Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Witcher - And now EVERYONE can play

The big news today, and still has me all giddy inside, has been revealed.

The Witcher is now coming to the Xbox 360 and PS3.

Following the same format as they did for the Enhanced Edition, the developers are taking the original story, enhancing the gameplay, adding new controller mechanics (including Sixaxxis), new models, new creatures and new NPC' hell, even a new enhanced engine and basically will follow the original quest lines and develop it specifically for the consoles.

Not much other info is available, but basically this is major. One of the best RPG's of the last year, with a storyline that allows for alternating decisions that are not felt until later,with no decision being good OR evil, this game will rock. I am already looking at following the alternate storylines in my

As more news comes forth, I will post. There is no doubt that this will be a must buy for 2009. What a great way to make a game also. Use what you have, fix it, enhance it, upgrade it, make it a killer title for consoles.

Did I mention EXCITEMENT...

Lost Odyssey - And we're BACK!

Starting Saturday, the family sat down in the living room and played several hours of Lost Odyssey.
The game had been put on the back burner when I signed back up for AoC with the wife and then Fable 2 hit shelves and took priority.
But, I loaded it back up, and we sat back and watched the game take place.

It is interesting in that the wife enjoys the strategies, and we work out ways to approach the fights, which seems to be more complex than Final Fantasy (we have died many a time so far).
The son loves that the game looks cool, and he enjoys the anime based heroes.

It is also like watching a movie at times, so overall it is a good "family on the couch" game with popcorn and snacks for a couple of hours.

A great game, and should be interesting to see how the story proceeds.

Tabula Rasa - The end is actually quite sad

So, as I stated, this past week for Thanksgiving (and between games of course) I decided to fire up the TR account early.
I got the game for .96 cents, so really any playtime does not hurt the pocket book.

I started with an initial character that was to be played between myself and my son. Our goal at this point is to get a character to max.

At level 5 we cloned the main for the new class selection. We made the main a Soldier, which my son spent quite a bit of time with.
Then he deiced to try the clone and made a Specialist.

I noted my son kept asking questions about crafting and clans. I enjoyed that he wanted to discuss the game.

At one point I checked on him, and found him in a group. This of course did not end well (he may be gifted, but typing is still a 5 word per minute, good thing he is getting his own PC for Christmas to practice on...woot), but he also shows this interest in grouping mechanics.

Myself, I took over the soldier and have played here and there. I have noted that the missions are well laid out, sensible, well written. I think the most fascinating mission is actually something they call a "Window of Opportunity".
Basically they took a whole lot of various quests of kill this many, discover this much, etc. They have made this a "Prestige" line that assigns you titles as you complete them besides XP.
Kill 100 Thrax, get a title and XP, Investigate so many caves on the planet, get a title and XP.

I have not crafted yet, and may even avoid that, as it really has not grabbed me in past games. But, otherwise, I am shocked that I am having a bit of fun.

I think taking a break from the MMO genre helped some here. I am fresh going back, and willing to not "rush" to level. I am also open to some grouping.

Time will tell.

It will be sad to see another MMO bite the dust. So, at this point, I do want to have everyone check out this site...

Save Tabula Rasa
is a project to help save Tabula Rasa from demise.

The author states...

"-A means to gain 75% of the "Tabula Rasa" property.

-Leaving 25% in the hands of NCSoft.

See what money we can figure out, if we can that is, is for a marketing campaign using various components of the game.

-Marketing the music element.

-Possibly using the internet and creating an "affiliate program"

-And if these begin paying off, more broad base media.

The goal to me is to try to set up a system to get a good 100,000 subscribers a week after a maximum time frame of 3 months."

I am unsure of the success this website may have, but I do want to point it out in hopes people will sign up, and get involved if you enjoyed the game.

Hope everyone had a good weekend....cheers.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Warhammer Online - Priced to go, and a hint of TR

Brendan from MMOlogy pointed out that WAR is now selling for a nice 10.95 retail. Free shipping with Prime also. Woot.

Will this help bring in more players during this holiday season? Or is this a last ditch effort on the part of a game that is good for a few PvP/RvR fights, and then go back to WoW, type of player?

What is interesting is WAR still holds the coveted #15 spot on X-Fire which still makes it the #2 most popular subscription based, Western developed MMO.

Can those numbers hold?

Speaking of those X-Fire numbers, I do see LOTRO is already starting to decline though...but, that is another story.

Finally for my weekend, just a quick post. Myself, and my son are having a good time in Tabula Rasa. I took over the main character and that character is almost level 10. My son took a clone of the main, and made an alternate class of Specialist which deals more with equipment, healing, etc.
Almost level 7.

I will post more on this later.

But, I will say, truly sad to see this game go.

Have a good weekend.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Witcher ends, Tabula Rasa begins

So, for a Thanksgiving treat, I completed the Witchers end game.
What a great way to end with even a nice cliff hanger.
As well, if I wish I can go back as there are downloadable adventures created by users and the main staff with stories about alternate characters from the game or Geralt again. One includes Dandelion, a friend who was in the short stories I read, and figured in my main story several times. A great bard as well.
One was also made that does a small continuation of Geralts story that was included on the EE set I bought, after he finishes his main quest.

But, we decided to take the plunge (my son and I) to start up Tabula Rasa.

I include my son here, as he has shown more of an interest in playing something besides his FPS. He is quite talented in that respect. His mind is a little ahead of most children his age (he belongs to a special program for gifted children at school), and he played through Fable 2 multiple times, and has even played several RTS's.

But, this is of note as well, because I could have another opinion of the game from someone who has NEVER played an MMO. Not just that, but someone who loves shooters. He loves Sci-Fi, and as an added bonus, will use an alternate means to control this MMO.

I am discussing the 360 controller.

As I game on the PC I attempt to see what games work well with the Xbox 360 controller.
A while back I suffered some mild carpal tunnel. I used the controller which helped me alleviate the mousing issues. When you have been behind a mouse for 20+ years, then it starts to rub on you. Keyboards seem to not affect me as much in this manner.
So, when a game has a pretty straight forward interface like TR, I can setup the main controls to adapt in this manner.

Anyways, I was able to come up with a scheme through X-Padder to work most of the controls for TR.

So far so good.

We played a bit. I noted right off the bat that they had a new tutorial area, which is more streamlined and gets you to the real world setting much quicker.
You learn all of the systems quickly and are put into action.

At this point I had created the full scheme for the 360 controller, and let my son take over. This was about level 4.

He is now level 8 as I write today. I plan to question him a bit more on his thoughts and see what he likes, dislikes...

I will point out one major issue. The game is major empty. We saw maybe 2 or 3 people the whole time since playing. But, the global chat was pretty full of chatter.

As my son played, I did hear "This is awesome" quite a few times. Right now he is questioning different things like starting a Clan or joining one and wants to know about crafting.

This should be an interesting experiment.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Tabula Rasa - Tobold discusses the end of shooters

Recently Tobold discussed how the fact that with the loss of Hellgate earlier this year and now Tabula Rasa, is it possible that the "Shooter" based MMO is at it's end.

Tobold states :

"It is totally possible that there is a large demand for good shooter MMOs, but neither Hellgate nor Tabula Rasa were good enough. But then, I kind of liked Tabula Rasa, especially the instances, and wouldn't say it was a terrible game. Is it a statistical fluke that over the last 10 years games with swords sold better than games with guns, or is there a fundamental incompatibility of MMORPG gameplay and shooting?"

This is possible. I have argued about the other aspect of this known as "avatar" based Sci-Fi. This would explain the success of EvE for example.

He goes on to say :

"The reason why that question could be important is future games. The Agency will be a shooter MMO. Star Wars: The Old Republic will have both (light) swords and (laser) guns. Are these future games going to take a hit just because of the weapons they use, or will we see a game break the curse of the shooter MMO? What do you think?"

I notice he did not mention Stargate Worlds. Even though I am smelling a fail there myself.
My only argument for it's success is the magical like nature of the Asgard or the Jaffa, even though it really is science. Also, the Renaissance or Egyptian like settings at times, which meld Sci-Fi and Fantasy lend an air of mystery.

Of course, Hellgate and Tabula Rasa did this. No luck there.

The simple reason, and what I keep stating is overall, avatar based Sci-Fi MMO's always seem to fail. Matrix, Star Wars, TR, Hellgate, etc, etc, you name it. Science Fiction as a genre really does not have as large of a following as Fantasy in the MMO field.
But, why is this?

Lets try this...

What would happen if the MMO was a "real" shooter instead.

Look at Huxley (still vaporware mind you), which was to be a full blown shooter, and not calculated dice rolls.
Would it's Halo/Gears of War like shooter mechanics have been a better MMOFPS if you will?
The Agency for example has been noted to be real time shooting combat. And maybe this was the problem with Tabula Rasa. It used dice rolls to calculate the damages.

But, then Hellgate was real time. I think overall Hellgate's issues stemmed from content being so random and yet, the same. Dungeons used the same tile systems over and over.
And lets not forget bugginess that persisted even longer than Age of Conan's issues.

Who knows?

For Tabula Rasa, I am in the same camp with Tobold in that I do not think it sucked actually. It did not deserve a monthly fee though, and this is where it dropped the ball. A lower price point or micro-transaction could have been the winner to keep TR alive.

So far ..Fantasy lends itself to the "We are legion" type of gaming, and this may be the other issue with Sci-Fi MMO's.
Think of all the FPS type games where it is "kill or be killed". Not much in the way of "team" based combat or mechanics.
More people play Deathmatches than the co-op features of most of these games.
The only difference is say the Horror genre, like Left 4 Dead which is showing that co-op counts to survive in shooters.
(And that begs the question of why no one has made a Horror MMO...even though Funcom is working on one with the Secret World, but, we know how everyone feels about Funcom lately.)

The only final argument that has not been brought up is the female gamer aspect. We do know the female gamer is becoming more prominent in the shooter arena, with Halo, etc.
But, for the most part, females look for a more casual type of gameplay according to various studies. Also, a Fantasy setting seems to attract gamer women. I can attest to this as all of my previous gamer girlfriends, as well as my current wife either do not like or abhor Science Fiction compared to Fantasy. All we need to do is look at the sale of Sims 2 and the overall female population there to note how this affects the genre.
When Tabula Rasa came up, even though I felt the setting screamed Stargate, and the wife enjoys SG, she just did not want to shoot guns...period. Even though I showed her you gained "magic like" powers with the Logos system, it was a no sale, thanks to guns (of course, she loves Horror games like Silent Hill or Resident Evil, and guns are not an issue there.)

So, we come full circle. Why is it that Sci-Fi fails in the MMO genre, compared to so many Fantasy MMO's coming out of our ears.

What do you feel is the main issue?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Aion - How powerful is the new Character Creation?

Take a gander....


The Guild - New Episode, Season 2

Exclusively on Xbox 360 in HD and FREE.

How wonderful to own a 360.

Also available in low res on MSN video.

Chronicles of Spellborn - So, Tomorrow is the 27th..

And the Acclaim site still looks just like the day when the first year HTML student designed it.

Talk about lame.

Of course today the "Closed Beta" forum section has been posted in the main forums. But click on the link and you get "Sorry, but only moderators can read topics in this forum."

Whats next for World Class Publishers Acclaim. The world awaits....

Did YOU get an email?

EDIT: An update just hit the Acclaim forum that the CB was delayed now until Dec. 5th. I really like all the late data that keeps coming in from the wonderful CM's.

The Witcher - Suiting Up

One thing I always remembered from reading Fantasy novels is how each item that a character found or was gifted was important or unique.
Frodo and Sting. Thomas Covenant and the White Gold Ring. And for the Witcher, it was his Sword.

At times the hero needed to quest specifically for that item, like Elric of Melnibone and the Sword Stormbringer.

You start your adventures as the Witcher with the basic armor.

When you finally make it to the first city, Vizima, a blacksmith has a right nice set of upgraded armor, which looks about the same as the old. Basically he crafts more slots for potions and weapons onto the armor is all.

As I moved to Chapter 5 of the game, I heard a rumor from the Witcher I had slain of an infamous Gnomic armor. Noted to be quite magical and powerful.

This quest took me through tombs and mines gathering the pieces to form the armor. I then was able to return to the blacksmith (he was a Dwarf btw. We know what wonderful armor crafters they be) who was able to take these pieces and form the Raven Armor.

This made me think on how a lot of games really push the gear centrics. Drops are a dime a dozen as you continue to get various junk from mobs or at least cool drops from bosses, yet anyone can get these.

But, nothing is considered "special" for that character.

Guild Wars has a great armor mechanic I think with their gather and make pieces as you advance system. In theory this is like the above method of getting something "special".
Take the advanced armors for Eye of the North. You had to have specific favor with various factions for the pieces you wanted.
You felt like you "earned" the armor as a badge of your capabilities.

Doing an objective based quest is so much more fun in my opinion. If i have a goal instead of a time waster then the quest seems more important. I still stick to the story line system of questing where you have reasons. The filler of most MMO's for example still cause issues of boredom for most.

More meaningful reasons to do a quest is need. Wonder if any MMO down the road can learn those lessons.

Fable 2 - Coming to PC?

Well, it seems a little rumor has been started by a German site of all places.

Worthplaying reports a German game site called Gamona has broken some news that Fable 2 could come as early as Feb of 09.

We can of course take this with a grain of salt, as they note "reliable sources". We know how those work. I think they belong to the ASS-U-ME group of reporters.

But, with the DLC coming, and having a revamp of the Xbox Live for Windows system making a comeback, this could be likely.

I would love this game in hi-def on my monitor.

Anyways, just a bit of news to start the day all bright.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fable 2 - Now that is sales...


Over on Kotaku

"Since its release last month, the RPG has sold an impressive 1.5 million copies worldwide. Yes, 1.5 million copies for a game that is Fable 1 with baggier pants. Its success is testament both to the game's marketing and to the fact that, despite its problems, its probably the most charming thing you'll play all year."

You would think there were more PC's in the world than Xbox 360's. Yet, the games sell way more copies than PC based games.

So what gives?

Anyways...what an awesome game. Worth every penny!

Lord of the Rings Online - Moria launches, fanbois rejoice..

Tobold made a post about Moria, that went something like this...

"I don't have the time to play this, I don't have the level to play this, and I don't know anyone who plays this. I haven't even read anything about Mines of Moria on any of the MMORPG blogs I follow"

Note the bolded section.

Why is this?

Recently as "some" know, Turbine released Mines of Moria to ...well, I am not sure.

Seems someone posted in the comments..

"Turbine can release Moria so close to WotLK because they are confident that there sizeable current player base simply won't be playing WotLK. We are seeing jam packed servers at the moment, as busy as I've ever seen them."

LOTRO players always good to get a WoW dig in...

I decided to post a comment...

"LOTRO is what they call a "wanna be' in the biz!
Moria is only good for those who play LOTRO already."

I feel the last point is valid. Moria was made for the current player base. Moria has nothing to offer to bring a new player in. All high level content. Two new classes, but it has been argued that one of the classes is a travesty to the Tolkien lore even. But, it is an MMO, and not having a proper "Magic using" class was unheard of.

The commenter I was discussing this with feels I have lost touch with reality though...

"The fact of the matter is, you are simply not in touch with reality when it comes to LotRO. It's a solid, very playable, fully featured MMO, and it has been a huge success for Turbine"

Yes, I agree actually. The game is solid, playable and stable. I do argue with the fully featured (the class selections for example are definitely questionable), the models are ugly, the animations are 30fps in the 60fps world (even the latest videos show the jerky movement, kinda like G.I.Joe's in 3d).

I guess I need to ask. Is LOTRO really relevant in our MMO stable? It definitely has done better than Vanguard, Tabula Rasa, Hellgate and quite a few more (Age of Conan has had better sales, yet retention has been crap).

So, why is it not stomping WAR or even getting close to WoW numbers (and for that matter, what about Guild Wars, whose play times on XFire and overall sales has been crushing).

I looked at Xfire for LOTRO which really shows the player base stomping down on this game big time. It placed 16th overall.

But, when we compare this to WAR which is placing above (15th actually) we see something amazing...

The overall number of players is considerably lower for LOTRO than WAR. So, we are mainly seeing Expansion envy by the current player base if anything.

You would think with such an IP, that it could garner a larger audience.

There is no doubt that Turbine has to be happy with it's current base.
But, why not go for the bigger pie?

When you go in search of loyalty to the game, by way in regards to blogs, news stories, just seems to be a small part of the overall genre universe.

As I originally LOTRO an MMO wannabe?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Age Of Conan - 6 months lifespan?

I discussed this in a comment on Hudson's blog, but I also wish to note it here for future discussion.

I think we cannot say anything about the fate of Conan or Funcom at least for another 6 months.

With major changes still in play, a discussion of a full blown "comeback" campaign at the beginning of next year, and releases set for Korea and Russia...we may see it actually pick up.

The layoffs in North Carolina I think if anything reflects the US market.

We suck here in the US for commitment. Admit it. We do not commit well to relationships, to religion, to politics..I could go on.

And lets not forget the MMO hopping that is pretty prominent as part of our society.

If anything, I believe Funcom and AoC have a much larger EU audience and can be shown based on the communication and discussions on the EU forums compared to the US.

In the EU forum alone, there are no less than 9 different conversation with the noted FC icon showing some type of CM/Dev comment being made.
At the same time, the US forum had 4.

And civility is also key on their forums...but that is another discussion...

The fact remains, Funcom may be screw ups when it came to fixing the game, but with the new Director in place, and a commitment to still getting the game shaped up, with reviews of the new content being some of the best in the game, this is a good start.
The forward looking graphics engine, the change to how combat is done, and the reliance on skill more than gear spells a game which could keep a niche after the comeback tour.

But, I call 6 months. If the game does not pick up, then we can say that it will go the way of AO or even close it's doors.

I am of the mind that the game can survive. Even now I feel like playing it again. Something about the game attracts (and has nothing to do with nipple gate), and players do go back.

There now.... commited my comments to Funcoms future, and we will see how things look 6 months from now.

Good luck Funcom!

Fable 2 - New Adventure awaits


It was announced today that a new DLC would be available come Dec. 12th (my Birthday...please send gifts to...The Mountains, NC).
Basically a whole new island will be open with a major quest line to change the once pleasant island that is full of snow to a sunshine haven.

New items, people to meet, for 800 Microsoft Points (about 10 bucks for the expansion).

Makes me wonder just how long that adventure is...

Ahhh...who cares. Seems a new patch will be released to fix some bugs also. And this now will be my chance to make my Evil character to gain those achievements.


Love this game, and will be glad to go back!

EDIT: New website with more information
  • Embark on 3 unique quests set in 3 unique dungeons.
  • Unravel the mystical secrets of the resurrection shrine.
  • Try on a whole new range of outfits and look like an armoured knight, an assassin, a barbarian or a leather-clad biker, among many others.
  • Brandish 6 new weapons.
  • Dozens of unique potions that will drastically alter your appearance.
  • Customise your weapons the way you want with the new augment tool and a whole new array of augments.
  • +50 additional leaderboards.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Age of Conan - And the pain continues...

Talk about out of the blue...

Funcom Fires 70% of Their U.S. Staff This Morning

Not sure what this means really. Of course the Doom and Gloom crowd are screaming this is the end.
This is strictly a rumor, but sources are saying it is good.

Some had this to say as other thoughts on this change...

"Funcom has been laying off staff for the past few months. They did a round of layoffs in early September and did indeed let another large chunk of people go again on Wednesday morning.

Funcom also offered a severance opt-out to the QA and CS personnel in the states, which seems to have been a very popular choice. At a guess, it would appear that 90% of their workforce in the states is or will be gone by Monday."

"With less players and server merges, they don't need as many people in customer support. Their financial report said they had over 300 people in the company anyway, (are the ones in US counted?). Even 70 people working on TSW! I suppose they are just trying to cut the costs down"

So, is this it? Some of the stuff from above was said about Tabula Rasa also. But, Funcom is a different beast. I am unsure of how their funds work, but they seem to have some various properties that are outside the game genre.

But how about Age of Conan? Time will tell.

The Witcher - Choices and outcomes...

One thing that is hard to grasp is the gray morals of the Witcher.

Geralt in this game has a unique issue to deal with. How the choices affect future outcomes in the game.
Due to something that happened in the first chapter, where a Witch had been living outside the settlement, something was drastically changed in the fourth chapter.
She mainly made potions and what not to help the towns folk, maybe even do divination's to help people see some futures..
But, one of the religions of course noted her as an outcast. I could put my lot with the townspeople and had her burned at the stake. Or help her out due to her "lesser" evils.
I sided with the witch. This made her appear later in a small village I am in, as she left the old homestead. This village accepted her as their "Healer".
Due to her also being saved, she shaped my character to accept some of the ways that magic work. I now believe all monsters may not be evil, and allowed me to find a way to cure a spirit that was cursed instead of outright sending it to Hell by my sword.

Due to this system, I grappled with my latest dilemma.

Another Witcher I had been following was believed to be a renegade.

He ended up working for an evil organization that would kidnap children and use the ways of conversion used to make a Witcher (as it is actually a mutation) to create their own experimental monsters to use against others.
The results were not pleasant.

He had been sent to take care of me, but was unsure of this. So, instead he wished to take a young boy under my supervision back to this vile group to appease their need of my death.

I could have either not judged him, or stopped him. I took the avenue of ending his existence.

Why would I do this?

He had mentioned how he had hated what those who created the Witcher's had done to him (Witchers are created by humanity to destroy the abominations they fear the most..).
He took up with this evil group as he was his own entity, to pursue his own destiny.

But now he was unsure.

He had taken it upon himself to continue helping this group though.

Was it weakness? Fear?

All of his work had led to many innocent lives being sacrificed for their science.

I took this matter into my own hands.

Was I right?

As he lay dead at my feet, I find a letter written by his hand.

"I always believed that witchers had stripped me of the ability to communicate with humans. Now I know this to be untrue. Whatever the reasons, I cannot talk to people, so I write this letter instead. Herein, I admit: I am a coward, I fear pain, incapacitation and death. I was afraid at Kaer Morhen, afraid when I fought monsters, and finally, I feared the Professor and Azar Javed, especially the latter. He supervises Salamandra's scientific project, creating deadly creatures from black magic and mutagens. He is a powerful mage, but if my plan works, he will be a dead mage and the witchers' secrets will be safe. In spite of everything, I am content our paths crossed as I set off now for Vizima.


Choices and harsh the life of the Witcher is.

Friday, November 21, 2008

And the next MMO is.....

Tabula Rasa...


Thanks to this little doozy

So, on Dec. 10th, I will register my key from my .96 cent box, and enjoy my 30 days...which will turn into 60 days instead. What a hoot.


Of course I better verify I can do that, or suffer the Hellgate fate, where anyone that bought a box after the announcement of death could not sign up for online access.

2 Months...about as much as I can stay in an MMO nowadays anyways.
Perfect amount of time.

Goodbye TR. And with that, the death of another Sci-Fi MMO.

Elves and Dwarves FTW!!!

The Xbox NXE - Netflix, Avatars, and more..

So, having been updated to the latest version of the Xbox dashboard, I played around for a bit.

The Netflix proves to be the most fun...when it works.

Thanks to being a cable user, my Internet takes a big dive during prime time. Thanks to their blocking system, where "blocks" of people group on one cable, you can tell when it gets loaded up with people.
I have complained about this before, but with no luck.
I can still get my regular speeds on downloads, but accessing pages tends to slow down, and streaming constantly chokes.
With nothing else on offer Internet wise, I deal with it.

Anyways, when it DOES work, the quality is excellent. The movies look good at HD (I have the TV set up for 1080p, so I am not sure if it is scaling or not), and there is a decent selection to stream thanks to our favorite genre (Horror).

But, the recent issues with the Sony takedown is a mess.

Basically Sony said "We are taking our toys and not sharing".

Gee, I wonder why?

All Sony studios and movies or shows are not streamable on the Xbox. When you add them to your queue and look at them, basically it says "Not available to stream on Xbox".
The excuse is licensing...uh, yea.
You "licensed" the movies for PC's, but an Xbox is so different, that it just does not work the same.
No, it is blatant childish attitudes. Pure and simple.

Well, will just have to wait and see if this changes.

Other features for the avatars are nice, but the main thing is the interface looks good, is now Hi-Def, and the ability to copy games to hard drive to speed them up is also nice...even though some are broken (Halo 3 runs worse on Hard Drive).

It is growing pains right now, but it really is a unique interface, well done, works like a charm.

Now, back to gaming some Fable 2, and then later I plan to continue my quest in Lost Odyssey (ok, ok...AFTER more fun!)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

World of Warcraft - Maybe I do have a reason..

To go back....

So I can team up with this guy, and chat on vent...ya know?

Nice clean vocal stylings and all that.

Spellborn - Open Beta Begins Registration, IP block in place

And so it goes....

If you do not live in a specific set of countries (North America is not included of course), then you cannot access the Open Beta website as of today.

Most likely this means Client access will be blocked.

Time to find a proxy if you plan to play in an overseas server!

MMO support network

Lars had a comment in a previous post, which makes a good point about playing an MMO, and I thought I would share his very simple opinion.

"You know what makes an MMO game fun and not a grind? The people you play with. Find an MMO where there are people in it that you would enjoy playing a game (ANY game) with.

All MMOs have pretty lame gameplay compared to a good single player RPG if you play by yourself. "

I agree with him.

And maybe this is why it works for so many. The social lives of the MMO gamer usually relies on this network of friends, the need of the MMO to be able to talk with others.

The MMO becomes their own social network.

For myself, I would hope a game has more to do for that monthly fee than "chat" and "play well with others".

I want the game to offer a modicum of fun when others are not logged in, and it seems lately most of these games cannot do this.

Look at the majority of MMO bloggers, and how they discuss their playtime with others, and if the others are not there, then they just don't play or log off.

(Example - Mystic Worlds : "However, the absence of the previously large group of guild members in game and on Vent, combined with fewer players in game, is a very noticeable problem. In fact, it's a bit depressing to consider that this game might not draw enough players to make the world in general come alive. There is so much good content and things to do but it's not nearly the same in these smaller groups.")

I still remember the fun times I had with several large guilds I belonged to, yet, when they were not logged in...neither was I.
Luckily a lot of games had a way to have fun when no one was Guild Wars and WoW (EQ2 also was fun, until the guild all started leaving for new games)

And maybe for me, I do not need this hand holding from others to enjoy myself.

Realization is the first step toward this addiction that most MMO players get.
We either game for hours on end, and can't log off or let our friends or guild mates down. Or we just do not log in, and let the subscription sit...paying for something we do not touch.

When I originally played "Persistent" based RPG worlds, the people were an "extra", and not the REASON I played.

Today's MMO market NEEDS this network of people now to make the game fun...this is the reason such a large group of people walked away from WAR. Now that grouping has become more difficult, the game suffers. There is nothing fun beyond the grouping mechanic.
Look at the recent news from Turbine forcing a larger guild setting or else, no guild.

They all realize people make their game fun, they do not have to.

Overall, the MMO genre had something I wanted. RPG fun with others running around in these worlds, with some mechanics I enjoyed.
And each offered something to like visually, or story wise.

Nowadays, most do not offer anything new, and this is where the fun ends.

I could rely on others to provide my fun.

But, I am beyond that now.

Which MMO is the right one then?

I would probably say....none.

I can see based on various opinions that if anything is proven to me, the MMO is just the wrong genre.

With so many MMO's to choose from, yet so many being either a clone or just boring or not quite ready, it seems to me that maybe I should not write about them, and discuss them anymore.

The downhill movement of the genre over the last year proves that until some company is able to break the "WoW factor", that the MMO will continue to be stale and derivative.

Over the last month I have discussed the issues with MMO's, and how things from group vs solo, bugs or plain missing content equals a game that just seems never ready to be played.


Over the last month I have enjoyed single player games. The polish of these titles has really opened my eyes and shown me the avenue to take.

My moratorium I guess ...looks to be permanent...

I am on Chapter 4 of Witcher and still enjoying myself, and almost ready for Chapter 5, the final showdown. If anything, I have found nothing wrong with the game. I keep wanting to go back to that world, and my wife sits on the couch and watches me play...and helps me figure out puzzles, find clues to progress...and asks me to play instead of picking up the controller herself.

Same with Fable 2. I am almost ready to go back and start an evil character.

So, now maybe I need to go back to looking at Console or PC single player titles. Let me find my next game within that genre instead.

Maybe this IS the Dichotomy of the Gamer.

Update on game to try..

Well, I have decided to pull EQ2 off my list so far...almost.

I am surprised at the amount of nays for EQ2 in my previous post.
Let me note more for you though before I say 100% ...."No"

I have a level 61 character.
I will NOT buy the Shadow Odyssey, which means max level is 70.
I had a good amount of plat...not a lot, but about 20+ plat to go into the game with.
I have NEVER maxed in any MMO, and by not buying the Shadow expansion, this makes max level...70 (EDIT: is 80...corrected by Tipa) in EQ2 for me.

As to someones comment...I stated I have learned to not "grind". This is quite simple. I will NOT open a quest log and FORCE myself to do them in order, and kill over and over and over.
I will split up my time in exploring wherever I can go.
Joining some pugs to do a dungeon.
Decorate my home.
Craft (not my favorite thing).
Just have fun in the hopes of leveling to 80.

Now, based on this, does everyone still agree that EQ2 may be a bummer after a year of not playing?


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Witcher - Music to sleep to...

Ok...that is a lie...

hehe...a little vid of my current addiction. This game is so fun!

Plans change...Do you know where your MMO is?

UGh...and Double UGH!

Thanks to Tipa, "The bearer of bad tidings" (that is an achievement badge I believe in World of Warcraft), it seems my moratorium ending MMO has tanked until January.
This is not to say that I could be one of the lucky few who get in Closed Beta scheduled to start next week...but I will not hold my breath.

So, the time has come to make sure I choose correctly for my next MMO schedule. I will go through a list of the MMO's I have an interest in, debate the pro's and con's for me, and hopefully you guys will really pipe in with some opinion....

My first choices are recent purchases, and were made for specific reasons.

Dungeons and Dragons Online - Thanks to the DX10 update, new tutorial area and hirelings (upcoming), I decided to swing for the box, which I bought for 5 bucks.

The reason I have held off though is due to hirelings not being fully implemented.
Should I at least get in, make my character and start the tutorial area to get a feel for the new update? Or wait to make sure I get to trial the hirelings?
I have not read a release date yet on these. Plus, the 30 days has to really count, so if I miss something due to taking it on too early, then I will only have myself to blame.

The main reasons I bought the game is I have sort of liked each time I played. I have had issues with animations (a trademark Turbine issue...30FPS animations in a 60FPS world is how I describe their jerky movements), but visually I like the game better than LOTRO, and has a more action style feel.

But, when I read about hirelings, I was hooked.

I feel I need to give it longer than a 7 day trial.

Tabula Rasa - This of course was purchased due to one reason...96 cents....duh.
I have given this one 30 days, but it was the end of beta.

I entered Closed Beta about two weeks before the end. I rather enjoyed myself at that time.
Then Open Beta came and they made changes to how it worked. Balance was thrown off, performance suffered, and it became...non-fun!

But, the game has had time to mature. As well, I read of a change to the game to make it FPS viewable, and that Earth was being added to the mix. I liked the idea of going back to Earth in the story.

My main cons are...Sci-Fi and....Sci-Fi. I have yet to find any Sci-Fi game to really keep me...short of an Action game or FPS (Gears of War, Halo, etc..).
But, Tabula was fun with the LOGOS system, and made it feel slightly fantasy based. The alien drop ship spawns were cool, and weapon upgrades were neat.

Visually the game is nice to look at. Performance is good also since launch (went back once for a trial). I never tried the crafting (well, a little, but it sucked), so I am up in the air.

Do I wait for Earth and FPS mode first? Or take the plunge....

Everquest 2 - Ah, good ole EQ2. I really enjoyed myself for 8 months. This game is also the only game that I played to a higher level than most.. (I think I left at level 54...have to double check).

But, things started to go awry.

The performance was really conducive to not having fun (poor shoddy gameplay on high end equipment was not cool). The constant travel to various zones with long load screens was blah.
The world felt non-cohesive (one zone would look awesome, then the next would suck).

Luckily I really enjoyed the SOGA models. Combat was actually fun. And now with the changes to performance (Dual Core support), this one could work.

The XP raise for leveling I have heard is a boon, and this could possibly make the game go by quicker. This was another argument that the drag on levels and questing just made it go slow.

Of course, I will solo a lot, maybe join some PuG's, but I just want a game that will be fun no matter how I play.

Will EQ2 keep me occupied again?

Guild Wars - Going back is always an option here thanks to the no cost start up fee, and no cost monthly...

I still have a ton of content to complete, and recently a new patch added ways to track achievements for other missions in the game.

But, I do not want to burn out on an MMO immediately, and Guild Wars was played extensively a while back. It is still fresh, and I am unsure if I want to start back up just yet.

Either an older game (EQ2 has been almost a year) or a NEW game would be better suited..

Yet, GW ALWAYS satisfies...

These are my choices for now. Nothing else really interests me at this point.
LOTRO will never touch my hard drive again, WAR was just not any fun, Vanguard....ah, if I need to be put to sleep maybe...and a slew of many others also (WoW is also a NEVER thanks to their idiocy. Trying to charge me for game time I never played is NOT cool.)

Any input here? Fire away...


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Is the MMO viable now?

In a previous post I discussed numbers using the Xfire methodology of study.

It has been noted (several forum posts actually) that if you use an average of the player numbers listed in Xfire and multiply times 30 you can get a rough average of North American players for an MMO (use WoW for example to see about 2.9 million which is pretty darn close to stated numbers by Blizzard...for WAR we get about 143k, and their overall numbers were at about 500k scrips..and note this is a weekday average. This can go up on the weekends.)

It is not hard science, but helps us get the trend of the state of MMO's. And the numbers seem to jibe quite well.

Why did I decide to do this, as someone questioned the reasoning..


Is the MMO really worth a companies time and effort now?

2008 would prove that if someone is still deciding on entering this market...they may wish to think twice.
We do know some companies are dedicated to MMO's. Mythic as an example, Turbine, etc. What else would they do?

But, what about Funcom or Codemasters? Two companies who have single player games which have done well in the past.

Is is viable for EA to continue to pursue this market? What about Bioware? Bethesda?

Look at Microsoft who has touched base multiple times on making an MMO, only to falter, and say..."Forget it".

Why is it that hardly anyone can say anything bad about EQ2 (besides the hate of SOE which is another matter...), yet EQ2 rates lower than a lesser quality title like Lineage 2 or Age of Conan?

As I continue to play various single player RPG's and see the fun, I wonder about the MMO still.
Witcher was a small indie production, yet has sold a million copies. They should have had a great return on this.
But, look at Tabula Rasa. How much of a loss are we looking at here?

So, I am being selective in my list, and for good reason. From hype, to major advertising to word of mouth...
Why even bother making an MMO now when WoW dominates the market so.

Ok...more on this later, and for now...cheers.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Lord of the Rings Online - Patch Notes for Moria

Posted here...with my favorite note...

"All Kinships must now maintain a membership count of 8 or more. If your Kinship membership count drops below 8, it will be disbanded if you do not recruit enough members to meet the minimum within five(5) days."


How many other games put such a limitation on Guilds? Can anyone point me to one? Is this really a good thing to do?

Chronicles of Spellborn - An overall sad comment...

From the TCoS forums from yesterday...this post appeared...

I'm the Historian and I approved this post.
David "Historian" DeWald
Community Manager for Acclaim Games

"As has been pointed out we are in fact the Publisher for North America and other countries. We are not the developer. This means that we work together (Acclaim and Devs) to bring the best experiance we can to you. Sometimes this means that plans change so that we can better serve the community and players. We will have more information on this soon. Till then enjoy all the great information to be found here on the TCOS website."

As has been noted before with the great and powerful oratory skills of ...Scooby-Doo!


Playing with Xfire

Well, that title really screamed to be made....

Anyways, this weekend and today I decided to review some of the games I have kept an eye on, and specifically those with changes this past week or two (or upcoming).
The charts allows us to note trends in the popular and maybe some less popular games, and come away with basic conclusions of playtimes.
A LOT of updates, expansions, content updates, etc. have been made to a majority of MMO's which are in the spotlight.

Please keep in mind, the reason we even look at these charts is they do show trends, not REAL numbers.
Make sure to keep that caveat in mind as we look at the scales.

I looked at a LOT of games, but at this point I want to note some I did not include.

Everquest 2, who DOES have an expansion coming soon (like YET, I see no major spikes except for a huge dip last month which must have been a GU.
Due to it's niche, it seems to hold it's own in the scales and is about in the 90th-100th spot.
I will go back to them real soon as I would like to see if the new expansion causes any interest, or if the game has it's dedicated audience and is on cruise control.

Vanguard had a huge update a little while back. But, the game continues to nosedive (example from previous days it has dropped from #195 to #218...yea...pretty bad.)

I think we should probably just let it rest in peace.

Tabula Rasa. I really wanted to include this due to NCSoft's current issues, and having a minor interest in the game. As well, I could have included CoH/CoV. But, the games are low on my radar, and there has been nothing major as of this point on their games for updates.
I will note that Tabula Rasa ranks higher than Vanguard and CoH ranks higher than EQ2.
And as a side note, Lineage 2 is their best averaging subscription based MMO, resting in the 40's.

Finally, I did not include any Free to play's or Asian grinders. Our scales would look bizarre indeed. (For example, Guild Wars ranks #9, which if people accepted it as an MMO, would make it the 2nd most popular North American MMO.)

I mainly looked at current subscriber based games on the markets mind or having a real recent update and is popular. (I guess we could define this as "hyped")


Most of these make sense...but, let me explain DDO being here before I continue.

Drastic changes were made to the game recently with Module 8, with the hirelings system (still kicking in) and DX10.
I am of the mind that people who are on the cutting edge of gaming are always looking at ways to see more horsepower.
DX10 games fill that bill.
The game has been a real major group focused system. Seeing the hirelings makes me wonder if this will also bring in more players who want to try and solo (/waves).

Finally the complete change to the tutorial area screams for a retrial as well.

Dungeons and Dragons (like Lord of the Rings) was a major IP boon for Turbine. Somehow the ball was dropped. If anything I would like to see a better game here. Turbine continues to disappoint me also, as LOTRO is one of the worst high profile games I have played (and note this is my opinion, so not a reflection on those who love LOTRO.)
DDO also did nothing for me, but I enjoyed it more due to better looking models and a better looking world feel to me.
But playing gave me no underlying theme. Like, no story or reason for me to be here in this big city

But, who knows what these changes hold. May just be the ticket to keep me and others around longer.

Recently, Xfire has switched to a new display for their data. All charts now go on a weekly listing of numbers. This really helps us get a full overview of the changes depending on updates, expansions, etc.

Lets begin shall we?

World of Warcraft

The launch of Wrath of the Lich King really showed it's muscle.

As we look at the chart we can see the infamous dip for Tuesdays, and then how it scales back up for the weekend.
But, our newest chart, shows a MAJOR jump after the 13th. That is easy to guess.


The second best listing on Xfire of our titles to review.

But, we can see the major downfall from the 30 day turnover. The game had been noted to have quite a huge population...but...

Makes me wonder how much more this will continue to fall, or if this is finally reaching its set base. A lot of bloggers have corroborated this data of servers feeling empty...

The chart does state no change for 5 days though. So, this may be the spot WAR sticks to. Keeping a close eye on this.
My guess is that WAR is the #2 NA MMO right now.

Age of Conan

The chart speaks for itself. It has found a niche. I thought the change in the content from this past week would have brought it up more. But, it looks like Funcom took too long, and now has to live with the consequences.

This could change if they start to offer the free comebacks or trials. This will be interesting to watch as this and DDO are probably the most different MMO's on this list. Do people want something different if it is working well and offers a good game? Or are we stuck in an MMO rut, and all future releases will rely on WoW mechanics to make their game.


As I mentioned, quite a few changes. And we can see an upswing of time near the end of the scale...

It may take some time for their chart to grow, but the numbers are holding out ok and a little increase is a good sign.


This will be the one to watch. I feel their release of the expansion (just like EQ2) is a misinformed judgement. Why release it a week after WoTLK?

But we do see some upswing here as well. LOTRO does ok on the charts as we can see, and keeps a good set of subscribers...all die hard Tolkien fans for sure.

But, as an MMO, could it have had what it takes to attract players disgruntled with WoW?

I will keep an eye on this to see if Mines of Moria makes this game spike or not.
They have only ever reached number 14 on the Xfire charts, so unlike WAR or AoC who topped up at #5 and have had major sales, LOTRO never quite grabbed the players the same way.
Yet, the "dedicated" player seems to be more prominent in the LOTRO universe. Says something at least for the quality of the game for those players.


Like I said, I plan to review these once in a while as the Holidays close in. Will any game catch someones fancy?

Could Spellborn end up here? Will watch for that as well.

Should be interesting to see how the rest of the year plays out.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Witcher - Unique world drags me in

Over this past week I have been pumping my time into The Witcher. An extra long 6 hour session last night for example (it has been ages since I decided to dedicate that amount of time to a game...good thing it was snowy and cold here...hehe) really drove home how much fun I had been missing sticking to MMO's.

A new Enhanced Edition helped fix some dialogue issues, made loading and saving super fast, and graphics have been updated with some mechanics fixed.

Over the weekend I have progressed heavily and enjoyed a few rather cool story conventions..

First up was an Autopsy.

I did not perform it, but an old friend of mine did (a certain lady friend mind you...).
As the autopsy progressed, at certain points I was given huge dialogue choices of issues I noticed wrong with the body being examined. Depending on my answers, this could change the outcome.
I would have a different suspect based on what direction I went.
What was really fascinating is each of the choices could lead to one of the many suspects of the murder investigation I was doing.

Mind you this is a medieval setting as well.

I will not give a total spoiler, but I will say, something changed this verdict after I made it.

Moving on, after this autopsy, later that night I went back to speak to this lady friend (one thing to note in Witcher is you are not 100% railed...more on that soon) and she was going to throw a party for an old friend of mine. Dandelion. He is mentioned in the short stories I read in the Last Wish (actually several stories), and is a notorious Bard, who is want to have long treatises on life and culture...oh my.
I needed to go get their favorite drinks.
What happens is I GET INVOLVED in the party. I even have to invite a friend ( I decided on an old dwarf friend who I played a game of dice with earlier in the game, who seems to know me...btw, I cannot remember much due to amnesia...AGHH).

As the party is going (clear notices appear on the screen to notify me that "The party continues..."), and as I start to stumble around from being drunk, I learn more about my past adventures with these friends, and I get to ask questions of them.
At one point they get the munchies, and ask me to go down and raid the pantry, due to my "Witchiness..."...bugger!

Stumbling around was a laugh...
During this whole time I realized I had a stupid grin on my face.

Dandelion then sings us a really bad song complete with "Awwoooooo" sounds from "The Werewolf of London" as sung by Warron Zevon (minus the rock tune, and using a lute...) about another adventure involving us, and the dwarf and the lady, and how I am known as the "White Wolf".

Seems I know these people VERY well.

But, the whole time during this section of the game (the party lasts about 10 minutes of real time with questioning and stumbling about), is the fact that I am having fun just hanging with old friends.

Very well done.

Two things of note (there are many more, for example, the game uses an enhanced version of the Neverwinter Nights engine, and if you look at the images, you surely could not tell, and combat is a realtime affair.) is the fact that the rails are undefined, though present, and this leads to the gray moral area.

As I noted in the autopsy, I could make choices that could change the effect of the game. And even moreso, you have to make TOUGH choices that you may not wish.
As well, every situation has an alternate way out, unless it is the main story, which can be changed somewhat, but not too much.

Basically, you are left to your own devices. There were many times where I had to question myself on where to go next.
Again, like the autopsy. I did not NEED to go back to the lady, but I did later which opened up the party.
Imagine what I would have missed staying on the main path.
As to the morals, at one point, I am forced to decide between the humans and the other races (Elves and Dwarves). I am still upset over this decision. I could have totally blew by this as well, but I felt it had to be rectified. And the fact I gained new information out of it, made the decision (this time) a success.
It is my understanding that this decision will affect certain outcomes later on in the game.

For an indie title, the game has sold quite well. The character is quite engaging (when you walk by someone, if they are too close, you put out your hand to shove them away...or if someone makes a mistake while talking, you correct them), visually the game is well done. Combat is a learning curve, that once you grasp the idiosyncrasies, just works.

Makes me wonder what will happen when I go back to an MMO? Will I be ok with the static paths? The patching issues? The content problems? Or can I look upon them refreshed and enjoy what I have BEEN missing since I first started?

A fascinating road lies ahead. To this note, my decision has been made to make Spellborn (if it releases on time) as my return foray back into MMO's.

I hope it engages!

Cheers for now!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Chronicles of Spellborn - What is going on?

Tipa has started discussing the anticipation for a little known MMO...Chronicles of Spellborn.

If you are an AVID MMO fan then you know about most games that are coming down the pike. But, when it comes to Spellborn, the information that is driving down that road has had 3 shots of Morphine...all dull and lifeless and ready for a crash.

News from the original site has trickled out here and there. It is mainly an EU game, and as such, the data for their release and beta has been forthcoming on the above linked site.

In the United States, we did not fare as well.

We have Acclaim Games as the distributor.

In case no one knows, Acclaim went out of business in 2004. Under the "Entertainment" moniker. In 2006 the "Games" moniker was added and business started back up with Dave Perry helming a new string of low budget and low key MMO's.

All of the games rely on either in game advertising or cash shops to exist.

Spellborn was to be unique. Basically the game would have a certain zone (starter zone I assume) totally free, and then a pay for the box and monthly if you wished the full game.

A novel idea.

And the site has proclaimed an "Open Beta" coming soon.

Now, the European release is less than 2 weeks away. And for the US audience?

Today (Saturday November 15) at 10:40 am.

We have a DEAD website.

I will be keeping an eye on this, and hopefully this means we will get new information soon.

Here is hoping Spellborn is a great indie title to discuss soon!

EDIT: 10:52am. Seems the original site at is now experiencing issues.

EDIT: The US site is back up, but nothing has changed. 10:56am I could also access the very quiet forums there. Seems some note has been made about release from a CM.
It simply states...

"November 27th release is still coming as planned. Changes on the site have not been done since we are rebuilding it as we speak, so yes the links are dead, but we are working on changing things around, so just bare with us a bit."

Good signs. Hopefully soon then!

EDIT: And at 3:30PM Saturday, the site takes another dive. The TCoS site is working fine, but the Acclaim site keeps nosediving. Unsure if they are working on it or just having issues. I do note the rest of Acclaim's site and game sites are fine. Just mainly Spellborn and that section is dead.
Still keeping an eye out, and will report if any changes. Better be soon!

EDIT: Back up, but with zero data. 8:50PM on Saturday, and there have been a couple of posts, but disheartening due to their being nothing new added.
Right now my only assumption will be full release and NO beta at this time.
Lets put it this way. The game will have the first zone being totally free. Most people only do Open Beta to "try" the game.
So, really, who needs an Open Beta?
I believe we just need to sit tight for 13 days.
A notice was placed in the forums at Acclaim that discussion is on about releasing the client for early download. But, no positive news yet. If anything happens, I am sure Tipa or myself, or some other fan will spread the word.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Age of Conan - Morrison proves his worth

Another month and...what is this?

More communication with the players from Craig Morrison. Impressive.

Even more exciting is what is being said here. So, without further ado, lets do some bullet time!

  • We are now preparing the DirectX 10 version of the game for our public test servers. The next major game update will include this version of the game and make it available for everyone with the appropriate hardware to enjoy. Since the outset we have been determined that the new DirectX 10 functionality would not just be a ‘gimmick’ addition to the game and would add visual quality to the game, we feel that the version we are preparing now for testing does achieve this and in a way that will find the right balance between visuals and performance...
  • In terms of game content we will have two brand new dungeon locations in the next game update. Situated in Thunder River both will be aimed at maximum level players. The Slaughter House Cellar is a single player level 80 instance and Xibaluku is a large team instanced dungeon aimed at the same level range. Xibaluku has a great series of new and interesting boss encounters spanning several hours of game-play...
  • Following on from that early in the new-year you will be seeing the Tarantia Commons outdoor play-field. As I have mentioned before we have pushed this play-field up to a higher level range than was originally announced when we first talked about this play-field. The content will now be pitched somewhere in the mid to late 70s (the designers are still tuning the mob levels slightly) and you will find yourself thrust into the middle of a dynamic storyline surrounding riots taking place in the Commons District of the city. Which side will you find yourself on in this struggle right on the King’s doorsteps? There is some really interesting combination of storytelling and game-play going into this play-field and I think it will be a very interesting and engaging experience...

And this does not even include the itemization systems, and the stats do-over to fix their numbering schemes (i.e: read- Understandable stats)

This man is making major strides to fix this game...and fast.
Seems it is still on target to have major changes before the year is up.

I personally think the DX10 implementation will bring in new sales from those who look for a way to show off their new hardware (ME!@!!!!!) and I would be willing to go back to play in the world with that option!

This will make the game even more next-gen.

Impressive stuff here gentlemen of Funcom. And kudos for making this change, and moving this man to the front. He is truly the right choice.

Good luck AoC!

Kingdom Under Fire - MMOARTS?

Uh...yea...nice BIG acronym there...

Standing for Massively Multiplayer Online Action RTS.

Basically this series has been around quite a while.

Starting as a standard PC RTS, it grew up on the original Xbox, being the first ACTION based 3d RTS.
Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders released with a deep learning curve and an excellent new engine to represent tons of AI based NPC's on screen at was enthralling.

Story wise it was horrendous though. Voice overs were lame. But, the RPG mini elements mixed with the action combat, and control of major armies was a major boon.

It had a follow up in a title called Heroes. More of the same, but with alternate characters and updated mechanics to make the game smoother.

When the 360 hit, they decided to trail off and make an "Action" RPG instead.

Circle of Doom had Diablo styled combat with tons of loot and massive swarms of mobs attacking at once.

It was pretty bad though, but was a good CO-OP game.
Overall the repeating dungeons and bad story and acting (again) ruined it.
Visually it was stunning and when combat took place with hordes of enemies attacking, it could be fun for a short stint.

Now, the original team has gone back to their formula that worked, but again expanding the genre.

KuFII is described as...
  • A true Action RTS inheritor of the world acclaimed Kingdom Under Fire series, which continues a saga of Bersian heroes in the Kingdom Under Fire universe.
  • Massively Multiplayer Online game where thousands of gamers can co-play and write their own epic poetry of war.
  • Unprecedentedly massive scale of castle siege mode to deliver realistic medieval battles.
  • Deeper and richer campaign mode than that of "Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders"
  • Competition and War among 3 factions over the domination of Bersia continent; Human Alliance, Dark Legion and a new mystery force.
Using a 3 way factions system adds an element of surprise here. Not much else is known though.
It would be unique if this proved to be the first true MMO for the 360. But, different people have different ideas of what an MMO is.

Is this game worthy of that acronym?

What we do have is a video of in game engine cinematics, with action sequences pulled in to flesh out the video to give you an idea of what the game can do.
They have revamped their engine to represent the multitude of NPC's on screen at once. They did this on the Xbox with no slowdowns, and if they can do the same here, it will be a major feat.
The 360 engine and graphics are really taking off.

I can't wait to see more of this type of gaming fun.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

NCSoft - NOW what?

The news is grim each day for the company. From the Austin cuts earlier this year, Auto Assault playing dead (and winning that contest btw!) to Tabula Rasa and CoH showing dismal numbers (ok CoH/CoV have been noted to be profitable, but not a "best seller")..

Whats a poor MMO developer to do?

Maybe stop ignoring their most popular IP?

First up. Where is Guild Wars 2. Where is the information on this title. Why is their largest selling title's (almost 6 million players own a copy) follow up just wasting away.
The last release was Eye of the North in August of 2007.
Unless 2009 is to be the year of GW2, I am pretty much assured that NCSoft will bite the dust in North America at least. Or at least continue to dive in their profits.

Their Asian subsidiaries do not suffer the same fate as Lineage and Lineage 2 still hold those audiences.
With close to a million players in each title (mostly Gold Farmers, but lets not judge here...), the games keep them afloat...


How will Aion fare? Their current developed title, is on schedule for an early 2009 release date. Does this game have the pull that Western audiences want in their MMO?
News has been slim. Yet, there is no NDA as well, so we as players can pretty much find out anything we wish.
This is not 100% Asian developed either, with certain parties from Europe and NA having their hands in the development (examples are the push for WASD controls).
But, the Anime like characters has always been niche.

But, can this "niche" be 200k+ players? This seems to be the magic number right now.

I think a lot rests on Guild Wars 2 coming out by the end of 2009. If it does not, then what is a company to do with so many fledgeling MMO's?

Do we see an SOE all in one price model coming down the road?

Would you pay 25 bucks for CoH/CoV, Tabula Rasa and Lineage 2? Or add Aion onto that list maybe as an incentive?

The next 3-4 months will be interesting for NCSoft. Hope they can pull off something soon.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Witcher - Back in business


Seems the updates I did for the copy protection schemes worked. But, talk about those hoops I mentioned.

As follows...

1. Download and update the TAGES copy protection systems.
2. Update DVD Firmware.
3. Uninstall old Witcher copy.
4. Reboot.
5. Reinstall.
6 Restart a save before the incidents in question.


PC Gaming such a drag on time and resources.

Luckily, the game has 40+ hours of content, and with additional bonus content and new mods with adventures created by players...this should be quite a time waster.

Then at the end of November, I will have to choose a game to install (Tabula Rasa or DDO...)
Whichever releases their patch first wins.

Tabula Rasa - First Person mode
DDO - Hirelings

Winter closes in. Fun times.

Age of Conan - Quarterly reports and more patching

Funcom released their 3rd quarter numbers. Though not a disaster as some may think.

It is not rosy, but it is not gloom either.

Based on the PDF here ending date of Sept. 30th, the numbers are acceptable and almost break even sort of.

But, some gloomy comments are noted, and do not gloss over the issues as previously used with the sales speak.

They state

"After the very strong launch period, the average subscription period for Age of Conan has been shorter than expected and this has led to a reduction in subscriber levels in the period."

Do they not believe it is based on false promises and broken mechanics and patching schemes?

"The Company has a clear analysis of the issues that have affected subscription longevity negatively and is well underway in addressing those issues."

See above (lol)

This bit is good, and is being shown by the company by offering a new content patch released today as we speak with the level 55 and up Ymir's Pass in full glory.

"In September 2008 Mr. Craig Morrison replaced Mr.Gaute Godager as Producer and Game Director for Age of Conan. Mr. Morrison has extensive experience as a Producer and Game Director for Anarchy Online over several years, and his entry has been well received by the game community"

This is very true. He is willing to step onto the forums and discuss issues quickly and precisely and with no "sugar coating" either (for example, he mentioned his hate of the numbering system for combat calculations, and plans a revamp by 2009).

This is the brief though for media release.
Some interesting data is more apparent in the company's larger presentation, and some major news bullet points are noted...

  • New price point - What could this be? AO is free with transactions and expansion purchasing.. Could Conan go to an alternate pay scheme?
  • Free trial offers –both digital and physical distribution - This will be huge and help to drive sales I believe.
  • Polish and Russian launches - As well as a Korean launch coming shortly within the next month or two.
  • Loyalty program to be implemented –rewarding long-time subscribers - Not even sure what could make a customer stay for longer pay periods...
And then down the road...we see..
  1. Ymirs Pass, New DX10, 2 High level Dungeons etc. (Q4)
  2. New item/RPG system, 1-2 new play fields, new dungeons etc. (Q1 '09)
  3. Continuous updates with high end content and systems (Q2-Q3 '09)
  4. Expansion pack (Q4 '09)
And we see Ymir Pass has already been implemented.
A notice to players was made in this patch to update players Direct X versions to the latest releases (this would be DX9 for now), so the game will be changing how DX works, which means DX10 soon.

I have stated in the past that AoC has something specific to it's game style that makes it a better contender for longevity (not to mention just the game engine, but mechanics as well).

With continued development (one item of note is that they increased employees and not just call staff either...) and the fact they wish to make sure their customers are happy, and by being humble, have made the first step in that regards...AoC could at least pull itself together.

XFire shows a steady logtime right now for players hitting a specific number of hours, and forum posts have noted the 4-6 servers that will be the main merge servers this weekend.

This could put the game back together from its great fall.

I return....with the bug report

Ah yes, we love them, we know what happens, we know IT WILL happen.

I call it the bane of PC gaming (and seems to be the console problem now as well)


After having a long weekend, with an included field trip with a bus of 50 screaming kids, and a boring day at a location called a Discovery Place, which has exhibits on Science, Math, History, etc., I put in some time on Witcher, and tried to finish some achievements in Fable 2.

Let me start with Fable 2.
Three of us in the household.
We have all played and beaten the game.

We ALL have some glitch on our game.

The wife has a glitch that her Furniture Store has become EMPTY...especially when she was being such a nice landlord and buying the furniture to redecorate all the homes she was renting (as well as the stores she owned).
I have a glitch that was based on my first wife disappearing (yes, I got married again because that wench walked out on me)...but then she reappeared after the main story ended. But, she was still broken. Could not emote, make babies, etc.
I killed her.
Now, I have a quest to rescue my child...but it is attached to the child of the dead wife, and he was taken to protective services. So, the quest is now broken...

We ALL have a glitch that various shops and stalls will not have sales anymore (usually these would be announced with discounts or markups, etc.).

So, what happened along the way? And why is this so common (check out the huge laundry list of bugs here...)


Luckily our overall experience was quite fun. But, why must we suffer such bugs in today's programming? These teams for these games are huge. QA runs for quite a while. Yet, we see more bugs than is possibly imaginable.

Just like MMO's. Why is it acceptable to have this player created "6 month" window for fixes. An MMO is never really ready for 6 months after release....why?

As to PC games, we have even more issues with hardware, software glitches, etc. Not even the programmers fault, but it makes PC gaming more of a hit or miss situation.

Anyways, this takes me to the NEW enhanced, bug fixed, fixed up, uber Witcher version..

That still has old bugs.

I had decided to start over, as thanks to the enhanced version, the story is more fleshed out. It reads better, is more cohesive, and some mechanics worked better (like potion making and leveling skills).

One issue presented itself to me when I played the game last year.

I got stuck in a cave after rescuing a young boy. The wall I am supposed to knock down, would not go down. Seems an updated patch would break this wall so you could not go through.
You had to reinstall the game from scratch, and then continue that save, then could patch after knocking down the wall.

This rears it's head again in the Enhanced version.

Seems some steps will cause this to happen still.

In so many words, if a certain person is not spoken to, be prepared to go back to a previous save.

But, another bug showed up.
Seems the copy protection scheme is broken on the new version, and you need to update to the latest version of that software (TAGES protection). And to add injury to insult, you must also update the DVD firmware if it is older than the recognized format of the copy protection.

Player? Meet hoops.....can you jump?

Anyways, if you did not update the protection, a very important NPC is missing (invisible) and you cannot continue.

Both of these issues are huge game breakers.

Games cost quite a bit nowadays. We pay good money to keep the developer continuing to create these great games. But, when I am forced to search for answers to dilemma's, and sometimes there is no cure...we are stuck with a 30 dollar coaster.

I have found this missing NPC thanks to hours of installing, fixing and going back to previous saves.
But, why should I have to do that?

And is the cave going to be ok on this run through?

Same with Fable 2. These issues just make the end game sort of...not too fun to load up anymore.
(But, an announcement on something happening is coming next week...hope it is a huge bug fix patch and FREE content)

Have you gotten to the point that if you buy a expect a bug? Or are you still surprised when it happens?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Shopping day - New books, and a game update

Well, Saturday was an awesome outing. Heading to the Big City (ok...Asheville,NC is NOT that big, but sure is living in Hippy Land).

I headed to Gamestop and grabbed the EE edition of the Witcher. Basically this took last years well done RPG and kicked it up a notch, with better graphics, enhanced dialogue, and some extra adventures (including a toolkit to create your own adventures for the character).

I really got hooked on this world after reading the books.

The Last Wish is a compilation of short stories about the main character Geralt. What is unique is how some of today's issues filter into the story (for example, Elves and Dwarves are discriminated against due to being different).
Thanks to this being a European author, we also see mention of various mythological creatures that are similar to US and Western audiences, but different enough that it warrants more research to read about.
What is even more fun is if you pay attention you can see references to various classic fairy tales in the stories.
Do not be surprised to read about Snow White, Cinderella, and Rumpelstiltskin to name a few.
Highly recommended. So is the game if you liked original NWN, but it has a single character focus along with a more action based combat system.

Moving on, two new books added to my reading list to the right on Shelfari (I bought 3 total, but can read two at a time...).
I purchased the awesome "American Gods" by Neil Gaiman. The story is great in that is follows a setting I always enjoy. Magic and Mythology intermixed with today's society (the "Watch" series for example). The Old Gods (Odin, Loki, Horus, Anubis) are at war with the New Gods (Computers, TV, Airplanes) for dominance of our good ole

I also purchased another book based on several criteria.
A look at the cover blew me away as it looked really cool.

It also is a nod to Mystic Worlds.

Saylah was looking for something "Steampunk". And the conversation put it into my thoughts that it had been a while since I had read some Steampunk!
Finally, thanks to Fable 2's Dickensonian like setting of Victorian England with Magic and Mechanical schemes working together. From old Victorian pistols to the mechanical clock tower in the middle of town square.
The setting worked for me..

With that in mind...

Whitechapel Gods is total 100% steampunk. The beginning is quite entertaining (the first chapter discusses a disease striking everyone turning their innards to mechanical parts and their blood to oil was just what the Doctor ordered for fun.).

Finally I got my first Robert E Howard works. Having read some short stories in the past and of course everyone elses versions of his characters, I sprung for one of the new compiled editions of his originals.
I decided to go for Kull of Atlantis, as first it is not Hyboria (these works were much larger and I just wanted some quick reads) and the short story versions will give a me a feel for his overall style and if it is something I wish to pursue more.

Had some great Italian to eat, and then finished the day off with a nice new pair of Dockers shoes to replace the old smelly ones (Men seem to want to keep their shoes forever, while my wife changes shoes like underwear...).

Finally we ended the night watching the premiere of the Legend of the Seeker.
We enjoyed it. It is more serious than the Hercules and Xena shows, and as most people know, takes liberties with the stories (why must TV and Movies do this? What is really the reasoning?), but I expected this, yet we found an entertaining show that at least is something Fantasy on TV.
The effects were good, and the 300-style fight scenes were ok as well.
We enjoyed the fact that the female was also tough as nails...but, uh...when did she switch back to her old outfit after getting a new one in the middle of the show?

Hope everyone is having a good weekend.

I will be out on a field trip Monday (a school bus full of 9-10 year olds is the ticket to an alka-seltzer night...woohoo), so will be FAR AWAY....

Hopefully catch up on my return...