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The staff of MMORPG.com gets together to bring you some behind the scenes insights on stories, the industry and the site itself.

Author: staffblog

Contributors: BillMurphy,MikeB,garrett,SBFord,Grakulen,

Avatar, Star Trek and iPads

Posted by Stradden Friday January 29 2010 at 2:04PM
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It’s been a long week for me to be a nerd. All in the same week, I finished out playing in the Star Trek Online beta, finally saw Avatar and watched all the hype blow up over the announcement of everyone’s favorite unfortunately named piece of technology iPad. I mean not since the unveiling of the short-lived fast-food burger the McDouche has the name of a feminine hygiene product so captivated legions of fans.

Bad jokes about the iPad’s name aside (I had to make at least one, lest I feel left out), I wanted to take a few minutes to address each of the three highlights of my week from the point of view of my own particular nerddom.

Avatar

I finally saw it. Not much of a nerd thing, I suppose, given the amount of time between when the thing premiered and when I finally got off my butt to see it, but the Imax has been sold out steadily since it opened and I’d be damned if I was going to see this one and not get to wear those super stylish 3D glasses designed by, I assume, Elton John.

In any case, I don’t really see what all of the fuss is about. I mean, it was an enjoyable flick, and I thought the 3D was handled particularly well. It wasn’t God’s gift to moviegoers (even if box offices would say otherwise), but it certainly wasn’t the shallow bore-fest some people are making it out to be either. I walked in, sat down and for a couple of hours got exactly what I expected, a decent movie with some cool visuals.

What I can’t get past are the number of people crying out that the movie has an “environmentalist, left-wing agenda”. I mean, sure, it’s a thinly veiled movie about what was done to Native Americans ad their culture, but to say that it has some kind of agenda is a little bit like saying that the original Star Wars trilogy supported domestic terrorism. I mean, come on, the rebels blew up the Death Star, a highly visible government target, killing uncounted numbers of Imperical citizens.

Guys, in movies there are going to be plots and good guys and bad guys… just sit down and let’s enjoy (or not enjoy) the ride.

Star Trek Online Beta

Ok, before everyone gets all hot and bothered about this. I am fully aware that Star Trek Online has a large number of issues with it, and that they’re going to need to be addressed in order for this game to be in any way successful.

Now, with that out of the way, I’m going to go ahead and admit that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time with STO. I don’t know if it’s the setting, which I like, the features (yes, I like ship combat and the ground combat is enjoyable to me as well, sue me), or just that it’s something a little bit off the beaten path.

I like the game, and I can completely see why some other people can’t, but what I want to know is why do the people who think that this game is going to do poorly or fail have to come over and stomp on my fun and the fun of anyone else who happens to be enjoying the game?

I mean, over the last few weeks, I’ve seen anyone who posts a positive opinion on this game get completely torn apart by people who don’t like it, or don’t like Cryptic. What’s the point of that exactly? You don’t like it. You think it sucks. That’s great. I fully respect that point of view, and contrary to what some of you out there seem to think, I am completely aware of the game’s shortcomings. I have not been blinded to them, I am not wearing rose tinted glasses, I am not a “Fanboy”. I just disagree with you.

I’ve said it once and apparently I’ll say it a thousand more times: You don’t have to like what everyone else likes, and people don’t have to like something just because you do. We’re all entitled to our opinions, so let’s have a little bit of respect for that, shall we?

The iPad

To me, it looks basically like a big giant iPhone. I heart my iPhone, and like many people who own way too much technology, I burn with desire for my own iPad… Which is funny, because I can’t really say exactly why. I just want it.

I think it’s because they remind me of the Pads in Star Trek The Next Generation. You know, those portable computers that everyone had that allowed the to do everything from write notes to read very large files and access information quickly, not to mention to network with larger computers… all fitting in their hand without a keyboard or mouse or any input device save for the touch screen…

Ok, I think I’ve solved the mystery of why I want one.
 

Community Spotlight: What's an Older Gamer to do?!

Posted by MikeB Thursday January 28 2010 at 9:05PM
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This week’s Community Spotlight focuses on the thread “What’s an older gamer to do?” by user Amathe. In the original post, Amathe finds himself troubled, as an older game, by the advent of faster paced MMOG’s coming to market:

“I'm old and I'm a gamer. At least I think I'm still a gamer, being between games at the moment. The old part is for sure.

Over the years I have played a lot of mmos, beginning with original Everquest. At least 9 of them, not including a great many betas.

At times like these, when I'm between games, I come here to research new ones. And I'm seeing a trend. Game after game after game is touting its fast paced, twitchy, "you control every blow" FPS qualities. While this would have sounded great to me a decade ago, I'm slow now and I won't be competitive at that.

But it's worse lol. These new games also promote their free-for-all, oh yes you are going to be ganked so deal with it PvP features. That means not only am I slow, I get to fight people 20-30 years younger who are fast. Oh boy. That will be hot death on a skillet.

Is the type of combat found in more traditional mmos like EQ and even WoW going the way of MUDs and pen and paper games? Is my gaming future Select Quest, Princess Aria wants you .... BOOM HEADSHOT ROFLOLOLOLOL?

I'm thinking it may be time to join AARP, stock up on geritol and call it a day. I'm not seeing very many new games being made that are not FFA FPS?”

As a younger gamer myself, I rue the day when I feel like my reflexes won’t let me compete with gamers younger than myself, so it’s a bit hard to understand Amathe as I obviously can’t place myself in his shoes. Nevertheless, the community offers some helpful advice, starting with the user Comnitus, who recommends EVE Online:

“If your reflexes are slow but your brain still works, try EVE. While some parts of it are FFA PvP (which means joining a corporation is a good way to survive), you never really have to PvP if you don't want to. Combat in EVE is very strategical - it's based mostly on numbers and how you outfit your ship rather than your hand-eye coordination. Plus, it's a great sandbox overall. Most of the people who play it are older.”

Jeger_Wolf suggests Lord of the Rings Online, with a simple reply:

“LotRO seems to be a pretty mature crowd if you haven't played that out yet.”
I highlighted this post because in my experiences with that particular game, I can say I definitely agree.

The crowd in LotRO does seem a bit more mature than what you’d find in some areas of World of Warcraft. A solid recommendation!

A number of users have mentioned the upcoming Final Fantasy XIV as something to look forward to. Cukimunga explains the merits of the game a bit more:

“Like someone has said Id wait for FFXIV, from the looks of some videos the combat is slow like in FFXI.

It will be more solo friendly but im still guessing the bulk of the content will be grouped. I hope they still have skill chains and magic busts it was one of the things to set it apart from every other mmo. It makes you think because different mobs are weak against a certain element so you'd have to do the right skill chain and magic burst to do the max damage. SC and MB had to be timed right for them to work and you could even do a counter attack and stun the mobs so they wouldn't wipe the whole party or most of it with a AoE.

Personally Id rather have slower more tactical combat than fast mindless button mashing. “

What suggestions do you have for Amathe and gamers like him?

And to you older gamers out there: Are any MMOG’s holding your attention at the moment? What future MMOG releases are you looking forward to, and why?

Let us know in the comments below!

Warhammer 40K MMO

Posted by garrett Tuesday January 26 2010 at 1:42PM
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So I have been trying to spend a little more time away from my computer in recent weeks. That is not easy to do when you have the jobs that I do. However, I have started up a new Warhammer 40K Army for tabletop and have been painting away for the last week. Khorne Chaos Marines if you must know. I have never done a Khorne army and despite seeing them everywhere I decided it would be the most fun to paint. Plus I love skulls.

So during the long hours it takes to paint minis. I have been constantly thinking of the Warhammer 40K MMO that is secretly being developed over at VIGIL Studios for THQ. Now for those who may not know THQ was the publisher for Dawn of War, but it was made by Relic. I am a huge fan of the Dawn of War games and am curious on how the other studio is handling development.

The big question is how well will 40K translate into an MMO? Well I do know that of the Games Workshop IPs, 40K is the big one. Fans are fanatical and want nothing more than to jump into the carnage of the 41st millenium. The trick is how to play in that universe as a single character in a war torn environment.

If you are a Space Marine....then that's it. How can you advance? The world is made up of units and chapters and all that great fluff, so how can an individual character grow? Well, one way would be to implement a squad system that allows players to gain ranks and grow a squad of NPCs on their own. This would be similar to the model tried in Gods & Heroes, which never launched. Imagine, you start as a single marine, do well, and can become a sergeant or something. Perhaps you can upgrade to Terminator status? Again these are just ideas. Eventually you have NPCs join your squad and implement group tactics similar to Dragon Age's party system....damn this game is sounding sick.

Or what if the entire 40K game was built around player guilds. You played as an individual, you chose a faction, and you joined up a Chapter with other players and whooosh off you go. Now, this may not work with certain 40K races...Tyranids...but it would be damn cool. Also, character advancement does not have to be thought of in terms of leveling and skills. Maybe some new systems could be implemented for characters to grow and earn rewards whether fighting for the Emperor or that insane Ork Boss.

For now I guess I just have to keep painting and praying we hear some news about this game soon. There are so many possibilities with 40k. While other MMOs look to grow with old ideas. 40K definitely gives the developers a chance to throw out the rules and come up with new ideas on how a persistent world can change and grow without having to "level" character skills.

Food for thought...THQ please blow us away at E3 this year with some 40K MMO AWESOMENESS!

PS: Once the army is painted, I'll post a pic.

Community Spotlight: Alternate Characters

Posted by MikeB Friday January 22 2010 at 1:22PM
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This week’s Community Spotlight focuses on the thread “Unlock Your Alts: A Discussion on Alternate Characters (Controversial)” by user Nate1980. The topic, as the subject implies, is a controversial look at the place of alts or alternate characters in MMOG games. In the original post, nate1980 makes the self-admitted controversial suggestion that games should only allow for players a single character per player at the start, and extols the reasons why:

“…I'd like every game in the future to only offer 1 character per account at the start. This requires people to stick to one character, and allows for people to become known by their character. Anyone who's played SWG knows what I'm talking about. The test server solves the problem of people being indecisive on which character they want to play. You should be able to create a lot of characters on the test server, so you can compare and contrast them. But on the live servers, you can only have 1 per account. This also has the added benefit that guild leaders and members can be more confident that those in their guild are their main characters and will be active. I'm not sure about you all, but I grow tired of those afflicted with altitis, because they fall behind the main group in the guild, and then sometimes expect the main group to go back and help them. I get my fun from playing with a group of others in the game. So I'm motivated to keep leveling and playing, so that I can keep up with my online friends. However, I'm never in a rush, and I think the game is about the journey, not the destination, so don't derail the thread for that.

Lastly, I think that in order to unlock more character slots, you should be required to level a character to max level. So if you want your second character slot, you need to get your first character to max level. If you want your 3rd character slot, you need to level up your second character to max level, and so on.

This'll help people stay committed to their characters, and help stop people from jumping around from one character to the next, never getting far on any of them, and then quitting out of boredom.”

What does the community think of Nate’s ideas? Lets find out!

User Zilverrug (who is apparently still MUDding, go Zilverrug!) generally disagrees with Nate’s suggestion, but he can see how alts can be harmful to endgame focused guilds:

“Many people need alts to keep interest in the game. People leaving the game is (in my experience) an even larger reason for guild failure (and even worse: game failure).
Forbidding people something they like to do and is good for the game company (because it keeps people in the game and is basically harmless) doesn't seem like a good idea to me.

Personally, I do not suffer from altitis (in all games I played I have a single main character and a host of alts only on 20% to 50% of the level cap), but it's a good thing many other people do: it tends to keep people active in the non-end-level content (also nice for beginners).

In other words: in level-based games, I'd even argue leveling alts is a GOOD thing to keep the game alive.

But I can imagine end-level focused guilds can suffer somewhat from members concentrating on their alts instead. Those guilds should (and do) have rules about alts. People who get bored by their main character can then just leave the guild instead of the game. Making an associated "safety net guild" to catch those people wouldn't even be a very bad idea, I guess...”

Torik echoes some of Zilverrug’s sentiments:

“Too many alts is really only a problem in 'goal-focused' guilds (eg raiding guilds, hardcore PvP guilds).

For casual guilds alts can be a great guild builder since it allows people to do all kinds of stuff and not get locked into one role. Thus when there are significant power differences between characters, one can switch to a less powerful alt and group up with newer guildies. Also it allows casual guilds more flexibility where people can change roles in group content depending on who else is available.

One of the primary reasons why I quit SWG was the 'one character per server per accout' rule. After I got my first character to a state I really liked I was not going to erase all that just to try new ways to play in that game. One of the key things I like about RPGs is that I can play through them in different ways and create distinct personalities for my characters.

The test server idea only really address the issues of seeking the next FotM character. To me a character grows as you play him in the full game settings and throwaway characters are not fun.

The idea of unlocking alt character slots once you reach max level on a previous character would work but it seems completely unnecessary and once again forces one away from exploring different facets of the game.”

Another interesting post, this time by user Ivaldyr, essentially uses FFXI as his example for why alts are indeed unnecessary:

“The solution to the alt "problem" is simple.

One character - Many classes/skills.

Instead of having to reroll a new character or lose current character progression, let every character level up every skill/class in the game, but have to choose which skillset/class to play at any given time. I like how EVE (sort of) does this; your character can have every skill in the game, but not every skill is useful in every situation. Your ship and modules limit you.

It would work thus:

• I start a new character, and become a Warrior .. rising to level 100.
• I "reroll" my character, and level a Mage to 50.

Now I'm a level 100 Warrior and a level 50 Mage; but I can only be one "class" at a time. If I'm levelling up my Mage skills and a friend tells me they could use a Warrior for a level 100 raid, I can switch back to my Warrior skills and go enjoy that raid, then switch back to my Mage skills when I'm done. It's just like having alts, except that they're all contained in one character.”

I personally have to take issue with this one, as while he may be correct from a gameplay perspective you can design a game so that alts are functionally unnecessary, but what of people who have different concepts for characters? I found myself in this boat a lot in Star Wars Galaxies.

And that’s basically my stance. I played Star Wars Galaxies as many of you know by now, and this was Nate’s main reference point for his ideas.

While I loved the game, I was often conflicted because I wanted to have a variety of different character types. Sure, the game let me respec my single character into any group of skills I’d like provided I took the time to get the experience for them, but what if I wanted to play a Rebel X-Wing pilot, and an Imperial Sniper. Maybe it’s just the role-player in me!

Be sure to check out the rest of the thread for tons of great responses from the community!

What do you think about the effects of alts or altitis on MMOG games?

Do you endorse only allowing players a single character to start? Or even just a single character, period? Let us know in the comments below.

Return to Hyboria

Posted by garrett Monday January 18 2010 at 2:51PM
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So with my new computer now set up I decided to take a short break from WoW and return to a game that won Most Improved on our website: Age of Conan.

From what I can tell I have a logn way to go to get to lvl 80, however working through Tortage at the moment is going much faster than I remember it the first time.

See I am a huge Conan fan and AoC was high on my list to play. Unfortunately like many players I bowed out after a while because the content just wasn't there and the leveling took too long. Visually I think the game is great and the story line in Tortage is awesome. So I am looking forward to a new experience this time around.

From what I have read on the forums the community is active and end game PvP is quite good. I will continue my raids with my WoW guild as we further venture into ICC, but my down time will now be sent in Hybroia with my new Bear Shaman.

If anyone has thoughts of advice on AoC please let me know.

 

Community Spotlight: Your Best and Worst Community Experiences!

Posted by MikeB Thursday January 14 2010 at 1:42PM
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This weeks Community Spotlight focuses on a bit of a necro thread started in August by user cybertrucker. Normally, I wouldn’t spotlight a necro thread, but it appears it just randomly came back to life and continued the previous (and still relevant) discussion, no harm there! The thread is entitled “The BEST and WORST community you have experienced,” whereby cybertrucker polls the MMORPG.com community for what they feel were their best and worst community experiences in an MMOG.

Cybertrucker starts out with himself:

“For me it would probably be like this.

BEST: Vanguard or EQ1..Why? Because People came to help each other and it wasnt always about just themselves. The open world dungeons I think lended to this and also the games were designed around group play in mind. Sure you could solo in them but the best content was designed for groups..
Worst: Would probably have to WOW.. and no Im not a WOW hater.. I actually enjoyed the game.. However I think it was the game to really breed the ME ME ME mentality.. Yes it was there in some people before WOW.. But WOW encouraged it.. IT was the first game that I played where PUGs were looked down upon. In every game up to WOW i grouped with random people all the time. Sure I ran with friends on a regular basis but didnt mind picking up groups either.”

While some of the users in this thread simply used it as a soapbox to attack one community or another, many did share their best and worst experiences in detail and are worth mentioning here.

A testament to how diverse our community is, the first reply, by user BigDavo, cites World of Warcraft as his choice for best community (the direct opposite of Cybertrucker’s experience):

Best - WoW, I think I may have gotten lucky with my server, on the whole it was mature (to an extent lol), very friendly and very social. Don't think I'll ever seen anything like it again. It was called Icecrown if that's familiar to anyone.
Worst - Probably WAR, very boring community, very little chat, everyone just did their own thing with as little interaction as they could.”

Not too far fetched, given how many servers World of Warcraft has I’m sure the communities are diverse enough to have good and bad apples.

Bonobotheory cites City of Heroes as his best community experience:

Best: City of Heroes. Probably because of the casual nature of the game, nobody takes things too seriously or gets bent out of shape when things don't go their way.

Worst: World fo Warcraft. I don't know what it is about that game, but it seems to attract the dregs of humanity. When I switched to EQ2 and CoH, I was surprised to find that the people were completely different, and grouping with strangers could be a pleasant experience.”

Having played City of Heroes for over four years I’d definitely have to disagree about no one taking things too seriously. I found it almost ironic how people were able to take things seriously in a game that didn’t really have the typical things to fight over. Instead, people fought over power specs, or how to play your “class,” even though the game was easy enough for it to not really matter.

DoktorTeufel (who has since apparently “retired” from all three games he cites as having the best communites) picks EVE, SWG, and Ryzom as his best experiences and World of Warcraft (surprise!) and WAR as his worst:

“Best community: Three-way tie between EVE, SWG and Ryzom.

EVE had (and surely still has) plenty of morons, asshats and lowlifes, but there are also just as many skilled, intelligent, helpful, and just plain awesome to be around people in EVE's community. Even people who are your in-game enemies could be "worthy opponents" and enrich your gaming experience, playing cat-and-mouse with them in-game and then reliving the good times on the official forums. EVE has it all, that's why even the bad parts of the community are good: Without them the game would feel incomplete.

SWG had a great community (pre-NGE anyway, not sure about now) because of the interdependence of characters. Since you had to rely on other characters for various crafting materials, crafted items, buffs, services, and certain other unique skills, and because you couldn't do everything with your own main character and alts, everyone had a niche and it really brought the community together in many wonderful ways. There was even plenty of factional patriotism to be found. The sandbox nature of the world also catered to many different types of players, so there were always new friends to meet and different activities to engage in.

Ryzom... well, I don't know why it has (had?) such a good community, but it does. There were lots of international players, and everyone was friendly, welcoming and helpful. Sadly, I started playing Ryzom a month before the game's servers were shut down (it's been up and running again for a while now), and I haven't been back since, so that's all I can say about it.

Worst community: Tie between WoW and WAR.

I don't have to explain WoW, everyone knows the crap-stained dregs of humanity populate its servers. WAR's community is better in general, but no one ever talked to anyone else outside of their guild for the two months I was playing (I started in open beta), and it just seemed devoid of meaningful interaction.

That said, in both WoW and WAR, if you find a really good and active guild the community will seem much better, but the general communities were terrible in my experience.”

This is one of several responses that mentioned WAR due to a lack of interaction between players, and I can honestly say I felt the same way when playing. Outside of getting together for a war council meeting and planning out a T4 campaign with alliance guilds, most players just seemed like they ran about quietly, or if you were on Dark Crag, you were treated to general chat that seemed like 24/7 Barrens chat.

User Torak makes some excellent points about communities in general while sharing some of his own best and worst experiences:

“There a few MMO's that the communities really stood out for me (in MY experience and this no way reflects on the total community)

Asherons Call - My first MMO. I played with a bunch of people for over a year and someof us still talk every once in a while. The moment that sticks out for me is my guild helping me recover a corpse from an acid pit...lol...hours of fun!
Lineage 2 - truely a game filled with the noblest (ingame) heroes and some the most evil pricks I ever met! It made the game a joy to play. I still have contact with a lot of them.
DAoC - played with a bunch of RL friends & ingame friends and never had a better time. (to bad WAR fell through for us)
Guild Wars - again because I played with my RL friends.
WAR - again because I played with my RL friends and my wife and ingame friends. It was a blast while it lasted.

The WORST communities I have experience are the ones I didn't take the time to get to know anyone. A lot of MMO's I am pretty indifferent about. WoW didn't bother me to much. I don't know why people hammer on the game so much.

I think many people confuse those general chat channels for the "community" lol...those are usually filled with the people that no one wants around. If you really look at them, its the same handful of people making a spectical of themselves because they are
obnoxious attention whores and probably get kicked from every decent group of people they run across....which is why they vomit their nonsense on the general channels.

I think what a lot of players need to keep in mind is you are able to build your own community in any game. You can talk your gaming friends into joining you, you can talk to people ingame and look for like minded people. You can ignore people who are idiots and report them if they harass you. No one forces you to read the general chat, you can shut it off, no one is saying anything worth reading anyway.”
 

I agree with Torak in that for the most part you can make your own community, but some game’s or particular servers at least are just a lost cause. There are many more examples throughout the rest of this thread, but I will end this weeks blog with a few of my own best and worst experiences.

My best experience in an MMOG community was Star Wars Galaxies up to before the Holocron craziness occurred. I have always felt that the Holocron system is what caused the once helpful and colorful community to simply cannibalize itself, and I feel to this day that the system’s introduction had a far worse impact on the game than the NGE. By the time the NGE rolled around the writing was already on the wall.

Prior to the Holocron system, however, I still remember my first time logging into the game and some player offering to teach me the game’s languages so I could understand other players. He also informed me how to turn my personal light on and some provided some other helpful tips. This was really the beginning of many good experiences I had with the game. Players in general were friendly and appreciative, and most people were simply adventure seeking and loved to get together to try out crazy things.

I'd like to share my favorite example with you. If you were on the Starsider server at launch you might recall this experience. Within the first two weeks of launch or so many still newbie players with crap gear and worse skills got together, at least 50+ of us and went to Endor in search of adventure and good experience. What resulted was absolute hilarity. We ran amok through the wilderness of Endor and got slaughtered by rival Ewok tribes and other dangerous creatures, though we managed to also make a good amount of XP by winning some battles through sheer numbers. I could go on and on about Star Wars Galaxies, but I will leave you with that as far as my good experiences go.

For my worst community experience I would have to say Age of Conan. I cannot speak for any other server but playing on the Cimmeria server, I’ve never in my life seen a larger congregation of douchebags. Some of them were simply war mongering, some of them totally immature, and some for no reason at all.

Of course, there was a plus side to all this: it made for great killing! Some jerk stole my spawn? Kill him! The fact they were such big jerks about it made the revenge all the more sweet. Of course, I’ll never forget the simple act of passing through Conall’s Valley as a low level player. The area was highly trafficked by higher level players who were passing through to the Field of the Dead, and I can’t tell you how many times I was casually whacked with a sword or a polearm by a mounted level 60+ player and killed instantly (and casually) as he rode by. It didn’t help that the zone was entirely narrow and linear either.

Of course, I participated in my own douchebaggery, I think the game brought out the worst in all of us. I can't tell you how many people I hunted on White Sands Island in Tortage, for no reason at all other than the pleasure of the kill.

So what are your best and worst community experiences in an MMOG? Let us know in the comments below!

Finally saw AVATAR

Posted by garrett Monday January 11 2010 at 10:55PM
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So I finally got out to see AVATAR yesterday with an old time MMO friend of mine. The movie was better than I expected and enjoyed the IMAX etc.

I do however have some issues with how Cameron dumbed down the movie to the lowest common denomiator of human imagination. Don't get me wrong, the movie was very imaginative, I still think Cameron could have trusted people with some more information on things, they would have gotten to it.

Now for the gamer side of the movie, if Cameron does not play WoW, Aion, and 40K...then I am a monkey's uncle. He should be sending checks to Blizzard, Games Workshop, and NCSoft for their ideas over the past ten years which helped quite a bit in production design. So whent he movie wins Oscars in this category, will Cameron get up and say, I'd like to thank miniature battles and video games for helping me create this unique planet? Hah, doubtful.

As far as his underlying theme of gamers being "jacked" in all the time, well, the finger was pointed at us sure. How much virtual life is a good or bad thing? Who is to say? Right now this is the world we live in and I personally am quite happy with games as a hobby. Have you watched TV lately? Talk about mindless.

Overall the movie was pretty good. If you have not gotten out to see it, I would say it's worth your ten or fifteen bucks. The movie does make you think and last time I checked thinking was not a bad thing.

Love Stories Requested

Posted by Stradden Friday January 8 2010 at 3:35PM
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I was contacted recently by a European television producer who is working on collecting information about real life love connections in MMOs. I know the reputation that MMOs have for all kinds of romantic relationships, from sketchy in-game cyber affairs to even sketchier stories of forty year old women driving across borders to meet their fifteen year old soul mate they met playing WoW.

Still, sketcky stories aren’t the whole of it. I’ve met couples who have been married for years who met playing games like UO and EverQuest. As the internet becomes more and more ingrained in our every day lives, it is becoming more and more acceptable to meet long term partners and even spouses this way.

This television producer, named Tabea Tiesler, has asked me to pass along his request for your own personal love stories. How many of you out there have had real, meaningful relationships that started or even are conducted online.

If you could respond in our comments section that would be appreciated, or email Tabea directly at Tabea@mail333.com.
 

Social Networking + Bras = Awareness

Posted by Stradden Friday January 8 2010 at 12:41PM
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Over the last few days, I’ve been reminded of just how powerful online communities can be, often far surpassing the specific intended uses of the software that allows it to happen. There are literally hundreds of stories that have come out of MMOs of all stripes and sizes of their communities using their game in ways that they hadn’t intended, from hide and seek to impromptu jam sessions and beyond.

Today though, I wanted to talk use my blog to talk about Facebook, and the recent phenomenon that’s been going on in its community.

If you’re like me and are as out of the loop as I’ve been, you’ve probably been wondering about the flurry of status updates from your female friends listing a single color (or pattern), and nothing else.

And, if you’re like me, and are the inquisitive sort, you’ll be wondering what exactly might possess your female friends (who don’t even necessarily know each other) to take leave of their senses all at once.

It turns out that this whole thing is designed to raise awareness for Breast Cancer. It’s a great idea, and shows how effectively online communities can be used to get people on the same page who would otherwise have nothing else in common. I found it fascinating, for example, that my female friends from within the gaming industry are as on board with the idea as are my local friends.

The problem, however, is that before I got inquisitive and started digging on my own, I had no idea what the point of the exercise was. Somewhere in the social network the actual meaning was lost, or buried, and that’s a shame.

So, first, consider yourselves informed as to what it is those ladies are talking about. It’s their bras. Fascinating, no? It’s actually brilliant in terms of awareness raising. If every time every guy thought about a woman’s undergarments, he also thought about this cause, awareness would cease to be a problem.

The thing is, awareness alone is not enough and so, gentlemen, let’s not be outdone by the ladies and their wily bra color statuses. Every time a female friend of yours posts her bra color, we should send a gentle reminder that awareness is one thing, but money for research is another. Let’s play our part in this exercise by providing a link that points people toward either the American or Canadian Breast Cancer Foundations. Look, I’ve even Tiny URL’d it for you.

American Breast Cancer Foundation: http://tinyurl.com/yhdtmqq
Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation: http://tinyurl.com/yb6lk29

 

Community Spotlight: Static MMOGs

Posted by MikeB Thursday January 7 2010 at 4:11PM
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This week’s Community Spotlight focuses on a thread started by user Bookkeeper entitled “I'm tired of MMOs that stay the same every day.” In the thread, Bookkeeper laments the static nature of MMOGs, wondering why we cannot see games with a much more dynamic experience, where players can make a meaningful impact on the world:

“MMOs talk about the grand adventure, but they give you the same day over and over again. You kill the same things over and over. Everything stays in the same place, every day is the same as yesterday. The same guy hands out the same lame quest, to everyone, everyday. Everybody does the same lame quests. Time has no meaning, players have no impact. The MMO genre will continue to stagnate and bore the game community until some developer steps up and makes a changing living world. One where time moves forward and tomorrow is different than today.”

Firstly, the most obvious answer is money, time, and manpower. I know most people don’t want to hear this but that is just the simple fact of the matter. Players traditionally complete content by magnitudes faster than developers can create it, so the idea that developers should spend time and money on content that would be seen on just one single day, or for one single player simply isn’t feasible.

If sometime in the unforeseen future we figure out virtual reality and have AI as advanced as the programs in The Matrix or The 13th Floor these “games” would have the potential to be as Bookkeeper described.

However, that is not to say there aren’t games currently available or in the pipeline that address some of these issues in their own way. As many community members responded, there are a number of games, mostly in the sandbox genre of MMOGs that allow for dynamic experiences, as the players themselves create the lion’s share of the content.

User arenasb mentions Guild Wars 2 as an upcoming game looking to tackle this challenge:

“Well I'm in agreement with you. I don't think there are any mmo's out that have a changing world. Guild Wars 2 is coming with an event system that takes the place of quests. The event system is supposed to have world (on a micro level) changing activities, such as a centaur raiding group invading a town, if nobody attacks the centaurs in that town or chases them off then that town will be the centaurs forever (or until the players kill them off). So far that is about the closest I've heard of an mmo having a non-static world.”

Similarly, Heroes of Telara, which is being developed by Trion World Network looks to do just that as well.

Below is an excerpt of a Heroes of Telara E3 ’09 preview by the folks at 1UP.com:

“The focus of the presentation was on the games dynamic world, with group quests tied to regions that can be triggered by the game's masters at select times, keeping players on their toes. These seem pretty much like GM events in other games, but there are supposed to be enough of them, and they'll be scheduled infrequently enough that they'll seem more heroic and epic.

In addition, they'll have repercussions for the game's world. We saw demons attacking a town, and teams of players managed to fight them off without too much property damage. Low level characters rescued people and fetched water while the more experienced repelled a giant demon lord, and afterward shafts of sunlight pierced the clouds and citizens emerged to applaud the defenders. Failure is an option, however, and we're told that should the battle have gone differently, the town would have been destroyed and remained in that state for weeks.”

Jatar, a developer at MMO Magic also chimes in to reassure Bookkeeper that the team has been hard at work on an MMOG that is just as he describes, called Citadel of Sorcery:

“Since our game was mentioned I've been following this post. Bookkeeper, I also responded to your question in the Citadel of Sorcery forum.

Let me just say that this kind of game play, though not exactly what Bookkeeper described, but very close, is absolutely possible. Several of you have mentioned that it is not technically possible, or feasible to make a world where time moves forward and players have unique adventures. We are building just that very thing.

I invite you to read about Citadel of Sorcery and ask me any questions you like. I am allowed to answer most of them, being part of the design team on the game for the past five years. This is a long term project, and like a few of you mentioned, it's not an easy task to build an MMO, let alone one that changes with time every day. But, that's what we have been building, and continue to build.

Come check it out, we're still looking for input from players as we have a lot of work yet to go.”

As for currently available games, what better example of emergent gameplay than EVE Online? Zlayer77 brings up a great point:

“Op you should come play EvE then... its the best sandbox right now If you ask me.
Things dont stay the same, the hole point of the game is fighting other players for teritory. You can build 99% of everything that is in the game. And it has the best economic pvp market of all mmos.
Build your own POS ( player owned structure) lay claim to your own space. Shoot, negotiate and spy on your competition.
EVE has it all…”

Heck, even old school games such as the now defunct Shadowbane tried to tackle this issue, as zerglin87 explains:

“Another sandbox game that the OP was trying to argue here was Shadowbane, Wheneer you logged on, every city could be different, it could be owned by another guild/nation or gone completely. That is why i loved that game and i wish there was a game like it but i have yet to meet a fantasy sandboxPvP MMO Close to it.”

Robsolf offers an excellent example on some creative ways developers have attempted to create the illusion of time passing in an MMOG with the Epic Storyline system present in The Lord of the Rings Online:

“LotRO's whole quest/advancement philosophy works this way. When you advance through the epic quests, "time" passes. Once you've completed all quests from Aragorn in the Prancing Pony, for example, his door is locked and you don't find him until Rivendell after the events of weathertop, and then once those quests are done you're locked out of the room and you don't see the Fellowship until Lothlorien, sans Gandalf. Thus, the illusion of the passage of time based on advancement. “
 

Can you think of other MMOGs (both present and future) that offer more dynamic worlds? Darkfall? Star Wars Galaxies? Ryzom? Let us know in the comments below!

2010 - The new decade....

Posted by garrett Monday January 4 2010 at 7:47PM
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Well it feels like 2010 officially started today. The last time the decade switched over in 2000 we had the Y2K fears, Ultima Online and Everquest were running the MMO market, and games like Diablo 2 and DAOC were on the radar for fantasy fans.

Geez that was ten years ago. But really how much has changed? It is now 2010 and we're excited about Star Wars: The Old Republic. We have Diablo 3 to look forward too. And the game indsutry overall has expanded and busted out like the rest of the economy over the past decade.

So what will 2010-2020 bring for us? Well perhaps the Wii interactive technology will be taken to the next level and gamers will soon have their own "playspaces" to walk into virtual worlds and fight it out.

Or maybe we will see a new MMO emerge to take over and gain millions of players. Or will there be a throw back to the old school style of games with good solid MMOs that have about 500k players and fit in niche markets? 

Overall the decade that has passed us by had its ups and downs. More downs I would say in the end with some pretty rough years.

Still there is hope for the gaming future. As more younger players get involved in MMOs early there is some real potential in the market for more games that are in depth and fun. Perhaps this wave of social network games will pass us by just as the hardcore wave did in decade before and we will find ourselves building games towards are more hard core beginnings?

Overall I look forward to the coming decade with great excitement. Advancements in technology only mean better game play. How can we go wrong with that?