||Summer in Fall
|September 27th, 2009
I hate the Santa Ana winds so freaking much. I miss autumn and falling leaves, and those lovely chilly temperatures. There's just not much call for a wool jacket in California. I still barely wear shorts as it is.
As long as the AC doesn't kick out again, I can stay inside and ignore the heat. At least until I get to visit back home again. So, onto some MMO news.
So, let's begin with Dungeons and Dragons Online: Stormreach. Previously a subscription based MMO, the game went free to play this month (in the US, that is) and renamed itself Dungeons and Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited. Most of the content is now open to all players free of charge. Paying subscribers, called VIPs, get some extra bonuses like having all the races and classes unlocked, having priority on the login queue, and having all the areas and adventure packs available to them. DDO also now has a store to buy in-game items using Turbine points. For the most part, the relaunch seems to have gone well.
But despite this, developer Turbine isn't very happy. On August 24th, Turbine brought down the lawsuit hammer on Atari, one of DDO's publishers. According to the issued compliant, Atari has not been pulling its weight promoting and distributing the game, going all the way back to when the MMO was first released. As Turbine was getting ready to switch the game over to the current free-to-play model, they paid Atari a good chunk of money to both cover royalties owed and "as a good faith advance toward further royalties" so Atari would help support and promote Eberron Unlimited along with Turbine.
Turbine says that while Atari was taking their money and promising to live up to their end of the agreements made, the publisher had been planning for months to try and "threaten to terminate the Agreement in an effort to extort more money from Turbine or, alternately, to free itself from its obligations under the contracts in order to clear the way for the launch of its own competing MMO service based on the D&D' and Advanced D&D@ intellectual properties."
Turbine is suing for "$30 million in losses occasioned by Atari's breach and wrongful conduct." In response, Atari sent a statement to several video game news websites calling Turbine's lawsuit "frivolous" and are serving a motion to have it dismissed. Also, "Atari also filed a separate complaint to recover monies owed to Atari resulting from an independent third party audit of Turbine."
Yeesh, messy situation. But most of the players of DDO seem to be rooting for Turbine.
The new contender vying for your hard-earned money every month is Aion, officially released in North America on September 22nd and in Europe on September 25th. It racked up 400,000 preorders, and on September 20th those preorder subscribers were given first crack at the game. Except that many people were stuck in a login queue. And not just for a few minutes. One player snapped a screen shot of his login queue screen and sent it to Kotaku, showing him as number 2994 out of 3188 players waiting to get into the game. And his wait time? 7 hours and 30 minutes.
NCsoft didn't seem to have enough servers to meet all the preorder demands. As Gamers Daily News puts it, with 18 live servers that have a maximum limit of 2000 players, only 36,000 out of the 400,000 preorder players can be in the game at once. But NCsoft is attempting to fix this problem now that the game is live for all. According to an official notice on the Aion website, NCsoft is worried about adding too many new servers at once and having some of them end up sparsely populated. For now, they've increased the number of players each server can hold and are giving North America and Europe more server. As of now, the North American west coast now have the new Fregion server.
Scandal in Eve Online! …Okay, fine, so it's not exactly an unexpected thing to happen in Eve Online. I'd be surprised if a month went by and I didn't hear of some kind of in-game financial turmoil.
Eve Online has a group of players called the Council of Stellar Management. They're elected every six months and serve as representatives of the player base to let the makers of Eve Online know what the fans want. The CSM members get the chance to go to meet with CCP in Iceland to discuss player concerns and to hear about potential game content and ideas.
After one such meeting, a member of the CSM decided to use information he had heard for his own purposes. He began hording items that in some way were going to be influenced by an upcoming game design change. Maybe they would be worth more, or be harder to find. Either way, his insider trading was quickly discovered and all his accounts were banned. Besides breaking the trust given to him by the players who elected him, he also was in violation of the Nondisclosure Agreement CCP had all the CSM members sign. Of course, this player has also stepped down from his position in the CSM.
The newest Eve Chronicle, "A Man of Values and Faith", has been posted for all to read on the Eve Online website.
The 2nd annual Hero-Con has been announced by Paragon Studios. Taking place on October 24th and October 25th in San Jose, California, the convention is a chance for fans of City of Heroes and City of Villians to get together and indulge in two days worth of all things City of Heroes related. There will be panels and events with the game developers, LAN gaming, a banquet dinner, contests, free swag, and more. Tickets for the con are $79.00, so anyone planning to go should buy them now before they sell out. Further details are at the City of Heroes Hero-Con webpage.
The Mission Architect feature in City of Heroes has an interesting new aspect to it -- the Guest Authors program. Now "influential writers and aspiring game or story designers" can partner up with the CoH developers to make missions for the game. The first round of guest authors have already been chosen. One is Rooster Teeth, makers of the Halo machinima Red vs. Blue. They have also created a series of shorts involving CoH featuring Captain Dynamic, who is played by Ed Robertson from the Barenaked Ladies. The other guest author is Scott Kurtz, creator of the online web comic PvP. Personally, I love Red vs. Blue, and am curious enough to want to try the game just to see what they come up with.
City of Heroes has also launched the Issue 6: Power Spectrum update for the game. Players can now aesthetically alter their abilities and add themes to their power sets as well. The character creator has been improved, new difficulty options are available, and each archetype gets more power sets.
I'm not going to lie here. Funcom's Secret World MMO is looking really good to me. Like I might actually be willing to want to pay monthly fees for this. Well, I probably won't, but still. It seems to have that horror atmosphere I adore in my games, and it doesn't have one of those dragon and elves type fantasy worlds for once. Just a nice and gritty modern world. With supernatural monsters. The website has got a little test you can take to see which of the game's 3 factions, or secret societies, as they're called, you would fit into. And by taking the test, you're entered for a chance to get into the beta run. The questions are bit vague, in my opinion. But whatever, it's still kind of fun. And I'm in the Dragon, in case you were wondering.
Trekkies anxious for the upcoming Star Trek Online can dive into the fray early by applying to be in closed beta. Cryptic has a web form up for anybody interested in signing up. Of course, of you're one of the people who grabbed one of the limited 6-month or life-time subscriptions to Champions Online, your spot in the closed beta is already secured.
Issue 15 and Issue 16 of Star Wars: The Old Republic web comic are up for viewing.
World of Warcraft players are now allowed to switch their current characters' factions. Horde members can defect over to the Alliance, and vice versa. The service costs $30 for one character faction switch. A faction switched character can also be re-customized, renamed, and be changed to a different race (as long as the new race chosen is compatible with your character's class). And if you regret the decision, you can always go back to your original faction and race. But it'll cost you another $30. There's a good FAQ about the details on the World of Warcraft website, as well as a table showing just how your character data will be affected.
Patch 3.2.2 went live in WoW on September 22nd, and it marked the return of the Brood Mother, Onyxia. Players can take on the challenge of defeating this level eighty raid in 10- and 25- groups. Some players will be lucky enough to earn a special mount called the Brood of Onyxia.
With the new Cataclysm expansion coming to WoW, Blizzard has added a Cataclysm section to their WoW forums for people to discuss anything related to the newest expansion.
Brewfest is currently running in WoW. The festival goes until October 4th and has several special events and quests to participate in. Players can earn tokens during Brewfest to trade in for prizes. There's drinking, racing, and fighting (drunk or otherwise) to be had. You can even buy yourself a Brewfest T-shirt for $17.99-$19.99. Unfortunately, if you are a European WoW player, there are two quests completed while drunk that you will not have access to. According to Blizzard, "The Brewfest quests 'Pink Elekks On Parade' and 'Catch the Wild Wolpertinger!' were removed to ensure that World of Warcraft contains content that complies with regional game rating requirements." Yeah, there's people who are not too happy about that.
Because of the long wait times to get into Aion, players have been abusing the Private Store system. By opening a private store in the game, players can avoid being spotted as idle, so they can stay in the game and not get stuck in the login queues when they reenter the game. NCsoft is now adding a 30 minute time limit to the Private Stores.
The EA Store is running a special promotion for Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. The price of the direct download version of the game has been reduced to $13.36 for a limited time, which includes 30 free days of playtime. It's uncertain how long this deal will be up, so prospective players should jump on this as soon as possible.
Ultima Online has it's newest expansion available for purchase. Stygian Abyss can be bought as a digital download from both the EA Store and UO GameCodes. The highlight of the new content is the new gargoyles race, along with a new area and new dungeon. Players who purchase the expansion before September 29th will receive an exclusive craftable gargoyle pet, three alteration tokens to turn any current characters into a gargoyle, and three tokens so you can unlock "one of five decorative Stygian Abyss mob boss statues."
September 25th-October 5th, Final Fantasy XI's Buffalo Blitz event will have buffalo running wild in different areas of Vana'diel. But no, you're not supposed to kill them. Moogles are waiting for you to herd the roving beasts to them, after which you will be rewarded for your work.
Champions Online also had a bit of a shaky start when it was released earlier this month. Despite that, the new superhero MMORPG seems to be garnering fairly positive feedback through the net. And Champions Online has teamed up with two popular video game/entertainment sites to hold special contests. And you don't have to be playing the game to enter.
First, IGN.com has the Create-a-Character contest. It doesn't cost anything to enter, but you will have to register with Cryptic and download Champion Online's character creator application. You can create up to five characters to be submitted by September 29th. The grand prize winner will get a Scion XB and will see their character featured in Champions Online.
Next, one of my personal favorite sites, The Escapist, is holding a simpler contest. Register for free to be a member of The Escapist community, then go to the contest page and put in your mailing information by September 30th. Five winners will be chosen randomly to win a Champions Online Limited Edition Package.
For those of you who have ventured into Champions Online, a PDF game manual is now available for download from Cryptic Studios.
Matrix Online joined Tabula Rasa in the MMORPG graveyard when the game was officially shut down back in August. Sony Online Entertainment has compiled a memory book of the game's run, ranging from player experiences and fansites to pictures from the MMO's pre-shutdown event. There's a more graphic intensive "red pill" version of the book and a printable "blue pill" version.
The Ancient Heroes update went live in Everquest on September 15th. There's the usual tweaks and fixes, and interesting new missions that allow players to turn into "a character built to mimic the classic EQ experience before even the lands of Kunark had been discovered."
Meanwhile, Everquest's younger sibling, Everquest II, also has a new update that kicked in on September 23rd. Shards of Destiny brings a new achievement system, the new Miragul's Planar Shard raid zone, the Teleportation Spires event, and player houses get an extra room. And a bunch of the usual games tweaks, obviously.
Korean MMORPG Tera Online is being brought over to North America. There is no announced release date, but the official website for the North American version is up and running. There's only information on two races and classes, but there's a few trailers, some in-game shots, wallpapers, and nice looking concept art. Since it doesn't seem to be going free-to-play, it's hard to say how this game will fare in a MMO environment that not only has WoW, but newly released Aion as well.
As of October 2nd, Webzen will take over operating control of the Archlord servers from Codemasters. A FAQ is available on the forums.
The new Flame Basin area and the Colosseum have been added to Neo Steam: The Shattered Continent.
Play in the Dragonica Online (US version) Loot Hunt until October 27th for a chance to win a trip to Korea, gadgets, or game-related prizes. Those wanting to participate must first sign up.
The Elven Prophecy, Chapter II of Runes of Magic, has gone live. The game now has a player base of 1.9 million subscribers. The new Aotulia Volcano zone is now open as well. Also, a new PvP mode called Visdun Fortress is live. And finally, there is a short story contest being held until October 8th.
World of Kung Fu has opened its newest server, Silver Wolf. To mark the occasion, players in this server will get rewards just for hitting certain levels until October 13th. Also, a Forging Boost event will be taking place every Sunday until October 11th.
The open beta for Ran Online started on September 23rd.
R.O.H.A.N.: Blood Feud has gained one million players. Also, five of the servers have been combined to make two servers, and a new server called Tempest was opened.
Conquer Online is holding a contest until October 8th for players to send in videos demonstrating kung fu moves.
Hello Kitty Online has begun its closed beta run.
Free Realms' Trading Card Game released its newest expansion, Shattered Past. Also, Free Realms hits the five million users mark.
The closed beta for Dragon's Oath began on September 24th.
Jade Dynasty opened Wildlands, its first PvP only server.
HolyBeast Online launched a massive update, raising the level cap and adding several new areas.
CABAL Online Europe has released the Siena the Queen expansion.
The new server Dawning has been opened on Magic World Online.
Maple Story Europe is holding its own Oktoberfest until October 7th.
Dungeon Runners will be shutting down on January 1st, 2010.
The new version update for Angels Online brings the Rabbit and Wolf on Mid-Autumn Day event and a new PK server.
Phoenix Dynasty Online's newest expansion, Rise of Kingjow, has gone live.
The new patch for Atlantica Online brings new dungeons, raises the level cap, and introduces a new mercenary.
Soul of the Ultimate Nation will be holding its Ultimate Hero leveling contest until October 5th.
Nida Online has begun its open beta stage.
Signups for the closed beta of Bright Shadow will be open until September 30th.
Bounty Bay Online will be holding a series of in-game events beginning in October.
Red Cliff's closed beta will run until October 12th.
White Magic and Holy Shotguns
I hope it's a holy shotgun. It makes the game that much cooler for me. Anyhow, here's a cinematic trailer for the upcoming MMO Secret World.
Nothing this time. I've got three or four new MMOs I'm eyeing, so I want to make sure I play them for a good chunk of time before writing about them.
Alright, that's all. I'm expecting to revamp this column, so hopefully things will be different and better next time. Later!
Sarah Williams (Feed me mail!)