Curfew

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South Korea: Known for housing some of the worst video game addicts in the world. Home of news reports regarding parental neglect/ infant death due to the parents being addicted to a popular MMO.

Earlier this week, the war against gaming addiction heated up when the South Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism announced a new curfew for online games (as reported in The Korea Herald). The ministry is attempting to shoulder the personal responsibility some of its citizens lack. Baby deaths due to obsessive gaming are to be a thing of the past.

Under the ministries new ban, young players will have options to choose between three six hour black-out times. Lame titles such as Maple Story and Mabinogi are being targeted in addition to 17 other titles.

Could this be the end of South Korea as we know it? For a nation that sits on the verge of nuclear annihilation from its northern neighbor, I can understand its citizens wanting an escape. With a mandatory sentence — service! — in the nations military, I think it is only fair to let the young waste their time away. Perhaps the children should even be allowed to play for free?

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.)

Surf Report – 12/14/09

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Welcome to a Monday edition of the Surf Report.

.: God :

Check out my blog post entitled Intake.

.: Life :

Christmas Checklist:

Is your…

Tree set up?

Mistletoe hung?

Christmas shopping done?

Or: Are you…

Tired of the music/ tired of the noise?

Tired of all the shoppers/ of bratty girls and boys?

Hang in there!

.: Gaming :

The sweet story that is Maple Story is no more. I happened to make it through one play session and then never touch the game again. Ever.

Positives:

  • Amazing graphics/ fun art design.
  • Low system requirements.
  • Free-to-play.

Negatives:

  • No compelling storyline to draw the player in.
  • Poor/ non-intuitive control scheme.

The thought of having to play this game compelled me to renew my World of Warcraft account. I started a new character, Orup (Tauren Hunter), on the Stormscale server. Now at level 7, I am trucking along through Horde territory. Hit me up if you want to play!

That is it for this weeks Surf Report. Make sure to comment below and have a good week!

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

Surf Report – 12/7/09

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Welcome to a Monday edition of the Surf Report.

.: God :

What does it mean to be a man?

Mark Driscoll believes that the transition from boyhood to manhood is marked by the following 5 events:

1. Leave your parents home.

2. Finish education/ vocational degree.

3. Start a career-track job vs. a dead-end job.

4. Meet/ marry a woman.

5. Have children.

My thoughts:

  • Not everyone is “called” to marry.
  • I agree that no transitional event marks when one becomes a man.
  • There is nothing wrong with marrying later in life.
  • Being single does not equal being irresponsible.
  • Playing videogames/ interest in videogames is not a sign of immaturity. Videogames are as valid as a hobby as sports. (I agree when Mark speaks of how dumb it is when people throw their lives away playing videogames.)

Your thoughts?

.: Life :

“Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.” – President Franklin D. Roosevelt

.: Gaming :

Recently Syp over @ Bio Break had a great post that outlined a year of free-to-play MMO’s. This got me thinking, why not play an MMO a week? Sounds like the ultimate MMO tourist challenge to me! As you might have guessed from the header above, I have decided to play Maple Story this week. Time for some quirky Korean fun! Thoughts and comments will be shared in next week’s Surf Report (12/14/09). Stay tuned.

That is it for this weeks Surf Report. Make sure to comment below and have a good week!

YMMO? (Part 1)

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YMMO Header

Introduction:

The PC gaming market has always focused primarily on a single idea. While titles of other ideas and genres are still released, all the really big games seem to come from one central concept. As the machines adapt and the market changes, this central genre shifts to reflect those changes. All of these central genres had their ups and their downs, their individual moments of confusion, their overdone mechanics and their nuisances that just wouldn’t go away. But, at least in my humble opinion, the worst of the problems consistently found in any of those earlier focus genres pale in comparison to the flaws readily available in the best of today’s genre of the limelight.

The MMO as we know it was essentially invented in 1996 (according to Wikipedia), and was popularized early on with titles like Ultima Online and EverQuest. As the genre continued to develop and mature, it began to offer greater immersion in the virtual world and integration between the participants in that world. Over time the MMO through its interactive content, immersing visuals, and shared experience began to dominate the market of PC games, and eventually even branched out to several of the other game platforms.

Today the MMO saturates the PC game world. From big commercially developed power houses like World of Warcraft (WoW) and EverQuest 2, to the quirky Korean offerings like Maple Story, to the small time browser games like RuneScape, even glorified chat engines like Second Life, everywhere we turn MMOs can be found and are on offer just waiting for us to start playing. Few other ideas have ever so powerfully taken over the market as the MMO has today.

But why were these elements so popular, what caused them to have such great appeal? And is their current place as the defining genre of PC games warranted? Since a fair number of my friends have been playing these types of games for a few years now and have even encouraged me to join them on several occasions, I thought I might take a look at what makes these games seem so appealing, and the reasons why I, at least, will not be playing them. Especially not in the same way most of the people I see playing them do.

Continue to Part 2