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Funcom opens LEGO Minifigures Online beta registration

Betas, Previews, News Items, Kids, Family, Miscellaneous

I guess you can savor the... buildup.
If you still have sleepless nights mourning the loss of LEGO Universe, the announcement of LEGO Minifigures Online was like a ray of sunshine. For that portion of the audience -- and anyone else really looking forward to playing in a brick-based playground -- today's news will be even more welcome. Funcom has opened a registration site for players interested in taking part in the game's beta, with the first phase scheduled to start in... early November. Yes, it is early November right now; we told you it was good news.

The gameplay focus will be familiar to anyone with a love of LEGO toys. Collect minifigures with unique abilities, collect bricks, and build new things to improve your abilities and learn new tricks. Cross-promotions are also planned with bagged minifigures, allowing you to jump in with your collected figures right off the bat. Go ahead and sign up for the beta if this sounds like just your cup of brick-based play.

[Source: Funcom press release]

MMO Family: Good video games or bad mind games?

MMO Industry, Opinion, Kids, MMO Family, Family, Miscellaneous

MMO Family  Good video games, or bad mind games
The video game industry suffers from an uncomfortable balance. On one hand, it's a business, and the best way to make money is to keep players playing. On the other are the methods that go into getting people playing -- and paying. From the bottom-feeding tactics of Zynga's FarmVille to the more subtle methods we see in MMOs through cash shops and microtransactions, studios are employing a variety of mind games to nudge players to open their wallets.

It's one thing to market to adults, who (in theory) are mature enough to make wise decisions on how much to spend on gaming. But kids are a growing percentage of the playerbase and might not be as savvy when it comes to smart spending. NPR took a look at the marketing side of gaming, in an article called How video games are getting inside your head -- and wallet. It raises some meaningful questions about video games and children, which we'll look at in this week's MMO Family.

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Sharks, skulls, and ships: One year of Pirate101

Fantasy, Expansions, PvP, PvE, Free-to-Play, Mac, Kids, Wizard101, Family, Anniversaries, Pirate101, MMORPG

Pirate101 is a strange beast. It is a family-friendly, free-to-play, colorful MMO with silly characters, simple design, and quirky environments. Adventuring in Pirate101 sometimes demands that you investigate the secrets of a city that literally sits on top of a flying whale or that you and your friends (a fencing crab, perhaps, or a sharpshooting fox) leap onto a flaming, flying pirate ship in order to punch sharks in the face and steal their treasure.

Hidden underneath the silliness, however, is a relatively deep turn-based strategy game designed to engage younger gamers while ensuring their adult counterparts have a good time. KingsIsle Entertainment isn't in the business of making kids games; instead, the studio strives to create titles that kids and parents can play together. The success of Pirate101 in its first year demonstrates that KingsIsle might just be on to something.

Let's take a little peek back on the last 12 months of Pirate101 to examine its major milestones.

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Piecing together the details of LEGO Minifigures Online with the Funcom team

Game Mechanics, Interviews, New Titles, PvP, PvE, Kids, Family, Miscellaneous, Player-Generated Content

Piecing together the details of Lego Minifigures Online with the Funcom team
Brick by virtual brick, the team at Funcom has been busy building the upcoming LEGO Minifigures Online. It's been a quiet fall after the big reveal in August at Gamescom, but that doesn't mean the game isn't making progress. Executive Producer Lawrence Poe and Lead Designer Oscar López Lacalle have lots of details to share about the game, and they took the time to answer some questions here at Massively. Read on for a glimpse of the world, the LEGO minifigures themselves, and how this game will appeal to gamers of all ages.

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MMO Family: A cornucopia of kid-friendly Halloween events

Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Super-hero, Events (In-Game), Free-to-Play, Free Realms, Kids, Wizard101, MMO Family, Family, Clone Wars Adventures, Miscellaneous, Pirate101

MMO Family  A cornucopia of kidfriendly Halloween events
Part of the fun of MMOs is the chance to dress up our characters, so it's no surprise that the month of October is a big one for kid-friendly MMOs. There's a plethora of pumpkins, countless costumes, and copious amounts of creepy housing decor. And the vast tonnage of treats available makes those real-life treat bags look minuscule in comparison.

In this week's MMO Family, we've got a roundup of several Halloween celebrations in kid-friendly games. And while most are about the "stuff," there are also several creative contests and events that are worth a look. Get your scare on below!

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Deaf gamer connects, educates through Wizard101

Fantasy, Culture, Free-to-Play, Kids, Wizard101, Family

Deaf gamer connects, educates through Wizard101
Even though she can't hear any of the music or sound effects in the game, Kelsey Fireheart professes a strong love for Wizard101. In a guest post on the KingsIsle blog, Kelsey shares a little of what it's like to be a deaf gamer and why this MMO means so much to her.

Shortly after starting her adventures in the game, Kelsey had a profound encounter: "I remember questing in the Pyramid of the Sun of Krokotopia and I bumped into a fellow wizard named Diana Wildheart. She mentioned that she was deaf, and I gasped in astonishment. I replied, I am deaf too! That's when I realized that I could meet fellow deaf gamers through games like Wizard101."

Kelsey said that this friendship made her realize that MMOs could be used for more than just fun and to educate others about what it's like to be deaf. "This game is a wonderful educational tool that I can use to teach countless others and it gave me a way of communicating with no barriers. In fact, it gave me a greater purpose within the game," she wrote. Kelsey said that the visuals of the game are quite important to her and that she wished sign language would be available as in-game emotes.

MMO Family: Highlights from ROBLOX's Virtual BLOXcon

Free-to-Play, Kids, MMO Family, Family

MMO Family Highlights from ROBLOX's Virtual BLOXcon
MMO conventions are always a good opportunity for fans to meet each other and for developers to solicit input. ROBLOX held a series of BLOXcons over the summer in Chicago, London, and New York City, where thousands of fans were able to get together and celebrate the game. But of course, not everyone can make the trip to a convention, so the company decided to hold a virtual BLOXcon as well. The firm ran a five-hour livestream that included a state of the game speech, new feature announcements, Hall of Fame awards, and gameplay that showcased some of the best creations by ROBLOX fans.

If you missed it, fear not, because this week's MMO Family has a rundown of all the highlights!

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MMO Family: Are kid-friendly MMOs doomed to extinction?

MMO Industry, Opinion, Kids, MMO Family, Family, Miscellaneous

MMO Family  Are kidfriendly MMOs doomed to extinction
Recently, the family-friendly segment of the MMO industry suffered a bit of a blow with the news of Disney's decision to shut down Pirates of the Caribbean Online and Toontown. These were both titles that had been around for years, and both had loyal fanbases. Toontown in particular has been around for about a decade and won several awards through the years. So when the sunsettings were announced, it raised questions about whether kid-friendly games are as successful as publishers might have hoped.

In fact, these aren't the only relatively well-known kids' titles to be shut down over the past year. And while it might be premature to signal the death knell for kid MMOs, it's a good time to do an assessment on what's working and what might be hampering success. In this week's MMO Family, it's time to do a little state of the (kid-friendly) industry.

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Pirate101 begins testing on Mac client

Fantasy, News Items, Free-to-Play, Kids, Family, Pirate101

There are jokes to be made but I leave them for others to make.
A life of adventure on the high seas is the sort of thing that appeals to everyone, even people who choose to buy a Macintosh instead of a Windows computer. That's why Pirate101 is adapting the game to a native Mac client, with the test realm version of the client available now. Players will be able to download and install the game at their leisure, although the new client is not currently hooked up to the live servers.

There's no need to sign up for the testing, but not everyone is eligible. Active members and players who have made at least $6 worth of purchases in the last 30 days may download and try the new client; free-to-play players may not. Still, it's easy to become eligible if you really want to jump into some Mac-based piracy, so you can free your computer from having to run at least one game via Boot Camp.

MMO Family: First impressions of Dreamworks' School of Dragons

Opinion, Free-to-Play, First Impressions, Kids, MMO Family, Family

MMO Family  First impressions of Dreamworks School of Dragons
Who knew that the rough, barren cliffs of Berk could be so popular? The animated film How to Train Your Dragon has blossomed into a hit TV show, two upcoming sequels, and even its very own MMO. The studio behind Jumpstart has teamed up with Dreamworks to create School of Dragons, a kid-friendly MMO that blends in viking adventure, lessons in science, and plenty of fire-breathing dragons.

In this week's MMO Family, I donned my pointy viking helmet and heavy fur cloak to check things out. Read on for my first impressions of the game!

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Funcom announces LEGO Minifigures Online

Trailers, Video, New Titles, News Items, Free-to-Play, Kids, MMORPG

LEGO Minifigures Online
Funcom, the studio behind The Secret World and Age of Conan, has just revealed an all-new MMO by the name of LEGO Minifigures Online. The game, which is due for launch on PC, Android, and iOS in the second half of 2014, is based on LEGO's line of real-world Minifigures toys and will feature worlds and characters showcased in the toy line.

Additionally, new Minifigures toys will include codes for playable in-game versions of the character. There will be roughly 100 characters to collect. The game is aimed at kids, though Funcom is promising "gameplay depth" and "crazy fun" that will appeal to LEGO fans of all ages. According to the trailer, LEGO Minifigures Online will take place in an "epic" world where you'll be able to interact with "thousands of other players."

Here's some PR fluffiness from executive producer Lawrence Poe:
We could not be more excited to be working with LEGO on such a great franchise. I think you could even say the team has been training to make this game since we were little kids. That excitement carries over into everything we do, and we're throwing every ounce of our passion and creativity into the game. We are one hundred percent focused on delivering the fun, safe, quality experience that people expect when they think of LEGO minifigures.
Check out the announcement trailer after the break.

[Source: Funcom press release]

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Wizard101 gives away presents for its birthday

Events (Real-World), News Items, Free-to-Play, Kids, Wizard101, Promotions, Family, Anniversaries

Wizard101 gives away presents for its birthday
Happy birthday Wizard101! Starting today, the magical kid-friendly title celebrates turning five years old by offering gifts to players. Besides a confetti cannon to put in their houses, players will also receive other mystery gifts based on how old their accounts are; the longer you've been a Wizard101 player, the more gifts you'll receive!

But why have a birthday when you can have a birth month? The festivities will continue all through September. Until the 30th, there will be decorations throughout Wizard City and special sales in the Crown Shop. Additionally, five new hairstyles and a brand now mount, the Arcus Cloud, are also available.

MMO Family: MMO trends from kid-friendly game conventions

Opinion, Free Realms, Kids, MMO Family, Family, Clone Wars Adventures

MMO Family MMO trends from kidfriendly game conventions
Summer is convention season, and adults weren't the only ones who got to celebrate their favorite games and talk to the developers who make them. Young fans of Free Realms and Clone Wars Adventures attended panels at SOE Live, while Roblox fans recently wrapped up the third leg of the BLOXcon tour, which was held in Chicago, London, and New York City. And Minecraft fans scooped up tickets to MineCon as soon as they were made available.

Kid-gamers are a force to be reckoned with, and they can be just as passionate about their games as adults. What can we learn from them about trends in MMOs? Let's take a look in this week's MMO Family.

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Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean Online sunsetting in September

Fantasy, MMO Industry, Free-to-Play, Kids, Sunsets

Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean Online sunsetting in September
It looks as though Disney is going on a good old-fashioned reaping today and culling some of its less-profitable MMO properties. In addition to shuttering Toontown Online, the Mouse House is sunsetting Pirates of the Caribbean Online on September 19th.

The official announcement informed players today of the sad news and explained the decision to cancel this title: "The Walt Disney Company is committed to offering high-quality, entertaining play experiences in both online virtual worlds and mobile apps. At this time, we are shifting our development focus towards other online and mobile play experiences, such as Club Penguin and a growing selection of Disney mobile apps."

The upshot of this is that the final month will be playable for free to anyone interested, and any players who paid up past August 20th will receive an email with details regarding refunds.

Disney's Toontown closing on September 19

MMO Industry, News Items, Kids, Family

Disney Toontown closing next month
Disney's Toontown Online is closing up shop on September 19th. As of August 20th, paid member accounts will no longer feature recurring charges, and memberships are no longer available for purchase. Disney says that all Toons may now play as members for free through the game's closing date.

The announcement post also hints at "Toontastic activities and kooky celebrations" on tap for the title's final month.

[Thanks Master Von SuperJinks!]

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