Posted in Age of Conan, Aion, Anarchy Online, City of Heroes, Dungeons & Dragons Online, EVE Online, EverQuest, Fallen Earth, Final Fantasy, Global Agenda, Guild Wars, Pirates of the Burning Sea, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Wizard 101, World of Warcraft

Where to get MMO soundtracks

Yesterday on Too Long; Didn’t Listen (you know, that podcast you so adore!) Dodge and I were talking about MMO and video game soundtracks, a topic which I quite adore.  I wanted to follow the podcast up with a quick post about some places that I’ve found legal ways to obtain these scores:

Free MMO soundtracks:

Amazon MP3 downloads:

Direct Song:

Blizzard Store/iTunes/misc.:

Let me know if I missed any and I’ll add them to the list (I’m not looking to list/link torrents and CDs, however)!

Posted in Age of Conan, EverQuest, Final Fantasy, Guild Wars, Runes of Magic

Music Week: MMORPG soundtracks

I know I touched on MMO scores before, but there are plenty of additional tracks that I deliberately keep in my collection instead of tuning out.  So… here are a few more, I guess!

Guild Wars — Under the Dark Span (Asura Theme)

I have an entire folder filled with every Guild Wars OST track — that’s how much I love Jeremy Soule’s score for these games.  Just… awesome.  It’s hard to pick one out of them, but I’ve always been partial to this short but sweeping theme for the Asura.

Age of Conan — Memories of Cimmeria

AoC has one of the most widely recognized scores in the industry, and rightfully so.  “Haunting” is a good word for this track, as I can imagine it being played in a film after a huge tragedy has gone down for our heroes, or when someone is facing a huge decision of sorts.  It’s interesting in that it’s dominated by a female voice crooning wordless notes.

Aion — The Still Sad World

One thing that soundtrack collectors learn early on is that it’s important to separate your feelings for the work in which its featured with the score itself.  This is why we can have crappy films with extremely awesome soundtracks (Transformers, Twilight) or games that I personally would not play with great tracks (such as Aion here).  This is a lovely piece with an emotional piano vibe — and, oddly enough, whispering.

EverQuest II — Main Theme

A classic in many ways, and an update version of the original EQ theme.  It really does shout “FANTASY!” at you, but strangely enough I could picture this as a theme in any Star Trek film too.

Final Fantasy XIV — Chocobo Theme

Okay, we’ve heard this theme a million times before, but it’s still kinda catchy — and the intro bit is perfect to play at top volume.

Runes of Magic — Call for Heroes

I know, Runes of Magic, whodathunkit?  Jeremy at Massively pointed out a few tracks from this game to me, and I quickly realized that it has, hands-down, one of the best scores out there for MMOs.  I want to make a movie trailer of my life set to this piece, it’s that epic.

Posted in Age of Conan, Lord of the Rings Online

Age of Waterslides

I suppose we’ve all heard the news that Age of Conan is joining the not-so-exclusive F2P/Hybrid club.  We’re getting to the point — honestly, we’re probably miles past the point — where this is a shocking and stunning development.  I like Funcom’s semi-laid back attitude toward this, however, which is to say that “after an MMO’s been out a while, it usually makes sense to go to this model.”

And I can see that.  In a way, F2P/Hybrid (or however you want to call it) is the new “trial program” for the new decade.  It pulls more players in, it gives established players more options, it increases the game’s visibility (at least for a limited period of time), and it avoids getting so entrenched in the “subscriptions are the only way to do things” mindset that it gets left behind the pack.  Not that I think all sub games should go this route, but as a consumer, it’s a win-win for me.  I never thought I’d be at a point in my MMO gaming career where the biggest limitation for gaming wasn’t my wallet but my time.  Right now, without spending a penny, there are so many great options on the table it makes my head swim.

It does make me wonder why both Star Trek Online and Warhammer Online have yet to do this, as both of those titles could benefit greatly from a similar move, but oh well.

So oddly enough, Age of Conan is shaping up to have a great year between this, all the new content, and the movie tie-ins.  I think Funcom needs it, and I hope that it’s successful enough to keep the funding for The Secret World rolling in.

And speaking of movie tie-ins (transition cue!), last night I finally played through the entirety of the Goonies-inspired Inn of the Forsaken in LotRO.  This latest update isn’t the game’s largest by far — and in fact, if you don’t like dungeons or skirmishes, you might not even notice anything new at all.  But I like that Turbine’s having fun with these instances and coming up with different approaches to them, which is something I always loved in DDO.

Inn of the Forsaken is less of a dungeon crawl than it is an adventure-themed fun house.  There are traps, riddle doors, secret passages, and — best of all — a waterslide that leads you down to a pirate ship in a cavern.  It’s not as impressive a final reveal as, say, World of Warcraft’s Deadmines pirate ship was, but it still made my group (who hadn’t run it yet) gasp and laugh at the fun of it all.

I’m still really hoping that Turbine gets a much better LFG/LFF tool in place this year, because it’s a shame how hard it is to still find groups in the game, especially considering how they’ve widened the range of available dungeons by scaling and made them easily accessible anywhere in the world through the UI.

FINALLY, tonight I’m hosting a fun game of freeze tag on Landroval at 9pm EST.  If you’ve never played LOTRO’s freeze tag or just want to join us, meet up with our kin in Bree-land at the ruins at 26.1S, 49.7W.  Trust me, it’s really cool!

Posted in Age of Conan, Anarchy Online, City of Heroes, DC Universe Online, Dungeons & Dragons Online, EverQuest, Global Agenda, Guild Wars, Lord of the Rings Online, RIFT, Star Trek Online, Star Wars Galaxies, Ultima Online, Vindictus, World of Warcraft

2010: Looking Back

As much as I love retrospective posts and Top X Lists of the Year, I suppose it’s almost time to tuck those away for another 364 days.  January 1st always hits me like a wall of normalcy after the hectic month that was December.  Once tomorrow rolls in, it’s back to normal schedules and normal objectives and no awesome holidays until President’s Day (party central!).

So instead of getting bummed about the 1st, I wanted to take a couple minutes to look back at 2010.  While it may have not been much for MMOs, I thought it was a pretty exciting year — announcements, betas, getting back into old games, and so on.  I actually played a lot of MMOs this year, including:

  • World of Warcraft: I wrapped up my interest in this game early on in the year, and was finally able to say goodbye.
  • Lord of the Rings Online: I got back into LOTRO in February and have had an utter blast getting a character up in high levels, being part of a terrific kinship, and participating in many non-combat events.
  • Global Agenda: Played it for about a week, it’s decent for what it is, but it’s not for me.
  • Star Trek Online: Despite numerous hiccups on Cryptic’s part, I’ve enjoyed STO off and on during the year, and have spent about 100 hours in-game so far.
  • Ultima Online: Finally got a taste of this classic MMO for a few days — nothing compelling, but cool to be able to say I was there.
  • Anarchy Online: Spent a few weeks revisiting this title and my memories from back in the day.
  • Allods Online: I liked the beta, but the launch cash shop ruckus turned me off of it.
  • Age of Conan: Yeah, spent a couple days going through the newbie zone.  Decent game, but I didn’t feel like sticking it out.
  • DCUO: Played a very little bit of the beta, thought it looked really nice but I wasn’t too thrilled about the consoleish feel.
  • City of Heroes: Returned for a couple weeks with the intention of seeing the Going Rogue launch, but a once-familiar staple of my gaming life felt really drab and meandering, so I quit.
  • DDO: Enjoyed it off and on, but ultimately it lost its grip on me and I let it go with a teary farewell.
  • EverQuest II Extended: Went through the intro zone and generally liked it, but was turned off by the graphics and the bizarre pricing plan.
  • Guild Wars: Been playing through the campaigns for the Hall of Monuments calculator, and although I haven’t been in-game for a month or so, I have plans to return.
  • Rift: Got into the beta, and have been slowly won over by this gorgeous and pretty dang fun title.
  • Star Wars Galaxies: Played it for a couple weeks for a column, liked it so-so but it just got me itching for The Old Republic after a while.  Cool space combat, tho.
  • Vindictus: Tried the opening level, it felt way too much like a mindless click-fest and quit.

Whew, in retrospect, that’s a LOT!  And I’m not including all of my off-line gaming, including Mass Effect 2 (awesome), Back to the Future: The Game, Borderlands, Secret of Monkey Island, Dragon Age Origins, Torchlight and Batman: Arkham Asylum.

On the homefront, it’s been pretty crazy too: classes, work, family life.  Back in April my daughter was born, a daughter who’s now standing up and holding her own in play sessions with her one-year-old brother.  Being a dad is better than any game out there, which is why MMOs don’t stand a chance if they’re awake.

In February, I was hired by Massively to be a columnist and contributing editor, and in a way, it was a perfect fit.  I’ve always wanted to be a part of the games industry in some way, and writing about it comes naturally.  The folks over there are just terrific, and we’ve had a great year of covering the news and talking about the games we love.  I don’t know how you feel about the site, but I can testify to the real passion that everyone there has for MMOs.  It’s not a job, it’s being paid for what we were going to talk about anyway.  Well, okay, on days I don’t want to write, it’s certainly more job-like than others, but all in all I consider myself a very fortunate guy who has two jobs he really likes to do.

2010 wasn’t perfect — I didn’t lose all the weight I wanted to (although I made a small dent), I let a few projects slip that I wish I would’ve been better about, and I know that dividing my writing interests have hurt Bio Break in some ways.  But you have to take the bad with the good, and I’m pretty darn satisfied with how it ended up.

Posted in Age of Conan

Age of Conan: The Future of MMORPGs

“Play AoC!  Because… because… you don’t even need to be online to level up!  It’ll just happen!”

I simply cannot understand the groupthink session that went into creating this bizarre feature, unless they were trying to trump the rest system seen in other MMOs.

What’s the point here?  What’s the message they’re trying to convey?

“Our game is so lame that we want you to play less of it?”

“The REAL game starts at the level cap, so we’re gonna get you there ASAP?”

“You’ve shelled out your $15 this month, so here — have fun with an officially sanctioned cheat?”

“Age of Conan: we reward lazy players who can’t be bothered to log in?”

I’m sorry, I sort of see where they were going with this, but it just smacks of counter-productivity.  What’s next, handing out epic gear every seven days, just ’cause?

Oh well.  Who needs to actually play games anyway?

Posted in Age of Conan, EverQuest, Fallen Earth, Guild Wars, Star Trek Online

Games I’d Be Playing If I Had Unlimited Time

Which, of course, I don’t, especially with a newborn in the house… but it doesn’t hurt to engage in a bit of wishful thinking!

  • Fallen Earth – Man, I miss me some Fallen Earth.  It’s one of those games that I’d love to reconnect with some day, especially if I found a very active clan.  I wouldn’t even feel that tempted to reroll a new character, as I usually do when coming back to a MMO, because I would want to see the S2 and S3 content and have no desire to return to S1.
  • EverQuest 2 – Even if it was a few hours a month (especially if they loosen up that passport thing), I’d love to explore the housing and crafting in this title.
  • Age of Conan – I know there’s a heapload of angst at FunCom and this title, but AoC has built up a pretty passionate fanbase of players, and it’s starting to get a lot more positive mentions now that we’re quite a distance from launch.
  • Star Trek Online – If Cryptic would implement an option so that I could play this one evening a week and pay for just that, I’d so be back.  There’s a lot of fun in this title, just not in great enough quantities for a full sub.
  • Guild Wars – I keep promising myself that one day, one day I’ll finish a campaign and really get into this game.  I don’t think that’ll happen until GW2, unfortunately.
Posted in Age of Conan, Star Wars Galaxies

Age of Conan: Virtual Hostages

“Welcome to Age of Conan!  How may I help you today?”

“How about threatening to delete all of my low-level characters unless I capitulate and sign back up?”

“Sure thing!  We’ll have that right up for you, just pull around to the second window.”

“Thanks!”

Database issues aside, when you’re a struggling MMO that’s always looking to lure players back, is it really the best marketing strategy to essentially hold a gun to their stored characters’ heads and threaten to pull the trigger unless they resub?

Because people loved that so much when Star Wars Galaxies pulled that trick last year.

/golfclap for virtual hostages!

Posted in Age of Conan

Death: The Final Frontier

Back when Age of Conan was in the pre-release stage — you might recall this as a happier time for all — they were touting how their mature and savage game was going to boast all these incredible, hit you in the face features that’d never been seen before.  Out of all of their new shinies on display, one really attracted my attention.

I recall reading an article where a dev was talking about the negative aspect of spellcasting, and how, when you die, there was a chance you might be cast into hell, or somesuch.  At that point, you would have to fight your way out a small level to be ressurected in the larger game world.

Now, it’s been a while and my facts on this may be fuzzy, and I don’t think this actually made it into the game (AoC players, please correct me on this), but I really, really loved the idea of this twist on a death penalty.  It took a rather mundane drawback of a time penalty and turned it into something cool, something that fit in with the game world and lore.  You had to earn your right to be rezzed, and I could see that it would make you somewhat apprehensive of dying.

So what if a future developer picks up this concept and runs with it?  It could be potentially awesome.  What if there are multiple “death stages”, of which you’d go to a random one on dying?  What if there are special unlocks and quests that can only be completed in this realm?

Would a death realm be too frustrating to the average player who’d just want to get back into the “real” game and play, or would it add immersion to the experience and a significant weight to dying?

Posted in Age of Conan

AoCannonball!

"Nerds want my hat!  RUNNNN!"
"Nerds want my hat! RUNNNN!"

This summer’s been more or less a drought of MMO information, stretching on between the lush lands of E3 and the late summer insanity of PAX, Blizzcon and more.  Now, all of the sudden, we’re dealing with MMO insanity, a lot of it including titles and projects we didn’t even know (or couldn’t confirm) were in the mix.  WoW’s expansion, EverQuest 3, Guild Wars 2, CCP’s upcoming EVE-themed FPS/MMO, and now word’s coming in about Age of Conan’s first expansion pack.

Eurogamer has a great writeup of what’s being called “Rise of the Godslayer” (AoC:RotGS?  Just rolls off the tongue, don’t it?).  Age of Conan is long past the point of no return in tempting me to try it out, which is a real shame considering that I followed this title pretty avidly for a stretch of time there.  Ultimately, it just wasn’t what I was looking for, and the ugly beta and release almost seemed like Funcom was deliberately trying to keep their streak alive after Anarchy Online’s notorious launch.  They suffered week after week of negative press, followed by poor company earnings reports and some prominent company figures leaving.  Then… silence.  I mean, I know there’s been more going on, but there are times for MMOs when they’re in the media spotlight and when they’re in exile, and AoC’s been in exile ever since fall of last year.

So good for the Funcom team for reportedly making great strides to improving what was a rocky initial game (hm, sounds a lot like how WAR’s developed, come to think of it), and for showing the world that they’re in it for the long haul with this first expansion — which, might I add, does not take the expected route of a level cap increase, but mightily beefs up the current leveling content.  There’s too many MMO failures, cancelations and botched progress these days, which is why I’m always cheering for any game that fights to make it, and then prove it can grow with an expansion.  I don’t know anybody who made AoC their MMO mainstay for very long, but I’m sure they have to have a dedicated community there who very much appreciates this news.

And hey, any chance to report on AoC is a chance for me to post a pic of Arnie the Barbarian, so I’m satisfied.

Posted in Age of Conan, Darkfall, EverQuest, Star Wars Galaxies

MMOs I Never Played… And Why

1236802798561In these dog days of summer, on the cusp — but not quite over the cuspiness — of new, major MMO releases, the message of the week in the blogosphere seems to be “let’s flee back to the joys of older, established MMORPGs!”  This is actually a recurring theme in the community, which I find endlessly entertaining — how flocks of bloggers suddenly, and almost without a solid reason, dive into a particular MMO and start talking it up for a couple weeks or so.

Earlier this year it was City of Heroes and LOTRO, now it’s EverQuest 2 (and to a lesser, and perhaps more personal extent, DDO).  As I’m not going to be tasting EQ2’s fruits right now — or at any point — I thought I’d go back and explain why I never played certain MMOs that seemed to be en vogue at the time.

  • Ultima Online – Why not UO, which holds an established place of honor as the breakout graphical MMO?  Mostly due to my ignorance of it in the late 90’s, plus a crappy computer and no depedable internet connection.
  • EverQuest – After graduating college, I had some college buddies get really, really into this, to the point where two of them were all but neglecting their newborn child because of it.  That story kind of scared me away.  Plus, by 2002 or so, I had heard about this upcoming World of Warcraft and was pretty sure that I wanted WoW to be my “first” fantasy MMO.
  • Asheron’s Call, Dark Age of Camelot – Also for the reasons above, coupled with dial-up internet that persisted until sometime in 2003 when I got cable.
  • EverQuest 2 – First of all, I simply cannot get past the ugly, offputting, uncanny valley avatars.  It’s a fistful of ugly.  Plus, it released around the time of WoW, and I was in the beta for that and knew that was the path I wanted to pursue.  Since then?  We’ve all heard the stories about how EQ2 has improved, but I’ve seen or heard nothing that’s grabbed me and hauled me bodily to SOE’s website for a trial.
  • Planetside – FPS… pass.  My reflexes are never good enough to compete on a competative level.
  • Star Wars Galaxies – I was close… SO close to getting this and playing it.  This was back in my dial-up days, and I remember buying the strategy guide for it just to read through and see if this would be my kind of game.  To this day I don’t know what kept me from going whole hog into it, but I think I sensed enough “red flags” — the overly complicated HAM bar, the lack of dedicated classes, what have you — to give me pause.  And considering NGE and all that, I’m glad I did.
  • Age of Conan – A lot of potential Warhammer gamers back in spring 2008 were lulled into trying AoC, mostly because of the delay and a need to have something “new” that summer.  Originally I was so on board with Conan it wasn’t funny, but the more I read about it, the less I cared.  The open beta/pre-launch fiasco they suffered sealed my decision.
  • Darkfall – Because I have good taste in games.