipment isn’t bound which makes it resellable. I believe you can bind some pieces to a player, but that is reserved for higher level crafted pieces. There is a crafting and upgrading aspect of this game, by using force cores to pop in certain upgrades to a weapon or armor. Pets are also used and give the owner special bonuses.


As for the pvp, other than duels I haven’t seen much but then again, I am still young in the game. I know there are nation wars after level 52 and last for 1 hour every day. There is a main questline to gain access and after choosing one of two nations you can go at it with the opposing nation to give your nation better drop rates and experience in the PVE portions if your nation wins. There is a ranking system and personal rewards given to players who participate for special experience points to use to gain certain abilities. It sounds complicated, but it’s rather quite simple. If you are interested in reading more about the PVP, see the wiki and it will give you more information.

Game play and Mechanics
The reason I used those three words earlier to describe it is because it feels like a Diablo II or a Gauntlet type of game. Wait, wait, and wait! Before your head explodes… It is grindy, point and clicky but the way OGPlanet designed it is that the mobs respawn so quickly it can get intense. Once I figured this out I stocked up on pots and marched into an area and was zerged by zombies for 45 minutes with iTunes blasting Armin Van Burren’s newest State of Trance podcast.

It was a fun time and I gained a lot of exp fast without feeling the grind. Would I be able to do that until level 100+, I don’t know. But there are many different quests and they just pop up in the quest window as you gain levels and finish quests, very simple and to the point.

Zombpocalypse Now

This is a fast paced game, so if you are looking for immersion you might be disappointed. It stays true to its title “Revolution of Action”, there is many areas to explore and small instanced dungeons that you can use a special key to gain access to. All of the mobs are closely arranged in small groups around the map that progresses to higher level mobs that are reachable. This seems to be the way these Korean developers designed Cabal.

Let’s face it, some cultures like fast pace and no nonsense game play.


The gear setup is simple: armor and weapons are clearly marked according to class and stats to be able to wear it. There are many, many different variations and levels, but most of it seems to progress with your characters levels. Same with weapons, however you can use force cores and upgrades to further customize the stats on both armor and weapons.

There is also an item in the item shop that you can transfer the skin of one weapon/armor over the stats of another. Runes of magic has the same thing, want that really cool blinky blue sword you had at level 20 for you level 80 weapon, no problem!


Now, the skills…


You can buy your skills and swap them for newer ones in your skill window. When you put them into your hot bar though you will use them automatically, even pop potions when you mana gets low. That is a blessing and a curse in some aspects; you will go through pots like no tomorrow. You might use skills you don’t want to use if you don’t keep up on it, but it adds to the action and pace of the game. No longer mashing multiple buttons for attacks, it will happen automatically.

This mechanic I have a feeling could turn some people off, took me awhile to get used to and didn’t find a way to switch it off. While this adds to some customizability of your character, you are what you start out as and there isn’t a whole lot of room for uniqueness. But also not a lot of room for error either.


Game play: B
Mechanics: C
Category grade: C+


Cost
The in game currency is the Alz. The item shop currency is the Astro that’s translate to be worth .05$ USD to the Astro. Not very steep, but if you want one of these cool Astral bikes, be ready to drop 45 bucks for it. A 30 day premium service give you a lot along with increasing your skill points and experience gain weighs in at $8 a month. $7 under the average sub price and you will level faster!

Want that cool Praying Mantis pet? $5. Are you a crafter? Force cores between $20 and $5. Want to role-play a cowboy with your in game girlfriend? Saddle up on a Wild West package for $38.50. Yee hawww!


Granted it all seems expensive, but you can’t lose your equipment and much of what I seen is cosmetic. But again, if this game is your hobby and you are ready to work 4 real-time hours to save yourself 30 in game hours, I say do it.

What most item shops come down to is cosmetics, upgrades and MLH’s (mommy’s little helpers that will save you from grinding your life away).

   

Category grade: B- (some stuff is expensive but not intrusive, I could play without spending a dime and an $8 sub is cheap.)


 Summary
I was actually pleasantly surprised with Cabal Online. It’s mind-blowingly simple as the PC Gamer UK described it yet fun and easy to learn. If you like faster pace, smaller maps and bright costumes this could be a good ‘tweener’ (be-tween the game I’m bored of and the one that’s not released yet) for you.

Cabal Online gets to the point and gives you few options with much room for growth. Over 100 levels of grindy goodness making it a nice place to visit but would you want to live there?


The Bottom Line

Cabal Online: B-


I am going to keep it on the drive for now, its fun but we have still another 8 games to preview. Cabal Online has secured its place in the finals but I’m not sure it’s a long termer. Only time will tell.
Since we are on the topic of grinding: Tomorrow we get to play Flyff for 10 hours!


Until then…
Play safe,
Inktomi
 

The “Power of 10” F2P Challenge.

Posted by Inktomi Monday January 18 2010 at 3:32AM
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Starting today I decided to try something different.

Basically I am taking 10 decently rated free to play games and playing all of them within a 4 week period.

My goal is to try as many of the obscure ones for the one or maybe two undiscovered gems. I predict at least one will end up on my hard drive and may even get me to spend some money in a cash shop. I will be grading all of them and posting a short review for each.

But here are the parameters (rules) that I am judging these games against.

1)      You have to play each for at least 8-10 hours. In a case of a really bad game that could be torture.

2)      10 different games, of course.

3)      It can be a game you have played in the past.

4)      It has to be a legitimate free to play game, no subscription games with the 14-30 days trial.

5)      Cannot be in any beta stage.

 

It’s that simple.

I will state if I needed to spend any money in the cash shop, I feel that is important to give an honest point of view of the experience.

Why I decided on the 10 hour minimum: there has been a lot of debating on how long someone has to play before they can give a good point of view. From what I’ve read from numerous websites dedicated to reviewing games anywhere between 10-24 hours is enough. You need to at least be able to get out of a newbie zone.

I’ve already found a loser and it’s the first day. If you can’t get the game to run on your rig, after trying to troubleshoot it numerous times, then the games’ an automatic fail. So it’s now its 1 down and 9 to go.

Who failed?

ROSE Online.

My POV: When after 2 downloads, 3 installations, scouring the FAQ and a petition to the support department I cannot get the game to start. It got stuck at the screen showing a little blue bear, giving me options to check my technical specs. Unfortunately it’s all out of place and I can’t get past it I checked my specs against the websites and it passes. Don’t even think it’s my computer, my rig runs EVERYTHING. I might be able to bypass it in the future and I wanted to keep ROSE on the list, I was actually looking forward to trying it.

ROSE Online

Technical support: F

Ease of use: F

Functionality: F

Overall Grade: F

Edit: I am only rating ROSE Online on my current experience with the game. This could change after I spend my 8-10 hours on the game, but this is where it stands now. 

Keep checking back for news, updates and more reviews. If anyone wants to get involved or send me suggestions for a game either post here or email me. It’s going to be fun!

Until then…

Play safe,

Frank

Hulkageddon II: Making mining a contact sport.

Posted by Inktomi Sunday January 17 2010 at 2:16AM
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EVE Online: The recent player run pvp contest comes to a close on January 14, 2010. This is the second installment of Helicity Boson's declaration of open season on miners in EVE Online. Quotes of the damage and casualties taken directly from the Hulkageddon II website.

 


 

And that, as they say is that! After countless forum whines, hatemails, exploding people and ships, we have finally come to the end of the road for this iteration of Hulkageddon.

And I can safely say, it’s been a resounding success beyond my highest expectations!

The Damage:

After our week of preying on the defenseless, the stupid, or the plain braindead, we come to the following:

1220 Exhumers

332 Barges

12 Orcas

240 capsules

(and one Carrier, which is a bit silly, but I’m leaving it cos it’s cool)

According to the Griefwatch killboard, which undervalues exhumers significantly, this brings the damage inflicted to:

278,865,104,560 ISK

Needless to say, that is a poo-poo load of damage inflicted.

Now I’m going to spend a lot of time sorting out who won what, you can help by evemailing Hulkageddon Jackpot if you think you (or someone else) has completed an achievement. I’ll be handing out the prizes early next week!

Thank you all for joining, and making this event such a blast and a success! 

- Helicity Boson of The Python Cartel


 

 278 Billion Isk to go up in smoke and the chaps that now how to replace a ship worth over 1 billion isk. And in doing a little bit of simple math that works out to be $19,000 in USD worth of PLEX's that can be sold for cold hard cash.

Is your cash supply endless? I wish mine was.

The good thing is that EVE Online is on of the only games that can support this type of creativity and PvP element in an MMO. 

Keep an eye on this blog for the winners to be announced soon.

Until then...

Play safe.

Frank

 

 

Healers: What would we do without them?

Posted by Inktomi Thursday January 14 2010 at 7:53PM
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To answer that question for the MMORPG player: Nothing. We would be buying potions buy the truckload and using good skill/stat points in spells for healing ourselves, instead of whoopassnes. Playing the healing class is one of my guilty pleasures in gaming. It's fun to see the party perform well when they are getting good support from the back row and I don't mind doing it.

Although, they seem to get a little more brazen and sometimes stupid, testing the healers limits and reflexes is not something you want to do. The downside of this is if anything does go wrong, like hearing "Oh, shizz, I just aggroed the whole room!" If you don't pull it off, run out of mana or heavens forbid the tank dies: it's all your fault.

Quite a large mantle to carry around with you, along with a million manapotions.

Side Note:Don't get me wrong, I love EVE. I am a fulltime supporter of this game, to me it's the best MMORPG out there. I didn't need anyone to tell me that, I found out for myself. I just needed a break from the Wormhole grind and looking to enjoy a few different games before a different grind starts soon: college. When I get tired of a pirate shooting space cowboy I turn to something a little more laid back. Keeping a whole party of people alive.

What am I looking into to fill that gap? 

 Dragon Age: Origins

   I know, not even a legitamate MMORPG. Shame on me! Now I was playing through as a run of the mill human, noble warrior. I know, boorrrirrinnnggggg. I was going through poultices (health pots) faster than you can say chicken cutlets. I hadn't picked up Wynne (the npc healer) yet and was just getting into some of the premium content. Wardens Peak and I was in the midst of aquiring Shale, your friendly neighborhood Golem, those quests were kicking meh behind. I decided I wanted to re-roll.

Cut scene: A few couples are at the movies over the weekend and I was talking to my gamer friend who is a girl and she was raving about DA:O to me. She said she had the Prima strategy guide and would loan it to me. Hey, no problem, I am not above using a strat guide, the game was actually kicking my booty a little bit.

I discovered how much of the game I was missing and re-rolled a healer. When I am not tanking in an MMO and inflicting pain, I prefer a cleric/priest/white mage etc class. I found out long ago how indispensable the healing class is in any RPG. In MMORPG's, they are critical, a good healer could turn a good party into an awesome one if he/she's on their game.

And the game is going so much better now. Their is no death penalty in DA:O except for starting over from a save. But I couldn't help to realize how much of a difference it made to getting through the lower level content. At the end of the day I was having more fun, and thats why we play these games right? Right? OK, but it's ONE of the reasons at least.

I'm sure this is the same in any game, but reminded me of some of the other games that I ran the triage route. 

Final Fantasy XI: I had a taru Blackmage/Whitemage around 65 on both. BLM was fun, but getting a party was so much easier when I listed myself as WHM/BLM. FFXI is a game that made every class important, however there was a few that became mandatory in parties.

Surprisingly, it wasn't what you might think. Redmages became the most sought after class when I played because of the Refresh spell, regain mana over ticks. Very, very useful in long fights and intense leveling parties. My huge Galka Paladin sadly got left in the dust because it was hardest to find a group as that, I wan't to experience the content. FFXI had some great content back then.

Runes of Magic: 50 priest/knight. Fun, it was a good class to roll into open beta with. When most people were caught up in the Rogue/Ranger nerf system, good healers were hard to come by. I was leveling relatively quick so I became a sought after person to have on raids/parties. And I got a lot of good gear early because it was cloth with wisdom, useless to 90% of the party except me. Epiced out at 40 during open beta, Ah-Ha!

Anarchy Online: Just my luck, I rolled the Martial Artist to find out that it had very good healing spells. I was told to just punch and heal. That's what I did and leveled up pretty fast. AO was a fun game, very huge sprawling maps that are hard to get through without some floating or flying vehicle. The graphics were a bit outdated and most of the community was on endgame content. I still managed to land a good clan and enjoy myself. This made it a little easier to find groups and the mission rolling system made up for it on off times. 

I have a close friend who's at the endgame stage of Aion as a priest. She loves it and is having the time of her life. Don't get me wrong, healing as a full time job is fun, but sometimes it's good to be on the frontline grabbing glory. But without a strong healer in the back, you don't stand a chance.

Three cheers for the squishies that keep us alive and looting!

Until then...

Play safe,

Frank

Play it again in 2010: A look back at '09, the year that was.

Posted by Inktomi Tuesday January 12 2010 at 3:00AM
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As I blow the dust off of my MMORPG.com blog I can't help to look back at the past year with some fond memories. Here's some Kudos and Canning of the high (and low) points of last year, along with a look forward.

Kudos 2: MMORPG.com. A good website with a great staff. This site has an smart, intuitive and vibrant community. With a firm hand the moderators corral the masses while giving us up to the minute news and information on our favorite pastime: online gaming.

Canning: Me. I sold out. I started writing on another website after being dazzled by being approached to get paid to write. Only to find out that a million other people were approached as well. I wasn't as special as I thought I was. lol, live and learn. Blog-fail.

Kudos 2: Icarus Studios, makers of Fallen Earth. For pulling off one of the biggest sleeper hits of 2009. After a long and successful beta, the community responds by supporting the game that is actually bring some refreshing changes to the field.

Canning: Global Agenda. I was in the closed beta until I ran into some windows xp issues that disabled me from continuing. When contacted the staff and posting in the forums, I got an 'oh well' answer and dropped the beta. Beta-Fail and I will not support this game.

Kudos 2: Turbine Studios. What seemed as an act of desperation they ported Dungeons and Dragons Online over to Free-to-play (try). This jumpstarted the games popularity and might even inspire other studios to do the same with their struggling titles. Vanguard, I am talking to you.

Canning: Cryptic Studios and Champion Online. After a bleeding launch and much ado over subscription deals they end up being a 'cool-to-try and play with the character creator game'. Figure it out Cryptic, it can't be RMT and Sub, pick your poison and make hay while the sun is shining. DCUO and Marvel Universe are coming...

Kudos 2: I have to hand it to Beau Turkey. He is really working hard to become an internet celebrity. He's got a successful podcast, started a community and he writes for disabled gamers as a game journalist. I know we have had our issues and I might of said some mean things, because thats what I do when I disagree with someone point of view. Don't judge me, I am not perfect! 

Canning: Tobold. Being a fan for almost all of 2009 of what I thought was one of the most well written and intellectual blogs about video games. I was suddenly turned off when he began using it as a soapbox to lob bombs at another writers blog. Beau did the same thing in his podcast and it turned me off. I don't like it when you use your position and public influence to knock someone else. Blog-fail 2.0

Kudos 2: Aion. It is a great game. I didn't continue after beta and decided to play EVE instead.

Canning: Me, because I left Aion after beta and decided to play EVE instead. Gamer-fail.

Kudos 2: Funcom. They are bleeding cash and struggling to keep their heads above water with two 2 titles that are hemmoraging subscribers. With the company continuing to make improvements on Anarchy Online and Age of Conan, they make a bold move forward by announcing their third title. An all new and much anticipated 'The Secret World' due out sometime in 2010. Maybe...

Canning: Blizzard for Cataclysm. Because you just can't break up the Barrens. It's tradition at this point. I don't care who you blow up, but leave the barrens alone. Barrens-chat-fail.

Kudos 2: Sony. For continuing one of the best franchises in RPG history, stealing the show at E3 09 and announcing FFXIV. Even though it's going to kill FFIX, I think it was time for a change. As a big fan of FFIX I am also looking forward to it. Now all I need is a PS3 and I am good to go.

Canning: Bethesda. What the heck is going on with the Fallout MMO>?< Studio-contract-fail.

Kudos 2: Duke Nukem Forever. One of the best video game "PSYCHE, made ya look!" in history.

Canning: Avatar: The Game. For not being released as an MMO. OH WAIT! They did, it's called Ryzom!

Kudos 2: CCP. I have to say after playing EVE for a few months, it really is an awesome game. This company is evolving and will continue to show it through their product; don't believe me then heres some Dust 514 in your face!

That's enough of the reflecting, now lets look forward to some predictions for the coming year.

I predict...The Secret World will not be released this year.

I predict... Aion will reach 7 million subs in the US after it changes the content to a more western friendly non-grinding approach.

I predict... Beau Turkey will have his own TV show. No kidding, just wait, he's relentless.

I predict... Fallen Earth will hit 1 million subs this year. Yeah, thats about right, and it will shock you all.

I predict... the closure of more vanguard, warhammer online and maybe even a few wow servers.

I predict... Darkfall will survive and continue to grow, but will always be the J.R. Ewing of MMORPG's. Say it after me, "Darkfall is a good game." And I will play Darkfall this year...wait...I will?

I predict... a PS3 in my future and more blogposts on MMORPG.com!

I predict... that there will be more Hulkageddon's in EVE online, and with EVE being a PVP game, it will make mining a contact sport instead of something you can use a macro for.

So this is all my crystal ball had for me, I want to say that I am looking forward to a long and fun year with you and MMORGP.com. 

Play safe,

Inktomi