It was unsurprisingly but disappointing nonetheless that ChinaJoy, which took place three weeks ago, was barely visible in the North American game media again this year despite being far larger than any comparable event held on this continent. I understand why this is so. Sending a writer is pricey since it's a long trip, and to compound this, there are few titles shown that would qualify as high-profile for the audience here. The latter also makes it pretty difficult for freelancers to solicit enough assignments to cover the cost of going on their own.
That said, for those who share my interest in the entire global MMO scene, it's a pretty unfortunate situation. There's a huge amount of activity happening in China, of which we only get to see the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Luckily, I can get some information and feedback from various developer and publisher contacts who attend, but the most interesting things I learn are almost invariably off the record, which doesn't help anyone else.
The Korean counterpart, GSTAR, is pretty much in the same boat. This year's will take place Nov. 18 to 21 in Busan. I assume this is because the government, through the departments that sponsor the event, are trying to promote economic activity in different areas of the country. However, since the domestic development industry is heavily centered in Seoul, it makes attending less convenient for almost everyone who goes.
The show was a tremendous learning experience the two times I went, but getting to it and back wasn't great. The location was about a 30-minute shuttle bus ride outside the capital, but only if you were on the near side of the sprawling megalopolis. If not, it could apparently take two hours or more, even without encountering extreme traffic. Plus it seemed like anyone not attending an official event went back to Seoul when the doors closed, so why not hold it there in the first place?
Before that, we have GDC Online in Austin TX Oct 5 to 8. I've missed the last two, but before that, at least for the first two or three times I went, it was easily my favorite North American event. Sadly, the convivial atmosphere that set it apart started to erode as the event grew. Given the opportunity, I'd certainly go again since the show attracts such a concentration of western MMOG notables. I do wonder though... how much coverage will it get in Asian game publications?
Ray Muzyka on TV at the World Series of Poker
As I've mentioned in the past, one of my hobbies is poker, which can be loosely regarded as a form of MMOG. While I'm just a recreational player, there are people in the game industry who compete at higher levels. One of these is Ray Muzyka, co-founder of BioWare and now co-head of EA's MMO / RPG group. So, when I watched a WSOP Main Event TV show last week, it wasn't a complete surprise to see him. He was shown winning a hand during day 1D; because there are several thousand entrants, even at $10,000 apiece, the field is far too large for everyone to start at once. And since Ray made it to at least the second day this year, perhaps he'll appear again.
This year's tournament even had a free to play angle. The most heralded first-time entrant was Annette Obrestad, who captured the WSOP Europe Main Event when she was 18, but couldn't play in Las Vegas until she reached the age of 21. The winner of millions of dollars, she began her career playing promotional "freerolls" that pay small amounts of cash but cost nothing to enter; she couldn't use her own money because she was only 15 at the time and had no easy way to get any on the poker sites.
This week's MMOG trivia
The F2P title you're being asked to name this time originates in Korea. Not yet available in North America, it looks like it will arrive within the next several months, although I've yet to see a projected launch date or window. Billed as an "emotional fantasy MMORPG", the game's most notable element is a three-character system consisting of the main one each player creates, a mysterious female companion whose past you must try to unravel, and summons / transformations that help in battles.
Developed by CJ Internet, Prius Online became very popular when it was released in Korea; it was the most played game there for a time. The play involves your main character, the companion called Anima whose personality can reportedly develop in various ways, and Gigas, which are described as "strategic and dynamic mercenaries that fight by your side". The playable jobs include warrior, hunter, gunner, elemental mage, bard and swordsman, each of which has advanced options.
Perhaps a year ago, the game made the news for a truly unfortunate incident wherein an infant died due to neglect while the parents' attention was focused on playing. I read that they were subsequently convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to two years in prison.