Posted in Music, Wizard 101

Battle Bards Episode 90: 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”)
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 Wizard 101

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.

Posted in Aion, Allods Online, Champions Online, Dungeons & Dragons Online, EVE Online, EverQuest, Fallen Earth, Global Agenda, Guild Wars, Lord of the Rings Online, Star Trek Online, Warhammer Online, Wizard 101, World of Warcraft

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.

Posted in Allods Online, Champions Online, Darkfall, EVE Online, EverQuest, Guild Wars, Lord of the Rings Online, Warhammer Online, Wizard 101, World of Warcraft

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.

Posted in Champions Online, City of Heroes, Dungeons & Dragons Online, Fallen Earth, Free Realms, Guild Wars, iPhone, Lord of the Rings Online, Warhammer Online, Wizard 101, World of Warcraft

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.


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.

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 City of Heroes, Free Realms, Guild Wars, Wizard 101, World of Warcraft

Game Cards

nexon-game-cash-10000-nx-card-origWhenever I pop in to the 7-11 around the corner, or swing by the CVS down the block, I always notice the large display they have for gift cards, including an ever-widening selection of MMO game cards.  Sure, a lot of these game cards are for kids’ games, like Wizard101 and Free Realms (not to say that only kids play them, but that they’re targeted at that demographic), but I also have seen plenty of cards for WoW, Guild Wars and City of Heroes as well.

Oddly enough, I’m a huge fan of game cards for MMO payments.  If my kids ever get into online gaming, there’s just about no way I’m going to be forking over my credit card number for them to potentially abuse with microtransactions and whatnot.  Game cards come with a built-in limit: you get X amount of play time, or can spend Y amount of dollars, and then that’s it.  No more.  It’s like an allowance for gaming that can’t really be abused.

Personally, I’ve used game cards a couple times this past year, mostly as a way to circumnavigate our household policy of only one MMO subscription at a time.  Maybe I want to jump back into a MMO, but only for a month or two — game card.  Not only does it open up access, but it comes with a set cancelation date as well, so I don’t have to remember to nix my sub or else end up paying another month past what I wanted to.

Posted in General, Wizard 101

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Development Hell

potterAfter the — literally — billions and billions of dollars that the Harry Potter franchise has earned up to this point, the obscene numbers of fans and followers, and the status as a massive crossover pop culture phenomenon, one has to wonder: why don’t we have a Harry Potter MMO yet?

I’m not one to often speculate on what IPs would make great MMOs, but I’m really scratching my head with this one.  It’s one of the biggest franchises in the world (check), it’s fantasy but of a different nature than the swords-and-sorcery that have oversaturated the genre (check), and with the huge box office of the latest film, coupled with the record-breaking sales of the last book (check) you’d think this would be a no-brainer.  I mean, when people are running around on a football field with broomsticks between their legs because they so desperately want to pretend that they’re at Hogwarts playing Quidditch, then there’s a pretty strong demand going on for some virtual escapism.  This demand and the lack of any real Harry Potter MMO is probably — certainly — one of the driving forces behind the success of the kid-friendly, Harry Potter homage Wizard 101.  If they’re going to move on this, it should be sooner rather than later, seeing as how no future books are going to be written, and there’s only the two-part Deathly Hallows film left for Warner Bros. to exploit.

There may yet be hope for MMOers.  One of the strongest, persistant rumors is that the MMO rights have been acquired by Turbine, who landed a large multi-million dollar investment in 2008 and has been working hard on at least one future MMO (console-related at that).  Warner Bros. (which, like Turbine, falls under the umbrella of parent company Time-Warner) dropped this quote in June of 2008:

The notion of creating a Harry Potter multi-player online role playing game is something that we’ve been discussing at Warner Bros. for a number of years and continue to explore.  We are currently investigating the possibility of creating our own MMORPG, but unfortunately do not have any further details to share at this time.

Since then… nada.  Nothing.  Silence.

Perhaps this is the big secret console project Turbine’s been hammering away on, perhaps not.  What I do know that is if they’re not doing Harry Potter, and if nobody is, then they’re missing one of the biggest chances for a breakout MMO IP that could — dare I even say it?  I dare!  I dare! — take on World of Warcraft with a massive fan base that might try a Harry Potter MMO despite avoiding the genre so far.

It’s fun to speculate on what such a MMO might be, particularly because so much of Harry Potter’s world lends itself well to MMO mechanics.  Players could take on the role of a student entering year one at Hogwarts and slowly progressing through all seven years as they adventure (leveling!).  Hogwarts itself would be a quest hub for stories both within and outside of its walls (questing!).  Players would take classes and specialize in various schools of magic (character classes!), obtain special items like potions and invisibility cloaks (loot!), battle mystical creatures and duel other wizards (mobs! PvP!), join one of the four houses (factions!) and eventually graduate the school and take their place in the wizard world (end game!).

In the void of a real Harry Potter MMO, saavy game developers KingsIsle Entertainment have swooped in with their kid-friendly, magic-themed Wizard 101, which is about as close to Harry Potter as you can get without breaking any copyright laws.  The sheer popularity of that game is testament to the huge demand for a Potter-like experience.

I don’t think a Potter MMO will become moot if it’s announced well after the last movie is released in theaters, but they will have missed a great opportunity to capitalize on a current craze and offer desperate fans who wish to keep the story going a way to do so.  Hopefully we’ll hear something more on this in the near — versus far — future.

P.S. – Check out my Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince movie review on Mutant Reviewers!