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Posts with tag mmos

WoW.com running an instance live on Vocalo.org tomorrow at 4pm central

I've been working in coordination with a group called Vocalo.org here in Chicago for the past few weeks -- they're a community-oriented division of the public radio station WBEZ (the same station that produces NPR shows like "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" and "This American Life"), and I've been doing some interviews with their in-studio host. A few weeks ago, we talked to a psychologist friend of mine about video game violence and addiction, last week we chatted with da_bears, a professional gamer here in Chicago (who recently got into World of Warcraft), and this week, we're doing something extra special: I'll be running an instance together with a five-man group live on the air. It'll start up at 4pm central both live on Vocalo.org (and live on the air in Chicago at 89.5FM). As I run through the instance live on the air (I haven't decided which one yet, though I'm thinking Heroic Utgarde Pinnacle or maybe Heroic Old Kingdom), we'll be talking about WoW and other MMOs, why these games are so fascinating, and what it's like to run with a group of five different people, all playing different roles with different abilities.

It should be interesting to say the least -- while the segment will likely be directed at people not as familiar with World of Warcraft as you guys, I'll be sure to keep it interesting even for veteran WoW players (and if we wipe, you can at least laugh at me for being a noob Hunter). I believe we'll also be taking phone calls in the middle of all of this, so if you want, you can probably call up and talk some WoW with me as well.

This all begins tomorrow, Wednesday afternoon at 4pm central time, both online at Vocalo.org and live on the air in Chicago, so if you're available to tune in and give us a listen, please do. I have no idea what will happen (has anyone ever tried to run an instance live on the radio before?), but it should be a lot of fun.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Podcasting, Events, Fan stuff, Blizzard, Instances, Raiding

Online gaming up in the US

Our economy may still be pretty much in the gutter, but one industry is still going strong. If you glanced at what site you were reading this on and guessed "online gaming," congrats! You win a gold star. Here you go: .

Anyway, according to this industry report featured on GameSpot, online gaming overall (including MMOs, in turn including WoW) was up 22% year-over-year in May 2009. 87.1 million people were estimated to game online in the USA, an impressive 28% of our estimated total population.

Of course, a huge chunk of this is browser-based games (think Bejeweled or Yahoo! Games). WoW is apparently the 21st most popular "online locale," clocking in at 2.2 million US visitors. Still, I'd say 21st isn't bad for a game with a subscription fee; 2.2 million players at $15 a month is $33 million a month (assuming the each have exactly one account). The next-closest MMO, according to this report, is RuneScape, at 202,000 players. Really? Aren't there other MMOs with more than that?

Anyway, online gaming, like online everything else, is on the rise. Single-player, localized games are starting to feel positively quaint, although I still think Chrono Trigger is the best computer RPG of all time.

Filed under: Ranking, News items

A leveling server, just for leveling

Reader Tiago sent us an interesting idea I thought was worth sharing. He suggests that Blizzard create a "leveling server" -- a server that would be marked as specifically for new characters, so when you rolled a new toon on there, you'd be surrounded by a bunch of other people pre-80. And the key here would be that when you hit 80 on this server, then you would get a free server transfer off. In other words, Blizzard would have one server (completely optional, of course) designed for people to level on, with a realm full of people playing in the old world and leveling through the old quests.

Sounds good, right? Like most of our ideas, Blizzard probably won't go for it -- they've already knocked down the idea of vanilla realms, and while this isn't the same thing (you'd be able to level to 80, the idea is just that you'd leave the server when you got there), it does mean creating a different ruleset for a brand new type of server. Plus, to a much lesser extent, it could create an even more lonely existence on the normal servers. Not to mention that Blizzard has been focusing on speeding past the low levels, not emphasizing them.

But I like the idea anyway -- it doesn't seem too tough to do (mark one realm recommended, and provide free server transfers off of it), and it seems like an excellent way to get people who enjoy leveling up all together in the same place. And that's really what MMOs like this are all about, right?

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Virtual selves, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Quests, Leveling

A WoW player's guide to Free Realms


Our good friends at Massively have written up a post just for you WoW players about the new hotness in MMOs lately, a game called Free Realms. I haven't gotten a chance to play it, but it's all the team over there can talk about, and the game itself just hit a whopping three million players. It's a free-to-play game (with more premium memberships getting more features -- the minimum is about $5 a month) put out by Sony Online Entertainment that aims towards a more casual audience, with extra content placed in for more hardcore gamers. The questing and leveling itself is very forgiving -- you have a dotted green line leading you to quest targets, and combat only takes place in instanced areas. But the crafting and other various minigames (in order to do mining, you actually play a Bejewelled-style matching game, and there's even a "Kart Driver" profession) can get pretty hard. Just like WoW, those who want to collect pets or build skills can do that, while those who are more interested in dungeon crawling have that option as well.

I've been meaning to pick up the game and check it out (on the free level, of course -- with my WoW subscription running, I'm not made of MMO money), and Massively's guide is an excellent first overview to how the game relates to our favorite MMO. If you're getting a little bored in Azeroth waiting for the next expansion announcement and are looking for something else to try, Free Realms might just be it.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Instances, Quests, Leveling, Classes

"My Life as a Night Elf Priest"

A University of California Irvine anthropologist named Bonnie Nardi has been studying one of the strangest cultures known to man lately, and she's going to be presenting her findings in a book called "My life as a Night Elf Priest" -- that's right, she's been taking notes on the weird sociological experiment known as Azeroth. It sounds pretty interesting -- she's been examining the way Chinese and American players play the game (and of course the differences between them), and she's also looking into how games like WoW can bring us closer together rather than isolating us socially.

It's funny -- as a genre and a technology, MMO games are actually in the absolute earliest phases of their history. Socoiologists and psychologists have been studying real humans for thousands of years, and yet it's only in the past few decades that they've gotten access to MMO games, like little petri dishes of condensed human behavior. Nardi may be one of the first to try and scientifically examine how players use (and are affected by) this technology, but she'll definitely be far from the last.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Odds and ends

Pardo at GDC lunch: It's all about nailing the execution

Blizzard isn't making too much of an appearance at any of the gaming conventions this year (save for, of course, BlizzCon), but they are floating around the Game Developers Conference going on on San Francisco this week -- Rob Pardo showed up at a luncheon panel yesterday to talk with luminaries like Will Wright and Warren Spector about the latest trends in social gaming. He was actually introduced by Nolan Bushnell, the founder of Atari, who said that "social is buying someone a drink," not "sitting around in your underpants," but said that Pardo manages "maybe the largest group of people in their underpants in the world." Funny.

Pardo defended the game, saying that what was once a hobby for outcasts has now become quite cool and that no matter what you're sitting around in, the people who play WoW are people with real relationships, responsibilities, and lives. And he says later in the chat that Blizzard doesn't necessarily aim for innovation, but for "nailing the execution." That's something Nintendo does as well, he said, and many times, that's the key in game development. You don't necessarily have to get it first, but you do have to get it right.

The rest of the conversation wanders away from MMOs (and Pardo), but it is a fun look into what these gaming development greats are thinking about what's next. Stay tuned to both us and Massively for more coverage from GDC -- Jeff Kaplan is scheduled to be on a panel there today, and we'll bring you news of that soon.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Odds and ends, Blizzard

AT&T will continue Blizzard hosting

We haven't gotten much of a look at Blizzard's server architecture, but here's a tiny one: AT&T has announced in a press release that they're re-signing to a two year agreement to provide Blizzard with hosting for World of Warcraft and Battle.net. We'll get the joke out of the way first: that explains why Blizzard's sites go down so often! Ba-dump ching!

But seriously, the press release says AT&T has been working with Blizzard on providing bandwidth and network monitoring for nine years already, and that they have multiple "Internet Data Centers" that provide global support of the network infrastructure that lets your character wander around Azeroth. AT&T isn't the only company Blizzard works with -- while their network provides the connections and bandwidth, the actual coding and the databases behind all of the action in WoW are another story, and Blizzard likely works with multiple big companies to make sure that all runs smoothly. AT&T provides the cables, but someone's got to help provide the servers and the code they're hooked up to.

Still, despite the jokes about the downtime, it's quite a feat. We're still interested in hearing more about the mechanics behind the World of Warcraft. Unfortunately, lots of this information is probably a trade secret at this point -- even if no other MMOs are coming close to WoW's numbers, Blizzard has probably come up with a lot of techniques they don't exactly want known to the public. But a look inside one of these "IDCs" or an idea of just what machines they're using to run a realm of WoW would be intriguing.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Blizzard, News items

Australian AG: MMOs like WoW must be classified

The good folks over at the OC (don't call it that) Register's Blizzard blog have gotten some more information about that recent flap with many MMOs being unrated and thus legally unable to be sold there. They talked to Daniel Gleeson of the Australian Attorney General's department, and he said that yes, the MMO games like World of Warcraft will have to be rated to be sold in the country. But he also reiterated what we'd heard a little while after Massively posted their story: that games were still being sold on store shelves, regardless of the actual legal tangles.

The Blizzard Blog also spoke with the IEAA, the classification board down there for games, and they were told the same thing that Massively was: while the board thought that MMOs did not require a rating, it has since become clear that they do. The difference, says the AG guy, is that the IEAA believed that "games" like WoW were actually services, not games, and thus didn't fall into the classification system.

But now it's clear to everyone that they do, so we'll expect to see the IEAA pass out a rating for World of Warcraft and the other MMOs on sale down there, and then this will all be over. It's interesting to note that ratings may be a very cultural thing -- here in America, ratings are pretty strictly issued by the ESRB, partially because the videogame industry is worried about governement intervention in the system (if the industry can't police themselves, angry parents may ask the government to step in). But in Australia, the government obviously seems largely unconcerned about the ratings. Then again, Aussies aren't completely laid back about everything having to do with MMOs.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Ranking, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Expansions, Wrath of the Lich King

WoW still on store shelves in Australia

Our good friend Tateru Nino (who is in fact an Aussie herself) has a followup over at Massively about the report that World of Warcraft was no longer legally available in Oz earlier this week. The issue isn't in the rules -- those are the same: unclassified games like World of Warcraft are held to the same rules as banned games -- but in the lack of enforcement. Since the issue has gone public, stores are continuing to sell the game (though some have removed larger sale displays of the games), and law enforcement has made no moves to try and get the games off of store shelves.

The real problem here, of course, isn't that Australia wants to ban these games, but that they're falling through the cracks of what seems to be an extremely lax rating system. There's really no rating assigned to these games, so according to the rules, they can't be sold. But the rules make no sense in this case: no one, as far as we've heard, actually wants to ban these games in the country, and no one cares whether they're being sold on store shelves or not.

Still, Massively does expect action, eventually, even if it's an apparently much-needed rejiggering of the ratings system to include these "unrated" games. Bottom line right now is that if you want to buy or sell World of Warcraft in Australia, no one's stopping you from doing so.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Economy, Expansions, Making money, Wrath of the Lich King

Forum post of the day: No more newbies?

Malkavius of Korialstrasz posed an interesting question in the General Forums. Is it too late in WoW's life for new players? She told a tale of how a friend got frustrated soon after purchasing the game because of inflation and an inability to find groups. The responses were split.

Vylaria of Ch'gall believes that it's not too late for a rookie to get their start. Gathering skills help to boost the personal pocketbook, and even veteran players that reroll face the same problems with finding a group. Cptobvious of Bonechewer believes that it is easier for folks that have played other MMOs than it is for online gaming virgins.

Read more →

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Tips, Virtual selves, Forums, Forum Post of the Day

Why we solo

Lauren of the Mystic Worlds Blog has a new post up called "Why we Solo in MMOs," offering her perspective on why, over many years and many MMOs, she has always tended to ignore the grouping game and instead go it alone. While I'm not against grouping at all -- I was very active in the 40 man raid game, and tend to run Heroics around once a week and Karazhans around 1.5 times a week across my 3 70s -- I've always felt that the solo game has a valid spot in MMORPGs, and I've often indulged in it myself. In fact, I'd bet that most WoW players do so on a regular basis these days, whether leveling up or doing their dailies.

She rattles off the usual list of reasons for going solo -- having a weird schedule, needing to take frequent "real life" breaks, not having enough time to go LFG for a dungeon, unwillingness to deal with the infamous horrible PuG group -- then takes it a step further. She believes that many people use these types of statements as excuses or defense against people who can't understand why they wish to solo in a multiplayer game, or actively flame them for it, and that the real reasons are a lot less complicated.

Read more →

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, PvP, Quests, Leveling, RP, Making money, Alts

Wife Swap seeking gamer families

WoW Insider has been contacted by a producer of the reality show Wife Swap -- apparently they're on the hunt for families who play WoW and other MMOs together, so they're sending out a casting call to the community. Any families applying should play MMOs together, have two parents and two children between 7 and 17, and live somewhere in the United States. If you're chosen for the show, you get a $20,000 honorarium, and anyone who refers a family that makes it on the show gets a grand for their efforts.

Of course, you couldn't pay me enough to appear on a show like this (and there is no guarantee, of course, that the show will competently portray a family that plays games together as a healthy, valuable thing), but to each their own -- maybe this is just the opportunity you've been waiting for. If so, drop an email to the producer: gaby dot wifeswap AT gmail dot com, with a family photo and a description.

It definitely sounds like an interesting experience, though. If you're willing to throw your family's hat into the ring, there you go -- throw away.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Tips, Virtual selves, Odds and ends

Activison faces lawsuit, says MMO market is "insurmountable"

Two bits of news about soon to-be-Blizzard's-overlords Activision: first, a group of investors are apparently planning to sue Activision about the whole merger thing, apparently saying that Activision didn't do enough to cash in on the deal. They're complaining that in the deal with Vivendi (Blizzard's owners), Activision settled for an "unfavorable minority poisition." The company hasn't responded yet, but if this lawsuit goes forward, we could find out a whole lot more about the exact terms of the deal between the two companies.

And for their own part, Activision is thrilled to be in the business of Warcraft: Activision CEO Bobby Kotick sees MMOs as an "insurmountable product category," and says that if they were competing with WoW, they'd have to toss at least half a billion to a billion dollars into the deal, and even then they wouldn't be guaranteed success. Which means that at this time, in this market, Kotick says that companies entering into the MMO market are basically throwing money away.

Can't say we're surprised that the CEO of the company that now owns WoW says it's unbeatable, but as you know by now, EA and Funcom (Warhammer Online and Age of Conan's publishers, respectively) surely disagree. We should see who's right by the end of the year.

[Via Incgamers]

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Blizzard, News items

Heading for greener pastures in 2008?

It's the first month of a new year, and you know what that means: predictions aplenty. Across the MMOscape over at Massively, almost everyone is predicting that WoW is going to suffer-- there's no question that there's a long line of MMOs just waiting in the wings to snatch you players away from Azeroth-- from Warhammer Online to Age of Conan, there are supposed to be some terrific MMOs released this year.

So who better to ask if you're moving to greener pastures than you yourselves? You're not supposed to ask whether players are leaving for Warhammer on the forums, but we've got no such compunctions: are you planning on leaving for Warhammer or any other new games in 2008? Are you just keeping time in WoW until the game you really want to play releases later this year?

Rest assured, die-hard WoW fans, that we're not going to become "WAR Insider" anytime soon (we've already got it over at Massively anyway)-- I love World of Warcraft, and while I'm definitely excited to see what Mythic and Funcom have in store for us this year, I'm also (along with all of our writers here) in Azeroth for the long run-- at least until I get to see what the Maelstrom's deal is and what's happening in the Emerald Dream.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Odds and ends, Wrath of the Lich King

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