2008. május 31., szombat

The Profitable Dimension of Virtual Business

There is a new industry that has emerged in the 21st century that allows gamers to profit from their passion of MMORPGs. All over the world regular gamers are purchasing online game currencies and filling the pockets of virtual entrepreneurs. The industry spans from New York to Shanghai, with hundreds of thousands of avid customers inbetween. Employing thousands of workers across Asia is necessary to satisfy the growing demand from Western gamers.
Beyond the MMORPG community, little attention is paid to the RMT industry and so it remains an unknown property to the majority of the world's population. Regardless of this, RMT remains most active in games such as World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XI (FFXI), EVE Online and EverQuest 2. A prime example is in the World of Warcraft where participants progress through numerous dungeons, quests and scenarios in order to amass the game's currency. Many gamers decide to spend their hard-earned currency on themselves, but many decide to sell their precious Gil for real money - others even dedicate themselves (and others) professionally to this task, all in the search of profit.
MMORPG creators rarely agree with or tolerate the practice of in-game trading. Major developers and distributers often cite intellectual property violations as their reason for objection, claiming that participants are selling part of the game which actually belongs to the game's creator. Developers often try to persuade players within the game that the practice is detrimental to game-play or the world's economy. Legally, real-money trading breaks no laws and has led to no convictions within the Western world, but pressure for government intervention grows each day.
Even though some take issue with the ethics or principles of the practices, virtual trading is here to stay. There is certainly money to be made, whether it's by developers or entrepreneurs, and the market shows no sign of slowing. Unreleased titles such as Warhammer Online and Age of Conan will no doubt act as the future venues for this ever expanding industry.
Special thanks to www.MOGS.com - reatailer of FFXI Gil

2008. május 30., péntek

Age of Conan: First Impressions

The character creation screen is more in depth than many MMOs. However, if you're brave enough to admit you've played The Sims, then you've certainly seen better. In the end does it really matter in games where you're likely to be covered head to toe in armor? I think not so much but I sense that people do enjoy the versatility. What I would personally have preferred more than being able to tweak the length of my nose or the size of my boobs, was not to look like a ragamuffin. If you thought your character's gear looked thrown together in LOTRO you ain't seen nothin' yet. To date, Age of Conan and LOTRO are the only games that I've played where I looked like mixed-match mess.

I appreciate the circumstance of a recently escaped/freed slave. I understand they don't plan on making the game as gear dependant as others. However, do I really have to look that bad? Or am I that vain??? I found myself looking through the multiple tops, pants and shoes in my bag trying to find something that at least seemed like it went together. The stats were all the same but the styles, colors and textures didn't jive. I looked a hot mess. It was slightly similar to AC2 in that, there was a lot of variety in the same piece of armor so you can be in a red robe that has +1 Defense and I can be in a black one if I prefer and that's without dying your items. However, Age of Conan hacks made the stuff even at the lower levels look decent and you could easily match your items. Hopefully, I'll get to look better at some point.

AOC has a nice variety of classes within the four archetypes of Soldier, Priest, Mage and Assassin. Only certain classes can be played by certain races, which is a common implementation. However, in AOC whole archetypes are exclusive to certain races. For example, if you want to be a Mage of any kind, then you must be Stygian. On the PVE and PVP servers so what, but I wonder how this plays out on the Culture PVP servers where a race is completely locked out of an archetype?

Even though AOC has the usual suspects for classes, not all of them are the typical fare. Priests and Mages are battle versions of those classes. Everyone gets to have decent offensive skills and from what I've read so far, it appears that HOT and AOE healing spells are more prevalent than the "heal one" scenario. I think this might make playing a healer more pleasurable. If you can heal many more often with a single action, you'll have more opportunity to actual watch the battle – see the instances and bosses.

One of the Mage's has melee as its primary DPS, as does at least one of the Priests. It's little twists like these that add a bit of freshness into the game. I'll discuss the classes in more detail after I've finished testing my would-be mains.

Lastly, the combat system which is VERY different from any MMO I've ever played. At least in terms of PVE, it's not giving me nearly the trouble I expected. I never did well on the console games and don't consider myself adept at FPS style combat but so far, so good. The inclusion of combos which deal more damage when successfully executed is interesting. I do wish that I could move where they displayed. For some reason focusing left side of the screen doesn't work as well for me, as it would if I could place it right side or better yet, closer to my character and my Age of Conan cheats. I want to watch the combat but with the combos slightly off to the left, my eye is focused there. Oh well, definitely not a huge deal. It would just be nice to be able to move it to match my preferred field of view.

That's where I'm at for now. It's pretty, different, combat feels fresh, UI could be better but no deal breaker. I'm on a PVE server at the moment. I'm going to do a Bear Shaman on a PVP or Cultural PVP server at some point. The only pitfall I can foresee at the moment is if I MUST quest. Forced questing for leveling is why I'm not playing LOTRO or EQ2. Grinding XP is a play-style and as much as some people hate it, others enjoy and actually prefer it. I don't mind questing in moderation but when I'm not in the mood, I really do need the freedom to just go whack stuff and still level at a decent rate. This philosophy is one of the major reasons I'm excited about Warhammer Online.

May 29, 2008 in Age of Conan | Permalink

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2008. május 29., csütörtök

MMO MMOnkey: Age of Conan reinvents the early game

Like a damsel in distress, MMO players have been held captive by game openings that have relied heavily, much too heavily, on bounty quests of the "Kill twenty of these and then come back to me" variety. Trapped in chains of tedium, experienced players blitz through early levels to get to the point where something interesting starts to happen while gamers new to the genre often wonder why anyone bothers to play these games before they quit from boredom. At least that's the way it used to be.

Lord of the Rings Online took a giant step toward freeing the damsel when they placed the player in a solo instance at the very beginning that gets the player immediately involved in the story that drives the game while also providing instruction in basic game play. It is a terrific way to begin an MMO and the people at Turbine did a great job with it. LotRO weakened the chains but did not quite free the damsel. Now Age of Conan has arrived and by incorporating LotRO's approach into an extended opening that is innovative, immersive and exceptionally well implemented Conan has rescued the damsel by reinventing the early game.

Your character begins AoC in a solo instance. You've washed up on shore with shackles on your wrists after your slave ship has wrecked at sea. Your first task is to free a damsel in distress named Casilda. She's gorgeous, scantily clad, and provocative, follows you everywhere you go, and never misses an opportunity to tell you you're a stud muffin as she bails your sorry ass out of whatever trouble you've blundered into. In other words, she's a wet dream for 14 year old boys of all ages.

Casilda keeps you alive as you play through the instance learning the basics of game play while picking up starter weapons and armor. If you talk to her, she'll also begin to fill you in on the dire situation that will occupy your efforts through the first part of the game. Talking to her is a good idea for two reasons; she's your introduction to the terrific story that drives AoC's early game, and she has an accent that would make listening to the grocery list enjoyable. (If you enjoy listening to Casilda, just wait until you meet Tina.)

AoC is following in the path blazed by LotRO in its use of a solo instance as an introductory tutorial that puts the player in the story. Once you reach the starter city of Tortage, however, Age of Conan goes where no MMO has gone before.

The early game in AoC is divided into daytime and nighttime segments. The daytime game is a fairly typical shared-world MMO with vendors, quests, several different locations, and lots of other players running around. Some of the quests are of the standard bounty hunter variety that turns the early game into a dreary grind in so many other MMOs. However, there are so many other kinds of quests in both the day and nighttime games that you can skip the bounty quests if you don't want to do them. If you like them, they're there for you; if you don't, you can avoid them without penalty.

The nighttime game is a single-player adventure in which you learn about the evil things that are going on in, around and under Tortage and play your part in trying to put an end to them. It is also the mechanism AoC uses to let you build your character to the point where you are ready to enter the main game world. During character creation you choose one of AoC's twelve character classes but when you wash up on shore your memory is gone and your character doesn't know who or what they are. Both character and story development are carried out through a single series of destiny quests in the night game.

You can go back and forth between the day and nighttime games whenever you please; day and night are not on a timer in the early game. The destiny quest line is designed to take you through approximately twenty levels and you must attain a certain level to unlock the next series of quests in the sequence. Quest mobs are tuned to your level so the destiny quests are always both challenging and doable. Some players are finding the destiny quests difficult but that has not been my experience. When you have finished the destiny quests you can go to the mainland and enter the main part of the game or you can stay on the island; your choice. If you leave, you can come back at any time.

The combination of a single player game and a shared-world MMO is an interesting and innovative game mechanic in and of itself but what makes it work so well in AoC is how well Funcom has combined the two in a coherent whole. The evil that you uncover at night is reflected all around you in the world you see during the day, and the experience of living in the daytime world deeply enriches the adventure you have at night. The day and night games beautifully compliment and reinforce each other in such a way that their whole is greater than the sum of their parts. It's two different games in one seamlessly integrated world and the result is a deeply immersive experience for the player.

The sense of immersion is greatly enhanced by the story line that drives the nighttime destiny quests. No spoilers here, but suffice it to say that the story is a very good one that is very much in tune with Robert E. Howard's classic Conan stories. The night game carries the main story line but several quest sequences in the day game fill out some of the details. As always, there's the big bad guy that you're going to have to deal with in the final confrontation but along the way you'll get up close and personal with his lieutenants, minions and soldiers. In the daytime world you'll witness their depravity and be personally subjected to their arrogance and disdain. They will scorn and demean you and, like the other denizens of Tortage, you will be powerless to do anything about it. Other than pray your paths will cross in the night, that is. If and when your paths do cross, you will understand at a gut level the joy in wreaking physical destruction on your enemies that is so much a part of the Conan stories. You really want these people to die, you really want your friends and allies to survive, and you find yourself this deeply immersed in the game during the first twenty levels. These are the same twenty levels that other games have you grind through before the fun starts.

The day – night mechanic also contributed to my sense of immersion in the game in a way that was completely unexpected. Many MMOs have a day – night cycle that is designed to contribute to the player's sense that the virtual world is a real place that exists independently of the player's actions. At first glance, allowing the player to control when day and night occur appears to be a large step backward from this kind of immersive realism. It didn't work that way for me, however. I found I quickly fell into a rhythm where I would play the day game for awhile, get tired of the daytime quests, switch to the night game, play that for awhile, switch back to the day game, and so on. Alternating the two games like this led me to think that AoC captures the functional difference between night and day like no MMO before it and by doing so draws the player more deeply into the game.

What do I mean by the functional difference between night and day? In the real world, night comes, it gets dark, and there's nothing we can do about it. AoC 's early game utterly fails at depicting this aspect of the day – night cycle. Don't want it to get dark? Don't play the night game. It's that simple. But for most of us, day and night involve much more than a difference between light and dark. We generally do very different things during the day and the night. Day is for work, night is for relaxation and fun. Day and night fulfill different functions in our lives and for many of us this functional difference is much more important and meaningful than the simple difference between light and dark. By splitting the day and night games between a shared-world MMO and a story-driven solo adventure AoC does a wonderful job of capturing this functional difference. Nighttime not only looks different, it feels different because you're doing different things, and that makes it more real and more engaging than the regular application of a dark color scheme on a cyclical timer.

The integrative aspects of AoC's early game are not limited to melding the day and nighttime games into a single fully realized world. There are four class archetypes in AoC, soldier, rogue, priest and mage. The destiny lines for the rogue and soldier archetypes (the two I've played through to the end of the early game thus far) have some quests in common but each also has a number of special quests that are tailored to the archetype. For example, the soldier goes on a rescue mission while the rogue has a sneak and assassination mission. In addition, the differences in the quest lines provide interlocking pieces of the overall story. As the soldier you are told that because X has happened you must now do Y; as the rogue you are the one that did X so that the soldier can do Y. Playing out the different parts of the story with different characters greatly adds to the fullness of the world and the richness of your experience in it.

It also appears to be the case that the adventure you have in the early game is only a small segment of a much larger story that will play out through the rest of AoC. The destiny story line has hooks aplenty for subsequent development in the larger world. Your victory in Tortage may well have brought your character to the attention of much more dangerous foes. You'll just have to keep playing to find out.

Age of Conan opens like no game before it and I expect the changes will not be to everyone's liking. The weary complaints from people who assert that World of Warcraft didn't do anything new because it was just an easier version of Everquest seem to be counterbalanced by the segment of the MMO community that wants every new game to be just like WoW only better. The latter group may find AoC confusing and I've seen some minor pissing and moaning in OOC chat from people who are frustrated by being challenged to do something other than mindlessly grind out the first twenty levels to "get off this damned island" as fast as possible. In many other MMOs the first ten to twenty levels are a chore you need to get through. In AoC, they're an exciting and compelling introduction to the game and the game world. If you can adapt to this difference in the early game, you're in for a treat. If you can't, you're going to blow through an experience that's meant to be savored and miss one of the most enjoyable parts of the game.

With Age of Conan Funcom has melded innovative game design with the centuries-old standby of a good story that is well told and then deeply embedded the combination in a world that is so fully realized it draws you in almost immediately and doesn't let go until you set sail for the mainland. AoC sets new and very high standards for what the early game in an MMO should be. Having played through the adventure in Tortage, grinding out five, ten, or twenty levels at the start of an MMO just to get to the part where the fun begins isn't going to cut it anymore. Age of Conan has come roaring out of the gate and like the mighty Cimmerian for whom it's named has put a boot in the ass of the early game in nearly every other MMO out there. Conan has rescued my damsel from her early-game distress and she's never going to want to go back to the way it used to be.

Source : massively.com

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2008. május 28., szerda

Online Game communities are social in nature

By Cindy Ahuna

Who are the friendly characters that will play with you if you play with them?

In 1969, "SpaceWar", developed by Rick Blomme, was the first two-player game designed to play on PLATO. In 1961, the "Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations" was the first network to run on the Illiac computer system. PLATO was created by Professor Chalmers Sherwin, under the direction of electrical engineering professor Don Bitzer, co-inventor of the plasma display pane at the University of Illinois.

During 1970 through 1977, multiplayer games included "SpaceWar"; a version of "Star Trek"; "Avatar", a Dungeons and Dragons-style game; "Airflight", a flight simulator; and "Empire", which supported 32 players on PLATO. In 1972, PLATO hosted 1,000 simultaneous users. In May 2001, Sony's "EverQuest", a massive multiplayer online role-playing game, hosted 60,000 to 80,000 players daily.

In 1973, David R. Woolley designed "Notes", a communications software for PLATO. Due to the release of this software, "Talkomatic", precursor to IRC with handles and chat rooms, was developed for PLATO. A maximum of five people wrote and read each other's messages on the same screen. Chat rooms were open and uncensored. A player logged on using their real or an anonymous name, and played either gender role.

In various online chat rooms found on AOL's games and in Sony's "EverQuest", text is censored when gamers use brand or offensive words. Role-playing genders, sometimes referred to as gender swapping or multiple representations, is possible when gamers change or hide the genders of their characters using anonymous names.

In "EverQuest", with more than 360,000 subscribers, thousands of gamers play characters of the opposite gender. Gamers are free to explore relationships while in character. Male gamers find that female characters generally get treated better in male-dominated virtual worlds. Sometimes men find it easier to chat with other characters and escape the competition. In free online games list, multiple representations allow players to see how other players solve problems. "There are a lot of rumors and anecdotes about people referring to play games as men or women because they are treated differently," says avid gamer J. MacLean.

In a lecture titled "Programs, Emotions and Common Sense", Marvin Minsky emphasized in his book the idea of multiple representation. "If you understand something very precisely in one way", Minsky claims "you don't understand it at all." "You know it by rote. What does the word understand mean? Understanding means having many different ways to deal with things," said Minsky. Children memorize history by rote, but they usually don't understand it how free online games work. Sometimes gamers falsely assume they are interacting with a person who matches the gender's name. Perhaps on one level, Minsky's definition can be applied as a working analogy for multiplayers who role-play playing games. If multiplayers had more ways of identifying the characters, they might be able to understand who the friendly characters were when they played with them, but then again, that might take all of the fun out of the game.

Artist/curator Anne-Marie Schleiner, describes social developments in gaming: "Multiplayer games can be very social. In the shooter genre, players sometimes band together into "clans", groups who fight against other groups. Sometimes the social bonds developed in these clans extend beyond the game into friendship and players offer each other moral support through personal hardship and help each other find jobs," said Schleiner.

Social environments evolve from online game communities. "A great example is "Air Warrior", a WW2 flight simulation with players are so dedicated, they've held conventions. Massive multiplayer role-playing games are also famous for the strength of their communities "the guilds in "EverQuest" are a great example of this phenomenon," says MacLean. In contrast to single player games, communities are vital depending on the game. For example, "for a game like chess, where skill levels can be critical, many people prefer to play with someone of relatively similar skill," says MacLean.

In a global point of view, the Internet is the living organism that hosts many online games systems. Boundaries of geography, economy, culture, degrees of education and family traditions have disappeared. Gamers are co-authors that take part in the experience. Communities are playing fields for social interaction. When gamers send messages to other gamers, they are free to exchange email addresses and meet beyond the game community. Communities have become an extension, a new medium of human touch.

When communities form, a semantic world of sharing knowledge, solving problems, working as a team, playing, building, quarreling, cooperating, planning and forming relationships develop. Games are formal because they have a set of rules. A game is a system because it has a collection of parts that interact with each other in complex ways. In "EverQuest", the Game Masters hold the most power. Online games run on a '24x7' calendar. Generally, online the role-playing games are maintained by paid subscriptions, whereas, online fighting games are free. Communities exist in time by free and paid subscriptions. Gamers occupy real estate within the online game. Communities live in both space and time. Thus, it is a lifelike system.

Popular game boxes vary from Sony PlayStation, PlayStation 2; Nintendo's GameCube projected to ship Nov 5, '01 in the US; and Microsoft's Xbox projected to ship Nov 8, '01 in the US. "Although game boxes offer higher resolution graphics in comparison to PC gaming, they are a closed hardware platform and less amenable to multiplayer social games. Multiplayer gamers cannot insert their own character skins into shooter games in a game box or with a multiplayer game, such as "EverQuest". "EverQuest" can easily receive updates on the game over time that get rewritten over the original game software," says Schleiner. Many gamers develop friendships with other gamers in different countries using the chat session in "EverQuest".

In some ways, there are as many different types of gamers as there are games. General definitions include:

* Generally, casual gamers are people who enjoy simple decision making games and typically play less technical 3D graphic games. * Generally, traditional gamers are people who enjoy a more complex game. * Multiplayers (simultaneous players) are defined as those who play with other gamers in the same game.

What makes an online game exciting, interesting, social or more fun than another game? Motivation evolves from sensory gratification, role-playing, personality, taste, adrenaline, sociology, immersive and engaging environments, and the element of fun. Games in general motivate ideas. Topics include life, survival, strategy, role-playing, and building relationships. In all circumstances, the player learns by playing. "Building colossal virtual worlds are very important. In a virtual world, everything has a purpose. I love games, " said Minsky during his lecture, "Programs, Emotions and Common Sense".

In Star Trek CCG, gamers can buy and sell, trade and collect digital cards, watch or judge games, and attend tournaments. One disadvantage, prior to downloading the plug-in, a high risk is indicated. The risk is associated with the possibility of gamers accessing your computer if you proceed with download. This warning appears with this statement: "JavaScript or a java applet from DigitalDeck, Inc. is requesting additional privileges." This plug-in is required to run the application.

Because game communities are social in nature, knowledge and understanding are more apparent in virtual worlds. "Wouldn't it be nice to connect two thoughts," said Minsky.

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MMO 2.0

Lately, there has been a lot to talk about in the MMO-verse, with Age of Conan just getting released and a World of Warcraft expansion pack on track for a holiday unveiling there seems to be nothing that can stop the momentum gained by the industry. However, despite all the success being thrown around by the top five MMOs (World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings Online, Age of Conan, EVE Online, Final Fantasy XI) there seems to be very little that is truly pushing the genre towards the "next step."

In every walk of the technological life there are upgrades to the original. Even something as simple as the web was fully upgraded into what has become to lovingly termed: web 2.0. So the same should hold true for MMO, right? You'd think so, but very little has actually changed since the dawning of the 3D MMORPG in the heyday of Everquest. There has been smaller changes like the advent of a quest based storyline and an enhanced mini-map and traveling system, but nothing I'd really call revolutionary, or next generation. Let's face it, nobody out there is really attempting to do anything to set a new standard in the industry.

Now I know that there is at least one EVE Online fan reading this right now in disgust. Let me say this right now, EVE Online is definitely a different experience and CCP has done a marvelous job and creating a successful MMO that strays from the typical archtype that most MMOs follow today. However, that said, they are not setting a standard in the industry. EVE Online and CCP will not be changing the way the industry makes its games and there probably won't be any long lasting affects from their technology. The original Xbox was the first to really incorporate seamless online and now it has become the standard. MySpace truly pushed the bounds of "web 2.0″ with it's social networking applications and it has now become the standard. Apple created the first truly desirable MP3 player and it has now become the standard. All of these are examples of an industry that was expanded on by companies that wished to create a fresh experience on an old application and as such truly changed the landscape of how everybody else played in that field. So despite EVE Online's unique gameplay they certainly haven't changed the way developers make games.

So, where does that leave the industry? With the huge success of World of Warcraft, which handily dashes the success of the other top four MMOs combined, game developers desperately need to find new ways to make their games different and if that means employing a new combat system (Age of Conan) or seriously enhancing the PvP and RvR settings (Warhammer Online) then thats what these companies will do. Unfortunately, many of these "enhancements" are gimmicky at best and won't be offering any true MMO 2.0 anytime soon. However, and this is just my prediction, I think it's safe to say that after all the so called "WoW-killers" have debuted to date, the only MMO that will truly begin to pick away at the house that Blizzard built will be an MMO 2.0 game. Personally, I'm keeping my eye on Copernicus.

P.S. I am in no way calling Age of Conan's combat system or WAR's RvR system bad or flawed, but, rather, non-revolutionary. Yes I have tested out both; Age of Conan beta, Warhammer Online at E for All 2007.

Source : MMOCrunch.com

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2008. május 27., kedd

What Age of Conan means for WoW

According to Michael Zenke from Massively, Age of Conan has sold 400,000 copies, out of 700,000 boxes they put on the shelves. Not bad for the first week. And, kudos to Funcom, the release launch went a lot smoother than the beta or early access. The reception of AoC in the blogosphere was a mixed. Keen and Graev already cancelled their accounts again. Tipa from West Karana sees AoC challenging WoW. The Ancient Gaming Noob correctly points out that "MMOs are a long haul proposition" and reserves judgement until having played it more. And the Common Sense Gamer thinks that WoW won't even notice AoC is out.

So here is what I think. I don't have proof, only anecdotal evidence, so preface every phrase here with "In my humble opinion": I think that World of Warcraft suffers from a cycle of peaks and troughs in subscription numbers. This is largely self-inflicted, numbers peak after big content patches and expansions, and fall in long periods of no new content added. Other factors, like summer holidays, also play a role. I do believe that WoW is heading for a major trough of subscription numbers in the western world. Remember that of the 10.7 million WoW players about 6 million are Chinese, who are on a different cycle, and who pay much less. There are less than 5 million players in the US and Europe, and the number will be falling over the summer, because the Burning Crusade is getting long in the tooth, and not everyone likes to spend his summer holidays in front of a computer.

Age of Conan will reach between half a million and one million subscribers this year. Most of which will be ex-WoW players. A good number of them will have stopped playing WoW anyway, with or without AoC, but a couple of hundred thousand will be pushed over the edge and quit WoW for the prospect of a new game. And Blizzard will notice that, because all of these are the well-paying US/Euro kind of subscribers. Age of Conan will not "kill" World of Warcraft, but it will dent it a bit.

Summer will end, christmas will approach, and now everything is possible. WoW could bring out Wrath of the Lich King in November, and it's subscription numbers would peak again. And personally I don't see Age of Conan having much staying power, not in a game where the first people reached the level cap in the first week already. Wrath of the Lich King will make a much larger dent into Age of Conan's subscription numbers than AoC does into WoW's now. But another possibility is that Blizzard misses a 2008 release date for WotLK. And it is also quite possible that Warhammer Online makes that date, and comes out for christmas. And then Blizzard would really start feeling the pain. I do believe that WAR has an even bigger potential of getting subscribers away from WoW than AoC has. If WAR comes out for christmas and WotLK doesn't, they could easily sell a million copies this year. Again, these are all Americans and Europeans, and if WAR beats WotLK to a christmas release, WoW numbers could suffer an even deeper trough.

None of this will "kill" World of Warcraft. But we are talking numbers here that are big enough to show up in a companies annual report of revenue and profits. If Wrath of the Lich King doesn't come out by the end of this year, the 2008 profits from WoW will be significantly lower than those of 2007, and investors and people at Vivendi will notice. Blizzard would bounce back to a dominating position when they bring out Wrath of the Lich King, but then what? If the third expansion is still another 2 years away, the overall trend of WoW subscription numbers could well go into permanent decline. One day WoW won't be the biggest kid on the block any more, not because of one WoW killer, but because of a death by a thousand cuts. The best Blizzard can hope for is that the new champion will be their next generation MMORPG, but that is not a given.

Source : www.Tobold.com

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Anti-Aliased: Age of Con-troversy

I'm going to hijack my own column this week to cover a topic that I believe is worth spending some space on - Age of Conan and the buzz of negative media attention it has been getting. Age of Conan's controversy spans almost all aspects of the game, from fatalities, to nudity, to even such odd things like race selection.

Now, I've written a few of these articles. I enjoy controversy as the next person and I'm always interested in seeing the opposite viewpoint. It wasn't until I started getting some very, very nice hate mail in my inbox that I began to wonder if anyone understood my own viewpoint on the matter. So, this column is dedicated to other people's opinions, my opinions, controversies and, of course, Age of Conan.

I'm not sure what people expected from a Conan game. It sounds like those who knew their mythos well knew exactly what to expect and embrace it. However, there is, as always, a large amount of the populace who don't know anything about Conan the Barbarian, Robert E. Howard, or the land of Hyboria. So, one must imagine the surprise when this "Age of Conan" game starts to hit the media and attract attention. Imagine more of their surprise when they realize that you can make a woman and flash her boobies to the rest of the virtual population. If I didn't know about Conan the Barbarian, I'd probably be a little uneasy as well.

Conan's risque features have even had us here at Massively guessing in regards to what we can and cannot put into our writing. Our normal office talk about levels, italicizing game names, and standard debates on what MMOs we should be playing have been punctuated by wonderful lines such as, "Hey, can I say 'nipple toggle'?" (Which I can, apparently.)

Yet... all we have here is an adaptation of Robert E. Howard's fictional world and the people who live in it. The legacy of Conan the Barbarian has been available to the public for over 70 years. The population was even exposed to the violent world of Conan in everyone's favorite movie adaptation starring the Governator. All that's really being done here is the introduction of a visual world. If I may say it, Funcom really hit the mark on this one. Instead of giving us a cheap imitation of what goes on in Hyboria, they cut right to the chase and gave us a good interpretation. For the most part, they stuck to the book and the original fiction. That should be commended, not regarded as lunacy.

I've seen movies bloodier than Age of Conan. I've read books scarier and creepier than Age of Conan. And I've seen enough statues and paintings of nude women to last me a lifetime. Yet, here we are, screaming about exposed bosoms and how it might taint the populace. Has anyone walked through Firenze, Italy recently? Seriously, if anyone wants free "porn", just go to your local museum and check out some of the renaissance art.

And that brings me to my point on nudity - there is nothing to be ashamed about concerning the naked form. Surprise, women have breasts! Who knew, right?

Then the inevitable argument comes up concerning the children. Should our children be allowed to see this violent fantasy world? Should we let the young ones step into the world of Hyboria?

Short answer is no. The long answer is no you crazy parents please do not buy this game for your child for Christmas and then leave your child unattended during their game playing on the intarwebz. First of all, I don't want to babysit your child on Age of Conan and explain to them why that lady is naked in the tavern. Second of all, use the ESRB ratings that are so thoughtfully put down in the corner of the front of every game's box.

For those of you who haven't read the back of Conan's box, let me tell you what the ESRB says is in the game's content. The ESRB rates this game as a mature title, meant for children and adults age 17 and over, as this game contains: blood and gore, intense violence, mature language, nudity, and sexual themes. So, please, do not send me e-mails and do not harass your local GameStop employee regarding the fact you had absolutely no clue that there was nudity and violence in this game. It's seriously on the back of the box.

Controversy starts and stops with the parents. I'm begging you, parents of the world, don't go out and blindly purchase games for your child. We of the game industry have the ESRB ratings system in place for a reason; we want you parents to use it. On the back of every game, in the bottom right hand corner, there is a description of what the game contains so you can see if you really want your child being exposed to this material. If you don't want them to buy this MMO, then there are a sea of other MMOs they can play. Some of them are very welcoming to children and a blast to play. They're also much cheaper than Age of Conan. Cheap as free, in fact.

Make no mistake - Hyboria is a dark world that explores dark themes. The women are beautiful, the ale is great, and the treasures are unmistakably epic. But all of these things come with very steep prices that wouldn't be as steep without the mature content. Hyboria is a world that is built on split blood, slave trade, and ruthlessness. In fact, it sounds very much like the history of a certain world that I'm very well acquainted with. Cimmerians remind me of a certain northern people, Aquilonians remind me of a certain set of ancient people who love debates, and Stygians remind me of a certain group of people who built those triangular thingies in the desert. I guess Hyboria isn't that separated from our world after all.

If you ask me, the only controversy that I can see is letting irresponsible parents have children and inconsiderate nutjobs (NSFW) opening their mouths to the media. Maybe we should have a law that will give jail time to parents who give consent to clerks to sell their 10-year-olds Age of Conan and Grand Theft Auto IV, instead of jailing the clerks.

Because I was on vacation last week and was unable to post my column, you all get a bonus! Look for a second edition of Anti-Aliased hitting Massively.com on Thursday. It's like early Christmas, except it's not Christmas and you're not getting any extra presents except my ramblings. But, honestly, is there any better present? I think not.

Source : massively.com

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2008. május 26., hétfő

Age of Conan one of the fastest selling PC games of all time

Over 400,000 gamers have entered game - First 20 reviews with an average review score above 90%

Durham, USA - May 26th, 2008 - Funcom is proud to announce that Age of Conan is one of the fastest selling PC games of all time. More than 400.000 gamers have entered Hyboria over the last few days, with almost half coming from the North American market. This amazing figure for a PC game shows that the positive pre-order trend has transferred into actual sales, and people from all over the world are now flocking to the most savage, sexy and brutal MMO ever created.

Over the weekend an astounding amount of concurrent gamers were logged on to the game, making Age of Conan one of the busiest MMOs in the western hemisphere. With stock flying out of several retail chains, Funcom expects the number to increase in the days to come. In addition to the many gamers logging in, there was also substantial traffic to the Age of Conan websites, with more than 2,2 million unique visitors during the last ten days.

As a result of the great launch, players and press have been raving about the unique qualities of the game, and the first 20 reviews give Age of Conan an average score above 90%. The first US reviews are also live, with Gamezone.com giving the game an Editor's Choice Award, a 9.4 of 10 score, while heralding Age of Conan as a "Benchmark MMO". Sci-Fi.com was also an early mover and gave the game a straight A, stating that "If Robert E. Howard had been a game designer.., this is the Conan he would have invented."

"The initial sales and reviews are very encouraging, and it's great to see that so many are enjoying Age of Conan," said Funcom CEO Trond Arne Aas. "This is just the beginning, and we already look forward to massive updates and cool new features. We believe our focus on making Conan unique and groundbreaking is a key reason for the initial success. This is a focus we will keep and reinforce, and players can expect continued quality and innovation as we enter a new era for the game." Source : WarCry Network

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2008. május 25., vasárnap

Seonyár van seonyár, röpke lepke száll virágra

Ennek a rövidke cikknek a lényege a seonyár2008 versenyen résztvevő oldalam poziciójának javítása. Tekintve hogy még ezt a seonyár2008 cikket is lusta vagyok megírni, így kénytelen leszek ide bemásolni valami szövegecskét megtűzdelni a kulcsszavakkal (pl seonyár2008) így aztán frankón releváns lesz a szöveg :D

Szupernóva-robbanás az első felvonás elejétől

A NASA Swift mesterséges holdjának és a véletlen szerencsének köszönhetően a csillagászat történetében először sikerült közvetlenül az elejétől nyomon követni egy szupernóva-robbanást.

A szupernóva-robbanások (ilyen pl. ahogy az oldalam berobban a seonyár20008 versenybe) a legnagyobb energiát felszabadító események közé tartoznak a Világegyetemben, ezért még óriási távolságból is jól megfigyelhetők. A robbanást magát azonban eddig még senki nem látta, ugyanis a felfedezéskor az objektum már túl van ezen az egyébként nagyon rövid ideig tartó fázison, s a megfigyelők csak a környező térrész és a robbanás által ledobott anyag kölcsönhatásának eredményét észlelhették. Ez a folyamat egy néhány hétig tartó kifényesedésből, ún. felszálló ágból, majd a maximális fényesség elérése után egy több hónapig tartó elhalványodásból, a leszállóágból áll. A robbanás (min az én seo-robbanásom :) a seonyár20008 versenyben) maga tehát mindezideig rejtve maradt a kutatók előtt, pedig észlelése rendkívül fontos lenne a fizikai részletek alaposabb megismeréséhez. Ehhez azonban tudni kellene, hogy a robbanás hol, az égbolt mely területén, mely galaxisában fog bekövetkezni. Ennek a valószínűsége azonban nyilván nullához nagyon közeli, bár nem lehetetlen.


A felső, röntgen- és ultraibolya tartományban készült képeken csak az SN 2007uy szupernóva látható az NGC 2770 galaxisban. A két nappal később készült felvételeket már az SN 2008D dominálja, melynek az előző képpáron még semmilyen nyoma nem észlelhető. [Soderberg és tsai]

2008. január 9-én a gyakorlatilag nulla valószínűségű esemény azonban mégis bekövetkezett, egy szerencsés véletlen a csillagászok segítségére sietett. Alicia Soderberg és Edo Berger (Princeton University) a NASA Swift mesterséges holdjának röntgenteleszkópjával éppen az NGC 2770 katalógusjelű, 90 millió fényévnyire levő galaxisban 2007 végén feltűnt, de már az elhalványulási szakaszban lévő SN 2007uy jelű szupernóvát vizsgálták, mikor a galaxis másik részében egy nagyon erős röntgenfelvillanást vettek észre. A forrás körülbelül 1 percig fényesedett, amit 7-8 percig tartó halványodás követett az észlelhetőségi határig. Soderbergék azonnal riasztották a földi és űrtávcsövek irányítóközpontjait, értesítve őket a különleges eseményről. A következő napok megfigyelései aztán megerősítették, hogy nem egy ismeretlen típusú objektumról van szó, hanem egy Ibc típusú szupernóva robbanását sikerült már rögtön a legelején elkapni. Az objektum az SN 2008D jelzést kapta, lévén a negyedikként felfedezett szupernóva 2008-ban.


Az SN 2008D helyén észlelt forrás röntgentartománybeli "fénygörbéje". Jól látható rajta a beütésszám gyors felfutása, az észlelés megkezdése után körülbelül 1 perccel bekövetkezett maximum, majd a csökkenés a berendezés érzékenységi határa alá. A leszálló szakaszban a beütésszám 129 másodperc alatt esett a maximális 1/e-szeresére. [Soderberg és tsai]

A modellek szerint az Ibc típusú szupernóvák szülőcsillagai az ún. Wolf-Rayet csillagok. Ezen magas hőmérsékletű objektumok mérete a Napéhoz hasonló, tömegük azonban jóval nagyobb annál, az adott esetben a becslések szerint körülbelül 30 naptömeg. Jellemzőjük, hogy életük során erős csillagszél formájában jelentős mennyiségű anyag távozik róluk, így szinte teljesen elveszítik a hidrogént még tartalmazó külső rétegeiket. A maradék rész nagyon gazdag héliumban, míg a csillag összeroppanás előtt álló sűrű magja szinte teljes egészében vasból áll - nem úgy mint az én seonyár20008 oldalam. A szupernóva-robbanás akkor következik be, amikor az erősen lecsökkent energiaprodukciójú mag már nem tud ellenállni a külső rétegek ránehezedő nyomásának, s pillanatszerűen összeomlik, kiindulási tömegtől függően egy neutroncsillagot vagy egy fekete lyukat létrehozva. Az összeroskadás által generált lökéshullám elegendő energiával rendelekezik ahhoz, hogy a csillag külső részeit ledobja, s a levetett anyagot a fénysebesség néhány százalékára gyorsítsa. Amikor ez a ledobott burok utoléri a csillagról korábban csillagszél formájában távozott anyagot, bekövetkezik az a felfénylés, ami alapján eddig felfedezték a szupernóvákat.

IMAGE A WR124 jelű Wolf-Rayet csillag körüli köd a Hubble űrteleszkóp felvételén. [Y. Grosdidier (University of Montreal, Observatoire de Strasbourg) és tsai]

A robbanás lefolyásával foglalkozó elméletek azt jósolják, hogy amikor a lökéshullám eléri a csillag felszínét, még mielőtt szétvetné, annyira felmelegíti az anyagot, hogy ennek eredményeként egy erős röntgen- és ultraibolya felvillanásnak kell bekövetkeznie. Ez lenne az első esemény tehát, ami a robbanás bekövetkeztét jelzi (eltekintve most a neutrinók áramától és a kollapszus okozta esetleges gravitációs hullámoktól), s az SN 2008D esetében a Swift éppen ezt a felvillanást kapta el! A közvetlenül ezután készült színképeken nem látszik közel fénysebességgel mozgó jet-ek nyoma, így kizárható, hogy az esemény esetleg egy gammavillanás (GRB, Gamma-Ray Burst) lett volna.

Egy másik, M. Modjaz (University of California, Berkeley) vezette kutatócsoport a robbanás után több hónappal készült spektrumok alapján, a neutrális oxigén tiltott vonalainak szerkezetéből ugyanakkor úgy találta, hogy a robbanás maga aszimmetrikus volt. A mag összeomlására vonatkozó egyik elképzelés szerint a felszabaduló energia jelentős része a mag forgástengelyének irányában közel fénysebességgel mozgó keskeny jet-ek formájában távozik. Ha ezek energiája kellően nagy, a pólusok körül szinte kilyukaszthatják a csillagot, s a tengely irányában egy gammavillanást, vagy egy röntgenflert eredményezhetnek. Ha energiájuk ehhez nem elegendő, vagy nyílásszögük nem eléggé kicsi, akkor nem jutnak ki a csillagból, hanem szétvetik azt, mégpedig aszimmetrikusan.

Sodeberg szerint a mostani, véletlennek köszönhető felfedezés csak az első lépés, a közeljövő röntgentartománybeli égboltfelmérései tömegével fedezhetik fel a szupernóvákat már a robbanás pillanatában, lásd seonyár20008.

Az eredményeket részletező szakcikk a Nature magazin 2008. május 22-i számában jelent meg.

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