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Adventures in Rubi-Ka

June 26, 2011 2 comments

In the past month or so a majority of my MMO time has gone into Anarchy Online. I have definitely been sucked in and enjoy playing it, even though it certainly has a number of rough spots and it is not really newbie friendly (as in real newbies, not low level alts or second accounts).

I reached kind of a milestone this weekend with my Meta-Physicist, who I created now when I started playing again and who is now level 50. This is about as high that some of my old characters had reached before I left the game in 2002. Of course, in Anarchy Online terms level 50 is still a lowbie character – initial game had 200 levels and added another 20 with the Shadowlands expansion.

I have joined an organisation (i.e. guild in some other MMOs) and I have had a good time with a mix of solo play, some PUG play and also play with fellow organisation members. The general friendliness and helpfulness of a lot of player I think definitely makes up for many shortcomings in the game itself.

After playing the newbie island area a couple of times it strikes me that it is not particularly good in explaining a number of basics in the game. A completely new player will likely have some confusing moments. Reading some guides on fan sites such as AO Universe can go a long way to sort out some of the confusion, or even the game documentation. That being said, there may also be some guides that are out of date.

Having played through the games first 50 levels almost from scratch (did provide a bit of cash influx from other characters) one thing that strikes me is that it is easier to gain levels nowadays. Easier access to vehicles and the daily missions help with that. But the cash flow is not up to speed with increased leveling speed and I found myself needing to slow down my leveling in order to actually be able to gain enough money to afford upgrades when I needed them, even if I was somewhat restrictive with what I bought.

Alien Mothership over Newland Lake

Most of my items were gained through mission rewards from mission terminals or loot drops in missions, which works pretty ok. But I also channeled some of the XP gained into research, which effectively improved a number of my skills while it slowed down leveling – without any research done I think I might have been a few levels higher. The daily missions give a full level of XP at these lower levels for each missions and some of them can even be as short as 5 minutes (like Gridrunner mission). But you do not get a level’s worth of cash flow with these, so you end up gaining levels too fast.

Still, a number of these daily missions are quite fun though and I definitely recommend trying them, even though I perhaps would not go as far as actually playing them daily.

We brake for no-one!

Still, the game has a lot of character – NPC texts are quite enjoyable compared to a number of fantasy MMOs, weather effects and sound does a good job in setting the mood for different areas, as does the fact that areas are not completely crowded with mobs. You tend to take notice a bit more of the mobs when there are fewer of them. Also, various events and happenings also adds something extra – the alien mothership appearing for example, or run into an alien invasion attack all of a sudden when you enter a city area.

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Categories: Anarchy Online

Anarchy Online 10 years

June 24, 2011 1 comment

So has the time come for the 10 year anniversary of Anarchy Online! The game kicked off on June 27th 10 years ago and this weekend is party time weekend, both in and out of the game.

Funcom has issued a press release about the anniversary and there is also some party information on the game’s web site, with more to come.

Happy birthday, Anarchy Online!

Have not seen any 10 year videos up on YouTube yet, so will add a pointer to one of my favourites for AO (again):

Categories: Anarchy Online, MMO Games

Community-extended interface in AO

June 5, 2011 2 comments

There are a few MMO games that expose an API (application programming interface) to allow for various add-ons to be built to the game client; the most recent to announce such an interface is Rift.  In a way Anarchy Online also have a way to include add-ons, but in a different manner and probably unintentional originally.

Not too far after the initial release of the game Funcom released something that was and has been fairly unique among MMOs – an external chat client to the in-game chat. Using a Java applet one would use it to chat with people in-game (or others using the same chat client), without the need to log in into the game.

That was a quite neat feature and it did not take long until other players had figured out how the chat interface worked and started to write their own chat clients. And after that came the idea to introduce “bots”, external software that logged in as a user and throught he chat interface provided various types of services to players – i.e. ask a question and get an answer back. One of the early bots of this kind was Helpbot. Helpbot is the name of the character that one sends tells to, which is run by a pice of software outside of the game.

This mechanic has been extended with many new features over the years; nowadays the bot software is modular, so they run with a common core functionality which can be extended by adding additional modules to it. Information about variout bot software can be found at AODevs wiki, which also have pages for some specific instances of bots on Atlantean and Rimor. Many organisations (a.k.a. guilds in some other MMOs) seem to have a bot of their own to provide various added functionality to its members. A partial list of modules available from one of the bots is shown below (that is maybe half of the whole list).

With many added features to the in-game functionality through the chat interface this is a different approach to the APIs exposed by some other MMOs, with different advantages and disadvantages:

  • This mechanic only extends things that can be operated through the chat interface; it has to work within the confines of the existing interface if things are shown in the game (but some modules open up external web pages). The API approach can be a bit more flexible here, depending on what the game developers choose to expose.
  • There is no requirement that each and every player install something extra – this is an advantage compared to add-ons that are installed locally; it is really nothing to mess around with for the user to install, update or remove.
  • The performance and utilization of these features may affect game chat servers and be more dependent on outside running software than the local computer. That is a trade-off to not have to install anything locally.
  • Setting up a bot requires more effort to set up, but on the other hand this is an effort that only a few people are doing.
It is nice to see that Funcom did allow this to grow; same as for other games that allow extensions they allow for the community to add what they consider useful.
As far as I understand the same chat servers also are used for Age of Conan and I believe at least one of the bot software is also build to be used with that game. Will this also extend to The Secret World?

Categories: Anarchy Online

Old school hooked

June 5, 2011 4 comments

Lately I have almost exclusively played only one MMO – Anarchy Online. The only other game that have received a bit of time i Star Trek Online and my Klingon captain. But the other games; Rift, City of Heroes, Black Prophecy etc have not had any gameplay.
I have had a number of incidents that perhaps would not happen in the more modern MMOs:

  • debuffed myself so I could not use any skills on my hotbar, because my nano target was aimed at me rather than the enemy
  • temporaily lost most of the XP for a level when dying
  • picked and recieved missions really out of my league – initially
  • chased across an entire zone by one or more mobs – sometimes with a successful escape, sometimes not
  • tried to run past enemies much too high level for me that were next to a mission location

but I have also:

  • enjoyed some really witty NPC and mission dialogue
  • have had help and buffs from really nice and friendly fellow players
  • seen some really fun outfits
  • explored some neat scenary and good music for setting the mood
  • travelled and explored across big land areas
  • played some fun and enjoyable missions
  • played some fun professions

Many of the things on the first list are in some way negatives, but have also done something more positive. I have learned to be more aware of where I have the two targets (fight target and nano target). The zone chases have been kind of a rush when I successfully escaped and also memorable when I did not escape – I learned a few things from the experience and saw some more views I would not have seen otherwise ;)

Enjoying the scenery of The Brawl and its Lovecraft-inspired inhabitants, while being chased by a group of Weavers of Decay (I died in the end)

The XP loss can be annoying, but is not permanent – everything is pooled and added back as extra XP when going at it again. So while one has to start from an earlier stage the leveling speed is increased though, which is kind of a nice pat on the back compared to an XP debt which slows you down after death. Since you can at most lose what you earned during the current level and the levels are fairly quick, there is not necessarily a big deal.

Since the experience is not so smooth and streamlined like some more modern games, the leveling experience can vary quite a bit. I was on a mission to hunt Shy Eremites (no shy old men in desolate places, but rather sandworm type creatures) and were placing thumpers on the ground (very Dune-inspired) to attract them. Initially fighting one of these eremites were a bit daunting – it took a couple of bites of me and I was pretty much done. And I had a mission to track down and kill 5 of these – and my nearest resurrection spot was not close.

My Meta-Physicist pets - Donald the damage dealer, Harry the healer and Marvin the mezzer

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Categories: Anarchy Online

Prophet without honour

June 3, 2011 2 comments

Back when Anarchy Online was released, there was also a novel released called Prophet without honour, referred to as the first chapter of the Anarchy Online story. This was something I never read back then, but as I resubscribed to the game recently I decided to read it.

I was not sp sure what to expect and did not have any high expectations – would it be a somewhat independent story perhaps explaining some game elements, would it be some kind of teaser or advertisement for the game or something else?

The answer is a bit of a mix. It is no stand-alone story in that it has a definite ending and conclusion – it leaves a number of story threads open and in the very last sentence it points to the game for continuation of the story. It does provide a background for Omni-Tek and the Solitus race and some hsitorical as well as contemporary characters – at least contemporary back when the game was released. I have no idea yet what the situation is for Philip Ross (who was leading Omni-Tek back in those days) in the current time for the game, for example.

Prophet without honour was a better read than I expected though. It spans over 27000 years, starting from 1949 until present day Rubi-Ka, with each chapter providing a shorter story along the timeline and providing a link between the previous story/chapter and the next. I liked most of it and the kind of multi-layered puppeteer/puppet elements of the story. There is a clear notion what is the good side and the evil side in the conflict (from a human perspective) both ultimately being controlled. It kind of reminds me a bit about the philosophy of the two opposing sides in Babylon 5 (Shadows vs Vorlons).

The novel will not get you any particular benefits or advantages for the game itself; if you are the type of player who rather enjoy the journey than reaching the end, then this book might be something for you. If you are more of one than want to get to the end game as soon as you can, then this will not be for you. This novel really just about a more in-depth journey of the prologue to the game.

There is a TL;DR version of the story and more than that on the page The Story So Far; the story of the novel is essentially covered under the headline Earth and the other sections explains some parts that are left unanswered in the novel itself – probably because that page have been updated a few times as new expansions (and story elements) have been released.

I do not know if I will learn what happened with some of the characters in the novel that did not quite end there; I guess that some of these were probably covered back in the early days of the game with the live events they were running then.  Other pieces may be in the game, just need to find them.

Categories: Anarchy Online

Funcom and NCSoft info

May 30, 2011 1 comment

Usually when I get engaged in some MMO I tend to look up the company itself for some information. If it is a public company I have a look at the financial reports – sometimes a bit boring info, but may sometimes also provide some interesting insights.

I took at look at the Funcom Q1 2011 financial report that were released a few days ago, as well as the report before that. For The Secret World there were a few bits of information availble, which included:

  • Over 400K people have signed up on the games web site so far
  • The game is now in limited beta testing, on schedule
  • 170 persons are working on the game currently
In a way I think The Secret World is a bit of going back to their roots in terms of game philosophy – I think the game is closer to Anarchy Online than it is to Age of Conan in a few different ways, except that the underlying technology is using the same as for AoC. WHich is also something Anarchy Online supposedly will get also, any year now
They have 3 launched games which are profitable and 4 other games in development; the latter eating up the profits from the former so that in total they are making some losses in last quarter. Revenue for Age of Conan and Anarchy Online was about 2.8 million USD for the first quarter, with a profit of about 800K USD.  That could be estimated to a bit more than 60K subscribers for both games – most of them would be AoC subscribers.
This is roughly the same revenue that is reported for City of Heroes by NCSoft in their Q1 2011 earnings report (after currency conversion).  In NCSoft case this number a minuscle part of their revenue – about 2%. Aion accounts for 44% of their quarterly sales and Aion + Lineage 1 and 2 in total for 94% of the sales.
If one looks at regions then Europe and North America contributes to 9% of NCSoft sales, while their domestic sales is at 65%. With a population of almost 49 million compared to to the over 1 billion for Europe and North America I think they might see a market growth potential, but with the exception of Guild Wars perhaps have not seen any big numbers there yet. I wonder what their expectations are for Guild Wars 2 here.
Sadly the NCSoft report is very dry to read, the Funcom one is a bit more fun to read, as they do provide some game information and also some general market view.
Another piece of information from the Funcom report was that their Bloodline Champions arena PvP game have over 600K register users and provided 555K USD in revenue (63K USD in profit) for Q1. At least the game is the only one in that segment that have launched, so I assume those numbers are for just that game. So on average a registered user have spent almost 1 dollar on the game in the first quarter. My guess that is a reasonably ok number, although remains to be seen how that evolves later – there could be a spike in sales close to launch.

Shades and Banshees

May 29, 2011 Comments off

Perhaps there is some longing back to old times in MMOs; as I sampled a bit more of Anarchy Online I find myself getting hooked again. Lately I have started to explore Shadowlands a bit. This was the first full-fledged big expansion to Anarchy Online and as such it split the AO community in two – the ones who loved it and the ones who hated it. Part of the reason for not liking it I believe was that it felt too much like a fantasy game for many and played a bit different from the classic Anarchy Online. Those who like it seem to like the storyline and story focus, plus that there is good xp and some extra bonuses to play through Shadowlands also. I found the official good trailer for the expansion and regardless of what I may end up thinking about Shadowlands, I think the trailer was pretty good.

I only sampled a little bit of the newbie zone when I first bought the game. Now I have ventured there again, bith with a new character starting there (a Shade) and another (my Meta-physicist) going there pretty much right after the newbie Island (ICC Shuttleport). So far though I must say I like it; the timing is better now for me to appreciate the content I think now than it was when I originally bought it – I did not appreciate the fantasy style back then. Now I think it is quite nice actually.

Shadowlands newbie area

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Categories: Anarchy Online
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