Thursday, February 15, 2018
By Bixyl Shuftan
Some readers may remember when the Newser wrote about the Disney multiplayer online game "Toontown" in September 2013. The overall plot was the cartoon town's inhabitants fighting using jokes and gags against corporate robots trying to take over their home. The article was done as something of a farewell salute as the comany had decided to shut down the game that month. But as cartoon fans would tell you, the cancellation of a show isn't necessarily the end. Fans of the MMO have created private servers of the game. The most popular of which is "Toontown Rewritten."
The FAQ page of the game's website states that the development of the game was announced the day the original Toontown was closed, "for the past month, a band of players known as the 'Toontown Rewritten Team' had been working on the possibility to keep Toontown alive." By the end of October, the game was ready for a small number of alpha testers. At first, the game was just a shadow of the original. But over time, the development team worked on it. In a few ways, it's gone beyond the original, notably the addition of two more species of cartoon animals, deer and gators.
So how can a game exist when someone else owns the copyright? The game is completely free to play, all expenses paid for by the development team, as well as their time contributed done so for free. This way they avoid cease-and-desist orders. The team says they won't even accept donations. They did say there are several ways to help them out, such as joining online Toontown communities, attending their real-life ToonFest convention, or just playing the game.
So what would happen to them if Disney changed it's mind and brought back the original Toontown? The Toontown Rewritten team states that's their ultimate goal, "Toontown deserves a team of full-time employees who can give the game the love it deserves, and we absolutely want that to happen!"
I've had no experience with the original game, but playing the fan made version, it ran smoothly. A few of the other players had rather generic names such as "Green Dog," but it was still fun clobbering the bots, and doing little games to earn jellybeans, the game currency, to buy more squirt flowers and pies as ammo, and within an hour had gotten a player-owned house and a crack at the fishing game.
Currently, the game boasts over 1,400,000 registered players. For those wanting to play, head to https://www.toontownrewritten.com , register an account, agree to the terms of service, download the launcher, create a character, then step into Toontown and join their deziens as they fight the cogs with a pie in the face and try to have a little fun.
Sources: Wikipedia, toontownrewritten.com
Monday, February 5, 2018
By Bixyl Shuftan
it needed plenty of improvement and left it behind. There are other virtual worlds out there, such as InWorldz and High Fidelity. But these two have been around for some years and have yet to attract anywhere near the attention the largest virtual world has received. But are there any other new ones out there besides Linden Lab's new creation? The answer to that is yes. One other recent one is VR Chat.
VR Chat was created by Graham Gaylor and Jesse Joudrey, and was released via the Steam distribution service on Feb 1, 2017. But it's been in recent weeks the virtual world has taken off, an article in PC Games News in mid-January saying the client software had been downloaded over a million times in two weeks to 1.7 million. The reason for the attention the game has received is due to players broadcasting experiences over Youtube and Twitch. This includes recordings of the "Ugandan Knuckles" meme (some profanity in videos in link) that caught on to the point players found themselves followed by bands of badly-made avatars of the red "Sonic" character asking in African accents if they know "de wey." While the meme is considered lame by many (including yours truly), the publicity has gotten VR Chat the kind of publicity that has escaped most other virtual worlds other than Second Life.
To download VR Chat, head to it's page on Steam. The software is free. Clicking it on, you'll need to register an account. After your email address is added, and you agree to the terms of service, you should be ready to go in. Your first place will be a tutorial area to help you learn how to get about. For me, the most challenging part was just getting started, not being able to move from where I appeared. Then I realized that unlike Second Life, the movement keys are not the arrow buttons on the keyboard, but the WASD ones. You move your mouse to look around.
After the tutorial area, your next location, and the one you'll appear when logging on the game is "The Hub." The place is divided into several areas. At "Featured Worlds," there are portals to several places. "New Worlds" has a few more of recently made locations. The "Help Area" has a number of signs with hints on getting about. The "Social Sculpture" is basically a blue square with several blocks which anyone can try to make something. There's also an avatar area with hints on how to change yours and a mirror to show you what you look like.
Both worlds and avatars take programs outside VR Chat to make. Unity SDK can be used to create avatars and worlds. Avatars can also be created with Maya and Blender. Created worlds are private, limited to the creator and any friends he wishes to bring in, until the creator contacts VR Chat's team and requests that it be made open to all.
Although VR Chat got plenty of attention due to a silly meme, it also made news when something serious happened. In one crowded room in which someone was recording, one player was witnessed having a seizure. Most stood around, not sure what to do, with one person telling others to back away to give the person room to recover and asking no flashing lights be used, and with one or two people clowning around like they didn't notice what was going on. Eventually the person recovered and logged off.
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(Click here if the video fails to play)
Wikipedia, PC Game News, Polygon, Motherboard, Rogue Shadow
Image Credit (bottom): Rakucia
Hat Tip: Skylark Lefavre, Rakucia
Friday, December 8, 2017
By Bixyl Shuftan
One would think most anything with the name "Star Wars" connected to it would be a moneymaker. But with EA's recent release of "Star Wars Battlefront II," the result has been controversy and trouble, with the company loosing billions in stock value, and talk of the government getting more involved in the computer game industry.
The controversy revolves around the issue of microtransactions. Microtransactions in games are nothing new. Those familiar with free games online, such as "Forge of Empires," "World of Tanks," and others offer players the chance to buy in-game credits of some kind which can be used to purchase ways to advance the player. Gamers can be accepting of this in free games, such as the "wallet warrior" jokes in "World of Tanks." But with games the player had to buy up front to play, not so much. In 2011, the makers of "Eve Online" were faced with a revolt of angry veteran players when reports came that they would soon offer microtransactions that could affect gameplay. More recently, Blizzard introduced the ability to buy "loot crates" for it's recent hit "Overwatch." This raised some eyebrows, but as the items were just cosmetic and didn't affect gameplay, there was some controversy, but less than what would come later.
it was revealed that the loot boxes in the game were a key part of the Star Card system. Since they could be purchased, this quickly led to criticism of the game being "pay to win." As the contents of the boxes were random, and they could contain either common items or rare ones, there were charges that they were a form of legal gambling, one accessible to teenagers. Gamespot game the game a 6/10 review, saying "the biggest hurdle that Battlefront II will need to overcome--for its simultaneous attempts to balance microtransactions with genuine feeling of accomplishments--is deciding on what type of game it wants to be." Shacknews also gave it 6/10, "The loot crates diminish its value greatly, and it's a shame EA forces them down your throat as part of the core gameplay."
there were comparisons to online gambling, a form that could exploit young teenagers. Then government officials began making their moves. Belgium's Gaming Commission began an official investigation of both Battlefront II and Overwatch to see if the loot boxes were a form of gambling, which could mean the removal of the games from play from the country and the makers given huge fines. One politician from Hawaii openly criticized Battleftont II, "This game is a Star Wars-themed online casino designed to lure kids into spending money. It's a trap." It's unclear if the second sentence was a deliberate quoting of a "Return of the Jedi" line.
Financially, the controversy has not been good for EA's bottom line. The price of the company's stocks has dropped, causing their total to drop by 4 billion dollars, with some estimates going higher. Although the price was already dropping before the loot crate fiasco, this latest mess shook the confidence of investors further. It is ironic that a company's attempt to get even more money out of a game players already put a good amount of money down for, the deluxe edition costing 79.99, and the regular version 59.99, at one store, ended up causing it to lose money.
In response to the criticism, EA removed microtransactions from the game, saying they would be gone until further notice. "We’ve heard the concerns about potentially giving players unfair advantages. And we’ve heard that this is overshadowing an otherwise great game. This was never our intention. Sorry we didn’t get this right. We hear you loud and clear, so we’re turning off all in-game purchases." A new system for the Star Cards is being developed, though whether or not microtransactions will appear in any way is unclear. In response to the threats of government intervention, some from various gaming companies formed an organization with the purpose of the industry self-regulating itself on issues such as loot boxes. Whether or not these moves to steer governments away from starting to regulate the microtransactions of online games remains to be seen.
Sources: Polygon, Venturebeat, Gamespot, Gamesindustry, CNBC, The Verge, Forbes
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
By Bixyl Shuftan
When it comes to computer games and marriages, we often think of the electronic entertainment as a source of friction between a wife who couldn't care less about computers and a husband who is unable to put aside the addiction he developed while single. So when we hear about a couple that goes dungeon-whomping together, it sounds like a match made in heaven.
But what happens when one of the couple passes away? What happens if it is "game over" for a gamer's "player two?"
I May Be Done," in which an "Acktion" described how he and his wife ended up playing the game together for years, and his loss and sorrow now that she was gone.
My wife passed away on 10/05. They say the fact I was sitting right beside her, waiting for her to wake up so we could hit Darkmoon Faire and Brewfest together and had no idea when she left is a good thing. That it means she was at peace and the transition was easy and painless.
I don't know anything about that. I'm trying to take their word for it. But, all I can feel right now is pain and loneliness.
I had actually picked up World of Warcraft when it first hit the shelves out of Beta.
I corrupted my wife to it sometime during Burning Crusade.
By the time Cataclysm came out, we were both housebound disabled. At the time, it was more difficult for me to sit up and play for very long than it was for her. I managed, but frankly only because she wanted me to play with her. And then, not for very long before I had to rest.
Sometime in Mists, we corrupted her son (my step-son) to our WarCrack addiction (and she somehow managed to finesse our much reduced finances to pick up a second account since she no longer had room to make new characters) even though she'd become largely bedridden and played from a laptop on a hospital style lap tray.
Sometime during Warlords of Draenor, he got married and his wife joined our band of happy fanatics.
We typically only played together or with one or two friends or a couple of my former students who'd stayed in touch. And, frankly, I really only played to be with them, doing something with them which we could all do.
Ok, mostly I was playing because she was pleading, begging, or nagging me alternately to come spend some time doing one of the few things left she could enjoy as she became bedridden and it hurt her for me to touch her most days.
She loved World of Warcraft. Perhaps I did too, but it was mostly my love for her that drove me to continue adding expansions I could no longer fully explore since raids and pvp and many of the things I once enjoyed were beyond my declining abilities.
I cancelled both of her accounts less than thirty minutes ago.
Sharley will no longer be running beside Acktion.
Lubov will no longer be guarding Panaceah.
All of the characters I have built specifically to run amok with my beloved are now as alone as I am in this home we once shared.
The game has been brought up by our children whom I couldn't love more if they were flesh of my blood, by friends who have stopped by or called to give their condolences. I have told them that I'm not sure if I will ever be able to play again. And I'm not.
Just hours before she slipped from this mortal coil of Earth, my beautiful bride was logging out of Azeroth content because she'd managed to take, if not all sixty characters, at least the ones she was going to this month to the Darkmoon Faire to do their profession quests.
Right here, right now, I think I vastly prefer to remember her competing with me to see which of us leads our guilds in achievement points than visiting Azeroth without her.
That may change. I may be lured back by our friends and family. But not for awhile if ever.
In the meantime, thank you Blizzard for giving her Azeroth to make her last years on Earth so pleasurable for all of us who ran with her.
As of the writing of this article, there were thirty-seven pages of responses, and growing, "This was the most beautiful, yet heart-wrenching tribute of love and life I've ever read." Mostly of people expressing their sorry and trying to offer comfort, "If you decide you want to return to Azeroth someday. We'll still be here, and we'll welcome you back with open arms." "I've sat here for several minutes trying to figure out what the hell to say, or how I can help. I'm not sure how much it matters, but know that we're here for you." Some had their own stories of loss. One brought up a poem that was part of one of the game's quests. One of Blizzard's forum managers would post, "Blizzard sends its condolences to you and your family as well friend. Thank you for telling your story and it warms my heart to see that something we do had a part in it. Loss is never easy but it does get better. Take all the time you need. Real life always comes first."
The man, under his other character name, would later comment, "I realized at the time I wrote it that the overwhelming majority of WoW players would have absolutely no idea who we were or, if we are honest, care much beyond a brief 'oh, that is sad.' But, Lubov (or Sharley on her Horde main), did have many friends in the game that I felt I should at least try to let know she was gone. And this was the only way I could think of. I certainly didn't expect such an outpouring of warmth from strangers. Well, strangers to me, although she might have known you. I'm afraid she was the one who was good with people. And I definitely didn't expect to be notified that my post here on her behalf would be picked up elsewhere as well."
"for what it's worth, I (the OP) and our son, are aware of the outpouring of well wishes both here and other places my original post has turned up. We do thank you for those well wishes and, indeed, feel the comforting touch of my wife and his mother in your kind responses. Thank you. ... Peace be with you all. Don't forget to make your own day as good as you can. And anyone else's you conveniently can as well. Your support voiced here has helped ours immensely."
When gaming communities at times seem full of little or nothing but immature players who think of nothing but themselves, this is a reminder that they're full of people with heart.
Wednesday, September 27, 2017
By Bixyl Shuftan
It is notable that originally, the game was going to include an artificial life engine that "would affect animal behavior, potentially creating new adventure possibilities in an organic manner." But it never made it past beta development as, "We thought it was fantastic. We'd spent an enormous amount of time and effort on it. But what happened was all the players went in and just killed everything; so fast that the game couldn't spawn them fast enough to make the simulation even begin. And so, this thing that we'd spent all this time on, literally no-one ever noticed – ever – and we eventually just ripped it out of the game, you know, with some sadness."
One of the games more memorable events occurred in it's beta in which the in-game alter-ego of Garriot, Lord British, was successfully killed by a player character. Lord British was supposed to be invulnerable to this kind of attack, but a server crash had made him vulnerable. This event is considered by some to be the most memorable event in early MMO history, and led to the saying "If it exists as a living creature in an MMORPG, someone, somewhere, will try to kill it."
Ultima Online still active. To celebrate their twentieth anniversary, they had a real-life party in Herndon, Virginia, near Washington DC. They also have a new content arc, "The Shattered Obelisk." So after twenty years, presumably with some of it's original players still at it and some new ones who weren't even born yet when it first came around, "UO" is still offering players the chance to do some monster clobbering and dungeonering.
Sources: Ultima Online, Wikipedia
Hat tip: Hamlet Au
Wednesday, August 23, 2017
By Bixyl Shuftan
Eve Online was once described as "Second Life's Evil Twin." While not a sandbox virtual world, players do have a lot of options in playing alone, or part of a group, to mind one's own business, or raid other players. What would be branded as "griefing" in Second Life can reap rewards here, and raiders can and will enjoy the "yummy tears" of the targets they've successfully demolished. One faction in Eve Online that's been around for years is Goonswarm. Supposedly, it was where a number of former Second Life griefers ended up when they got bored and left, heading to Eve. But it also had some men of obvious distinction, such as Vile Rat who was one of those killed in the terrorist attack on the US Embassy in Libya in 2012.
Factions often form alliances that can and will fight major wars over territory and resources, and sometimes revenge. But in early 2016 came what was billed as "The Largest PVP War in Gaming History." The biggest alliance known as The Imperium, led by the "Goonswarm Federation," threatened smaller alliances in low-security space with invasion unless they paid up protection money. But instead of giving in, some of these alliances formed a coalition and to the surprise of onlookers, the Imperium suffered a major defeat. As a result, old enemies of The Imperium "quickly came out of the woodwork," and what became known as "World War Bee" was in full gear, "with over 60,000 players around the world choosing sides." The fight has also been called "The Casino War" as the owner of an Eve gambling website began bankrolling the war effort against The Imperium. The result was a series of defeats for The Imperium as key stations were overrun and factions left it. The Imperium's strategy was to try and outlast it's enemies, then retake what they lost.
Finally on August 2, there was an announcement that The Imperium would be on the march again. And soon close to a thousand capital ships from Goonswarm moved to a strategic location close to two areas held by their enemies, sometimes called the "Moneybadger Coalition." The goal of the ships there seems to be to mainly harass the enemy for now by sending numerous lone ships to multiple hard to defend locations. "Massively" writer Brendan Drain felt, The Imperium's plan was a "highly aggressive" one, not to worry about losing the economic war, "relying instead on it's huge industrial and (cash) farming base ... to replace lost ships quickly. That sounds good in theory, but losing the (money) war on paper can give the enemy a huge morale boost and a reasonable claim to victory, even if they concede star systems and lose citadels.
The "Casino War" hasn't seen a fight yet on the scale of "The Battle of B-R5" in which over $300,000 USD worth of ships went up in flames. But in a game noted for not just massive battles, but suprpising political moves, backstabs, and drama, a lot can happen. About the only thing writer Drain felt was certain was, "with the game's largest and richest alliances involved, at the very least we can be sure that some very expensive stuff is going to explode."
Monday, August 7, 2017
By Bixyl Shuftan
On Monday July 31, Linden Lab finally opened it's new virtual world of Sansar. After visiting two of it's locations, my initial impression was the place had promise, but still needed a lot of work. Afterwards, I decided to look a little more for a better overall impression.
Of these four, the NASA Apollo Museum I found to be the most impressive. There was a video screen with footage about the Apollo program, a display of a Saturn V rocket lying on the floor on it's side, and a display showing the path of the astronauts of the Apollo 11 mission took. For a someone interested in the space program, this would be very cool. Another detailed place was the "Orgin Cinema 360," which was described as a former arch-villain's lair now converted to more peaceful use. The center area was a 3-D panorama movie view, and stepping out, there was a detailed circular walkway. There was one moving object, a camera, that panned around. Below me were fans that whirled around.
Moni's World blog an address to the place. Taking a look at the Sansar website, there was a search bar on it's atlas that was missing in the viewer. So I was able to locate a location that I had heard the location of.
In short, Sansar has a lot of potential, but there's not much to attract your run of the mill Second Life user. One big disadvantage is it's not that easy to hold events there. Tengu felt it's appeal would be limited among his fellow Luskwooders, "I'm not really sure how it will turn out. We at Luskwood aren't really interested in 'experiences', we're first and foremost a community. And I'm not sure how well the Sansar platform fits an online community. Two particulars: live music and collaborative builds, Primtionary, specifically. No way to do either right now in Sansar."
As for how many will use it? That's a question only time will answer. But when Second Life came around, there were only a handful of other virtual worlds that were unknown to most. Today, it's fair to say the majority with computers have at least heard of Second Life. So why aren't more using it? Perhaps it's bad publicity or it's not the kind of virtual experience they want, which Linden Lab seems to be thinking. Or maybe most computer users aren't that interested in virtual worlds that don't involve blowing something up.
So Sansar may just end up a much smaller alternative grid like InWorldz, with a few people and making it's owners a little money, but not much. Time will tell.
Sources: Moni's World