Matrix Online Team Fumbles, Recovers I Sony Becomes Illest Dealer I Community Buzz I LucasArts Delivers Total Experience I Strugarden Freshens Up I Short Stories I Media Place I Readers Speak I Freakin' Hot Rena Tanaka Picture of the Week
Issue #29 Sellout April 23, 2005

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This column is dedicated to the memory of those mounted suckers that recently tried to PK me and my homie Grimnir in Felluca. They didn't succeed, but God bless 'em for trying.

 Matrix Online Team Fumbles, Recovers
Matrix Online

So the dudes running The Matrix Online got this awesome idea: make it a royal pain to level the characters. Kids were pissed. Who would have thought that such a fresh, original patch could backfire so badly? The most recent patch caused such sour reactions from the community that the developers actually reversed the patch a mere two days after launching it. Let's take a look at some of the positive and negative reactions to the original sin:

"I myself will most likely NOT be keeping my sub going past the 30 day free trial."

"Personally, I'd have preferred the new XP system be run from the start; as it is, there's now a bunch of high-level elite characters and all the rest of us will have a slow crawl to the top."


Okay, so that last one wasn't about the EXP getting reduced, but it made me laugh, so I posted it here. Far more negative reactions were sent straight to the developers themselves though, as Monolith had to post this message: "We understand the changes to mission XP are unpopular and are taking in all of your feedback on the issue. However, contacting WB, SEGA, or Monolith employees directly is not a valid way to express your opinions. Please do not contact these folks directly or post their contact information on the forums."

Faced with such opposition, Monolith took back that change. The official announcement reads, "After reviewing the impact of Monday's mission XP change, we agree that the new timer affects too many players. The settings were too extreme, hurting people who are just trying to have a good time. As a result, we are pulling the timers way back effective immediately." Follow the developments as they happen at Data Node One.

Tha patch's original intent was, of course, intended to fix certain problems. In addition to experience cutbacks, timers were added to many missions. These were not timers limiting the time one had to finish a mission, but creating a minimum time a player had to spend on a mission. The big problem created was that the timers were set to 30 minutes, when most missions can be finished in less than three. This was to promote exploration, but it ultimately ended up frustrating people. The timer was later knocked down to two minutes.

Jeff Walker, resident Matrix Online player, said this about the patch: "Matrix Online's recent patch was, without a doubt, the worst idea for a fix I have ever seen. The idea behind the patch was to slow levels down and encourage exploration, but all it did was slow everyone down to a grinding hault. For the utmost reward, most had to stand around for 30 minutes to an hour for 1 mission. It was only after many server-wide protests, logout protests, cancellations, a 1,000 person petition, and countless users becoming upset that the developers realized what they had done was wrong. Their answer was to decrease the time required, but the many problems they aimed to fix still exist. Only time will tell if The Matrix Online will have a fix for the problems."

Meanwhile on the Matrix Online forums, a "Thank you" thread has been started, and several players are expressing their appreciation and respect for the developers listening to the requests of the community.

 Sony Becomes Illest Dealer


As you may have read in this story by Kelcey Chan, Sony Online Entertainment is opening a store to buy and sell EverQuest II money, characters, and items. Here is some further light and knowledge.

The legality and morality of selling in-game items and money for real cash have been debated for many moons. Some players have argued that the practice is not fair to those who put blood, sweat, and tears into obtaining their spoils. Others have countered that some players want to play enjoy all the game has to offer, but don't have the time to spend in obtaining such things, so they'd rather buy it from someone else. MMORPG developers have banned thousands of players for selling their items and game currency. Sony Online Entertainment is among those developers, which adds a certain irony to the Station Exchange announcement.

Industry analyst group DFC Intelligence estimates that the online game industry in 2003 was $1.9 billion. By 2006, they predict revenue growing to $5.2 billion with continued steady growth, with worldwide online game revenue reaching $9.8 billion by 2009. As this business has grown, so too has the "secondary" market, which is based around the unsupported buying and selling of in-game characters, items and coins. Unofficial estimates of underground "secondary" market trade volume range from $100 $800 million a year, with titles such as SOE's EverQuest and EverQuest II making up 20% of those sales.

It would not be illogical to assume this service could spread to other Station Sony titles like Star Wars Galaxies, seeing as several other services, including EverQuest II's new mail system, link the games together.

"The unsanctioned secondary market for online games is rapidly growing and more and more of our players are taking part in it," said John Smedley. "Not only are we answering the demands of a sizable portion of our subscriber base, but we are also set on establishing the standard for online game sales. SOE is in a unique position to help guide the industry, just as we have since we first opened the world of EverQuest to the public six years ago."

You know what I love? I love when other companies criticize each other's decisions. Gamebiz Daily posted some relevant comments made by Mark Jocobs of Mythic Entertainment. Jacobs expressed disapproval and disappointment, saying things like, "I think that not only supporting the sale of in-game characters, items and currency, but also taking a 'cut' of those sales, is not only a mistake but one of the worst decisions in the history of the MMORPG industry." He also indicated that this move by Sony will not quell secondary item sales, but rather encourage more of these illegal activities. He said instead of shutting down sites like IGE, activities on those sites would stay the same or increase because of the lowered prices.

Jacobs didn't stop there. He went on to talk about Mythic and its dealing with such things, saying, "Mythic Entertainment has turned down a number of opportunities to participate in such ventures, both with the companies that auction these goods, as well as doing it on our own. We remain committed to keeping our games as games and not as opportunities to encourage behavior that runs counter to their spirit of creativity and entertainment." That's borderline hypocritical when you consider that almost every player of Dark Age of Camelot is running a bot or two with no penalty. What do you have to say to that, Mark?

As if to stick his tongue out and taunt, Sony President John Smedly responded to Jacobs' comments. Smedly said, "In satisfying the broad player demand for a service such as Station Exchange, SOE is again innovating, and any innovation is bound to have its critics." The entire, very lengthy article on this can be read here.

Message board posts around the internet show mixed reactions (duh), but most people seem indifferent. Positive reactions on one message board include "It's about time," and "...I can only applaud at this decision." Negative quotes included, "Looks like I pulled out of EQ2 just in time," and "This disgusts me to say the least."

How do you feel about this? Email and sound off.

 Community Buzz
Mir 3

Since April 20, Legend of Mir 3 players have been enjoying a short period of double EXP. There no rhyme or reason to this, other than the fact that the devs just felt like allowing players a time when they could quickly raise a new character or do some extreme powerleveling of their favorites. This post on the game's official forums says that monster spawn rates have increased to accommodate the higher amount of killing that will be going on until the end of the event, which will be on April 27. Shadowbane

Shadowbane's second birthday is coming up. To celebrate, admins are giving the players special gifts of appreciation. The official announcement says that the gifts will appear in the bank accounts of all characters who are on accounts from subscribers who have paid for their account before April 19th, 2005. This means that only users who have a paid subscription (not a Free Trial) before the Call to Arms upgrade was released will qualify. Players should check their item bank to find the special gift.

Additionally, from April 21st through April 25th, the Powers That Be will use their influence upon Aerynth. This time, they will decreased the cost of retraining powers, skills, and stat points. While the initial cost will remain the same, each subsequent refinement will be much cheaper than normal. In addition, this cost will decrease every three hours instead of every six. Lineage 2

Lineage II players can take place in the testing of Chronicle 3 by converting their live clients and downloading the newest patches. Those wanting to help the devs find and zap the bugs, or who just want a glimpse of the future can get the details here.

 LucasArts Delivers Total Experience
Star Wars

Star Wars fans wondering what might be next for them after seeing Episode III: Revenge of the Sith now have the answer. Star Wars Galaxies: The Total Experience will offer the award-winning original game, the Jump to Lightspeed expansion, and the new Episode III: Rage of the Wookiees expansion all in one box. Exclusive to players with the Star Wars Galaxies: The Total Experience box will be the BARC Speeder. The land vehicle of choice for the specialized Biker Advanced Recon Commandos during the Clone Wars, this speeder will take players to the edges of the 11 Star Wars planets that Galaxies has to offer on May 26.

Current players can download the new planet of Kashyyyk with over 100 new adventures starting May 5th. The digital download of Episode III Rage of the Wookiees includes the Varactyl, Obi Wan's gorgeous and sure-footed mount, exclusively.

 Strugarden Freshens Up

Strugarden is set to undergo its first major update since going commercial on April 13. The biggest part of the update is the inclusion of an entirely new country, called Radenius. A holy land for the Planetaria faith, it is the only country ruled by a woman. For some strange reason, Radenius sealed itself off from the rest of the world. Presently, it is a country shrouded in mystery.

Other updates to this Japanese MMO include raising the level cap from 40 to 45, creating new quests, and adding new fields and monsters specifically for high-level characters. Also introduced will the "Fated Meetings" system. Characters each have not only their own zodiac sign, but one of six different elements and five different planetary guardians, creating a unique horoscope for each player. These horoscopes will influence a character's interactions with NPCs in an as of yet undisclosed manner.

Source: Impress Game Watch

 Short Stories

Planetwide Games recently announced a skill-based Player vs. Player tournament that will take place within Risk Your Life: Path of the Emperor. This upcoming tournament sports a grand prize of $1,000,000. The RYL qualifying tournament will start July 1, 2005 and will end April 30, 2006, culminating in a Final Tournament event to be broadcast live and to take place in conjunction with E3 in May of 2006. This beta client is currently a free download on the game's official site. Planetwide looks to commercially release the game in the early summer.

Ultima Online

"Promotional Tokens" have made their way into Ultima Online. Now, instead of getting promotional rewards right away, players can use these token to save the gifts for later. This includes Soulstones, Soulstone Fragments, and Character Transfers. In the words of the official site, this eliminates "guesswork" from the giving and receiving of promotional items.


Remember last week when I told you about the thousands of Chinese gamers waiting in line to buy World of Warcraft? Well, they're still waiting.

 Media Place

"Rkade" sent in a few Matrix Online screens. Descriptions are below the table.

Screen 1 - better shot of moving like agent while in combat!
Screen 2 - pic of combat in which I'm moving with speed of agents.
Screen 3 - copy of a communique involving someone called the General. Unknown who this general is. Possibly a new enemy in the Matrix.

JC Fan decided to hit us with some Final Fantasy XI screens. These were taken during the recent Doll Festival event.

Screen 1: It's here again! The spring festival has come an gone, marking with it the passing of a new year. As my cute Taru friend and I sit under the cherry blossoms we exchange our hopes for the future.

Screen 2: Ready for inspection-wection! This year's doll festival allowed everyone in Vanadiel to relive their childhoods by eating tasty ricecake treats... As long as that childhood involved wearing a dress... >.>

Screen 3: Nestled deep in the Sanctuary of Zitah, grows the massive Boyhada Tree. 100 Screenshots could not hope to capture all of its pristine majesty.

Screen 4: 'Turn off, darn you!' This image is actually of a stone tablet housing an earth shard. It's located in a secret nook out in the middle of Altepa Desert.

Sreen 5: Dusk in Bibiki Bay.

Screen 6: Xarcabard's Northern Lights are arguably some of the most breathtaking visuals in Vanadiel.

Screen 7: Take THAT!! The devious monsters prowling Promyvion prove little challenge to my team of trusty friends.

Screen 8: Standing in a corner. This is a pic of me shielding my delicate eyes from the ugly lagfest that is Ro'Maeve. If it weren't for the Hall of the Gods, I doubt anyone would ever go there...

Follow the examples of these two fine gamers and send me your screens!

  Readers Speak

I'm gonna save letters for next week. Write in about that Sony Online Store. That should be a fairly hot issue for a while.

 Log Out

So, if you feel like emailing and don't have a topic of your own, I'll give you some choices: story number one and story number two. What do you think of the way the team at Monolith handled its mistake?

Another possible letters topic could be the Sony Station Exchange. Good? Bad? Morally wrong? Just right? Should it/will it spread to other games? Express yourself. And while you do, I'm going to express myself by walking outside and knocking a basketball out of some kid's hands and tossing it in the nearby river. That'll teach him to wake me up on a Saturday morning.

Maybe Heath Hindman is just mad because there was an error on the flyers people were handing out at school. They said Signal Home was going to be playing on the 22nd, when in fact they played on the 15th. Thanks, guys. Thanks for walking me into Bummer of the Month.

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