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Toontown Online

MMO Family: A parent's look at Toontown Online

Toontown Online, Kids, MMO Family

MMO Family is your resource for leveling a gaming-specced family ... From tips on balancing gaming with family life to finding age-appropriate niches for every family member, MMO Family offers you advice on MMO gaming of the family, by the family and for the family.

Kids may not even realize they're playing an MMO (you know, one of those games that Mom and Dad talk about all the time and play after bedtime) when they log in to Toontown Online. All the traditional elements are there -- missions, combat, grouping, pets -- but they're all couched in the incomparable cartoon stylings of Disney. In fact, "couched" is probably the most apt descriptor possible, because Toontown is familiar and welcoming, just like that cozy couch you've been nestling into to watch Saturday morning cartoons for ... well, your whole life.

That's not to say that the action in Toontown is laid back. It's anything but. Kids gobble up the zany, cartoon slapstick approach to "combat" (think cream pies and banana peels) and mini-games. In fact, they'll be so busy squirting the boss in the face with their lapel flowers that they won't even realize they're "working" on levels. This is kid-flavored MMO gaming at its candy-coated best.

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E308: Catching up with Disney Online

Interviews, New Titles, Pirates of the Caribbean Online, Toontown Online, Interviews (Massively's)

Despite the craziness that is E3, Massively got a chance to talk to Mike Goslin, VP at Disney Online. We spoke to him about Pirates of the Caribbean Online's future, the launch of World of Cars (a virtual world based on Pixar's "Cars") and their plans for consoles as well as Asian markets. Read on for his answers with more after the jump.

What's next for 'Pirates of the Caribbean Online'?

Goslin: We have a lot of really great content in the pipeline for Pirates. One of the big upcoming expansions is Privateering, which allows players to engage in epic sea battles against each other. Players choose a side, either French or Spanish, assemble a crew, and blast away. As part of Privateering we introduced some new islands where pirate lords challenge players with special quests to prove their worth and earn some cool new rewards.

What is the timeline for closed beta on the 'Cars Online' title?

Goslin: The World of Cars virtual world will roll out in 2009. We have not yet announced any specific dates for beta, but we will make sure to let you know when those are confirmed!

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Toontown Online makes it harder for griefers

Culture, Opinion, Toontown Online, Browser, Kids

We were swimming in the apartment community pool this weekend and were unfortunate enough to be there when a kid was practicing his griefing skills. He was about 10 years old and was doing the standard stuff: throwing trash in the pool and blaming other kids, stealing the other kids' pool toys, and of course calling everyone "gay" when they left the pool and took their toys with them.

We see griefers of all ages in the MMOs we play and the kids games are no exception. We've discussed before how games like Toontown Online take steps to prevent griefing with canned chat phrases and passworded friend features. The worst thing a toon in Toontown can say to you is "You stink!" which is really not very hurtful. But it is rather bothersome when it is spammed at you until you are able to escape the griefer, say by going home and gardening. .

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Cinemassively: Toontown Friends Forever

Video, Toontown Online, Free-to-Play, Cinemassively, Machinima, Virtual Worlds, Kids

Not only is the machinima hard in Toontown, but the gameplay is even harder! This free-to-play virtual world for kids doesn't appear to have a way to turn off the User Interface (UI). However, even then, you'd need a buddy code just to communicate with anyone to coordinate movements!

These setbacks don't deter members of the community, though. There are over 4,000 Toontown videos on YouTube! In this music video, Friends Forever, dating back almost two years, ToonTownGeekFangs gives thanks to the world and friends that have kept them safe.

If you have machinima or movie suggestions from any MMO, please send them to machinima AT massively DOT com, along with any information you might have about them.

Virtual Magic Kingdom comes to an end

Business Models, Events (In-Game), MMO Industry, Pirates of the Caribbean Online, Toontown Online, Browser, Casual, Kids

It's a sad day for for those who enjoy some digitalized Disney magic. It's been decided that Virtual Magic Kingdom, the virtual world developed and released in 2005 to celebrate the 50 year anniversary of the real Disneyland's opening, will be closed for good on May 21. According to an FAQ posted on the official website, the reason VMK is closing is because it was originally intended simply as a promotion for the event in 2005, and has continued to run far longer than they originally intended.

Of course, all is not lost for those who subscribe to the cult of Disney. They've already announced a commitment to spend over $100 million in the virtual world space, and they recently consolidated all of their online efforts, including Pirates of the Caribbean Online and Toontown Online, into one division. Their execs already have a firm grasp on the role virtual worlds have to play in building up their brands, so it seems likely that they'll be actively chasing after the casual gaming dollar for the foreseeable future.

[Via Worlds in Motion]

The Daily Grind: What's a good first MMO for a child?

World of Warcraft, Culture, Game Mechanics, Guides, MMO Industry, Club Penguin, Opinion, Toontown Online, Webkinz, The Daily Grind, Gamer Interrupted, Kids

Our Robin Torres writes a column called Gamer Interrupted, about mixing real life with gaming, and it's a wonderful read. In a recent post, the subject turned to how to make MMOs more child-friendly. A few specific titles were covered as well, including WoW and ToonTown Online, but it's worth asking if there are other good first MMO titles that are not only child-safe, but actively worthwhile for a kid to play, either alone or with a parent.

Obviously, we can mention Webkinz and Club Penguin, but are there others? Are there, in fact, any non-child MMOs that are safe for children to play?

The future of Disney Online: An interview with SVP Steve Parkis

Fantasy, MapleStory, Interviews, MMO Industry, New Titles, Pirates of the Caribbean Online, Club Penguin, News Items, Toontown Online, Habbo Hotel, Free-to-Play, Casual, Virtual Worlds, Free Realms, Hello Kitty Online, FusionFall

Last week, Disney Online merged multiple online divisions into a single entity now called Disney Online Studios. I had a chance to talk to the Senior Vice President in charge of it all, Steve Parkis, about the vision for one of the world's most recognizable brands as it tackles the fast-rising casual online gameplay market.

Before now, Disney's online efforts spanned over many different areas: developing Flash based casual games; acquiring the online community, Club Penguin; and building the successful family-oriented MMORPGs ToonTown Online and Pirates of the Caribbean Online. Steve's mission is to bring all of those together to make Disney.com a dedicated casual games destination.

He believes that casual players are more than just Women 35+ and that there is a large, untapped market of players that Disney's brand can draw in. But how does he plan to do that?

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GDC08: Cartoon Network's FusionFall

Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Galleries, Screenshots, Trailers, Video, City of Heroes, City of Villains, Lineage, Lineage 2, Culture, Game Mechanics, Lore, New Titles, News Items, Opinion, Star Wars Galaxies, Tabula Rasa, Ultima Online, Toontown Online, Free-to-Play, Marvel Heroes, Hands-On, Casual, Hands-On (Massively's), Events (Massively's Coverage), FusionFall

We were invited to check out Cartoon Network's upcoming kid-focused MMO FusionFall, and while clearly still in development, it shows a lot of potential. Developed in part by Korea's Grigon Entertainment, makers of Seal Online, QRing, and Gambledon, this is a title with a great deal of pedigree under the hood. Among the notable names on this project are Sam Lewis, former systems and content designer for Star Wars Galaxies; Robert Knopf, recently of Ultima Online; and Richard Weil, the community relations manager for many MMOs, including City of Heroes/Villains, Lineage I and II, Tabula Rasa, and Auto Assault.

With so many experienced and creative people behind it, FusionFall definitely stands to make a splash in the 8 - 14 year old demographic that Cartoon Network is shooting for. This isn't to say they don't have a few challenges ahead of them, however. We'll explore this, and show you the trailer, after the break.

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Mickey goes online as Disney invests in Virtual Worlds

MMO Industry, Pirates of the Caribbean Online, Club Penguin, Toontown Online

The Virtual World News site took the time to pick through an earnings call from the house of Mouse, and found that Disney had a ton to talk about when it came to Virtual Worlds. From comments made during the call by company President Robert Iger, their purchase of Club Penguin last summer and the launch of Pirates of the Caribbean Online was just Disney clearing its throat. In addition to an online world based on the film "Cars", the company plans to spend some $100 million on virtual worlds in the coming years.

Iger clarified that there were a few reasons for Disney's shift to the virtual. First, the company's franchises are being re-examined for new opportunities. VWs fit in nicely alongside plush dolls, action figures, and kiddie clothing in a marketing agenda. Second, it's much easier to develop and staff a virtual world than it is to design and build a new theme park attraction. That's historically been the only place fans could really get 'inside' their favorite Disney products, and Virtual Worlds are a nice alternative. Finally, he notes that for a younger audience online worlds are just plain more important than they are for older generations. Yet more evidence of the growing cachet of online gaming.

How to make ToonTown work with your router

Tips and tricks, Toontown Online, Browser

Are you or your children getting the above message when trying to play ToonTown Online? When I first started playing, I was unable to play for more than 10 minutes at a time. Whenever I zoned, I only had about a 30% chance for actually staying in the game. I submitted many bug reports, but the responses from TT customer service, while prompt, were completely unhelpful:
  • Update my video driver
  • Update my router firmware
  • Update my network card driver
  • Don't use wireless
  • Delete a possibly corrupted file
The first three "solutions" are of course good things to do. Your drivers should always be up to date for optimum performance, but they didn't solve my problem. Fortunately, Knuckles Fiddlefinger, an employee of the Nerd Herd Geek Squad, posted the solution on the ToonTown Central Forums. The problem is how ToonTown handles routers. So even if you are running WoW or City of Heroes or even Disney's own Pirates of the Carribean Online just fine, you still need to setup your router to handle ToonTown Online. Instructions on how are after the jump.

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Gamer Interrupted: Making MMOs safe for your children

World of Warcraft, City of Heroes, City of Villains, Opinion, Toontown Online, Gamer Interrupted

Each week, Robin Torres contributes Gamer Interrupted, a column about balancing real life with MMOs.

I have a lot of hopes for my two year old daughter. I hope that she will be more athletic than I am (which, frankly, won't be that hard). I hope that she will continue to be sociable and friendly and not the introvert that I was. And I hope that she will play video games with me because, well, it will be nice to have something in common with her if my other hopes come true.

Of course, I also have a lot of fears for her. There are a whole lot of scary people out there who have internet access. But, even if this were a crime-free world, there are still topics and language that I would prefer that she not be exposed to until she's mature enough to be able to handle them. And there is a lot to be said for letting our children keep their innocence for as long as possible. Not that I want to coddle her too much or keep her in a bubble, but she doesn't need to be reading R rated guildchat, either.

I really do believe that there are a lot of benefits for children playing MMOs with their parents and that there are also benefits from allowing them to play MMOs solo. The problem is that there are also a lot of dangers. I'm talking here about children who can read but are not yet teenagers. Teens are a whole separate issue. I can't wait for those years (sarcasm intended).

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Gamer Interrupted: Playtime Management Workshop

World of Warcraft, City of Heroes, City of Villains, Opinion, Hellgate: London, Toontown Online, Gamer Interrupted

Each week, Robin Torres contributes Gamer Interrupted, a column about balancing real life with MMOs.

Despite my chosen screenshot, I do not believe that money is the root of all evil. Nor do I believe that about video games. But if you're reading this blog, you are probably wishing you could spend more time playing video games and less time worrying about money and the other necessities of life.

Unless you are fabulously wealthy with no job, family or significant other and with servants to do all of your chores, you probably wish you had more time on your hands. Most of us have work and school or work and family or work and dating and not so much time to just play around doing whatever we like. While it is not a good idea to bring the stresses of work home with you, it is a very good idea to apply some of the skills and techniques you use at your job in your non-working life as well.

I'm not saying you should hold morning meetings with your family, write up your children when they misbehave or insist on the appropriate cover sheet for their TPS reports. I do think that using some basic project management techniques to help you balance your MMO playtime with the rest of your life may be very helpful if you are having trouble juggling it all.

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Disney's Mike Goslin stresses importance of low system requirements

Interviews, MMO Industry, Pirates of the Caribbean Online, News Items, Toontown Online

Disney Online's Mike Goslin (of Toontown Online and Pirates of the Caribbean Online fame) said in an interview with Worlds in Motion that it's important for MMO projects to "support as low a minimum spec PC as possible."

PC gaming is often criticized for being too expensive. You can buy an XBox 360 for $350 or a PlayStation 3 for $400, but a desktop PC equipped with the hardware necessary to smoothly run the very latest games usually costs $1,000 or more. That's a barrier to entry for many would-be PC gamers.

Supporting low-end hardware isn't just important for children's and family games. A while back SOE CEO John Smedley told WarCry that "the biggest thing that hurts [Vanguard] is the high system specs." If the MMO genre is carrying PC gaming on its back, shouldn't MMO developers do everything they can to make their games accessible to a large audience?

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