M M O R P G A M E R
Le Grand Retour
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Welcome to a new section of RPGamer. This first issue will serve as a prototype of sorts while the rest of the staff and I continue to find just the right ingredients to make this sucker work. MMORPGamer's primary function is to deliver news and media bits pertaining to the many Online RPGs that seemingly hold their players hostage. We then plan on mixing in a few rumors (which will be identified as such to avoid confusing them with the real news) and occasional mini-previews of select MMORPGs, during which readers should beware of my bitter opinions.
We also plan to have a little bit of participation from you, our readers, by answering a few letters at the end of the column. This will not be an all-out Q&A situation, but more like a radio show in that we aim to have a full program of news and the like, but also take a few callers to keep things as fresh as possible. It may not be every column, but I'll sometimes bring up an MMORPG-related topic about which you can send me an email. And then the fun begins.
Finally, we'll also be adding (eventually) my own character diaries from certain games, or maybe just FFXI since that seems to be the one everyone is familiar with. There may be others; you never know. Email me a link to your own fan site or character diary, and maybe I'll give it some props in the column. Let's shoot for the moon, here. Man, new columns are exciting! Let's get this one rolling....
Get Your Shenmue Online Details Here
Perhaps one of the most intriguing MMORPGs looming in the future is Shenmue Online. The first things verterens of the other Shenmue titles may have wondered was how in the world Shenmue's gameplay could be carried into the multiplayer online world, seeing as Ryo Hazuki was the only player controlled in the previous titles, and he still hasn't gotten his revenge on Lan Di. Would such a game feature a bunch of Ryos running around talking to NPCs and hanging out at the arcade? Recent reports have stated that Shenmue Online will contain no such silliness. Instead, this game is not connected to the main story set forth in Shenmue and Shenmue II, but rather an appendage. Additionally, players will not assume the role of Ryo Hazuki, though screenshots have shown his presense in the game.
Not a whole lot is known about the structure of Shenmue Online's gameplay, but some combat details are available. Offensive weapons feature a mix of Kung-Fu moves, Chinese weapons, and mysterious magical powers. Your ability to use each of these depends on your character type. The three types of fighter are Martial artists, who fight with bare hands, Kyokaku, who use common weapons, and Sendo, who fight use magic or "qigong." In a press conference in Korea, Shenmue series father Yu Suzuki said that the fighting itself would be comparible to Virtua Fighter, the main difference being the ability to use a mouse and keyboard to control. Suzuki-san said that he'd wanted to "properly" introduce martial arts into MMO for some time.
The game will take players to many locations in Eastern Asia, including (but not limited to): Hong Kong, Guilin, Suzhou, and Xian in China, the Korean cities of Seoul and Busan, and Yokosuka, Japan. In becoming an MMORPG, Shenmue Online is set to introduce to the series the concepts of communities, level-ups, and common RPG items.
Brand new gameplay screens as well as previously posted but still sweet-looking CG shots are on our Shenmue Online page. You can check out the game's official site here. Clicking the Korean link will get you more content than the English option.
Fantasy Earth Trademarked in USA
Not long ago, Square Enix introduced the game world to Fantasy Earth: The Ring of Dominion. While no official word on a stateside release has come forth, Square Enix did get a US trademark for the title earlier this month. This would be a necessary step if the company decides to bring the game across the Pacific. With or without a North American release, Fantasy Earth will be available in Japan in 2005.
You can check the official site for more. And when you go, take your Flash player and your kanji dictionary.
Producer Talks About Guild Wars
Gamespot recently sat down with Guild Wars producer Jeff Strain. To save time and space, I've super-compacted the interview into a list of highlight quotes from Mr. Strain.
When talking about the ability for a character to possess powers of two different job classes, Strain commented, "The dual-class system provides richness of strategy by allowing us to make the professions strongly themed, in terms of strengths and weaknesses, without locking players into a specific play style. For instance, a warrior/ranger and a warrior/elementalist are both good front-line tanks (melee fighters that can absorb a lot of damage), but each has different specialties that make for a unique gameplay experience. ...[Also], a warrior/ranger is going to be roughly balanced with a mesmer/necromancer, in terms of power, but it will be much easier for a novice to play the former, because the mesmer/necromancer strategies are a little more complex--a factor that appeals to veteran players."
On the topic of the game's strategic aspects, particularly the use of skills in various situations, he said, "Players will, however, tend to adjust their skill sets depending on the situation. They might choose general, broad-use skills for small teams and more-specialized skills for larger teams. For example, in a large party with several monk healers, one monk might focus on healing, while another lays down protection spells. Meanwhile, a third removes hexes and resurrects dead allies. Player strategy, rather than skill behavior, will change depending on the size of the conflict."
Strain says that the game has a place for all types of gamers with comments such as this one: "No matter how new you are to Guild Wars, you are never "useless." Some players may be more skillful from day one, but they will tend to play against players of a similar type. We'll match casual versus casual and veteran versus veteran. This is one of the reasons we include casual gaming arenas. Hardcore players tend to specialize and count on their buddies to cover them, while casual players tend to want to be more self-sufficient. In the casual player-versus-player arenas, you get paired with other players at random, so experienced players cannot choose their teammates. That equalizes the field quite a bit."
Here he explains one way the game goes against a mainstream RPG trend: "Monsters drop items, but only items they might actually use. You won't find bunnies dropping vorpal swords in Guild Wars! In general, a found item isn't immediately useful, but you can pay a crafter to break it down into its component parts and reassemble it into something that works for your character."
And talks about the role of items in battle here: "We don't have healing potions. Victory in combat is not about how much gold you invested prior to combat but how well you use the resources you have at hand."
When on the topic of the role of weapons and armor, he said, "Cool-looking armor is great, but the value of items in Guild Wars is more than cosmetic. A rare item is rare but not necessarily "über." Again, skill and strategy are key. Items, armor, skills, and attributes all work together. ...We want players to have fun finding cool and rare stuff, but we don't want to make a game where simply spending hours finding rare items is the path to victory."
The full interview can be read here. Guild Wars will appear in retail stores early next year.
The Short Stuff
Fans of the PC title City of Heroes may want to check out the two new contests being held by Paragon City Comics. One is an ad banner design competition and another is a sort of message board lottery. The two winners come away with 60 days of free City of Heroes play. Full details are on the official site.
Sony Online Entertainment recently made available an expansion for their sci-fi MMORPG Planetside. For $9.99 US, players can get access to new vehicles, weapons, and locations. The expansion, titled Planetside: Core Combat, can be downloaded at the Sony Online Store, provided that you already have the original Planetside.
RUMOR:War Hammer Online, a project thought to be cancelled, may still be on the horizon. British website PC Zone is reporting that they've had contact with developer Climax, and that the title is still in developement. The site says thus: "Warhammer Online, previously assumed cancelled, is not actually dead and buried, Climax [confirmed] with us today that the game is still in development at the studio. CEO Karl Jeffrey has now revealed that the company hopes to launch the title in around 18 months time." Is this real? Only time will tell.
Alright. In the future, we'd like to stick a letter or two, and perhaps a little shout out to your fan site right here. For the topic of your emails, let's ponder for a moment the recent announcements of Shenmue Online and Tales of Eternia Online (featured in the most recent Japandemonium). In light of these two titles of previously offline nature converting to the church of MMO, which game do you think is next to follow? Or better yet, what currently offline title/series has the best potential in the online world? Give it your best shot, but I doubt your suggestions can be better than an MMO version of Skies of Arcadia! They could work some kind of system to make your airship as customizable as your character, with even more modding pieces to be discovered through gameplay to boot. Riding your phat ship around in that game's great environment, possibly hunting for bounties like the ones that were added in the GameCube version, combined with other things from that game which could be tweaked for MMO purposes, would make Skies of Arcadia Online a force to be reckoned with. What do you think?
Till next week,
-Heath Hindman is building a new section. He is building it bigger. He is widening the corridors and adding more lanes.