Archive for June, 2008

What Next Blizzard?

Posted by Stropp on June 30, 2008

With the announcement of Diablo 3 as Blizzards next major game release, and with a distinct lack of MMOness in the feature list for Diablo 3, there's a whole new world of speculation ready to erupt.

My recent guess that Blizzard was going to use the Diablo IP as the basis for their next MMORPG missed the mark. It's highly unlikely that a Diablo MMORPG will be developed concurrently with Diablo 3, especially since Diablo 3 is still probably a year to eighteen months away -- I did read some speculation that the release would be Halloween 2009.

The same applies to the Starcraft IP. I believe Starcraft 2, while it hasn't been given a release date, isn't all that far off. I expect it to be out sometime before the end of the year. Given that Blizzard would want to make all the mileage it can on Starcraft 2, and that the original Starcraft is still very popular in some regions, it's unlikely Blizzard will be working concurrently on a Starcraft MMORPG.

So where does that leave us?

Aside from the Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo franchises, Blizzard has produced several other IPs. (source: Wikipedia)

  • RPM Racing -- 1991
  • Battle Chess II: Chinese Chess -- 1991
  • The Lost Vikings I & II -- 1992 & 1995
  • Rock n' Roll Racing -- 1993
  • Shanghai II: Dragons Eye -- 1994
  • Blackthorne -- 1994
  • The Death and Return of Superman -- 1994
  • Justice League Task Force -- 1995

Since 1995 -- Warcraft was released in 1994 -- the only titles that Blizzard has produced have been from their big three properties.

I honestly don't see Blizzard returning to any of their old titles for inspiration for their new MMORPG. Well... maybe Rock n' Roll Racing Online could be a goer, but then again...

I figure there are two possibilities.

The first is that Blizzard invents a totally new property. I can see this happening. After so many years working on the same three themes, the creative minds at Blizzard must be itching to work on a new concept.

The second possibility is that Blizzard will join forces with a group that owns an existing popular IP. There are plenty of options in this group ranging from comic books owners to movie franchises. Who knows, Blizzard might even be looking at the Star Trek license.

However, I'd put my money on Blizzard coming up with their own intellectual property. It's a lot easier to make changes for gameplay reasons when you don't have to run it past a bunch of IP lawyers, just look at the changes Blizzard has made to the Warcraft lore to suit the game. Blizzard is known for putting gameplay first and cutting features that don't work. I can't imagine them giving up control by licensing a heavily restricted property.

In any case I don't expect to hear anything about Blizzards new MMORPG until a few months after the release of Wrath of the Lich King. And it's very possible we won't hear anything until after the releases of Starcraft 2 and Diablo 3.

One thing about the Blizzard organization -- it's really good at protecting its secrets.

Update: From the Internode Games Network -- It looks like my expectation that Starcraft 2 will be out by the end of the year is also off target. Rob Pardo has stated at the Worldwide Invitational that the game is only a third done and won't be out this year, though they'll have something to show by end of year. So that's the bad news. The good news, for Apple fans, is that there will be a simultaneous release on both Windows and Mac when it is finally released. A third done now, does that mean sometime in 2010?

Behind the Blizzard Curtain

Posted by Stropp on June 28, 2008

The walls have come down, and the curtain lifted. Blizzard have finally let us of the hook and revealed the big announcement they have been working towards for a few days now. And the announcement is:

Diablo 3.

The link to the page didn't work when I checked it out, so I can't see what features the game will have, but I guess that will be up in due course.

Updates when I find out more.

Age of Conan – Past the First Month

Posted by Stropp on June 27, 2008

"Two of the most beautiful words in the English Language: De Fault" - Homer Simpson

I reckon that most game developers feel much the same way about the word, default.

It's probably how they get a lot of first month subscription fees from players, who much like myself, leave it a little late to hit the cancel button.

That's right. This afternoon I logged into my Age of Conan account screen to cancel my account. I discovered that I was a little late and that my first subscription payment had gone through a couple of days ago. At first I thought it had gone through early, but after some checking the resub occurred about when it was due.

I had finally decided to cancel after some dithering around wondering if I should or not. Age of Conan is a game I really wanted to like, and I think it has a huge amount of potential. But after Tortage, it just really didn't catch my imagination.

It's also really incomplete. Funcom should have put at least another six months of development into Age of Conan. Large amounts of the game simply don't work as advertised, classes need balancing, and huge nerfs are being done to classes to reduce damage output. Monsters on the other hand are being toughened up. Major memory leaks are seemingly being ignored. This all should have been done in beta, or earlier.

So while my Age of Conan account has a reprieve for the next month, I don't see it lasting longer than that, unless Funcom can pull it all together with a miracle patch or two. There are too few hours in the day, and too many excellent working games out there, to spend time playing broken games. And Age of Conan is broken.

I'd like to think that I'll give Age of Conan another look in six months, but I thought I'd do the same with Vanguard too. As I mentioned above, there are other games out there that I'd like to play, and there is only so much time to do so. There's also the fact that in the next six months we are likely to see the releases of Warhammer Online, and Wrath of the Lich King. In the slightly longer term Stargate Worlds, Fallen Earth, and a hundred other MMOs are due to hit the shelves.

In the next month I figure I'll log in to Age of Conan a few times, but I'm not motivated to spend all my time there. I've still got a few goals to reach in other games, so I'll probably go back to a few of the stalwarts for now. It'd also be nice to get into the Warhammer beta, but I'm not counting on that.

A Game by Gamers

Posted by Stropp on June 26, 2008

iona_rosin_small The following is a guest post written by Iona Rosin. Iona (pictured right) is the Lead Game Designer at Lockpick Entertainment, the creators of Dreamlords and the recently released  Dreamlords -- The Reawakening.

It’s with pride we describe our game like that at Lockpick Entertainment.

Dreamlords – The Reawakening has truly evolved through the minds of creative visionaries and passionate gamers; we all play games, love games, breathe games.

I believe that a person who develop games truly must love what she does, and love her product as well. She needs to understand the medium she’s working with, its possibilities and restrictions, and how to force it to the next level.

But that’s not really enough, is it? The developer is not the first to please; it’s the actual players – those who sacrifice their time and money to try out the world she has created, exploring its story and gameplay. The importance of players’ approval is quite obvious from a financial point of view. But even though the game industry turns over millions, the majority of developers are hardly the ones to dive in piles of money. A game developer’s job often include working nights and weekends, but it doesn’t really scare us off since our passion for games overrides everything else.

So in other words, approval from players has a greater purpose. I’m talking about inspiration, improvement and the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve done a good job.

At Lockpick Entertainment, we keep a close relation to our community - a community that we (if we may brag) believe is one of the best in the world. I constantly get amazed over our players’ loyalty, enthusiasm, inspiring ideas and never-ending commitment. Some players have been around for a very long time and I actually remember them from our early work with our first game Dreamlords.

Unfortunately, we can’t invite or players and put them on a flight to our office like other great companies, even though I believe it’s a really cool and admirable undertaking. Due to our limitations as a small company, we use communication channels like forum, chat and mail. Every time I log in to Dreamlords, I meet surprised and grateful players who say that they’ve never seen a developer in-game before.

Well, I haven’t done that either, do be honest.

In an early article of the original Dreamlords, the reviewer said something like this: “I’ve never seen a producer spending so much time in a game chat before. Doesn’t he have anything else to do?”

Well, talking to the players, listening and considering their feedback is crucial. It’s as important as anything else like fixing bugs, tweaking or adding more content. It’s very rewarding too. If ten game experts claim one thing and the majority of the players something else – I rather listen to the players. It should be quite obvious: who would know better than them when it comes to experience? Still, communication with the players can so easily be neglected when people are swallowed up by work – or are naive enough to believe that they know it all.

The communication with our players has become a central part of our progress and concerns the topic of this text. Dreamlord – The Reawakening has truly become a game by gamers. It’s not only shaped through the minds of the developers, it’s shaped through the minds of our players as well.

And that’s what I believe is true game development.

Brussels Sprouts, Presidents, Bartle and Tobold

Posted by Stropp on June 26, 2008

You know how important someone is to a particular industry by the fuss they cause.

A few years ago a certain president who was the daddy of another certain president -- do you like how I'm not being political here? -- made the statement that he hated Brussels Sprouts. All of a sudden there was an outcry. A thunder was heard in the Heartland. The combined Brussels Sprout farmers of the USA rose up and delivered quite a lot of the 'orrible little veggies to the White House. A big fuss over what was quite an innocent statement of culinary preference.

Now if I make the statement on this blog that I consider Brussels Sprouts to be hideous lumps of green putty that grow in Satan's nether regions -- which I do -- it is unlikely that I will wake up tomorrow morning with several tons of the nasty things on my front doorstep. Nor will I likely be vilified by the Brussels Sprouts farmers of Australia and issued nasty threats. That might just be because I am considered somewhat less important of a commentator than president G.H.W. Bush.

So it's interesting to read all the comments about Richard Bartle that have surfaced over his comments regarding the current state of MMO games, World of Warcraft, and Warhammer Online. A recent comment about Warhammer, "I’ve already played Warhammer. It was called World of Warcraft" while not really particularly helpful, or accurate, has garnered quite a bit of animosity around the traps.

Of course Richard Bartle was (one of?) the designers of the original Multi User Dungeon (MUD), the text based role playing adventures that are the grand-daddies of the modern MMO game. Since that time, Dr Bartle has spent a great deal of his academic career studying and commentating on the virtual world phenomenon. This of course makes him an authority, and subject to scrutiny.

And he's received a lot of that recently with his ongoing commentaries on World of Warcraft. Much of it highly critical. Of course criticism is to be expected when you have a go at a phenomena like WoW, Warhammer, or Whatever in which a lot of people are emotionally invested.

When anonymous readers criticize they fall into one of three categories.

  1. The Rationalist,
  2. the Zealot, and
  3. the Troll.

The Rationalist usually writes well thought out responses to a post, and to other commenters on the thread. Sometimes these don't appear to be well thought out, passion and bias for a subject can make an argument look odd, but at least they are trying. They don't tend to start off by name calling.

The Zealot, aka the Fanboi, will tend to take the blogger to task for what they have written. The better ones will often have a good argument, but will tend to be one eyed ignoring the bloggers arguments all together. Often though the Zealot will attack the blogger personally, resort to name calling, and present straw-man arguments. The worst of these will attack quite viscously.

The Troll often comes across as a Zealot, but the motivation is different. They don't tend to care about the topic, the only motive is to start a fuss. They can often come in on the side of the blogger, but will resort to the methods of the worst zealots in order to stir up trouble.

Tobold, and most of the other bloggers I read, fall into the first category, the Rationalist. But they are also passionate about their subject. You don't end up with a blog career of more than a couple of months if you aren't passionate about your subject and Tobold has been writing about the MMO subject for quite a few years now. That can lead to passionate words being used when posting, and if the issue is controversial the conversation will be inflamed. But a lot of that depends on how popular and authoritative the blogger is.

Tobold too is now finding out -- maybe he knew already -- his place in the MMO culture. In some of his recent posts, Public Figures and Public Figures - Part 2 he writes about the recent abuse that he has received from some of his readers, ironically in response to some of the comments he made about Bartle.

So now I'm a bit at a loss what to do. I could pull a "reverse Lum" and turn into "Tobold the Mad", with an angry rant blog, and not care about all the comments with foul language that would undoubtedly attract. But that isn't really my style. I could write much less, or shut down the blog for a long period unless I'm out of the public eye and thus regain the ability to say what I think. Or I could shut down the blog completely and open a new one as "Dlobot", without telling anyone, and escape scrutiny that way. But I think the most rational is a mix in which I use the current summer MMORPG slump and holiday period to write less, try being myself without self-censorship, and wield a heavy banstick if that causes the language in the comments to deviate from my Terms of Service.

Honestly, I hope Tobold doesn't let the negative comments affect him and keeps posting with the same frequency and quality that he has been. I enjoy reading his ongoing commentary, and while I don't necessarily agree with everything he writes, I respect that it's written with thought and introspection. And frankly, I also like that Tobold's blog is a good source of ideas for my blog when I'm having trouble coming up with my own.

Tobold, Richard Bartle, Scott Jennings (Lum), Raph Koster, and others have become an important commentators in the MMO world. You can tell that by the controversies over their words. What everyone, including the Zealots -- forget the Trolls, they're not interested anyway -- need to realize is that commentators are as important in this field as they are in every other. They are representative of the culture in which they interact, and in no small way shape that culture with their conversation.

And the more voices in a conversation, the healthier it is.

Those voices don't have to agree all the time. In fact, it's better that they don't. Strong cultures are made up of diverse viewpoints. Cultures where everyone is of the same opinion stagnate and fall away. The world of MMO games only benefits from the diversity of ideas and viewpoints that come from the individuals engaged in conversation.

Richard Bartle has done us all a favor with his comment comparing World of Warcraft with Warhammer. While it's certainly controversial, and where I don't really agree with it, it has stimulated a conversation. It's made us think. And that's important.

Tobolds response to Bartle has continued that conversation. For those of us who are rational, and for those of us who are zealots we have also been forced to think and perhaps even to have considered where we stand. And that's also important. As long as we do it without resorting to abuse.

If a voice is silenced through an onslaught of vicious criticism, we have all lost.

The End

Posted by Stropp on June 26, 2008

Have you ever noticed how important the end of something is?

  • A great movie with a crappy ending leaves us with a bad taste in our mouths.
  • A novel which sets up a great sequence of events, memorable characters and an epic story line, but pulls a rabbit out of the hat to tie up the plotlines, leaves the reader wholly unsatisfied.
  • A First Person Shooter where the player is facing ever more difficult scenarios, but where the final boss is a complete wimp makes many a hardcore gamer cry.
  • A night out at an expensive restaurant where the main meal consists of a portion less than half a budgie and is gone in a single nibble, leaves the diner still hungry.
  • A MMORPG where the end game is nowhere near complete...

You'd think that by now MMORPG designers would realize that there will be a considerable portion of their subscribers who will, in the first month of release, reach the level cap. These players will do that because they either like playing the game and never leave their computer, or because they want to get to the end game, or both reasons. There's only one game I know where this doesn't happen, and that's Eve Online, and that's only because it takes a certain amount of real time to level up the skills (a single skill might take a couple of weeks or more to get to max level.)

So I gotta ask, why are game developers still neglecting the end game?

A month after release Age of Conan has had two sieges. Sieges were touted by Funcom as the big thing for PvPers. They were supposed to offer PvP battles of up to 300 players per side and the use of siege weapons and mounts to breach walls. These epic battles were supposed to be the pinnacle of Age of Conan PvP.

Problem is. They just don't work.

The first siege was a disaster. Players were experiencing frame rates of less than 3 frames per second. Walls were either exploitable, or when breached, didn't allow access as intended. Siege weapons didn't work. The siege was no where near 300 players. The second siege wasn't much better. Funcom managed to improve performance. Players are now getting 15 FPS. It's an improvement I guess, but not much of one.

The thing is. The whole siege mechanic just wasn't tested during beta. From what I've learned since release, the only part of the game that was thoroughly tested in beta was Tortage. Yep, that's right. The one to twenty area. The beginners game.

Of course Funcom isn't the only culprit here. Recently, both Lord of the Rings Online and Tabula Rasa were also released without a lot of end game content. You might remember that LotRO really got hammered for that in the months after launch. And these games weren't the only ones. Even World of Warcraft was end game incomplete at launch.

You've got to give Funcom a lot of credit for the Tortage area. It's one of the most polished and complete newbie experiences in a MMORPG that I have played, even with its downsides. It's a great hook to catch new players and get them passed the first free month. But it's not enough.

It doesn't really matter if the content in the middle game thins out a bit. Sure, players will complain, and it is important in the sense of keeping players involved, but it's the end game that will really advertise a game.

You see, the players who rush through to the level cap two weeks after release are also going to be the ones who make the most noise if the end game is not there. They'll roll another alt, and then they'll post on the official forums about how the end game sucks. And they'll keep posting. Sooner rather than later, this will get out of the official forums onto the forums of game sites, the main pages of game sites, blogs...

In no time at all, the game will be thought of as shallow. What started out as a rush of sales at release, dries up. After the free month, subscriptions start to drop off as those players who rushed to the top and now have two or three alts at the level cap don't have anything to do and don't wish to start another and go through the same content again. Without some solid intervention by the developer team, server populations drop, severs are merged, the game gets sold to SOE...

Even if the devs recover and add a whole bunch of new and end game content within a few months of release, the damage is done. Players have left and have left a preconception of an incomplete game in the minds of the public.

Look at Lord of the Rings Online, Tabula Rasa, and Vanguard. Vanguard in particular has made leaps and strides in quality and content of the last year, or so I've heard -- it might be time to have another look -- but people still think of it as the train wreck it was at release. Turbine was lucky with LotRO. It was a good, bug free launch, and managed to get a loyal following. Lord of the Rings Online's player base has even grown since launch, but how much better would it have done if it had a decent amount of end game content at launch?

There are three things the developers should do before launching a game:

  1. Make sure the game is stable and works as intended. That's a no brainer, surely?
  2. Have a great newbie area. Lot's of content and quests for at least twenty levels.
  3. Make sure there is at least some end game content, and make sure it works -- test it before release please.

Okay. So there should also be a decent amount of middle level content. The game should also have a certain amount of polish, and a good portion of the promised features should be included. If the devs have promised ten major features, at least seven of them should be included with a promise to finish the others as soon as possible. If a feature has to be cut, do it well before launch, and tell everyone about it loudly.

Don't ignore your power levelers. They get a bum rap most of the time. Other players think they're idiots for rushing through the content, and wonder why they expect the end game content to be there anyway. Developers probably see them as an anomaly. A blip in the subscriber data, so it doesn't matter if they don't resubscribe. But, they should be thought of as the trail blazers. They're going to find the bugs first. They're going to find the crappy content before everyone else. And if you treat them badly, they'll tell everyone how much your game sucks.

Unfortunately, there seems to be an attitude that publishers and developers have where they believe that no matter what state they release their game in, players will buy it and they can add content and fix bugs later. I had hoped that Vanguard had shown how wrong that attitude was.

It seems that Funcom didn't get the point.

Happy Birthday Sweetflag

Posted by Stropp on June 24, 2008

DM Osbon has been blogging for a few years now. Starting with a World of Warcraft blog, he launched the Sweetflag blog one year ago. In the last year he's written about a bunch of topics that he enjoys, but has decided to refocus the blog back onto games.

Now the usual thing about birthdays is that it's the birthday boy who gets the prezzies. But DM has turned the tables on this one.

He's going to be giving away some presents to UK & European residents. He has two copies each of UEFA Euro 2008 for the PS3 and Boom Blox for the Wii.

So duck on over to Sweetflag, wish DM a happy blog birthday, and join the competition.

Happy first birthday Sweetflag!

Firefox 3 Released

Posted by Stropp on June 21, 2008

Okay. So this isn't about the MMORPG, Age of Conan, or World of Warcraft, but I figured you might be interested to know that the new version of the Firefox browser, Firefox 3 has been released. I've just downloaded and installed it and it seems to be working perfectly. A good thing since it's been in beta and RC status for a while now.

The biggest problem I had with Firefox 2 was in viewing YouTube videos. If I clicked on a video, embedded on a web page or on the YouTube site, I'd get two seconds of play without audio and then it would stop. The video would keep on downloading but nothing else would happen.

That's all fixed now. I've just tested it out with a few videos, including a Daily Show interview with the evil spammer Scott Richter. (Boy is that guy a moron.) Anyway, I'm happy now that I don't have to copy the link from Firefox into IE anymore. A big plus.

All of my Firefox plugins seemed to work well too. I didn't need to do anything other than install.

The only downside is that I wasn't able to do a side by side install of Firefox 3 with Firefox 2. I installed to a new directory, but it seems only FF3 is recognized. Bad news since I can no longer test updates to my Wordpress theme (or other web site stuff) with the older browser. It's not really all that big of a deal, but it would be good to have an older version available.

I'd recommend you head out and get Firefox 3 now. It fixes a few vulnerabilities that were in the old browser, and is a damn sight better than Internet Explorer. Well recommended.

You can download it from this link.

Transgressive Gaming

Posted by Stropp on June 21, 2008

Raph Kosters blog today links to The Uptake Blog which has a summary of a panel Raph was on at the Supernova 2008 conference.

The second point of the summary got me thinking.

Raph: “Humans enjoy transgressive play” and will always try to break free from the game constraints.

One of the problem players that MMO developers have always had to deal with is The Exploiter. This player actively looks for ways to gain an advantage in the game by either:

  1. Exploiting little known game bugs, or by
  2. intentionally subverting the game client.

An example of the first might be moving through or hiding in a wall where the collision detection isn't properly working. A few of the older games allowed players to shoot through closed doors on occasion allowing them to take out mobs on the other side without risk. Some gold duping also occurs due to bugs.

Subverting the game client is also often a trick of the exploiter. The Speedhack tool is a good example. It allows players to somehow move faster than they should (I haven't looked into its workings) and gives a big advantage over other players. Exploiters also use packet sniffers to inspect the games network traffic, and even graphics tools to expose other players hiding behind walls.

The game developer axiom, never trust the client as it's in the hands of the enemy has never been truer.

These days game developers even define exploits as doing things that they don't want players doing. An example of this is in Eve Online. If a player attacks another in high security space, the NPC police, Concord swoop in and destroy the attacker. It's apparently possible to evade Concord and escape without using game bugs or subverting the client, but CCP defines doing so as an exploit.

Cheating Is Fun

The problem is, as Raph said above, is that humans enjoy transgressive play.

In other words, cheating is fun.

And that's true. I have fond memories of playing a card game called Cheat. It used a standard deck of playing cards and the object was to rid yourself of all the cards in your hand. There were rules of course which you could follow to the letter. Or you could cheat and get rid of your cards faster. If you were caught you had to pick up the entire discard pile.

It was hilarious fun. We not only lied about the cards in our hand. We hid them when (we thought) no one was looking; in the couch, on our persons, and in a couple of cases on another player. Getting caught was as much fun as winning.

An Exploitable Niche

If, as Raph says, humans enjoy transgressive gaming, then here is an idea for a new MMO Niche. Transgressive Gaming. We'll imagine a new MMO -- Let's call it Cheat Online.

Like the card game, Cheat, Cheat Online would have two parts. First it would be a standard MMO, fantasy, science fiction, or horror; the genre doesn't matter. It would have a set of rules analogous to any other MMO on the market. Players would create characters, quest, grind, and do whatever. The one main criteria is that it would be PvP since competition between players is what it is all about.

The second part would be the cheat interface. This would allow the players to creatively bypass the rules. That might be a macro tool, or a LUA API, or something else. What it should do is give the player a means of hiding the cards.

Where all other MMO's currently ban players who cheat and exploit, Cheat Online would simultaneously punish and reward players caught. Like the card game there has to be a consequence of getting caught -- picking up the discard pile -- but there also needs to be something to make it fun -- a reward. In the card game, the reward is much friendly laughter and hilarity, but that's missing in a virtual world so there needs to be a reward to make everyone smile.

The important thing to create in a game, whether it's a game like World of Warcraft or Cheat Online, is a level playing field. When an exploiter cheats in WoW, it's not level, he's gaining an advantage over players who aren't willing to take the risk to cheat. In a game like Cheat Online, everyone can exploit and cheat to their hearts content without risking a banning, so the playing field is leveled out.

Something Different

After reading through what I've written above I don't want you to get the wrong idea. I'm not advocating exploiting or cheating in games where it is against the rules like Age of Conan or World of Warcraft. Cheating in these games often ruins the game experience for others, especially in PvP. Just because it's fun for some players doesn't make it right. All I'm doing here is pointing out a possible niche for MMO games.

One of the complaints currently leveled against the entire MMO industry is that it has been heavily WoWified and that there isn't really all that much difference between one game and the next. And that's true. While each game has it's differences, in most cases they're cosmetic or a small step above what already exists. There's not much variation in the species.

Let's Talk

So lets start a discussion. What sorts of gameplay devices would you incorporate in Cheat Online? What sort of world would work best, Science Fiction or Fantasy or something else? And more importantly, would you play a game like this?

Fallen Earth Reaches Alpha, Feature Complete

Posted by Stropp on June 20, 2008 A while back I subscribed to the news feed for Icarus Studios upcoming MMORPG Fallen Earth. Yesterday I noticed in my list of feeds and thought "Hmmm. This hasn't been updated in a while." The universe has a sense of humor it seems since an update has just now come through. Now for those lottery numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42. Fallen Earth is one of several upcoming post apocalyptic MMORPGs. The other games are Huxley, Earthrise, and the very vaporous Fallout Online. Anyway, kudos to Icarus for getting to this stage. Feature complete is a huge milestone, but there's still tons of work to be done -- even work removing some features might be required! Here's the Fallen Earth Alpha press release (pdf).
MMOG FALLEN EARTH ACHIEVES MAJOR DEVELOPMENT MILESTONE CARY, NC – JUNE 19, 2008 -- Fallen Earth, a post apocalyptic MMOG in development using the Icarus Studios Tools Suite platform, today announced it is has reached the Alpha milestone and is now “feature complete.” Over the past six months, the Fallen Earth team has implemented new production processes which has allowed for improved product quality and a streamlined development schedule. Colin Dwan, who was promoted from Lead Engineer to Project Manager, said, “Fallen Earth has great technology and tons of content, but we needed to put a stake in the ground about all the features that were absolutely necessary to ship with. Now that we’ve finalized that long list, we’ve been able to spend all of our time making those features really fun.” The Fallen Earth Art Department focused on an in-depth upgrading of the game’s overall appearance, improving textures, animations, and enriching the overall “look” of the game. Human models have been completely revamped, and newly added creatures include giant genetically engineered super soldiers and vicious killer fungi. Volumetric fog has been added and many towns have been completely rebuilt to take advantage of new building models and ecosystem options. The Fallen Earth team has created a variety of new vehicle models from muscle cars to motorcycles to ATVs. They have also enhanced the vehicle combat system using the same basis as player-based combat so players will be able to attack from their vehicles, be it with pistols from a motorcycle or dual-mounted machine guns from a muscle car. The core functionality players expect from an MMO, such as raids, clans, auction house, and a mail system, are now up and running in Fallen Earth. Players can combine their efforts in raids of up to four groups or thirty-two players, allowing them to tackle larger threats and compete more effectively in PvP activities. Clans allow players to form large social groups with a number of different ranks, each with its own configurable name and permission list. The auction house system allows players to sell goods to each other with ease, and to search the auction house for items needed for a specific recipe. The mail system enables players to easily stay in contact and trade goods among themselves through the vigilant efforts the Franklin’s Riders, the postal service within Fallen Earth. About Fallen Earth Fallen Earth is a post-apocalyptic massively multiplayer online game that mixes first person shooter and role playing game style mechanics. The game is set in 2156, one hundred years after the world is brought low by a plague known as Shiva that killed 99% of the population. The game takes place in and around the Grand Canyon, one of the few habitable places left on Earth, which makes it a place many are willing to kill to control. Our world is one where mankind teeters on the edge of extinction, clinging to the bones of the old world while trying to recover their lost secrets. It's a world of scavengers and desperation. The players are those who choose to rise above the hardships of this new world and work towards a better world, or decide the old world was corrupt and all signs of it must be erased completely. For more information, players and fans can visit www.fallenearth.com.

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