2008. május 31., szombat

Real-to-Virtual Transaction: Making a Fortune in Online Games

Playing video games for a living is the fantasy of thousands of gamers across the wold, but in this internet age it is fantasy no longer. All over the world regular gamers are purchasing online game currencies and filling the pockets of virtual entrepreneurs. Those competing in the real-money trading industry include dedicated professionals to part-time players, big-city businesses to the bedroom entrepreneur. The "virtual warehouse" of workers is immense, with the working population of thousands in the People's Republic of China working alongside the millions of avid MMORPG gamers.
The industry is rarely reported in the media and so it remains an unknown property to the majority of the world's population. Despite this the industry is well known in the communities of popular titles like EverQuest, EVE Online, FFXI and the famous World of Warcraft. A prime example is in EQ2 where players compete through a series of themed tasks in order to stockpile the game's currency. Most blow their fortune within the game's stores or marketplace, but others decide to make real-world profit from their virtual acquisitions ; and there are plenty of them.
Morality, and even the ethics, of this practice is often debated, but it is clear that many gamers and executives alike disapprove. Intellectual property infringement is the most commonly given reason for objection by gaming companies, but there are also accusations of hacking, scamming and phishing within the industry. Developers often try to persuade players within the game that the practice is detrimental to game-play or the world's economy. Legally, real-money trading breaks no laws and has led to no convictions within the Western world, but pressure for government intervention grows each day.
Even though some take issue with the ethics or principles of the practices, virtual trading is here to stay. There is certainly money to be made, whether it's by developers or entrepreneurs, and the market shows no sign of slowing. A bright future lies ahead with new opportunities available in yet unreleased titles, the most promising of which being Warhammer Online.
Research conducted by www.MOGS.com - reatailer of Age of Conan Gold

2008. május 30., péntek

Age of Conan: Early Impressions

The character creation screen is more in depth than many MMOs. However, if you're brave enough to admit you've played The Sims, then you've certainly seen better. In the end does it really matter in games where you're likely to be covered head to toe in armor? I think not so much but I sense that people do enjoy the versatility. What I would personally have preferred more than being able to tweak the length of my nose or the size of my boobs, was not to look like a ragamuffin. If you thought your character's gear looked thrown together in LOTRO you ain't seen nothin' yet. To date, Age of Conan and LOTRO are the only games that I've played where I looked like mixed-match mess.

I appreciate the circumstance of a recently escaped/freed slave. I understand they don't plan on making the game as gear dependant as others. However, do I really have to look that bad? Or am I that vain??? I found myself looking through the multiple tops, pants and shoes in my bag trying to find something that at least seemed like it went together. The stats were all the same but the styles, colors and textures didn't jive. I looked a hot mess. It was slightly similar to AC2 in that, there was a lot of variety in the same piece of armor so you can be in a red robe that has +1 Defense and I can be in a black one if I prefer and that's without dying your items. However, Age of Conan hacks made the stuff even at the lower levels look decent and you could easily match your items. Hopefully, I'll get to look better at some point.

AOC has a nice variety of classes within the four archetypes of Soldier, Priest, Mage and Assassin. Only certain classes can be played by certain races, which is a common implementation. However, in AOC whole archetypes are exclusive to certain races. For example, if you want to be a Mage of any kind, then you must be Stygian. On the PVE and PVP servers so what, but I wonder how this plays out on the Culture PVP servers where a race is completely locked out of an archetype?

Even though AOC has the usual suspects for classes, not all of them are the typical fare. Priests and Mages are battle versions of those classes. Everyone gets to have decent offensive skills and from what I've read so far, it appears that HOT and AOE healing spells are more prevalent than the "heal one" scenario. I think this might make playing a healer more pleasurable. If you can heal many more often with a single action, you'll have more opportunity to actual watch the battle – see the instances and bosses.

One of the Mage's has melee as its primary DPS, as does at least one of the Priests. It's little twists like these that add a bit of freshness into the game. I'll discuss the classes in more detail after I've finished testing my would-be mains.

Lastly, the combat system which is VERY different from any MMO I've ever played. At least in terms of PVE, it's not giving me nearly the trouble I expected. I never did well on the console games and don't consider myself adept at FPS style combat but so far, so good. The inclusion of combos which deal more damage when successfully executed is interesting. I do wish that I could move where they displayed. For some reason focusing left side of the screen doesn't work as well for me, as it would if I could place it right side or better yet, closer to my character and my Age of Conan cheats. I want to watch the combat but with the combos slightly off to the left, my eye is focused there. Oh well, definitely not a huge deal. It would just be nice to be able to move it to match my preferred field of view.

That's where I'm at for now. It's pretty, different, combat feels fresh, UI could be better but no deal breaker. I'm on a PVE server at the moment. I'm going to do a Bear Shaman on a PVP or Cultural PVP server at some point. The only pitfall I can foresee at the moment is if I MUST quest. Forced questing for leveling is why I'm not playing LOTRO or EQ2. Grinding XP is a play-style and as much as some people hate it, others enjoy and actually prefer it. I don't mind questing in moderation but when I'm not in the mood, I really do need the freedom to just go whack stuff and still level at a decent rate. This philosophy is one of the major reasons I'm excited about Warhammer Online.

May 29, 2008 in Age of Conan | Permalink

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2008. május 29., csütörtök

Graphics Pains with Age of Conan

Late into the US holiday weekend, I was finally able to register/activate my game code so that I could play Age of Conan (AoC). I quickly found out that my inability to register wasn't going to be my only problem.

I knew going in that the graphics requirements were pretty steep. I did however, think that my computer, Dell XPS gaming system was up to the test. My only real concern was reading that some players with AMD graphics cards were having issues, which meant that my Radeon 850 XT might give me a problem related to performance. Unfortunately, what I had was bigger than performance problems. First I had the black screen issue which I found an answer for on MMORPG.com. Then there was the screen stutter which I found an answer to on some other web site. After a couple of hours I finally got into the game and created a character.

To even move around reasonably, I had to have everything on low which left the visual absolutely unacceptable to me. I must have good looking graphics. They don't have to be realistic but they have to be high quality or I just can't be bothered. I pushed on anyway to get a feel for the game and then I started getting over heating warning from my graphics card. At first it happened once in an hour, then twice then every few minutes. I would stop playing for a while and turn the PC off. Unfortunately, that didn't resolve the issue for long the messages just kept coming. The card's fan was running and the air flow fine. I went back to the internet, did some research and downloaded some tools. By this time it's Monday midday and I've spent more time on the internet trying to resolve problems than playing.

Finally, I said, 'Screw it, let me go buy a new graphics card before Best Buy closes. Not wanting to jack around, I grabbed the best thing they had to offer since I didn't want to have to come back. I bought the GeForce 9800 GTX and raced back home to install it. I got the thing in and loaded up the game expecting to seem some really nice graphics. Uh not quite what happened. With graphics on high I could barely move. Set on medium it was okay but I had to go into the settings and dial a few things down and remove grass, water reflections and the alike. After doing that I was still sort of lagging and was like WTF? That's when I noticed my frame rate was only 9. My son's computer which also a Dell but not XPS and different graphics card, wasn't having any issues on Medium quality and getting 30+ FPS.

By this time I was annoyed and not very interested in playing anyway. Later that night I did some more research and found an article on GameSpot stating that using High with some very specific changes is actually better for the FPS than using the Low setting. The AoC servers are down right now but as soon as they come up I'm going to give this a try. If this doesn't work I won't be a happy camper. At this point I've been on the internet trying to figure out why I couldn't register my game code, then why I couldn't see anything and now why my FPS sucks, etc more than I've spent time playing. Grrrrrrr.

Source : notadiary.typepad.com

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2008. május 28., szerda

Online Game communities are social in nature

By Cindy Ahuna

Who are the friendly characters that will play with you if you play with them?

In 1969, "SpaceWar", developed by Rick Blomme, was the first two-player game designed to play on PLATO. In 1961, the "Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations" was the first network to run on the Illiac computer system. PLATO was created by Professor Chalmers Sherwin, under the direction of electrical engineering professor Don Bitzer, co-inventor of the plasma display pane at the University of Illinois.

During 1970 through 1977, multiplayer games included "SpaceWar"; a version of "Star Trek"; "Avatar", a Dungeons and Dragons-style game; "Airflight", a flight simulator; and "Empire", which supported 32 players on PLATO. In 1972, PLATO hosted 1,000 simultaneous users. In May 2001, Sony's "EverQuest", a massive multiplayer online role-playing game, hosted 60,000 to 80,000 players daily.

In 1973, David R. Woolley designed "Notes", a communications software for PLATO. Due to the release of this software, "Talkomatic", precursor to IRC with handles and chat rooms, was developed for PLATO. A maximum of five people wrote and read each other's messages on the same screen. Chat rooms were open and uncensored. A player logged on using their real or an anonymous name, and played either gender role.

In various online chat rooms found on AOL's games and in Sony's "EverQuest", text is censored when gamers use brand or offensive words. Role-playing genders, sometimes referred to as gender swapping or multiple representations, is possible when gamers change or hide the genders of their characters using anonymous names.

In "EverQuest", with more than 360,000 subscribers, thousands of gamers play characters of the opposite gender. Gamers are free to explore relationships while in character. Male gamers find that female characters generally get treated better in male-dominated virtual worlds. Sometimes men find it easier to chat with other characters and escape the competition. In free online games list, multiple representations allow players to see how other players solve problems. "There are a lot of rumors and anecdotes about people referring to play games as men or women because they are treated differently," says avid gamer J. MacLean.

In a lecture titled "Programs, Emotions and Common Sense", Marvin Minsky emphasized in his book the idea of multiple representation. "If you understand something very precisely in one way", Minsky claims "you don't understand it at all." "You know it by rote. What does the word understand mean? Understanding means having many different ways to deal with things," said Minsky. Children memorize history by rote, but they usually don't understand it how free online games work. Sometimes gamers falsely assume they are interacting with a person who matches the gender's name. Perhaps on one level, Minsky's definition can be applied as a working analogy for multiplayers who role-play playing games. If multiplayers had more ways of identifying the characters, they might be able to understand who the friendly characters were when they played with them, but then again, that might take all of the fun out of the game.

Artist/curator Anne-Marie Schleiner, describes social developments in gaming: "Multiplayer games can be very social. In the shooter genre, players sometimes band together into "clans", groups who fight against other groups. Sometimes the social bonds developed in these clans extend beyond the game into friendship and players offer each other moral support through personal hardship and help each other find jobs," said Schleiner.

Social environments evolve from online game communities. "A great example is "Air Warrior", a WW2 flight simulation with players are so dedicated, they've held conventions. Massive multiplayer role-playing games are also famous for the strength of their communities "the guilds in "EverQuest" are a great example of this phenomenon," says MacLean. In contrast to single player games, communities are vital depending on the game. For example, "for a game like chess, where skill levels can be critical, many people prefer to play with someone of relatively similar skill," says MacLean.

In a global point of view, the Internet is the living organism that hosts many online games systems. Boundaries of geography, economy, culture, degrees of education and family traditions have disappeared. Gamers are co-authors that take part in the experience. Communities are playing fields for social interaction. When gamers send messages to other gamers, they are free to exchange email addresses and meet beyond the game community. Communities have become an extension, a new medium of human touch.

When communities form, a semantic world of sharing knowledge, solving problems, working as a team, playing, building, quarreling, cooperating, planning and forming relationships develop. Games are formal because they have a set of rules. A game is a system because it has a collection of parts that interact with each other in complex ways. In "EverQuest", the Game Masters hold the most power. Online games run on a '24x7' calendar. Generally, online the role-playing games are maintained by paid subscriptions, whereas, online fighting games are free. Communities exist in time by free and paid subscriptions. Gamers occupy real estate within the online game. Communities live in both space and time. Thus, it is a lifelike system.

Popular game boxes vary from Sony PlayStation, PlayStation 2; Nintendo's GameCube projected to ship Nov 5, '01 in the US; and Microsoft's Xbox projected to ship Nov 8, '01 in the US. "Although game boxes offer higher resolution graphics in comparison to PC gaming, they are a closed hardware platform and less amenable to multiplayer social games. Multiplayer gamers cannot insert their own character skins into shooter games in a game box or with a multiplayer game, such as "EverQuest". "EverQuest" can easily receive updates on the game over time that get rewritten over the original game software," says Schleiner. Many gamers develop friendships with other gamers in different countries using the chat session in "EverQuest".

In some ways, there are as many different types of gamers as there are games. General definitions include:

* Generally, casual gamers are people who enjoy simple decision making games and typically play less technical 3D graphic games. * Generally, traditional gamers are people who enjoy a more complex game. * Multiplayers (simultaneous players) are defined as those who play with other gamers in the same game.

What makes an online game exciting, interesting, social or more fun than another game? Motivation evolves from sensory gratification, role-playing, personality, taste, adrenaline, sociology, immersive and engaging environments, and the element of fun. Games in general motivate ideas. Topics include life, survival, strategy, role-playing, and building relationships. In all circumstances, the player learns by playing. "Building colossal virtual worlds are very important. In a virtual world, everything has a purpose. I love games, " said Minsky during his lecture, "Programs, Emotions and Common Sense".

In Star Trek CCG, gamers can buy and sell, trade and collect digital cards, watch or judge games, and attend tournaments. One disadvantage, prior to downloading the plug-in, a high risk is indicated. The risk is associated with the possibility of gamers accessing your computer if you proceed with download. This warning appears with this statement: "JavaScript or a java applet from DigitalDeck, Inc. is requesting additional privileges." This plug-in is required to run the application.

Because game communities are social in nature, knowledge and understanding are more apparent in virtual worlds. "Wouldn't it be nice to connect two thoughts," said Minsky.

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MMO 2.0

Lately, there has been a lot to talk about in the MMO-verse, with Age of Conan just getting released and a World of Warcraft expansion pack on track for a holiday unveiling there seems to be nothing that can stop the momentum gained by the industry. However, despite all the success being thrown around by the top five MMOs (World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings Online, Age of Conan, EVE Online, Final Fantasy XI) there seems to be very little that is truly pushing the genre towards the "next step."

In every walk of the technological life there are upgrades to the original. Even something as simple as the web was fully upgraded into what has become to lovingly termed: web 2.0. So the same should hold true for MMO, right? You'd think so, but very little has actually changed since the dawning of the 3D MMORPG in the heyday of Everquest. There has been smaller changes like the advent of a quest based storyline and an enhanced mini-map and traveling system, but nothing I'd really call revolutionary, or next generation. Let's face it, nobody out there is really attempting to do anything to set a new standard in the industry.

Now I know that there is at least one EVE Online fan reading this right now in disgust. Let me say this right now, EVE Online is definitely a different experience and CCP has done a marvelous job and creating a successful MMO that strays from the typical archtype that most MMOs follow today. However, that said, they are not setting a standard in the industry. EVE Online and CCP will not be changing the way the industry makes its games and there probably won't be any long lasting affects from their technology. The original Xbox was the first to really incorporate seamless online and now it has become the standard. MySpace truly pushed the bounds of "web 2.0″ with it's social networking applications and it has now become the standard. Apple created the first truly desirable MP3 player and it has now become the standard. All of these are examples of an industry that was expanded on by companies that wished to create a fresh experience on an old application and as such truly changed the landscape of how everybody else played in that field. So despite EVE Online's unique gameplay they certainly haven't changed the way developers make games.

So, where does that leave the industry? With the huge success of World of Warcraft, which handily dashes the success of the other top four MMOs combined, game developers desperately need to find new ways to make their games different and if that means employing a new combat system (Age of Conan) or seriously enhancing the PvP and RvR settings (Warhammer Online) then thats what these companies will do. Unfortunately, many of these "enhancements" are gimmicky at best and won't be offering any true MMO 2.0 anytime soon. However, and this is just my prediction, I think it's safe to say that after all the so called "WoW-killers" have debuted to date, the only MMO that will truly begin to pick away at the house that Blizzard built will be an MMO 2.0 game. Personally, I'm keeping my eye on Copernicus.

P.S. I am in no way calling Age of Conan's combat system or WAR's RvR system bad or flawed, but, rather, non-revolutionary. Yes I have tested out both; Age of Conan beta, Warhammer Online at E for All 2007.

Source : MMOCrunch.com

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2008. május 27., kedd

What AoC means for WoW

According to Michael Zenke from Massively, Age of Conan has sold 400,000 copies, out of 700,000 boxes they put on the shelves. Not bad for the first week. And, kudos to Funcom, the release launch went a lot smoother than the beta or early access. The reception of AoC in the blogosphere was a mixed. Keen and Graev already cancelled their accounts again. Tipa from West Karana sees AoC challenging WoW. The Ancient Gaming Noob correctly points out that "MMOs are a long haul proposition" and reserves judgement until having played it more. And the Common Sense Gamer thinks that WoW won't even notice AoC is out.

So here is what I think. I don't have proof, only anecdotal evidence, so preface every phrase here with "In my humble opinion": I think that World of Warcraft suffers from a cycle of peaks and troughs in subscription numbers. This is largely self-inflicted, numbers peak after big content patches and expansions, and fall in long periods of no new content added. Other factors, like summer holidays, also play a role. I do believe that WoW is heading for a major trough of subscription numbers in the western world. Remember that of the 10.7 million WoW players about 6 million are Chinese, who are on a different cycle, and who pay much less. There are less than 5 million players in the US and Europe, and the number will be falling over the summer, because the Burning Crusade is getting long in the tooth, and not everyone likes to spend his summer holidays in front of a computer.

Age of Conan will reach between half a million and one million subscribers this year. Most of which will be ex-WoW players. A good number of them will have stopped playing WoW anyway, with or without AoC, but a couple of hundred thousand will be pushed over the edge and quit WoW for the prospect of a new game. And Blizzard will notice that, because all of these are the well-paying US/Euro kind of subscribers. Age of Conan will not "kill" World of Warcraft, but it will dent it a bit.

Summer will end, christmas will approach, and now everything is possible. WoW could bring out Wrath of the Lich King in November, and it's subscription numbers would peak again. And personally I don't see Age of Conan having much staying power, not in a game where the first people reached the level cap in the first week already. Wrath of the Lich King will make a much larger dent into Age of Conan's subscription numbers than AoC does into WoW's now. But another possibility is that Blizzard misses a 2008 release date for WotLK. And it is also quite possible that Warhammer Online makes that date, and comes out for christmas. And then Blizzard would really start feeling the pain. I do believe that WAR has an even bigger potential of getting subscribers away from WoW than AoC has. If WAR comes out for christmas and WotLK doesn't, they could easily sell a million copies this year. Again, these are all Americans and Europeans, and if WAR beats WotLK to a christmas release, WoW numbers could suffer an even deeper trough.

None of this will "kill" World of Warcraft. But we are talking numbers here that are big enough to show up in a companies annual report of revenue and profits. If Wrath of the Lich King doesn't come out by the end of this year, the 2008 profits from WoW will be significantly lower than those of 2007, and investors and people at Vivendi will notice. Blizzard would bounce back to a dominating position when they bring out Wrath of the Lich King, but then what? If the third expansion is still another 2 years away, the overall trend of WoW subscription numbers could well go into permanent decline. One day WoW won't be the biggest kid on the block any more, not because of one WoW killer, but because of a death by a thousand cuts. The best Blizzard can hope for is that the new champion will be their next generation MMORPG, but that is not a given.

Source : www.Tobold.com

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Anti-Aliased: Age of Con-troversy

I'm going to hijack my own column this week to cover a topic that I believe is worth spending some space on - Age of Conan and the buzz of negative media attention it has been getting. Age of Conan's controversy spans almost all aspects of the game, from fatalities, to nudity, to even such odd things like race selection.

Now, I've written a few of these articles. I enjoy controversy as the next person and I'm always interested in seeing the opposite viewpoint. It wasn't until I started getting some very, very nice hate mail in my inbox that I began to wonder if anyone understood my own viewpoint on the matter. So, this column is dedicated to other people's opinions, my opinions, controversies and, of course, Age of Conan.

I'm not sure what people expected from a Conan game. It sounds like those who knew their mythos well knew exactly what to expect and embrace it. However, there is, as always, a large amount of the populace who don't know anything about Conan the Barbarian, Robert E. Howard, or the land of Hyboria. So, one must imagine the surprise when this "Age of Conan" game starts to hit the media and attract attention. Imagine more of their surprise when they realize that you can make a woman and flash her boobies to the rest of the virtual population. If I didn't know about Conan the Barbarian, I'd probably be a little uneasy as well.

Conan's risque features have even had us here at Massively guessing in regards to what we can and cannot put into our writing. Our normal office talk about levels, italicizing game names, and standard debates on what MMOs we should be playing have been punctuated by wonderful lines such as, "Hey, can I say 'nipple toggle'?" (Which I can, apparently.)

Yet... all we have here is an adaptation of Robert E. Howard's fictional world and the people who live in it. The legacy of Conan the Barbarian has been available to the public for over 70 years. The population was even exposed to the violent world of Conan in everyone's favorite movie adaptation starring the Governator. All that's really being done here is the introduction of a visual world. If I may say it, Funcom really hit the mark on this one. Instead of giving us a cheap imitation of what goes on in Hyboria, they cut right to the chase and gave us a good interpretation. For the most part, they stuck to the book and the original fiction. That should be commended, not regarded as lunacy.

I've seen movies bloodier than Age of Conan. I've read books scarier and creepier than Age of Conan. And I've seen enough statues and paintings of nude women to last me a lifetime. Yet, here we are, screaming about exposed bosoms and how it might taint the populace. Has anyone walked through Firenze, Italy recently? Seriously, if anyone wants free "porn", just go to your local museum and check out some of the renaissance art.

And that brings me to my point on nudity - there is nothing to be ashamed about concerning the naked form. Surprise, women have breasts! Who knew, right?

Then the inevitable argument comes up concerning the children. Should our children be allowed to see this violent fantasy world? Should we let the young ones step into the world of Hyboria?

Short answer is no. The long answer is no you crazy parents please do not buy this game for your child for Christmas and then leave your child unattended during their game playing on the intarwebz. First of all, I don't want to babysit your child on Age of Conan and explain to them why that lady is naked in the tavern. Second of all, use the ESRB ratings that are so thoughtfully put down in the corner of the front of every game's box.

For those of you who haven't read the back of Conan's box, let me tell you what the ESRB says is in the game's content. The ESRB rates this game as a mature title, meant for children and adults age 17 and over, as this game contains: blood and gore, intense violence, mature language, nudity, and sexual themes. So, please, do not send me e-mails and do not harass your local GameStop employee regarding the fact you had absolutely no clue that there was nudity and violence in this game. It's seriously on the back of the box.

Controversy starts and stops with the parents. I'm begging you, parents of the world, don't go out and blindly purchase games for your child. We of the game industry have the ESRB ratings system in place for a reason; we want you parents to use it. On the back of every game, in the bottom right hand corner, there is a description of what the game contains so you can see if you really want your child being exposed to this material. If you don't want them to buy this MMO, then there are a sea of other MMOs they can play. Some of them are very welcoming to children and a blast to play. They're also much cheaper than Age of Conan. Cheap as free, in fact.

Make no mistake - Hyboria is a dark world that explores dark themes. The women are beautiful, the ale is great, and the treasures are unmistakably epic. But all of these things come with very steep prices that wouldn't be as steep without the mature content. Hyboria is a world that is built on split blood, slave trade, and ruthlessness. In fact, it sounds very much like the history of a certain world that I'm very well acquainted with. Cimmerians remind me of a certain northern people, Aquilonians remind me of a certain set of ancient people who love debates, and Stygians remind me of a certain group of people who built those triangular thingies in the desert. I guess Hyboria isn't that separated from our world after all.

If you ask me, the only controversy that I can see is letting irresponsible parents have children and inconsiderate nutjobs (NSFW) opening their mouths to the media. Maybe we should have a law that will give jail time to parents who give consent to clerks to sell their 10-year-olds Age of Conan and Grand Theft Auto IV, instead of jailing the clerks.

Because I was on vacation last week and was unable to post my column, you all get a bonus! Look for a second edition of Anti-Aliased hitting Massively.com on Thursday. It's like early Christmas, except it's not Christmas and you're not getting any extra presents except my ramblings. But, honestly, is there any better present? I think not.

Source : massively.com

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2008. május 26., hétfő

Age of Conan one of the fastest selling PC games of all time

Over 400,000 gamers have entered game - First 20 reviews with an average review score above 90%

Durham, USA - May 26th, 2008 - Funcom is proud to announce that Age of Conan is one of the fastest selling PC games of all time. More than 400.000 gamers have entered Hyboria over the last few days, with almost half coming from the North American market. This amazing figure for a PC game shows that the positive pre-order trend has transferred into actual sales, and people from all over the world are now flocking to the most savage, sexy and brutal MMO ever created.

Over the weekend an astounding amount of concurrent gamers were logged on to the game, making Age of Conan one of the busiest MMOs in the western hemisphere. With stock flying out of several retail chains, Funcom expects the number to increase in the days to come. In addition to the many gamers logging in, there was also substantial traffic to the Age of Conan websites, with more than 2,2 million unique visitors during the last ten days.

As a result of the great launch, players and press have been raving about the unique qualities of the game, and the first 20 reviews give Age of Conan an average score above 90%. The first US reviews are also live, with Gamezone.com giving the game an Editor's Choice Award, a 9.4 of 10 score, while heralding Age of Conan as a "Benchmark MMO". Sci-Fi.com was also an early mover and gave the game a straight A, stating that "If Robert E. Howard had been a game designer.., this is the Conan he would have invented."

"The initial sales and reviews are very encouraging, and it's great to see that so many are enjoying Age of Conan," said Funcom CEO Trond Arne Aas. "This is just the beginning, and we already look forward to massive updates and cool new features. We believe our focus on making Conan unique and groundbreaking is a key reason for the initial success. This is a focus we will keep and reinforce, and players can expect continued quality and innovation as we enter a new era for the game." Source : WarCry Network

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2008. május 25., vasárnap

Seonyáron nem kesergek...

Ennek a rövidke cikknek a lényege a seonyár2008 versenyen résztvevő oldalam poziciójának javítása. Tekintve hogy még ezt a seonyár2008 cikket is lusta vagyok megírni, így kénytelen leszek ide bemásolni valami szövegecskét megtűzdelni a kulcsszavakkal (pl seonyár2008) így aztán frankón releváns lesz a szöveg :D

Szupernóva-robbanás az első felvonás elejétől

A NASA Swift mesterséges holdjának és a véletlen szerencsének köszönhetően a csillagászat történetében először sikerült közvetlenül az elejétől nyomon követni egy szupernóva-robbanást.

A szupernóva-robbanások (ilyen pl. ahogy az oldalam berobban a seonyár20008 versenybe) a legnagyobb energiát felszabadító események közé tartoznak a Világegyetemben, ezért még óriási távolságból is jól megfigyelhetők. A robbanást magát azonban eddig még senki nem látta, ugyanis a felfedezéskor az objektum már túl van ezen az egyébként nagyon rövid ideig tartó fázison, s a megfigyelők csak a környező térrész és a robbanás által ledobott anyag kölcsönhatásának eredményét észlelhették. Ez a folyamat egy néhány hétig tartó kifényesedésből, ún. felszálló ágból, majd a maximális fényesség elérése után egy több hónapig tartó elhalványodásból, a leszállóágból áll. A robbanás (min az én seo-robbanásom :) a seonyár20008 versenyben) maga tehát mindezideig rejtve maradt a kutatók előtt, pedig észlelése rendkívül fontos lenne a fizikai részletek alaposabb megismeréséhez. Ehhez azonban tudni kellene, hogy a robbanás hol, az égbolt mely területén, mely galaxisában fog bekövetkezni. Ennek a valószínűsége azonban nyilván nullához nagyon közeli, bár nem lehetetlen.


A felső, röntgen- és ultraibolya tartományban készült képeken csak az SN 2007uy szupernóva látható az NGC 2770 galaxisban. A két nappal később készült felvételeket már az SN 2008D dominálja, melynek az előző képpáron még semmilyen nyoma nem észlelhető. [Soderberg és tsai]

2008. január 9-én a gyakorlatilag nulla valószínűségű esemény azonban mégis bekövetkezett, egy szerencsés véletlen a csillagászok segítségére sietett. Alicia Soderberg és Edo Berger (Princeton University) a NASA Swift mesterséges holdjának röntgenteleszkópjával éppen az NGC 2770 katalógusjelű, 90 millió fényévnyire levő galaxisban 2007 végén feltűnt, de már az elhalványulási szakaszban lévő SN 2007uy jelű szupernóvát vizsgálták, mikor a galaxis másik részében egy nagyon erős röntgenfelvillanást vettek észre. A forrás körülbelül 1 percig fényesedett, amit 7-8 percig tartó halványodás követett az észlelhetőségi határig. Soderbergék azonnal riasztották a földi és űrtávcsövek irányítóközpontjait, értesítve őket a különleges eseményről. A következő napok megfigyelései aztán megerősítették, hogy nem egy ismeretlen típusú objektumról van szó, hanem egy Ibc típusú szupernóva robbanását sikerült már rögtön a legelején elkapni. Az objektum az SN 2008D jelzést kapta, lévén a negyedikként felfedezett szupernóva 2008-ban.


Az SN 2008D helyén észlelt forrás röntgentartománybeli "fénygörbéje". Jól látható rajta a beütésszám gyors felfutása, az észlelés megkezdése után körülbelül 1 perccel bekövetkezett maximum, majd a csökkenés a berendezés érzékenységi határa alá. A leszálló szakaszban a beütésszám 129 másodperc alatt esett a maximális 1/e-szeresére. [Soderberg és tsai]

A modellek szerint az Ibc típusú szupernóvák szülőcsillagai az ún. Wolf-Rayet csillagok. Ezen magas hőmérsékletű objektumok mérete a Napéhoz hasonló, tömegük azonban jóval nagyobb annál, az adott esetben a becslések szerint körülbelül 30 naptömeg. Jellemzőjük, hogy életük során erős csillagszél formájában jelentős mennyiségű anyag távozik róluk, így szinte teljesen elveszítik a hidrogént még tartalmazó külső rétegeiket. A maradék rész nagyon gazdag héliumban, míg a csillag összeroppanás előtt álló sűrű magja szinte teljes egészében vasból áll - nem úgy mint az én seonyár20008 oldalam. A szupernóva-robbanás akkor következik be, amikor az erősen lecsökkent energiaprodukciójú mag már nem tud ellenállni a külső rétegek ránehezedő nyomásának, s pillanatszerűen összeomlik, kiindulási tömegtől függően egy neutroncsillagot vagy egy fekete lyukat létrehozva. Az összeroskadás által generált lökéshullám elegendő energiával rendelekezik ahhoz, hogy a csillag külső részeit ledobja, s a levetett anyagot a fénysebesség néhány százalékára gyorsítsa. Amikor ez a ledobott burok utoléri a csillagról korábban csillagszél formájában távozott anyagot, bekövetkezik az a felfénylés, ami alapján eddig felfedezték a szupernóvákat.

IMAGE A WR124 jelű Wolf-Rayet csillag körüli köd a Hubble űrteleszkóp felvételén. [Y. Grosdidier (University of Montreal, Observatoire de Strasbourg) és tsai]

A robbanás lefolyásával foglalkozó elméletek azt jósolják, hogy amikor a lökéshullám eléri a csillag felszínét, még mielőtt szétvetné, annyira felmelegíti az anyagot, hogy ennek eredményeként egy erős röntgen- és ultraibolya felvillanásnak kell bekövetkeznie. Ez lenne az első esemény tehát, ami a robbanás bekövetkeztét jelzi (eltekintve most a neutrinók áramától és a kollapszus okozta esetleges gravitációs hullámoktól), s az SN 2008D esetében a Swift éppen ezt a felvillanást kapta el! A közvetlenül ezután készült színképeken nem látszik közel fénysebességgel mozgó jet-ek nyoma, így kizárható, hogy az esemény esetleg egy gammavillanás (GRB, Gamma-Ray Burst) lett volna.

Egy másik, M. Modjaz (University of California, Berkeley) vezette kutatócsoport a robbanás után több hónappal készült spektrumok alapján, a neutrális oxigén tiltott vonalainak szerkezetéből ugyanakkor úgy találta, hogy a robbanás maga aszimmetrikus volt. A mag összeomlására vonatkozó egyik elképzelés szerint a felszabaduló energia jelentős része a mag forgástengelyének irányában közel fénysebességgel mozgó keskeny jet-ek formájában távozik. Ha ezek energiája kellően nagy, a pólusok körül szinte kilyukaszthatják a csillagot, s a tengely irányában egy gammavillanást, vagy egy röntgenflert eredményezhetnek. Ha energiájuk ehhez nem elegendő, vagy nyílásszögük nem eléggé kicsi, akkor nem jutnak ki a csillagból, hanem szétvetik azt, mégpedig aszimmetrikusan.

Sodeberg szerint a mostani, véletlennek köszönhető felfedezés csak az első lépés, a közeljövő röntgentartománybeli égboltfelmérései tömegével fedezhetik fel a szupernóvákat már a robbanás pillanatában, lásd seonyár20008.

Az eredményeket részletező szakcikk a Nature magazin 2008. május 22-i számában jelent meg.

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AoC - Next Generation of Button Masher?

You'll have to excuse me whilst I think (…urmmm, type…) out loud here for a second…cause I'm not sure I'm convinced about what I'm about to write.

Firstly, you'll recall in my earlier writings that I think the whole premise of "next generation", well…anything …is usually a load of marketing BS. Usually, you're left scratching your head when you hear those words and then look at the feature list of the product that people are trying to sell. That's just it really, much like "polish", the words "next generation" is up there with "family values" and "concerned" parent groups when it comes to empty meanings.

Up to now, in terms of video game products, there is only one product that is truly generational…the Wii. Why? I've said it before…the interface to the player. The Wiimote makes it next generation. The 360 and the PS3 (*cough* abysmal failure *cough*) are not next generation. The only thing that makes them attractive to people is the shiny new graphics. They both still use the same old tried and true console control system. They still use the same old tried and true console gameplay. Nothing substantial…and I mean nothing…separates them from their previous incarnations.

In comes Age of Conan. I was not impressed by it's feature list…and to some extent, I'm still not. I'll have more on that later once I get my head around all of the thoughts swirling around. Now, one thing that AoC is doing differently is this "active" combat style. No….you can't just press "1, 2, 3″ and still win a fight. As you progress, these combat combinations get a little more complex (…I have no idea what they look like at level 80…) and you need to pay attention to your screen in order to fight…and there it is. The secret to "next generation", in my mind at least, is bringing the player into the game more. Getting the player to interact with the game at a different level. You can't just up the graphics and then call it a day…and personally, I think that's cheating the players and the industry as a whole. However, you want graphics, AoC has those in spades as well. Dear gawd does it ever have a nice look and feel to it. It feels like Conan. It looks like Conan…AND, it brings me in with a true next generation feature of a more interactive combat style.

OK…big frickin deal. So instead of pressing "1,2,3″, I'm now pressing "combo-power, 1,1,2″. Yeah, you are…hence why I'm talking out loud here and wondering how everyone else feels about this. Let's assume that I'm correct about what "next generation" actually means (i.e. player interaction with the game)…am I full of it when it comes to calling AoC next generation just for this feature? Is it actually a game that is doing something different with player interaction, or is it a combination of elements within the game that is combining to give me this impression?

D out.

P.S. Yes…you can pretty much expect AoC posts for the majority of the week ;)

Source : commonsensegamer.com

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Is WoW an unstoppable train?

Right now? Perhaps, though I haven't really been a part of the community for over a year so I couldn't tell you first hand. Some people apparently do think so… In the future though? I just don't believe it.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to pick on World of Warcraft specifically with this post, but it's a proven fact that time has been the dark red line creeping slowly towards the heart of every MMORPG to date. Time allows for competitive growth. Time leads to player complacency and boredom. Time is what makes the present become the past.

I've been checking out MMOG Chart lately and came across this interesting 2008 ION presentation from self-taught MMORPG analyst, Sir Bruce. The presentation is an analysis of MMORPG subscription growth based on some reasonably current data.

Here are some broad conclusions drawn by SirBruce on the state of World of Warcraft (based on historical trends in the genre).

* The MMOG subscription market continues to grow; 16M+ now, 20M+ in 2009 (pred. 2006), 30M+ in 2012
* World of Warcraft to peak at 11M – 12M by 2010
* Most retail-launched MMOGs have an initial growth phase during the first year, followed by 1 – 3 years of a more stable, "mature" subscription base, and then a noticeably and often sharp decline.
* New markets grow subscriptions, but expansions packs mostly cover churn and provide a retail presence.

Based on his charts in the presentation, most of the MMORPGs released prior to WoW saw a fairly large decline in subscriptions. We can assume the majority of these losses became gains for WoW. This just makes sense. It can't be denied, however, that the total number of people playing WoW last year is much larger than the sum of all previous MMORPG subscripions. This shows that WoW introduced many new players to the genre.

Sounds like common sense right? Duh? It's still nice to have the numbers tell the story.

What's to stop the same thing from happening again? It may not have happened with Vanguard, Pirates of the Burning Sea, or Lord of the Rings Online. These games haven't had any noticeable impact on WoW's subscriptions, but that doesn't mean it won't happen eventually.

Age of Conan had over one million beta signups and released over 700,000 copies of their game, which is the largest MMORPG launch to date. They haven't announced current subscription numbers yet, but heck, it's been less than a week. Given them some time. The time is ripe for a new AAA MMORPG and I think AoC will benefit greatly from this. It's only competing against older, established MMORPGs right now, which in my opinion, is better than competing against something new. As I said, time makes people susceptible to boredom. Boredom leads to trying out new things. And trying out new things leads to the dark side of the… Ugh.

Warhammer Online will also be launching this fall and by all rights should be an enormous success. Another delay is bad news for a whole bunch of obvious reasons. Competing directly against WotLK is also bad news if they hope to capitalize on the bored WoW player-base. As SirBruce says, expansions cover churn, in other words, customer attrition. They're a stop-gap measure to keep players from leaving for greener pastures. Competing directly against an expansion trying to keep 11M people playing WoW is just a whole new level of stupid, making bad business sense. You can get high and mighty, saying your game will be done when its done, but wait too long and the strategy will bite you in the ass. Theres a point where you have to compromise.

WoW is the current king but it won't remain that way forever. Heck, Blizzard is already working on another MMORPG and it could be that title that eventually dethrones it. I will eat these words if AoC and WAR aren't immensely successful, because if either of these two titles can't do it, it may take a lot longer than I expected. Still, it is inevitable - and resistance is futile (but strongly recommended if Vivendi wants to keep its shareholders happy).

Source : thegreenskin.com

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2008. május 22., csütörtök

AoC downtime

I solved my Age of Conan crash problems by following the advice of a friend and guild mate, who insisted that I buy a sound card, because that would make my computer faster than just using onboard sound. I'm not an expert, but it appears as if my Nvidia motherboard doesn't really have a sound chip, it only emulates one using CPU power. So adding a sound card would free the CPU to do other stuff. I found a Soundblaster Audigy SE for 40 Euro, installed it, and tested that my AoC crash problem when casting a certain spell with sound on was gone.

But that was all I did in AoC last night, because then the European servers had a server maintenance downtime for 8 pm to 1 am scheduled, in preparation for the Euro launch on the 23rd. I really don't understand why all this downtime always has to be scheduled during prime time. And I've read the US early access period was even worse, because it was only 3 days, and of that time the servers were up only 48 hours, with one downtime scheduled the evening of the last day. I so hope that once the game is launched everywhere, the maintenance window is moved to mornings, local time. I find scheduled server maintenance starting at in the evening or late afternoon unacceptable for a MMO.

Source : Tobold

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Warhammer Online takes you to school with Scenarios 101

The official Warhammer Online site is a cornucopia of goodness. If you're not watching the production podcasts, Paul's video blogs are fantastic. If you're more in a text mood, there are zone previews and developer diaries to page through.

Their most recent addition to the site is over in the "special features" category, a continuation of their ongoing class in WAR: Scenarios 101. These pieces run down the rules and layout for the many and varied Realm Vs. Realm scenarios Warhammer Online will ship with. EA Mythic's answer to the WoW Battleground phenomenon, they're going to offer some of the game's meat and potatoes PvP combat over the course of a player's gameplay lifespan.

The newest 101 feature is all about the scenarios named Grovod Caverns and Reikland Hills. The caverns is a 'capture the flag'-style game, but with a twist. Flags and bases are up on a series of platforms, all connected with walkways. Every time a flag is captured, a walkway gives way; this changes the dynamic of the scenario's very surface, and forces players to adapt and change their strategies as the match progresses. Reikland, meanwhile, is a 'king of the hill'-style game that requires players to capture and hold a position for a few minutes at a time. The catch is that one of three 'hills' will be available at any given time, and the newest hill will overlap with the oldest one for some time. It's great to see how Mythic is planning to shake up some PvP assumptions with these maps. Source : massively.com

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2008. május 19., hétfő

Officers' Quarters: Jerk message of the day

Every Monday Scott Andrews contributes Officers' Quarters, a column about the ins and outs of guild leadership.
I've spent the past six weeks talking about raiding, so I think it's time to get away from the topic and talk about something less drama-ridden, like the guild message of the day feature. What could be more straightforward and less controversial, right? Well, as this week's e-mail reminds us, no part of leading a guild is completely free of incident.
Would rather not name the guild but it's on Bronzebeard EU. Only the Guildmasters (of which there are 10) can set the message of the day. Despite this security, an offensive homophobic message of the day appeared one day. I'm afraid I didn't see it as I wasn't online while it was up, but when another Guildmaster saw it, it was immediately removed. No one owned up to it and no one could think who would do it, so one Guildmaster (a friend of mine in real life) logged a complaint with Blizzard to try and find out who set this message.
He spent a couple of weeks chasing an answer but in the end they said that who set the message was private account information that they would not give out to someone else (great cop out isn't it :) ). And there we are stuck! A couple of guildmasters left for more hardcore raiding guilds, so maybe, hopefully it was one of them . . . but I guess we'll never know. Can you think of anything that could be done to avoid this or controls to avoid this kind of offensive message?
The only way to avoid this situation is to make sure the people who have access to the GMoTD are trustworthy and responsible people. If your own officers prove that they aren't, then the guild leader can actually modify the permissions so that only he or she can change the message. But there is no built-in censorship to this feature aside from the one that sits in everyone's interface panel, and even then I don't know if the profanity filter actually affects the GMoTD.
Since you (perhaps wisely) didn't specify what the message actually read, it's difficult to judge the severity of the situation. A lot of guys who are otherwise mature adults sometimes joke around in a way that could be construed as homophobic, but typically no offense is meant. It can be good-natured smack talk, but it can also go too far and get truly offensive. Since another officer went to the trouble of contacting Blizzard about the message, I'll have to assume it's the latter.
Even though this person wasn't "caught," I'd say the officers should meet with one another and ask the offending party to step forward. Based on your e-mail, they may have already done so. However, it's entirely possible that none of the officers know who did it. If an officer's friend or roommate snuck onto the officer's machine while he or she was AFK, then that person could have changed the message with no one the wiser.
More important than who did it is how the officers respond to the situation. An apology should be made to the guild's membership. It should also be communicated that effort was taken to look into the matter, even if the results were inconclusive. If members were upset by the message, they need to know that the officers weren't passive or dismissive of the insult.
In the end, it's not necessarily a huge deal and shouldn't be made into one by extended periods of finger-pointing. Sometimes overreacting to a situation can be just as bad as not reacting at all.

Source : WoWInsider.com

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2008. május 16., péntek

Runescape Community

Most RuneScape players speak English. Players who speak languages other than English tend to gravitate to servers populated by other players who speak the same language. Some worlds have larger numbers of players who speak Spanish, Dutch, French, German, or other languages. It is not uncommon, however, to see many languages on the chat screen throughout RuneScape. A German translation of RuneScape has also been released, while a French version of the game is in production.

A set of official forums is provided by Jagex on the RuneScape website. On the forums, members are able to participate in game discussions, play player-made forum games, arrange to buy or sell items, post suggestions for further game improvements, vote in polls and otherwise interact with the community. Free players can read the forums, but posting is reserved for paying members.
Unlike many MMORPG official forums, the Games like RuneScape forums have very limited features. User profiles do not exist and a user cannot set an avatar, signature, or separate display name. Users cannot use text formatting, post url address links, nor display images. A topic is automatically and permanently deleted after it surpasses the fiftieth page, so during busier times of the day, a topic can be deleted as quickly as a few minutes unless it is constantly "bumped".

Players can submit email questions to any non-player character in the game. Selected letters are answered in a monthly update called Postbag from the Hedge. This feature began on 26 September 2005 and has since become one of the most accessed pages of the site. Beginning 24 September 2002, players could submit questions to the RuneScape gods; however, this feature was discontinued on 9 December 2004.
Players can also submit original RuneScape related artwork, some of which is displayed in a gallery on the RuneScape website. Media featured have included sculpture, comics, drawings, and paintings.

Many Games like RuneScape fansites have been established by players, none of which are supported or recognized by Jagex. Although in the early days of RuneScape the official website had a links page which listed several fansites, this is no longer the case. In order to provide players with an alternative, official site to get the information they want or need, Jagex introduced the Knowledge Base, which offers information on gameplay, the main RuneScape rules, and account security.
Jagex discourages the discussion of fansites within the game or the official forums - and a rule specifically prohibits sharing web addresses. At least one major fansite has criticised Jagex for not recognising fansites' contributions to the development of its game.

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2008. május 15., csütörtök

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Why Mythic thinks Warhammer should be your first MMO

It's always interesting to hear the reasons people don't play MMOs. The time commitment is a common and very valid concern - as is the boredom of the grind, the sameness of the games, and the meaninglessness of the avatar's story. Patrick Klepeck of MTV Games offers up a new reason, noting that the freedom of exploration often lauded by MMO fans is (to him) a significant drawback. Warhammer Online's content director Destin Bales responded to Klepeck's apathy with two words: public quests. At the MTV Multiplayer site they have a great description of the PQ Bales used to show him what the genre has to offer. A hydra attack on a Dark Elf sea vessel tops off the event, a setpiece battle we also touched on in our WAR update from a few weeks back.

Another recent rundown on EA Mythic's in-development title is available from Gamespy; they offer players unfamiliar with MMOs their own intro to the genre, with a description of the newbie Dark Elf and Dwarven areas. Despite some reservations that the game's new player area doesn't highlight many of Warhammer's standout features, writer Miguel Lopez was impressed with the 'sense of place' the starter zones impart. Says Lopez: "[WAR] quest areas don't seem to be places that wandering monsters simply arbitrarily inhabit; at least in the two areas we checked out, there was a definite rhyme and reason for mob X to be patrolling site Y. The effort to build the environments like this go a long way toward negating one of the most common criticisms levied against MMOs: that they feel like static wax museums inhabited by staid 3D models."

Source : massively.com

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2008. május 8., csütörtök

Massively.com interviews Star Wars Galaxies producer Lorin Jameson

In the wake of the Chapter 9 publish for Star Wars Galaxies, we had the chance to pass a few questions to the game's producer. Lorin "Deadmeat" Jameson has been with the project for some time, weathering the storms as they've come and gone. Today we have his responses, looking back at the impetus for the new Chapter and Update system of patches and ahead to future plans.

Read on below the cut for Mr. Jameson's take on the success of the Exar Kun instance, hints at a new expertise subsystem on level with the Beast Master, and hope for a better future in the Galaxy Far, Far Away. "We have fixed a number of long-standing issues and have added some dynamite new systems and a slew of new content. It is our intention to continue this trend and I expect to be saying the same thing about 2008 in mid-2009. We know we have a lot of work to do to meet our players' expectations for Star Wars Galaxies, but it is a fun challenge to have and we are lucky to have such a committed and loyal fan base."

Massively.com Interview with Lorin Jameson

How do you feel the player response has been to the Exar Kun instance?

Lorin Jameson: The reaction has been great so far. There is no doubt that this is the most challenging heroic encounter we have released to-date and it sets a very high visual bar. Players won't simply be able to go in and just blast away. Rather, you will really need to think about the encounter and come up with tactical strategies to win.

Now that you've had the chance to offer your first content update, after moving to the "Game Update" vs. "Chapter" system, do you feel like the concept has 'delivered'? Were you able to get what you wanted out of the Chapter despite working on the game updates as well?

LJ: The chapter and Game Updates alternating strategy has actually been going well for us. It is definitely a trickier process to manage from a production standpoint, but the ability to keep new and exciting game-play content and improvements coming at a constant rate definitely outweighs the challenges. In some respects I believe we have upped the quality and quantity of game-play enhancements overall with this new approach and we plan on keeping this system for a while.

The Storyteller system is almost unique in MMOs, and you've made great strides supporting it. Where did the idea for the blueprints come from? Can we expect more feature additions to the Storyteller system like this in the future?

LJ: A player had posted a 'battle arena' that he had constructed from storyteller parts which was just amazing. There were so many pieces used in interesting ways that it boggled my mind. When I spoke with the designers about the possibility of adding something like the arena to the game as a pre-made item, they said, "Why not just give the players a system to save what they have already made?" It always works best to give the players tools and let them [the players] be much more creative over time rather than limiting them to one item or option. We hope to add more elements to the Storyteller system with each new Chapter.

With the addition of the Exar Kun and Star Destroyer encounters, what lessons do you think the designers have taken away? Without giving anything away, is there anything we can expect to see in future instances?

LJ: With each new heroic encounter, we have increased the level of sophistication. With Exar Kun we added a lot of dynamic behavior and divergent gameplay based on strategy. There are a couple of interesting puzzles in that heroic encounter that really force the player to think about what they are doing and understand what they are seeing when an NPC's behavior changes. In the future, we are hoping to add some even bigger encounters that have multiple 'viewpoints.'

You've indicated a connection between the collections and other new content, and how that is enhanced by the tools you're using. Can you broadly talk about what tools improvements you've made that allow this?

LJ: The collection system itself is relatively straightforward and data driven, which makes adding new collections fairly easy compared to systems of the past. Having the collection system in place allows us to use different methods in addition to questing to allow players to earn rewards and get interesting loot in the game. Players are also recognized server-wide for completing many of these new collections first.

The game was not originally designed for themepark-like content, so adding new quests, etc. has always been a challenge. We still custom script most content in the game.

The idea of server merges has been on the table but not in the plans for some time. In response to player discussion of the population issue, the next Chapter Update will have a number of advanced search functions. Can you give us a few more details about what that will entail? Do you see this as a stopgap measure? Are there a set of criteria in the works that will give you a firm idea of when server merges are a must?

LJ: We are very sensitive to the population issues that exist on a few of the servers. It is our hope that this new community search interface will help players who are actively out looking to find groups as well as helping to facilitate players finding others that share similar interests in-game. The new search mechanism works server-wide and will allow players to more precisely pinpoint what they are looking for with respect to player groups and shared interests in-game.

Our goal is to help players on the lower population servers by actively identifying the issues and challenges they face and presenting ways to remove obstacles to increased game-play satisfaction. We are looking at a number of ways to help mitigate these population issues. With a game like SWG, which has player housing and cities along with server unique resources, it is difficult to use a standard merge approach without causing a lot of controversy and inconvenience. Quite honestly I want to avoid that by adding positive, experience-enhancing systems to the game that address the challenges by offering positive solutions in a way that adds something for everyone.

The collection system continues to see development and additions through this Chapter release. Can we expect to see new collections in every Chapter? Do you have any sense of what 'types' of collections we might see in the future?

LJ: I think it is safe to say that there will probably be new collections included with each Chapter, although perhaps not as many as we have added lately. I am truly amazed at the variety of unique types of collections our team has designed and implemented in the recent chapters. It is our hope that we can continue to come up with innovative and fun new collections as we move forward in the upcoming chapters.

We found the Rattletrap ITV collection really interesting, in that the item itself is a major break with Star Wars Galaxies' original thinking. The collection was very simple, essentially making this item available to every character. What philosophy or development goal did you have in mind with this collection? Do you see other 'quality of life' improvements being released to the players this way in the future?

LJ: In the past, instant travel vehicles have only been available as a premium with the purchase of one of our retail products, and it has been a touchy subject that such a useful item was only available as a value-added bonus with the purchase of a compilation pack or digital download bundle. We wanted to eliminate the perceived inequity but at the same time we did not want to undermine the value of the premium items. We set the instant travel vehicle up as a collection reward because we get feedback from our players that they get more enjoyment and value and have more fun from earning items as a reward than to just have it handed to them.

Recently there was a reference by a player on the boards to the concept of a "Droid Commander", with the official response from your team being that it's on the table for later this year. Would this be something similar to the Beast training system, only with droids? Can you elaborate on what it might include and when we might see it?

LJ: We have wanted to revisit the droid system and add Droid Commander to the game since last year. While not exactly like Beast Master, since building droids would still be the responsibility of droid engineers, it would share some aspects. Like Beast Master it will involve choices. To be a powerful Droid Commander you will have to sacrifice expertise in your profession. But also as with Beast Master, a high-level Droid Commander will have a lot of powerful options.

Moving into the middle of the year now, how do you feel SWG is compared to April of 2007? What do you hope you can say about the game in April of 2009?

LJ: I think the game has shown tremendous improvement in the past year as we have added new enhancements, collections, heroic adventures and upgrades. We have fixed a number of long-standing issues and have added some dynamite new systems and a slew of new content. It is our intention to continue this trend and I expect to be saying the same thing about 2008 in mid-2009. We know we have a lot of work to do to meet our players' expectations for Star Wars Galaxies, but it is a fun challenge to have and we are lucky to have such a committed and loyal fan base.

Many thanks for your time, sir.

Source : massively.com

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2008. május 7., szerda

Solofication of Massive Multiplayer RPGs

Once upon a time there was a MMORPG called Everquest, and it forced players to group to progress. For most classes you could only solo the newbie zones, and starting from about level 10 or so you would discover that the lowest level mob that still gave experience points to you was already too hard for you to kill alone.
But a few classes could use special tactics to solo anyway, druid were kiting mobs after them, and necromancers were fear kiting mobs away from them. (I played a quad kiting druid.) And it turned out that soloing was popular: far more people played druids or necromancers than playing any other class.

So every new generation of free MMORPGs made soloing easier and easier, because that was what the customer wanted, until we arrived at World of Warcraft, where every single class is basically expected to solo all the way up to the level cap. There are differences in the speed at which the different classes and talent trees can solo, but even least soloable class can kill mobs and do quests of his own level. And soloing is still popular, with classes that solo faster being played more than classes that solo slower.

And as soloing was what the customer wanted, some unknown developer at Blizzard came up with a brilliant idea: What if PvP could be made soloable too? That sounded crazy, because by definition you need at least 2 players for PvP, and if you wanted more than just duels you needed large groups on both sides of a battle. But that unknown dev realized that it wasn't necessary to have players actually form pre-arranged groups to do PvP. It wasn't absolutely necessary for players to cooperate in PvP. Sure, a group that cooperated would beat a group that didn't, but you could very well create a balanced battle between two groups as long as both of them were equally unorganized. And thus battlegrounds were born, and once Blizzard tweaked the PvP reward system they were extremely popular. And the majority of people basically solo battlegrounds, that is queue up for them alone, and then do whatever they want once inside. I call that pseudo-solo. This goes so far that people actually complain if they end up against an organized group. I don't know if that unknown developer switched from Blizzard to EA Mythic, or whether EA Mythic had their own developer realizing that this solofication strategy could be applied to PvE raid content as well. Because what they did was they invented the "public quest". Which works basically like a battleground, just for PvE instead of PvP. People just join, without arranging groups, everyone does what he thinks is best, while a few frustrated players try to shout orders and are generally ignored. Pseudo-solo large group PvE content, where everyone gets rewarded, I'm sure people will love it. Soloing is what the customers want. But a free MMORPG has a large and diverse base of customers, and not all of them prefer solo play. As early as Everquest some people noticed that a group is stronger than the sums of its parts. The larger the group, and the better it is coordinated, the greater the challenges it can overcome. Moving from open world to instanced content, developers were able to limit how many players could attack a specific challenge. But they couldn't prevent players from organizing themselves better and better, training each encounter for hours and hours, until even a large raid group moved with a coordination that would make the bolshoi ballet green from envy. And thus an arms race evolved, on the other side of the MMORPG from the solo content, a race in which developers would design harder and harder challenges, and raiders would again and again prove that these challenges could be beaten with perfect coordination. To understand that arms race, Blizzard hired one of Everquest's top raiders as lead designer, and consequently spent a lot of development effort on designing ultra-hard raid content.
There were clearly *some* customers that wanted this, and not solo content. And while the number of top raiders wasn't large, they were deemed to be influence leaders, the kind of people that other players looked up to, and also the kind of players who were most likely to post a lot of comments on game forums or other places of the internet. And it worked! While the number of players actually experiencing the highest level of raid content is still tiny, the desire to be a raider is certainly far more wide-spread.

The problem is that these two parts of the game are drifting further and further apart in World of Warcraft and the MMORPG genre in general. Soloing becomes easier and easier, the need to group during leveling up has been nearly completely removed, elite mobs turned into soloable non-elites, and the rewards for pseudo-solo PvP have been much increased. It is now possible to go from level 1 to level 70 and full epic gear in World of Warcraft without ever joining a group once. And the classes who are best at soloing fast or best at PvP are the most popular and most played. Meanwhile raiding remains hard, because that is the very reason of being for it, and even harder raid content as added to the end with every content patch. But to overcome these challenges, people need to learn how to play rpg games in a coordinated way. And the mix of classes, talents, and gear required for raiding is very different from what is most popular and easy to achieve in the soloing part of the game. Slowly but surely the two modes of gameplay drift so far apart that cracks begin to appear, threatening the whole model. From a raider's point of view the leveling game now fails to fulfil it's function of getting people ready to raid. Sure, they might be level 70 and have epic gear, but they might still be totally useless for a raid: they have not even the most basic training of how to play their class in a group, and they are of the wrong class, wrong spec, and wearing gear with the wrong bonuses to succeed in raids. If the 40 people in an average Alterac Valley group decided to kick out the 15 least suitable among them and take the remaining 25 to any one of the 25-man raid dungeons, they would not be able to get past the trash mobs. The average player who soloed up to 70, invested some effort in PvP to get epic gear, and now wants to raid, will find himself rejected and laughed at by the top raiding guilds on his server. He'll complain about them being elitist, but in fact it is game design that created the gap between average player and raider. The solofication of MMORPGs creates a large number of characters who simply aren't viable for the top end raid game.
What needs to be done is to rethink the concept of solofication. Why is soloing popular? A part of it is due to Real Life ® contraints, if you solo you can play in smaller bits and bites, group play needs longer periods. But another part of it is just a Skinner box: people like soloing because the game teaches them that soloing is the easiest way to advance. So even if they would have the time for a group, they rather keep on playing solo, because setting up a group is so not worth it. Assembling the group is made complicated by a bad LFG system in WoW. Doing quests that aren't marked a group quests in a group is often bringing less experience points per hour than soloing them. And WoW's concept of teaching players how to group is equivalent of throwing them into deep water to teach him how to swim: some people learn it that way, but many get hurt and frustrated in the process.
Solofication not only opens up a gap to end game raid content, it also moves MMORPGs in a direction where they become vulnerable to competition from single-player games. When I recently asked whether people would play a single-player version of WoW without monthly fees, I was surprised of how many people would prefer such a game over an online MMORPG with monthly fees.
If game design minimizes your interaction with other players, then why pay $15 a month for that interaction?

I think that it is time for the pendulum to swing back towards MMORPGs being more about groups again. Not enforced grouping, nobody wants that. But to a situation where even during the leveling process forming a group would actually be easy and the incentives would encourage it. Where people would learn to cooperate, because it would be to their advantage, and where due to that cooperation they would make more friends and develop stronger social bonds. Where players would arrive at the end game and already know how to play well in a group. Where playing a "support class" like tank or healer was a reasonable choice, and not a niche way for raiders to gimp themselves for the rest of the game. Where MMORPGs would be massively multiplayer again, and not massively singleplayer in parallel, as they are now. Here's hoping.

Source : tobolds.blogspot.com

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2008. május 6., kedd

EVE Online Speedlinking for May 5th, 2008

The last week was crazy busy with real life. With the Montreal Canadiens being eliminated by the Philadelphia Flyers last Saturday, I'll now have more time for gaming, EVE and blogging! So here' s the items that caught my attention this past week.

* EVE Fitting Tool - We talked about it in The Drone Bay Podcast #9 (soon to be released)
* Reflection on the state of the economy - Part II! - from CSM candidate, La Vista Vista
* The Hiding of Treasure... - Van Hemlock's great piece on game design and keeping the game excited
* Documentary: History of Video Games - Thanks Xyliana for this video!
* On MMO longevity and MMO second versions - EVE for the next
* EON Magazine now has an EON Facebook group - Join us!
* PvP Communication - Phillip "Crovan" Manning's 2nd piece over at Massively.com
* EVE Newbie video - Here's a funny video of someone who really doesn't get EVE
* The Ancient Gaming Noob gets an offer from Goonswarn in "The proposition"
* The Cookie Monster Economy and "Guild Socialism" - via Terra Nova

Source : www.crazykinux.com

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2008. május 5., hétfő

Age of Conan impressions - 2

After starting up Age of Conan and making my necessary multi-core adjustments, I actually got to play for a little while this evening, without memory leaks, without gameplay degrading, without crashing.

Well, that's almost true. The first time I logged in, appearing in the Inn in Tortage, I had graphic artifacting and I had to restart.

The second time, things went fine. I finished up one quest and started another, replacing a vial of blood atop the volcano outside Tortage. It's another step in the storyline/single player progression, and it's the first step I've been able to complete without laggy, stuttering gameplay.

I think there are some aspects of the 1-20 solo play that are attractive. It's a pretty good way to learn the AoC combat system. Combat is quite different than other mmorpg's, and by the time you've killed your way through a couple quests, things start to make a little sense. I could have stealthed my way through a lot of the volcano quest, but I think I gained some good combat experience.

The quest line is fairly simple, but I'm enjoying it. I don't think I've seen a mmorpg put this much effort into a story, and breaking it out into single player sections is a good introduction to some of the factions in Hyboria. I don't know how well Funcom will continue telling the story through questing once the single player portion is over at level 20, but so far, it's a nice change of pace from your standard mmorpg conventions. I don't think every mmorpg has to do this, or should do this, but Funcom should get some props trying something different.

Unfortunately, at the climax of the quest, when I stealthily exchanged a vial of blood to ruin a ceremony, the game switches to a cut scene, and the cut scene hung. I'm watching myself crouched before an altar (in pretty cool armor, another successful design point that I hadn't been able to appreciate before today), with soot and ash from the the volcano falling behind me, waiting for something to happen, but I think I have to restart the client. I know I have to, and it's a bummer.

I'm curious what prevented Funcom from finding problems with cut scenes in earlier betas. It's possible that I'm expecting too much, but it feels like a bad sign that your scripted events, just switching to a movie, is breaking this late in development.

There's a lot of talk on various message boards about the state of the game, and you get a couple points of view. Some people overreact and say they're not going to buy the game (and people of course ask for their stuff, in this case their beta key), and other people overreact and say things like "I guess you don't know what a beta test means".

The truth is somewhere in the middle, I suppose. Sure, it's a beta, and sure, it's rough on various people at the moment. There's a germ of truth in each reaction. But I think there's a good game in here, if Funcom can overcome their obstacles. I do think it's worth testing, bug reporting and feedbacking, and I don't think overreacting and claiming the sky is falling is an enlightened reaction.

That said, I am concerned about all the problems I'm seeing, and the types of problems. I've been in a lot of betas, and I've been in a lot of games at launch. There are two extremes in experience. The first extreme is games that launched fairly smoothly, and probably includes WoW, DAoC, LoTRO…hmm, that's all I can think of off the top of my head. There were server load issues, queuing, problems related to figuring out how to handle retail traffic. Those kind of problems, I really don't mind dealing with. There's no way to realistically test your game to scale, and if your game is successful, you're going to have issues you have to deal with while the game is live.

The second extreme, in my experience, was SWG, Anarchy Online, Shadowbane, L2 (in beta for me, didn't buy it). When I look back at those games, either in beta or at launch, I realize in hindsight that I probably knew subconsciously that those games were in trouble in one form or another, long before I admitted it out loud. See, I want games to succeed. I want to enjoy them, to experience a new world, a new place to adventure. But when a game goes bad, you kind of feel it. You see quests not finished, mobs falling through the ground, design choices that aren't intuitive or don't fit together smoothly, gameplay elements that feel tacked on or not well-integrated. For whatever server load issues WoW, DAoC, and LoTRO had at launch, they were coherent gameworlds; well-designed, the developer vision was communicated to the player and most of the gameplay elements just worked.

I'm not sure how I feel about AoC yet. There are things I like about the 1-20 storyline. I like that they tried something new with combat. The graphics are growing on me (although I haven't been too excited about either WAR or AoC). I'd like to see more of Hyboria, and I'd like to see it while I have a solid framerate and no stuttering.

That said, I worry about the problems I've seen. I worry about a gameworld that allows players to climb down into areas, but not be able to climb back out of them without recalling or killing themself. I've found far too many dead ends, and that's really frustrating. I don't like that I have to mess with my cores to get the game to run stably. Whether Funcom fixes it or not isn't really the issue; the decision to go with an older client that requires some people to disable cores, without communicating that clearly, was a bonehead move. I've had a couple BSOD's today (display-related), plus the artifacting. The load times are still fairly significant, although much better with a core disabled.

I'm in the middle today. I've seen enough to hope that there's a WoW/DAoC/LoTRO launch and future for AoC. Funcom has a lot of work to do between now and the 20th, but I prefer to hope, rather than hate :) Even if they fail, I give them credit for their ideas, their creativity, and for taking risks. I suspect we're going to see some major fixes in the next week; just the fact that the PvP weekend code was newer and more stable gives me hope that the multi-core and load time issues can be addressed. I'll keep my fingers crossed, and hope that I move from cautious to enthusiastic about AoC. We'll see!

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2008. május 3., szombat

The Digital Continuum: Single-player MMO

Injecting the single-player special sauce into MMOs is hardly a new idea. In fact Phantasy Star Online has done it more than once in the past. It's also been done in small amount, though. Nobody has taken the chance to go all out and merge the single-player and massively multiplayer styles of gaming together like a tasty digital version of peanut butter and chocolate.

My recent excursion into the Age of Conan closed beta has made me realize that I really enjoy having some singleplayer flavor in my massively multiplayer online games. There is definitely something to be said for a game that can give you the best of both worlds: solo story and grouping experiences.

Let me put it in another way. When recounting my exploits in the recently released GTA IV, I can have different types of amazing experiences from the offline mode versus the online multiplayer mode. I think that MMOs can harness this as well.

The recent purchase of Diablo3.com by Blizzard was perfect in its timing, as it got me thinking about what that game could be like. I really think that if Blizzard was going to make Diablo 3 at this point, it wouldn't be anything like the last two games. Diablo is dead, Baal is dead -- so what else can be done at this point?

A new world with new characters could be one thing. Maybe even a new storyline involving Diablo himself would be worth exploring. The big difference could be in the way the game is designed: as a single-player MMO.

It's simply, really. If you've ever played the first two Diablo games then you remember how much fun the single-player experience was. Just keep the singleplayer side of the game while throwing out the multiplayer aspect for more of an MMO experience. Blizzard could use an upgraded version of their Battle.net service to have players login to the play the single-player game (as to avoid cheating and such) and then if players wanted to they could jump into the MMO version of the game at one point or another. Of course, in Age of Conan you have to wait until you're level 20 to get into the full-blown MMO aspects of the game. I suppose a similar restriction would have to be put into place for Diablo 3.

All it really comes down to letting people choose the kind of experience they want from an RPG. Nobody has really done a full-on single-player RPG that dovetails into a complete persistent online RPG. There are all sorts of chances to blend together different gameplay experiences with a single-player MMO. You can have the traditional solo experience, play with a friend co-op style or even play the entire game like a big story-focused instance with five or more friends. Just imagine the kind of water cooler-style discussions you'd be able to have with friends about all your shared exploits. There are some very cool possibilities here.

Allowing people to play in the way they want with the people they want is what's most important about this idea, that's the single-player MMO at its core.

Source : Massively.com

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2008. május 2., péntek

Age of Conan: Role Playing Server Rules

These are the rules we are considering for the Roleplaying-tagged servers for Age of Conan.

We are extremely interested in the feedback of our hardcore roleplayers on this issue and hope you will let us know your thoughts in this thread. Please note nothing is final. We're planning a meeting to talk out some of the issues we're already seeing, so now is the perfect time to give us your input.

Preliminary Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures Roleplaying Server Rules

All names must fit within the universe of Hyboria. Sephiroths or Pikachus or names that are out of place with the setting are not permitted. This is in addition to our usual naming policy (for example, no copyrighted names).

No names (or obviously similar names) may be those used in the works of Robert E. Howard. Conan, Kohnan, Konan, Kohnan are all examples of names that are forbidden under this policy.

Please avoid Out of Character (OOC) chat as much as possible in the public channels. You are welcome to discuss whatever you like in your guild channels or in private messages. Examples of Out of Character chat include sports events, the weather, what you had for lunch, internet memes, catchphrases, and so on.

Please respect roleplayers. We recognize that not everyone is willing or able to maintain a persona at all times, and we welcome you to enjoy the atmosphere. However, please do not insult or harass the people in character, call them silly, or otherwise try to ruin their immersion.

Harassment and other behaviors covered in the rules of conduct are still covered on roleplaying servers. "I'm just roleplaying a homicidal maniac" is not an excuse for harassing, griefing, etc., other players. This extends to racism/nationalism as well. Roleplaying someone that hates Stygians/Aquilonians/Cimmerians is perfectly alright, however, real world racism is not acceptable.

Player-run events, guild meetings, and other roleplaying sessions may be present at anytime. Please do not interfere or harass players that are in character or running an event. We encourage you to join in and have a good time, but disrupting a wedding, guild meeting, etc. for non-roleplaying reasons may be cause for punishment.

Please keep in mind this is a mature setting for an M-rated game and the roleplay setting and environment may not be suitable for all players and temperaments. Likewise, while this is an M-rated game, please keep in mind that even in Hyboria, there are standards of conduct. Please keep overt and detailed adult conduct and chat in private channels.

In addition to the official rules provided by Funcom, the roleplaying community may have its own rules and customs. We encourage you to observe these as much as possible on your server of choice.

Source : WarCry

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