Reggae Death Squad Interview I Anarchy Online Gets All Talky I Matrix Online Blows Me Off I What About EverQuest II? I Final Fantasy XI Newskabob I Patch Notes I Media Place I Freakin' Hot Rena Tanaka Picture of the Week
Issue #43 Reggae Death Squad Reunion Tour July 30, 2005

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It's hard to write a column and pay attention to the NHL draft at the same time. Also, one of my two favorite teams got Crosby. Ha! I win!

In other news, I suck at writing intros now. Remember when they used to be kinda decent? Like the one where I challenged Manu Ginobli to a fight? Yeah, those were good times, but since then I only ever come up with catchy openings when I'm like, at work or something. Then I forget them. Sorry.

Anyway, I got a lot some emails expressing appreciation for posting sweet MMO videos here, so I guess I'll hook you up with this video tour of Hyjal, an area of World of Warcraft still in testing. Enjoy.

 Reggae Death Squad Talks WoW

So while I was in New York--only for a matter of hours, mind you--I still found a way to kick all your faces with hard-hitting journalism. I tracked down and interviewed two head honchos in a World of Warcraft guild. I don't play that game, so some of this was from the perspective of trying to get in their heads, and some was asking about what needs to improve (because I can't say of myself). Here's what went down.

Badass Journalist, Me: There have been several changes recently, but in every MMO, there always seems to be some long-lasting problem. What needs to change in WoW?
Reggae Death Squad, Cory: ...There's nothing really glaring or awful that makes me want to gouge my eyes or anything. I mean some classes are more powerful than others, which can piss me off I guess.
Reggae Death Squad, Darren:I have to agree with Cory on the class balance issue. Most of the classes are pretty balanced, but for some reason they decided to throw the class of shaman EVERY ABILITY IN THE DAMN GAME. They can heal, they can melee, they do decent damage with magic, they can rez themselves, and on top of that they can drop totems that can [screw] you up in a thousand different ways. Ask anybody what the drawback of being a shaman is and the only thing anybody can come up with is that they aren't very efficient with their mana. Yea, that really seems to hurt them when they're killing me thousands of times a day. Besides that issue, there really is nothing horribly awful. More endgame content is going to be needed, although I have personally not experienced much of it myself yet.

Me: Similar topic, What features does the next expansion need to have?
(RDS) Darren: The weird thing about WoW is that it's entirely based on the idea of two warring factions...yet they actually don't force you to have any sort of war with the other side. Sure, the Alliance and Horde battle in the new Battlegrounds and around the random land...but there is never any significance to the fights. I don't play many MMO's and never really have, but I hear in some games like Dark Age of Camelot there is actually relics or important items the two warring sides try to obtain and defend in order to "win" or have an advantage. It just seems like for a game based on war, it's a lot more of just the random "Hey, there's a horde/alliance guy...let's kill him" mentality.
Me: Yeah, DAoC has "Keeps" and things like that in its Realm vs. Realm combat. It's a lot of fun and adds some depth to the PvP. I gather this is what you're talking about?
(RDS) Darren: Exactly. There just needs to be more of a purpose to the whole idea of the warring factions other then randomly killing both sides. Battlegrounds started this, to an extent, needs to be built upon in the non-instanced part of the world.
(RDS) Cory: I'd agree with that. I think a set up where maybe you get a quest to kill so many PVP enemies of a certain level? I've heard of both sides fighting for territories. Like the Horde could conquer Southshore for a bit. Alliance could conquer Tarren Mill, etc. I'd also like to see more incentive for people to play Horde. WAY too many Alliance players compared to Horde. I say give Horde a hot chick race. Alliance has cute Human females and NE chicks, give the Horde some eye candy and I think a few more would go that way. Sounds weird but it'd work.

Me: Related Question - What/Who *really* needs hit with the Nerf Bat?
(RDS) Cory: Shamans. Crap, this is a class that can literally walk on water and do anything any other class can. Some say paladins are overpowered but how can a class that can't do any damage be overpowered? Yeah they're tough to kill but they also take an hour to kill anything. I'm also noticing shadow specced priests are being called overpowered, but I don't see the big deal. Nobody at endgame wants a shadow priest anyways.
(RDS) Darren: Well, I already smacked shamans with my own personal nerf bat, and with that being said, there is really a decent amount of class balance in the game overall. Sure, you have classes that can just destroy other classes, but that's to be expected in certain situations. Like, rogues can generally destroy casters, where as priests are about the only class who can effectively fight shamans. There are a lot of good matchups between classes in all honesty.

Me: Why do you play WoW instead of something else like, say, A3?
(RDS) Cory: For one, I always wanted to at least give an MMO a shot. I just knew they were all a bit hardcore for me and my schedule. WOW is less hardcore and more player friendly so I don't have to dedicate 18 hours a day to it. I can play it on my lunch break or for an entire weekend. And all my friends were getting it. I'm a sucker for peer pressure.
(RDS) Darren: I dabbled in some text based RPG when I was a kid, Gemstone 3. I got bored with that after awhile and never really went back into MMOs, but my friends all started talking about getting World of Warcraft so I jumped on the bandwagon and have been hooked since. I really don't have much of a desire to play any other MMO on the market at this point, but who knows, that could change in the future.

Me: Good answer. A3 sucks anyway. Believe me, you don't want any piece of that. Anyway, we talked about classes that need nerfed, what about classes that might already have it bad?
(RDS) Cory: I feel bad for warlocks. Their class is buggy and they're rather weak. Crappy armor and no real way to escape combat like most classes have. They could use some help. Hunters are buggy too but they annoy the hell out of me so I don't feel bad for them.
(RDS) Darren: Yeah, warlocks have no armor, no way to escape, and on top of that they have to farm their own reagents to do just about anything in the game...then when they obtain those reagents, they have to store them in their soul shard to one bag space. They're kind of like a battering ram in PVP, though they are quite useful in PVE. Paladins could use a little more DPS, and hunters could use their bugs fixed, like Cory said, but it's nothing that really cripples any class in the game.

Me: Are you guys in one guild, or are there several you frequent?
(RDS) Darren: We started out in a guild with mostly real life friends or people we knew by association known as the Reggae Death Squad. We were, to use a term I hate, noobs to the extreme. Once we figured things out we still managed to get by with the four or five of us in most of the instances in the game, despite the fact we had a messed up balance of classes. There comes a point for I think every player in WoW though when they realize towards hitting level 60 that they're going to need a much bigger group of people to roll with in order to accomplish anything in the mostly 10 or 15 man dungeons of the game, not even counting Molten Core which requires a solid 40 people. Finding random people to group with you gets old after quite a while, and you're usually stuck with some idiot who has no clue how to play his class. We've floated around in a few larger guilds, but situations with guild politics and other issues have forced our departure in a few cases. I personally am still looking for the right guild, and we've all kind of gone our separate ways at different times, but regardless of the guild tag under our name there is always an unspoken bond between all of us from the Reggae Death Squad.
(RDS) Cory: Yeah I was all about the Reggae Death Squad until like level 55. Then we had to join up with bigger guilds. It's necessary but it sucks. They all have these ultra hardcore attitudes and try to demand a lot of your time just for them. I never really liked it but I do like getting into groups. It's the way things go there I guess. There's 5 or 6 of us that have hung on the same server since level 1 and we're always loyal to each other but realistically it's hard for us all to stick together guild wise with all the politics that take place in these settings. It's really ridiculous at times *shrug*.

Me: If you had to predict here and now, how long do you see yourself playing World of Warcraft?
(RDS) Cory: I can't see myself just walking away from the game. But right now things are cool. If something in real life came up, obviously I'd have to quit. For now, I plan to stick with it as long as I can. With the constantly evolving nature of the game it's hard to just walk away. It's quite addicting.
(RDS) Darren: I don't see myself stepping away anytime soon, though I'm sure at some point play time will decrease a great bit. There is still a lot I'd like to experience in the game, and when you get bored with one class you can always roll another character or try the other faction. There's still a lot to experience.

Me: After that, do you think you'll move on to another MMORPG, or is it too early to say?
(RDS) Cory: Hard to tell. I guess it'd have to have the same appeal as WOW. I really don't have time to dedicate many hours every day to an MMO. I like the lax attitude and I understand purists would hate me for that attitude but that's just how I roll. If a game can still reward me for only playing after I'm done with work and school, then why not. I wouldn't count anything out.
(RDS) Darren: I've looked at a few of the other MMOs but never really thought about playing them honestly. Once you get so immersed in one game it's kinda hard just to drop it and play another, but I wouldn't rule out the possibility somewhere along the line of me picking up another game. It would really have to pique my interest though to take me away from WoW at this point.

Me: I see you play on a PvP server. Ever dabbled elsewhere? Why or why not?
(RDS) Cory: Ha, yeah I'll let Darren tell the BurtReynolds story, but needless to say we've dabbled in role playing servers just enough to piss people off while not getting reported. The orc warlock and warrior combo of Garybusey and Keanureeves may or may not have raided an RP server recently. I can't say for sure.
(RDS) Darren: It's true, a few times late at night I've been the guy who goes on an RP server just to annoy people for a bit. Yelling "Dost thou watch Evening Shade?!" or "Hast thou seen my classic movie Cop and a Half?!" on a level 1 troll shaman has a certain comedic appeal until you get assaulted with threats of the RPers reporting you. I've kinda stepped back from that a bit. The real reason I play on PVP server is just that it seems a bit ridiculous realistically to play on PVE. Me and another guy were talking one day in game, and we were thinking how ridiculous it would be for an Alliance character and a Horde character on a PVE server to just walk up to each other in the woods and...chill out. The whole concept of the game is warring factions, seems weird that even if you aren't a hardcore PVPer or anything, you couldn't even attack the other side unless they wanted to attack you as well.

Me: One final question. You've got some level 60 (max) characters. With that said, do you feel you've seen pretty much all the game has to offer? What keeps up the lasting appeal?
(RDS) Cory: I have a 60 paladin and I'd be lying if I said I don't sort of regret it. I mean it's not a bad or weak class. It just gets rather boring. So I rolled a couple different alts in hopes of keeping things fresh, and it worked. But as of late I've gone back to the paladin with a new perspective and found it much more enjoyable. I have never gone to Molten Core so I definitely have plenty to see and experience in the game, in spite of my nonchalant attitude towards endgame content. I really feel that as long as I have friends both in real life and through the game with me, there's no reason to really drop the game. That's the best part of the game. That with the new content gives me no reason to leave any time soon.
(RDS) Darren: Personally I have a 60 rogue who has done most of the endgame content, with the exception of Molten Core. I've just started to get into that, and I hope to someday get into Blackwing Lair. However, I decided awhile back to roll a mage as well on the server, partly due to the overpopulation of rogues and partly because I just wanted a new perspective on the game. It's fun running a dungeon you ran as one class and seeing what the different responsibilities are for another. They've been adding much more new content lately, and as long as they continue to I'll stick around.

Mad props to Cory and Darren for letting me distract them from their game long enough to educate myself about it. And seriously, that's how this meeting was; I think I showed up on some kind of event day or something. The two of them had been logged into WoW before I presented my questions. Then I took a nap while they played it some more.

In case you missed it above, here's a video tour of Hyjal, an area not yet available to the World of Warcraft community.

 Anarchy Online Gets All Talky

Funcom, developer and publisher of Anarchy Online, is further enriching its relationship with Massive Incorporated, with whom the company created the world's first video game advertising network. According to a press release dated July 25, Funcom is now offering dynamically delivered video ads in Anarchy Online--a step more advanced than the simple billboards that were already around.

The video and audio ads start playing on billboards or other appropriate locations when gamers enter select areas or zones within the game. These dynamically deliver television equivalent 15-second advertising spots as well as audio messaging. Funcom claims that these ads do not increase latency, interrupt gameplay or gather personal information from players. Like the prior advertisements, those opting for the entirely free version of Anarchy Online will see the videos as a natural part of the city environments, while paying subscribers may opt in to view the content. The first video ads were unveiled to players at the four year anniversary for Anarchy Online in June, and brought fictional video advertisements from the warring factions in the game.

"The visions we have had for Anarchy Online have been given a boost by this technology and the years ahead are now looking more promising than ever before." said Trond Aas, CEO of Funcom. "We are once again first in bringing a great new innovation to the market, and by combining what players desire with what we need and what advertisers are requesting we are opening more doors of opportunity for us all. The high professionalism of Massive Incorporated, mixed with our own unique design and technology implementation, have made the advertisements a hit with the Anarchy Online population. Now we set our eyes towards the next ad evolution and Funcom is naturally pleased to be a driving force behind this innovation."

 Matrix Online Blows Me Off

In an official newsletter that I apparently don't get anymore and have to ask other staff members to forward to me (thanks, Phil), Monolith announced that The Matrix Online worlds are about to be put in a big ol' blender. That is to say, the developers will be merging the nine current worlds into three new worlds. One world will be Hostile while the other two will run under normal PvP rules. Here's how it will all go down:

Enumerator, Heuristic, Input -> Hostile World
Method, Regression, Iterator -> Normal World
Proxy, Linenoise, Output -> Normal World

The company then said, "In conjunction with the world merge, we'll be providing players with a total of three character slots on each new world. If you have characters on more than one of the merging worlds, they will all be transferred to the applicable new world. If you had fewer than three existing characters, you'll have open slots to create brand new characters. When you log-in after the merge takes place, you'll be able to select which character you'd like to use on any world. You can also select an empty slot to create a new character."

In a neat move for interaction, the community is being given the opportunity to vote on the names of the new worlds. Check this forum thread for details.

 What About EverQuest II?

For a limited time only, EverQuest II players can grab their characters, pack up their crap, and move from a regular server to a Station Exchange server at no cost. This promotion ends August 3, though, so if it's been on your mind, you should probably make a decision. You know what happens to people who snooze, right? They don't buy/sell things on Station Exchange servers. Wait, I messed that up.

In other news, check this out. Sony Online Entertainment is holding a contest to see who in the US looks most like the EverQuest II cover girl, Antonia Bayle. The competition has been going on for a while, and it's all come down to five finalists. A winner will be crowned in Las Vegas during "Casino Weekend 4" after a mini-pageant sponsored by popular T&A magazine Stuff. This all goes down August 12 and 13. The winner comes off with a one-year modeling contract with SOE as well as what will surely be a revealing pictorial in Stuff.

As finalist Holly Weber put it, "This would finally be a great opportunity to combine my modeling and finely honed fighting skills. Plus Antonia gets to wear sexy, skimpy outfits which is one of my favorite pasttimes. :)" It sure is, Holly. It sure is.

 Final Fantasy XI Newskabob

Citizens of Vana'diel are taking part in The Sunbreeze Festival. Fireworks are being sold and swimwear is being sought as part of a special quest. Dig said swimwear on a pair of mithra here.

Second up is the announcement of a new bundle, as is common after any MMORPG releases a couple expansions. On August 16, Final Fantasy XI: The Vana'diel Collection will go on sale (PC only), delivering FFXI and both of its expansion packs for $29.99. The package will also come with a card worth a free music download from "Final Fantasy Tunes" and a buddy pass that lets a friend try the game for 30 days free.

Speaking of music, a new song was added to the game in the last update. As the official site says, "Orchestra music provides the backdrop for Izumi Masuda's beautiful vocals. Ms. Masuda is an accomplished performer, creating a new genre that may only be described as pop-opera, a blend of both styles of music. Only the most resourceful adventurers in Vana'diel will be able to uncover her grand piece." The arrangement is by Naoshi Mizuta, with composition done by Nobuo Uematsu. Listen to a sample here.

 Patch Notes
asheron 2

Turbine has posted a page of kooky lore and stuff to stir up excitement for Asheron's Call 2's upcoming update. Read it.


The Shadowbane Development Section has been updated to reflect what will be included in the August Content Patch, plus a sneak peek at some stuff in store for the longer haul. It's all here.


Ultima Online players are recommended to read over this list of changes to take place in the upcoming publish. Preparations are being made for the release of the Mondain's Legacy. Rightfully so, the UO players are peeing their collective pants.


A new weekly feature will be posted every week on the official Guild Wars site. Much like my occasional "Community Buzz" section, its focus is news from fansites and community activities. The first installment is linked a few sentences ago.

 Media Place

Here's a pack of City of Heroes screens sent in my JC Fan. Captions are below the table, in order left to right, top to bottom.

Screen 1: Shut the cameras off!! Pure Energie can't help but laugh at Kid Frigid's embarrassing disguise.
Screen 2: Evil Tiki alert! Don't let that menacing green smoke or those razor-sharp wooden claws fool you! Wait. They pretty much say it all, don't they..?
Screen 3: Mommy!
Screen 4: Fear the malicious miscreance of the menacing Maestro! Does he remind anyone else of that villain guy from Flash Gordon?
Screen 5: Hey, Octo-dude! Your Krakken's showing... >.>
Screen 6: Crimson Psyche and Crimson Patriot make quite the striking couple in their Matching supergroup outfits. Hey, Patriot! Find your own virtual babe!
Screen 7: The Coliseum truly is a magnificent sight. Kid stares in awe while pondering whether his face will be up there with the other heroes one day...
Screen 8: Lu Xun (retired), master of flames, sprots some far-Eastern garb. Yeah... It's all about the sunglasses.
Screen 9: Kid Frigid can fall asleep anywhere...

Be a hero like JC and Send Screens. And potatos.

  Readers Speak

A long letter with an appropriately serious topic.

No. Just no.


I have a question about stalking in MMORPGs... Recently, I've been playing City of Heroes and while testing out a new archetype, recieved some very disturbing tells. Someone was aparently quite taken with my character model and wanted to know if she was single.

At first, I thought it was simply RP. People flirt with my characters all of the time and I constantly get compliments on their appearance. But... after repeatedly shooting down his advances and even telling him that I was a male, he would not leave me alone...

I ended-up logging out from that character for a week. However, not 5 minutes after I logged back on that character to play again, the person who'd been bothering me before appeared in the zone right next to me... Only this time, he had some very discourteous things to say. :\

I'm not sure if you know, but in City of Hereoes, it's possible to add someoen to your friend list without their permissions and without them even knowing. This means, as long as I play that character, he can find me anywhere and is prompted the second I log in. Sure, it would be simple to just delete the character, but the fact of the matter is this kind of thing has happened to me many times before in online games...

The reason I started playing MMORPGs to begin with is because I am a recluse... I had always been shy in school and found myself the victim of real life stalkers. Those stalkers eventually... assaulted me after school one day and over time, I withdrew completely from normal society. After hearing about MMORPGs, I thought it would be some place I could go to get away from people. That if they couldn't touch me, it would be alright... However, that was not the case.

I've talked to GMs and posted the names of my stalkers in various online forums, but they all have the exact same answer: 'It's your word vs. theirs.' So, there's really nothing they, or I, can do...

It's not right that I should have to change my name and go into hiding every time someone decides they like the way my polygons are put together... And in a world of infinite mules and alternates, there's no way I can blacklist or ban them all... I've tried that, already.

My question is: What should I do? Are there an steps I can take to avoid this besides giving up one of the few things that actually allows me to interact with other people?

I'm already afraid to walk out my own front door... It just isn't fair that I should be afraid to turn on my own computer, as well... :\


"Your word vs. theirs?" What the #### does that even mean? Don't they check the chat logs? Like, look for the evidence? I'd love to see a jury be like "We believe Scott Petersen to be guilty, but come on guys, it's his word vs. Laci's (who is dead), so her family just needs to deal with it."

I thought about this question for a long, long time. I thought "Call customer service," and the usual procedures, but it seems you've done that. Looking at your letter, it looks like you've already taken extensive measures against this, to no avail. Thus, I suggest that this is a problem with City of Heroes. I know this is going to sound painful, but...if this problem goes on, despite all you can do (which would be creating new characters, changing servers, contacting GMs, taking screenshots and posting them all over the internet, and so on) I'd pop the idea of finding a new MMORPG. Don't hate me for the drastic suggestion, but that's the only thing I can think of when all else has failed. If the game had some PvP outside of that arena, this might not be a problem, as you could sic a powerful guild on the offender and *force* him to back off. Too bad that's not the case in that game.

This kind of thing happened to a friend of mine just recently. This guy harassing her just wouldn't take "no" for an answer. When my friend would tell him things like "look, you're making me uncomfortable" and such (you can read the text in the screens), he'd go into private chat and declare his undying love. Ultimately, he claimed to leave and tried to make my friend feel guilty by saying he was going to go cut himself. I told her how to report this stuff and had her take a few screenshots, so as far as I know, the guy isn't a problem anymore. Such tools shouldn't be playing games. I wrote an editorial about this here. This isn't something that should be taken lightly, and it pisses me off when toolshacks ruin the games for other people.

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Let's keep rolling with that harassment thing, cause that's a big bad hot topic. Send letters about it and stuff. Let us discuss and if you have a better idea for the person that wrote in above, please let it be said.

-Heath "The full effect" Hindman

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