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Archive for April, 2009

Free Realms – It’s A Launch, Something Had To Break

Posted by Stropp on April 30, 2009

Fortunately, not for me… yet.

Since I posted my quick first impressions this afternoon I’ve read a few comments on Twitter and other blogs where the commentors have been having a few problems. I guess no launch gets a free pass from Mr Murphy.

It seems though that most of the problems are related to the accounting and friend management systems. Both areas that I haven’t tried out yet. 

Tobold is reporting that he can’t actually give SOE any money. I’ve seen a few other comments on this as well, and Tobold notes that he’s seen quite a lot of posts talking about this problem. It’s a little ironic really. Normally if a billing system went down on a MMORPG launch, the company would bend over backwards to fix the problem, after all no-one can even play if they don’t have an active account. In Free Realms an account doesn’t require a subscription, so everyone can still play. Although I have an inkling that SOE aren’t all that happy about not being able to actually get any money, at least it doesn’t make the players grumpy… errr… grumpier.

Probably of more concern to players, at least those who aren’t champing at the bit to get the in-game things that you need Station Cash for, is the problems with friend lists. This is another thing I haven’t tried yet, but I’ll give it a go shortly, so I’m relying on what I’ve read around the traps, but apparently you cannot add to friends lists yet. For a strongly social MMOG like Free Realms, maintaining your friends list is pretty important.

Other than that, there have been reports of crash to desktops and the likes, but it doesn’t sound like this is a major problem so far. From what I can tell, Free Realms has had a pretty good launch.

Free Realms – Up and Running

Posted by Stropp on April 30, 2009

Free Realms ended up launching on the day it said it would, but got there by the skin of its teeth. I followed the Twitter FR conversation during the day to keep an eye on how things were going (in between builds of course.) Fortunately that didn’t effect me too much, the game was well and truely underway by the time I’d got home and had dinner.

I did have a couple of problems getting Free Realms working. I loaded up the web page and signed into my Station Access account, and then downloaded the client installer. I was then unable to access the character creation page, I kept being returned to the download page until I realized that I should be running on Firefox rather than Google’s Chrome browser.

After this little hurdle, and frankly since the uptake of Chrome hasn’t been that high yet, it won’t affect most folks, I created my character, gave him the temporary name of Seth Flamingwig and selected Stropp as my desired permanent name. I was then able to log into the game.

BTW, this won’t be much of a report, so far I’ve only spent a couple of hours in the game, and haven’t really done much yet. Having said that, my memory of last nights session is one of a lot of activity.

There are a lot of quests, or perhaps I should say missions, very early on. So far I’ve been asked to do some delivery quests, participate in a race and a demolition derby, scare and then beat up on some Robgoblins, enter a dungeon with a bunch of crazy lobster people, and cook a dish while the meat doesn’t keep still.

In that couple of hours, my professions, all except brawler which I took to level 2, stayed at level 1. I’m primarily a bartle explorer don’t forget, so I spent a lot of time just checking stuff out.

There have been a couple of reports from various bloggers that Free Realms feels a little grindy, and I’d concur with that description at this point (as early as it is), but there are some things that are really fun. I thoroughly enjoyed the kart race and demolition derby. (Even if it occurred to me that I being 43 yo was trying to demolish karts that likely belonged to pre-teen players… I must be a big meanie.) Those mini-games had a good sense of pacing and were over far to soon.

The only other issue of the session: After I logged off, I was unable to access the Free Realms website. The site just timed out and repeated attempts at various times before I went to bed ended in a error screen. My guess is that the site was suffering the Free Realms equivalent of the Slashdot/Digg effect.

Other than that, I didn’t experience any appreciable lag, and no bugs (that I could tell) or crashes. The game ran smoothly all the time I was playing it. That’s a nice thing to see on a launch day.

It’s probably still way too early to give a yay or a nay about Free Realms, but so far it looks like SOE has done pretty well here. I doubt that it will become my game of choice, or even a second MMORPG, but I think it has a place in the stable of game worlds that I visit.

The fact that it’s essentially free in these budgetarilly constrained times helps too.

Is Sony About To Blow Blizzard Out Of The Water?

Posted by Stropp on April 28, 2009

The release of Sony Online Entertainments new game, Free Realms, is getting pretty close. SOE announced a couple of days ago that it will be out on Tuesday the 28th. Just a few hours now.

Just for the record, I haven’t played Free Realms at all yet, beta or otherwise. Time, unfortunately, has not been on my side. All the info I have seen has come from blogs and other websites.

Most of what I’ve read has been pretty positive. It sounds like Sony is going to release a very polished game.

And that leads to a question. Since Free Realms is, well, free, and since it’s targeted towards a fairly casual audience, and since it looks like it is going to be top quality out of the gate; is this the game that will overthrow the juggernaut that is World of Warcraft?

Whaddya reckon?

Stuff and Games

Posted by Stropp on April 23, 2009

So. Haven’t posted for a while. It’s been one of those times where I haven’t really felt like I’ve had anything much to say. The project I’m on at work has also joined the critical path, which is a nice way for management to say “get it done you mongrels!” It also means, ironically, that there are more meetings taking time from development to discuss the development. That’s one of the reasons I love Dilbert. It’s funny because it’s true!

I’m also finding myself considering the future of some of my gaming. Don’t worry, I’m not on the outs with gaming or MMORPGs, on the contrary, I’m currently having a lot of fun with LotRO but more on that later. The problem I face is that the contract I’m on completes at the end of June. I’ve been told they will extend it for another three months, but only three months, however until I have the extension signed there is still a bunch of uncertainty.

Unfortunately there have been a few big layoffs from other companies in the sector I work in, and the vacancies have dropped right off. To make matters worse, the contracting agency has told me that, after nearly ten years in this sector, my skills are now not really suited to work outside that sector. The crisis has not killed vacancies there, but it’s a lot more competitive and employers want exact impossible matches. (As an aside, I heard last night that even newsagencies — newspaper and magazine stores — want to only hire staff with years of newsagency experience!)

Goal number one, Save. Reduce my expenses. And that means I may need to shut down some subscriptions to games I don’t play that much.

LotRO is safe. I have a lifetime membership. But then there’s Eve, World of Warcraft, Station Access…

I think the first on the chopping block will be WoW. While I do enjoy playing it, I’m not sure it’s giving me the bang for the buck. Then there’s a toss up between Eve and SOE. Station Access is expensive, but there are a few games available. EQ, EQ2,  and Vanguard which I own make it a reasonable sub. Hmmm. More thought needed.

Anyway, on to the good stuff. As I mentioned, I’ve been playing LotRO a lot more lately. Not so much during the week, but the weekends have been Tolkien packed bundles of gaming goodness. Majikthise, the Woman Hunter, has completed books one and two, nearly done three, and has  started on book four. Over the last four weekends (not so much this last weekend though) she has leveled from 21 to just short of 37.

The biggest problem I’ve faced is the sheer number of fellowship quests that are given. Fortunately the leveling curve is now such that I can just go on to the next solo quest area and keep leveling. Unfortunately that means a lot of the group quests end up going gray and I dump them. (Apparently that’s not so bad in the Moria expansion.) I’ve done a few of these fellowship quests as PUGs, including the epic fellowship quests, but it’s not always easy finding a PUG, let alone a good one. I’ve been lucky in that most weren’t all that bad.

Majikthise is now running around Evendim doing her bit to save Middle Earth. There’s probably not that much left there, maybe a day or two, and then it’ll be off to the Trollshaws.

It Had To Happen Sooner Or Later

Posted by Stropp on April 8, 2009

I’ve wondered a few times over the years, both to myself and in guild chat, why we MMORPG players haven’t drawn the ire of the environmental and animal rights groups. At last we have!

Over the last couple of months, the animal rights group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) — I belong to the other PETA (People Eating Tasty Animals) — have been getting thier knickers in a twist about the treatment of animals in certain games. PETAs last hissy fit was over the requirement for players to kill viscious attack dogs in one of the World War Two games, Call of Duty I think.

Well, MMORPG players have been involved in the wholesale slaughter of pixelated fauna for some time now. If it’s not killing ten rats in WoW, it’s the bloodthirsty animal carnage of Lord of the Rings Online — Won’t somebody please think of the bears!

PETA have been going on about how these games have been desensitising us to our animal friends, causing us to become potential real world animal killers. I can see it now. Hordes of young game addicts violently running around zoos and animal rescue shelters with all sorts of horrid weapons causing unimaginable carnage and racking up experience and levels by the dozen. 

I digress.

Anyway, PETA has been targeting mostly single player games, but now it has set its sights on World of Warcraft according to Ten Ton Hammer and PETAs own blog.

Apparently there is a quest in Howling Fjord in Northrend where players have to kill baby seals. This has understandably outraged PETA, especially since (unlike the real world) there is an infinite supply of respawning baby pixels, errr… I mean seals. This cruelty will know no end.

So PETA has organised a protest this coming Easter weekend to confront players taking part in this gruesome activity. I’m not sure how they’ll manage it since most players able to get to Howling Fjord — you have to be level 70 — will be long time players who have slaughtered many baby animals to get there in the first place. They simply won’t care. Looks like PETA will have to get their protestors from 1 to 70 in the next four days.

Unfortunately, they haven’t chosen to protest on a PvP server so harrassed players will not be able to retaliate. They’ll just have to put them on ignore instead.

**Note: Stropp in no way endorses the cruel treatment of animals in the real world, and despises the annual whale and seal hunts. He thinks you are lower than scum if you mistreat animals. He also thinks that PETA ought to be focussing on animal cruelty in the real world rather than in a game. IT’S JUST A GAME PEOPLE!

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