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Massively Speaking Episode 210: Now coming to you in SOGA-Vision

World of Warcraft, Podcasts, EverQuest II, MMO Industry, News Items, Guild Wars 2, Massively Meta, The Secret World, Massively Speaking, Wizard101, Allods Online, Miscellaneous

Massively Speaking Episode 210
This week, your intrepid podcasters are traveling down into the dark uncanny valley where their sanity will be shredded, filleted, minced, and served with a nice kumquat garnish. As they forge ahead through pandas, chibis, sasquatches, skarts, and Norwegians, only one question remains -- if they survive, will what's left be worth living?

Have a comment for the podcasters? Shoot an email to podcast@massively.com. We may just read your email on the air!

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Read below the cut for the full show notes.

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Pirate101 co-creator: 'Our goal is to become the Pixar of online gaming'

Betas, Fantasy, Interviews, MMO Industry, Free-to-Play, Wizard101, Pirate101

Pirate101 cocreator 'Our goal is to become the Pixar of online gaming'
KingsIsle Entertainment Vice President J. Todd Coleman sat down with Forbes to give some insight into the development process of the studio's upcoming Pirate101 -- and how the studio plans to expand its empire.

"We have more plans for the 101 universe," Coleman said, "but we're also looking to expand beyond it with other properties. Our ultimate goal, to summarize it easily, is to become the Pixar of the online gaming space."

Coleman went into the challenges of developing a title set in the same universe but with a different thematic bent and combat system. He also said that the Pirate101 team is twice the size of Wizard101's, mostly because the studio's follow-up MMO is bound to be compared with its eight-years-in-development predecessor.

Competitors might want to think twice about taking KingsIsle on, however. Coleman notes that many have tried and failed, such as LEGO Universe. "Realistically, if you want to compete with Wizard101 at this point, you're looking at an investment of at least 5 to 6 years and well over $100 million in total cost," he said.

The Soapbox: The death of AAA

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, City of Heroes, EverQuest, Business Models, Culture, Economy, Opinion, Second Life, RuneScape, Free-to-Play, Free Realms, Wizard101, Star Wars: The Old Republic, RIFT, Vindictus, The Soapbox

38 Studios picture
Disclaimer: The Soapbox column is entirely the opinion of this week's writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Massively as a whole. If you're afraid of opinions other than your own, you might want to skip this column.

I think we're all pretty familiar with the tragic story of 38 Studios by now. If not, take some time to familiarize yourself with it. Essentially it is a tale of massive dreams, botched plans, and hundreds of job losses. I'm not yet sure exactly what went wrong, but I have a feeling that the lackluster response to the studio's stand-alone title might be to blame on top of the poor performance in the high-end of the company. Either way, I have seen many comments exclaiming the end of the big-budget title or at least more trepidation from governments that feel the need to get into a game (no pun intended) they were unfamiliar with.

If we could take a poll of the several million "AAA" MMO players in North America, it's my bet that most of them simply go from one title to the other. The RIFT players who are now enjoying Star Wars: The Old Republic came from World of Warcraft, and before that (if they played MMOs before WoW) they might have been City of Heroes fans and EverQuest players before that. For a long time, large studios held all of the players. Then, AAA started rolling down the steep hill to where it is now.

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Wizard101 fansite owner hired to be Pirate101's community manager

Fantasy, Interviews, New Titles, Interviews (Massively's), Wizard101, Family

The Friendly Necromancer logo
Tom Purdue, admired owner and operator of The Friendly Necromancer blog and Wizard101 fansite, has announced today that he will be KingsIsle Entertainment's new community manager for the upcoming Pirate101 MMO.

As that transition from fan to employee is always a fascinating transformation, we recognize that it's not an easy decision. Massively itself has raised a handful of MMO community managers, so this news is particularly of interest to us. For that reason, we tracked Tom down and asked him some questions about his new role at KingsIsle. Follow along below for the complete interview.

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Wizard101 invites players into the mythical realm of Avalon

Fantasy, Patches, News Items, Free-to-Play, Wizard101, Family

Wiz101 Avalon
Wizard101 players have been all over, from the lush jungles of Zafaria to the pyramids of Krokotopia, but as of today there's a whole new land for them to explore: the mystical land of Avalon. Avalon, as the name implies, is a land based in Arthurian legend, and it also happens to be the former home of Ravenwood's headmaster, Merle Ambrose.

But all is not well in the usually idyllic Avalon. The nefarious Umbra Queen Morganthe and her minions are causing trouble, and it's up to the players to find and recover the legendary blade of King Artorius, the Sword of Kings, and put a stop to Morganthe's mayhem. Players who are level 70 or above and who have completed the quest Through Glass, Darkly can find their way to Avalon by speaking to Merle Ambrose, who will send them on a quest to the new zone. For the full details on the new update, magick your way on over to the Wizard101 official site.

Wizard101 creator announces new game: Pirate101

Betas, Fantasy, Galleries, Screenshots, New Titles, Free-to-Play, Kids, Wizard101, Family

Ahoy, maties! Put down your wands and grab the nearest parrot, for you're about to head out onto the high seas with KingsIsle! The makers of the hit Wizard101 have announced their next project: the swashbuckling world of Pirate101.

Using a similar business model, full voice-over, same universe and same art style as Wizard101, KingsIsle is fashioning a unique pirate game with its second MMO. Players get to choose one of five classes for their piratey career: Buccaneer, Witchdoctor, Privateer, Swashbuckler, or Musketeer. No matter what they pick, players will captain their own flying (yes, flying) ships and take off for adventure in fantastic environments such as skyways, lost cities of gold, and ancient ruins. There will also be companions to pick up along the way for use in combat, and players can naturally join forces to complete quests and battle the oppressing force threatening the world.

Creative Director Todd Coleman thinks that this free-to-play title stretches the studio's imagination and reach. "We've created a world of treacherous pirates, faithful companions, tactical battles and gorgeous environments," he says. "Pirate101 fuses the key lessons we've learned from Wizard101 with entirely new design, setting and gameplay mechanics. We've succeeded in creating a game that is very different from Wizard101, but remains comfortable and familiar."

Pirate101 is currently in alpha and will be released in 2012. Watch for our upcoming interview with KingsIsle coming soon!

Gallery: Pirate101

[Source: KingsIsle Entertainment press release]

Win a Wizard101 rare mount package from Massively!

Fantasy, Screenshots, Contests, Free-to-Play, Wizard101, Giveaways, Family

Wizard101 Bloodraven
If you haven't had a chance to make your purchase in Wizard101's Mount-a-Palooza sale going on right now, fear not! We're giving you a chance to get the five rarest mounts in the game in one set, all for free!

KingsIsle Entertainment was kind enough to send us 25 codes for these rare mount sets, which we'll be giving away through our Twitter page, our Facebook page, and a random drawing.

Each rare mount set contains: Swift Gryphon, Bone Dragon, Great Hornocerous (2 person), Nightmare, and Blood Raven (2-person). For a chance at your own set, simply send an email to shawn@massively.com with the subject line "Gimme My Wizard101 Mount Code!" before Sunday, April 15th, at 8 p.m. EDT. On Monday, we'll present 15 random winners their very own code. Be sure to copy and paste those exact words into the subject line of your email, or it won't get filtered properly. The remaining 10 codes will be randomly released on our Twitter and/or Facebook pages throughout this entire weekend, so keep your eyes open!

Also be sure to check past the cut below for images of three of the mounts in the package.

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Wizard101 throws massive mount sale

Fantasy, Economy, Free-to-Play, Kids, Wizard101

It's a good time to be in the market for a new mode of transportation, especially if you're a cash-strapped wizard or witch in Wizard101. The annual Mount-a-Palooza is back, and KingsIsle Entertainment is magically shrinking costs and teleporting in rare inventory to make as many customers as happy as possible.

From now through Sunday, April 22nd, players can snag any permanent mount in the in-game store at a whopping 60% off the list price. Some of the mounts in the store will be only available during this brief window, as KingsIsle is retiring four mounts at the end of the sale while bringing back three other previous retirees for impulse shoppers to peruse.

And if you like Wizard101 mounts, you might want to keep an eye on Massively tomorrow. Our crystal ball says that your future may look bright if you do!

KingsIsle releases more Wizard101 expansion details

Fantasy, Galleries, Screenshots, Expansions, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Patches, News Items, Free-to-Play, Wizard101

Wizard101 - giant owl
Last night we brought you news of Wizard101's new Avalon expansion. Today we've got a few more details (as well as a new screenshot gallery) to illuminate what looks to be one of the game's more interesting content drops.

As you might expect, Avalon is filled with knights, castles, goblins, dragons, and other assorted medieval tropes. The expansion also "plays heavily on the Arthurian and Celtic mythologies," according to KingsIsle. Additionally, Avalon will allow players to uncover the motivations of Wizard101's main characters (including Merle Ambrose and Morganthe).

The expansion boasts six new zones, 15 new areas, a level cap increase (80), 28 new spells, new gear, pets, and mounts, and the ability to achieve rank 15 in gardening.

[Source: KingsIsle press release]

Gallery: Wizard101

Wizard101 prepares to send players to Avalon

Fantasy, Expansions, Patches, News Items, Free-to-Play, Kids, Wizard101

Yeah, yeah, what's behind me, I know.  Very funny.
Wizard101 always sends its players to fantastic new places with each expansion. Obviously the bar is set pretty high when the core game already features a magical setting, but each new zone seems to aim at a very different location. The upcoming new expansion Avalon is no exception; it's sending players into a realm filled with fallen knights, warrior queens, and other elements inspired by Arthurian and Celtic myths. It also gives players a chance to explore the pasts of several important lore characters, such as the villainous Morganthe.

But lore alone doesn't make for a fun expansion. Avalon also offers players four new utility spells per school, new pets and mounts, and six new zones to explore as characters head to the new level cap of 80. There are also new gardening levels and new gardening spells, certain to bring a smile to the face of every burgeoning virtual botanist. So if you feel like you've seen all there is to see in Wizard101, don't worry -- that'll change soon enough.

[Source: KingsIsle press release]

Wizard101 creators to present the Digital Kids Conference opening keynote

Events (Real-World), News Items, Wizard101, Family, Miscellaneous

Wizard101 creators Todd Coleman and Josef Hall will be opening the upcoming sixth annual Digital Kids Conference with a keynote address about their experience with engaging the youth market. The KingsIsle Entertainment duo will talk about their transition from hardcore gaming to creating a critically and commercially successful family-friendly game and (one can hope) the secrets of their genius. Wizard101 launched back in 2008 and has since grown in popularity to the tune of 25 million players spread throughout the Western hemisphere (with plans for near-future expansion into China). It is that recognized success that's made Coleman and Hall ideal candidates for the keynote, with the hopes that they'll spur others to greater heights.

The conference (formerly the Engage! Conference and Expo) will feature speakers from as disparate venues as the NFL, Cartoon Network, and Ubisoft, all focusing on interactive content to connect with kids in the digital world. The Digital Kids Conference covers the use of mobile apps, social games, social media, and virtual worlds to better understand creating and promoting products and content for a younger audience.

[Source: KingsIsle press release]

Gaikai: Delivering instant MMOs to your browser

World of Warcraft, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Lord of the Rings Online, Interviews, MMO Industry, Chronicles of Spellborn, Wizard101, Miscellaneous

Imagine that you're reading up on an MMO on a site such as Massively (far-fetched, but stay with us on this). The words intrigue you and you think it might be worth checking out. You make a mental note to do so in the future -- to head over to the game's site, see if there's a trial, download it, set up an account, and give it a whirl -- but time gets away from you and none of that actually happens.

Now imagine that right after you read that article there was a single button or link. Clicking on it, a Java window opens up on top of your screen and tells you that you're now playing a trial of the game. There's no wait, no download, no lengthy form to fill out -- just click and play, right away. You go from interested to inside the game within mere seconds, your computer specs (mostly) aren't an issue, and your curiosity is immediately sated.

This isn't a far-fetched dream but the here-and-now reality. This is cloud-streaming MMOs brought to you by Gaikai. And it just might be the future of MMOs as we know it.

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Previously On MVTV: The week of February 25th

Fantasy, Video, EVE Online, Events (Real-World), Events (In-Game), Previews, PvP, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Browser, Hands-On, Casual, All Points Bulletin, Crime, MMOFPS, Global Agenda, Humor, Hands-On (Massively's), Kids, Wizard101, RIFT, Allods Online, Family, Livestream, Miscellaneous, Previously on MV TV

Previously On logo
So you missed out on some of Massively's wonderful livestreams, huh? You had to go out and hang out with actual human beings and missed some of the most exciting live game playing you could have imagined? Shame. Shame on you. Don't worry, though; I've taken the time to collect some of the very best moments from the previous week's shows and combine them into one easy, one-stop-shop for your viewing pleasure.

Really, it's no trouble. Do be a dear and bookmark our MassivelyTV Guide for future reference!

So what do we have this week? Some pretty awesome stuff, actually. Richie jumps back into some Guild Wars, Mike takes an explosive swing at EVE Online once again and then hops into RIFT, Psykopig slowly finds himself falling in love with Wizard101 despite his attempts at resistance, Karen and the team from Allods Online embark on a tour of high-level content and Astral ships, I get invited to a real wedding inside Luvinia Online, and Tboo does her usual best by shooting people in the face in APB: Reloaded.

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The Perfect Ten: Best MMO theme songs (part one)

Age of Conan, Darkfall, Final Fantasy XI, Pirates of the Burning Sea, Wurm Online, RuneScape, Humor, Mabinogi, Wizard101, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Blade & Soul, Perfect Ten

Perfect Ten
As I've well established both here on Massively and elsewhere, I'm somewhat of a nut for video game music. Whereas others might collect vintage hair metal tracks or the latest Justin Bieber opus, I'm always digging through obscure (and not-so-obscure) official soundtracks to games like Wipeout and Kirby. Video game scores can be right up there with the best that the film industry puts out, and the fact that they tie into personal experiences that we've played through can lend them sentimental weight.

So for the next two Perfect Tens, I scoured all the MMO theme songs that I could get ahold of in an attempt to formulate a list of the very best. It was originally slated to be just one list, but after an hour or so of listening to tracks and having friends and fellow staffers weigh in on the subject, I knew it was impossible to keep it there.

Two important things to note for this list. First, I wanted to keep to just the title/login screen tracks so that I wouldn't be working on this for the next 2.5 years. Second, unlike most past Perfect Tens where there's no significance to the order of the list, in this case we're going to have a genuine countdown to the best MMO theme song of all time. And I expect to take no flak about it, do you hear me? Good. Let's begin.

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Some Assembly Required: A virtual world roundup

Fantasy, Super-hero, Aion, Anarchy Online, City of Heroes, Darkfall, Dofus, EVE Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Fallen Earth, Final Fantasy XI, Flyff, Lord of the Rings Online, PlanetSide, Ryzom, Wurm Online, Opinion, Second Life, Star Trek Online, Ultima Online, Vanguard, RuneScape, Free-to-Play, Virtual Worlds, Mabinogi, Mortal Online, Wizard101, Runes of Magic, DC Universe Online, RIFT, Xsyon, Family, Post-Apocalyptic, Some Assembly Required, Sandbox, Origins of Malu

Some Assembly Required header
If you are perusing this column, chances are you are a fan of virtual worlds and the sandbox genre. Join the club! (Dues will be due on the third Tuesday.) The aspect that compels many aficionados to delve into a game is the ability to make an impact on the world in some small respect instead of making them into Hive Member 1593072 running a static, predetermined gauntlet. How that impact is accomplished, however, varies; there are multiple features that can facilitate it, and which ones are considered most important depends on the player.

With the loss of one of the best sandbox games just last month, some players may be feeling a void. Others still are looking/hoping for the "ultimate" sandbox that contains nearly every virtual world feature. Certainly, there are some upcoming games that make some drool-worthy promises, but what about playing something now? There are actually games out on the market that have at least one aspect of the genre, if not more.

To start off the new year, Some Assembly Required looks at some of the top features of virtual worlds and lists games that incorporate these features. While this list isn't exhaustive (considering the sheer number of games when you include all of the smaller free-to-play titles, I'd run out of column space!), it is a comprehensive enough overview to point you toward some games worth playing that perhaps you hadn't considered before.

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