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 :)

Nightly Blogroll — Though Amaryllis dance edition

neosteambanner

The “Amaryllis” edition stuff? Well, here it is, a warm Spring night, just started writing, and “Though Amaryllis dance in green” comes up on the playlist, and it just seemed to fit the mood so well…

And re: the banner, well, Atlus’ newly revamped MMO import NeoSteam closed its Open Beta today to relaunch soon as a real live game. Rumor has it that characters from both the closed and open betas will carry through to the live game, so if you’ve a yen to play a fairly standard fantasy grinder with PvP and a light industrial flair, give it a shot.

Aion had its first closed beta this last weekend, where players were invited to join the lighter side of Aion’s warring factions. Aion has been passing out beta keys like they were Reese’s Pieces at an ET convention and though absolutely thoroughly detailed information about the beta is easy to come by, only Ravious of Kill Ten Rats is Daeva enough to blog about it. But then, he got permission (and I am trying to!). His take? Highly polished but standard gameplay, with the ease of the first ten levels no indication that there is no grind to come.

I find it hard to disagree with anything he wrote.

It’s not so much that your game has standard classes, it’s what the players want. It’s what you do with them. Gordon at We Fly Spitfires (note: I would love to fly in a Spitfire) writes about his favorite MMO classes from games past and present. Beastlord? Yes, please!

Out of all the blog posts this weekend about people’s experiences with Sims 3, Ogrebears’ is my favorite. You just KNOW that he’s a rebel, in his leather jacket and emerald skin, sitting at the school lunch table without a care as the girls go crazy for him.

Lots of people agree that the biggest problem with playing MMOs is having to play them with other people. When you’re solo, you can start and stop when you like and you always get first roll on all the loot. And you don’t have to deal with other people’s problems. Melmoth from Killed in a Smiling Accident asks, with game after game turning to NPCs to fill out your groups — will there be something you miss, after all, when all the other players disappear?

A month or so ago, Mythic called ex-Warhammer players back to the fold with an email detailing the exciting changes available for your exact character, name included. Now they’ve sent out another letter which mines your friends list so you can see which of your friends is still “carrying the banner”.

Is it cool or creepy to get such personalized email? I can’t wait to get an email saying, “Wow, bummer that you lost your job. Did you know that these day-time guilds are recruiting your class?”

WAR may be war everywhere, all the time, killing and more killing, but not all games promise that as their sole focus. EverQuest 2, for instance, has separate paths for adventurers and crafters, and crafters even have dungeon instances of their own (hint: you defeat the enemy by crafting). Ysharros and her hubby have been spending a lot of time doing the harvesting and crafting quests and enjoying the uber rewards. Who needs to kill dragons when you could be mining feysteel?

With over two million players, you never know who you’ll find wandering around in Wizard 101. Thomas has an interview with Terry Dietz, a sculptor who is slowly cataloging the wizards and fauna of the game in polymer clay. Absolutely amazing work!

Now that SOE is axing underperforming MMOs, which is next to go? Ardwulf has been tipping his toe in the pool where Openedge1 usually swims, and is looking to see if XFire can answer which games are teetering on the edge. It’s not looking good for Pirates of the Burning Sea and Planetside, but Vanguard might just sneak through.

Syp takes a look at how adding a simple travel power like Super Jump to a hero in City of Heroes adds an entirely new dimension to the game, and wonders why other games don’t let you do truly heroic things like that? Could super jump (and stuff like that) be the missing ingredient to making ordinary adventurers into heroes?

And lastly, Anjin has a complete run-down of what we’ll see in Free Realms’ future. Soccer/football? Yes, please! Prestige classes? Sounds EXCELLENT! Here’s hoping SOE fixes my account so I can play again :)

See you tomorrow on the Tuesday Nightly Blogroll!

Daily Blogroll 5/19 — Black Lung edition

Kasul and I head to a combat mission in our Tristans

In EVE Online, at my new home at the Sisters of EVE base in the Arnon system, with Mining IV, Refining III, and two Miner II mining lasers and purely selling in-system, I make about 27.5K ISK per minute of mining. If I processed the ore at my current level and sold it in the best market within seven jumps, I would make about 26K ISK/minute of mining, not including travel time. The question is, how many sessions of mining would it take to pay for the skills and equipment necessary to make refining more profitable than just selling the ore straight with no additional skills going toward mining? EVEMon has me at about ten days to having the skills necessary to fly a ORE Retriever mining barge… EVE is the first game I have HAD to play with a spreadsheet open.

Speaking of which, new EVE patch is out today. Just bug fixes, but they do install a new version of DirectX? Why? Doesn’t Microsoft keep my computer’s DirectX updated with their updates?

Anyway, on to the blog roll.

And because I’m en EVE noob, I’ve been poring through the back posts of the most famous noob of them all, Wilhelm of the Ancient Gaming Noob where he notes that the 1.6m skill point boundary where the 100% skill point bonus disappears used to allow an exploit where you would start a new really long skill just before your noob time expired, and it would stay double experience for the duration. Well, they nerfed that, but the exploiters still win.

Remember Pirates of the Burning Sea aka EVE of the Caribbean? The pirate-themed historical trading MMO was based around three-realm RvR but never really struck a spark in players. Via Massively comes the news that Flying Labs thinks players are having fun the wrong way, by farming mission objectives that give the best loot. This has gotten to the point that that’s all people do, similar to the old problems with Warhammer’s scenarios and more recently with City of Hero’s Architect missions. Rather than making missions more fun or identify player perceived need for those particular rewards, FL is removing loot from mission NPCs….

I dunno. Sounds dodgy to me at best. I get that the rewards were not intended, but PotBS is a pretty brutal game to begin with, on the same scale of complexity with EVE Online, but with more punishing PvP, when I played.

Speaking of balance between realms and Warhammer (weren’t we?), Keen talks a little about Warhammer’s new “Land of the Dead” expansion which will solve all the issues with realm wars and give people reasons to fight the good fight for their king. Or will it? Due to Warhammer’s two-sided conflict vs Dark Age of Camelot’s three, one side can dominate a server so that the other side perhaps NEVER gets a chance to try the new content, since it can only be reached by the leaders in the realm war. Keen points out that DAoC’s three-sided conflict kept all objectives in play all the time, and I remember DAoC’s version of LoD, Darkness Falls, as often changing hands a couple of times nightly. It was FUN.

We reported last week about Thom Terrazas leaving Vanguard to become the new executive producer of EverQuest, following Clint Worely’s departure for an unannounced project (EQ3…). Nostalgian Lazaretto of Complete Heal happened to mention this on the Vanguard forums and … oops … Nobody had bothered to tell the Vanguard players that they were suddenly without a producer. And hilarity ensued.

Saylah hates Free Realms. She hates the idea of it. She hates zoning. She hates instances. So why is she a level 7 chef with a satchel of food? It’s those damn addictive minigames is what!

Ogrebears, one of EQ2’s most renowned bloggers, left the game a couple of months ago to play WoW instead. Since he seemed to be back in the fold for his Norrath Street View project, I asked him if he was back. No, no, no. He will never play EQ2 again, and this is why. Hold on, are you sure you want to be playing MMOs at all?

Via Massively, a complete writeup of Mortal Online, the upcoming all PvP, all the time, completely sandbox, do what you wilt shall be the whole of the law, kind of game. Like, you know, Darkfall. Players in Spellborn were very much looking forward to Mortal Online whereas they were pretty dismissive of Darkfall. Probably because they haven’t had a chance to try Mortal Online, yet. Serious PvP MMOs are a different breed. Many people had just come off Darkfall or The Realm Online before Spellborn, were headed toward Mortal Online, and probably were thinking about what comes after that already.

After waffling a bit over tech support issues, wondering if he would continue to play Age of Conan or if this would be his time to quit MMOs forever, Openedge1 is loving the upcoming patch which fixes combat and is wonderfulness in a box, so Viva le Conan!

Syp wants MMO NPCs to man up and solve their OWN problems rather than snare unwitting players to solve them — and like as not just ask the next person who comes along to do the same thing! The real problem is one of respect. Ever tell a child to go do something just to keep them busy and out of your hair while you’re doing something? Well, MMO worlds are populated entirely with people who just want players to go away and will tell them ANYTHING.

Let’s all send good thoughts Crookshankz’s way as he camps Emperor Crush in EverQuest’s Crushbone. Mmmm…. and get that nasty inky assassin, too!

Hudson and about a million others reported that the Champions Online launch has been delayed until September. I have to admit I was looking forward to this game until I found it was modeled after the WoW quest model — you know, get all the quests from exclamation-point decorated NPCs at a quest hub, follow the quest helper to clearly marked areas on the map where the quest may be completed, complete the quest and return for xp? Sorry. I’m done with mindless quest grind MMOs. Way to be heroic.

I was REALLY looking forward to it, too.

Lars at MMOment of Zen would like to take EQ2’s mentoring system and expand it so that your level would be automatically set in accordance with whatever zone you happened to be in, so you would never actually outlevel content. That sounds… cool! At least if the rewards (xp, AA xp and loot) still scaled back to be useful to you at your actual level.

And that’s about it for today. Keep gaming, and if you are flying in EVE or mining in Free Realms, FRIEND ME!

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.