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UPDATE - SOE Acquires Sigil, Vanguard I It's a Secret to Everybody
Get Ready to Mix it Up I Europe Gets Free-To-Play Love
Expand! Expand! I Weekly Web Updates

MMORPGAMER
Issue #75 Some Kinda Robot
May 17, 2007

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Welcome back, intrepid MMORPGamerers! So kind of you to put your grind on hold to come read this week's column.

This year promises to offer too many games and not enough time. In a conversation I had recently about all of the titles I am anticipating this year, I realized that I would have to eschew my humanity in favor of becoming a sleek, state-of-the-art gaming robot to even attempt to play them all. The major drawback being that such an operation would surely cramp my already limited budget for purchasing said titles. And that's just on home consoles. Toss in PC games, including all of the MMORPGs that are going to be released this year, and I might as well just leave a Dear John letter for Real Life right now. I'm not coming back. Don't leave a light on. Please, forget about me.

But, my imminent departure from any semblance of humanity is still weeks off, so please join me as we take a nice, relaxing soak in the here and now:


  UPDATE - SOE Acquires Sigil, Vanguard

Sony Online Entertainment

A couple of weeks back, we reported that Brad McQuaid had hinted that Sony Online Entertainment and Sigil Games Online were to become tighter. The extent of exactly how tight has finally come to light.

On May 15, John Smedly, president of SOE, announced his company's acquisition of Sigil assets including Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. SOE has taken on 50 employees of Sigil to become a SOE studio to continue work on Vanguard. Brad McQuaid is being kept on at SOE as a consultant content advisor for Vanguard, and former Sigil VP Dave Gilbertson now takes the helm of both Sigil and Vanguard.

In the announcement, Smed stresses that SOE has no plans to significantly alter the game, and that all changes to Vanguard are going to come from the Vanguard team. He promises content to be delivered to subscribers, and mentions that expansions are planned for the future, but he states that the team's first priority is game performance. As to SOE's commitment to Vanguard, Smed explains, "By way of comparison, this team is [approximately] the same size as the EQ2 team and I feel like that team has done an amazing job improving EQ2 since its launch. We intend to do the same thing for Vanguard and it is our hope that the players feel like we're doing right by them."

Also of note, SOE has opened up official forums for Vanguard in order to better communicate with the VG community. Naturally, the acquisition has caused quite a stir with players. If you've got your own two copper to share about the acquisition or how you feel Sony will help or hinder the game (and also happen to have a subscription to the game), join in the discussions on the official forums.


  It's a Secret to Everybody

This week, Funcom announced The Secret World for PC and XBOX360, a new MMORPG project that promises to be anything if not unique.

TSW is created by Ragnar Tornquist, designer of the critically acclaimed The Longest Journey as well as writer for Anarchy Online. He heads a team consisting of several members of the team that developed The Longest Journey's sequel, Dreamfall. TSW takes place in a contemporary setting, and is inspired by unexplained anomalies in history and mythology and how they relate to modern-day conspiracy theories. The canon of the game world insists that the conspiracies are true and that there are mysterious forces at work in the world. These secretive powers are engaged in a massive struggle for domination of the universe, all right under the noses of the unsuspecting masses. Players will become part of the secret world within our own and join this epic, ancient struggle.

A culmination of nearly a decade of conceptualization, the game has been in development off-and-on since 2002, heading forward full-steam in the summer of 2006. TSW is already in a fully-playable state, but developers are not ready to show the game off quite yet. But, have patience and take heart! Tornquitst, via his blog, feels that The Secret World "[is] going to be the best game Iíve ever worked on," which bodes well for the game, considering his body of work.

The hype machine for this game is brilliant. The teaser website darkdaysarecoming.com taunts players to solve some complex puzzles in line with the theme of the game in exchange for tidbits of info and design, including concept art. The site now displays an odd countdown timer, rumored to "stop" at December 21, 2012 -- a date well known by conspiracy theorists as the last date on the Mayan calendar and the alleged end of the world.

Speculation has already begun to run rampant about the game, its themes, and the meaning of the puzzles at the The Secret World Forums. In response to the machinations of the community, Tornquist offers, "The story for this game is deep, people, and thereís going to be tons of stuff to mull over in the months and years to come - both before and after launch."

Are you as eager as I am? Perhaps some concept art will ease the pain of waiting. Or perhaps it will make it worse. Either way, feast your eyes:


  Get Ready to Mix it Up

MixMaster Online, a free-to-play Anime style MMORPG, is ready to exit beta and begin live service on Friday, May 18.

MixMaster allows players to breed and train monsters called Henches to aid in adventuring, and touts 350 different possible breeds of creature. The game does look cute, and features lots of character customization options. Interested parties can read up and apply here.

Take note though, the game servers are located in Australia, and events take place on Sydney time. So gamers living outside of AU might find it difficult to attend.


  Europe Gets Free-To-Play Love

If you're living in Europe and are a bit short on cash, why not give Cabal Online a try?

The European version of Cabal Online went free-to-play this week, following precedent set forth by the Japanese and Korean versions of the game. Cabal now supports both item shop and premium service packages in place of a recurring monthly fee. The premium packages allow players to receive benefits not available to free play subscribers, such as enhanced experience gain. The item shop is a mainstay in many Asian MMOs, allowing players to purchase beneficial items with real world money.

More info available at the Cabal Website.


  Expand! Expand!

Lots of expansions were announced this week.

Final Fantasy XI

If you've followed RPGamer's coverage of the Square Enix Party 2007, then it should come as no surprise to hear that Final Fantasy XI is getting bigger. The game's fourth expansion, Wings of the Goddess, is set to be released this winter. Not much is known about the expansion aside from its title, and that its theme appears to involve Vana'Diel's past. As always, RPGamer will bring the news when it's made available, but until then, eager fans might be able to extract more info from the trailer.

Everquest

This week also brought the announcement that Everquest's fourteenth(!) expansion is in the works. Secrets of Faydwer is to be released this November, in line with the new expansion schedule for EQ, and promises new zones, NPCs, AA skills, and heroic items to help players take their game to the next level. Which happens to be 80, thanks to a level cap increase. Players better hurry up and finish Prophecies of RO, this one is coming out of the pipe hot on its heels.

Lord of the Rings Online

Finally, Lord of the Rings Online is already getting its first expansion, and it's completely free. Named Shores of Evindim, the expansion unlocks the region north of The Shire, coincidentally known as Evindim. Players will have their hands full with 60 new quests, including an epic quest line that leads to a battle with a dragon named Thorog. Denizens of Middle Earth will also be able to assist Aragorn in reforging his sword Narsil. New creatures are on the way as well, including everyone's favorite anthropomorphic trees, the Ent. There's no solid release date for the update yet, but it is expected sometime in June.


 Weekly Web Updates

 Log Out

While being a robot does have its advantages, I'm rather fond of skin... and emotions. So, I think I'm going to back out of that operation. I'll just have to find some other way of cramming all of these delicious-looking games into my clusterfork of a schedule. Anyone willing to go to work for me?

This is the part of Log Out where I solicit you for e-mail. Do it.

See you next week,
Matt Blake


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