Daily Blogroll 4/29 — Free as in Beer Edition

After hours of agonizing labor pains, SOE popped Free Realms out last night, just before midnight in California. They were just half an hour from having to have their launch party in Fairbanks, but they technically shipped it Tuesday, despite it being Wednesday in four-fifths of the world. Despite the late hour, the server was bustling with new chefs and brawlers. It doesn’t look like Station Access members are considered members in Free Realms yet, or maybe it’s just me. Look for me in the game, my character is Tipa Tanglewood. Speedy custom name approval FTW!

Syncaine of Hardcore Casual feels there’s no way Free Realms can be a success because at a subscription rate a third of a normal MMO, they would need three times as many subscriptions as another MMO to be a success. I’m not sure FR is working with that business model. Wizard 101 is about to announce its two millionth account, and they have three pages of servers which are filled with people at all hours…

Keen of Keen and Graev’s Gaming Blog took a tiny off-the-cuff post about EQ3 (hinted at a year ago), and came up with some really good thoughts on how a next-gen EverQuest could attract new players while not alienating the old. Toldain picked up on it as well, trolling through forum posts to find out what players really wanted from an EQ3.

I shouldn’t have put Syncaine and Keen that close together, because now Syncaine is playing the “Not Cool Enough for Darkfall” card on Keen. Keen (wisely) hasn’t responded, but the comments are full of people coming to his aid. First, it’s not fair to make Keen the spokesman for anyone who doesn’t stick to Darkfall. People should ALWAYS play the game they enjoy playing, and if you’re not having fun in a game for whatever reason, why stick with it?

Isn’t it cool how a massive success story like Wizard 101 receives only a small, small fraction of the press that Age of Conan, Warhammer, or EVE Online receives, despite being arguably more popular than all of those put together? Ever wonder why there are so many shooters, war games, and other opportunities to crown yourself the king of the coop and destroy your friends and enemies with equal joy? If you’re a guy, you’re probably loving this because you are being targeted by marketers who want every bit of your spare change. Spinks of Welcome to Spinksville points out that not only are males being singled out by marketers tempting them to always have the newest toys, but that females, because they don’t often fit the marketing definition of “hardcore gamers”, don’t get as rich a selection of games.

Copra notes that World of Warcraft has so trivialized MMO gaming that devoted players easily become bored with it, yet find all other MMOs different, difficult and strange and are forced to return to WoW as the only MMO that is familiar enough to be fun, at least a little. Me, I enjoy seeing WoW players try other MMOs. They might see something there they like, and even though you know they will return to WoW, it’s nice to see a bit of another MMO through their eyes.

Lars of MMOment of Zen has some ideas on how tanks could be changed to work better together in groups and raids to make them a little more desirable. Right now, the perfect number of tanks in a group is one, and for a raid, maybe two. Crusaders (shadow knights and paladins) have buffs which grant the main tank in a group additional bonuses, but Lars says these minor buffs don’t go far enough.

Well, I’m shambling like a zombie with one leg and both arms missing today after waiting on Free Realms to launch last night, so I have to rush off to work. Have fun wherever gaming takes you and see you all tomorrow for another edition of the Daily Blogroll!

Web Log 4/24 — Friday is Free Day edition

Penny Arcade starts off Freeday Friday with a little bit of snark about the Chronicles of Spellborn payment plan. While it’s true that you can now use a credit card like for every other game… I think trying to figure out their Coins-based plan is a fun game all on its own, don’t you?

Reported everywhere is Lord of the Rings Online’s second anniversary promotion. Free to try again, 25% experience bonus on kills that stacks with all other bonuses, tokens you can trade in for cool stuff, etc etc. The xp boost is very nice, anyway. I haven’t seen what the tokens trade in for, but I have my suspicions I have a lot of Blueberry Tart recipes in my future.

Tobold talks about the new Free Realms trading card game and why Free Realms can never come close to challenging WoW. Is there anyone who really thinks ANY game will challenge WoW? I mean, when you have WoW itself becoming a minigame portal with Peggle now joining Bejeweled as super casual games you now need not leave WoW to play… WoW, like Facebook, isn’t a game so much as it is a platform.

The Original Runic Games Fansite has a pretty good summary of Taylor Balbi’s GDC impressions of Torchlight, Runic Studios’ first Diablo II/Mythos-esque single player Action RPG and seed for their future MMO. Torchlight is said to be released this year, which will keep it out of the path of the Diablo 3 juggernaut expected within the next two years. I want to play them both!

Syncaine of Hardcore Casual has a little bit of fun with the braggarts and whiners of the Darkfall Forums. A little more respect for the fellow fans of hardcore impact PvP? These are the elite killers, you know.

Since Planetside and Tabula Rasa blazed the Shooter MMO trail and showed just how profitable the unholy fusion of first person shooters and a level grind could be, MTV Multiplayer went out and asked massive shooter devs from The Agency, APB, Earthrise, Combat Arms and CrimeCraft how they planned to put this relatively new sub-genre back on its feet.

Syp from Bio Break takes time out from not sleeping to marvel at how Mythic is taking more and more ideas from its previous MMO, Dark Age of Camelot, to patch perceived flaws in its current MMO, Warhammer Online. Three sides? Yes, please. FOUR sides? OMG awesome! Bringing the RvR dungeon of Darkness Falls forward is a good first step. I had loads of fun there in DAoC.

Beau Turkey of Spouse Aggro writes about how MMOs begin to understand that there is more to gaming than a desire to wade through gore.

OMG, is that an Elric Melnibone/Michael Moorcock/Blue Oyster Cult reference? Yes. Yes, it was. Watch the video as E(l)ric Bloom talks about the plot of Moorcock’s Elric series, then BOC swings into Black Blade…

I just wanna be a lover, not a red-eyed screaming ghoul? Hey, Beau, this song is ABOUT YOUR POST!

Lars from MMOment of Zen thinks that writable books in EQ2 are a good start, but they could do so much more. Commenter Tholal points out that Ultima Online has had these features for years, going on centuries now. Hey, where are the friggin ULTIMA ONLINE BLOGS? How are we supposed to KNOW these things?

And lastly, it’s Bio Break’s Syp again with six ways to leave a bad pickup group. I’ve tried them all, but #6 is by far my favorite.

See you Monday!

Web Log 4/23 — Too Much News edition

Wednesday? Seriously? All these MMO companies, at the same time, said, we’re gonna have some big news, and it’s gonna come out on a Wednesday?

What’d I do to them? Last night, I was going to do a new one panel comic, and then sit down and game for awhile. That little test I linked to yesterday that where they wanted to know how MMOs were destroying your life? I wanted to pencil in, want time to play MORE.

I was logging in just to change the privs on my house so my interior decorator, Brightknife (the Arasai being confused by Ettie in my last one panel comic) could do what she needed to do in Dina’s home… when I got asked to a VP raid. But my night’s plans had already been shattered by the Free Realms NDA dropping, and then, just before bed, KingsIsle put Wizard 101 player housing live on their test servers, now I see that Acclaim has officially launched The Chronicles of Spellborn in the non-central European world.

So, seriously. On a Wednesday?

Along with the official launch, Acclaim has given every current Spellborn subscriber two free weeks, and has introduced industry standard, credit card billing instead of the confusingly arcane subscription via Acclaim Coins. At $14.99/month, it’s on par with other similar games, and there are discounts for subscribing for three or six months at once.

The endless speculation over the new EverQuest server type will soon come to an end, and it looks like the 51/50 server is the current favorite. That’s the one where new characters start off at level 51 with 50 AAs. This news hasn’t come without a little bit of controversy.

On the EverQuest 2 side of Norrath, Live Update 52 news begins to trickle. First on the feature list: Player writable books. I wasn’t all that thrilled, personally, but Stargrace had some really cool suggestions for the new books, and Copra suggested a Norrath-wide scavenger hunt with books as clues.

Copra, by the way, is slowly realizing that the achievements in Achiever games are empty fun as he reconsiders the World of Warcraft end game. Cheer up. We all eventually move on from achiever-based gameplay.

Green Armadillo of Player vs Developer wonders if the time constraints of the final boss in WoW’s new end-game dungeon are just a blatant attempt by Blizzard to keep people playing longer. Back in EverQuest’s Planes of Power, the boss of the Plane of Water, Coirnav, would despawn for three days — for everyone on the server — if you didn’t beat him in 14 minutes. Underwater. And by beat him, I mean beat three mini bosses, and a LOT OF TRASH, and him himself :) Also, we had to swim uphill both ways. Now if WoW didn’t instance Uldaur so that a failure on Algalon meant nobody on the entire server could try him again for a week, THEN… well, then it would be as challenging as old EverQuest. Ahem.

Responding to people who grip that Darkfall is nothing more than a “paid beta”, Syncaine writes that ALL MMOs are paid betas, and in a state of continual flux as they expand, or they are stagnant and dying. Greg Dean of Real Life Comics offers up his own views on Darkfall.

SOE announced their SOE Player of the Year contest. Even though the contest bars non-US citizens, I’m going to have to ignore that rule because there really is no other choice for player of the year than Stargrace of MMO Quests. She is a tireless promoter of EverQuest, EverQuest 2 and Vanguard. Her adventures have inspired countless people to subscribe to and play SOE MMOs. She writes about SOE games for Beckett’s MMO Magazine, is in the front at every player or GM event, and a wonderful person besides. Dozens of people would come to the Fan Faire this year just to meet her, if she were to win the contest and be able to attend.

Lastly, Syp of Bio Break has a list of 15 observations he’s made about Lord of the Rings Online since returning to the game. Hey, I used to play that game… back before all these MMOs started spitting news!

Okay, that’s all for today, and guys, get some sleep, okay?

Web Log 4/21

As near as I can tell, nearly 900 people came to this blog yesterday just to name the Marleybone builder turtle in Wizard 101. That’s fantastic! There’s still a bunch of time left, and as long as the contest is going, there’s going to be a big button over there on the right leading to the post since, this being a blog, stuff scrolls off the front page almost immediately, and the Name the Turtles contest is already buried under THIS post, and a long, long comic about two hobbits discussing how cool a X Files MMO would totally be.

If you play Wizard 101 and haven’t yet suggested a name nor for just the Marleybone turtle, but ALL of them, well, click the button and get naming! :)


In a shot heard ’round the Twitterverse, Free Realms dev Laralyn confirmed what I thought I’d heard before but now know for sure — all the “velvet rope” content in Free Realms that is reserved for members — many cool professions, quests, and minigames — will be available for no extra cost to Station Access members. Just when I was wondering if the $30/month was worth it just so I could make comics in EQ2, SOE brings me back.

Syncaine has another exciting story from the Darkfall trenches. I love reading about the epic battles in both Darkfall and Eve Online. The stories I read from Warhammer Online just don’t seem as gripping.

Todd Klein marvels at how far his screed against the Comic Sans MS font has gone since he wrote it. Who knew people cared so strongly about a font? Emily Steel of the Wall Street Journal digs even deeper with all you could ever want to know about the history of the font everyone loves to hate.

Indie game developer Cliff Harris is developing a game that will feed our ever-expanding need to see gloriously gratuitous space battles with a game called, appropriately, Gratuitous Space Battles. Day by day, he takes us through his development process and how he takes a game from concept to 60 fps, 200 unit strong, space battles.

Via io9, a MSNBC interview with the developers of the upcoming MMO, Star Trek Online. It’s like they hypnotized me, made me tell them everything I wanted to see in a Star Trek MMO, and then put it straight into the design document. I just hope they can pull this off.

Potshot is off exploring the hidden parts of the Eve Online universe with the newly discovered scanning technology. You never know what you’ll find at the far end of a wormhole, and even a Sleeper base surrounded by clouds of Fullerene can be a lucrative, if dangerous, surprise.

Saylah at Mystic Worlds respecs her Wizard 101 Balance wizard with Death as a secondary school and Ice as tertiary… which is pretty much exactly what I did when I respecced. Are we approaching the perfect killer training point build? We might be.

Speaking of Wizard 101, Damion at Zen of Design points to an article about a company that has developed semi-automated tools to monitor chats in kid oriented MMOs. Commenter Bryce points out that such monitoring software might make parents feel they don’t have to pay as much attention to what their kids are doing online.

Sente at A Ding World writes about the repercussions of Paragon Studios’ decision to allow the players to create their own missions in City of Heroes’ Architect system.

And that’s it for the Tuesday edition of Web Log!