Arrrgg, Matey!! There be Pirates in the Arrrrr-my! I It’s Not Unrelated, Seriously
Most Likely Formal Dress, But Can I Wear the Chocobo Shirt? I Deals, Swag, and Trials
New Games, Betas, and Official Releases
Patches, Updates, Expansions, and Events
Video Dump I Travel Log: Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine

Issue #130 A Blanket and a Laptop
November 9th, 2009


Remember last issue when I complained how the hot weather didn't match the fall seasons? Yeah, it got colder. And apparently houses in CA aren't really built to hold in the heat very well, or at least that's what I was told. There's certain nights I go to bed wearing slippers and a jacket. But I love cold weather. I just hate being cold. It's a catch-22.

The format's a bit different this time around, but I don't think it will be staying. I'm still playing around with it. I am trying to incorporate free-to-play MMOs into it more, since they're getting so much more of the limelight. But considering how many there are, that may be a mistake.

  Arrrgg, Matey!! There be Pirates in the Arrrrr-my!

Ugh, sorry. That was terrible, even by my standards. ANYWAY! If you happen to be in the US military, you have the opportunity to play Pirates of the Burning Sea free for six months. Members of the military who are already existing players or have never tried the game before can go to the free trial page, send in their military email address, and Flying Lab Software will send them a six month key for free.

Russell Williams, CEO of Flying Lab Software, says that this trial is a kind of care package. It's a way to say thank you to the players who, despite being in the military, take time to play and participate in the game.

I think that's a pretty nice gesture. I wasn't aware Pirates of the Burning Sea was big among military personal.

  It's Not Unrelated, Seriously

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a disease that affects the muscles of the heart. In layman's terms, it basically causes the heart muscles to thicken, which in turn forces the heart to work harder to pump blood out. Emily Singer is one of those afflicted with this disease. And at this point, I'm pretty sure much most of you are thinking, "Okay, but what does this have to do with MMORPGs?" Well, Emily happens to be a big fan of Guild Wars. And the Make-a-Wish Foundation decided to fulfill Emily's wish and give her the opportunity to visit ArenaNet, the developer for Guild Wars.

Emily was given a full tour of the ArenaNet offices and met with all the different team members involved with making the game. Then she had lunch with the heads of each department and got to tell them what she liked and didn't like about the game, and even grill them on game issues she was interested about. After that, Emily got to give Guild Wars 2 a test run with the developers. But the real kicker is when Emily was asked to stay a couple more hours to help the design team create an event of her own for the upcoming game.

I'm glad Emily got to have such a cool day and wish her nothing but the best. Cheers!

  Most Likely Formal Dress, But Can I Wear the Chocobo Shirt?

Those of you who live in or near Chicago, Illinois, listen up! You've got a cool opportunity coming your way. On December 12th, the "Distant Worlds: music from Final Fantasy" concert will be held at the Rosemont Theatre. It's a 2-5 hour program of nothing but Final Fantasy music, performed by the Chicagoland Pops Orchestra and the Elmhurst College Concert Choir. Some of the songs that will performed include "FINAL FANTASY VII Main Theme, The Man with the Machine Gun, Suteki da ne, Melodies of Life, Kiss Me Goodbye, FINAL FANTASY SERIES: Prelude, Victory Theme", and never before heard music from the upcoming Final Fantasy XIV MMO. Plus, there will be a "special guest performance by the composer Nobuo Uematsu, performing Advent: One Winged Angel live on stage with the premiere of the rock band The Chicago Mages."

Niiiiicccceeee…. Sorry. I haven't been terribly excited by anything Final Fantasy related for a while now, but this kind of rekindles that old love I used to have for the franchise. Except I'm nowhere near Chicago anymore.

  Deals, Swag, and Trials

  • With Final Fantasy XIV upcoming, I wonder what will happen to its older sibling, Final Fantasy XI? Will game service be ceased as soon as FFXIV releases officially? Will it be allowed to die a natural death as players lose interest and move on? Well, there's still a few months until the next Final Fantasy MMORPG drops, and Square Enix is offering a rather nice deal for anyone looking to give FFXI a go. On November 10th, the Final Fantasy XI Ultimate Collection will be available to buy for only $20. Considering the fact this collection contains all four expansions and three add-on scenerios including the upcoming "A Shantotto Ascension", that's actually a really good price. And you'll get thirty days of free play time before having to start paying the subscription fees.

    But, if you don't really need all that, you can just preorder the "A Shantotto Ascension" by itself for $9.99.

  • Speaking of collections, Everquest II The Complete Collection has been released, and it's only $20 as well. The game's five previous expansions are included, plus three adventure packs. As a bonus, buying this collection gives you sixty days of free play and 500 Station Cash for the in-game Marketplace.
  • The digital version of Everquest's 16th expansion, Underfoot, can now be preordered from Officially releasing on December 15th, this preorder is more of a set than a stand alone expansion. Players will get the new Underfoot expansion plus all previously released expansions and content, plus the Legends of Norrath digital card game, 500 Station Cash, and new players will get thirty days to play for free.
  • Interested players can once again take advantage of Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures' seven day free trial. All you have to do is download and play.

    Also, price drops are being offered for long term subscription plans for Age of Conan. Subscribing for three months gives you 20% off the normal monthly fee, six months gets you 30% off, and a 9 month subscription saves you 45%.

  • European Lord of the Rings Online players can preorder the newest expansion to the game, Siege of Mirkwood, which launches on December 3rd. You can preorder the Mirkwood Expansion, or you can go for the LOTRO Triple pack, which gives you all three expansions. Both options have standard and special edition versions, so obviously you're getting some extra goodies if you spring for the special edition.

    American Lord of the Rings players are also getting special Siege of Mirkwood prelaunch deals. Anyone who has a multi-month subscription or upgrades their account to a three, six, or twelve month plan will get the new expansion for free. Lifetime subscribers can also get Siege of Mirkwood for free if they preorder the Adventurer's pack. These offers will be good until November 18th.

  • I'm usually under the impression that a lot of MMORPG free trials don't give enough time for a player to really get a grasp of the game and all it can offer, unless they have time to play a trial almost nonstop until it expires. In a move I heartily approve of, Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning has made their free trial unlimited. This means you can play the free trial for as long as you wish, with no time limits. Of course, being a trial, you're not going to get the full game for free. Endless Trial players are "restricted to Tier 1 of the Empire versus Chaos pairing," as well as only being allowed to play in specific servers. But hey, a trial meant to just sample things anyway. Delving into the full experience is for when you actually buy the full product. Here's a full FAQ if you have any questions.
  • The Blizzard Store has got two in-game pets available for World of Warcraft players. Lil' K.T., the mini-lich, shoots ice, and he'll spitefully laugh at your defeated PvP enemies so you don't have to. Pandaren Monk is, well, a panda. And who doesn't want a panda pet? Both pets are $10, and half of the purchase price for the Pandaren Monk will be donated to the Make-a-Wish Foundation until December 31st. Both pets are purely for fun, and do not actually help out in combat. Kinda like owning one of those teacup dogs you carry around in a purse. Though I'd rather have a mini-lich than a Chihuahua. Here's a more detailed FAQ about these new pets.

  •   New Games, Betas, and Official Releases

  • The Global version of Soul of the Ultimate Nation, or SUN launched on October 21st. This is not to be confused with the North American version of SUN, though since it's global I suppose you could play either one. If you're an American, anyway.
  • Star Trek Online entered its closed beta phase on October 22nd. Cryptic has the beta application posted, so people can still try to sign up.
  • Aika Online is now holding closed beta sign-ups.
  • Upcoming free-to-play MMORPG Mytheon has its official website up and running. The closed beta sign ups are available as well.
  • The third closed beta of Wonderking will run until November 12th.
  • Zodiac Online, the new cutesy-wootsy free-to-play MMO based off of the Chinese zodiac, is now holding its closed beta test.
  • Wait, there's more! Allods will hold their closed beta from November 10th-November 24th. Sign-ups are still open for anyone wishing to join.
  • Hoo boy. Don't get me wrong, I'm pretty fond of free-to-play MMOs (well, I’m just fond of free stuff in general), but it gets hard to wade through the massive amount of them. It seems like there's at least ten new ones every month. Anyhow, adding to that pile (at least of the ones coming to the US), is upcoming Grand Fantasia. Aeria Games has acquired publishing rights to the game, and has put up an official website. Closed beta sign-ups are already being held as well.
  • Bright Shadow's open beta commenced on October 26th. This actually looks to be an MMO that I intend to try out pretty soon. Also, the game's Halloween Fun Event will be held until November 11th.
  • Newcomer MMORPG Alganon was slated to officially launch on October 31st. But the release has been pushed back, so potential players will now have to wait until December 1st. The reasoning seems to be that the developers wish to tweak the game a bit more and do some more testing. In preparation for the new release date, an open beta for Alganon will be starting on November 11th. For those who preordered the game before October 28th, they'll be getting compensation in the form of a month of free play time and some in-game items. Well, if it makes the game better in the end…
  • The open beta for Dragon Oath launched on November 5th.

  •   Patches, Updates, Expansions, and Events

  • Ryzom got itself a brand new website with new graphics, easier readability, and faster loading times.
  • The Pet Farm expansion has been released on Destiny Online. Players can now create their own farm space and train captured monsters. Sort of a Pokemon meets Monster Rancher kind of thing. The expansion includes the Ultimate Tournament feature, and also the new Zebra server was opened.
  • Atlantica Online's latest patch introduces the new "Punisher" mercenary to the game. Other new additions are the Atlantica Diary, the Clothes Book, and tweaks have been made to the monsters and battle system. Also, special events and contests are being held all through November in honor of Atlantica Online's first anniversary, including special monster drops, item giveaways, leveling up prizes, and a fan-art and sign making contest.

    Ndoors Interactive has also bought out a new "lite" version of the Atlantica Online game client, designed specifically for new players wanting to try the game. All of content and areas for levels 1-20 are available. And while you play through the beginning parts, the lite client downloads the rest of the game "in the background to allow players to keep progressing into later parts of the game." So instead of trying to download the full file and waiting, you can download the smaller game client and already be playing the game while the rest is downloaded for you.

  • Following up on their previously implemented Faction Change service, World of Warcraft now has a Race Change service as well. Players can switch their character's race to another in their given faction, so long as the new race chosen is compatible with the character's current class. Using the Race Change service will cost $25, and you can only change one character's race at a time. Blizzard has a full FAQ up all about how the Race Change service works.
  • The new content update called Dragon has dropped into Mabinogi. In the battle between two dragon factions, players now can have access to new weapon upgrades, fight in the skies against wyverns, collect and restore fossils, explore new dungeons with ramped up difficulty, and more.
  • The North American version of Dragonica Online will soon be holding the second stage of their special two-part event. Starting November 10th-12th, "A Call to Arms" asks players to donate armor and weapons to a war drive. The character class that donates the most will win.
  • Halloween is still going strong in Runes of Magic, where the Pumpkin Festival will be running until November 10th. There are twisted pumpkin monsters to be fought and the chance to win a Pumpkin Festival set and earn a rare title.

    Runes of Magic has also released patch 2.1.2, Storming the Acropolis. The Naga Acropolis in the Aotulia Volcano is now open for groups to take on the Naga troops and their leader, King Sharleedah. It's noted that players attempting to go through on their own will most likely be slaughtered.

  • Maple Story Europe released its newest patch on October 22nd, introducing the alchemy society of Magatia. You can join one of the two alchemist groups, face off against new monsters, and try out the new quests.

    Over in Maple Story Global English, the new content patch called Up has been launched, bringing updates to the Cygnus Knights class, a new boss monster, new events, and new mini-dungeons. Three Halloween events will be running until November 24th, and the Malaysia Theme Park area is now open to players.

  • For those following the Star Wars: The Old Republic web comic Threat of Peace, the 19th issue has been posted.
  • Despite the game being delayed, Alganon's upcoming Immortal Contest seems to be going ahead full steam. To participate, subscribers have to recruit people to join the game. Whoever is the first to get enough people to preorder and/or commit to a prepaid number of months will win the chance to work with the Alganon developers to create a permanent NPC character in the game. The contest begins on November 9th and runs until November 23rd.
  • Turbine launched the first update to Dungeons & Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited on October 28th. The Harbor area has been reopened and a new adventure pack called "The Path of Inspiration" has been released. Also, epic difficulty has been added to dungeons.

    On November 4th, the new Orien server was opened and for now is available only to new characters.

  • Chapter 2: The Nightmare Begins is now live in Asda Story. One of the new additions is the Castle of Chaos, "the highest level map in the game." Also, there has been class balancing, a game-wide skill reset, new quests, and the new Centrifuge Bike.
  • In Trickster, patch 2.28.2 brings treasure hunting and the new Shadow World to the game. Enlightenment will allow players to cultivate a special guardian that will protect them, and those that can complete the Enlightenment quest before December 2nd will earn a prize.

    Trickster has also reached its third year anniversary. Current players are encouraged to introduce new players to the game and bring back old ones. XP bonuses, login events, and a special grand event are being held in order to celebrate.

  •   Video Dump
    Not Exactly Neverending

    Here's a promo trailer for free-to-play 4Story, showcasing some game art and the different classes.

      Travel Log: Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine

    I adore the Shin Megami Tensei franchise. I have yet to play any of the games in series and not love them. I rate Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne as one of my favorite RPGs. So I'm automatically inclined to be in the player base for Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine.

    Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine takes place after a disaster called the Great Destruction, where much of modern society has been destroyed and mankind is slowly trying to rebuild itself. The remnants of humanity live in underground shelters called Homes. The Seven Wise Men, or the Seven Philosophers, rose up to lead humanity and constructed a large tower on the ruins of a city, calling it Shinjuku Babel. After a period of peace, three obelisks suddenly appeared in Tokyo, and demons began running rampant throughout the world. Players take on the role of a Demon Buster, someone who both fights against the demons, but who can also recruit them to fight alongside them.

    This is only the general gist of background of Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine, as the plot seems to vary depending on what source you look at. Wikipedia says that the game takes place between Shin Megami Tensei and Shin Megami Tensei II, which makes sense considering what I've read on those two games. What I'm enjoying about SMTI is that the player is actually fairly involved in the story, rather than the tactic most free-to-play games take where they just dump you into the game world and say "Go save humanity, or the world, or whatever." There's actually cut scenes in this MMO. You start off the game on a mission with Kuroe, a more experienced Demon Buster who is your trainer. She receives a call that communications with Home II have been out for two hours and you are needed to investigate, so you and her head out. After reaching Home II, you venture into the compound on your own to gather information on the situation. This mostly serves as a training level to teach you the basics of gameplay. After fighting a few monsters, you rejoin Kuroe to find her facing off against a Taraka (regular players of SMT games remember this monster as the four-armed creature who holds a sword in each hand and wears four giant skulls around its head). You, being a complete newbie, have absolutely no chance against the Taraka, and...let's just say things don't go so well. You wake up to find yourself in Home III, a refugee city. You meet Snakeman, the leader of Home III and a trainer of Demon Buster recruits. He decides to continue your training as a Demon Buster, and after a more indepth training session, you are let out into the game on your own.

    You get more and more story as you progress through the Acts of the game, though I haven't gotten too far. I had first started playing in the beta, so I had to restart the game when the characters got wiped. I was a bit peeved about that, but I managed to make my character about the same again and even snag my original name. I love the character and setting design. The looks remind me of Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, and the desolute area outside of Home III really sets a good feel for a post-apocolypse world. Sometimes things get a bit choppy when I'm running around, but that might just be my connection or computer's fault.

    Of course, a big part of combat in SMTI is demon collecting. You get new demons by talking with them on the field and seeing if they'll join, though sometimes you can do quests to get certain demons. I think there must be a method to doing it well, like raising a certain expertise to make you more successful or talking to demons a certain way, but it still seems that whether or not a demon is going to join you is up to chance. In battle, demons have their own skill bar, so you can choose specific attacks or set the demon's AI to perform in a certain way. There's more strategy involved here than most MMOs; you can dodge, block, or counter depending on how you fight. I chose to be a gunner, and since I fight long range, I don't tend to bother with blocking or countering. I just stand away from monsters and take pot shots at them while sending my demons in close to keep them off me. I don't know, though. Something about the combat seems...stiff to me. That's the only word I can think of, but I wonder if maybe I'm just not doing things right.

    Demon fusion is here, as expected, and it works the same as in most SMT games. You also have a Demonic Compendium, but rather than getting to register your demons just by asking, you have to collect a kind of memory card for each specific demon to get them recorded into the compendium. This isn't such a big deal, but it can be really difficult to find a memory for some demons. Sometimes you can get one as a drop from killing a monster, some you can buy if you know where to look. But I find it a bit annoying that I can't seem to get a Hua Po memory within reasonable means, and Hua Po is one of the lowest level demons you can get in the game. So I have mixed feelings about the whole Demon Memory thing.

    But the main draw for me in SMT games, besides the stories and characters, has always been demon collecting and getting to perform my own Mendel experiments to create even more powerful monsters. And the added story elements and general visual aethestic of the game appeals to me enough to drown out whatever compliants I may have listed. I am too hooked on the SMT franchise to care.

     Back to Title

    I'm getting very excited about upcoming issues of this columns. I won't say why, but I really feeling optimistic about the way the format is going to change. So tune in next time!

    /not LFG,
    Sarah Williams (Feed me mail!)

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