[P101] Pirate 101 Sneak Peek Event

For fans of Wizard 101, the spiritual-ish sequel Pirate 101 is dropping later this month. Currently it is in closed beta, and if you pre-purchase the game you can start playing October 8. The rest of us rabble including crown users and “free” players have to wait a week later. Anyway, if you want to try the game out early they are having a 6 hour sneak peek event.

I won’t be able to attend the event (work), but this is an MMO I am looking forward to playing with my young gradeschooler. I liked the style and simplicity of Wizard 101, and in a fantastic actual play of beta Pirate 101 I saw of longtime MMO blogger and ‘caster, Beau Hindman, I was pretty impressed with the additions and maintained style.


2012 Predictions

I will now get the highest score of any MMO pundit making predictions. Ready? “It will not go live in 2012.” Whatever we’re talking about, I’m predicting that it will slip into 2013, or later, or just never ship. The game, the expansion, whatever: not in 2012. I’m going to lose a few points, since something will ship in 2012, but I don’t see how anyone can beat my accuracy rate here.

: Zubon

F2P Quote of the Day

There is one school of thought that thinks F2P means “if you spend enough time, you can experience the whole game for free – paying is just a shortcut”. There is another school of thought that says “you will never see the whole game, unless you pay astronomical amounts of money, and maybe not even then”. There’s a real conceptual rift between the two camps, and some games are finding themselves caught in the middle, or transitioning between the two.
Brise Bonbons

I’d argue “astronomical,” although that depends on the model, and it’s really the models I want to discuss here.

We’re all familiar with pure subscription models, as well as subscription plus a small premium shop (WoW sparklepony, CoX booster packs). WoW, Warhammer, and others now have unlimited free trials along with their subscriptions. Most Western players have limited familiarity with the item shop model in its pure, evil form, although Allods players got a taste. I think it’s clear under these models that you will be ponying up some funds or you will not be getting much beyond the most basic experience; item shop gamers may have been fooled at the onset, but it should become quickly apparent once they’re into it.

The murkier middle comes from hybrid models and games that let you unlock content (“no cover charge”). Wizard101 has a very clear unlock model, in which you just do not get most zones unless you pay for them. League of Legends gives you access to everything, eventually, a little at a time, with some free permanent unlocks and why don’t you just give them $20 to get the handful of champions you really want? Turbine is the headliner for the hybrid subscription/pay to unlock model, with Dungeons and Dragons Online and The Lord of the Rings Online. You could theoretically unlock absolutely everything in LotRO without paying, although you would be creating and deleting characters to grind deeds until your very fingertips wore away.

And there really is tension between people who want to play for free, absolutely free, and those who are willing to pay and/or recognize that someone needs to fund these companies if you want servers to stay up. When I am getting a lot of value from a game, I don’t mind giving an extra $20 to Valve or Riot or whatnot. I look at my Settlers of Catan box and wonder if I should mail Klaus Teuber a check or something, based on the play value received. But I remember having no money, and I can see a bit of that perspective.

And then there are games that are just annoyingly in your face with their pleas for money. See, for example, the LotRO UI re-design that makes the shop the most visible UI item (poor design decision: the shop links are annoyingly present even if you cannot use them to spend more money, such as subscribers/lifetimers at the stables).

: Zubon

Spiral Situation: PvP in Wizard101

As promised, I dove into Wizard101 ranked PvP this summer. This was to follow up on some heavy bitching I did last spring about KingsIsle’s (KI) long-standing neglect of glitches in the system. My level 20 Diviner has achieved the rank of Captain via 1v1. The game’s level cap is 60. So in all modesty, this is no small accomplishment. Diviners have the lowest hit points and base accuracy in the game. However, Diviner spells also deal the most hit points in the game. After weeks of deck revisions, spending training points in new schools, and hatching pets to support my toon, I have but one thing to say: I can stop any time I want. Really. Not.

I wrote about this before, but I want to reiterate that KI fixed the questionable nature of Mastery Amulets, and how that equipment could benefit players in PvP by helping them reach Warlord if they could afford to get one from the cash shop. This came about not only from fixing the flaw with the spell Earthquake. KI implemented so many new layers and complexities to PvP that Mastery Amulets are reduced to a standard strategy to which PvP players must simply “learn and adapt” to succeed.

Continue reading Spiral Situation: PvP in Wizard101

Spiral Situation: KingsIsle outdoes itself in May 2011

Before I start my high-octane squee, I’d like to beg forgiveness for being away from KTR for so long after starting relatively recently. My parents, who live in another state, are in their late seventies and had a crisis that required me to be with them and give them my full attention.  Immediately upon my return home, I had to prep and fly to participate in an out-of-state industry convention.  I’m very happy to be back among the rat killers.

I’ve stated more than once that I’m not the president of the KingsIsle (KI) fan club. But you might not believe it after reading this entry. Wizard101 truly reached new heights of excellence in May, and it’s an unabashed pleasure to feature the highlights.  I hope that after reading this, you’ll visit The Spiral.

First up, Wintertusk was released. I reviewed this briefly while it was in test realm, and when it went live it exceeded all expectations.  The single most remarked-upon feature is the music. Nick Jonas, who got his start as a performer on The Disney Channel, contributed to the music for Wintertusk.

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Spiral Situation: Wizard101 Test Realm: The good, the bad, and the ugly

The first thing that must be said about the April (now May) Test Realm for Wizard101 is that there is not a single ugly thing about it. There’s not even a single bad thing about it. It’s all good.

First and foremost, Wintertusk is breathtaking. The music of Wintertusk has received adulation from players of all ages – it’s the one feature that players have praised the most. The Wintertusk graphics and the battles also reach new levels of amazing.

There are new school (i.e., class) spell quests for toons level 35 and 58. As always, there is debate among players as to the usefulness of the spells that have been awarded. For example, Ice School players seem fond of the spell they can cast to reduced damage from the next spell of any class. However, they aren’t big fans of the so-called “upgraded ice armor” spell.

Players of each school will receive an additional school pet at level 58. As with the new spells, players debate over the choice of spell for each school. Many Storm school players wish their pet was a Leviathan instead of a Kraken (or a “stupid sneezing Kraken” as one of my Diviner friends calls it). However, they soon swarmed Doctor Purreau’s Hatchery to mix and match pets and see what neat-o hybrids might be obtained. A Death Phoenix? Yes please!

New gardening features have been added, primarily the addition of new seeds. New seeds are fun, because they present new challenges in terms of needs and likes, and drop new loot upon harvesting. The loot dropped from gardening might be low-level reagents which can be sold at the Bazaar, or it might be Mega-Snacks which otherwise can only be obtained through the cash shop.

The Test Realm also rolls out not one but two things that players have dearly wished for yet didn’t believe they would ever live to see. First off, wand stitching. This will enable players to take the stats from one wand (or sword, which is the other casting implement in Wizard101) to the appearance of another. So if you have a wand that looks kickin’ with your favorite battle duds, but it casts strikes that waste all of your best-laid class traps, you can have the best of both worlds once the Test Realm goes live by stitching it to an implement with wand strikes of a different school.

The second /swoon! addition currently being tested is the ability to set unequipped mounts free in your house or dorm room. The player community has been longing for this ever since mounts came out – we’ve wanted to see them float around our homes alongside our pets. Truthfully, I don’t think any of us thought KingsIsle would give in to this whimsical desire. But they have in spades. Bravo KingsIsle!

I haven’t covered every last feature currently in the Test Realm. There are new mounts, and the new spells for each school deserve careful review and dissection. When the Test Realm goes live, I’ll be sure to at least hit the highlights.

KI Teases Earthquake Fairness in Test Realm

So, after my big ranty rant last week about Wizard101, addressing the Earthquake spell exploit in PvP, and how the cash-shop equipment making it possible for anyone to buy the highest PvP title in the game, KingsIsle goes and launches the test realm today.

One of the updates being tested? Earthquake will no longer remove stun shields.

If this makes it to the live realm, and actually WORKS, I’ll be impressed.

There’s lots of other updates to truly be excited about, including the much-desired ability (for cash) to change the appearance of your wand/sword. New pets, new spells, and new content (the Wintertusk area, which is linked to the storyline in Grizzleheim). There’s also a new dungeon (i.e., optional quest area with high-quality drops) for players who have hit the level max.

I’ll investigate the Test Realm for a few days before asking you to suffer through an in-depth analysis. But I’ll leave you with this thought:

When will KI realize it’s not too smart to release new questing areas if they aren’t going to raise the level cap at the same time?


Who’s getting it their way now? The Saga of the Burger King Amulet continues

Remember that I’ve previously asserted that I’m not President of the KingsIsle fan club. Here be well-founded anger.

On Friday, April 8th, the Test Realm for Wizard101 opened to test new equipment. These amulets allows a player to convert otherwise school-specific double-powered pips (sort of like combo points) for equal-strength use in a different school. For example, if you play Ice school you could buy a Myth school amulet and have essentially the same power with Myth spells.

The amulets went live in a shockingly short amount of time: the following Wednesday, April 13th. In more than two years of playing the game, since five months after its release, I have never seen anything move from test realm to live so rapidly. I can’t fathom why KingsIsle moved so quickly. They knew, without a doubt, that the programming on this equipment was clearly, deeply and unfairly flawed in regards to the PvP component of the game.
Continue reading Who’s getting it their way now? The Saga of the Burger King Amulet continues

Spiral Situation

Test Realm April 2011: Burger King Amulets

Having asked Ethic if I could establish a bi-weekly column, I wasn’t expecting to post again so soon after bashing bubbly on the hull of my Spiral Situation. Then what to my wondering eyes should appear but those magical words: Test Realm Status: ONLINE!

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Spiral Situation

For about two weeks, Wizard101 players were tantalized by a countdown clock on the patch screen. We quickly deduced that the “something special coming to The Spiral” would arrive on April 1: anyone with a speck of common sense realized it would be something at least slightly humorous.

It was not until the lid was ripped off the surprise that the community realized the limited range of some players’ sense of humor. The big announcement was the arrival of a new pet in the Crowns Shop (i.e. cash shop): KingsIsle’s iteration of that fabled fad of the 1970s, the Pet Rock.
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