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Monthly Archive for December, 2008

Game Management Systems

News Original From

Game Management Systems
December 27th, 2008 by Malcom

 

Hello, everyone, and happy holidays! It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here, and most of you are probably thinking “thank god I haven’t had to read any hateful posts from this asshole,” but who couldn’t do with a little holiday negativity? No, no, I’m not here to bash the countless holiday events that game companies host in their virtual worlds. I’m not even here to post a subjective evaluation of a game I’ve played for only 10 minutes a la my Atlantica Online review. Today we’re going to take a look at Game Management Systems, and a couple in specific: PlayOnline, and Steam. If you’ve never heard of PlayOnline, all you need to know is that it currently stands as the best example of how to not build a game management system.

What the hell is a “Game Management System”?

Truth be told, it’s just a term I use to describe applications that handle digital content to make it easier for the users to obtain, play, and keep their virtual assets up-to-date; it’s a way to juggle many games at once. The most prominent example of such an utility is Steam. Like in the days of old, not every person had imaginary encounters with minotaurs, dragons, or angels but most people knew what they were; much in the same way everyone knows what Steam is supposed to do, even if they’ve never used it. These utilities promise a reliable, and most importantly, safe way to acquire games for yourself or others. Not only that, they’ll keep your games organized, so that all you really have to do is run that application, then pick whatever game you feel like playing. Wait, it gets even better. This tool will even keep track of your friends, what games they’re playing,  and even allow you to join your friend’s game through the utility’s friend interface. The application even provides you with an in-game overlay you can use to talk to your friends, change the application settings, etc. It promises the ability to use all your favorite applications while in-game. That is, unless PLAYXPERT beats them to it(hurry up with those 64-bit versions, slackers!). Sounds great so far, right?

Well, hold on, I’m not done yet.

Everyone benefits from the existence and support of these applications. Developers can make their games available to an international audience without having to ship boxes there, thanks to digital distribution.  Additionally, it promises the potential to reduce the price of games. How can it do this? Think of Wal-mart. They can sell goods at a much cheaper price because they sell a broader array of goods. Wal-mart also keeps low prices on goods by reducing the cost to make them; irrelevant when it comes to what we’re talking about, though, as there is virtually no cost in digital distribution(no box, CD, etc). By having so many games under one roof, and completely eliminating cost of shipping, cardboard, plastic, and media, games can be made available to the public much more cheaply. These companies can even bundle a bunch of games together, and sell them at a very affordable price. Hey, who wouldn’t want to buy over a dozen games for only 75USD[1]?

There’s more. These management systems can prevent piracy. By making game activation possible only to those who have the application, and only allowing people who have legit serial keys to play on legit servers, you can successfully prevent piracy. Arguably, anyone determined enough to crack a game will eventually find a way to play it for free. If the effort and time comes out to be worth less than the 50 bucks , then great. You must be some sort of game-cracking prodigy. Unfortunately, you’ll still miss out on having the most up-to-date version of the game, and any mod developed by communities of people who paid for the game.

So that’s it. This form of content delivery:

  • Is user-friendly.
  • Saves a ton of time spent on organizing games with your friends, and gives you more time to actually play with them.
  • Allows more people to purchase the games and encourages more companies to offer digital distribution to reach an international audience.
  • Can ultimately make games cheaper, as the companies running these applications have more games to sell, and can often bundle them for an amazing price.
  • Prevents piracy.

Good night, everyone!

More details on next page.

Wait. There’s more in this article?! Damn it.

I’m sorry. I can’t go an article without some negativity. If I skipped this next part, I might lose some “street cred” and then no one would like me anymore.  Corporate executives know that if you need to point out an employee’s shortcomings when speaking to them, you start with something good, then point out where that person can improve. I’m taking a similar approach. You’ve seen the benefits of such a system, now let’s take a look at a system that may not be as popular or well-known. For damn good reasons. Square-Enix manages and distributes some of their games digitally through a system called PlayOnline. The most popular game obtainable through the system is perhaps Final Fantasy XI. Some of the game’s expansions are even available for purchase through PlayOnline itself!

If PlayOnline had been the only system ever made to manage digital content, then it would have also been the last. It shits all over the idea of game evolution and progress. It makes it more difficult for players to get to the game they want to play, can cost you more money than buying the games at the store, and can drive you to set yourself on fire and jump off a bridge. The only thing it can do in comparison to the previously-mentioned system is prevent piracy. Seriously, though, who owns a cracked copy of Final Fantasy XI, World of Warcraft, or Lord of the Rings: Online? I don’t know why I even mentioned this point.

PlayOnline will assume from the moment you start your registration that you’re an idiot. It may be right, but it’s no reason to punish the rest of us. PlayOnline will assign you a username, consisting of four letters and four numbers. I guess it prevents people from exploiting the fact that some morons make their account name the same as their character name in-game. Of course, this safety measure can often prevent the same morons from accessing their own account, if they forgot to write down the random gibberish that is their user ID. You also get registered for a sweet e-mail address that you should give to all of your friends. Mine is x261610402427@pol.com. I’m not fucking kidding. There’s user-friendliness for you.

Note: Only e-mail me if you’re the chick with three boobs from Total Recall.

If you’re not a moron, but you move a lot like I do, and you lost the booklet where you kept your user ID, then good luck to you. Square-Enix’s customer service is the worst when it comes to account recovery. Well, actually, their customer service can’t even usually solve a simple problem. We’ll save that for another post, though.

The client offered potential. Five years ago.

I’m going to be fair here. I liked PlayOnline when I first started playing Final Fantasy XI, back in 2003. It seemed like a pretty cool way to organize your games, and keep all the people you play with on a separate friend list than the people you talk to on AIM, for example. So you could organize everything you wanted to do in-game with your friends without having to talk to them on AIM/MSN/TeamSpeak.

Its one downfall, perhaps, is that it is now limited by outdated technology. Because this system is used across two other platforms: the Xbox 360, and the PlayStation 2, it is limited by the technology of the latter. That means if they invented a PCI card to serve the purpose of telepathic communication online, then PlayOnline would never support it. Consoles like the PS2 are not updated. Ever. At least not anymore. So PlayOnline is stuck in the past. Maybe forever.

More details on next page.

Let’s go back to hating it real quick.

We’ve talked about how these game management systems can help you keep your games up-to-date either through downloading patches or purchasing expansions. PlayOnline does that absolutely flawlessly. Wait, I think I used the wrong word. Yeah, I meant absolutely shittily. As far as keeping your game up-to-date through content patches, why even discuss that? Every MMO does it. It’s not complicated technology. Final Fantasy XI has four expansions, though. These are: Rise of the Zilart, Chains of Promathia, Treasures of Aht Urghan, and Wings of the Goddess.  Rise of the Zilart came bundled with FFXI as far as I can remember. I think the only place it wasn’t bundled with FFXI at release was probably in Japan. Still, they offer registration keys for Rise of the Zilart through PlayOnline for … 9.99 USD? What the hell?! In fact, they offer every key except the one for their latest expansion[2].

Let’s pretend for a moment that some stores sell just Final Fantasy XI, no expansion. 9.99USD would be a reasonable price, but let’s put it down to 4.99USD. You go home, install it, and you want to buy the expansions through PlayOnline since you weren’t even told at the store they existed. Possible scenario, happens with some games.

  • Theoretical cost of Final Fantasy XI alone: 4.99 USD
  • Rise of the Zilart: 9.99 USD
  • Chains of Promathia: 9.99 USD
  • Treasures of Aht Urghan: 14.99 USD
  • Total: 39.96 USD(no taxes)

So you get the game, and three expansions for about 40 bucks. You don’t get the last expansion, though. Sorry. Not available through PlayOnline.  On the other hand, they offer the game with all expansions at every store and Direct2Drive for…20 bucks? Wait, so the company sells keys for expansions that no one will ever buy, because they come bundled with the original game for a lot less money. Isn’t the purpose of digital distribution to save the users valuable time and money? And let’s remember, it’s Square-Enix selling their own games, through their own system, for more money than retailers. What is going on here?!

You might be thinking “man, you’re a dick,” but you’re also wondering “Wouldn’t returning players who didn’t purchase the third expansion want to buy it through PlayOnline? They don’t need a whole new copy of the game.” Actually, they don’t benefit, either. The third expansion(Aht Urghan) is sold through PlayOnline for 14.99USD. If you spend just 5 bucks more, you get that expansion, and the latest one. As well as a few extra keys you can burn or keep for when you lose your user ID and have to make a new account.

So, if you’re keeping score:

  • PlayOnline is not user-friendly. You’re forced to write down or remember gibberish user IDs. You don’t need to type it in every time you log in, of course, but if you need account support(god forbid) or anything else, you’ll be asked for this information. Oh, you’ll also be asked for your registration keys. I guess the fact that you need support for their game is not enough proof that you bought it…What?
  • PlayOnline does not save the user money. Buying just two of their expansions through PlayOnline would turn out as expensive as buying the original game and all four expansions at the store.
  • PlayOnline stops running when a game launches. So you don’t get a sweet overlay, or anything like that to help you mess with settings while in-game.

Oh, and:

  • PlayOnline helps prevent piracy.

More details on next page.

It’s okay. I’m full of shit, too.

Look, my arguments are not that great. It’s possible that Square-Enix had no intention of producing a system to manage their games effectively, like Valve did with Steam. Maybe Square-Enix just wanted to have a way to handle billing for Final Fantasy XI without having to do it via browser. Wait. Shit, it doesn’t even do that better than paying via browser. My street address has a “.” character. You know, like “Apt. 4.” Couple of weeks ago, I wanted to renew my subscription and so I hop on, and put in my credit card information. It gets declined about 3 times before I contact customer service. Since in PlayOnline you cannot type special characters, like “.” their brilliant staff suggested I call my bank to tell them to remove the damn period from my address so I could pay for the game. I digress. Like I said, let’s leave their customer service for another post. We’re going to have fun with that one, too. There’ll be public notaries and calls to the FDIC…I know, I know. I can’t wait, either.

Getting back on track.

I have high hopes for game management systems. Even PlayOnline. With a few updates it could become the bullet-train of digital content and distribution systems.  I really think that in the right hands, utilities such as these can save users a ton of time and money. The video game industry rapidly advances. Some think it’s going down the wrong path, and that developers no longer care about gamers. According to these people, it’s all about the money. They may or may not be right, I mean, it is a business and they want to make money; game companies are not charities.

One thing I am sure of is that the future of video games, and MMOs lie within these systems. Much like retail has moved from tiny mom and pop stores to Wal-Mart, Target, and other big box retailers. Hell, no one can argue that you can’t find quality goods at any of those stores. I believe the same will happen with video games. How will it affect MMOs? Just look at the Station Pass SOE offers. You can play a ton of games for one monthly subscription fee. Sure, most of them suck, but you have to start somewhere. Eventually someone might bundle good games under one subscription fee. I don’t know why you’d want to, but maybe we’re not far off from paying one low monthly fee to play Lord of the Rings: Online, World of Warcraft, and Final Fantasy XI all together.

Read More Articles: MMOCrunch

Best MMO Machinima Movies In 2008

Did you make MMO Machinima Movies by yourself before? Today we prefer to show you the best 10 MMO Machinima Movies in the past 2008 ranked by IGN. (video from Machinima.com and Youtube)

It was a huge job of scouring the web for as many machinima videos as possible. A great many films were viewed in order to comprise a top ten for the year. However, it should be noted that it would be virtually impossible to find every video made.

IGN listed the top 10 video all selected based on the quality of the footage, voice acting and storyline. Please note that some films include questionable language and should be considered PG-13. There are a lot of great fan-made films out there. World of Warcraft is tops in sheer number of machinima movies made for the game, but we picked some of them and try to show you something different (from WoW).

9.
Name: Guild Wars Adventures In Tyria: Episode 2 “The Triff Show”
Game: Guild Wars

Graphic quality isn’t as good as some of the other films included, and the same goes for the voice acting. The talk show theme was fun to watch, but some parts of the movie are bit underwhelming.

 

5
Name: The Roleplayer
Game: Age of Conan

A very funny video based on a topic that many MMO players can relate to. The voice quality is only mediocre, but the story makes up for it.


 

4
Name: What does WAR mean to you?
Game: Warhammer Online

There’s not a lot of Warhammer machinima to be found out there, but this movie makes up for that! Quite an entertaining piece.

 

3
Name: The Return of the Revenge of Dr. Mechanico
Game: City of Heroes

Well scripted, acted and directed. It’s a shame we don’t see more CoH / CoV machinima being made these days.

 

Empire Of Sports Goes Into Beta Just In Time For New Years

News Original From MMOsite’s columnist Theo Brothers

Empire Of Sports Goes Into Beta Just In Time For New Years
December 30th, 2008 by Theo

Empire of Sports, which has been in private beta or what it calls “prologue” since its March 2008 announcement has recently opened its doors to the public.

“TAKE PART IN THE PROLOGUE

Empire of Sports is between the Prologue phase and opening its doors to the masses!

…True to our vision of developing with the players, today, we are able to open a vast community in Empire of sports.  As a persistant world, Empire of Sports is constantly evolving.  Football 11 against 11, basketball 5 against 5, tennis, skiing, … seven sports are already available and more will follow in the coming months.  By taking part in the Prologue, you directly contribute to the making of this world.”

Empire of Sports has a total of 6 main sports games, including Basketball, Football (Soccer), Tennis, Skiing, Bobsleigh, and lastly Track & Field, which is made up of four sections, Sprinting, Hurdling, Long Jump and the Triple Jump.  In addition to the main games there are also some mini games to help improve your characters overall body condition, these can be found in the Training Gym, Target Range, and on the Dance Floor.

There are already a great deal of reviews and news articles following the launch of EoS’ prologue giving both positive and negative viewpoints of the game. 

An early and detailed April review of the private beta from Eurogamers’ Oli Welsh gave a mixed view stating that “The game is prone to bugs and has a sluggish interface. There are several NPCs with nothing to say and vendors with nothing to sell. This isn’t your usual open beta, rolled out to load-test the servers and generate some word of mouth; this is a genuine visit to the development coal-face of an MMO. ” while at the same time praising its innovativeness, showing an aura of overall optimism that the product will benefit the market in the future by concluding, “However, Empire of Sports is a genuinely light, throwaway, quick-fire and accessible sports MMO, and that makes it quite unique. The best of its sports are simple, addictive, and offer satisfying progression. It has a very, very long way to go before it’s polished enough to be unleashed on the general public – but we remain optimistic that Empire of Sports can bring a much-needed dash of Eurotrash to the po-faced world of MMOs. “


Some more recent reviews from Ten Ton Hammer & Gamesplay  regarding the public beta have stated that

“…the game does seem to share certain similarities with the way Guild Wars is structured.  There are social hubs in which you can interact with larger groups of other players, form ‘teams’ and then enter various arenas to compete in events.  You’ll also have the option to compete solo with the assistance of AI driven teammates, though much like GW it seems you’ll get much more out of the experience when you participate with other players, especially when you get into some of the larger matches like 11 vs. 11 football.”

And

“The Prologue will mean gamers can now download Empire of Sports online free of charge and join over 150 nationalities already playing online and communicate their in-game experiences to help fine tune the gameplay and the business model during the final stages of development.” showing that the game may not be a simple a hit and run title, but perhaps is taking other successful MMO designs and the feedback from their community seriously.

If you are curious to see what Empire of Sports has to offer, put on your game face and head on over to www.empireofsports.com fill out their simple account form, download the 2.4 GB client and jump in.












Amazing WoTLK-themed Zippo – Entire Hand Crafted By Fans

Of course we konw many enthusiastic WoW players have made a great number of all kinds of game-themed extras of WoW. But this time, you will see an amazing WoW lighter entire hand-planted by fans and the whole crafting process.

One Chinese WoW players post his whole crafting process of his WotLK-themed Zippo in a forum named Mop. It was great, entire hand crafted!

Frist, display his reference picture and design drawing.



reference picture



design drawing



The obverse of this features Lich King




The back is Frostmourne



It looks great!

Like to know more details of the crafting process?

Let’s keep looking on the next page!

Begin to engrave the stencil plate:

DONE

Let’s have a look at some of his previous works:

Predator!

Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li Trailer Out!

See, the anticipated live action movie Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li has released its Japanese version trailer so we can take a first look about the movie. Enjoy it!

Click here to download HD version.

“The Legend of Chun-Li” was Adapted from a popular Japanese video game Street Fighter series and will follow the titular character on her journey to seek justice. As she flexes her muscle to learn the art of fighting, she uncovers the truth of her family’s bitter past and who is actually responsible for it. The movie will come out in U.S. theaters on February 27, 2009.

Worlds.com Sues NCsoft For Patent Infringement

Apparently it isn’t a relaxing vacation for NCsoft’s Austin headquarters because they received an unpleasant gift on Christmas Eve from Worlds.com. Reported by Virtual Worlds News, virtual world company Worlds.com filed suit against NCsoft on Christmas Eve, claiming infringement on its patent for user interaction in a virtual space. Worlds.com also has a patent for a second technology common to many MMOs, a system for scalable chat.

On Christmas Eve, Worlds.com filed a complaint against NCsoft for infringing on its virtual world and MMO patent. Worlds.com, which was one of the early virtual world developers from the ’90s, made waves earlier this month when it announced that it had selected an intellectual property firm to defend its two patents related to scaling virtual spaces and enabling users to interact and chat in 3D environments.

Specifically, the suit claims that NCsoft has infringed on patent 7,181,690, “System and Method for Enabling Users to Interact in a Virtual Space” through its games, including City of Heroes, City of Villains, Dungeon Runners, Exteel, Guild Wars, Lineage, Lineage II, and Tablula Rasa.

The complaint seeks to recover damages for the infringement and asks that NCsoft be prevented from infringing on patent 690, which covers scaling.   Based on NCsoft’s headquarters in Austin as a source of the infringement, the complaint was filed in the Eastern District of Texas, Tyler Division.

In the follow-up report, Worlds.com has announced that they had selected intellectual property law firm Lerner David Littenberg Krumholz & Mentlik LLP, to represent their interests. They explained that they would soon begin contacting representatives throughout the industry. LDLKM’s Stephen F. Roth, who is serving as lead attorney, said that the Worlds.com had no particular reason for filing its first claim against NCsoft as opposed to other companies. He merely noted that they had investigated many technologies and games and that NCsoft’s, like Lineage or City of Heroes, were covered by the patent.

He added that Worlds.com is looking for a swift resolution, and Texas, where NCsoft has offices and the complaint was filed, has a sophisticated patent court.

Gatto pointed out that Texas may offer other advantages for Worlds.com.

“Being a foreign defendant in Texas is not a pleasant thing,” he said of NCsoft, which is primarily a Korean company. “The juries are, many would say, biased towards American plaintiffs and have a propensity to offer high damages. Some defendants might view them as an unfriendly jury and it might make the defendant more likely to settle.”

Many observers have speculated that since Worlds.com’s patent was only granted in 2007 and filed in 2000, there may be too many examples of prior art, including NCsoft’s own games, for the patent to stand. Roth explained that the patent itself is actually continued on  from a much earlier filing date, November 13, 1995, putting it ahead of NCsoft’s founding in 1997.

It’s not clear what will follow–NCsoft likely won’t be served until the new year and then will have 20 days to respond–but Gatto observed that this is likely only the first of many claims. While General Patent Corporation, which represents Worlds.com, Chairman and CEO Alexander Poltorak previously speculated that everyone from World of Warcraft to Second Life could be in violation, Roth declined to lay out future defendants.

“I’m not at liberty to disclose what other companies I believe come within the scope of the claims,” he explained. “I think it is a very broad and robust claim, managing both bandwidth and the display and interaction of avatars in virtual worlds and massively multiplayer games.”



Read more here

Resourrce : Worlds.com Files Suit Against NCsoft for Patent Infringement

PlayStation Home Censorship Not Gay Friendly

PlayStation Home (also marketed and referred to simply as Home) is a community-based service for the PlayStation Network which entered into open beta on 11 December 2008. Looks like in an effort to curb as much “bad” language as possible from Home, recently SFgate.com reported that Sony has blocked words such as “gay”, “lesbian” and “bisexual”. This was discovered by a guy who wanted to make a straight/gay alliance group and tagging it with the same terms and having them filtered out. 

The details are as bleow:

Michael Marsh, an 18-year-old gamer from Norwalk, Conn., wanted to set up a gay/straight alliance club in PlayStation Home, Sony’s new free 3-D virtual world component for the PlayStation 3.

The problem was that the words he was using – “gay,” “lesbian” and “bisexual” – were being filtered from text chats and were not being allowed in the naming of clubs or in postings in club forums. Marsh, who is straight but supports gay rights, said he raised the issue with Home community managers during the private beta test, but the problems persisted after the public beta introduction of Home on Dec. 11.

“I can understand if they’re filtering out profanity, but if feel like it’s discrimination,” Marsh said. “By blocking a word like ‘gay,’ which is a preferred term by the gay community, you’re encouraging it as a bad word.”

The censorship issue is just one of a number of glitches and problems that have dogged Home, which was designed as a virtual social community for gamers. Users had trouble getting into the world on the first day and continued to have trouble connecting, prompting Sony to issue a patch aimed to fixing those problems. The fix, however, temporarily suspended voice chat.

Sony Computer Entertainment America spokesman Patrick Seybold said the company is working to improve Home on a daily basis and is incorporating user concerns and suggestions. He emphasized that while the virtual world is open to the public, it is still being tested and is a work in progress.

In the case of the censored words, Seybold said, Home employed filters to prevent defamation in Home’s closed test version. But when the service went public, he said, it should have started allowing those words. Some other users, however, noticed that the filtering continued, and blocked words like “Christ,” “Jew” and even “Hello,” which apparently was flagged because it starts with the word “hell.” Seybold said the company is looking into the censoring of words in Home’s clubs.

The long-delayed Home has been a major undertaking for Sony as it tries to build a more robust online community around its PlayStation 3 video game console. The world is not only aimed at fostering more connections between gamers but also represents money-making opportunities for Sony and other brands that want to sell virtual goods.

Read more on SFgate.com

Interview By G4TV: Starcraft II Beta Soon

G4TV.com has posted a great interview with Chris Sigaty and Dustin Browder where they talk about the current status of Starcraft 2 and the closeness of a public beta. Both developers talk about Starcraft 2′s plans. And the exciting thing to highlight in this video is how many times they mention the word: BETA. It’s like if they were teasing it to be very SOON. It’s strongly hinted we will have this game on our hands within 2009. They also bring up that at every event ProGamers are invited to play the game and give them feedback, the professional scene remains one of the top focuses of the dev team.

Chris Sigaty: We’re really excited in 2009 to get StarCraft II in front of you the gamer and put battle.net in front of you and put this brand new multiplayer experience that harkens to the original game in front of you and hear feedback, so, I can’t wait.

 

Resource: G4TV

Star Wars: The Old Republic New Arts

BioWare released an impressive amount of new concept art and screenshots released on the official site of Star Wars: The Old Republic. These images depicted the iconic imagery from the Star Wars universe.

In the gallery, some samples include a detailed Republic Troop Transport, containing a Jedi Lightsaber, Sith Blaster Rifles, a Wraid, and shots of Droids, Sand of Korriban, a Tython village and more.

 The Jedi Temple

Droids

 An Assassin Droid

Sith Attack Plans

Village on Tython

 
Sith Academy

Sand of Korriban

Jedi Meeting Room

Korean Lunia: New Character Updates!

Korean MMORPG Lunia, which is developed by allm and operated by Nexon Japan, added a new game character Ryan Hunt in the latest massive updat December 26th.

The special new characters Ryan Hunt is the first character used firearms in Lunia, a character-type of Bounty hunter. He can use a variety of new weapons, and do fire, light and physical attack in a long-distance. The character is fun and easy even for beginners.

Here are the new screenshot and the wallpaper of Ryan Hunt.