Web Log 4/25

Welcome to the weekend! It’s fantastic weather, so gonna keep this short.

More news about the ex-Mythos developers’ new game, Torchlight? The Runic Games Fansite has a FAQ complete with everything they know about the fantasy Action RPG and its followup MMO, and Runic Games Insider’s Taylor Balbi has really long interviews with a few of the devs with the nittiest, grittiest details.

Keen at Keen and Graev has a rather positive look at Free Realms. It’s a fun game, but will it appeal enough to kids to become a success?

Cryptic’s Bill Roper says the newest Joker in the Superhero MMO deck (see what i did there?), Champions Online, will be released July 14 — Bastille Day. Syp of Bio Break asks the questions that need answering. Ardwulf wonders just how much of the freedom to define powers has made the jump from PnP to MMO.

MBP at Mind Bending Puzzles wonders if the news that Wii sales have dropped off in Japan signal that the craze for casual games is unsustainable because casual gamers don’t get invested in their games.

A simple trading mission in EVE Online in high security space went bad, and suddenly Enforcer was podkilled and out a billion ISK. Scopique at Cedarstreet figures some research or scouting the route ahead of time might have saved Enforcer the death, and wonders how much research should developers expect from an MMO gamer before they play the game?

Psyq at Dalaran Diary talks about Shards of Dalaya’s House of Portals, the possibly deadly but always treacherous mansion used for long distance travel as opposed to EverQuest’s spires or knowledge portals. I liked the Nexus spires introduced with Luclin. It made travel somewhat easier without making it trivial, provided a place for people to meet and gather and trade, and was a good improvement over the boats. The Plane of Knowledge removed most travel times, and Norrath grew smaller as a result. I’d love to try that House of Portals sometime!

See you tomorrow and have a gorgeous weekend!

Web log 4/19

Welcome to the Sunday Web Log!

When’s the new EverQuest server coming? The rumor mill has it that the 51/50 server — new characters start off at level 51 with 50 AAs — is in the bag. Others assume that SOE will be opening a new progression server, and have reactivated their accounts in order to start over. As near as I can tell, nothing has been announced yet, but it seems likely that we’ll be able to play on the new server, whatever kind it is, in June. Oh, and EQ players? You voted two frogs in as Mr. and Miss Norrath of 2009? I mean, grats to Kannak and Molleah but … frogs?

Thanks for the shout out, Starsong. Some of my most enjoyable times in an MMO in the past year were in Wizard 101… meeting Dr Katzenstein in his lab, or doing Kensington with Suri and Thomas… so much fun! Glad you and your family are enjoying the game! Stop by tomorrow for some special Wizard 101 goodness :)

Psyq from Dalayan Diaries shows how Shards of Dalaya is keeping up with City of Heroes (and Vanguard, too, right?) by adding “Adventuring Bands“. Like the CoH leveling pact, those in an Adventuring Band share experience with each other, online or off, so that everyone levels at the same rate no matter how much, or little, someone plays. Cool idea!

Speaking of City of Heroes, the developers handed the keys to the design studio to the players, and in ONE DAY, the players created more content for the game than the developers had been able to do in the previous five years. And the vast majority of the adventures use custom-created opponents. Sure, a lot of those adventures aren’t the best, but I have played several of them, and some are REALLY GOOD. Plus, aren’t you more likely to stick with a game that has something you made in it? Good move on the part of Paragon Studios, and that’s ANOTHER feature I’d like to see in more MMOs.

Green Armadillo has just gone from level 1 to 50 in EverQuest II and writes about his experience in Player vs Developer. His verdict? He strongly recommends “EQ2 to players who enjoy solo PVE content who are looking for a change of pace”.

It’s been a week for new EQ2 players to admit that the game has really made incredible progress since its launch. Ysharros of Stylish Corpse shows how the game has transformed from drab and colorless to a stylish world drenched in color. And she hasn’t even been to Maj’Dul yet!

Todd Klein over at Todd’s Blog explains how the Microsoft Windows Comic Sans font is EVIL. He’s a pro letterer, and explains how this last vestige of the ill-fated Microsoft Bob project came to be and bemoans the millions of amateur comic makers (me included, alas) who think this is what comic lettering looks like. I went right to Blambot.com and made amends by buying one of their REAL comic fonts, which I try out in the panel at the bottom of this post. That’s Blambot Classic, and I’ll probably pick up Blambot Casual as well, because I prefer having lower case letters, I think. Blambot Classic can use much smaller point sizes and remain readable, though… it’s 8 point type in the panel.

Syp at Bio Break finds out how Free Realms can be the gateway drug to a MMO addiction when he lures his wife to the Bright Side.

Suzina of Kill Ten Rats liked MMOs better back when they were called MUDs and you knew everyone in the game. While I’m not sure her call for servers small enough that you can get to know everyone is really a good idea in this modern age, giving players the tools to form a strong community is vital to the “worldy” feeling in an MMO. If not very small communities, then at least really great hangouts as Spinks of Spinksville suggests.

That’s all for today, but if you’re a Pokemon fan like the lady below, why not visit her in Marleybone and talk to her about YOUR favorite Pokemon?

Marleybone Pokemon
Me, I liked Charmander better.

Web Logging!

The original definition of “blog” was as an abbreviation of “web log”, where you’d point out interesting places you found while surfing. I don’t really have anything to write about today — I did 1.1.11 in LotRO last night on my hunter and started in on the Forsaken Inn quests, and played Free Realms for a couple of hours but I can’t write about that, so… welcome to my web log!

Stargrace has betrayed her illusionist to a coercer. Why? Not because she loves the betrayal quests so much (but maybe she does), but because EQ2 has strayed from its initial promise that every archetype (fighter, mage, scout and priest) could do their job (tanking, magical dps and crowd control, melee dps and heroic opportunities, and healing respectively) as well as any other of their archetype, but in their own unique way. Now, we have 24 classes with 24 different roles and capabilities, and it’s natural that players would rank them. If you want dps, you’re not going to ask for a bard. EQ2 was going to be the game where it almost didn’t matter what class of the twenty four you eventually chose.

Despite Age of Conan’s heavy emphasis on its PvP gameplay when it launched, Openedge1’s picture-heavy log of his trip through the Ampitheater of Karutonia kinda tells me that AoC’s real strengths may lie in its PvE arcs. Colin Brennan over at Massively touched upon this yesterday when he asked if PvP really was the “killer feature” that conventional wisdom insists all new MMOs must have in order to gain cred with MMO players. Even though I play on Spellborn’s PvP server, I admit, PvP is not my reason to choose a game. I’m more likely to look for a game with good customization and a rewarding PvE experience. The more games talk about their blood, gore and random killing, the less I am likely to play.

Suzina at Kill Ten Rats writes about the recent changes that have made Lord of the Rings Online so much easier than it was at launch. She’s absolutely right. I took my new, from scratch, hunter on Landroval from level 0 to level 18 in about five hours of play. The new (optional, but who won’t use it?) quest tracker meant I never had to figure out where to go, or even read the text. I’d swoop in, click on any NPC with a ring over their head, sort the quests by level, and then just follow the arrow. Was there a story? Beats me! I think it involved dwarfs. But just as Suzina points out, my investment in my hunter is nearly nil. I leveled so fast, even without rest experience for most of that time. Just targeted a monster, pressed a couple of keys, targeted another, and when the quest was done, moved somewhere else.

I’m still loving Ommatidia, the daily 101 word story by Brendan Adkins. Gems, every day :)

Darkfall’s two biggest supporters, Keen and Syncaine, recently mused about how the impact PvP MMO, Darkfall, could be losing player interest even though it offers the best sandbox PvP of any fantasy MMO currently available? Is it because not enough players are truly looking for an even, honest fight? Is it because people have been so quick to make themselves feel safe that they have carebeared their fun away? What would it take to make a PvP-centric MMO where real PvP happened on a continual basis? Nobody has yet found the magic formula. EVE Online comes closest, perhaps, but even there, most players do not PvP on a regular basis.

Hudson over at Hudson’s Hideout just got into the Champions Online beta! Grats :) I’ll definitely be looking forward to hearing about his adventures at his new blog, Saving the World… which he didn’t link. Will have that when I get it.

Psyq at Dalayan Diary writes about his adventures in Blackburrow, lair of the dog-like gnolls. That was a deadly place in old EverQuest, and has only gotten deadlier in Shards of Dalaya. No matter how many times they wiped, though, they didn’t lose any experience — SoD has removed that worst of EverQuest’s death penalties. Is that a good thing? Players of old EQ were so paranoid about dying that you wanted to know your groupmates before you did anything even slightly risky. Because you NEEDED to know everyone’s rep, a strong community was formed based on your skill and reputation. Remove the penalties for failure and you remove a lot of the incentive to be skilled… I feel that is amply shown by the rather weak communities of games with little to no penalties for failure.

Green Armadillo at Player vs Developer writes about EQ2’s Splitpaw adventure pack. That’s long been one of my personal favorites, and though GA points out that SOE was charging for content other MMOs gave for free, I felt it was well worth the money, and one of the reasons to subscribe to Station Access, where these things came free. Splitpaw scales with your level, so no matter when you, alone or with friends, enter, you’ll always find a challenge and reward appropriate for your level. GA mentions the Trials of Harclave instance, where you are given a godlike buff and sent alone into a dungeon to wipe it clean of group mobs that would kill you in an instant, normally. Great fun :)

Shards of Dalaya blog: Dalayan Diary

I’d heard wonderful things about Shards of Dalaya, a game built on EverQuest’s assets (and using the EverQuest client) but with a different plot, zone names, zone connections and so on. SOE knows about it and turns a blind eye to it for reasons of their own.

Nonetheless, even with the changes, Dalaya gives a fairly nostalgic look back to the simplicity and danger of old EverQuest, and though I realized I wasn’t as interested in the pure vanilla old school experience as I thought it was (half an hour to level 2? Madness!), the community is passionate and enthusiastic and active development on the game continues.

Ramon AKA Psyq123 started a couple of characters on Shards of Dalaya and writes about it on his new blog, Dalayan Diary. Even though SoD is not quite EverQuest classic, it really does bring me back to 1999 when I rolled my first character, an Erudite Wizard, and stepped into the Stygian darkness of Toxxulia Forest.

Great reading :)