Posted in A Week In..., Runes of Magic

A Week in Runes of Magic: Adventuring with Super Anime Girl

One of the reasons that I wanted to do this “A Week In…” series is to satisfy my curiosity about various MMORPGs. And I’ve certainly been curious about Runes of Magic, which might well be the poster child for the forgotten MMO. It was super-popular for about two weeks in 2008 when people latched on to this as the “free-to-play World of Warcraft,” before F2P was that widespread. Since then, it’s continued to be updated but has really faded into the background. Perfect for an expedition!

Sunday: The goal of this week is to simply make a new character and pilot her through the newbie experience. While Runes of Magic really lacks in the race (human, elf, dwarf) and generic class options (I went with Scout, which is a ranger/archer), I greatly amused myself with all of the sliders. You can make some really freaky looking alien characters, let me tell you. I made Super Anime Girl by blowing up her head, giving her saucer eyes, and slapping some blue paint all over her hair. And I kind of like the result!

Monday: Right off the bat, the game offered me a “handsome reward” if I would deign to run its tutorial. I never say no to a handsome reward, so I humbled myself to be taught how to move and click on things all over again. Did you know that WASD moves your character? Amazing! The actual tutorial is weirdly short, culminating in a seconds-long battle against a brightly colored Spider King.

Question: Since I defeated it, am I the new Spider King? Spider Queen?

Tuesday: Forget the mediocre graphics — Runes of Magic’s real artistry is in its lush soundtrack. Seriously great stuff. It’s one of those underrated MMO soundtracks because not many people think much of the game itself, but it’s really top-shelf material.

Anyway, today’s adventure took me into the starting village of Pioneers… something. Cove? Hamlet? I already forgot, that’s how memorable it was. PioTown! That’ll work. While the starting quests are extremely vanilla — talk to these dudes, kill some fungus — one weird thing is how much *stuff* Runes of Magic throws in your inventory from all of these starter missions. I swear, half of the quests were “You need to go talk to this guy, he’s got a welcome package for you. Now get a package from that other guy. And those next six guys.”

Wednesday: Two observations I want to share today. The first is that I discovered that by clicking on waypoints or quest givers on the map, you have the option to have the game automatically run you there. Some people don’t like auto-run, but I figure that if you’re OK with automatic transport elsewhere, it’s pretty much the same thing on a smaller scale. Gets you where you want to be.

Secondly, while the game may superficially look like early World of Warcraft, the combat is nowhere near as tight, interactive, or has that audible punch that I came to expect from WoW. It’s serviceable, but nothing better than that.

Thursday: I have two distinct memories of Runes of Magic from Back in the Day”. The first was the novelty of having a free-to-play MMORPG that was sorta (but not really) like World of Warcraft, which was perfect for those on a low budget. The second surrounded reports of how monetized the game was. The above quest is an example of this, as it’s a monetized quest. Haven’t seen those in MMOs lately, eh? Well, here you go. You can do the quest normally or pay to do it faster and get a better reward. And this is in the newbie zone, so they’re just buttering vulnerable players up for more milking later.

That makes my skin crawl.

Friday: By the end of the week in Runes of Magic, my heart really wasn’t in this. I can see why desperate players who couldn’t afford WoW would have flocked to this game back in the day, but it’s not an ideal substitute. The animations, combat, and visuals come off as stiff, and the cash shop-infused design leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I mean, it was functional? That’s something. And the music is, as I said, wonderful. But I can listen to the music and play something else entirely, which is what I’ll do.

Posted in Music, Podcast, Runes of Magic

Battle Bards Episode 28: Runes of Magic

romThe intriguing and diverse Runes of Magic soundtrack is next on the warpath for the conquering Battle Bards!  Opinions are all across the board as the insults and disagreements fly fast and furious, but in the end all is forgiven, hugs are meted out, and the crew agrees on at least a couple of excellent tracks worthy of your time.

Episode 28 show notes

  • Intro (featuring “Main Theme,” “Blazing Battle,” and “Absurdia”)
  • “Main Theme Chapter 4”
  • “Adventure”
  • “Silverspring Day 2”
  • “The Radiant Arcanum”
  • “Tower of Wailing Wind”
  • “Varanas City”
  • “Traveling Tale”
  • Which one did we like best?
  • Mail From Zoward
  • Mail from Shintar
  • Reminder about listener episode submissions
  • Outro (featuring “The Radiant Arcanum”)

Listen to episode 28 now!

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 Allods Online, Anarchy Online, Chronicles of Spellborn, Dungeon Runners, Dungeons & Dragons Online, Kingdom of Loathing, Maple Story, Runes of Magic, Runescape, Warhammer Online, Wizard 101

One Year of Free-To-Play Fun

In an exercise designed to satiate a whiff of whimsy, I wanted to plot out an entire year of MMORPG gaming, where each month a player would hypothetically play a different title for free, paying $0 for their year’s experience.   What would I recommend starting with December?  Hang on to my every word, faithful readers, and let’s see:

December 2009 – For the Yuletide season, I’m going to recommend an old favorite of mine, Dungeon Runners, a sort-of snarky Diablo clone that enjoyed exaggerating and mocking RPG conventions while feeding your desire for mayhem and loot frenzy.  Since the title is being shut down on January 1, 2010 (with a nuclear explosion, as a matter of fact), this is the absolute last month to play it, and perhaps the best — they’re really jacking up the loot drops and XP rewards for DR’s final weeks.

January 2010 – Why not use the first month of the new decade to reconnect with a MMO of yore?  Anarchy Online has been running free-to-play for a couple years now (although with certain limitations if you don’t subscribe).  It may not have the glitz and glamour of more modern MMOs, but it’s one of the only “old school” titles that let people tromp around for nothing!

February 2010 – Assuming that Chronicles of Spellborn is still in “redevelopment”, or whatever that means, you can play this recent title for absolutely nothing — and that includes the full game!  Of course, there’s the very real chance that some day they might pull the plug or wipe the servers, but it’s a small price to pay for free fun.

March 2010 – Get your Harry Potter on by signing up for Wizard101, the acclaimed title that mixes together turn-based combat and bright wizardy venues.  They have an unlimited free trial that certainly gives you a nice big chunk of the early game, which took my wife and I a few weeks to run through earlier this year.

April 2010Warhammer Online’s “endless trial” is next up for your gaming pleasure — the full Tier 1 experience, with 24 classes, PvE and PvP is yours for the taking.  If you’re willing to roll up a few alts, then this will more than meet a full month’s worth of fun.

May 2010 – Ever since switching to its hybrid free-to-play/microtransactions/subscription model, Dungeons & Dragons Online has earned the title of the best free MMO you can get your grubby mitts on.  It comes highly recommended from myself, and the free content is quite expansive, certainly more than a month’s worth.

June 2010 – Cute little Asian MMOs that are funded entirely through microtransactions might not be your thing (and they certainly aren’t mine), but Maple Story is one of the best and most beloved if it is.  So enlarge your eyes to 500% of their normal size, color your hair bright blue, and embrace 2D zaniness.

July 2010 – An Adventurer Is You!  Or so proclaims the folks over at the long-running Kingdom of Loathing, one of the wittiest browser-based MMOs in the world.  There’s no catch on the cost (players who want to support the game can purchase special items in the shop), and the wordy game has enraptured many a soul — including mine.

August 2010 – We’ll assume that by next August, Allods Online will have left beta and gone into full launch, in which case you might already have heard the siren’s call to play it.  It’s been getting excellent press so far, and for a free to play title, why not give it a whirl in the dog days of summer?

September 2010 – Many a MMORPG player has cut their teeth on Runescape, the free to play browser MMO that showed how far the limits of Java could go.  It might not be the most polished or good-looking title, but it’s had a number of overhauls and revamps, and hey — it’s light on the wallet.

October 2010 – Speaking of runes, Runes of Magic bowled a lot of people over in 2009 as both a decent WoW clone and an excellent free to play title.  They’ve already released their first expansion (also free), and you could certainly do a lot worse than give this a try, particularly if you are a current or former WoWhead.

November 2010Sword of the New World is one of those odd little MMO cult hits that you know, intellectually, are better than the rest of the pack, but may have yet to ever give it a whirl.  So why not, in this last month of our hypothetical experiment, do just that?

Posted in Aion, Champions Online, Runes of Magic

Quote of the Day Battle Royale

Seriously, fellow bloggers, you guys crack me UP by making the English language your whipping boy some days.  First up:

“To explain the Aion screen shot below. That was the idle animation for my character in Aion. He looks like he’s more prepared to pick out curtains than kicking ass. I didn’t bother to post the big-ass leaf that he pulls out to protect him from the rain.”

~ Darren

And then there’s:

“To say that Cryptic not releasing the game in June was sensible would be like saying that not wetting ones genitals and then sticking them in an electrical mains socket was sensible: that is to say, in all but the most masochistic quarters, these two things would be classed as a mandatory avoidance.”

~ KIASA

Finally:

“I’m not playing any more games where the front page of their site shows men in full armour/ robes and women in thongs/ briefs.  So web designers, if you want to say ‘This game is not for Spinks’ then that’s how to do it.”

~ Spinks

Posted in Runes of Magic

Runes of Magic: If You Build It (For Free), They Will Come

field-dreamsSpeaking of free-to-play World of Warcraft-ish games, Runes of Magic just punched through the one million registered users mark in less than two months past launch — enviable numbers, to be sure, until you return to earth and realize that you can’t compare player numbers from a F2P RMT MMO (too many abbreviations there?) to a subscription-based MMO.  It’s why these sorts of games — Runescape, DOMO, Free Realms — will always enjoy player populations that make AAA-titles like Warhammer and LOTRO weep.  People like the free junk, and are willing to settle for less, and play much more because of it.  It makes me worry a bit for the higher quality (yet subscription-based) MMOs, as future developers might look to compare the seemingly instant success of the F2P models and start edging in that direction instead of pumping out higher quality titles that are far more risky to launch.

Speculative “what if?” question — what if past canceled MMOs, such as Tabula Rasa, had gone F2P in the first place, with RMT backing it up?  It’s not hard to imagine NCSoft proudly announcing that Tabula Rasa just hit its two millionth “registered user” as they continue to rake in their operating budget plus profit in micro-transactions.

Anyway, I’ve yet to try Runes of Magic — not really willing to return to anything WoWish — but I hear it’s pretty solid and the content they dish out for free is impressive.  I’d think this would be a day for them to celebrate pretty hard.