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As the Worlds Turn

As the Worlds Turn: Birth of a New Era

Business Models, Game Mechanics, PvP, Opinion, As the Worlds Turn

It is a great time to be a MMO gamer. We have a catalogue of spectacular games readily available that can satisfy any gaming palate. Granted, some gems shine brighter than others but there is no doubt that it is indeed a good time to be a fan of MMO games.

But, as the song goes, "the times, they are a changin'". Not only are we being presented with shiny, new games with graphical muscle enough to conquer small countries but we are also blessed with new gameplay mechanics designed to streamline and enhance our gaming experience.

Are we witnessing the birth of a new era? Or will we talk about the failed gaming revolution of 2008?

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As the Worlds Turn: Our Inheritance

Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, As the Worlds Turn

Ask any gamer, hardcore, softcore, nerdcore ... whatever, if they have a particular game in their gaming history that holds a special place in their heart. Their eyes might swell with tears as they wax romantic over the joys, perils, challenges and victories of their beloved game from days gone by. Then they'll stare off into space as their mind swims in fond memories. Maybe not but you get the picture. Most of us have a special game from our past. For me, and for many out there, that game was Diablo II.

I could go on and write an entire piece dedicated to the grandfather of action RPGs. It was and still is that good. Wait ... still is? The game is nearly eight years old and still finds relevance in today's crowded, over-hyped, multi-billion dollar gaming industry full of failed blockbusters and strange game announcements? How can this be? I'll tell you why: Diablo II presented a game full of refined mechanics and gameplay that is still being used today and while it wasn't a true MMO, many of those conventions are used in modern-day MMO development. The mechanics were good but after eight years can some refinement and advancement be too much to ask? As much as I loved, and still love, Diablo II, I'm also anxious to move on.

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As the Worlds Turn: Get your fix

Events (Real-World), MMO Industry, Opinion, Politics, As the Worlds Turn

My therapist keeps telling me video games are addicting. She says they provide brain stimulation very similar to narcotics or a very productive afternoon of watching the home shopping network. They will grab hold of your very soul and whisper vile thoughts straight to your subconscious telling you things like 'Forget the garbage, it can take itself out' or 'Shower? Who needs a shower?'

I'm just kidding. I don't have a therapist.

I do wonder, however, about this draw, this interest that turns to desire. With so many games out there, presenting different worlds, different rules, different ways to play, what is it that grabs hold of players and, for some, doesn't let go? One thing is certain: it grabs hold of both male and female gamers. The big question we hear often today is "Are video games addicting?" We're probably not going to definitively answer this question but we'll have fun laughing at doctors and crazy politicians along the way!

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As the Worlds Turn: What if?

Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, As the Worlds Turn

Richard Garriott did it. A critically acclaimed game designer, whose previous modus operandi regulated itself to PC and console games, created a successful MMO in a market overshadowed by Thrall and Co. Some say that his only claim to fame is the Ultima series but then again, those that say such things, their only claim to fame is a blog read by their mother and a few old college buddies.

Big names attaching themselves to MMO projects are becoming commonplace. With 38 Studios making the news and podcasts these days, with starry-eyed fanboys salivating over visions of Drizzt vs. Spawn in an MMO that may or may not contain baseball, one wonders: who else might throw their hat into the MMO ring? Of course, each such entry runs the risk of the 800-pound gorilla, with epic gear, stomping it into oblivion.

But what if ...

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As the Worlds Turn: Ramblings of a mad man

Game Mechanics, Opinion, As the Worlds Turn

In case you missed it while madly dashing about for your festive hat, 2008 has arrived. Since it is the New Year, we have all seen the articles making predictions and projections of what is to come in the following months. Some of these articles are great while others seem lacking. My problem with all of them is that they are too firmly grounded in reality.

That's about to change.

Several hours of sleep depravation, a couple candy bars, and the last few drops of that glorious orange liquid called "Game Fuel" have lead to the following list of wishes that I would like to see granted in the next 12 months. So, game companies, get out your barbed whips and chain your developers to their desks! You've got a lot of work ahead of you.

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As the Worlds Turn: Learning from the past

Game Mechanics, As the Worlds Turn

2007, by some accounts, has been one of the best years for video games ever. While most would think of the tremendous console releases, MMOs have also seen their fair share of greatness. However, as the saying goes, you can't win them all.

We're going to take a look back at 2007 at some of the higher, and lower, points in MMOs and game development. New Year's is over, so take some aspirin, get yourself a stiff cup of coffee and take a brief stroll through MMO memory lane.

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As the Worlds Turn: Land of the Free

World of Warcraft, ArchLord, Dungeon Runners, Game Mechanics, RF Online, Free-to-Play, As the Worlds Turn

Free. Everyone likes things that are free. Well, except when it involves a free kick to the twig and berries. These days, free things are often accompanied by plenty of small-type that make it anything but free. Requiring you to sever a limb or to sign over half of your first born does not constitute free. However, there has been a glut of free-to-play MMOs emerging on the market. Some of these have been around for a while that somehow lost the desire to charge people and others have come out of the gate with no fees like a naked hippy at an outdoor music festival.

What I'd like to do this week is take a look at some free-to-play games and see what they have to offer in the realm of game design and development. If you're looking for a review or a first-impression on any of these games, you're in the wrong place. There are far more capable people than I who can do just that. So put the wallet away, we're about to go free ... just keep the clothes on.

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As the Worlds Turn: Neverending Stories

World of Warcraft, ArchLord, Guild Wars, Lord of the Rings Online, Lore, MMO Industry, Opinion, As the Worlds Turn

Ugly Horse!

Imagine, if you will, the following: In a dimly lit boardroom, a collection of men and women, disheveled and sleep depraved, stare blankly at a room filled with wads and scraps of paper. A broad shouldered man sits alone at the head of the table, the only indication he is there is the low red glow of his cigar. Finally someone speaks. "Ok, how about this? There is this ancient evil that lives ... um ... in a castle and ... ah ... there is a good king who lives in another castle and ... he needs heroes to help defeat this big, bad evil king ... dude."

A thick silence falls on the room.

Through a puff of gray smoke, "I love it. Let's pump a couple million into this baby. Let's make sure we set up the billing structure and get me some in-game advertising! Let's roll, people!"

I confess. That might not be entirely accurate but what role does the story play in our lovely MMO games? It serves as the backdrop for all the contextual details of the game but beyond the introduction movie, what importance or what prominence does the story play in MMOs? We're going to look a few of the more popular MMO games out there and how they deliver the backstory. We'll start with the obvious.

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As the Worlds Turn: Gluttons for punishment.

World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings Online, Game Mechanics, Opinion, As the Worlds Turn

image from wowwiki"There you are, brave warrior. Tales of your valorous deeds have spread like wildfire throughout my court and now you stand before me. But as my heart is lifted by your presence, the plight of our people weighs heavily upon my crown. I fear the Borderlands are lost. Ancient enemies hide in the shadows waiting for a mere moment of weakness. But you, you are our light in this darkness. You are the harbinger of peace and better days. The kingdom, the people, needs you to be the hero of which legends are made. But first, I need you to take this bushel of apples to Farmer Poopypants across town. He's going to make me a pie!"


If you've played MMO's for longer than five minutes, chances are you've run into a quest like this one. If it isn't apples for Poopypants it's the letter for Sir I'm-too-lazy-to-go-into-town-to-get-my-own-damn-mail quest. A good number of quests in MMO's range from the silly to the downright ridiculous. But I'm not here to talk about silly quests. That would be a painful endeavor that my intestines aren't up to taking. What I'd like to talk about is why we as players subject ourselves to preposterous quests and other strange, bizarre, and mildly offensive game notions to play our precious MMOs. So, sit back, pop some ibuprofen, crack open your last bottle of GameFuel and prepare yourself. It's going to get ugly.

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As the Worlds Turn: Hey, mom! Look at what I made!

Professions, Opinion, As the Worlds Turn

You've toiled. You've trudged great distances. You've sought out the wisdom of the land's greatest craftsmen in pursuit of perfection in your art. Hours of work have culminated into this precise moment. You have finally done it. You have crafted a hat. Not merely any hat: a red hat. You equip it to your character to see how splendid you look in a finely crafted red hat. You quickly put your helmet back on and sell the hat to the nearest vendor for a paltry handful of copper coins. What was the point?

The desire to craft is easy to understand. The millions of MMO players out there have many different goals but there is one goal that they often share: the desire to be special and unique. I'm not referring to a warm and fuzzy after-school kind of special, either. I'm talking about the coolest gear, the most impressive weapon and the super rare mount. Crafting systems often lead players to believe that they can make cool gear and look different. Unfortunately, it isn't as easy as it sounds.

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