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Friday, March 30, 2007

LOTRO Announces One Million Open Beta Accounts: A Play In One Act By Kunochan

Bilbo Baggins: Master Elrond! Master Elrond!

Elrond Halfelven: Not now, my little friend. I am composing an history of the First Age, that fails to mention Túrin Turimbar. So as to be less depressing. Also, the bit with the dragon is a bit much.

Bilbo: But Master Elrond! Rivendell is overrun by strangers! And they have odd, non-Endorian names, like "HarryPotter1217" and "Arwensaslut!"

Elrond: Yes, I am well aware, my Periannath friend. Naught occurs in Imladris without my knowledge.

Bilbo: But there are thousands of them! Many many thousands! Eleventy-hundred thousand!

Elrond: Ah, your Hobbitish innumeracy amuses me. But there are in fact one million visitors, Mr. Baggins. They have taken advantage of Turbine's "Lord of the Rings Online" Open Beta offer.

Bilbo: Huh?

Elrond: From April 6th to April 24th, anyone can get one of one million open beta keys, and play. Of course, one must purchase a copy of "PC Gamer" or sign up on the GameSpot website in order to obtain such a key.

Bilbo: I do not understand you, Master. Have you lapsed into Quenya?

Elrond: No, no, my diminutive gastronome. But my wife left me, and traveled into the West, 510 years ago. And the loneliness and sexual frustration may have driven me mad.

Arwen Evenstar: You're sexually frustrated? I'm 2,777 years old, and I'm still a virgin! And you won't even let me screw my boyfriend!

Elrond: My darling daughter, perhaps we can discuss this later...

Arwen: And I pre-ordered! When do I get into the beta?

Elrond: Why, today, I believe, my daughter.

Arwen: Oh! Nice! I bother to pre-order, and I get a one week lead on the rest of the planet! And my box hasn't even arrived yet!

Bilbo: Please do not fight! It aggravates my incontinence!

Arwen: And speaking of my box, I'm going to my room. I think the "evenstar" needs some "polishing." [Exits.]

Bilbo: Curses. I have soiled my trousers.

Elrond: Sigh. I should have volunteered to be King of Númenor. I would be dead, but I would be happy. [Exeunt.]

Link.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

"Lord of the Rings Online" -- Kuno's First Impressions

Well, after paying the money to pre-order LOTRO, guess what? I got invited to the closed beta. I'm as happy as a little girl.

I may have mentioned this in another post, but I'm the original, unreconstructed Tolkien geek. I first read "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" in the third grade, and I couldn't even guess how many times I've read them since. My favorite book of all time is "The Silmarillion." Yes, I've read all those "History of Middle Earth" books, in which Tolkien's son publishes his father's old doodles and tax receipts. I've read his biography and his published letters. I can name all 13 dwarves and all seven sons of Fëanor. I even (occasionally) write Sauron's Blog.

I loved the movies, although I can recite every single deviation from the novels, and explain every reference. I can explain to you the real reason Denethor went mad, where Gandalf went when he died and why he came back, and why it's significant that Galadriel turned down the ring. I can also tell you that Saruman didn't die at Orthanc, the Galadhrim did not fight at Helm's Deep (and never would have), and that Sauron is NOT an evil lighthouse.

So with my Tolkien bona fides firmly established, there should be no surprise that I've been anxiously awaiting "The Lord of the Rings Online" since it was announced in 2003 as "Middle Earth Online."

It's still in beta, and I imagine and hope that many of the small annoyances derive from that fact. For that reason, I'm only going to give general impressions at this time, and save any complaints for launch.

1.) I love that elf characters start their storyline 600 years before the events of the game, and arrive in the present after the initial tutorial level. Immortality FTW!
2.) All the players with non-Tolkien names annoy the hell out of me. n00bs. My female elf hunter is named Arthradha. Sindarin for "Beautiful Traveler," it's a name I researched for a Tolkien tabletop game a while back.
3.) The graphics look nice. But this is not the first new MMO I've seen with a metallic earth tone color palette. I guess giving everything copper highlights is supposed to add to realism, but it just looks strange to me. "Myst Online" is the worst offender in this regard, but games like "Ran Online" do it too.
4.) Some of the details are beautiful, and reveal the designers' dedication to the legendarium. Check out this screenshot:

At some time in the distant past, sunlight broke into this cave and turned this troll back into stone. Nice.
5.) When you get a quest, read every single word. Unlike in "World of Warcraft," you won't be able to just muddle your way through while ignoring the details. Pay attention to what the quest giver says. Seriously.
6.) Like the "Battle for Middle Earth" guys, the designers of LOTRO are eager to introduce new creatures not mentioned in the legendarium (but that don't conflict with it either). So far, all I've met are the Aurochs and the Cave-Claw Burrowers. An Auroch is a species of extinct cattle, and introducing extinct mammals fits well with Tolkien's conception of Middle Earth as our Earth's primordial past (as well as with the fascination Tolkien, an ardent creationist, had with modern science and evolutionary theory, which he felt it was foolish to deny). That's why I didn't mind the mammoths-as-mûmakil in the movie. As for the Burrowers, I found them really annoying. I don't find them believable, either as animals or as monsters.
7.) Thank Eru that LOTRO's wargs are exactly what they're supposed to be -- giant, talking wolves. What the hell was Peter Jackson thinking?

I'll keep playing, and letting you all know what I think. And when the game goes live, I'll complain about any issues that still exist.

Nai Valaraukar tye-mátar!

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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Arrrrr! Ever'thin' Ye be Warntin' Ta Know Abart "Pirates of the Burning Sea"

Over at GameTrailers.com, a video of interviews with the developers of "Pirates of the Burning Sea" at the New York ComicCon. It's long (23 minutes), but it's got everything you need to know about the upcoming swashbuckler.

The most important revelation in the video? Ninjas.

That's right. Ninjas.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Q: What's Wrong With MMOs? A: "Vanguard"

I liked this angry rant over at Gamers With Jobs. It was meant to be a review of the recently-launched "Vanguard: Saga of Heroes," but author Elysium couldn't bring him/herself to play enough of the game to write a real review.
Tired and redundant gameplay, barely interesting story, artificial environments populated with lame quests and an over population of sword fodder; I could be talking about any MMO on the market. The whole damn genre has run off the rails and become a parody of itself. Click the button and a gamer-treat rolls occasionally down the little pipe activating neurotransmitters in the brain that beg endlessly for more tiny little gamer-treats. So why pick on the little guy?

Fine, you want to know what really pisses me off about Vanguard; what voices me with the attitude that Sigil stole my lunch money? Vanguard sets a bad precedent for development and product release. In the months to launch Brad McQuaid made it very clear that regardless of whether Vanguard was actually ready for launch Sony, which had saved the game from cancellation following Microsoft's parting of ways, had set a firm timetable for retail, and come hell or high water the game only had enough money and time to reach that date. So, now that the game has released in its incomplete state, in a state that McQuaid himself describes as requiring patches, bug fixes and new feature implementation on par with a beta product, Sigil essentially comes to the consumer as the third investor in the process of the development cycle, and that is not just a terrible way of doing business, but an irresponsible step in the wrong direction for complicit consumers.
Via Slashdot.

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Wednesday, February 7, 2007

"Myst Online" -- Kuno's First Impressions

Well, I've played "Myst Online" for a total of about an hour, which is definitely no good for a review. But I can at least give some first impressions.

The game begins with a strident disclaimer to the effect that this is a BETA, not a finished product. So be aware that any complaints I have might be repaired before launch. But since that launch is in eight days... I dunno.
  • Playing any game through GameTap is a pain in the ass. The GameTap interface is wholly unnecessary from an end-user standpoint -- just give me a web site, and I'll download my games. It's not the worst interface ever, but it's not very good. I don't like being inconvenienced just to protect someone's intellectual property.
  • "Myst Online" downloaded over 95%, then something went wrong with the download. I restarted GameTap, and it started the download over from the beginning. Niiice.
  • "You can't spell 'URU' without 'you are you." Yeah, I worked pretty hard to make my avatar look like me. I was not too successful.

  • OMG, the control scheme. I hate it hate it hate it. I can tell they're trying to do something intuitive and simple, but this is neither. Which way you move depends on which way your avatar is facing, which is seldom the same way the camera is looking. Seriously, folks, the "World of Warcraft" people figured this all out. Also, your control over which way you are looking is limited, especially when your avatar is up against an object -- which means at certain key points, I could not see what my character was seeing. This gets in the way of solving puzzles. It was infuriating.
  • So far, the environment is not as pretty as the original "Myst." Everything is grainy and coppery. Maybe this has something to do with the game storyline.

  • The first time I played, I got trapped in the bottom of a ravine, unable to examine my environment sufficiently to get out. When I logged in again later, I was back at the starting point, as if I had made no progress at all. I hope that's a bug.
Still, it's a beta, and I plan to check it out after launch. Stay tuned.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

"Myst Online" Launches February 15th

Huh. I'm not sure "Myst" needed an MMORPG. What's next, "Tetris?" But I'd gladly be proven wrong.

February 15th has been announced as the launch date for "Myst Online: Uru Live," Cyan's MMO based on the popular "Myst" series of slide-based puzzle-solving games from the '90s. The beta is currently available to GameTap subscribers, and Cyan is offering a special rate of 99 cents for the first month of GameTap service. The game will be available on GameTap and stand-alone, for both PC and Mac.

It appears the game is designed to let you create an avatar that looks just like you, which might be pretty cool.

As far as I can tell, it's all puzzle-solving, and no combat. It'll be interesting to see how that works out.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

"Lord of the Rings Online" Pre-Order: Beta Key, Discount Membership, Exclusive Items

I just purchased the "Lord of the Rings Online" pre-order. Normally, I wouldn't pay $50 for an MMO, and now I've done it twice in the last week.

But here's what you get with the pre-order:
  1. The LOTRO box and CD set
  2. Membership in the Open Beta
  3. The ability to bring your beta character over after full launch
  4. Special pricing after full launch: $9.99/month, or $199 lifetime
  5. In-game items: Enchanted Cloak of Regeneration & The Ring of Agility
  6. Free 30-day access to Allakhazam.com’s Premium Service
Pretty l33t. You can pre-order online today -- the pre-order will hit retail stores on February 1st. The commercial launch is slated for April 24th.

Bado na Ennorath!

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Monday, January 22, 2007

"9Dragons" Dynasty Ending Before It Begins

According to a note on their web site, Persistent Worlds is going out of business, spelling death for their beta Asian martial arts MMO, "9Dragons."

Oh well. I could never get past the first quest in "9Dragons" anyway. But perhaps one day there will be a great martial arts MMO.

One day.

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

"Pirates" Has a New Website

Flying Lab Software unveiled a website redesign for "Pirates of the Burning Sea."

The site redesign features 12 new screenshots. None of them are very exciting -- but I'm still really looking forward to this game, and working all the angles to get into the beta.

Arrrrrrrrr.

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Monday, January 8, 2007

"Pirates of the Burning Sea" Giving Out 50 Beta Keys

Flying Lab Software is giving away 50 beta accounts for their upcoming buccaneer MMO "Pirates of the Burning Sea."

MMORPG.com registrants can enter the contest to win a beta account.

Let's hope that PotBS will be just like "Voyage Century," except NOT suck!

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Thursday, January 4, 2007

"Tabula Rasa" Beta Sign-Ups Announced

NCsoft, creators of "Auto Assault" and the resulting massive unemployment, have announced beta sign-ups for "Tabula Rasa," their FPS sci-fi humans v. aliens MMO.

This game is on our radar because it is the project of "Ultima" and "Ultima Online" mastermind Richard "Lord British" Garriott, one of a handful of game designers whose efforts have been significant enough to make him a household name -- in gaming households, anyway.

If you have a PlayNC account and want to play in the beta, check out the official site.

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