||The Big Sleep
||January 28, 2005
It's like -200 degrees outside.
Sony's EQ2 Players site recently posted an extremely long letter from EverQuest II's Senior Producer, Scott Hartsman. Titled "New Beginnings: A Time of Change," the letter tells players about some "radical changes" to solo adventuring. To pull some quote action:
"Expect the steady stream of additions like [what has been done so far] to continue over the coming weeks and months. Whether you have a half hour by yourself or all night in a group, we want to make sure that EverQuest II has something fun for every style of player. In tomorrow's update, expect significant solo and small group experience boosts across the board that allow for advancement that will be much more visible and feel much more satisfying.
"In the following weeks' updates, there will be a new class of creatures added to the game that present an increased challenge to soloers and small groups... Soloing shouldn't feel like a grind; it should be an exciting and fun style of play in its own right... Soloing and small grouping should be a way to advance at a satisfying rate. You should be able to earn good rewards that are exciting in their own right. Soloing and small grouping should also provide a chance at the great rewards that people might not expect in anything except the traditional six-person group."
Hartsman talks about other topics as well. To name a few, community/staff relations are mentioned, as well as the recently-announced "Adventure Packs" (which RPGamer reported on here). Those interested can check out this lengthy letter themselves by clicking this link.
In other EverQuest II news, community members with a talent for explaining complex ideas to non-complex thinkers are reminded that there are only a few days left in the Official Guide-Writing contest. All one has to do to enter is write a guide about any aspect of EverQuest II, such as a bestiary, quest guide, etc. Cash prizes ranging from $25 to $250 US are up for reward. The full contest details can be read here.
Apparently, many MMORPGs have had some scheduling problems, because there are an awful lot of delays suddenly popping up. First, Wizet Corporation has stopped accepting sign-ups for Maple Story's open beta test, which is still underway. The announcement on the game's website declares game maintenance as well as site changes as being among the biggest factors for this. The staff assured further updates in the future.
Second, Mythic Entertainment had to postpone the New York City stop on its Dark Age of Camelot Roundtable Road Trip, citing bad weather as the cause. The Camelot Herald's first announcement on this read, "Our team tried, mind you, it's just that the flight to New York was called off by the airline. Something about the two feet of snow and 30+ MPH winds they're going to get up there in the frozen north. Blech." However, hard core fans will probably be glad to hear that the event has been rescheduled for February 4th, taking place at web2zone, Inc. 54 Cooper Square, New York, NY. The get-together will last from 6:00pm - 11:00pm EST, featuring talks with the developers (including a Q&A session), free food, a "Making Catacombs" presentation by Content Lead Destin Bales, and more. The the spirit of fun can't be stopped by wind and snow.
Yet another delay involves the free beta weekends that have been going on periodically in Guild Wars. The next scheduled event has been pushed back from February 4th to February 18th. ArenaNet claimed it wanted to do something "totally fresh" this time. This will manifest with a new location called "Tyria." A unique piece of the backstory of Guild Wars surrounds this new area, as information about the characters who play large roles in the game's story can be found there, in addition to players being able to see Ascalon as it existed before being destroyed by Charr. In a spark of true role-playing, players have the option to truck right through this area, simply gathering the main plot, or hang out a while and explore, which leads to the discovery of a good deal of hidden content.
Another Guild Wars delay is the deadline to enter the Emblem Contest. The new deadline for entry is Feb 17th, with winners to be announced by March 4th. Get more detail and up-to-date info on all things Guild Wars at Guild Wars.com.
My favorite Fairy Land in-game correspondent Bucketmouse reports, "Well, 1010 Game just up and made a lot of us Fairyland players disappointed by stringing us along that a new patch for Fairyland would be released on the 21st. And when your intrepid correspondent logs in on the morning of the 21st to download the new patch before she has to sell electronics for 8 hours...she finally gets the message that the patch has been delayed until February 23rd." Screens are below in the Media Place and a portion of her letter is in the Readers Speak section.
On the not-so-sleeping side of Fairy Land, the game's European beta testing has begun. A contest is launching with this European version of the game. Three people from the "Top-50 Players List" (which is based on money, fame, and level) will be win an entire year of paid subscription to Fairy Land Europe. In addition, one of those winners will be awarded with the US equivalent of $500. Those who like the idea of reversing the tradition and getting paid to play MMORPGs can check the full terms and conditions of the contest at Fairy Land Europe's message forums.
Nevrax, developer of The Saga of Ryzom, announced the beginning of in-game contest. Up for grabs are over 50 of the latest NVIDIA cards.
The contest will begin this Friday, January 28th, and regularly take place on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays at 11:00 p.m. EST on the North American server and 7:00 p.m. Paris time on the European servers. This is currently scheduled to go on for a month. Players can participate while in the game by using a special chat channel. A riddle or trivia question will be asked in the contest channel, the first player to answering it correctly winning a brand new, high-end BFG NVIDIA GeForce graphics card (limit one per household). Runners-up will receive Saga of Ryzom gear. The winners for each event will be displayed on the game's web site, along with the correct answers to the questions.
While one community has an in-game contest opening, another just got its own website. Warner Brothers and Monolith have just launched "Data Node One," the official community site for The Matrix Online. Featuring the "beta player of the week," screenshots, movies, desktop themes, developer journals, FAQs, message boards and more, the site can be found here.
Of this new site, William Westwater, Director of Online Development, Monolith Productions, said, "Data Node One will add a great deal of value and enjoyment to the in-game experiences our fans are already participating in. This web destination will be expanding and diversifying a great deal in the weeks and months to come."
GameOn's Red Stone, aimed at players who have older
computer systems and not as much time to play as most MMORPGs demand, has apparently reached the group it set out to. Recently, the game breached the 55,000
player mark, with over 5,000 players online simultaneously. GameOn was not expecting such a high number of players, and the company recently created a third server called "Yellow Topaz."
Mythic Entertainment has announced that 100% of the profit from sales of the 2005 "Dark Age of Camelot Calendar" will be donated to The American Red Cross in order to provide aid for victims of December's tsunami disaster in southern Asia. The 2005 DAoC calendar features fan artwork created by 2004 contest winners and can be purchased at Mythic's Online Store for $9.95 USD.
The final news item of the week is that World of Warcraft's European beta has now entered a new phase. The Account Creation pages for the second phase of the Final Beta Test are now open for the whole European Community. MMORPGamers in Europe can check out the ful details on Blizzard's European World of Warcraft site.
As mentioned above, Bucketmouse has decided to treat us to some delicious Fairy Land screens. Instead of displaying thumbnails like I do with most screens, I had to just list them because these are some HUGE files. Having to load them onscreen would give our 56k users a collective heart attack. Her own descriptions of the screens are mingled with the linkage below.
JC Fan has more City of Heroes for us, with descriptions found below the screen table.
JC Said, "Since his first appearance in Paragon City, the Winter Lord has become a pox
few heroes can ignore. Here are a few more pictures from a few more of
Justice, Inc.'s encounters with this terrifying foe."
(Desprictions refer to screens in the same order you normally read English text)
Screen #1) Even as dozens of heroes combine their strength to take down
the Winter Lord, battles between the Police and mighty troll menace still
rage all around. Further proving the Hollows really is a dangerous war
2) Oops! Crimson Psyche gives the Snowlord whatfor, while
millionaire playboy Snap Shot slips on a patch of ice.
3) The battle rages between our two stalwart heroes as Snap Shot
feels the full effects of their foe's chilly breath.
4) Snap Shot launches yet another powerful kinetic blast as the
Winter Lord's mighty fist chills Psyche to the bone. That can't be good for
her modeling career...
5) As their menacing poses weren't enough, Kid Frigid soon learned
that a Tsoo sorcerer and his minions are a force to be reckoned with.
I've got all the email storage space in the world, so I don't fear big attachments. You shouldn't either; hit firstname.lastname@example.org with everything you've got!
This is one of the best Q&A weeks ever. Such varied topics! Such good questions! Bonus: it's not 5 am as I write this, so I'm coherent enough to answer them!
(Continued from Bucketmouse's Fairy Land talking above)
If they’re trying to fix bugs, then good for them. But seriously, they COULD have given us advance notice a few days earlier, NOT on the very day the patch was SUPPOSED to be released. (And I ended up wasting a perfectly good creature transformation potion I had prepared in celebration.) I was really looking forward to exploring the new areas in the patch as well, which would’ve been an awesome thing to do today with the blizzard and all.
Well, there’s always Valentine’s Day to look forward to in Fairyland. Gah.
Bucket Mouse (Beverage of choice: Hot coffee, hot Ovaltine, a can of Coke, or a wine cooler (very rarely.)
Ageha | Level 27 Bladegirl | Year of the Rooster title owner | Mysteria Server
Yep, there's nothing like a crappy maintenence crew to really throw your MMO experience off. It reminds of this one time last September, during my first attempt to check out a certain MMO, which will remain nameless in the case that its team has improved. At that time, the "the company" was running a free 7-day trial; all one had to do was get a key code and enter it at the account creation. So I did...to no result. The web page then asked me to buy the game. This was not supposed to happen. So I tried again, leading to the same result.
Then I called the customer service and explained my problem...
Me: ...so I entered the code, but it just told me I had to purchase the game.
Customer Service Rep: Okay, can you read me the code?
Me: (Reads code)
Customer Service Rep: (Eats a donut or something) ...Hmmm, that key is invalid.
Me: You know what? YOU'RE invalid.
Customer Service Rep: ...
Me: ...How about that? ...Anyone ever called you "invalid" before?
Customer Service Rep: ...Uh...no, sir, I don't believe so.
Yeah. I put those clowns in their place. Sure, I got a working key eventually, but that's beside the point.
Bluik Makes Another Drive-By
My drink of choice while playing games is any sort of highly
caffinated soda such as mountain dew, red bull, or just a simple coke.
If it is a friday night, I will be drinking beer. Right now keystone
light, because it is soo cheap (can you really pass $5 for a 12 pack..
On a more serious note, now that I have read your editorial about the
wish cancelation it makes a lot of sense. My uncle worked for
horizons, and he did nothing but complain about the project and the
people in charge of that game. He kept grumbling about collision
detection or lack thereof. But With all the recent failing MMOs
before they even released I can see the point you made. Wish had too
much promise to simply be canned that early in its beta. At least I
can play WoW... sorta for the time being. Thank god blizzard at least
feels sorry for their project crapping on us at times. But the rest
of the time the game is just so great I forgive them.
Always Coca-Cola :)
Red Bull? Blah :p ...And Keystone, eh? I don't drink alchohol (don't have anything against others doing so--just my choice), but the fact you've got Keystone around makes me wonder if you're in Pennsylvania, which is where I reside. Hmmm.
Putting our beverages on coasters for a moment, thanks for the compliments and background dirt on Horizons. Yeah, there weren't any gripes that I heard about technical stuff in Wish. I never read of any lag, dirty hacking (though it might have been too early for hackers to enter the scene), or any other such problems. I only read of one instance of players getting kicked off the server, and that happens occasionally in every MMORPG, even in finished products, so there's no way that lead to any drastic action. Like I said in the editorial, the most common complaint was about point-and-click movement, and there are a ton of MMOs with that--quite a few good ones.
One Game to Rule Them All
Hello there, I thought i would write you a letter for your column at
I was wondering what you think of Middle earth online. Or even the
idea of letting people run around Tolkein's delicate world. I dont
like the idea. Because I know tolkein wouldnt have. Like every MMO,
there will be the person who (while in a fantasy world) names their
toon Catnip, or something of that nature.
What's your opinion?
Hmmm. That's a tough question. I agree with your conjecture that Tolkein would not have wanted other people controlling the goings-on in his masterpiece creation that is Middle Earth. But here's a twist that might allow it to be justified anyway: if J.R.R. Tolkein were alive, and in charge of the project right down to the last detail, I think he would absolutely love the idea.
I feel this way because, well, let's reflect on the Lord of the Rings books. I'm no Tolkein scholar, but it seems that his purpose in writing them was to tell a story with lively characters, a vivid world, and an epic story. He wanted this to be a unique experience for the reader. I don't recall how old the books are, but I do know that the movies in his day (...if they existed...) were *ahem* not exactly capable of portraying anything remotely close to what was possible to experience by reading the novels, and thus he would probably be avidly against such a portrayal of his work. However, we've got a lot of power in these PCs today. People often rave about how awesome the worlds of Norrath, Azeroth, Vana'diel, and others are when they talk about their favorite MMORPGs.
So the *real* question is this: will the game do the books justice? With the game shipping in June, I think it's too early to tell just yet. It will depend on how "real" the game feels. If the player can find himself sufficiently immersed in this digital Middle Earth, meaning the music fits the game, the quests are not a disgrace, the visuals (don't have to be stellar) look good enough and fit J.R.R.'s descriptions, and certain other factors aren't an outrage, I don't see why he would be angry. Also, an MMORPG allows for more interaction than a book or movie. Have you and you friends ever wanted to take on some Orcs in Isengard with your own band of Elves? Have at it. Want to meet other Hobbits from around the world, and perhaps get a piece of real estate in the Shire? Go nuts.
To sum up, it all depends how the game turns out. MMORPGs are about a personal experience, but the development team will need to know where to draw the line. If they can do that while still maintaining a decent MMO, I don't see why Tolkein would be too pissed. My guess at this time would say that isn't very likely, but I could be wrong. *sigh* If only he were here to direct the project, though. That would settle any doubts.
Johnny Gets Depp...erm, Deep
First off on today's list is to bash some FFXI
complainers from last time:
1. Please don't call them gillfarmers! A gillfarmer
is someone like me who goes out there to make enough
money so I can have cool stuff(or camps the monster
just to get the item). These guys are one of three
types: a. Gillsellers(people like IGE...but all the
gillsellers have a big surplus that they can't sell
right now) B. botters/attended botters[use a
provoke-type bot for instant grabs] and C. expert HNM
campers(these guys just do it for sport, but they do
it so much that it's really hard to beat them).
2. Also our friend from last time said there were only
3 HNMs worth camping...I beg to differ since there are
a couple in the Promithia areas(the promithia areas
are not that hard to unlock...please try people 'cause
I'd like to see you there) that are fun shots(read
about them) with items that can sell for tens of
millions.(no comeptition, but they are hard...one in
particular is this undead beastmaster type that can
charm party and allience members...I love a
chalange![plus it drops one of my killer thief dammage
3. If you only got to lvl 20 you didn't really play
FFXI. The game doesn't really start untill lvl 30+
Dude, John, #3 there is the crappiest defense for a game, ever. I agree with the statement's accuracy, but a game should not take that long to get good, and should not be shielded from related complaints. The process of achieving that level isn't exactly a weekend project, even if you are power-leveled; it can take forever. Getting to level 30 should not be where the "game really starts." Most games I've played start at level 1.
And now for what I was really gonna write, which may
take abit of explaning. Once you get your first piece
of AF(Artifact Armor to people who don't play FFXI)
you can get this new Bastok quest for JSE(for the
non-FFXI players: Job Specfic Armor). This requires
you to take a mess of friends and go into the
Promithan Aquducts(lvl 40 cap). Here we need to kill
various types of Fomors(Thief, monk, BLM, ETC.
Depending on what you and your friends need.) for
Subglairs (err..panties..or at least that's what me and
the CursetheYagado people call them for a joke)
So one night when I'm really bored and back from
killing various things for money(I need a nice
crossbow) I decide to join in since my JSE(for thief)
is pretty good for XP party gear. Grabbing some cap
gear I head down to meet Chech, Beanie, Nif and the
rest of the allience from Cursetheyagado(our
Linkshell) so we can go in. We sneak ourselves in
using the spell and figting a few monsters along the
way and start camping.(these things look like undead
Player Characters) We start by killing off stuff for
the mages, monks, rangers and palidins.(RDM=
Mithria[cat race], RNG=Hume,
Beastmaster= Glaka, Dragoon=Hume, and Thief=hume.)
It's kinda fun and we get quite a few of the rare/ex
subglars(err..panties) right off the bat. We can't
seem to get the ranager or the pally types to drop,
but we're having fun anyway. In the process we get 2X
Balloon Cloth[300k in the Auction House and required
for Gobbiebag #5[last quest to make your bag bigger]
which I don't manage to get(hey it's 16 people).
Anyway we use Escape(spell) to get out and run back in
since it's easier to get to the new camp where thieves
spawn, but by this time it's like 3AM EST and many of
us are tired so I get to kill off a draggon and a
beastmaster but no thieves(who cares there's always
another run...errr...Panty Raid)[and I still had fun!]
Lvl 53 THF|lvl 17 WAR|lvl 15 RNG|lvl 10 WHM|lvl 10 Summoner|lvl 37 NIN|lvl 5 BLM
Webmaster of "Jon's Final Fantasy Homepage"
Panty Raid, eh? That's the greatest name for anything that has ever existed. Good to hear the story. I like stories.
Will Writes Another Novel, Different Subject
What up Heath,
Man, I was typing up this rough draft of an e-mail in
response to someone's retroreview of BoF3 - Score of
"2"!!?!? - a retroreview that I of course, strongly
strongly disagree with - but then I decided not to
send it because I got another idea instead.
I find that not too many RPGs have that much
substance anymore. That much heart. Its like they've
all gone Hollywood you know? Like comparing Jackie
Chan's classic kung-fu masterpiece, Young Master to
his more recent and more western ventures, Police
Story, Shanghi Knights, or Rush Hour. Good, yes, but
After getting my hopes up on Star Ocean 3, because I
LOVED Valkerie Profile, I was a bit disappointed. The
gameplay, music, and graphics were some of the most
amazing I'd every encountered on PS2, or anywhere for
that matter, and I thouroughly enjoyed it for that
reason. However, the soul of the game, the heart, it
just wasn't there. (excluding a couple of the Albel
conversations). It had the bells and whistles, but
backed down from the art - the Luxery (WarCraft3 term
Hmm. To interject here, I think you may have been a bit out of place to get your hopes up for Star Ocean 3, based on love of Valkyrie Profile. Sure that had the same developer and kinda the same publisher, but they are entirely different series. Sure, it's common for such things to still play well for the same audience, but that can't be the basis for expectation. You can't expect Parasite Eve to rock simply because Final Fantasy games are good.
I was beginning to wonder why I even owned a console
anymore, but then I noticed the Shin Megami Series (
thanks to this site's great downloadable movie
content) as well as Dragon Quest (er Warrior or
whatever) VII and VIII -- games of which are
unquestionably Japanese as well as unquestionably
organic and bold -- and I got excited again.
I'm asking this question, though : What has happened?
I can't even trust a FF game to even begin to satisfy
me anymore. Why has there been this sudden influx of
mechanical and impersonal Motion Picture Soundtracks
(think I, Robot or Independence Day) in our videogames
instead of the the good old hypnotic, sometimes cheesy
(and refreshing) 80's basslines and sentimental flutes
and strings and melodies and harmonies that made
fighting and adventuring and melodrama so much fun in
FFIII and Chrono Trigger, as opposed to say Xenosaga,
which feels much more like I'm fighting within the
confines of a governmental office building cubicle
instead of a lush virtual reality landscape? (Think
Shin Megami: Nocturne or BoF3)
Are these the effects of existentialism inside of
Japan or just the pursuits of the bottom line profit
motive? I don't know, but I was thinking of maybe
writing an article on it. If I did, do you think that
it could be published in the editorials on this site?
Do you think that I could interview you and some of
the other staff members in order to help build up some
perspective based upon your expertise?
Thanks Man for Considering
This doesn't have a central focus on MMORPGs, so consider yourself lucky it made it in here ;) I'll gladly answer it and appreciate the letter, but in the future, this kind of stuff is why we have the other Q&A Hosts. On to the letter.
In don't think RPGs have declined so much as there are just more of them, hence making it hard to find to good ones. Additionally, as people grow older, things generally becomes less impressive. There are exceptions, of course, but the element of nostalgia is not to be underestimated. And, since you/we were newer to the genre, games left a deeper impression on us than something that comes along and is familiar territory before we even press start.
I might not be entirely on your topic here, but I'll mention this because it's an applicable example of a related theme. My first RPG was Breath of Fire III, back in '98. I've played a ton of other RPGs from earlier and later generations since then, some better and some worse. I've even reviewed many of them, whether here at RPGamer or elsewhere...but I will never write a review of BoF3. Why? It has an unfair advantage over me. It's appeal was magnified by how much younger I was and how impressionable I was to the genre. Yes, I can objectively look at the game's features and rate them...but that would not be me talking. No matter what kind of review I wrote for BoF3, I would feel uncomfortable posting it anywhere because of the bias within me. I don't know how much/little sense that makes, but I hope you understand where I'm going. It may not just be the games getting worse--older gamers could be getting harder to impress.
I didn't quite know how to respond within the bounds of this column, so I called in Brandon Bailey of our news team to help with this. If you'd like to ask us questions live, IRC is the way to go. Take it away, Brandon.
Video Games aren't much different than film. It sounds like you're expecting a bit too much out of every game out there. 90 - 95% of all the games out there ARE going to be refurbished crap, no different than with the film industry. Trying to make every game you play compare to Chrono Trigger or FFVI will ruin your gaming experience, period.
I didn't have much of an intro, and I don't have much of an outro either. Unusual for me, I know. Oh well. Just busy this week, I guess. And cold. Don't forget cold.
Thanks to those who sent in letters and/or screens. To the rest of you: don't be strangers, now.
P.S. Come back next week for Dark and Light beta impressions and screens.
My name is Heath Hindman, and when you close your eyes for The Big Sleep, I hope you think of me. Yeah.