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Whatever you say, Mr. Billboard! M M O R P G A M E R  
This Year, Give Her English Muffins
1 2 . 17 . 2 0 0 4


As usual, there's quite a bit going on in the world of online gaming. At this time of the year, many MMORPGs see temporary modifications in order to go along with mainstream holidays. I scrapped up what I could to show to you in this column. I think you'll enjoy.

But if you prefer, you can first glance over these other MMO-related updates that appeared on RPGamer's index:

Also, big thanks to RPGamer retiree Matthew Scribner for taking some time to contribute to this column.



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It's Not Christmas Until Someone's Offended

Well kids, Christmas is coming, whether you like it or not. As in customary, many MMORPGs are decking the servers with proper orniments. Let's take a look at a few of them.

Fairy Land

Players of the ultra-cute and often hilarious Fairy Land have witnessed their world getting even more colorful. There are also Christmas-themed quests to go with the new decorations. From Friday, December 17th, till Thursday the 23rd, "Decorate the Christmas Tree" will be available. Additionally, from Christams Day (December 25th) to the 29th, players can claim gifts from Santa Claus as he visits the game's cities. The official site describes the quests like this: "In Fairyland world, christmas trees are set in three main cities: Rainbow City, Bluebird and Goldburg. Christmas Ambassadors will ask all players to help decorate the Christmas trees together. You will need to fetch the required items to the Ambassadors. Required items can be obtained from quests or fighting the beasts. In addition, Santa Claus will visit the three cities and he will bring gifts and celebrate Christmas holiday with players."

Final Fantasy XI

Of course, Final Fantasy XI's world of Vana'diel is also beginning to look a lot like Haunakkwanzmas. This year, the name of the holiday fiesta changed to "The Starlight Celebration" from last year's "Holy Night in Vana'diel." Regarding the highlight event, PlayOnline instructs, "Smilebringers, tree craftsmen, and moogles will appear in all three nations as part of the event. Search the cities of San d'Oria, Bastok, and Windurst for these holiday characters and see what they have in store! Lend them a hand in their activities and you, too, can experience the joy of the Starlight Celebration." Already underway, this event is scheduled to end on December 26th at 4:00 pm EST. And it wouldn't be Final Fantasy XI if stupid hats weren't involved. Santa-style hats can be seen on the heads of many a player. In fact, screenshots from a couple readers have been emailed/referred to me.

Thanks go out to "Meliadoul" for the first and last screens, and "Sivara" for the four in the middle. Both of those players are on Midgardsormr.


Ragnarok Online

The Christmas perks in Ragnarok Online as listed as follows:
1. Celebrate your love for your special partner through holy matrimony in the glorious Christmas town of Lutie.
2. Antonio is planning his no good to spoil Christmas again. It's up to you, IRO users, to stop him before he ruins the holidays.
3. The Kafra girls will be giving out special gifts for you to exchange with the ones you love. Look out for them to receive some holiday goodies.

Other details given on the official site tell us, "To participate in these holiday events, you must receive the patch file. The patch file is currently available on our website in the Downloads section. Please make sure that you download and install it properly into your Ragnarok Online folder. The implementation of the event will start after the scheduled maintenance on December 21st, 2004 and will end January 4th, 2005 after the scheduled maintenance has been completed."


Phantasy Star Online

"Pioneer Christmas" is currently available to Phantasy Star Online players. Just like last year, this is a single-player quest centered around finding the Naura sisters. Holiday activities outside of the quest are discussed here. These seasonal festivities apply to all console versions of PSO. Here are a few screens; one of the festive decorations, and two of the quest.

Virtual Island is Pricey Seller 

MMORPGamer

In the largest purchase in MMORPG history, a piece of virtual property in Project Entropia has just sold for the US equivalent of over $26,000. Those zeros are not typos. I'll let the press release do the talking.

"Project Entropia, the fastest growing virtual world utilizing a real cash economy, today announces twenty-two year old Australian, Deathifier from the Dark Knights society, as the savvy winner of this historic auction for virtual real estate. The auction began taking bids in late August and ran through the month of December accepting offers from around the world in a race to claim an extensively rendered virtual treasure island. Bidding ended at an astonishing amount of $26,500 US the largest amount ever spent in the massive multiplayer online gaming space.

"The treasure island is a true prize in the MMORPG virtual gaming community as it provides instant Real cash revenue from "mining and hunting" rights to the new owner. The winning bidder of the island will obtain all taxation rights on hunting and mining on the island as hundreds of members flock to the new world in search of new game and gold. The island also provides additional revenue potential through the selling of housing lots and market places, some of which have already been sold and claimed due to the high demand."

..."High" demand? An understatement, to be sure. Marco Behrmann, Mindark Director of Community relations, raved, "This is a historic moment in gaming history, and this sale only goes to prove that Massive Multiplayer Online Gaming has reached a new plateau where the gamers themselves have discovered the true economic potential of an online community. This is an incredible milestone."

The winner of this coveted piece of vitrual real estate, a 22-year-old going by the screen name of "Deathifier," told the press, "This type of investment will definitely become a trend in online gaming as the standard monthly-fee based online games will struggle to make any sort of cash investment viable. It is only the unique, forward-looking games like Project Entropia that establish a real, tangible value to your in-game persona and their activities that allow it."

Unlike many other MMORPGs, Project Entropia actively supports sales of virtual products with actual cash value within its real economy system. The economy offers the user a secure and safe way to make purchases, sales and exchange real life currency into Project Entropia Dollars (PED) and back again into real money. PED allows members to invest in personal development and growth through the acquisition of goods, buildings, and land in the Entropia universe. If this sounds like it's up you ally, the game's official site might be your new second-favorite hangout.

Ragnarok Online Moving, Shaking 

Ragnarok Online

Big-time book retailer Barnes & Noble is now combining select volumes of the Ragnarok manga with complimentary game CDs featuring a free 15-day trail of Ragnarok Online. Game developer Gravity Interactive is working with Tokyopop to make this happen.

In other Ragnarok Online news, the Gravity has finally put the finishing touches on the in-game divorce system to compliment those originally reported marriages. The press release tells players, "Players are warned, that just like the real world, breaking marriage vows come at a steep monetary and spiritual cost. Both parties must empty their pockets and file for divorce at a combined cost of 2,500,000 Zeny (Ragnarok money), as well as temporarily reducing their health and spell points in half.

  "Those feeling unattractive after getting divorced can get an extreme makeover with a new hairstyle and even a new face by visiting the local Nifflheim hairdresser. He/she also moonlights as an unlicensed plastic surgeon. Players willing to risk more than just their tresses can fulfill one of their midlife crisis fantasies by bungee jumping in the jungles of Umbala. Divorcees who really want to hide from their ex-spouses can start all over with a new identity and play as a Super Novice class character. This class is really a jack-of-all-trades. Players never have to choose a specific class of skills to specialize in."

The lesson I gather from this is to stay away from...anyone. To ignore such lessons, there's always the Ragnarok Online official site.

EverQuest II Patches Up

EQ2

The team responsible for maintaining EverQuest II is apparently doing a good job, as patches are coming almost daily. Not just are they happening, but the changes seem to ones that take the gameplay the direction that the creators had in minds. To name a few:

  • A display bug in the lower section of the tradeskill progress window that occurred when gaining a quality level while crafting an item has been fixed.
  • The journey across the Fanged Sea no longer has a time restriction placed on it.
  • Sellback values on player-crafted items have been adjusted in sales to NPC merchants. Values are now based on the costs associated with producing the item.
  • An issue preventing NPC merchants from buying certain loot gained from fallen opponents has been resolved.
  • Grey NPCs that had decided to attack certain players should no longer do so.

In addition to those, users of Sony's "Station Access" have been granted four more character creation slots, bringing their total to eight. For those that don't know, "Station Access" is an online game service provided by Sony. Subscribers pay a monthly fee of $21.99 EverQuest (regular and Mac versions), EverQuest Online Adventures, PlanetSide, and a few other games. For more info on patches such as these, Planet EQ is a good source.

Korean MMORPGs Steal Show 

Korea

GameNgame recently had its handful of Korean MMO titles on display at a small-time game show in New York City. Legend of Mir 3, D.O Online, and Shot Online among others, were all present in playable forms for spectators to check out or jump in and play for themselves.

MMORPGamer covered these games as well as other Asian MMORPGs in this column. In IGN's report of the event, not much new information came forth, except that Legend of Mir 3 has an absolutely huge fanbase in China, with an estimated 1.5 million users, as the game's record for concurrent players is about 350,000.

Short Stories 
World of Warcraft

Blizzard has already banned hundreds of World of Warcraft accounts for speed cheating and bot operating. They made these warning very clear in messages to players as well as posts on the game's official site. But the company isn't stopping the manhunt within the boundaries of the game. Money-sellers are warned: there's a new sheriff in town. A recent post on the official site reads, "In order to promote a fun and fair environment for all our customers, we are actively investigating those individuals who engage in this inappropriate activity and reserve the right to take legal action against these individuals to protect World of Warcraft for all those who 'play by the rules.' If you are found to be selling in-game property (such as coins, items, or characters), for real money, you will lose your characters and accounts, and Blizzard Entertainment reserves its right to pursue legal action against you as well."

Matrix Online

The Matrix Online's official site recently told the world that the game will not be making the previously-announced release date of January 18th. Jason Hall, senior vice president of Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, stated the obvious in telling Gamespot.com, "The fact of the matter is the game is not ready and we want to take a little more time." The silver lining to this cloud is that this gives folks more time to preorder and take advantage of the beta-testing offer.

Korea

Korean developer L&K Logic Korea is about to launch beta testing for its upcoming Red Stone. The game will take the proverbial "road less traveled" by using 2D graphics. But in doing so, the character and monster designs are all aimed towards making the game look realistic, as opposed to cartoony. One of the games more unique aspects is the ability to change a characters job class from "Wizard" to "Wolfman" at the touch of a single button. How in the world those two are related has not been mentioned. Also unmentioned is a North American launch date. Korean MMORPGamers will begin testing Red Stone on December 21st.

Front Mission

Front Mission Online's beta testers were recently given some nice gameplay upgrades, particularly in the department of player vs. player battles. Fist, the battles can now include up to ten players per side. To add some more mayhem to these battles, more fun varieties of an item called a "Stealth Backpack" have been added. Radar Stealth, Sonar Stealth, and Optical Stealth backpacks are available, among others. The names themselves pretty much describe each one's function. Other recent upgrades include the addition of more event scenes.

Shadowbane

Since the Shadowbane expansion Throne of Oblivion was released last month, there has been talk within the game of whether or not a new server would be created. One by the name of Ashen Temper posted on the official site, "Since the Shadowbane: Throne of Oblivion was first announced, community speculation has run rampant: 'Will there be a new server?' Debates have swept and raged across the boards. Well, the expansion has launched and a new server was not included with it. Does that mean we're not going to add one?" Temper went on to address the issues of changes to the crafting system, the future of Entropy, and so on. You can read these and other updates/discussions right here.

Readers Speak 

I asked readers what they hated about MMORPGs. This was an opportunity for you to get some things off your chest--to unload your hate in an email of unlimited fury. Below are the responses.


You Freaking Ripped My Heart Out


Hi.
You wanted a hate rant so Iíll give you one. I just read the letter you printed about Horizons. I have to say I agree with the angry quotes posted in that article. I started Horizons soon after it came out and I remember hearing talk about the new stuff that would be added and getting really excited thinking "wow Iíll be playing this game forever!" But unfortunately for me and all the other players that got suckered into Horizons, things never really got better. I quit the game after only 5 months. I just got sick of all the *&#@ piling on and on. I feel bad for anyone who believes that letter from Artifact and feel even worse for the new players of the game the are signing up every day. My message for them, DONíT DO IT!!!! Itís not worth your time or money!! Rest in peace, Horizons.

Sincerely,
Angry former MMO gamer

HEATH
Well, I never played Horizons, so I can't really empathize. But it sounds like I'd be superpissed if I did. One suggestion I've seen on multiple message boards is that the game "go back" to its original form and start over, (I assume with different people in charge). Perhaps with Artifact Entertainment going bankrupt, someone else will pick up Horizons and reanimate the corpse?


...This Freaking Game...


Hi Heath...here's some of the things that annoy me in FFXI:
1. Gilseller Monolpies(Thursday Dec.9th updates may solve this for me, but as of now these guys keep setting insane prices of stuff I need by horading them!)
2. Picky players- (stupid quoes: "DRK/thf is way better than Thf/[anything]". "all Ninjas should sub warrior", "You need [insert ubber item here]" ETC.)

Then there's finding people intrested in missions instead of just leveling. Personlly I'm only gaining levels so I can have Rank 10 and finish the Promithia missions.

Shadowneko (server: Midgardsormr)
Lvl 50 THF|lvl 17 WAR|lvl 15 RNG|lvl 10 WHM|lvl 10 Summoner|lvl 37 NIN|lvl 5 BLM

A.K.A
Jon Davies
Webmaster of "Jon's Final Fantasy Homepage"

HEATH
Call me weird, but I personally never gave much of a hoot about gil-selling. I have a vigilante-justice personality, so I look at them as another one of the game's obstacles. Outdoing them, getting my items in other ways, etc. give me even more satisfaction that accomplishing actual quest goals. Why? Because someone tried to be a jerkstore and I ruined their crap! This kind of thing can be especially fun in games that allow PvP combat. Don't like the guy cammping where you want to camp or monopolizing something you want? Kill him; break his legs.

Your second beef, however, is something that does irritate me. FFXI feels more like a teen movie than an MMORPG. If you don't do your best to fit in with the other clowns, people tend to write you off. I'm fortunate enough to be a member of two decent Linkshells, but you know how that can be, what with the different schedules/locations and all those barriers in the way. In next week's column, I will put the finishing touches on a mini-rant called "People Who Play Final Fantasy XI Are Not People Who Play MMORPGs." That will be fun stuff.


From The Boards With Love


(Rumikoholic, a member of our message boards, said the following regarding FFXI's economic changes. I was given permission to post it in the letter portion of this column.)

It really is too little too late. :\ The people who payed the outrageous prices are upset because now that they can't sell them back for as much, so many of the ones who couldn't afford them were ridiculed to the point of leaving the game, and others are talking about taking advantage of the plummetting prices to buy up all the stock and sell it at even higher prices...

I'm leaving soon, as well. There just isn't enough versatility in FF XI to keep me interested. Everyone has the same jobs, the same subs, the same equipment... If they don't, they get attacked by the other players.

I suppose it's my desire for individuality that has caused so much disdain for this system. (Though, the gilsellers running off most of my friends had a great deal to do with the decision.) Plus, there is still the issue of needing entire alliances to do any little thing at level 50+. Thus, meaning you have to kiss everyone's butts (including people you don't like), pay high-levels exhorbitant amounts of gil, or beg in Jeuno for weeks just to get anything done. As long as these things are in effect, gilsellers and buyers will never die out.

Despite what some people think, not all online games are like this. Square-Enix just went out of their way to make the most frustrating MMORPG possible and they wait until every tiny problem is blown so far out of proportion it can't possibly be fixed without a complete overhaul of the system before finally tossing the players a few scraps. It's just ridiculous.

I realize it's their first MMORPG and MMORPGs weren't built in a day... But, they've had years to work out most of these bugs. They just didn't do anything until a little competition started rearing its head. Heh. Whatever.

It really is a shame. The storyline's so good. It's just all of the garbage people have to put up with to get to any of it is way too much to make the game worth it... :\

HEATH
I called that "gold" when responding to it. Some of those same points will be expanded on next week in my aformentioned mini-rant.

Game Over 

And in suppliment to the above rants, you can check out interesting little piece by Greg Cato: MMOs: It's the Economy, Stupid. That's sure to make a lot of people mad!

With that in mind, holy crap, selling of virtual property seems to be the hot topic this week. That crazy guy in Entropia, the above board post, Jon's letter, the World of Warcraft site...everyone's talking about it. Whether you feel like talking about it yourself is up to you, of course. Choose wisely, as some people are getting pretty fired up. Whatever you are talking about, feel free to send in a quick email and let our little community know.

You know what's next (and what I want to see)? Blizzard posting some fun announcement about banning people from random things. Like, I think this could be a fun video project to do with your friends; stuff like a guy being at McDonald's without enough money, then Blizzard employees come running from the back, do a leaping tackle over the counter and inform him that's he is banned from World of Warcraft. That could get kinda funny.


My name is Heath Hindman, and I'm right outside your door, now testify!!

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