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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

Star Wars: The Old Republic Pre-Order Rundown

Posted by Inktomi Thursday July 21 2011 at 1:00PM
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Bioware

Collectors Edition:

$149.99

Here's what you get with every pre-order:

  • Early game access (gogo headstart!)
  • Color Stone (Changes weapon effect)
  • 30 Days of Game time (standard)
These benefits are also offered with Standard and Digital Deluxe Editions.
 
But...you also get with the Limited Collectors Edition and Digital Deluxe Editions, five virtual items:
 
  • Flare Gun (Waht?)
  • Training Droid 
  • Holodancer (Hot)
  • Holocam 
  • STAP (Whats a STAP? An ingame vehicle, see pic below)
Someone STAP me from buying this.
 
But that's not all folks! Items exclusive to the Limited Collectors Edition as follows:
 
  • Exclusive Gentle Giant Darth Malgus Statue (He's gentle!)
  • Collectible metal case for game disks
  • The Journal of Master Gnost-Dural as annotated by Satele Shan
  • The Old Republic Galaxy Map (That sounds cool)
  • Custom Security Authorization Key 
  • Music of SW:TOR (so you can geek out on your ipod while AFK)
  • High Quality Collectors Editon Box (That will sit in your closet or shelf)
Wait, wait...if you shop now you can also get these two EXCLUSIVE virtual items!!!
 
  • Mouse Droid (now all you need is a Cat Droid and you can have the Tom and Jerry set)
  • Exlusive Collectors Editon Store that comes stat with an NPC that sells items available only to purchasers of the collector edition. (Them better be gold in them thar hills!)
The Pre-order is available on the EA's Digital Digital Distribution Manager, Origin or through many retail partners.
 
Got all that?
 
IMO: They spent $300 million dollars in the creation of the SW:TOR MMORPG and someone has got to pay for it. If you are a diehard Star Wars fan, this will be for you. If you need the perks in the early levels, it would also be something you might want to look into. From what I hear that other members have had problems with pre-ordering and that they get feedback that THERE IS A GOOD CHANCE that they might get a pre-order. 
 
 
It looks like there is going to be a large amount of pre-orders and limited supply. If this is something you are really interested in, I have to say better act soon. For me, I am not a diehard Star Wars fanatic, even though I grew up on it, I am still waiting for release. 
 
The Dollars and Sense
 
Is it worth it? Well, the game will run you $60 stat, and that includes a free month so that less $15, but that is a given in box sales nowadays. All the other fluff is running you an extra $75. Each of the other items being virtual and real (the quality box included) breaks down to $5 each. Is each one of those items worth $5 in the scheme of things? If you were going to buy them from a virtual store they might run you more or less. Who knows what a virtual mouse droid is worth...its like a fake of a fake. I've seen people pay more for less.
 
You can click the picture above for the direct link to the store. This is not a sales pitch, but a friendly warning that if you want it now, you better make a move. Remember: Buyer beware, you are going to get what you pay for, you are dealing with EA. Release is rumored to be sometime *between now and the end of the year and the beta schedule has already begun. I have a gut feeling that they are going to need a bigger boat. 
 
By the pricking of my thumbs...
 
Play safe,
 
Inktomi
 
* correction from intel recieved from member, Kothoses, thanks for the heads up. I'm in the SWTOR thread right now and don't see any confirmation of the beta. If anyone can confirm this please let me know, I took his word for it. I am not a perfect writer. Now if I was perfect, I would already have a book deal.
 
* From an EA investor relation release, "BioWare also proudly announced today that Star WarsThe Old Republic will open "Beta Test Weekends" starting this September. These weekend play sessions will be open to selected players worldwide and create an opportunity for fans to get a sneak peek of the epic stories, worlds, quests, battles and characters in the game."
 
and...
 
* "We are targeting Star Wars: The Old Republic to be one of the biggest launches of holiday 2011," said Dr. Ray Muzyka, Group General Manager and Co-Founder, BioWare and Senior Vice President, Electronic Arts
 
Again, I might be wrong...

What's Missing from Metacritic

Posted by Inktomi Monday July 18 2011 at 11:36AM
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 Metacritic, the popular aggregator website has been making the news lately since the co-founder and editor of game reviews, Marc Doyle, spoke publicly via Skype on the A Jump, B Shoots Podcast. Metacritic is an aggregator that collects critical review scores for different types of media, such as games, music and movies. Then Metacritic applies a weighted average and posts that average in an easy to read, color coded format called a Metascore along with a blurb of the article and a link to the original review. The website has often been under fire for becoming the de-facto standard ratings system on the internet and that Metacritic ratings are incomplete as they do not incorporate every reviewing website, only the ones they choose. Looking at the overall ratings for games in general and then picking out smaller samplings of ratings particular to MMORPG’s I discovered just how flawed and incomplete Metacritics ratings are for this genre in particular. 

The Power of the Meta

 
When one is considering on making a new purchase for themselves, especially a new MMORPG, they are immediately faced with the question, “Which is the best and what is worth the money?” For some of us that are veterans of the gaming online gaming arena, we know what to look for, who to talk to and how to go about it with the most limited risk. Yet, for some new to MMORPG’s can easily become confused and inundated with opinions and advertisements. Enter Metacritic, who single handedly collects reviews from some large, well known websites and some smaller ones as well. Now the consumer has a one-stop-shop for all skinny on a new MMORPG or an older one. Many consumers can be easily swayed by a metascore, these scores have to be correct in order for a consumer to make the most informed decision when approaching a new purchase.
 
Lack of Evolution 
 
One of the problem’s with Metacritic’s scoring system for MMORPG’s is the fact that they do not incorporate re-reviews of existing games, just post the immediate reviews that were released simultaneously with the game. MMORPG’s have the nasty habit of changing over time, especially with the new trend of subscription based games adopting the new Free-to-play subscription model. Take into consideration Dungeons & Dragons Online, by Turbine Inc. was one of the first games to make the power move to free-to-play status, many changes were made to the game. The latest reviews posted on Metacritic are dated 2006, that’s quite a few years ago and Turbine Inc. has made many improvements to this game. The latest re-review on our own MMORPG.com rates this 8 for great! This stands in line with some of the older reviews on Metacritic, yet the weighted score is still a respectable 74, dragged down by some reviewers that gave D & D Online scores of 60 or lower. Now if those other review sites and Metacritic were as insightful and intuitive as MMORPG.com and re-reviewed the new, improved Dungeons & Dragons Online, then we might see a higher overall weighted score of 80, or above. As time goes on, many MMORPG developers make sweeping changes to their existing games by ways of patches and expansions; many have reviews of their expansions, yet not applied to the original games score. Re-review and averaging in new scores for new content for MMORPG’s would be something for Metacritic to look at. 
 
The Darkfall Dilemma and the Case of the Missing Scores
 
 
When looking through Metacritic for scoring of popular MMORPG’s I discovered some games that were missing metascores and that disabled the game from showing weighted average. Darkfall was one of the games that I found to have 2 scores missing from their average and one of the reviews used was the controversial Eurogamer review that has been retracted and issued a re-review. To bring it up to speed in short form: a game reviewer from Eurogamer gave Darkfall a score of a 2; Tasos Flamboras, associate producer of Darkfall Online, looked through log records and announced that the reviewer was logged in for a total of 3 hours with most of that time be in the character creation screen. Eurogamer then issued an apology and offered a re-review that Tasos turned down. Eurogamer then re-reviewed Darkfall anyway and issued it a 4. You can read both reviews on the Eurogamer website. I also know for a fact that some of their accepted websites have issued reviews for Darkfall and those haven’t been added to the average. This inconsistency has also affected a game such as Aion as the new Assault on Balaurea expansion hasn’t been issued any additional review scores to enable it to have a proper weighted average. These types of holes need to be filled before Metacritic announces to the game review industry what it needs to review, because some reviews are not added to the average and that gives consumers an incomplete picture of the product.
 
WE do need to review EVERYTHING
 
Picture Compliments of Joystickdivision.comOne thing I have to agree with Marc Doyle (picture right) that he mentioned in the interview with the A Jumps, B Shoots podcast is that he said, “We need to review all the S*&t.” I tend to agree with him for the fact that some games listed here and are functional MMORPG’s such as Xsyon and Wurm Online don’t even have entries on Metacritic. The game Valkyrie Sky by Yolim Entertainment has an entry, but not one single review listed. It is important to give a complete picture of ALL games in order to have a correct weighted average. Not to say that any of these games are bad, but it sometimes takes one game to either have the worst score to determine the average. Due to this, Metacritics average scores page is incomplete, inconclusive and the review sites such as our own MMORPG.com need to fill in those blanks. There is also a side column for user scores, we as players, need to step up and look at everything as a whole. Endure the hours it takes to give something a real review, post an honest point of view and fill in the blanks with some professional content where the pro’s fall short.
 
Fallen Earth IS NOT LIKE Fallout 3
 
MMORPG’s, MMOG’s and online games in general need their own category listed on Metacritic. If you look through all the MMORPG’s that are listed on Metacritic, they all fall into the same category: Role-playing PC games. That is a correct assumption, that’s exactly what MMORPG’s are in essence, but they are a vastly different. MMORPG’s count on players to be part of the content, while single-player games count on only one player to interact with the AI of the game. MMORPG’s evolve over time and change, while a single player game might have some additional DLC content, more often those types of games have the developing studio release a sequel and stop development for the previous game. Single player role-playing games more often than not have a beginning and an end, meanwhile MMORPG’s are an ongoing process of character development and do not ever end, unless the player stops paying for the subscription and paying for the game. That brings up the last point that most MMORPG’s have a subscription cost or an item mall, some type of method that the player will have to pay additional money to play the game. This is a big difference between both the single player and online genre. One type of game will continuously require additional investment of the player to enjoy the game, meanwhile one does not. This is really important when a player is making the decision to buy into a new online game as they need to know they are getting the most for their money.
 
If someone chooses to use Metacritic as a reference guide, then they should be able to compare all the games of the same genre together in one category. A consumer has the right to see complete and updated metascores for game reviews, since as time goes on many online games go through deep changes. All games in the same space need to be reviewed so the consumer can have a proper average, not just a top heavy average weighted by all the most popular games. If Metacritic was able to implement all of these changes then it would give that their aggregated scores as well as the game review industry more credibility as a whole. As a consumer, I want to see the whole complete picture, all the pretty and the ugly too, in full, when making my decisions. 

How to do microtransactions RIGHT, as told by the Extra Credits Crew

Posted by Inktomi Friday July 15 2011 at 1:21PM
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Click the pic or the link below.

http://penny-arcade.com/patv/episode/microtransactions

 Extra Credits : Microtransactions

 
Have we heard enough about the monocle? Not quite. The guys over at Extra Credits join the tar and feathering of CCP. I've been watching these guys for a while now. They are usually on the money with their outlook on games development and they hit the nail on the head in this episode on the dreaded microtransactions. This sums up my stance on it.
 
Enjoy,
Inktomi
 
 
 
 

Taking a Look at The Secret World's Impressive User Interface.

Posted by Inktomi Wednesday July 13 2011 at 4:42AM
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Overhead map view of  the The Secret Worlds EA showcased mission: Dead in the Water.

                      The UI  or User Interface is where we connect to our machines and communicate through our technology. UI is also a big part of how players interact with video games. In all video games and most mmorpg’s UI can be a strong point if it is built and handles well, or a deal breaker if it is unwieldy or handles poorly. Many a game has fell under the reviewers axe by citing “poor clunky interface” or “the game would have been great only if the game had a better UI.”
 
This week Funcom had a chance to strut their stuff and show some cards for their new mmorpg in development, The Secret World, at the EA Studio Showcase in California. After watching this video released by Gamespot.com for Ragnar Tørnquist’s upcoming reality-horror-conspiracy theorists dream game, I noticed that the game had terrific graphics, an interesting skill system and hot sledgehammer-toting blondes with thong tan-lines.
 
Before I digress any further…
 
Nice hammer ya' got there lady.
 
Gamespot treated us with an 18 minute video showing a small group of five players going through a dungeon on Solomon Island located somewhere in the fictional location of Kingsmouth.
At first notice the UI looks sleek and minimal in design, which is favorable for the players who will be joining the The Secret World community through XBOX. Our intrepid blonde walks up to a few persons-in-black holding what looked like iPads. Treated with a well voiced cut-scene she accepts the mission, signs a release form and walks over to a car where there is an overview map of the mission. She then jumps into a way-cool helicopter and is whisked away to join her other operatives.
 
On the left, the mission, the middle is the target area and on the left is the party overview.
 
The map looked as if it had some realistic terrain detail may remind you of Google Maps alternate view of the streets. The mission o0bjectives on the map looked very modern and was easy to read. How many times have we been grateful to have a halfway decent map layout of a quest objective only to be met with terrain difficulties when we finally arrived at the location.
 
 
After killing a few trash mobs Buffy the Zombie-slayer and Co. met up with their first boss battle. A Norwegian Zombie Caster who electrified the water under our heroes feet and casted black storm cloud area-of-effect spells. Looking at the UI from the combat point of view I got a chance to see how the skills worked in succession. Looks like there was not global cool downs and every skill was able to be used on the fly and in motion, this includes casting as well.
 
The players’ health bar was shown on the bottom left and all buffs or DoTs that have been applied were shown on the right. Under that is a red status bar depicting the health of the assailant in question. If you look under the players health bar on the left you can see dim icons that looked like mail and other options. All damage applied to the monster as well as damage mitigated appeared over its had a rolling pop-up reading.
 
Drag and drop goodness!
 
After the group swiftly did away with the queen of the zombies our thong-wearing heroine decides that she wants to change up her tactic a little bit. She stops over at what looks like a burning bush called an “anima well” to open up her skill wheel or as Funcom has named it the Hive.
 
Funcom has already stated that there will be no levels or classes in the game, but will offer horizontal and vertical progression. The vertical comes from equipping more powerful weapons since there is not armor in the game and all clothes are simply for show. Thank Heavens for short midriff shirts!
 
On the right is The Hive, where players can use their skillpoints they accumulate going through the missions, killing monsters or solving puzzles. A player can apply those skillpoints in any path they choose. The outer rim looks like it broken into three categories: Magic, Melee and Ranged skills. As you progress through that area you unlock different skill deeper into The Hive. Blondie came equipped with using only 65 skillpoints that accounts for under 5% of the total number of base skills. Doing some simple high-school math that makes it 13,000 skillpoints to fill the entire Hive to 100%? If anyone has a better speculation let me know.
 
After dragging and dropping the skills from the left column into one of the 7 active slots shown on the right and changing few of the 7 passive on the left the player driving the blonde was ready to head out. Two things I noticed, one being the ease of on-the-fly adaptability that this new skill system offers players. No longer are we forced to be stuck with skills that weren’t explained correctly. You can easily read on the left in a very short synopsis what it does and can change to fit any situation. What I would have done for the ability to switch out my skill tree on the fly like that. I do realize that there will be charges and costs along the way if a player wants to reset skillpoints; well, at least I hope there will be.
 
Behold, H.P. Lovecraft’s poodle!
 
 
In past interviews, project lead and Funcom thinktank, Ragnar Tørnquist explained that these skills will have a resounding effect on party members and can be combined to create a different effect. Simple Math 2.0 Fire + Storm = Firestorm? At the moment they we know that there are five schools of magic and three were represented in the gamespot video; Bloodmagic, Elementalist and Chaos. On the left was a row of skills coinciding with the spoke of the skill wheel accessed on the left. Some were unlock and swappable while some below it were still given details and definition, but were locked. The skills listed on the left looked very simple and self explanatory: Blazing Speed, Power Surge and Anima Surge were some of the skills that were selected for the upcoming fight.
                                     

Then boss put of a fight and there was some add-killing, tanking and spanking fun for a few minutes but it ended up rolling over. Now for the Phat Lootz, the narrator claimed, approaching a glowing green box in a trailer the player was met with a password prompt. No more looting corpses it looks like. But interestingly enough, you might have to go online to find the codes to break open these bad boys, but the one in the video was posted inconspicuously on the side of the trailer.
 
I noticed that on the left side there was a progression reached to the third tier of “Dead in the Water” which was the mission that the group showcased. Below I gave another shot of the player accessed overhead map, the group ended up leaving ¾’s done. I though about how lame, not even finishing the mission and then it changed to a cutscene that ended with…
 
That’s all I wanted to talk about the UI. It seems that Funcom is going with the super-sleek high-tech modern approach to the gameworld as well as the way the player interacts with it. There was many other smaller things you can pick up if you can tear your eyes away from the environment, smooth gameplay and point-n-click combat that disappointed me. I was hoping for something more visceral, but if the game still continues with the way its shaping up to be, I’m a buyer. UI means a ton to me and can make or break a game for me. I liked Darkfall, but hated the UI, many people hated FFXI, but I loved the UI. It looks like Funcom is onto something new and refreshing that this industry and community needed, we shall see, we have until next year to wait.
Rawr!
 
If you are interested in following up on The Secret World, I posted a group of link to other interviews and news announcements around the interwebs. 
 
Until then,
Play safe
Inktomi
 
 
 
 
 
The TSW Forums, where its all speculation, all the time.

Modmode: Beyond Vanilla - The Persistent Worlds of Neverwinter Nights 2

Posted by Inktomi Saturday July 9 2011 at 8:43PM
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Recently, one of my favorite writers on MMORPG wrote an article about the new Neverwinter MMORPG being in development by Cryptic Studios being Cryptics last stand. After reading Joe Iuliani's write-up mentioning Neverwinter will offer Player Generated Content made available to play through The Foundry. I think that Cryptic might have a chance with their rendition of the popular Neverwinter Universe. Two things that brought up in my mind was the Architect Manager of City of Heroes/Villains that let players customize small instanced modules that other players would play and rate. For popular modules it was possible to have enough votes to make it into the editors choice category. Another chord that Iuliani’s article struck was the persistent worlds of Forgotten Realms: Neverwinter Nights 2 (NWN2).
 
 It’s a funny thing since NWN2 Platinum Edition went on sale today through Steams’ Summer Sale for a whopping $6.80, since this story has been rolling around in my head, I figured it was now or never (winter). I’m sure you’re looking at me saying “But NWN2 is not an MMO, you fool!” Well you’re right, sort of. NWN2 has a single player campaign modules and a few expansion bundled into the Platinum Edition. But also offers a multiplayer function as with the first game, NWN2 players can invite or join other players’ campaigns for cooperative game play. The best part of that function is the ability to join a persistent world created and hosted on a player owned server.
 
The persistent world (PW) feature is how NWN2 breaches the category of cRPG (single player) to MMORPG status (sort of.) These PW’s usually custom made modifications made with the developers tools offered with the NWN2 game. Many PW’s have customized game play that caters to a wide range of play styles that can be viewed before entering the world. Some are built for heavy role-playing, some are built as a story driven campaign and some are more of a hack-n-slash action style game play that are created to advance a character quickly so that player can experience it without taking forever to level.
 
My two favorite PW’s that I have been patronizing over the years are Brian Blooms’ Realm of Trinity (RoT) and Legends of Arcadia (LoA) hosted and created by Stump and co. Both are complete overhauls created completely by the hosts and their teams, completely free to play, though you can donate to them of you choose. Even though both of these PW’s are built by nonprofessionals, they totally have a professional feel about them that make you wonder why the developing company of NWN2 didn’t try to think of this first. This is one of the reasons why I support modders, they think like players, simply because they are players.
 
Where's the ugly?
 
The Realm of Trinity is a role-play server that plays as more of a story driven campaign. The campaign is a completely original design created by the moderator Brian Bloom, who has kept the story fresh with ongoing updates and a very healthy, stable server. It’s a fun PW that doesn’t force the player to grind to advance, simply follow the storyline quests or divulge in some of the many side quests that are offered by a NPC’s across a wide range of decent sized zones. Brian and his fellow DM’s is a great bunch of guys who are very helpful and considerate to the new players that wander into their world. The DM’s (Dungeon Masters) put on regular events and there is often one available for a question here and there.
 
The community, although sometimes on the smaller side, is very helpful and often looking to group up for content or to help a player through a tough spot in the campaign. I finished the original campaign with a few higher level characters, even though it was fun, I felt as if it was a bit rushed at spots and I could do the most just to keep up.
 
All the armor is customizable either with enchants or aesthetically through either NPC’s are a tool given to the player that is placed in your bag upon entering. It does take away from some of the immersion value, but it’s nice to be able to customize weapons or armor on the fly. There are also a D20, a character save tool, a teleport to the main city and a few others.
 
My other favorite PW is Legends of Arcadia, this is an action server. Another totally custom design that offers a faster paced style of game play that is heavily focused on character progression and PvP. The server offers the same wide variety of races and classes as with Rot and some of the same customizing tools as well. One of the more interesting aspects of LoA, is the ability to put a bounty on a players head for other players to try and collect. No matter the level of the character, if you have a bounty you are up to get snuffed by anyone who chooses. This is an option that is offered by EVE Online, but I feel should be offered in every other MMO, this would limit the level of D-baggery if you found out that all of a sudden you were a marked man (or woman) by someone you mouthed off to.
 
Gangs all here.
 
I don’t think that’s what LoA had in mind; it’s a server that offers a wide range of areas you can explore and/or grind you character through. There are some rules that apply and most are common sense: Don’t be a jerk, kill everything you spawn, loot every drop and so forth. There is a banner at the beginning of the world you can read them all and there is often a moderator/DM available if anyone needs help. The community does have regular 35-40 players consistently, they are also very helpful and fun group that know all the good spots and tough bosses.
 
Both servers have endgame content, DM run events and the ability to advance your character beyond the normal level cap if you choose to dedicate yourself to one toon. I for one have alt-itus and try a wide range of classes, but often find myself as a rogue type or battle-priest; I guess it’s the MMO in me.
 
If you are interested in trying out either of these servers or some of the many others, make sure that you have both the original NWN2 game as well as both of the expansions, Mask of the Betrayer and Storm of Zehir. They are both bundled into the platinum edition and most of the other servers ask if the players have them installed.  Installed directly from the games built in installer, used to be another program used called Worldgate used to install these mods to make them playable, now modding is a lot more streamlined and user friendly. Both or traditionally NOT MMO's, don't offer living breathing economies, huge endgame raids, mounts and monthly subscriptions; other than a donation here and there, they are completely free and play like MMO's
 
I do hope you get a chance to try them out for anything other than to see the great lengths that these modders go to create a fun and interesting place to play NWN2. With some hope and maybe some forward thinking, I would love to see Cryptic tap some of these amateur resources in order to use some of the creative talent that we have in our community. I am thinking The Foundry will offer more along the lines of small bite-size chunks of content as offered through modules. If The Foundry in Cryptics’ Neverwinter is not limited to size or population, creating a world within a world would something interesting to see made possible by the community.
 
At the time of this writing, there are 16 (now 4) hours left on the Steam sale….tick…tick…tick…
 
Play safe,
Inktomi

Freedom in Online Gaming.

Posted by Inktomi Monday July 4 2011 at 10:41PM
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As a long Independence Holiday Weekend winds down, after the smell of sulfur from the fireworks dies away, the food from all the Bar-B-Que gets digested, its time to stagger home and end the day off with a little session of gaming. What to play? So many choices we have now since many great MMORPG’s are taking the same stance with their subscription services, sacrificing the regular income for offering freemium service with an item mall. Very convenient if your in the market for a new game, although many are free to download and try until the “ cash-shop mechanics” as I call it starts kicking in.

As an American, I take pride in the fact that I live in a “free” country. Free to follow my capitalistic pursuits both in virtual space and in real-time. Free to say what I want about what I want to who ever I choose. Free to voice my opinions, free to vote, free to read what I want, to write what I want and free to take a stand on the issues I feel are important to me and my fellow men. A good feeling for anyone who can identify with me.

I do pay my dues though, heavily taxes, paying high rent to live in an expensive neighborhood, paying high fees to access the internet, electricity bills, expensive food...etc. etc. I am trapped in my own consumerism that binds me to a job that is run like a totalitarian state. Telling me what time I need to wake up in the morning, how long I have to spend at the establishment and how I can effectively perform a task that someone doesn’t want to do in order for them to make as much money as they can. I pay high insurance that makes sure I am healthy and can come to work every day. The employer pays me a salary (maybe commission if I do a really good job) and then hands my paycheck over to the government to make sure I pay them first, then gives me enough money to pay all my bills and maybe some extra to spoil myself with entertainment.

But I digress...
 
Freedom is a state of mind.
 
As I sit here and write this ramble in my free blog space in a free website, I reflect on the little things in life that I get here and there. Free to partake or not to get involved in. If I have some free space in my hard-drive, then I might download a free MMORPG and play it for a few hours, paying nothing for the experience and enjoyment. I am free to turn off the game and open my control panel to uninstall it at any time. That’s the kind of freedom that I enjoy, freedom to come and go as one pleases.
 
I like it, but I don't want to pay for it.

I am starting to think that this new wave of free-to-try or “freemium” games are the way to go. Giving one a choice in how much they spend and where to apply the money to is something that many take for granted. If the service or item is too expensive for their tastes then they are free not to buy them; if not paying anything hampers the gameplay too much, then they are free to leave. Having a monthly subscription binds the player into thinking that they have a set amount of time to play the game before they lose that right, that freedom to come and play the game if and when they choose to is gone.
 
"These are our corporate assets, and there are those that don't want us to protect them, they want everything to be free," - Howard Stringer, CEO, Sony

No matter any way you slice it, you will always pay for a privilege. Some players enjoy a subscription because it keeps out all the riffraff and sets a higher barrier of entry into “their” world. A player is free to create an avatar from the choices that the designer gives to you, also free to use any weapon or armor that the developer designs for that class or level. Free to go and kill any monster or enemy in the game as long as they have the right level and power to do so, or you will meet an untimely death. Free to gather a few friends together to help you kill said monster or NPC in order to get the objects that the designer tells the mob to give to you. Those friends took their free time to help you so they feel that they have a right to some of the spoils as well. Where is the freedom in all of this?
 
The Freedom to go Solo.

As many lament about the mechanics of MMORPG’s that have been made popular by games as World of Warcraft and others give players too many freedoms. These new mechanics level the playing field between players and scripted NPC, making them more powerful so they can effectively solo more content, making them independent from other players and thus creating something called “Massively Multiplayer Online Single Role-Playing Game.”

I for one don’t mind the freedom to do what I want in a virtual world. Being able to come and go as one pleases is a basic element of freedom. Freedom of movement, freedom of choice, freedom of playstyle and freedom to ask for help but not warrant it is what these newer MMOSRPG’s are striving for. Then you would ask, “Why not play a a single role playing game?” Well, for one I do enjoy the freedom to socialize and create a social environment with others. Free to voice my opinion to another, whenever I choose to. I do enjoy my single players games, but often return to the online connection because it gives more choices, more connections and sometimes more freedoms that I wouldn’t have in a scripted, linear styled game. Yes, I am looking at you Final Fantasy XIII.

 
Who me?
 
Sometimes I do not want to have to ask for help, achieving a goal for myself gives me a sense of pride, a sense of freedom. I do enjoy the ability to log off a game and not have to pay for the time I spent logged off, but often find myself constricted by certain elements that keep reminding me I need to spend some money in this game. Paying a monthly subscription takes that much off my mind, enabling me to play along freely.

I do like soloing, but I also enjoy helping people out to achieve their own goals. Self-reliance is a natural freedom, sometimes feeling restricted to level or class makes me feel trapped when I lose that ability. All together, I love the experience, getting something free is a good feeling, even though I have to pay my dues along the way. I don’t mind paying, but everyone loves getting free stuff, I’m really happy that I didn’t have to pay for Hellgate: London.

Enjoy your holiday.

Play safe,
Inktomi

The Not So New, Yet Improved, Hellgate: London!

Posted by Inktomi Friday July 1 2011 at 4:40AM
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 Good Ole' Hellgate: London

It feels like I've been reunited with an old friend again. If not everyone is familiar with the game, here's a crash course in some video game history. If you know the story, just skip this then.

In 2007, Flagship Studios, a small upstart company headed by Bill Roper and his band of merry men from Blizzard North released an online shooter style MMORPG, Hellgate: London. 

The launch had its problems, and the company did as well. Due to some changes in relationships with their corporate backers, who were Comerica Bank and Hanbitsoft at the time, Flagship was forced to file bankruptcy and eventually closed the doors of the company as well as the servers for HGL (Hellgate London).

The property of the IP fell into Hanbitsofts' lap who began adapting and released it in the Korean market. Which I hear did quite well. Today, Hanbitsoft, along with T3 Entertainment began open beta testing of their version of Hellgate: London.

Something Old, Something New

For the players of the old HGL, most of what we know is still there. Its still a hub based shooter with upgradable weapons and armor. The loot is still random and starts with grey based items, then to green and then onto blue for rare, legendary and finally yellow for unique named items. One thing that is new is the addition of mythic level items and sets. The website said that sets will carry certain bonuses for wearing numerous items in the sets. This should be very familiar.

Mods are back; these were small items that carried stat bonuses that could be slotted into weapons with matching mod slots. These mods had levels that coincided with the level of the weapon, as long as you had the stats to carry it, you could upgrade it just fine. One thing that I noticed, some items don't have all the mod slots open, saying that you will have to pay somehow to have them opened. I'm not exactly sure if its through the item mall, or bought through an NPC. Only 5 hours into the game and it shut down for maintenance, so I figured I shoot a quick blog out.

Inventory is still a pain of bric-a-brac and the loot falls fast and furious. You can now buy expanions to your inventory but thats not enabled yet. A player can share loot with another character through the stash, but it says you will need a premium subscription for that. So we are looking at an item mall, as well as a subscription, but the community says it will be free to play. I'm wondering how this will be at the official roll out.

Some additions to your character: A mask slot, a slot for a T-shirt as well as jewelry items you can wear such as rings, necklaces and bracelets that will carry stat bonuses. Rumors of custom dye jobs are circulating. 

THERE IS FINALLY A MARKET! In the starting area you can see an auction market console on the left hand side alongside the arena consoles. You can know start arena based battles of 1/1 up to 10/10. In my character screen there are records of wins and losses as well as my ranking level. Nice addition for the PVP crowd. 

There is an email function built into the game. I got a secret package from the NPC and it gave me a 14 experience bonus package...because I'm just so awesome. I would wonder if they could use that to further immerse a player in the game by sending them secret option quests and such to complete. It would be nice to see something original like that in HGL. Old factions as well as some new ones I have seen in my characater screen. I'm wondering how that will play out if I get a higher standing. Will new quests open up? Better rewards? Too early to tell.

All the old quests are back: Mackenzie gives you the guns, Typhoid Mary still sweats green and the original questline is still the same. I've fell into bad old habits and had been farming Shulgoth when they notified us of downtime. One thing that is new is an area quest that has a kill counter of how many mobs you kill in the area, once that is full, an epic (purple) level mob will pop and give you even more sparkly, twinkly stuff when killed.

A whole slew of new achivements have been added. Some give you item rewards, titles or a slight stat increase when slotted into a small bar with 6 slots. I only have 1 open at level 9 right now, but there are also achievements that open up once you finish them as "challenges." Looks like a game of "gotta get 'em all!"

The UI is basically the same yet there are some additions. You can change the difficulty of the zone you are entering from the base. From Normal to Nightmare then finally Hell is the hardest. These difficulties raise the armor and hitpoints of the mobs, as well as experience gain and loot drops.

I killed Shulgoth on Hell difficulty and he gave me 3 legendary items. W00t!

The bad news.

The game does have an extensive item mall. Offering items such as experience rate increase, elemental protection items, ressurection items and a radar device to track special monster. Two things that interest me is an automatic dismantler that you can set the level of item to auto dismante which goes really nicely with the auto dismantler. Those cost 500 Tcoins each.  

Tcoins are the currency used by T3 Entertainment. 1000 Tcoins = $1 USD

Are you sitting down? Ok, the shop carries an entrance ticket to act 3 of the game. In order to progress through the game past act 2, you have to pay $4.00 to do so. Not so bad was it?

"Nothing is free in this world, except love, and sometimes you have to pay for that" - Old Wall Street Proverb.

I play a summoner as I did in the past, its hard to let some habits go. Most of the skills and builds are the same except for a few additions. There is a Zombie mode which turns me into a melee monster which right now is bugged and stupid. I will not be using  that. 

All and all, it plays pretty well and the game is just as goofy fun as it was back in '07. With some interesting new additions to it, I can see some improvements that would have made this game great when Flagship had it. But that is in the past, its time to forge a new path through the denizens of hell. I would suggest that if you haven't played HGL when it ran through 2007-2008, give it a go. There are a host of interesting classes that can appeal to almost everyone.

Want to play a sniper, no problem, go with the Marksman. Want to play a summoner and stand behind while your troops cut through swaths of undead nasties, go ahead. However, if you want the best of both those worlds, then go with the Engineer class. Guns and robots are always a crowd pleaser. Duel weilding samurai swords? Got it. Sword and board guy? Got it. Hellgate: London had some great ideas at the time, it was a good game; now with some great minds behind it, I feel it could be a great game.

If you want to see for yourself, head over to the Hellgate website, create an account and jump on into the open beta. Even if you just want some nostalgia for the weekend, its worth a play.

Play safe,

Inktomi

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