In an effort to see if we can max out our bandwidth budget, MMORPG.com is unveiling one of the hottest E3 2005 "booth babe" galleries you will find anywhere! This gallery features nearly 70 high-quality photographs taken by the talented Glenn Francis at the recently held Electronic Entertainment Expo 2005.
Without further ado, enter the gallery at this link!
It has been eighteen months of Drama for Tulga Games (formerly Artifact Entertainment). The makers of Horizons have been through a lot, but now they claim their game is finally where it should have been when it launched. We give them a second look in this article based on an interview with David Bowman. Keep your eyes peeled in the coming weeks as we also embark on a full length "re-review" of the game.
| Eighteen months ago, Artifact Entertainment launched a highly anticipated MMORPG named Horizons. The team and their one-time publishers Atari anticipated hundreds of thousands of players. At its peek, a number it is no longer even remotely close to, the game hit 37,800. Fast-forward and the original company has since filed for bankruptcy and then re-emerged as Tulga Games. There are only three active servers – one for role-playing, one for regular play and one independently operated European server. The company consists of a mere twenty-seven employees, down from nearly one-hundred at peek. Yet, despite everything, they continue to plow forward and finish the game they started all those years ago. With this in mind, we decided to go back and take a fresh look at Horizons: Empire of Istaria to see where it has come from and, more importantly, where it is going.
Like many good stories, the tale of Horizons began with disaster. First, there was the highly popular, but overly ambitious design they so famously shoved aside in favor of a more plausible, but ultimately less popular vision. Despite these early pre-release hiccups, Horizons under the direction of David Bowman seemed like it still had a chance. They signed with heavyweight publishers Atari and plowed through beta and into release. Then the second disaster struck… launch.
You may read the full article here.
SOE announced that pre-orders are now open for the Splitpaw Saga, the second Adventure Pack for EverQuest II. Here is the release:
-Pre-Order Sony Online Entertainment’s Second Exciting Adventure Pack for EverQuest II -
SAN DIEGO, CA – June 9, 2005 – Sony Online Entertainment Inc. (SOE), a worldwide leader in massively multiplayer online (MMO) gaming, today announced that The Splitpaw Saga is now available for pre-order at www.splitpawsaga.com. The Splitpaw Saga is the second Adventure Pack for EverQuest II, the follow-up to Sony Online Entertainment’s original EverQuest, the longest-running 3D MMO role-playing game in North America. The Splitpaw Saga is scheduled for launch on June 28, 2005 for $7.99, with in-game pre-order events starting today.
“We enjoy making sure that EverQuest II is chock-full of new content all the time,” said Sr. Producer Scott Hartsman. “In addition to our regular live updates and expansion packs, adventure packs like The Splitpaw Saga let us bring story-rich content to lots of players for a really low price. We also have a lot of fun creating the in-game events, in connection with adventure packs, that lead up to the release of the full content.”
By pre-ordering The Splitpaw Saga, players will gain access to a special instanced zone and earn rewards before the adventure begins. At launch, players will explore the collapsed caverns and twisted tunnels of Sundered Splitpaw. Throughout this adventure, the truth behind the dungeon’s mysterious demise is uncovered by using moveable planks, crates and barrels to work through a series of 12 intriguing event-based zones. A ferocious clan of cannibalistic gnolls will stand in the way as players seek to destroy the greatest threat yet in Norrath's history of late. New and veteran players alike can experience the adventure meeting fresh challenges as they progress and try again as the encounters scale dynamically to match the player’s level.
The Splitpaw Saga adventure pack has an exciting storyline and plenty of action that solo players, groups, and raids can enjoy for months to come. For more information, please visit www.splitpawsaga.com.
About Sony Online Entertainment
Sony Online Entertainment Inc. (SOE), a subsidiary of Sony Pictures Digital Inc., is a recognized worldwide leader in massively multiplayer online games, with hundreds of thousands of subscribers around the globe. SOE creates, develops and provides compelling entertainment for the personal computer, online, game console and wireless markets. Known for its blockbuster franchises and hit titles including EverQuest®, EverQuest® II, Champions of Norrath™, Untold Legends™, and PlanetSide®, as well as for developing Star Wars Galaxies™: An Empire Divided™, SOE continues to redefine the business of online gaming and the creation of active player communities while introducing new genres on various entertainment platforms. Headquartered in San Diego, CA, with additional development studios in Austin, TX, Seattle, WA, and Taiwan, SOE has an array of cutting-edge online games in development.
Newly hired industry heavy-weight Jussica Mulligan offers up her first Producer Letter since joining Nevrax from Turbine before E3. Here is what she has to say:
|Last week, we presented the reorganization plan of the Live Content team to the company as a whole. Prior to this, I spent a hectic three weeks just walking around and talking to people, looking at the tools they have to work with, seeing what was in the bug fix queue, asking them what they felt should be our development priorities, creating a list of priorities and reading the forums to get an idea of what the players want worked on. Basically, I wanted to know what was keeping us from putting more content into the game faster and get opinions on how to reprioritize in-house to make that happen. Once I had that input, I created a plan, talked about it with as many individuals and groups here as I could, finalized it and voila!
Without boring you with obvious details, it became obvious that we needed to do some work on our tools, continue to work on content and redesign or upgrade some existing game systems. What we’ve done with this reorganization is to combine all the various “pools” such as coders, level designers, et al, into one large Live Content team, and then create ‘strike teams’ within that organization to deal with specific issues. The purpose of the strike teams is to give motivated and knowledgeable folks ownership of an area and let them work on it to completion.
You can read her full community letter here.
Nevrax has released a lengthy list of planned changes to their resurgent sci-fi MMORPG "The Saga of Ryzom". The changes are lengthy and extensive, but quite interesting to fans or possible future fans of the game.
|This section contains items that we have decided to put on the schedule, plus bug fixes and other items we might be working on and that you need to know about. There is no time estimations for completion for any item in this list, either; development items and bug fixes can slip, after all.|
You can read the full list here.
ArenaNet gets tough with a slew of bans to crack down on bots within their game. Here is the news from the official website.
|As part of our continuing promise to keep Guild Wars free of hacks, cheats, and other exploits, we closed the accounts of more than 100 users of in-game "bots" today. Bots are against the EULA and the Rules of Conduct, and we will continue to remove players from the game if they engage in the use of such programs.|
ArenaNet has released lengthy update notes on the changes brought into the game with yesterday's update to the free to play online RPG.
|Update – Wednesday, June 8
This week, as part of our in continuing promise to keep Guild Wars free of hacks, cheats, and other exploits, we closed the accounts of more than 100 users of bots. With today's update we are taking further steps to address the bot problem. New changes will improve our ability to identify and ban users of bots, rebalance mission areas that were highly exploited by bots, and reduce the overall effectiveness of bots, exploits, and other highly repetitive forms of gold and item farming. We are taking these steps to improve the game for all players, so that people using bots to farm gold cannot generate a huge influx of new gold into the economy, which increases prices for everyone and encourages other players to engage in repetitive farming just to keep up.
We know that some players currently engage in repetitive farming activities for the primary purpose of unlocking skills and items for PvP. Rather than preserving the effectiveness of farming for this purpose, it is our intention to address the larger issue of the need for farming by assessing how players acquire and unlock items, runes, and skills, and then by taking steps to ensure that players can acquire and unlock these things through normal gameplay. We believe that the most effective way to play the game should also be the most fun way to play the game. You can expect to see the first meaningful changes towards this goal next week.
You can read the full update notes here.
WolfPack has announced that "Sachant" has joined the development team to assist in community relations. This longtime community member has previously worked on the IGN Vault, and helped author the strategy guide.
I'd like to take a moment to introduce the latest member to the Shadowbane Community Team: Sachant. Sachant will be assisting us by keeping in consistent contact with the community, primarily on the Chronicle of Strife Forums. Her main goal is to answer day-to-day questions as well as give constant feedback to the Shadowbane Development Team on the pulse and desires of the community. She will also be interfacing heavily with the Forum Moderators as well as the Advocate Group.
We are lucky to have Sachant. Not only is she a hard core gamer with great online community experience, she has an amazingly in-depth knowledge of Shadowbane. For those of you who have been around for a while, you may recognize her as the former Site Manager of the Shadowbane Vault, the Herald of Diplomacy, a member of the Feature Character Team, and the co-author of the Shadowbane Strategy Guide. Sachant is no stranger to the Shadowbane Community to say the least.
Please help us roll out the red carpet to our newest member of the Play 2 Crush family! Be gentle, though, Sachant will need a few days to acclimate before we throw her into the shark infested waters!
By: Ashen Temper
It is good to see an old face land in a neat new job. Congrats Sachant!
It is now cheaper to sail the seas in World of Pirates. The company has announced that the price has been cut by seven euro to only 12.90.
|Summer Special: World of Pirates for only 12,90 Euro!
The summer is coming and the sea is calling - more favourable than ever: From now you can get an account for only 12,90 instead of 19,90 Euro. This means: pay once, play as long as you want. This offer is limited until 26. Jun. 2005.
Much fun with capturing and boarding!
You can find out more at their official website.
The periodic developer feature - Data Node One - has an a new issue. This report updates fans of the Matrix Online about various issues that impact the community.
I realize that most folks would like to see more posts from the actual programmers on the forums. (I'm not a dev nor do I play one on TV.) While I empathize with that desire, you also need to look at it from the overall community perspective: Rumors start easily within the community without devs possibly adding to the fodder.
Our team is proud of the work they do and are more than happy to talk about it. They also like to talk about the possibilities of the game--all MMOs start out as a simple possibility, after all. That's also where the danger lies.
The current perfect example is the Zen Master Discipline. This made it out onto QA Test and it has been a recurring topic ever since. Several times now, I've stated that Zen Master is nowhere near entering the live game. However, I've seen posts as recent as today talking about it arriving in the next patch.
You can read the full update here.
Mike Lescault, a member of the Imperator design team, dropped by our new Imperator Forums to discuss his gaming history. It is an interesting look behind the curtain at someone who makes these games.
|History-wise, I spent a lot of time playing UO and EQ when those two games came out. Those were the games that started many of us onto our MMO addictions. After that, AO gave us our first real taste of a Sci-Fi MMO and I got my Omni-Tek Doctor up to level 112 or so before he retired. In E&B I played a Jenqui Defender and Scout up to the 140s. In SWG I managed to get Master Squad Leader and Master Carbineer in service of the Empire before retiring. I spent a lot of time with COH, and despite making a zillion new characters, I didn't manage to get any past 30.
Currently, my friends and I seem to be spliiting our time playing DAOC, EQ2, WoW, and Guild Wars. We're also eagerly looking forward to a lot of the interesting and innovative games in development.
You can respond to this topic here.
A Tale in the Desert and now A Tale in the Desert II have been on the MMORPG landscape for quite some time. A few weeks ago, I had a chance to have a lengthy discussion with the Pharaoh himself, Andrew Tepper and play the game for the first time since beta. In so doing, I discovered a much deeper game than I thought I would. Here are my impressions:
| Periodically, there is a test of the demi-pharaoh. This test takes all applicants and puts them into juries of seven. The seven people in each jury are given a set amount of time to converse, argue, discuss and pick the most worthy among themselves to advance to the next stage. If all seven cannot agree on one of their own to advance, no one advances. This whittling process continues until only one jury remains, and then if those people can agree on one of their own to advance – that person becomes the demi-pharaoh. The entire process does not make use of “character skill” or any other game play mechanics. It is totally up to the people at the keyboards. If even one player dissents on the eventual decision, no demi-pharaoh is proclaimed. Only one player has ever been exiled by a demi-pharaoh and that was an important player who had gotten very angry with others and set out to destroy much of the communal work they had spent so much time on. The selection process ensures that demi-pharaohs use their power for the good of society, rather than ill.
Still, I was curious what would happen if the previously reputable demi-pharaoh decided he wanted to exile the seven most important players in the game. Andrew Tepper acknowledged this would be a tragedy to the game’s society, but there would be no intervention. These are the perils players face to build their perfect society.
You can read the full article if you click here.
Our own David Souza has penned a review of Guild Wars, the recently released no monthly fee online RPG from ArenaNet and NCSoft. The article takes an in-depth look at the game as a whole and awards the title a score of 8.1 out of 10.
| I’m usually not a big fan of a game with few classes and, admittedly, Guild Wars worried me with its limited amount of six. Once again, however, ArenaNet managed to do “more with less” and still deliver a quality set up in a smaller package.
Players may choose to start as any one of the classes. The available choices include Elementalist, Mesmer, Monk, Warrior, Ranger and Necromancer. Nothing overly innovative or groundbreaking in the selection but the list still manages to cover the core of fantasy adventure. Primary class selection is made at the time of character creation, but a secondary class can later be added. The player garners all the advantages of the second class save for a single primary attribute that only characters who start with a class receive. There are no penalties of any sort for taking a second class and while it’s not required to do so most players do pick up a second class.
Character customization is very limited, and this is one of my few gripes with the game. Character creation leaves players with a handful of simple choices, including face, skin color, hair style and hair color. A sliding bar allows a player to change the scale of their character, which simply affects the character’s height. There doesn’t seem to be a great deal of variety in clothing looks either, especially at lower levels. And while the graphics of the game go far the limited appearances of characters often leave a feel of redundancy when mingling with large groups of characters.
You can read the full article at this link
Blizzard Entertainment has announced the launch of "Battlegrounds" for World of WarCraft. This large addition is the first major update to the ground-breaking MMORPG from these gaming giants.
BATTLEGROUNDS FOR WORLD OF WARCRAFT®
A new era of player-vs.-player warfare has arrived in Blizzard’s critically
PARIS, France – June 07, 2005 - Blizzard Entertainment® today announced the release of the first two player-vs.-player (PvP) Battlegrounds for World of Warcraft®, its record-setting subscription-based massively multiplayer online role-playing game. Featuring distinctly different map designs and game objectives, these highly anticipated PvP battlefields provide an entirely new dimension of competitive gameplay for both expert and new World of Warcraft players.
“While World of Warcraft has been expanding with new content regularly since launch, the PvP Battlegrounds represent the single biggest update to the game yet,” stated Mike Morhaime, president and co-founder of Blizzard Entertainment. “We’re excited that players can now experience Horde-vs.-Alliance combat as it was meant to be, and we’re looking forward to adding even more Battlegrounds to the game with future updates.”
World of Warcraft’s Battlegrounds are PvP-enabled zones where players compete against each other to achieve victory, Honor points, and valuable in-game rewards. Each Battleground has different goals and gameplay styles, providing an addictively engaging experience for participants. The two initial Battlegrounds now available to the public are Alterac Valley, a high-end zone designed for large groups of experienced players, and Warsong Gulch, a more casual zone designed for all players level 21 and up.
In Alterac Valley, two teams of 40 battle each other for all-out domination. The snowy zone, nestled high within the Alterac Mountains of Lordaeron, features a fully functioning base for each faction, NPC defenders, PvP quests, and unique allied monsters to create a challenging and epic conflict. Players can spend hours executing carefully planned strategies in Alterac Valley, earning bonus Honor points by achieving key objectives along the way and ultimately by winning the Battleground.
Victory in Warsong Gulch, situated on the border between Ashenvale Forest and the Barrens, likewise requires strategy and teamwork, but the pace of play is faster, with games lasting 45 minutes on average. In Warsong Gulch, two teams of 10 vie to capture each other’s flag and return it to base while defending their own flag from capture. Three successful captures result in a win, with each capture conferring bonus Honor points.
The Honor points gained in both Warsong Gulch and Alterac Valley accumulate to help players advance in rank in World of Warcraft’s Honor System. Designed as an alternate means of character advancement, the Honor System allows players to access increasingly powerful items as they move up through the ranks.
Blizzard is currently in the process of designing additional Battlegrounds, complete with exciting new settings and new styles of gameplay, which will be available for testing in the months ahead. For more information about World of Warcraft’s Battlegrounds and the PvP Honor System, visit the official World of Warcraft website at www.worldofwarcraft.com.
About World of Warcraft
In World of Warcraft, players assume the roles of legendary heroes and interact with thousands of other players online as they explore and adventure across a vast world. Whether journeying together or questing on their own, players will engage in heroic battles, develop friendships, forge alliances, and compete with enemies for power and glory. The game features customizable character classes with thousands of weapons, spells, and abilities. With an innovative, easy-to-use interface, an action-packed combat system, and thousands of quests that build an immersive storyline, World of Warcraft offers a MMORPG experience that will appeal to both veteran and casual players alike. For more information on the game, visit www.worldofwarcraft.com.
About Blizzard Entertainment
Best known for blockbuster hits including the Warcraft® series,StarCraft®,and the Diablo® series, Blizzard Entertainment® (www.blizzard.com), a division of Vivendi Universal Games, is a premier developer and publisher of entertainment software renowned for creating many of the industry’s most critically acclaimed games. Blizzard’s track record includes nine #1-selling games and multiple Game of the Year awards. The company’s free Internet gaming service, Battle.net®, reigns as the largest in the world, with millions of active users.
MMORPG.com is proud to announce the addition of two more pre-release message boards to our discussion forums. Today we have added boards for "Age of Conan", the upcoming MMORPG from Funcom, and "Imperator", Mythic's entry into the sci-fi field.
We look forward to your discussions on these two boards and the addition of more boards for the games you anticipate and enjoy the most in the future.
A new developer journal graces the Trials of Ascension website. Today Time Rhoades, a texture artist, discusses the challenges he faces in his day-to-day work.
|My name is Tim Rhoades, and I am a Texture Artist for Shadowpool Studios. Being one of the newer members of the team, I have been here for nearly 5 months, and have been steadily cranking out textures to help color the world of TerVarus.
In this months dev journal I would like to take a few minutes to talk about, (you guessed it), textures! I will also see if I can catch Brax napping and sneak into the vault to grab a little more to look at besides the all ready posted screen shots.
You can read the whole article on their website.
World of WarCraft continues to grow like an unchecked weed. Here is the latest release, which announces its launch in China.
Popular MMORPG Continues to Grow as Blizzard Entertainment® Welcomes Host of New Players
PARIS, France – 6 June, 2005 – Blizzard Entertainment® today announced that World of Warcraft®, its massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), has officially launched in China. Players in China can now download the game, create accounts and experience the epic adventure of the Warcraft® series in an immersive and continually evolving online environment. The commercial launch of World of Warcraft follows a highly successful open beta period in China during which the game reached a peak concurrency – the total number of subscribers playing simultaneously – of more than 500,000 players.
"It has always been a goal at Blizzard to become a major developer and publisher for the Chinese gaming market," said Mike Morhaime, president and co-founder of Blizzard Entertainment. "We feel that China offers a huge and eager audience and it is poised to become the next great region in gaming. We are simply thrilled to be bringing World of Warcraft to this great country. With fully localized content, a regional network infrastructure, and local, around-the-clock customer support, we believe that World of Warcraft will provide Chinese gamers with an unparalleled game experience."
To provide players with an incomparable level of service, Blizzard Entertainment has partnered with local publisher The9, who it believes to be the most talented MMO operator in China. The9 will help operate and manage World of Warcraft in China, including all aspects of support. The9's dedicated team, composed entirely of Chinese management and staff, will serve as an integral part of the game's development and customer service efforts. They will assist in the synchronization of content updates, the delivery of player feedback to the developers, and will help ensure accurate localization to keep the game relevant and tailored to Chinese gamers. Furthermore, this local team will offer 24-hour support year around, with direct game master (GM) support and local call-center representatives dedicated to helping players with questions regarding gameplay and/or technical issues.
To deliver top-notch customer support and maintain a safe and secure service, Blizzard and The9 have implemented an authorization CD-key system for the official launch of World of Warcraft. This system will help protect the game from malicious hack programs that could otherwise affect players' enjoyment of the game.
Only players who have purchased an authorized CD key will be able to activate their accounts and enter the game. Each CD key costs 30 Yuan/RMB and can be purchased with a World of Warcraft Points Card. Point Cards also cost 30 Yuan/RMB and can be used at a rate of 9 points per hour (0.45 Yuan/hour) to play World of Warcraft.
For more information on World of Warcraft, including pricing, promotions, and gameplay features, please visit Blizzard's official website: www.wowchina.com.
Magic Hat Software, the developers of Irth Online, have announced that their open beta test for the soon to be launched MMORPG begins today!
STARTS OPEN BETA TODAY
-- BETA TESTERS WELCOMED --
DEDHAM, MA – JUNE 6, 2005 – Magic Hat Software (www.magichatsoftware.com) announced today that the Open Beta for its MMORPG Irth Online (www.irthonline.com) begins today and runs through July 5, 2005. Gamers are encouraged to apply for the Open Beta on the Irth Online website.
“We scheduled our Open Beta relatively late in the development cycle because we wanted our gamers to have the deepest and most complete experience we could provide,” says Alan Chipura, Lead Game Designer. “We’ve paid close attention to the input provided by earlier testers and our changes and improvements are up to date, so we expect the Open Beta test to go smoothly.”
About Irth Online
Irth Online’s virtual world is populated by three distinct PvP civilizations -- The Arcadians in the snowy north, The Morbus in the southeastern swamps, and The Mezoteks in the tropical southwest – which have a thousand-year history of battling to capture the resources of the others to ensure survival. This persistent state of war inspired peace-loving pilgrims from all three civilizations to form their own civilization, and this fourth civilization in Irth Online is non-PvP, and survives via commerce in lieu of combat. Players join Irth’s history at a period when a fragile truce exists, and determine the course of history of each civilization.
The persistent world environment of Irth Online features an open ended skill system. Players may learn any skill offered in the game without facing limitations of race or class. Irth Online's advancement system has a unique skill-over-time feature, allowing all characters to enjoy adventures together, regardless of experience level.
Magic Hat Software’s in-house created engine uses the very latest technology in terms of DirectX9 effect files and vertex and pixel shaders (which include per-pixel lighting and bump/specular environment maps); allows creation of highly detailed characters with animation blending; extended visibility for the player (up to 10 miles in every direction); and unlimited, changeable terrain size with seamless background resource loading.
Irth Online is scheduled for release in July, 2005.
About Magic Hat Software
Magic Hat Software was established in July 2003 in Massachusetts. The team is committed to the idea of creating a virtual world without artificial limits on player behavior or play style, and trusting players to determine their own game experiences. Irth Online is Magic Hat Software’s first commercial MMORPG.
Nevrax, the developers of The Saga of Ryzom, have announced that the game's first expansion pack. Our own Reed Hubbard saw it at E3, and left his thoughts. Here is the official press release:
PARIS, FRANCE – June 6, 2005 – Nevrax, developer of The Saga of Ryzom, the ground breaking massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), announced a new expansion to The Saga of Ryzom entitled The Ryzom Ring, first presented at the recent E3 Expo in Los Angeles, California.
The Ryzom Ring is a set of tools for editing and sharing player-made “maps” that are customizable with terrain, monsters and NPCs all run by individual players. Maps can be integrated directly into The Saga of Ryzom world of Atys, where thousands of other players can experience one person’s handiwork, or kept as a private sanctuary only accessible to a select few. Maps can be made exclusive to player guilds or select friends while running their own invasions or events.
“Our hope for The Ryzom Ring is that it will bring back the power to the players,” said David Cohen Corval, CEO of Nevrax and creator of The Saga of Ryzom. “The Ryzom Ring will empower individuals to create their own adventures and lands and to share them. The only true limitations will be their own imaginations“.
Player maps will be hosted on Nevrax’s servers and developed with tools that have a point-and-click interface. Nevrax plans the first phase of the tools to be easy enough to use that even the most inexperienced MMG player can create content with ease.
“One of our goals is not only to make the players be truly a part of the world of Atys by giving them the tools to create their own areas, but also to make it easy and fun to do so,” continued Cohen Corval. “We believe that the player-empowering nature of The Ryzom Ring is ground-breaking and we hope it will change the way MMGs are played forever.”
The Ryzom Ring is currently scheduled to ship in Winter 2005/2006.
About Nevrax SARL
Founded in early 2000, Paris-based NEVRAX is an online game and software development company that specializes in MMORPG engine and production tool technologies and products. Utilizing NeL, its open source platform, Nevrax’s team of over 50 engineers and designers have completed their first MMORPG, a Science Fantasy game entitled The Saga of Ryzom. For further information, visit www.nevrax.com.
About the Saga of Ryzom
Three generations ago, the proud civilizations of Atys perished in the Great Swarming, when hordes of Kitins swept from the Prime Roots and wrought war and genocide. Now it is time to reclaim your heritage. Join forces with thousands of others, master the arts of sorcery, war, and tradecraft, and re-forge the destiny of your people. The secrets of the past have been lost, but The Saga of Ryzom has just begun.
Called “a serious contender in the fantasy-MMOG market,” by GameSpy and “the prescription against staid and tired MMORPGs” by Computer Gaming World, and deemed 2004’s “Best MMO of E3” by WarCry Network, The Saga of Ryzom launched smoothly into five markets (North America and Europe) in September of 2004.