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E3: PlayNC Preview

Laura Genender Posted:
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Dungeon Runners, Soccer Fury and Smash Star headline PlayNC

On the first day of E3, Jon Wood and I visited NCSoft, where we saw some new upcoming titles that differ from the usual MMO we have come to expect: Dungeon Runners, Soccer Fury, and Smash Star.

The first difference between these games and, say, Lineage II or City of Villains is that they will all be free to download and play, and players will buy new add-ons such as areas, characters, abilities, etc. These games have “shorter, faster gameplay” than some of NCSoft’s other products, their aim being to pull more people into the MMO market. These games are free but still high quality, and should be able to attract a new and interested crowd.

The first game, Dungeon Runners, is a fantasy style game in which the player does just as the name describes. The majority of gameplay happens in randomly generated instanced dungeons. Players can form parties, buy and sell loot, and interact with each other in hub towns, just like Guild Wars, but the real gameplay is in the dungeons.

As said above, all dungeons are randomly generated – while different portals have different feels (for example, they showed us one spooky library type dungeon and another that was in a thick forest), all the dungeon maps and monsters are randomly generated.

Instead of fighting tough single monsters, Dungeon Runners tends to throw groups of weaker monsters at players. This is to promote a feeling of heroism for the player; NCSoft fully expects players to herd monsters together and use AoE skills to kill them.

To further that heroic feeling, there is no death penalty in Dungeon Runners. NCSoft is also trying to eliminate as much tedium as possible; their mantra for this game is “maximize playtime, minimize downtime.”

Players can play one of three starter character classes, and will likely be able to purchase alternate character classes later on, as well as skills, items, and new dungeon maps. I am somewhat skeptical about the latter; why would players buy new randomly generated dungeons?

Next we saw a gorgeous game-rendered trailer for Soccer Fury, an MMO being developed in Barcelona that is still in its early stages. Like a regular soccer game, your goal in this game is to score a goal. The twist is that there are no refs, and you can play it dirty or clean.

Your character can gain (or buy) skills in different positions – offense, defense, goalie, etc – and battle it out over the ball using soccer skills or martial arts. This is a cooperative game, and players will form squads with other players to compete in stunning instanced areas.

Lastly, we saw Smash Star, an anime-style tennis game where characters can use magic and skills to aid them in their match. The game’s art style is incredibly cute and unique, with anime-type characters in fantastic costumes wielding tennis rackets, fly swatters, and frying pans while duking it out on both traditional and whimsical courts.

NCSoft described this game as an attempt to “open up to a wider range of genders and ages.” With their business model of free to play and free to download, though, I wonder how successful they will be with small children attempting to convince their parents to put up cash for a new tennis racket for their online character.

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Laura Genender