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Kids

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!]

Veteran developer Kirk Black Kickstarting new kid-safe MMO

Trailers, Video, MMO Industry, New Titles, News Items, Kids, Family

Veteran developer Kirk Black Kickstarting new kidsafe MMO
Oftentimes, Kickstarter is used by developers trying to break into MMOs. In the case of Enspira Online, however, it's a 20-year industry vet looking to bring his project to the market. Kirk "Runesabre" Black -- known for his roles as lead engineer and producer of Ultima Online, lead dev on Star Wars Galaxies, and more -- has been creating a non-violent, kid-safe game geared for the younger MMO players.

Players in Enspira Online are challenged with reviving and tending the magnificent gardens of the Gnomes, who have been imprisoned by spiders. On top of this, players can build personal islands, own a home, and explore the world by boat for more adventures. Black's goal is to provide a vehicle for kids to experience and learn valuable life lessons like helping others in need and investing in themselves while having fun in game.

Enspira Online is currently in internal alpha testing, and the Kickstarter campaign is to facilitate closed beta. For a look at the game, check out the video after the break.

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Massively does Geek Week: A few minutes of free in MMORPGs

Video, Business Models, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Previews, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Browser, Hands-On, Casual, MMOFPS, Humor, Events (Massively's Coverage), Kids, Miscellaneous, Sandbox

A Few Minutes of Free in MMORPGs
As MMO players, we know all about being geeks; we're the geekiest video gamers around! Join in the fun today as we celebrate Google's Geek Week with a series of MMO-flavored videos to introduce fellow geeks to our favorite games: Guild Wars 2, SWTOR, The Secret World, and more!

Massively's Beau is fond of many MMOs but has a soft place in his heart for free-to-play indie MMOs. He's conjured up a video in honor of Geek Week to list nine of his favorites to give you something new to try -- something possibly outside your MMO comfort zone! Some require a download and a beefier computer, but most of his offerings could be played on the most basic laptop, so no one's left out. There's even something on his list for gamers of all ages, whether you're a kid of 8 years or 80. Spend a few minutes in free MMORPGs with Beau after the cut!

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MMO Family: Free Realms and Clone Wars Adventures at SOE Live

Free-to-Play, Free Realms, Events (Massively's Coverage), Kids, MMO Family, Family

MMO Family  Catching up with Free Realms and Clone Wars Adventures at SOE Live
While we've heard lots of news this past weekend about SOE's lineup of titles for the adult audience, there's an ever growing presence of children at the convention thanks to the popularity of Free Realms and Clone Wars Adventures. They might not have as many years of experience gaming as the "grown-up" crowd, but they still had lots of questions and insight to share with the developers of both games. To meet that demand, there were two panels for SOE's kid-friendly MMOs; one focused on the art of the games, while the other talked about some of the ways that the team designs their games around a younger audience. And there was some exciting news about what's planned for the future as well. Read on for the highlights!

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MMO Family: The many ways video games teach children

Kids, MMO Family, Family, Miscellaneous

MMO Family  The many ways video games teach children
Video games get a bad rap these days, but we've looked at several ways that they do redeem themselves. One area in particular is games-based learning, and there are some great games that are helping bring about a revolution in how we look at education.

But there are some more subtle ways that video games are teaching our children, too, and Forbes Contributing Editor Jordan Shapiro has put together a list of five types of learning through video games, regardless of whether a child is playing a serious game or is just putzing around. Let's look at the "other" side of learning through gaming, and see how it's perfectly tailored towards kid-friendly MMO experiences.

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Check out a day in the life of a KingsIsle artist

Fantasy, Screenshots, MMO Industry, Free-to-Play, Kids, Family, Pirate101

Check out a day in the life of a KingsIsle artist
What's it like to be an artist working on one of the more visually imaginative MMOs out there? Just ask Melissa Preston, the art lead for Pirate101 who wrote an article looking at what a typical day entails in her job.

She says that one of her favorite parts of the day is reviewing the art book to see progress being made: "All of the pieces have to work together to tell a story and they need to be believable in the same world."

Much of Preston's job is coordinating between departments and her own team to make sure that everything syncs up. She also provides a few pieces of concept art with explanation as to the stories behind each. It's an interesting job that doesn't always get the spotlight in the way that other developer positions do, so check it out and learn a thing or two about what artists do for MMOs!

MMO Family: Can gaming boost kids' physical activity?

Opinion, Kids, MMO Family, Family, Miscellaneous

MMO Family  Can gaming boost kids' physical activity
One of the main concerns that parents have about their children's video game playtime is that it can correlate with inactivity, obesity, and a lack of interest in getting off the couch and doing things. And with reports coming out that sitting is the new smoking, they have good reason to be worried. As video games get more and more mainstream and the couch gets used more and more, young children could start to look like those passengers on the AXIOM in Wall-E.

But a recent study by Australian researchers featured in the British Medical Journal may shed a ray of optimism that video games can, in fact, offer opportunities for physical activity after all. Is there hope that younger gamers can avoid a sedentary existence as they grow up? Let's take a look in this week's MMO Family.

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MMO Family: Setting screen time limits this summer

Opinion, Kids, MMO Family, Family, Miscellaneous

MMO Family  Setting screen time limits this summer
As June comes to a close, throngs of school children are free from "pencils, books, and teacher's dirty looks." But the end of school can bring a new problem, as parents and kids battle it out to to determine acceptable limits on game time.

How can parents set limits on screen time and still preserve some sense of sanity this summer? Let's look at a few pieces of valuable advice in this week's MMO Family.

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