Daily Blogroll 9/23 – All Queued Up Edition

"I could tell he meant business...."

“It would like them much; but an ye wot how dragons are esteemed, ye would not hold them blamable. They fear to come.” — “Well, then, suppose I go to them instead, and—” — “Ah, wit ye well they would not abide your coming. I will go.” And she did. She was a handy person to have along on a raid. — Mark Twain, “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”

I work not half a mile from the house where Samuel Clemens wrote that book, and the book is my “bus book” I read on the way to and from work, and when I saw the lines about dragons and raids, well….

Anyway, lots of people are still waiting in queues in Aion. I think enough has been said about that, and I don’t ding NCsoft for going easy on the servers to start off. (Rer has some ideas on what to tell friends who might be reluctant to try Aion because of queues and other things). Nothing worse than making a million servers and then closing half of them in a couple of months after people go back to WoW. Because you KNOW they will. In the MMO space, WoW is like this huge dark star in the middle of the system. You can travel to another planet for a visit, but unless you nail your feet to the ground, that dark WoW star’s gonna pull you back.

Seems only natural to want to work there. After all, if they already have your soul, might as well make them pay for the privilege. That’s what Ixobelle thought, fresh back from Japan, as he drove to Blizzard headquarters in Irvine, California, with $500 worth of full color, 27 page booklets outlining his painstakingly designed raid dungeon, the Castle of Baron von Lupus. If that doesn’t sound like a natural fit for the new Worgen PC race, what does? Not knowing any Blizzard employees well enough to get through the front gate, he set up a table and sign across the street, hoping for a response. Did it pay off? You’ll have to read the post to find out.

Brad McQuaid writes about Vanguard’s Size Problem. As in, the world is so big, vast, tremendous, huge, etc that unless you stick close to the cities, you will only rarely see another person. Though with all the methods of travel available, 90% of Telon is just there to keep the quest hubs separated. Brad says this vast expanse was a pushback against EverQuest’s omnipresent crowding that had people bumping into one another at every turn. But overcrowding is better than the alternative….

Brad says people will group if there’s enough people in the area with which to do the thing. Thallian insists the reason people don’t group (in WoW) is because it’s not FUN enough. He goes on to give a lot of suggestions about how to make dungeons and other encounters more fun, most of which were done eons ago in EverQuest.

SOE’s working on a new EverQuest, EverQuest Next. They could do far worse than to go back to basics and try to capture what made EQ special for its time. EQ has changed so much now that it’s a different game, but back then…. and as someone who last year started over from scratch, I can avow that EQ still has that same magic, if you’re doing it with a group of friends. EQ nostalgia must be going around, because Rao has got it as bad as I do. I don’t see either of us jumping back into the game, though.

Werit reports that you’ll be able to level up entirely via PvP in Cryptic’s upcoming Star Trek Online, which, I hope, will have a longer shelf life than Champions Online apparently had (I kid, I’m sure it’s doing amazingly). Well, according to XFire, Champions looks like it has already peaked. But I don’t trust those numbers. For one thing, we KNOW the Aion numbers are inflated because so many people are never logging off.

Melmoth and Zoso of Killed in a Smiling Accident have just gotten word that many other MMO companies are planning their own versions of WoW’s Cataclysm. My favorite: Darkfall’s UBACLASYM! It’s IMPACTED!

Openedge1 takes the pulse of a as-yet un-Cataclysmed Age of Conan to see if it will merely last the winter or if it has a long future ahead of it.

And lastly, F2P impresario Warhammermer writes about Ran Online, a “beat em up MMORPG set in a high school/secondary school“.

I don’t know why that reminds me of Pirate Baby’s Cabana, but it does.

Daily Blogroll 9/17 – Kanye edition

Kanye pops up in Runes of Magic

Guy just keeps popping up everywhere, don’t he?

I am playing Runes of Magic now because, hey, WoW is coming out with a new expansion that I probably won’t play, so why not reminisce about good times in WoW by playing some other game? Runes of Magic only allowed me to pick from two races, Elf and Human. I thought they had some short folk in the character concept art, but I guess those were just meant to be children. It’d be kind of cool, by the way, to start of as a child in an MMO (optionally, anyway), and play children’s games of crafting, socialization, war and magic while slowly aging and learning more of the wider world and your place in it.

I’m a little late to the Runes of Magic scene, but I won’t let irrelevance slow me down. Expect a “first look” in a week or two.

Raph Koster is at the Austin Game Developer’s Conference this week (and I’d love to be there, too, to hear about all the new Wizard101 stuff!), and he’s been working his fingers to the knuckles transcribing various panels — he just posted a fascinating transcription of a panel about monetizing online games.

Because “Free to Play” doesn’t mean free. They expect between $5-$50 ARPU – average return per user per month (I believe it’s by month).

Speaking of modern gaming’s loose and liberal use of the word “free”, Free Realms is having a double Station Cash weekend Friday evening through Sunday night. Buy a Station Cash card, redeem it after 7PM PST Friday but before Sunday midnight, and they’ll match your donation. You have to redeem it within Free Realms, but you can use it in any SOE game that takes it. This puts a character transfer for your EQ2 characters at $12.50 each, effectively. Or you can spend it all on dressing your kitty like a pirate for International Talk Like a Pirate day.

If your F2P tastes run more toward stubby-legged cherubs than big-headed fairies, Dragonica Online has some Arr Ye Matey pirate wear in its cash shop, too. And of course, this is like Christmas Day for Pirates of the Burning Sea!

Here’s a little Pirate Alphabet to get in the mood:

Ravious at Kill Ten Rats has a fantastic interview with some folks at ArenaNet, the people behind Guild Wars and its forthcoming sequel, Guild Wars 2: Electric Boogaloo. Find out how the Wizards of the Coast folks have it so easy balancing Magic: the Gathering compared to the way tougher card game of primary and secondary skills, what the purpose of all those different classes is anyway, and what they’re keeping in mind for GW2.

Rer at (Insert Awesome Aion Name) was worried that the news that Aion’s Fortresses would only be allowed to be taken on that server’s prime time would really hurt legions (guilds) with members across time zones. Looks like NCsoft has taken that into account with a lot of tools to tell when a fortress is available for attack, which ones ARE being attacked and so forth to make it easier to get people together for those. Also, looks like the West Coast servers are gonna be the hot ones.

A random corner in RivervaleI used to twink my EQ alts by logging the alt in this little corner, dropping stuff there with my main, then logging in really quick and hope nobody had stolen it or it hadn’t just decayed. Was that cheating? *I* don’t think so. In EverQuest, that’s pretty much why people kept going to the old zones. Twinking — and farming stuff to sell — was the root of EQ’s social culture. It was the battery that kept the whole thing going. Gordon of We Fly Spitfires, alas, sees things differently. Is twinking just another form of cheating? Or is it a way to keep older zones active enough so that newer players can more easily find groups?

Syp thinks grinding has got a bad rap. In fact, it brings you to an almost zen-like state of relaxation. Seriously — grinding might be good for your health! So grind another rank of faction for your kids, because they love you.

If you’re gonna get that zen-like state going, what better reason than living through the apocalypse? Well, not quite living, not if you’re in Fallen Earth. You’re a clone of a DEAD person (oops, spoiler alert). Pete of Dragonchasers isn’t sweating the genetic stuff, he’s out scrabbling through the ruins looking for bits and pieces with which to make horrific weapons of destruction and finger-lickin’ fried chicken. Well, at least the fingers of one of those hands is lickable.

Spinks has words for those scallywags who pre-order a game just to get into the open beta, but then feel free to cancel it if they don’t like what they see. And those words are: go ahead! The game company gets good PR for all those pre-orders, and you got to see if you liked a game without shelling out big bucks.

Spinks is also liking what she hears about the new Captain’s Log in Star Trek Online. Yeah. The more I hear about that game, the more I like it. Please PLEASE I hope they take a cue from their Champions Online and make the STO universe a shared universe.

Openedge1 is stirring in his stone mausoleum… be frightened.

And Keen is agonizing over the server choice he must make for Aion. Every time it gets harder, whether for Pirates of the Burning Sea, or Warhammer, now this… at least Darkfall had just one server. Me, I just wait six months or a year these days. If the game still sounds like fun by then, I go for it. That’s what I did for WoW. Wizard101 lets you change servers at will. I don’t understand why more games don’t design their games around server pools. Dividing friends among different servers shouldn’t be a revenue stream. It’s a problem that needs fixing.

You know, if Lord of the Rings were anything like Lord of the Rings Online, Radagast the Brown might have had a little more trouble with the birds and beasts of the field than he let on…. and Melmoth of Killed in a Smiling Accident has the sad duty to write it all down. My problem with him, in LotRO, was — he was the one in charge of those annoying spying birds? When I met him in game, I wanted to ask him why he didn’t call those annoying pests OFF. But that wasn’t one of the conversation options.

Hudson writes about the closure of a dozen Star Wars Galaxies servers. I don’t think my server is among those, but I have long forgotten in which server I played. I suppose SOE is finally able to let go, now that news about their follow-up, Star Wars Babies, has come to light.

The Teal Nine Ring Highway Hazard has gotten subscribing to several MMOs down to a finely honed science. Get out your spreadsheet and follow along and you, too, can play five MMOs and pay for only one sub at a time.

Ardwulf, he of the one word Aion review, bids a fad sarewell to NCsoft Austin’s Dungeon Runners. I liked the game fine, just got too repetitive, but I am sad to see it go. I remember when NCsoft Austin was started with bright hopes and magical moonbeams to work on a mysterious groundbreaking MMO by game royalty Lord “Richard Garriott” British. I remember it just like it was Sunday. Now, what’s left of it? Gone, along with all our dreams.

The Friendly Necromancer spills the beans about the special PvP armor you can earn in Wizard101. -100% mana? Sounds like winning stats to me. But it does look cool, though making plate armor and metal helms kinda stretches traditional wizard-wear, doesn’t it?

A Titan under attack.

Keep gaming! I’ve had a pretty rough past couple of days IRL but I’m back now :)

Daily Blogroll 9/9/09 – Galaxy Express edition

That’s like Galaxy Express 999, NOT the Futurama ship. That’s Planet Express.

My pet loves me when I'm dead

Ever, like, DIE in a game, and your pet begins dancing around your decaying corpse, singing about what a great day it is? Thanks, Hello Kitty Online! Leveling has slowed quite a lot in that game. My pet is having a super time, though.

If you spend several hundred hours in your game of choice, the LAST thing you really want is someone coming up and telling you that you’re wasting your time, because Game B is SO much better than your Game A — insert any two games in those slots. Super Mario World vs Legend of Zelda. Cribbage vs Bridge. WoW vs…. well, any other game that is not WoW.

Tobold writes that people become so INCREDIBLY vested in their GoC, that they can’t even LISTEN to anyone praising a different game. Because they are WRONG and always WILL be wrong — as they run back to their computers and log in to their comfort game. MBP notes that it’s not just EVE, Darkfall and other non-WoW gamers that pile on to any mention of WoW’s merits, but WoW players who can’t understand why anyone would play any other game. MBP kinda makes that point as well, saying that “World of Warcraft is the biggest, most popular, most polished mmorpg on the planet. It is a very good game.” Well, EverQuest and EverQuest 2 are both bigger, and Aion is arguably more polished, and Maple Story has over 72 million players… kinda makes you wonder just what WoW DOES have going for it, aside from fanboyism… Blizzard, treat your fanboys well, they are your greatest treasure.

Karen of Journeys with Jaye makes a stellar comeback to her too-long-dormant blog with a homily to the power of a good guild to turn a game into a community. I love guilds, but that’s a huge problem for a MMO mayfly like myself that floats from game to game. I do love my EVE corp, OtakuDyne, to death, though — the game would be far too frustrating without them.

Speaking of EVE, omgtheyarenerfingtitans! Titans, for non-capsuleers, are moon-sized ships of ultimate destruction — like the Death Star, except bigger, and without a lot of starship-sized paths to the power core. Gordon of We Fly Spitfires says the Titan-only 10k radius sphere of destruction is being made… single target. Now, I’m still an EVE noob, but even I can see why that is a Bad Idea. AE spheres of doom don’t need to lock on to a target, they just kill everything in range. Weapons requiring a target can be foiled all sorts of ways. Hey, if I just spent hundreds of billions of ISK and a year or two of training to fly a Titan — which is like flying an asteroid-sized target around — I want it to be UBER.

Paladins RULE!

Zubon of Kill Ten Rats has been having a grand old time making and leveling new characters in the largest, most polished, most popular MMO in the whole world, Blizzard’s World of Warcraft. His take: Night Elf druid boring, Gnome mage nerfed at low levels, and OMG Paladin!!! I wanted to make a screen shot of a paladin with its magic horse for this bit, but I am among the WoW-challenged, so I offer up the screen shot of a paladin and her magic horse in Nethack, instead. But it’s just like WoW in most ways.

Recently-capped protection warrior Copra finds the game changes at 80… especially in pickup groups. He has a dozen things PuGs have taught him about playing in a group with both random strangers and consummate professionals….

Massively has a great video of ship combat in the in-development Star Trek Online. One of the criticisms of combat in EVE Online is its slow pace of combat — STO looks to change all that. Can’t wait to see how all that comes together.

Wizard vs Crab

I’ve been back in Free Realms for a few days now, studiously leveling up my wizard. The game has sure changed a lot since its launch. I’m not sure why that surprised me, but it did. Beau of Spouse Aggro likes to point to Free Realms as an example of a larger trend among MMOs to remove all the boring bits and just move the player from one fun activity to the next at a good pace. Because, seriously, modern games are all more or less a collection of mini-games, right? Some just wear the badge more proudly than others.

Wolfshead was one of the fortunate few who went to Seattle’s PAX over the holiday weekend. He had this to say about the games he saw on the show floor:

Part of me is worried about the lack of originality and experimentation given this apparent grand consolidation of gaming features. This is probably because of WoW’s success and the simple fact that most people in the industry creating video games have either played WoW or are playing WoW and are understandably enamored of its success. I suppose in some ways it’s good to see features becoming standard much like a rear view mirror and seat-belts became much like standard features in the automobile industry. Still, it is a bit unsettling that all games seem to be converging into one game.

That IS disturbing, and I know that Wolfshead would agree with me when I talk about the virtues of games that do things in a different way.

Well, love to talk more, but have to head to work. A bunch of Republican thought-czars are coming to Hartford today, and traffic is gonna be AWFUL.

Daily Blogroll 9/1 – Hell, O Kiddie edition

Dazed and Confused in Sanriotown

(Shhh! Hello Kitty Online’s closed beta started yesterday! Expect a HKO First Look once I’ve found my way around).

Massively reports that EVE Online’s next expansion, Dominion, has just been announced. Dominion brings a new focus on planets, undoubtedly setting the scene for EVE’s planetbound companion FPS MMO, Dust 514. EVE is also adding social media functionality to the game, and I have no idea what that means. Tweet every mission? No clue. Lastly, the walking around in stations expansion is given a name, Incarna, so I guess we’re stuck in our pods for at least another few months.

In the “But, I Want To Play A New Game Right Now!” department, Syp brings news that Dungeons and Dragons Online’s F2P mode is live, so, like, log in and kill stuff. I played D&D, the pen and paper game. We never had to grind dungeons to level. Sure, it would be impossible for Turbine to make new content every month, but the thing about an adventure is that you only go on a certain adventure once, right? Like, once you’ve spent the entire movie training to blow up the Death Star and then it goes boom, at least you don’t have to worry about doing the whole thing all over again.

Should children be raiding in WoW? Beau loses his cool over a podcast that gives advice on getting your 11-year old into raiding. I’m right there with him. Children should not be playing games that suck all your time when they should be out living their lives. Looking back on my own time, as an adult, sucked into full time raiding, those years are GONE. I would NEVER wish that on a child. Letting your young child spend hours each night playing WoW or any other timesucking game is a kind of child neglect. Do you really want your kid growing up, learning how to interact with people via what you hear over voice chat while raiding?

Syncaine’s staggered by the (apparent) mad rush of bloggers to return to WoW following the announcement of next year’s Cataclysm expansion.

… Is EVERYONE from the blog world back in WoW right now? Failbears all of you! (Like carebears, but when carebears go back to WoW they become failbears) So a month of nothing but “so I did this daily just to grind this rep/token/whatever, it was cool” reading huh? Awesome. To counter this I’m going to start reporting on all the iron nodes I hit in DarkFall (which according to my fiancé is all I do in that game), but each node around Hammerdale I’m going to give a different name, and then phrase them like this “Monday, I went out and complete the Northern Bob daily, just to work on my ‘smithing’ rep with the ‘character’ faction. I love the Northern Bob daily because while it’s both north and called bob, it gives nice rewards and I don’t have to commit hours to get something done”. God I’m bored just writing that…

I’m kinda of two minds about what I call “gameplay” blogs, where someone just posts what they did that day. If I play the game, they’re interesting, and if I don’t, I skip ’em. Remember, like malaria and syphilis, you never entirely get over World of Warcraft. So I’ll auto repeat the page down key on a month’s worth of “I did something in WoW today!” posts because I know those bloggers will come back with cool stuff in the future.

There’s a reason, after all, that I don’t often post about what I did in EVE today ;)

The infosphere was abuzz with yesterday’s news that Imperial Disney had annexed Marvel comics. So I guess we’ll be seeing trailers for Disney’s Princess Collection ahead of Wolverine 2? Seriously, when I think of Disney together with Gazillion’s in-development “Avenger Babies” MMO, just one word comes to mind. Disaster. Synergy.

Information about EQ2’s upcoming “Shard of Lurrrrve” update continues to seep from the test server. Ogrebears has a quick, thumbnail overview of the different kinds of achievements you’ll be linking to prospective group leaders in the near future, while Stargrace takes a look at the “chronomagic” auto-mentoring system.

Re: WoW achievements, and I ask because I don’t know. Are the group leaders who are insisting they be sent stats and achievement links before they will let someone in the group, ever required to link their own stats and achievements? EQ2 is deep into the “Must have T2 and Mythical” territory already. Achievements are just gonna make EQ2’s community even more like WoW’s.

Warhammermer has all the good news on Free Realms’ daily slot machine lotto game. Spin the wheel, get a prize, step right up. I have no idea how that game is doing. I really liked it, but I have a career MMOer’s short attention span.

The Friendly Necromancer reminds us that tomorrow is the first anniversary of the launch of 2008’s most original new MMO, Wizard 101. And he even baked a cake! There’s MMOs out there, a LOT of MMOs, that I regret losing hours of my life playing. Wizard 101 is NOT one of those. I have enjoyed every moment in the game, and I still play it daily, leveling a new duo through the worlds (currently in Hyde Park, Marleybone). So, happy birthday, Wizard 101, and thanks, KingsIsle!