Champions Online Confirmed I SOE to Revolutionize Voice Chat I NCSoft Books Faces
Connect to Knight Us All I O RLY? YA RLY! I Media Grotto

Issue #106 Facebook My Champion, Please
February 21, 2008

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Welcome to MMORPGamer.

This week sees news from the burst of creativity and innovation that GDC always brings. Also, I forgot to post a few letters for last week's column. To those who wrote in: I apologize for this oversight and will make sure to monitor my letters more closely.

With no further ado, the news:

  Champions Online Confirmed

Champions Online

This month's Game Informer magazine featured the info that leaked last week: Champions Online is on its way from Cryptic.

The game, slated for release on the Xbox 360 and PC, will be an online version of the tabletop RPG. Most interesting are the new ideas Cryptic is hoping to put into it.

Cryptic hates that MMOs require large UIs that obscure the player's view and that controls have become too convoluted for console controllers. They've promised that the HUD for Champions Online will be small the controls will be simple.

Cryptic hopes to make the game play more like Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, X-Men Legends, and like games. Super powers are mapped to face buttons with secondary powers available by holding the left trigger.

Game Informer reports that Cryptic's claims aren't that far off from the truth, as evidenced by their hands-on booth at GDC. The entire article is several pages long and has a bunch of info and pretty pictures. I'd recommend picking it up.

This new game has stolen Age of Conan's place in my heart. I'm more excited about this game and its features than any other MMO in development.

Cryptic's previous development of City of Heroes will only serve to hype this game further. Even if the gameplay sucks, I can't wait to design a new character in this game's new "comic shading" style.

  SOE to Revolutionize Voice Chat


This week, Sony Online Entertainment announced that it's partnering with Vivox to produce a new voice chat service marketed toward MMO players. The service will come free of charge and will be implemented deeply into SOE's current IPs: EverQuest, EverQuest II, Star Wars Galaxies, Planetside, and Vanguard: Saga of Heroes.

In the press release, SOE brags about the ability to strike up conversations with avatars around you via voice chat. Other management abilities will include buddy lists and various channels.

The innovative details are the most exciting parts of this service hosted by Vivox. With the new system, players will be able to:

  • Leave voicemail for fellow players.
  • Access guild chat via phone.
  • Disguise their voices with six different "voice fonts."

    Though most of the features are not expected to launch with the new system, the prospect of voice chat sounds good. The fact that it is hosted by a free third party is innovative enough to excite players. Even if we have to wait until 2010 for this to be fully implemented.

  •   NCSoft Books Faces

    Tabula Rasa

    NCSoft has joined the Web 2.0 revolution by bringing three of its games to the popular site Facebook. Tabula Rasa, Dungeon Runners, and Exteel all have game pages you can look up and become an official fan of. The pages feature ratings, a posting wall, info, and pictures.

    The weird part about this story is the absence of pages for any other of NCSoft's IPs. Guild Wars 2 has a page, but there's only one fan and no information. That page doesn't seem official in the slightest. Why wouldn't NCSoft make a page for Guild Wars, its upcoming sequel, or City of Heroes, one of its best hits?

    Regardless of this oversight, the idea of being able to sport fandom on Facebook is great. It only serves to further the future of Web 2.0, whatever that will be.

      Connect to Knight Us All

    In this week's installment of Connect 2008 news, Codemasters announced a new reward for attendance. All Lord of the Rings Online players will receive one title for their efforts.

    Players will be able to choose from one of three titles offered by Turbine and Codemasters: "Worldly Traveler," "Pillar of the Community," or "Greeter of Kin." The standard this sets may mean more titles as giveaways in the future.

    I'm a big fan of the title system in LOTRO since its inception. This way of labeling those who dedicated time and money to visit Connect is a great addition to the ton of gifts already in store for players who visit.

      O RLY? YA RLY!
    G.I.R.L. Power

    Sony Online Entertainment announced its new scholarship program this week. Entitled "Gamers in Real Life," the program is aimed towards women who want to get into the gaming industry. Citing the obvious impact that men already have, SOE has pledged a $10,000 tuition scholarship to The Arts Institutes and a 10-week internship for one skilled woman winner.

    SOE requires that applicants be enrolled in a program at The Arts Institutes already. Students must submit an in-game design, concept art, and two essays by May 31, 2008. Winners will be announced June 30, 2008.

    The program doesn't really start until April 1, but I'll make sure to have details up here as soon as they arrive. Good luck to all applicants. Don't forget our editorials section if you want to give those essays a test run.

      Media Grotto
    Champions Online Screens

    Along with the announcement of Champions Online came the release of the official site and these lovely screenshots.


    Otaku Nick's Saga Continued

    otaku nick

    you asked on opinions of the lotr thing and the commercial is cool and when i was beta testing it i enjoyed it.. too bad they demand a monthly fee.. call me cheap but guild wars gets my time cause its both good and free to play.. i like the way that's done.. if every mmo was like that i'd be a happy camper.. theres a couple of games i'd play willingly and be happy to do so.. city of heroes/villains. swg.. yes.. i actually liked swg. i miss my jedi dangit..

    later days



    I'm surprised you mention Guild Wars. I wouldn't think that a game that requires a $50 start up fee can be termed "free to play." However, I see what you mean about it not having a subscription fee. I suppose everybody just has to embrace what they like in terms of payment or no payment, in your case.

    I wonder, though: Is there anything an MMO could do to get you, a "cheap" player, to subscribe?

    More Nintendo/MMO Discussion

    Hey there Jake,

    Come on man, Nintendo doesn't hate MMO's. Seriously, would you want to play an MMO on your Wii anyway? I'd rather play MMOs on my PC... The Wii just isn't an MMO platform, and I think it is commendable that Nintendo keeps to what they do best, and leave the MMOs to others who can do better! Better they leave it alone than make a half-assed attempt...

    Nintendo doesn't really have any series that would do good as an MMO anyhow. Their major series are Mario, Zelda, Metroid and F-Zero. The only games that in my opinion would make cool online games are F-Zero and Mario Kart, but those wouldn't be MMOs. Neither Zelda nor Metroid can really be turned into MMO's. Their main characters are too strongly tied to the setting.

    The new LOTRO commercial is pretty cool! We need to see more game commercials! This is one of the better I've seen so far!

    Good luck on Halo3!



    Maybe I spoke to strongly about Nintendo hating MMOs. Why won't Nintendo try to revolutionize them like any other genre? The Wii is a system that is based upon revolution, so why would Nintendo cite the reasons for not treading near MMOs as the trends and demands of the genre? It sounds like either a distaste for the genre, incapability on Nintendo's part, or a new look forward for the company.

    I agree with you on the lack of IPs that they have. At the same time, it boggles my mind to think that they have the perfect avatar creation system to employ in whatever game they might choose. I hope they change their minds some time soon.

    I've conquered the campaign in Halo 3. I've moved on to multiplayer and Lost Odyssey. It seems everyone's playing the latter. Join in the fun.

    Curtis's Thesis on the MMO

    Hey Jake. Sorry for the length of this letter, but I have a lot of thoughts on MMOs.

    I want to provide my own personal viewpoint on the MMO scene, as a whole, as I feel that we keep getting fed the same game over and over again as MMO players and wanted to point out some things. First off, if you spent any time in Star Wars Galaxies, pre-NGE, you would remember what a living and breathing world it was. Sure, it wasn't the best MMO, the most vibrant, the most fun, or anything like that. But it was alive! Rather than having 30 combat classes, you had a social classes, you had crafting classes, you had diplomatic classes, you had space classes, and your ever popular combat classes. While I don't believe SOE hit the nail on the head with their skill system, as I feel that limiting your combat ability just because you want to play an instrument, learn a dance, or become a shopkeeper in game is just stupid, I do feel like SOE was the first to expose a huge possibility for revolution in MMOs. They made it fun to be in town. I can clearly remember how much of my time was spent in the Theed cantina for the first year of my SWG experience. I got the game on release and pretty much lived in the Cantina. I loved it. There was something exhilarating about hanging out in the cantinas, chatting with other players, and just meeting people as they come in and out. This was a huge time sink for me, but it didn't feel like that. No longer did I feel like I was grinding (like it did when I used SWG's combat system), I was having fun standing there and selecting out of a choice of eight flourishes (fills or licks, as the common person would know them). Then as I matured as a player, getting deeper into the Musician class, I opened my own cantina in our player city, Sanctum Malleus. This was absolutely one of the most exciting things in a video game for me, still to this day, owning my own cantina. I spent hours upon hours in here. I put on many theatre nights, gambling contests, dinner socials, etc. within this cantina. And while the system for placing items was clunky, I had to use street lights as stage lights, and the sitting bug was STILL present almost a year after launch, I still put tons of hours into this one facet of the game. I bypassed tons of PVP and PVE possibilities, tons of crafting possibilities, tons of space flights (once JTL came out) just for this one piece of the entire SWG puzzle.


    Wow, this letter is a doozy. I'm going to take it a paragraph at a time.

    As for SWG, I never got into it. The prospect of never being a Jedi initially turned me off. Your experience sounds like it was a great time, though. I like to hear about people having fun in a non-violent way. I'm not against violence in games, I just like to hear about MMORPGamers that don't just kill stuff while logged in. After all, the massiveness of these games can't be enjoyed alone.

    And here is where the real basis of my email comes. I feel like there is a need for an MMO revolution. To this day, social classes, crafting classes, etc are put to the wayside for the combat classes. Why? I feel like SOE took such a huge step forward by allowing gamers a glimpse into the possibilities of social classes, or of political classes, or sales classes. All SOE did was put a few instruments in the game, a total of 20 bars of looping music per song (typical songs go for about 200-300 bars, 20 bars is pretty much nothing), and about 9 songs. This was the extent of their musician and dancer class. However, people spent hundreds upon hundreds of time in cantinas using this almost archaic system. Can you imagine a game that takes this idea and runs with it? What about having one combat class, one social class per character, with equal focus on both? Sure, it would take more development time, but why do we want to play MMOs in the first reason? It's certainly not because of it's revolutionary combat system (more on that later), it's because of the social aspect. I sure wouldn't be wanting to beta Vanguard if I was the only player. I play because others are playing, it makes the world come alive. Doesn't it make sense to fully implement social classes? I think it's amazing SOE was able to implement such a rudimentary system and yet have numerous people spend countless hours using it. It shows there is a huge need for more design options like this.


    I understand the compulsion to want to do something new and innovative in MMOs, especially social or crafting classes. However, I know that I stick mostly to combat because it is a great escape, something that sane people would never take part in RL.

    I understand that many people love virtual economies, entertainments like your music experience, and political systems. The market for this is small, but needs to be nurtured. On that point, I agree with you. Until this can be done without excluding combat players, I'm afraid it won't be.

    I'd encourage you to try out Lord of the Rings Online. I'm sure you'll appreciate the music system there. The combat is still omnipresent, but you'll have more than 20 bars of music.

    Onto my second thought, combat. This is where MMOs have been since they were first introduced way back when. People spent hundreds of hours grinding with a very boring combat system, just to level up, or gear up. In the ten plus years that MMOs have had to develop, this is where we still are. We still point, click, and wait until monster is finished to rinse and repeat. Sure, we might throw a fire spell in here and there, but the system is pretty much the same, we really haven't changed anything. This is where I feel MMOs need the most help. Like I was stating earlier, I sure wouldn't play a game like Vanguard or WoW for it's awesome combat system or deep intricate crafting if I was the only person in the entire game world, and yet this is where we spend a majority of our time in MMOs. I feel that combat needs a huge overhaul in MMOs, and we need to look at single player RPGs for inspiration. Take for instance a game like Secret of Mana for the Super Nintendo. This game is simply awesome. I love the action RPG combat system, and while simple, it's a blast to play from start to finish; add two friends and it's an absolute blast. Now take this idea and apply it to MMOs. Why couldn't we have a combat system, basic but so fun, that players actually enjoy combat rather than simply deal with it. Often when I propose this idea, I'm countered with bandwidth concerns. While valid, I feel like a majority of stable MMOs are pretty lag free (especially Guild Wars), and shouldn't have too many problems. Phantasy Star Online is a great example of this design philosophy. As you and I are both aware, Phantasy Star Online was HUGE. I spent a good three hundred hours playing till about level 90. Combat was simple, but refreshing. Loot was extremely fun to hunt for. People put up with a measly 4 dungeons and 1 town because of this addictive nature of combat. The game would not have survived had it had a point and click type gameplay. So why can't we merge the two gametypes? Why can't we have a PSO type game, set in the ever popular fantasy setting, as an MMO? Don't you think this would pretty much revolutionize the MMO industry as we know it? (as a sidenote, Conan looks to be doing something outside the norm, and I look forward to it)


    I also can't wait for Age of Conan to come out.

    I'm so glad that I got to feature this letter in this column. If you haven't looked up, do so now. Champions Online looks like it'll be the game that can actually do what you're wanting in this letter. The control system looks similar to that of Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, which I played until the end and then some. It'll be extremely easy to use and intuitive.

    I agree with you on the archaic systems we currently use to fight each other and the baddies of the MMO universe. Some people enjoy these systems because they can min/max with them, getting their crits, hits, and whatever else to be the highest. I'm not entertained by it at all. Out with the old, in with the Champions Online.

    My last thought is a great tie in from Phantasy Star Online. This game was overall, pretty simple. We didn't have to manage thousands of spells with 30+ status effects to worry about, different builds to counter, certain spells to cast at the right time or else the whole party would die. You could play at a pace you wanted too, not have to constantly be alert and aware of what is going on, and yet still be able to keep track of your party members. I don't know about you, but I don't like having to deal with 13 different enchantments or debuffs on me, figuring out which magic spell takes care of which debuff, figuring out this offensive spell gets rid of one of my enchants, so on and so forth, much like Guild Wars or World of Warcraft is. It's just not fun to micromanage all these different spell types and enchants and debuffs and so on. I find it extremely tedious, and annoying, since you have to have toolbars for all these items in order to be effective. This is the main reason I feel PSO succeeded as well as it did, it's simple fun. There were status effects, but A) they came pretty slowly, so you had a chance to figure out how to deal with it and B) there were several ways to alert you with what you have been afflicted with so you didn't spend time having to look at each individual debuff icon trying to figure out what you've just been afflicted with. This design applies across the board, as there are only three types of healing items, three types of MP restoration items, etc, unlike the practically hundreds of ways to do the same thing in WoW. Do I really need 30 different ways to heal 300 HP?


    Speaking as a healer, yes. I enjoy the myriad options that I have to heal, covering my party in case anything wrong should happen. I see your point, though. If the enemies didn't have 30 different ways to cause my party to die horrible, painful deaths, I wouldn't need the 30 different healing choices.

    Again, I feel like the min/maxers love this aspect of MMOs. When looking at WoW, it's clear that the casuals will come to rule the MMO world. I don't see why games won't be getting simpler in the future, especially with Blizzard already wise to the virtues of the casual player.

    Again, sorry for the length of my letter, but I hope I've at least been able to highlight what I feel are some major, groundbreaking changes I feel the MMO industry could try to start looking at. I still feel like that end all be all MMO has yet to be developed, and feel implementing some of these game mechanics will put games one step closer to that end all. Look forward to hearing from you! Curtis


    Thanks for writing in, Curtis. You had a well written and passionate argument that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. Again, I'd like to hear your thoughts about Champions Online, so drop a line at your earliest convenience.

     Log Out

    This week was a busy one here at RPGamer and MMORPGamer, as you can tell by the sheer size of this column compared to usual weeks. Thanks again to those that wrote in this week. I'd like to remind you all that I am happy to answer or provide a sounding board for anyone's questions, comments, or snotty remarks. Let me have 'em.

    Until then,
    Jake Miller (mail me)

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