Confessions of an MMO Tourist

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My vacation into the virtual lands of MMO’s began with Asheron’s Call in 1999. Playing with friends in a persistent world had a certain novelty to it. Granted, the release of Diablo II the following year quickly put my stay in Dereth on hold. Not one to limit myself to one game, I “toured” multiple MMO’s up until World of Warcraft’s (WoW) launch in 2004. Multiple MMO’s huh? Take a look at this virtual itinerary:

  • Ultima Online (1 month)
  • Everquest (1 month)
  • Final Fantasy XI (1 month)
  • The Sims Online Beta (a few days)
  • Asheron’s Call 2 (a few months)

The release of Asheron’s Call 2, in 2002, marked the first time I had set up a base camp in an MMO since the original Asheron’s Call in 1999. My stay in AC 2 did not last long, however, the group of friends that I was playing with ended up quitting the game. For the first time in years, I was no longer traversing the virtual landscapes. A whole year would go by before I would once again venture forth.

  • Saga of Ryzom Beta
  • World of Warcraft

In 2004, the perfect storm came together in the form of the Warcraft universe becoming an MMO.

Blizzard + Warcraft + MMO = WIN!

Blizzard games have been a staple of my PC gaming diet for years. Warcraft II, Starcraft, Diablo, and Diablo II were go-to games for me and my friends.

Sidenote: How many of you remember playing the original Diablo with a modem? I remember many late nights, on my Macintosh, spent listening to the pinging/ ponging modem language as I hooked up to battle.net. Good times. Haunting music. No option to run!

World of Warcraft came out the year that I went away to college. The game quickly became a way to communicate/ game with friends three states away. WoW had a darkside, however, one that almost cost me my love in the summer of 2005.

Guild Wars launched the following year (2005). Though technically not an MMO, Guild Wars provided a few alternative to WoW. Unfortunately, the beta period for this game all but killed the game for me (there are only so many times you can create a character, level, and then have it deleted). So I went back to WoW until things came to a head with my real life. Decisions had to be made.

Girlfriend or WoW?

Girlfriend of course! She won.

Girlfriend now wife.

I have played many MMO’s since WoW.

  • Dungeon Runners.
  • Lord of the Rings Online
  • Warhammer Online
  • Dungeons and Dragons Online

So many hours poured into games I never plan on returning to again. Reminds me of books left half read, tossed under a bed. In the end, I can honestly say that I have enjoyed the different worlds that I have explored. Each has offered a different experience that the game previous could not provide.

2009 marked the year I returned to Azeroth with my wife’s blessing. In playing, I have found that World of Warcraft does not have the same pull it once did. So I left the game once more to try:

  • Maple Story
  • Guild Wars (again!)
  • Lord of the Rings Online (again!)

As you can see, I am an MMO tourist with a passport full of stamps. If 2009 has been any indication as to my less than monogamous gaming habits, 2010 is sure to be a busy year.

(Used as a resource for this article http://biobreak.wordpress.com/mmo-timeline/)

(1/26/16 Update: Reader Kevin Woodberry emailed me and asked that I link to his guide as a further resource. Check it out: Guide to Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games.)

Why Pay Monthly?

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The standard $15 admission to most MMO’s is one that I would gladly say goodbye to in a heartbeat. Spending $50 to outright buy a game in the beginning and then maintaining the game at $15 a month is simply insane. Why would anyone pay a developer/ publisher monthly for something they already purchased for $50? Server maintenance, free monthly updates (until your eventually hammered with a $40 expansion), and customer service are but a few things that come to mind.  But why pay monthly at all?

  • Community: Paying $15 a month automatically grants access to a moderated community of fellow gamers. The riff raff (gold sellers and various spammers) are kept at bay (theoretically) by the monthly pay.
  • Brand: Allegiance to a particular licensed brand can often prove to be costly. Take World of Warcraft for instance. Ones interest in playing in the Warcraft world online (outside of the battle.net hosted Warcraft RTS) comes with a $15 a month cost. For an individual nostalgic over the Warcraft license, the monthly cost is not seen as a deterrent.

Is the cost of a movie night with a friend worth the associated community and brand? No. There has to be more to cause an individual (in this author’s opinion) to surrender some monthly cash.

  • Quality:The monthly fee required for most MMO’s ensures a quality that is unfound in free-to-play MMO’s. Words to spark a civil war by. I believe that $15 a month brings to the table expectation, by the consumer, for a refined product. Though this is not always the case as some companies seem perfectly happy to take money without improving their games (SOE). Other companies, such as Blizzard Entertainment, continue to refine and polish a game (WoW) that is now five years old. Quality has a price my friends, a price now listed as $15 a month.

What about games such as Guild Wars you say? Community, brand, and quality are alive within the game and there is no monthly fee needed to play. On this matter, I would like to note that no other game follows the Guild Wars model of pay-per-expansion (if you want to upgrade the game).

In the end, sometimes it is best to bite the bullet and take it like a man. So quit your whining! Community, brand, and quality come at a price. Like it or not, the days of free are over. Publishers and developers have seen the income MMO’s provide. A virtual goldmine my friends; a new gold rush for the modern era.

Notes –

Different subscription models:*

  • Free-per-expansion: Guild Wars (not really an MMO)
  • Free-to-play (but make sure to visit our store!): Maple Story, Dungeons & Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited, and Free Realms.
  • Monthly: World of Warcraft, Warhammer Online, Lord of the Rings Online, Age of Conan, & Final Fantasy XI.

*not an exhaustive list by any means

BlizzCon: Day 2

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JBG at BlizzConJBG correspondents Scotto and Lord Andrew write from the depths of Blizzard Entertainment’s BlizzCon. Follow their adventures below!

———— Photo Update ————

StarCraft 2 Voice Actor Panel

They have brought all of the voice actors on stage to talk about the new Starcraft 2 installment.

Right as you walk into BlizzCon.

Right as you walk into BlizzCon.

Illidan!!

Illidan!!

Wow, Lord Andrew and I have had a chance to play a lot more of the new games.

Starcraft 2 is really fun. I wasn’t that excited about it before, but now I cannot wait for it! It is SO polished. The units are gorgeous. The in game cut scenes are incredible. Lord Andrew kicked my butt really bad but it was still amazingly fun.

Diablo 3 is great too. Lord Andrew and I stumbled into a dungeon this last time. The atmospheric effects are so cool. Everything is beautifully animated…and it runs very fast. I was playing the witch doctor this time and Lord Andrew tried the monk. The spell effects make it very fun too. I love that every creature had rag doll physics so the deaths always look different.

We’ve gotten to play both of the new races for the new WoW expansion Cataclysm. The Worgen look great. You start as a human and you can transform into a worgen whenever yo want. His racial is a swift run ability that you can trigger every minute or so.

The new goblin race for horde is awesome too. They added a ton of facial detail…he looks awesome! He probably has the most fun racials of any class too. He can rocket forward with a jet pack, and also shoot a missile!?? So good. We liked him a lot.

We just heard that they will be bringing the old Onyxia boss fight back….all new updated items and stuff. They are going to make it possible to do cross-server LFG’s with th new path. So you can do 5 man PUGs really easy now. WAY easier to find groups.

I‘m really looking forward to being able to go back through the original game and play it with all new content.

————  Update ————

We are leaving now 😦 so sad. Lord Andrew kicked my butt at Terran, Protoss, AND Zerg. Really really kicked my butt. Great way to end BlizzCon! Wouldn’t have it any other way.

(Note to self – build more units…build them faster.)

– Scotto

This concludes JBG’s BlizzCon coverage. Hope y’all enjoyed the ride!

BlizzCon: Day 1

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JBG at BlizzCon

JBG correspondents Scotto and Lord Andrew write from the depths of Blizzard Entertainment’s BlizzCon. Follow their adventures below!

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We are waiting for opening ceremony to start! We have our bags of “swag”. We got Starcraft action figures.

It has been quite the cultural experience. I’ve seen a few succubus, night elves, Druids…and one dude in leather…hmm…I think he was going for a tree. I’ve been surprised though. It’s at least 15% female. All of whom are dressed in black. I’m not wearing a dorky enough tshirt. I’m starting to feel self conscious about it.

– Scotto

———— Photo Update ————

Picture of statue from Blizzard's Irvine Campus!

Picture of statue from Blizzard's Irvine Campus!

The SWAG! (Lord Andrew modeling)

The SWAG! (Lord Andrew modeling)

————  Update 1:17PM ————

Listening to the WoW Cataclysm feature panel. This new expansion is going to be amazingly cool. They are changing the whole game.

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Panel

————  Update 2:23PM ————

We just played Diablo 3! I loved it. Feels very similar to Diablo 2. I played the new “monk” class. Very fun.  – Scotto

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Unless noted, all photos have been taken via iPhone.


Passing Through: Most Hated of All Adversaries I

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Passing ThroughEvery gamer has an enemy within… Join JBG as we look at the most annoying, memorable, and downright evil videogame enemies to date.

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Deep in the heart of the Kehjistan Jungle a most sinister enemy awaited players of Diablo II, the Fetish Shaman. Capable of resurrecting little fetishes (demonic, cannibal-like children) the shaman proved a worthy adversary to adventurers passing through. Nearly seven years after battling my way through the jungles around Kurast, I still vividly remember this Diablo II enemy…and my extreme dislike for the shaman with power over virtual life and death.