Category Archives: Other

Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen Kickstarter

A couple days ago I was writing my articles recalling my experiences in World of Warcraft. My former guild leader took note of the articles and got in contact with me. We began to talk of how wonderful the old days were, and how MMO gaming has fallen to a sad state. We agreed that the most disappointing facet of MMOs now-a-days was the lack of players actually having to cooperate and interact with one another to obtain experiences and loot of unimaginable proportions. Dungeon and Raid finders made it so players could access all the content in MMOs with barely having to speak a word to another living soul. They have become a race to max level, where then the game is supposedly meant to “begin”. 40, 50, 60, 70, or even 80 levels of content meant to be ignored just so you can experience 1 or 2 raids over and over again until you had the top level gear that makes you match everyone else. What was the point of an MMO if we all just ran around thinking only of ourselves and blocking out the rest of the world?

Have I overused this yet? It just sums it all up so nicely.

Saddened by our discussion, we said our farewells, and I stared at my list of “promising” upcoming MMOs, and then returned to writing my articles for World of Warcraft, filling them with my disappointment it has left with me and how it has haunted many MMOs since its “success”. And then an article popped up on my facebook feed… Something about some MMO beginning with the letter P, I was sure I had seen it mentioned before, and anxious to accumulate info on more upcoming MMOs to address for my research, I decided to click on it. Whoops, this wasn’t some MMO I had heard of before, it was something new.

  • Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, a new MMORPG being developed by Visionary Realms under the direction of Brad McQuaid. Among its list of planned features, several caught my eye is they related to the conversation I was JUST having with my former guild leader-
  • A classic take on epic MMO adventure
  • An MMO developed by gamers who aren’t afraid to target an audience of like-minded gamers.
  • An open world in which you explore to obtain not only more powerful items but also new spells and abilities.
  • Group-focused social gameplay using a class based system to encourage teamwork.
  • Combat will be challenging and involved — your decisions will matter and directly affect the battle’s outcome.
  • Travel the world and profit from selling exotic items collected from distant realms. Different cities and outposts may have local Bazaars.
  • Limited and class based teleportation may get you close, but in order to reach many destinations you will have to traverse the planar scarred lands of Terminus through the use of your own two feet or on the back of your mighty steed.
  • Earning experience is only part of what it takes to level up. Exploring the world you will gain knowledge and power allowing you to overcome more powerful enemies.

There were many more, but they were along the lines of what every MMO promises. Reading through the material it became clear that this team is focused on creating an MMO more akin to the likings of classic MMO players, where adventuring and progression takes actual effort, dedication, and is greatly rewarded. Players actually needing to interact and support one another. Interactions like this lead to meaningful social relationships, and create a truly immersive environment. The Team Brad has assembled has experience from Everquest, Everquest 2, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, Defiance, Star Wars Galaxies, and more! A very promising pool of knowledge.

BradMcQuaid

The game will basically revolve around worlds that have all collided together on a new plane, thus gods, races, and creatures from all sorts of worlds now find themselves with access to each other. Some gods remain in their celestial plane, while others rule as god kings. This gives the developers a very wide-open range of lore and influences to be able to draw from an implement.

Along with their play style, experience, and story line, they have also taken the steps to achieve funding from the crowd that will determine their success, the gamers. They launched a kick starter campaign which can be accessed here, which explains many of the things I have already briefly mentioned, as always as updates, their goals, and stretch goals which contain many juicy tidbits I hope we will see this fundraiser campaign achieve. They have already announced that the fundraising will continue on beyond the kickstarter campaign, and it seems they are on target to hit their $800,000 goal already.

I myself opted to contribute $250, a price I normally would never do (especially when the product is being promised for 2017), however today they introduced a new tier of donation that allows players to be early testers, and I hope to take advantage of this to see how the inner workings of game testing works, the development community, and the evolution of an MMO as a whole (all while being under a strict NDA of course).

I encourage you to visit the kickstarter campaign (or their website if the campaign is over at the time of your reading this) and to pledge what you can spare. This game seeks to return to our MMO roots, and it is up to us to do everything in our power to make sure this happens, or else we have only ourselves to blame for the current state of MMOs.

Mu Online

Mu Online
Developer: Webzen (Korean)
Platform: PC
Release: October 3rd, 2003

Between my Diablo phase and before my next major influence (Lineage 2), I spent some time playing Mu Online (beta). I largely played this with my best friend with whom I had spent a lot of time playing Diablo II with. I had wanted to move to a game that consisted of many more users interacting with each other all at once, more like Runescape and far beyond Diablo II’s limitation of 8. I found Mu Online to be a game with graphics like Diablo II (slightly more advanced), and also allowing hundreds of players to actively be logged on at once and visible on the screen with one another. In one of the main towns alone there could be several hundred users all carrying on conversations and trading their valuables with one another.

Mu-Online-Town

 

As I said, I joined this game during its beta. It only featured 3 classes at the time; A Dark Wizard, a Dark Knight, and a fairy elf (ranged attacks). The top tiers of gear for the 3 classes (in which they looked their best) were red for the knights, blue for the wizards, and white for the fairy elves. Having this armor was a mark of prestige. The game followed closely along the lines with Diablo 2. Using attacks, you kill creatures, gain XP, lvl up, obtain objects (loot) from the creatures you kill, and use it or trade it for other items you would rather have with other players. I spent only a couple months within this world. As it was beta, the amount of things you could do was a bit limited. One feature I quite enjoyed however was the ability to “sit” in chairs or on benches, or to “lean” on walls inside buildings. I know, a small, irrelevant thing, but it was a welcome addition that added to the immersion and visuals of the game. Waiting at the bar, leaning against the wall, waiting for your companion to arrive, the head of your avatar following wherever your mouse cursor was. It gave you a sense of a more in-depth control of your character. This is a feature that is lacking in most MMOs even today that I find quite unfortunate.

Mumore

A-Tractor

Slightly before Runescape there was another online world I participated in. The game was called A-Tractor. Its name was deriven from the fact that you start out in the game with a tractor. It was more or less an open world economic game. The user-interface was game client based, and was rendered in 3d. As soon as you logged in, you yourself are represented in the game in a tractor. Your character has needs in the form of thirst, hunger, and fuel. To decrease the amount of food and drink you need to consume, you have to purchase a house and stock it with food. You can purchase your house or obtain the skill from the school. The game servers are called worlds, and you can log into any world and your characters are unique to each world with their own inventories. The worlds last as long as the owner of the world keeps the particular game, or “season” to equate it to sports. The world I played on was called Zion, hosted by Zaruba.

In the game you could acquire skills, get jobs at other players buildings, earn income, and spend it either on your own businesses or goodies produced by others businesses. To start out a world, Zaruba would create a few “Government owned” buildings. A bank, which was a place for users to store their funds in an interest baring account; A school which provided 1 free skill to the user, and sold the rest. Skills could be building houses, agricultural buildings, industrial buildings, towns, or various working skills.

Personally, I would start out by entering the world, learning Build Housing as my first skill, and build my own house. This action also consumed resources (a few of which we started with). I would then proceed to use my only skill and remaining lumber and whatever other resource was required to build houses to build more, and mark them as “For Sale” so other players could buy them. Players could build farms which produced resources like lumber or corn, this corn would be consumed by manufacturing that created food out of these resources. This farms themselves required fertilizer, thus creating a system where every building was dependent on another. By hiring workers and supplying a wage, the buildings would receive a bonus in production. Owners of buildings could not have produce items from one building and put it in another one they owned. The game marked them and was aware when players attempted to do this. This prevented them from having monopolys. Instead, players had to mark their wares for sale, and have to rely on players buying the goods from one building, and selling the goods into another at whatever rate the owner put the “buy” prices at. Naturally, they would have to set their buy and sell prices that made it worthwhile for a player to complete the transactions for them. Thus a full economic system. I was never aware if there was a limit of the amount of consecutive users that could be online at one time, but the worlds did have a few thousand users each.

It wasn’t until a few years later that I returned to A-tractor to try my hand again at an economic based online world. I had previously played Zion II, and quit before its completion. I was one of the top 10 players. When I returned, it was now Zion VII (the 7th world/season), and just so happened to be a remake of Zion II. I adopted the same strategy of building and selling houses to players. When I had obtained the funds, I moved to producing buildings within my own town. Towns were required before buildings could be built, and the owner of a town could set the taxes. I became a formidable player in the economic world not only by building up all the agricultural, industrial, manufacturing, and retail buildings I could (forming monopoly’s and relying on help from individuals to bypass the inherent monopoly protection, but also taking advantage of a particular feature of the game.

Every so often buildings would appear for sale for only 10% of their actual cost. For example, houses defaulted at 250s, yet would go up for sale automatically for 25s (s standing for shillings. Shillings and pence were the currency in the game). I came to realize these buildings were going on sale because their owners had perished in the game. They would perish because they would either lack food, or not have logged on for 14 days. I also came to found out there was a command you could type to find out the last time a player had logged on. I began to take note of which players had not logged on for extended periods, and in exactly 14 days, their property would automatically go up for sale for only 10% of their cost. I would set alarms to warn me and log on at these times and buy up all of their property, must of which I would then resell for their full value.

Then the owner announced there would be an auctioning of the government buildings, which would put every building in the game in control of the players. At this point I was by far the richest players (our wealth was displayed in leaderboards). At this point I started looking for a way in which I could make this benefit me. I already  owned versions of every government building (accept a bank, which provides no benefit to an owner anyway). Our of the 10 towns that existed in the world, I owned 6 of them.  1 was government owned, and 3 were owned by other players. I concluded that  only a few players must of invested the funds into the skill to build towns (it cost 2500s, and was rather quite costly). Again, using a in game command, you could see every player that had learned certain skills. The list only had 4 individuals with the skill, and only one of them was a current player, me. I quietly outright bought two the the towns by offering their owners double what it cost to build them (so, 5000s each). And set my eyes own the government town itself, and the school- the only building in the game offering the “build town” skill. Come the government auction, I was easily able to outbid all the others. A day later I obtained the final town because it’s owner hadn’t logged in for 14 days. Upon obtaining the government school, I quickly removed the “build town” skill from the school. Not only was I the only player who owned towns in the world, but now I was the only player who could build them as well.

The world owner, Zaroba, had 1 rule. Never to interfere with the state of the game. I had legitimately taken complete control over the entire world (Oh yeah, by owning towns you could also disallow building). Players realized my scheme too late, and were in an uproar. Zaroba laughed, and quickly broke his own rule, not only building another government school, but offering the build town skill for 1s. I complained, pointing out I did everything within the rules, but he pointed out it wasn’t time for the world to end (we were only a month into its 3 month span). I conceded, and went about my business. I ended up winning that season with a wealth greater then the three players below me combined.

I have written this post for two reasons. First, to talk about an economic based open world, but also as a self reflection… It seems I only excel at games by playing outside the intended parameters, and exploiting flaws within the game. I wonder how this reflects upon me as a person really. A digital yet physical thief in Runescape, a vicious business man utilizing commands and scheming dominance in ways that weren’t meant to be allowed, and you’ll see one of my stories from Lineage 2 also relied on an exploit for me to make an impact. Hrm…

This game still exists in the form of “The Universal”. A-tractor evolved into “The Universal”, and can still be played today. www.theuniversal.net. Information about A-tractor is surprisingly difficult to find, and I wasn’t even able to find screenshots.

First Contact- Runescape

Roughly 10 years after my first taste of the RPG game Crystalis, I found myself in the public library. At the time broadband internet wasn’t very common, and was considerably more expensive than dial-up, and it was still going to be many more years till I could talk my parents into why dial-up was inadequate. I would browse the internet and play flash based games on the few computers the library and enjoy their marvelous broadband connection. There was also an older group of teenagers that would frequent the library. As they were older than me I would never engage in any interactions with them, however one day one sat down on the computer next to me and began playing a game. I kept looking over to his screen whenever I was sure he wouldn’t notice me. What I saw was something like this:

runescape1

I was intrigued. As I observed I notice he was able to make his character move around on the screen by clicking with his mouse. Now, this alone wasn’t particularly amazing. I of course had played PC games with interactive user-interfaces, controlling units or characters (Starcraft would be a good example), but it was the other parts. He had a sword, a shield, and a wizards cap. He was engaging other humanoid characters in fights. And the part that interested me the most (once I realized) was he was playing with the person sitting across from us.

I noticed they were both appearing on the same screen, but they had their own screens to play from. Given at the time that split-screen was the most common form of multiplayer (at least in what I had experienced up to that point) I became quite intrigued. I notice the chat box in the lower left hand corner of the screen where they were communicating with one another, what they said appearing over their characters heads (we were in a library after all). It no longer mattered that they were older or that they were dressed funny, I had to inquire. “Are you playing co-op?” I asked. They laughed. That was it, the moment I was introduced to Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs).

Runescape_Classic_Login

They explained it all to me. The website to go to. How to log in. How to create a character. And directed me where to go starting out. They also taught me how to contact them in the game if I needed help (I cannot remember if it was called whispering, private message, or tell at the time, but I *think* it was private message – That is, sending a message directly to a single person in the game who isn’t currently in your area). I was hooked.

In towns there were dozens, if not hundreds of people around me. Dozens of conversations occurring simultaneously in chat, or dozens of people carrying on a conversation. Players advertising goods they wished to sell or buy. There were also individuals looking for friends, and even boyfriends and girlfriends. Hundreds of people interacting all at once with a variety of tasks. This wasn’t anything like a chat room. We were able to “see” one another via our own avatars. We could put certain armors and clothes on, wear hats, and most importantly, run off on an adventure together if the mood struck us.

runescape2

It wasn’t just the player interactions though. The amount of things we could pursue were also amazing. Of course there were many quests to complete given by computer controlled characters (NPC’s). We could go out and attack evil creatures, or kill innocent farm animals and acquire meat, which we could then cook by creating a fire, or venture into a nearby house and use a stove. The more we fought, the more we cooked, the more magic we used, the more experience we would gain in those areas. All the while we could acquire currency which we would use to purchase more advanced weapons and armor (that is, if we weren’t so lucky to have the armors drop for us from creatures we killed). We didn’t have to rely on currency to purchase items as 1.) They could be dropped by creatures (mobs) as I stated, and 2.) You could go mining to acquire ore, then go a furnace to smelt the ores into bars, and then craft the bars into gear (adding several more activities a player could pursue).

As far as I remember, the levels of gear were ranked Bronze, Iron (dark grey), Steel (light grey), Mythril (dark blue), Adamantium (green), and Rune (light blue). Between these pieces of gears, and the levels of our characters, you could get a sense of how strong a player was and how much they played. Acquiring Rune gear early on in Runescape was a great achievement. The stronger your gear, the more damage you could produce and receive.

runescape3

(Update: This screenshot reminds me there is also a black set of armor too)

The world itself was of a medieval fantasy setting. Castles, towns, wilderness, deserts, caves. The world was inhabited by humans, trolls, giants, beasts, spiders, and your typical mix of creatures. There were shops to buy your items, Inn’s to congregate, buildings to train in, and random houses in place to create the atmosphere of a town. Usually you could find players within them pretending they were there house. All players (at the time of my playing) could only be human. And combat was largely automatic, as you would only select your “type” of combat (aggressive, controlled, accurate, or defensive), and watch your character win or lose the fight.

runescape4

Players could also interact by attacking one another. When I began playing it seemed a new adjustment had just been made to the game. Previously, you could attack players outside of any town. Now, player combat was limited to the “Wilderness”. An area on part of the world where once you crossed into it, players could freely engage you in combat. Alot of times you would see a large group of players standing on the border. They would quickly cross the line, attempt to kill someone weaker than them or fleeing another player, and hop back across the line if they became endangered themselves.  I remember one fortuitous moment when the game servers crashed for a moment, forcing all players to log back in. Even though the servers had crashed, combats that were in progress were resolved, and there were piles of items all around marking where players had just died. I quickly ran across the line and picked up all the pieces I could, and ran back out as other players moved in to pick up items themselves, or attack weak players that had been so bold. I cannot remember if dropping the items you carried was a feature of death, or limited to only the wilderness.

One particular moment I’m not so proud of: The game became more and more popular, and more and more of us at the library would begin to play the game. Technically you could only sign up for the computers in 30 minute blocks, however if no one else was signed up after you, you could remain on the pc. With the growing popularity of the game among the kids at the library however, it became a battle to obtain PC time. It escalated to such a degree that the library had to program the computers to automatically log off a user after their block of time was used up. This is however besides the point, I just wanted to convey that the game was popular in the library. One day another kid was playing beside me. We were familiar with each other, though I cannot recall his name. He was a year or two younger than me. While playing, I suggested we try playing each others characters for a bit. I did this because I had ill intentions. He accepted, and the only reason I can fathom that he accepted was to try his own hand at misdeeds. So the contest began, we had to figure a way to outwit the other player and take advantage of using their character. Now, in games now a days, it would have seemed natural to want to try using another persons character as they are diverse, often have different classes and abilities, however in Runescape these features did not yet exist. Our characters were the essentially, with slightly different gear. His character in particular had a sword I envied, a Rune Longsword. The moment came, his little brother was calling him over for something. He got up and left the computers. I was now playing his character unmonitored. I quickly sent a message to my female accomplice to meet me in town. She arrived and I quickly traded the sword on his character to her and told her to move away so he didn’t notice her. I then got back on my computer and character and continued to play. He came back and noticed I was back on my computer, and ran to his seat and checked his inventory. He yelled “Give it back!” as he turned to me angry. I replied “give what back?” “The sword you took!” I denied having his sword and freely showed him my inventory. The sword in question was nowhere to be found in my inventory. I logged off and set off to head home, however he pursued me outside the library. I had bested him and obtained his valuable sword, however I had done so outside the parameters of the game. He kept insisting I give it back, I said no and got on my bike to leave. He quickly grasped the handlebar and noticed the hand grip slid right off. He now had something of mine. This left us in a stalemate for a bit. I kept saying he was stealing my property as he was holding it in his hand, he had physically taken something from me, whereas I had only stolen from him virtually in a game. He said he saw no difference and wouldn’t return it until he received his sword back. I was unsure how to proceed. I needed my hand grip, because it wasn’t mine, it was my fathers bike. He would notice it was missing and I would be in trouble. However, I wanted the sword, and besides I may not even be able to get it back at this moment. I didn’t have it, my accomplice did. Ultimately the decision was removed from my hands as his mother pulled up in her vehicle. She began to yell at him as she had already been waiting 20 minutes for him to come out so they could leave (that’s why his brother had called him over to begin with). I was scared. Now an adult was going to become involved and I would be punished for stealing. He turned to his mother and began to complain how I stole his sword in the game. It was out in the open now, I was a thief. I looked anxiously to see what his mothers response would be. Would she make me give it back? Would she report me to the librarians? Would she tell my parents? She didn’t even look at me. “I don’t care about your stupid game! Get in the car now we’re going!” Stunned and defeated, he dropped the hand grip and got into the car. I had succeeded! A virtual theft didn’t matter at all. At least, not to a mother who needed to get home and prepare dinner. I hurried home, logged on and obtained the sword from my accomplice. I thanked her and told her I would give her and her sister a call later. They lived around the block.

I shared this story because it involved my first forays into the concept of virtual ownership, and is my most significant experience of the real and virtual worlds colliding within my Runescape experience. Perhaps I will expand on this later.

As for Runescape, it was a wonderful time. I played with a few real life friends occasionally, but none of them were able to play as much as I was or get as far as I could. After a year or so of playing, I became bored with Runescape as the game grew more complicated and I moved on to actions shooters such as Half-Life and its modifications and Tom Clancy’s rainbow Six series, and eventually Halo.

Runescape still exists today. It has undergone several upgrades and is now referred to as Runescape 3. Just as it was then, it is a browser-based client (which is why it was so widely accessible) and sports thousands of users on its servers. It has reportedly had 200 millions accounts registered since it’s creation. I never played beyond what became known as Runescape Classic once Runescape 2 was released. The game was upgraded with more 3d graphics (no longer 2d sprites for characters/monsters) in an attempt to compete with other MMORPG’s being released.

rscompare3

Runescape certainly wasn’t the first MMORPG as their existed some such as Everquest or Ultima, however it was the first I came across and helped shape my expectations and perspective from that point on.