Daily Blogroll 5/11 — Reboot edition

I saw Star Trek Friday night — and it was great. Kinda made me wonder if someone could do the same for Star Wars… like if, somehow, Jarjar Binks went back in time to train Anakin before Qui-gon Schindler got to him…

After an exciting Free Realms weekend in which the log-in servers were down for many hours, I still got some time in. Restarted as an archer and got to level 7, right in the middle of the grind to level 10. Tobold got his blacksmith to 20 and finds the whole job pointless since fairly cheap RMT weapons you can get at level 1 are way better than the best weapons you can craft at 20.

Peter at Dragonchasers writes about the difficulties and strategies in doing a Free Realms instance in a group. Groups are rare in Free Realms; the one pickup group I was in was a total disaster because nobody knows how to handle it, but they go alright with people you know.

Spinks at Spinksville writes about all the various jobs in Free Realms, collections, what your five bucks for a membership gets you, and the awesomeness of having friends.

Cuppy of Cuppytalk agrees that friends are awesome — if you can get them onto your friends list in her constructive criticism of Free Realms. There’s easily a dozen people I would love to have on my friends list, but it’s been impossible to arrange times to meet.

Crookshankz at the Gaming Goob wonders what tortured path led from he and his wife reminiscing about EverQuest to both of them playing it again. I wonder if they’re going to be restarting on the new 51/50 server….

Stargrace and her posse return to EverQuest as well to take on the last of the Fableds and explore the dark temple to the demigod of shadow, Vex Thal. So, so many good times there. I remember that time we were killing blobs and I went AFK… for half an hour… auto-stabbing away until a stray gravity flux exposed my AFK-ness. Them were the days.

Vaarsuvius is getting her butt kicked in Order of the Stick, but Roy is still not resurrected, so feel free to skip this one, too. Gonna have to start holding “Save Roy” vigils.

Via Massively, the latest chapter of the EVE Online machinema, Clear Skies, has been released. I absolutely loved the first one and can’t wait to see this one. It’s an in-game movie using EVE Online for the space battles and a heavily modded Half Life 2 for the character acting.

Jennifer of Girl, Unplugged, writes at length about the completely predictable over-reaction by Paragon Studios to their Architect missions being used for farming purposes. Jennifer notes that since the introduction of Architect, it’s been next to impossible to find missions doing anything else. Has putting level design tools in player hands ruined City of Heroes?

Hudson at Hudson’s Hideout writes about Saga of Ryzom’s return from F2P reboot hell to paid Triple AAA Sandbox MMO space. Ryzom was one of the first MMOs to allow player-made content, and seems to have avoided the pitfalls City of Heroes fell in to. Ryzom has always been on my “would love to try” list, but that’s never actually led to me actually installing the game…

Heartless of Heartless_ Gamer didn’t like the direction Mythos was going when Flagship imploded, and wonders what Hanbit is doing to finish it. I don’t often agree with Heartless, but he’s spot-on here. The Overworld addition that would turn Mythos’ heavy instancing into a more normal MMO world wasn’t working for me. I LIKED the quick trips to dungeons — but then, I did like the city redesigns, too.

Suzina of Kill Ten Rats warns that your MMO is turning into WoW. Every new addition is meant to bring it closer to that Holy Grail of being WoW. I link here only to note that a game currently in closed beta takes the whole concept of a superhero MMO as implemented by Paragon Studios, and supplies the answer to the question, “What if City of Heroes was more like WoW?”

Look, devs, WoW players are happy playing WoW. Your game will never be enough like WoW to outdo WoW being like WoW. You won’t publish your miracle “more like WoW” patch and get ten million players. Not gonna happen, EVER.

Potshot dives into the intricacies of setting up a secret base in EVE Online’s “w-space”, the mysterious reaches at the far end of a wormhole that could collapse at any moment. Even if you have zero interest in EVE, you’ll want to read this amazing account of setting up a long term exploration into the most unknown of territories.

Syp at Bio Break wonders how Bioware can make other classes enticing enough in Star Wars: The Old Republic to stop everyone from making Jedis the SW:TOR Death Knights. In Bioware’s latest update, the Trooper class tries to make tanking sexy for the Republic.

And lastly, Gianna of “The Noob Comic” encounters an infamous reviewer.

Hey, for this week, can we NOT mention Eurogamer?

Just saying :)

I should really do the Blogroll on weekends…. this is getting way too long!

Daily Blogroll 5/8 — Darkfail edition

Actual Darkfall Screenshot
Apologies to Randall Munroe

Yes, I really do believe you can’t honestly review an MMO without investing yourself in it for a fairly substantial bit of time, so that any oddities with controls and stuff become second nature and you can understand the core of what the game developers were striving for. A 1999 EverQuest review could have written all about the low polygons and stiffness of the character models, the laughably sharp-cornered world and so on, and missed the forest for the trees. You have to play a MMO long enough to see and appreciate the forest before you stamp a score on a review.

Enough of THAT particular kerfuffle. Onto what REAL bloggers are writing about!

Saylah from Mystic Worlds, one of my absolute favorite bloggers, is taking a break from gaming to work on a screenplay. That’s pretty cool, but I’ll miss her thoughts on game design and her adventures in Runes of Magic!

Beau loves his horsie. She comes when he calls, loves carrots, can stomp answers to simple math problems and most importantly, doesn’t vanish when he stops riding. In Mabinogi, your horse isn’t just +40% travel speed — it’s a friend and fighting companion.

What else does Beau like? He likes playing MMOs a la carte. This game does this thing nicely, while this game is strong here. And with Free to Play games, he can choose among them for the kind of gaming he wants to do at the moment, and it costs nothing.

Hudson at Saving the World explains a little more how upcoming superhero MMO Champions Online will deal with duplicate hero names in its shardless universe. While I agree that it’s a REAL PAIN to be on different servers than your friends, I like the different ways server communities can grow. So I guess I don’t know if shardlessness is a good thing or a bad thing.

In the same vein, Syp at Bio Break, newly given permission to discuss Champions Online on his blog, weighs in with his official review first impressions (sorry) :) His verdict? Champions Online improves upon City of Heroes in many ways, but is still essentially the same sort of game. Evolutionary, not revolutionary — but better.

Peter at Dragonchasers has seven things you may have missed about Free Realms. Count me in on that — there were a few things that were totally new to me.

Wiqd of iMMOvation writes extensively about his ten year love affair with Norrath. He strayed, sometimes for years, but Norrath always kept calling him back, and now he’s tearing things up in EQ2. Woot :)

Wilhelm at The Ancient Gaming Noob takes his own look through EverQuest’s long history, talks about the nostalgia for “classic” EverQuest and wonders if World of Warcraft will be airmailing rose-colored glasses to all its original players when IT turns ten.

Via our friends at Eurogamer comes news that Hanbitsoft may be about to resurrect Mythos and possibly release it in the West. I loved Mythos. If it gets released in the US, I will play it. But I’ll secretly waiting for the game the ex-Mythos devs have got coming.

Abalieno at Cesspit notes that according to EA and CCP’s published subscription numbers, indie hardcore space sim EVE Online now has more subscribers than Triple A, super expensive, saturation-hyped PvP fantasy game Warhammer Online. It’s easy to draw negative comparisons between an indie MMO with modest expectations and a game with all the resources of one of the largest game companies in the entire world behind it, but I think the situation is even easier to figure out. EVE Online isn’t trying to lure WoW players, and Warhammer is. It’s pointless to market to WoW players. They are never going to stay with your game. WoW players, by and large, play WoW.

And that’s it for today! Tonight, I’m going to see Star Trek. I got my new computer yesterday and am loading it up with LOTS AND LOTS OF GAMES. My frame rate in LotRO’s Bree has gone from 1-5 with occasional lengthy freezes to over 145fps! OMG! So I’ll be back playing LotRO again :)

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!

Will 2009 be the best year ever for MMOs?

In 2007, you could have surprised absolutely nobody by predicting that 2008, last year, would be the biggest, best year ever for MMOs. Triple A titles abounded — Age of Conan and Warhammer Online were both just going to tear WoW a new one, but heck, even WoW was coming out with its second expansion. Pirates of the Burning Sea would take MMOs into a new direction, Chronicles of Spellborn would be an indie hit from Europe, and Flagship would be following up Hellgate: London with their MMO homage to Diablo II, Mythos.

Well… Wrath of the Lich King was a hit. AoC and WAR have retrenched and are slowly rebuilding their player bases after the WoWians returned to WoW, as everybody knew they would. Spellborn was delayed and delayed, PotBS didn’t get the numbers a RvR-focused game needs to thrive, and Flagship imploded suddenly and spectacularly and who knows what their creditors will do with the games…. 2008 looked sunny in 2007, but now we’ve learned to manage our expectations a bit.

2008 was the year of bet-your-company releases. In 2009, we get the MMOs that don’t have to have a million subscribers in order to be considered acceptable.

Chronicles of Spellborn, released last fall in just a few European countries, gets its worldwide release in the next couple of months. They just want to be a good alternative for people who want an unusual combat mechanic, intense PvP, great lore and a setting drenched with atmosphere.

EVE Online will soon release its first boxed expansion in years, Apocrypha, that will undoubtedly trade on its huge reputation as the one Western PvP-focused game where “impact PvP” isn’t just a buzzword, but where goings-on in the game world Really Do make the real world news. Even WoW doesn’t get THAT kind of coverage.

SOE’s Free Realms is due out in April. This family-focused MMO wants to compete in Wizard 101’s market — and Wizard 101 has just quietly signed up its millionth account since its launch last September. Family MMOs might be the next big thing, and this could be a surprise hit for SOE if they can market it correctly.

Cryptic hopes to double team the MMO world in June with both Champions Online and Star Trek Online. If the Star Trek movie does well and Cryptic can keep to its schedule, then STO could really take off. It looks like they are, in fact, bringing us the STO we want. Champions Online is the City of Heroes sequel that NCsoft hasn’t brought us, combined with the free-form and limitless customization possibilities offered by the Champions pen-and-paper game.

And all this is just in the first HALF of 2009. From this end of things, it seems after the deafening roar of the giants battling it out last year, the still, small voice of trumpets can be heard in the sudden silence afterward.

It COULD be the greatest year yet.