Battle Bards Episode 90: Wizard101

wizard101

Expecto MMOsium! The Battle Bards have donned their robes and taken to casting nasty spells on each other with their wands, all in the spirit of today’s soundtrack — Wizard101. This surprisingly expansive kid MMORPG visits a wide range of genres and has a score to match. But was the experience magical or mundane?

Episode 90 show notes (show page, direct download)

  • Intro (feat. “Main Theme,” “Home Sweet Home,” and “Grizzleheim 2”)
  • “Avalon – High/Abbey Road”
  • “Polaris – Ballet Theme”
  • “Avalon – Main Theme”
  • “Wysteria – Pickswick Academy”
  • “Marleybone – Theme 1”
  • “Darkmoor – Main Theme”
  • “Wintertusk – Austrilund”
  • Which one did we like the best?
  • Jukebox picks: “Bulls Eye” from Club Penguin, “Top of the World” from Eagle Flight, and “Where No Man Has Gone Before” from The Witcher 3
  • Outro (feat. “Polaris – Bad Ballet Theme”)

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)!

Wizard101 != Harry Potter

Whether or not we’ll ever see a Harry Potter MMO — and it’d be really dumb if nobody took advantage of this great IP — something that grates on my nerves every time I hear it is when people say “Why do we need a Harry Potter MMO?  I mean, we have Wizard101, and that’s pretty much the same thing!”

To me, that’s like saying, “Why have a Star Trek MMO when you have EVE Online?  They have pretty much the same thing — space, ships, combat, um, asteroids.”

Now, I’m not the biggest Harry Potter or Wizard101 fan, but I like and respect both franchises for what they are.  I appreciate what Wizard101 brought to the MMO scene in its accessibility, crossover appeal to kids and adults alike, and a fun blending of a card game with MMORPG trappings.  But, to me, it’s not Harry Potter, even if Ambrose is meant to be a knockoff of Dumbledore, or the fact that the first world is set in a magical school for wanna-be wizards.  Clumping both franchises together as “one and the same” does a disservice to what each of them does best.

Wizard101 may have its origins in the Harry Potter motif, but it takes a vastly different direction and becomes its own creature early on.  It’s simplistic and attractive both visually and in the game mechanics, and has no qualms playing up the cartoony angle.

If Harry Potter ever became a MMO, it certainly wouldn’t be bright primary colors and rainbows, but one that has a darker atmosphere among J.K. Rowling’s settings.  I don’t love Harry Potter for its storyline (which is pretty basic and derivative if we want to be honest with ourselves) but for the creativity and detail shown to the magical world, from candy to fireworks, plants to animals, curses to potions.

I think Harry Potter could translate very well to a MMORPG, all things considered.  Rowling certainly created enough items, creatures, locations, figures and mysteries to fit into a MMO structure, not to mention class choices (which type of magic you’d specialize in), factions (Hogwarts houses), and leveling (what year you are, plus post-graduate years).

With all due respect to Wizard101, we haven’t seen a Harry Potter MMO yet, and I don’t think anyone should be deterred from making one just because there’s another magic-themed MMO out there.

The Great Login Experiment – Results!

First of all, a sincere thanks to everyone who helped me test login times for their various MMOs.  We didn’t cover all of them, and there’s never *enough* data for this sort of thing, but I was curious, and I thought you might be as well.

So here are the results — how long, on average, it took readers to go from clicking on the desktop icon to being fully in the game.  Take these all with a huge grain of salt — some of the games we had a lot more data, and some the “spread” (between lowest and highest) was more pronounced.  So I’ve included how many samples and what the spread (low-high) was to help with the analysis:

  • Lord of the Rings Online: 145.8 seconds (7 samples, 61-173)
  • Aion: 140 seconds (1 sample)
  • EverQuest 2: 129.3 seconds (3 samples, 78-175)
  • Fallen Earth: 107.1 seconds (10 samples, 50-145)
  • Champions Online: 97.5 seconds (2 samples, 94-101)
  • Atlantica Online: 75 seconds (1 sample)
  • Dungeons & Dragons Online: 74.5 seconds (2 samples, 53-96)
  • Star Trek Online: 71 seconds (3 samples, 55-99)
  • Warhammer Online: 62.7 seconds (4 samples, 50-81)
  • World of Warcraft: 48.7 seconds (21 samples, 22-87)
  • Wizard 101: 42 seconds (1 sample)
  • Allods: 41.5 seconds (2 samples, 32-51)
  • Global Agenda: 36 seconds (2 samples, 26-46)
  • EVE Online: 26 seconds (2 samples, 23-29)
  • Guild Wars: 21 seconds (2 samples, 20-22)

Again, I wish we got more samples from some of the under-represented games, especially ones where the spread was so big.  Even so, it’s interesting to note the bulky titles — LOTRO, EQ2, FE — and compare them to the lightweights — EVE, Guild Wars, Global Agenda.  I’m impressed that WoW came in well under a minute, and thought DDO would’ve been a lot quicker for some reason.

Thanks again to everyone who broke out their stopwatches to help out with this — we truly have made a huge difference for the greater good!  Well… we satisfied a curiosity, at least.

What We’re Playing

It was time once again for my bi-monthly blogroll cleanup — making sure that the links still work and that the blogs in question are being updated (routine stuff, really — I’ll delete a link if the blog has been inactive for more than a month).  And as always, if you’re running a MMO blog that links here and I have been so unkind as to not reciprocate, let me know and I’ll rectify that ASAP.

Anyway, I decided that this time around, I’d have a bit of fun as I checked the links, and make a quick list of the current MMOs that each blogger is playing, to see if there were any interesting trends.  If a blogger is involved with more than one title, then I’d count them all.  So what did I find?

  • World of Warcraft – 21
  • Lord of the Rings Online – 12
  • EverQuest 2 – 7
  • Warhammer Online – 6
  • Fallen Earth – 6
  • Wizard101 – 3
  • Guild Wars – 3
  • EVE Online – 3
  • Allods Online – 2
  • Champions Online – 1
  • Darkfall – 1 (I’ll let you guess who that is)
  • Age of Conan – 1

Now, this list doesn’t cover everyone on the blogroll for various reasons — some weren’t very transparent as to what they were currently playing, some were multi-author sites, and so on.  But it’s a fair representation, I think, of what many “general MMO” bloggers are playing.

Bio Break and the Year That Was

This is as good a picture as any to encapsulate this year

2009 was a big year for MMORPGs, even if you can’t pinpoint a single game that defined the entire year.  There was certainly more than enough going on to fill up a solid year of discussion, and if you want a brief recap of the year’s hottest MMO stories, I suggest you read this two-part article.

I began this year primarily playing WAR and writing for WAAAGH!, but neither would last for long.  Bio Break quickly became my blog o’ choice, as I wanted to branch out into discussing the MMORPG world at large, and I’m certainly glad I did so.  I don’t think I’ve ever had a year where I’ve played so many MMOs, met so many terrific people online or had so much fun as this one, and for me personally, 2009 was the year that gave me permission to stop being a monogamous gamer and go where the gaming was good.

So I wanted to end 2009 by going through my year in gaming and blogging.

iPhone Games

In June, my brother-in-law gave me his old iPhone 3G (he’d upgraded to the new model) and I discovered the sheer joy of this techno-Swiss army knife.

Although the app store is simply loaded with games, I’ve found myself to be a bit picky in what I want from the platform — it has to be quick to pick up and put down, work well with the interface (I really wish the device had a physical D-pad), and be worth my time.  This boils my game list down to the following:

  • Dungeon Hunter – A generic but wonderfully-done Diablo clone
  • Desert Chronicles – A tower defense/RPG hybrid that I still play months after downloading
  • Peggle – Because… it’s Peggle
  • Bloons TD – I love Bloons, but its reliance on cannons over all else has dampened my enthusiasm of this title
  • Civilization Revolutions – Civ in a pocket format
  • Skee-Ball – Dude, it’s SKEE-BALL
  • Star Hogs – I loved me some Scorched Earth back in the day

Single-Player PC Games

As I’ve long since moved away from console gaming, so am I starting to drift far away from single-player computer titles.  Even though many of them are fun, there’s something about the persistence and connectivity of MMOs that makes me miss them when they’re not there.

I spent a chunk of the year deep in BioWare’s domain — KOTOR, Mass Effect and Dragon Age all commanded weeks of my time, and were well worth it.  Dragon Age wasn’t quite the be-all, end-all gritty fantasy experience I’d hoped for, but it was excellent, and I hope to go back and finish it some day.

Torchlight… I’m still divided on this.  It’s a decent diversion, but it never really hooked me, and I was a bit turned off by its FATE 2.0-ness.  I do need to go back and give it more of a fair shake, tho.

Games I have on deck that I’ve yet to try — Majesty 2, Borderlands, Tropico 3.

MMORPGs

I’ve probably annoyed a few of my readers by MMO hopping, particularly when I’ve left a game that they care about for one they did not.  In my defense, I’m not suffering from gamer ADD or WoW tourism syndrome or whatnot — I just had the urge this year to explore, to play new and old titles that seemed fun and appealing, and I wanted to get as broad of a base of experience for writing about MMOs in general.  I don’t see 2010 as being any different, to be honest.

So what are the titles I’ve dipped my toes in — or dove deep into — this year?

  • Warhammer Online – I began the year in WAR, but even back in January I knew that my time in the game was coming to an end.  It simply did not have what I was looking for in a MMO, and it never felt quite right.  I think that WAR is one of the biggest disappointments in my gaming career, because I had such high hopes for it, and because it really had so much promise and potential.
  • City of Heroes – Yes, I actually played CoH a bit earlier this year, partially because I was looking forward to Champions, and partially because I just missed the simplicity of the combat/missions grind.  Fun and amusing, it wasn’t to be for very long.
  • World of Warcraft – I played a month of Wrath then canceled my account, to what I publically declared to be the last time.  Which it wasn’t, so egg on my face.  Due to a great guild, the dungeon finder tool and a more laid-back approach to the game, I’ve found myself in Azeroth once more.
  • Lord of the Rings Online – 2009 was the year that I gave LOTRO its second big chance, and ironically, it ended up just like the first.  I had a great time, enjoyed the Captain class, found a terrific guild, and simply burned out somewhere in the middle of North Downs.  I like the game, but the setting and feel of it just isn’t *me*, which is one of those personal things that can never be resolved on Turbine’s end.  Speaking of Turbine…
  • Dungeons and Dragons Online – I hadn’t planned to play this, period, except for the announcement of the free to play version that got me thinking about DDO again.  And once back in the game, I found that there’s a lot to love and admire about this quirky, unique MMO.  While I’m not in it at the moment, I won’t hesitate to recommend it, especially since it costs you nothing for a good chunk of the content.
  • Free Realms and Wizard101 – Both of these I played and tried to get my wife into; both of these were too “kiddy” in tone for a long-term stay.
  • Champions Online – Had high expectations for this following City of Heroes, which were not met.  CO is an odd bird to me — I will stand by my statement that it’s a fun game with great combat, but it’s also shallow as all get out, far too linear and suffered a plague of embarrassing snafu’s in the first month.
  • Fallen Earth – Need I go into much detail here?  Hooked me after a great deal of positive word-of-mouth testimonies, and I agree with them all — this is a rough-and-tumble MMO that earns its stripes with a fantastic setting, deep gameplay and rewarding crafting.
  • Guild Wars – I had a copy of this sitting around, and I was determined to really get back into this game.  Unfortunately, my time restrictions forced my attention elsewhere, and my general feeling was that I’d rather start fresh with GW2 than plow through the first.

En Kankluzion

With no huge WoW-like breakout hit in 2009 (or 2008 for that matter), it’s easy to casually dismiss this year as so-so for MMO gaming.  Except that that does disservice to huge breakout hits like Free Realms, the growing success of EVE Online and Wizard 101, the more-than-adaquate subscriber base of Aion and Champions, and the thriving indie titles such as Darkfall and Fallen Earth.  It was a year that many spent eagerly anticipating titles that are still yet to come (TOR, Cataclysm, GW2, Star Trek), a year in which we saw many projects canceled and MMOs close, a year plagued with layoffs and debate and controversy, but it never was one thing.

2009 was never boring.