M M O R P G A M E R
Live, From South Korea
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This week's column is huge. This week's intro is not. With all that news and stuff, why would I waste time here? Psh.
I will clear up, however, that we cover a handful of Korean games this week--thus the title. But there's plenty of other stuff like news bits that will interest Phantasy Star Online fans and...aw, screw all this advertising; just scroll down already.
Are you ready to hit Ragol again? Well, whether you are or not, Sonic Team and Sega are about to add a fourth episode to the Phantasy Star Online series. Among the few details known is the fact that the game will continue working with the same story that carried previous PSO titles, taking place only a few months after Episode II. Orbiting Ragol, Pioneer 2 learns of a meteorite coming in
for a close fly-by.
Scientists on board then determine that the meteorite
poses no threat
of collision with neither Pioneer 2 nor Ragol. Proving them painfully wrong, a mysterious beam of light shoots from the surface of Ragol, smacking the metorite and changing its
trajectory enough that it hits the planet. As with any strange ongoings on Ragol, the fearless "Hunters" are given the task of investigating.
Phantasy Star Online: Episode 4 will enter its closed beta testing phase on November 30th. The testing is limited to players who've earned special passes in the "Big Hunter" campaigns in Phantasy Star Online: Blue Burst. These elite players have been contacted by email.
As filler for those not familiar with PSO: Blue Burst, it is the PC version of Episodes I and II with some graphic upgrades and interface tweaks to make the game more PC-friendly. Unlike console installments, character data in Blue Burst is saved on the game's server, rather than on player-owned devices such as memory cards. This system drastically cuts down possible cheating and hacking. The game was released in Japan this past July and boasts over 100,000 users, half of which have been in the game since its first week on the market. Sega has thus far said nothing of bringing the game overseas. Site's here.
Aliens Invade Rubi-Ka
The Alien Invasion expansion pack to Anarchy Online was made available not too long ago. At about launch time, IGN was able to snag some comments on the new expansion from Director Marius Enge. Here's what he had to say about extra-terrestrials showing up on the game's home planet of Rubi-Ka:
The inspiration for this new Alien spin on the game comes from the fact that AO is already based in a science fiction world, which therefore makes it easy to add things like Aliens. Enge remarked, "That we are finally using an alien presence opens up a whole new venue for us to use in Anarchy Online. We can now progress on the epic story arcs we have planned for the future, while also adding cool new gameplay features."
Discussing the game's story, he said, "With the coming of our third expansion pack, we have thus further evolved our ongoing storyline, and it's a direct continuation of the events that culminated with the players killing the final guardian in the Shadowlands add-on. This guardian was placed there by... someone, and its function was to guard the most powerful secret of them all. By killing the guardian, the players opened up a can of worms, and suddenly, an entire alien armada stood knocking at the door. Now, there are suddenly two species fighting against each other for control over the Notum, and the planet. At the same time, the three original factions keeps on bickering among each other for control. The tension and political climate in Anarchy Online is definitely heating up."
On the topic of player incentives and gameplay additions, it was noted, "In Alien Invasion, we...wanted to focus our primary efforts on [long-time players], since they stand behind a lot of the social structures found in the game. This included guild houses and player-made cities. At the same time, we also wanted to make something for the newcomers, and the result of this was a brand new startup playfield. We know that Anarchy Online is a complex game, and with a new playfield, we feel that it's easier than before to get started. There's other stuff in the expansion as well, which you do not need to be in an organization to have fun with, including new perks (special attacks), social clothes, flying vehicles, the Leet pets for those who pre-ordered, a new tradeskill interface, quests, weapons and items, a playfield and more.
"We wanted to do something else than just add more playfields, weapons, armor and monsters. We wanted to create something truly new," he commented. "We found this feature in the alien city attacks, which comprise a new addition to our gameplay on demand system. In all MMOs so far, you and your guild had to go out into the world to find things to fight. In Alien Invasion, the monsters are coming for you. The tide has turned, and the players go from being the hunters to the hunted. Through improving our gameplay on demand system, we could put this feature into the hands of the players, so they could choose for themselves when they wanted to be hunted. You can simply set a time for your guild to gather, log into the game and trigger attacks that lead to large numbers of aliens swarming into your city. Thus our players got the power to trigger large-scale guild raids at their own leisure. We have received great feedback on this feature after some initial tweaks, some even saying it's the best pure gaming experience they have ever experienced in an MMO."
When looking back, he pointed out a possible improvment could have been, "[more focus] on the solo and non-organization players. When that is said, we are now in the process of making the alien presence more available for solo players, casual players and people who are not organization members. We hope to get this out to the players as soon as possible. Another aspect is the graphics in the game. I think we are still holding up very well compared to many MMO games, but this is more thanks to our fantastic art direction than to our technology. We see that this element needs to be looked at."
Those still wondering if Anarchy Online is for them can check out a variety of links, including the full commentary from Mr. Enge, RPGamer's series coverage, and the game's official site, which features a free two-week trial.
Matrix Online Offers "Conflict Resolution" Through Violence
In the most recent Matrix Online newsletter, subscribers were given details regarding a type of Player vs. Player duel to the death which will become available to the current testing group "very soon."
Players will be allowed to challenge each other to mortal combat nearly anywhere inside of the game. This will work just like an old-fashion duel in that one must challenge another, and both parties involved must agree to fight. The newsletter decribes the process, "A player can begin a duel by simply targeting an ally and typing '/duel' in the chat window. The target will then receive a special dialog window informing him or her that they have been publicly challenged to a duel. At that point they will have a brief period of time (in seconds) to accept, refuse, or simply ignore the duel challenge. If the player accepts the Challenge, then combat begins immediately."
Then players will be targetting only each other for the duration of the duel. The battle ends when one player is killed in the match by their challenger, a dueler surrenders by typing "/duel stop" in their chat window, dueler is killed by another, or outside forces (note: newsletter did not specify what those forces might include), one player runs away and gets out of the designated duel range.
But there are restrictions to the setup of a duel. In order to duel:
Both parties must be players.
Players must be allies.
Players cannot be on a mission team (even a team of 1).
Players cannot already be in combat.
Players must be able to "see" each other on their clients. They must both be in each other's relevancy set.
Players cannot be involved in an ongoing duel or be considering another challenge to a duel.
In other Matrix Online news, the newsletter reports, "[The Team] is preparing for the next major launch of the Beta Client planned for next week. This new and improved Client will offer several new features, content, and abilities! In the next version update, beta testers will find several major additions to the game." Among these additions were new character creation models of both geneders, bosses carrying unique items, new NPC types, and more.
Now begin those Korean games, plus one other Asian title at the bottom of this section. First, the full version of Legend of Mir 3 will become available for download this Monday, November 15th. This game goes against the more common western-style fantasy world that sets the stage for most MMORPGs by putting emphasis on Oriental features. Improvements over the last LoM game (not to be confused with Legend of Mana) include many more character customization options, the addition of horses as a mode of transportation, and an increase in world size that makes Legend of Mir 2 look pathetically small in comparison. And if I may add my own commentary, the music is quite nice. Here's the official homepage.
Priston Tale takes outrageously-deformed characters plus nothing that resembles an attempt at a story, and then mixes the two in a fully three-dimensional world. The player can choose a fixed camera, a manually-rotated one (which can be directed pretty much wherever he/she wants it to go), or an automatically shifting one. Similar to Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, any character a player creates can freely switch about the number of job classes available to that specific race throughout the course of the game. Surprisingly, Priston Tale packs pretty much all of the standard features of mainstream MMOs, such as the tradeskills, different chat modes, maps, guilds, yadda yadda yadda, which is a noteworthy acheivement for a download game of such an imaginably small budget. Also impressive is the very global community in this game. Much more than the bulk of other titles I've seen, there is quite the mixture of languages spoken amongst the players, and English speakers are not in a huge majority. French, Korean, and others all have comparable amounts of usage in Priston Tale's community. Upon visiting the official site, you'll notice the offer to play for free on levels 1-39. A more than fair testing period, to be sure.
D.O Online's setting and style run in the same vein as Legend of Mir 3. It's got that whole "ancient Asia" thing going on, but the creators give the game's world the remarkably creative name, "Martial Arts Land." That sounds like a theme park where you walk in, make sure your height is above the bar, wait in line, and get kicked in the crotch by Jet Li. Personal ideas aside, the game's combat focuses heavily on--you guessed it--martial arts moves and samurai battle techniques. Storywise, the idea here is to help players feel like they are playing an old eastern novel with emphasis on--you guessed it--martial arts. Hit up the official site for more info, plus the ability to downlaod the game and take part in its current testing.
Even in the ever-saturated Online RPG world, Shot Online manages to stick out and raise the eyebrows of everyone who sees it. This is because on major thing separates Shot from the rest of the pack: golf. Instead of traditional battles with things like swords, armies, monsters and so on, the self-perfection in Shot Online can only be done by performing well at the country club. Despite the uncommon use of golf, it comes complete with everything you see in other MMORPGs: player quests, item trading, equipment with different attributes, leveling-up, and so on. Just like the other three Korean titles above, GamenGame is hosting this for North American players. The official English site is here. With the sport of golf getting frighteningly popular in the United States, it may not be long till we see a Western publisher copycat the idea and do a little more advertising to reach a larger audience.
The self-proclaimed "most popular online RPG in Asia" now has a US server, with 1010 Game hosting the lighthearted adventure through bright shiny colors known as Fairy Land. Open beta testing for this "new version" of the game, called Fairy Land USA starts on November 19th, and all anyone interested has to do is sign up with a valid email. The older Fairy Land site can be found here.
The recently released Saga of Ryzom, which has been getting overall respectable review scores, can now be played for free for 14 days. Oh yeah, you knew a link to that official site was coming.
After having been released in North America this past April, NCSoft's Lineage II will be released in Europe on November 19th, carrying a price tage of £29.99. As expected, 30 days of free play is included.
Even though he's centuries old by now, Nobunaga is still kicking it. Only nowadays, it's in the MMORPG world. Koei has announced that the Japanese MMO, Nobunaga's Ambition Online is still thriving. The PS2 version was well received when released in June 2003, and the PC version has also pulled its weight in the nine months it has been available. As of October 31st, the game had registered just over 100,000 users, with up to 23,000 online at once. To thank the loyal players, Koei will be holding a rather long in-game celebration called the "Great Thanksgiving Festival." After aquiring a campaign item called "Pearl Rice," a player can enter to have his/her name drawn for prizes of both the in-game and out-of-game variety. The coveted real-life prize, five kg of Koshi Hikari rice, will be given to 100 winners.
Just hitting retail shelves as I'm writing this is Vendetta Online. Developed by Guild Software, the game's own wbsite advertises, "...pilot your spacecraft online alongside thousands of others and build your reputation as a military pilot, explorer, merchant, mercenary, pirate and more. Join guilds and fly group missions against player and non-player opponents. Take part in large-scale space battles between nations. Multiple flight models allow for joystick and mouse control." Vendetta Online will set you back $29.99.
Just when you thought online video games could keep you safe from the Hello Kitty invasion, Sanrio goes and announces a new MMORPG attatched to the franchise. Those looking at this as an opportunity to take Hello Kitty characters and pound the crap out of things will be met with disappointment, because combat won't be Hello Kitty World's driving force. Instead, gamers get their addrenaline rushes by playing the economy in order to progress through the game. Not many more details are known, but it is said that characters will be very visually customizable. Beta testing begins soon, and those interested in being among the first to play can sign up at the official website.
We knew trouble was brewing when Ragnarok Online joined the ranks of those other games that let you marry someone you've never met, even going so far as to dress you up and give you a ceremony that looks something like this one. Oh, you should have seen my face when I learned of this. Then I became curious to hear your thoughts on the matter. A handful of you expressed such.
We'll just sweep it all under the rug
Ragnarok Online is jumping on the marriage bandwagon too, eh? It's a shame when of all the improvements that could (and should) have been made to an MMORPG, they decide to add a gimmick like marriage.
RO seems to take a Sims-ish approach to its updates. In the Sims, I'd have liked improvements to my gameplay, like making my Sims not bump into each other in a "crowded" kitchen (that is, a kitchen with a table and chairs in it,) then sit there for 10 minutes looking bewildered and frustrated. But no, here's an expansion that gives you more garbage cans and lets you go to the park!!
In RO, there's an awful lot they should get to work on improving, such as making the game not so boring and monotonous. Do they? Not really, but hey, now you can repeatedly kill the same thing endlessly and give hit points to your spouse!! -Mal
You know, I never liked the Sims, and your bringing me this new knowledge fuels my hate. Thank you for the update. Now I'm an informed hater.
But to address the main point of your letter, yes...there is a near-endless number of things that could be improved upon in any given MMORPG. Whether it be story (which is often nebulous is the MMO genre), player communication, lag issues, interface convenience; you name it, there's something that can be improved. That's what makes me applaud EVE Online. In that game's next expansion pack, they're not just giving you the standard bells and whistles, but changing the interface to make it more user-friendly and improving the camera. Why, oh why, can't certain other games (like FFXI) try something like that? It makes life so much easier for the new players.
In a way, you might even say developers are occasionally trying to mask certain flaws by giving you the standard extras that come with expansion packs and updates. Man, that pisses me right off.
Thanks for the excellent point. You win the column.
The Red Menace
That ragnarok thing could be a big pain if you wanted to
prank someone. I mean you're out playing with your
other friends and you get yanked halfway across the
game world. In FFXI people do it just to get items...LOL
Shadowneko (FFXI server: Midgardsormr)
Lvl 48 THF|lvl 17 WAR|lvl 15 RNG|lvl 10 WHM|lvl 10 Summoner|lvl 27 NIN|lvl 5 BLM
Webmaster of "Jon's Final Fantasy Homepage"
So we've got a prankster on our hands, eh? The GM's have special places for punks like you. ...Dang kids and your music.
You know what, though? Perhaps the RO team got exactly what they wanted with that. Let's examine: your complaint is that you might be out adventuring with your homies and then the old lady comes a calling and you have no choice but to leave, being transported without even agreeing to it. This sounds familiar. Oh wait, that's because it sounds like a REAL RELATIONSHIP! And when you want to break it off, oh no no, you pretty much can't. At least not without going to twice the length you went to in order to START this thing. And if you're not already friends with the person somewhere else online or in reality, that's probably what'll eventually happen.
Comments From the Peanut Gallery
What do I think about weddings in MMOs? You shouldn't
have asked. ^_~
First of all, some people assume that mostly strangers
who meet in-game get married, and that in many of
those situations the female character is really played
by a guy, much to the disgust and surprise of the
groom, should he ever find out. That's not the case.
Quite a few people marry their real-life girlfriends,
boyfriends, fiances, and spouses in the game. Most of
the couples I know in FFXI are doing just this. I
believe I've only known one random-stranger couple in
the game, and while obviously they aren't the only
ones in Vana'diel, it just seems that the former is
usually the case when it comes to in-game marriages.
Second, Vana'diel weddings. For the cost of one, you
could probably buy yourself a nice pair of Leaping
Boots. Now, this is ridiculous. In FFXI, you get a
ceremony, a pretty outfit, and a set of Rare/Ex rings
that have no stat boosts. Pretty lame, if you ask me.
Seems pretty lame to me, too. Also, you and I play with a different group of people than the mainstream variety. In "that other linkshell" I associate myself with, there are two couples so far, both of the "IRL Stranger" variety. This is probably due to the fact that the players in that particular Linkshell are mostly in their teens and this is cool to them, so they'll just marry the first player they party with simply because they can and their hormones are out of control. Now if only we could see some stats on this stuff...
As I pointed out to an engaged couple, you could
easily and cheaply duplicate this. Sure, you won't get
a GM officiating, but it won't break the bank. The
wedding dress has a craftable version, any goldsmith
can make look-alike "wedding rings" that actually
boost stats, and the wedding could be broadcast via a
linkshell in the location of your choice, instead of
being confined to the limited choices and limited
guest list that Square Enix gives you for official
To sum up, in-game weddings can be fun and romantic
for real-life couples, but in the case of FFXI, they
could be a huge waste of money. Would I ever get
married in-game? No way. My husband is on a different
server and we share an account. I wouldn't want to
marry anyone else. Plus I'd rather have a pair of
Sivara, 51 WAR - 32 THF - 32 NIN, Midgardsormr
That linkshell wedding idea sounds pretty interesting. And that's way more punk than a regular Vana'diel wedding. I can picture it now--the whole LS watching as you and your in-game special someone craft your own freaking rings and *cute sigh* equip them! And just...invite like, anyone at all? That's also cool. Maybe I only like that idea because I really like sticking it to the man, and a rebel wedding in protest of the real kind and all its flaws appeals to me on that level. I still can't quite see myself actually going through with it, but I'd at least attend one of these makeshift unions.
It's Like a Pop-up Window
Here's how to get married in a few (though rather expensive) steps:
1. Make sure he/she agrees!
2. Obtain a tuxedo for the groom, a wedding dress and wedding bouquet for the bride, and go to the Church northeast of Prontera.
3. Invite guests if you want!
4. Register with the Wedding Helper in the Church.
5. King Tristram III, Ruler of Rune-Midgard, will officiate your wedding.
6. There you have it! After the ceremonies you guys are officially married. Since you guys aren't allowed to fight for an hour, use this time for your honeymoon! Why not go to Lutie or Juno?
After the ceremonies the bride and groom will each get a wedding ring based on their genders. Each ring comes with abilities unique only to married couples.
Groom: Loving Touch - Restores HP of your wife by sacrificing 15% of your max HP.
Bride: Undying Love - Restores SP of your husband by sacrificing 15% of your max SP.
Bride and Groom: Romantic Rendezvous - Summons your wife/husband to your side. Costs 150 SP and a 20 second cast time.
And for those of you who want to ditch your spouse, you CANNOT drop, sell, or give away your wedding ring. Now if you're really wanting for a split, a divorce system will be implemented in the next few months. Rumor has it, however, that a divorce is going to cost more than what you are most likely to spend on your wedding.
Um, dude? I didn't ask for a how-to-be-an-RO-supernerd walkthrough; I asked for your own feelings and ideas on the topic of in-game marriages. I'm looking up and seeing nothing. I don't even know why I'm printing that except that I may actually feel like helping that kid in Malaysia who may need help on the subject. This barely got through my Crap Filter and I don't think I'll be printing letters of this nature in the future--come on, man, after talking to you online I know that you know better ;)
Register in the church, eh? What kind of church? If I'm a member of the First Church of Sephiroth, do I have to let that Midgard-Church man officiate my weedding and thus violate my beliefs as a Sephirothian? Freaking bigots. Now I hate Ragnarok Online even more.
This column is a small novel. I'm psyched about another another episode of Phantasy Star Online, but I sure hope it actually comes over to North America so I can play it...unlike Blue Burst.
As for our Korean friends, I'm presently trying to get a taste of all of them to perhaps eventually deliver some mini-reviews of them. I also signed up for the beta testings of Fairy Land, which contains enough color to give Crayola a seizure, and Hello Kitty, which...just...gave me a corinary? Anyway, I'll be sure to let you know how those projects pan out.
And last but, in a way, first, mad shouts to Adrienne for helping me squeeze stuff out of those often-tricky Japanese sites. More to come soon on that PSO stuff if she and I have anything to do with it! As always, email with any questions or comments.
-My name is Heath Hindman, and when they come for me, I'll be sitting at my desk with a gun in my hand, wearing a bullet-proof vest, singing "My my my, how the time does fly when you know you're gonna die by the end of the night!"
-My name is Adrienne Beck, translator with a side of newsie and a super-size diet coke... to go, please.