Saturday, December 20, 2008

Death Knight in Wrath of the Lich King

There are many discussions and blog posts about the new hero class - Death Knight (DK), released in the latest WoW expansion "Wrath of the Lich King" (魔兽世界:巫妖王之怒). Instead of launching into the merits or a guide of how to play the DK, let me show a few screen shots I took of the initial quests of DK. These initial quests provide talent points for the level 55 DK, and give an introductory story to guide DK into the WoW (魔兽世界) .

The conversations in the screen shots above and below hinted at the life of the player before he/she turned into a DK, and alluded to the possibility of a DK to turn 'good' again in WoW.

Here's the other screen shots of the 'final battle' at Eastern Plagueland between Arthas (i.e. Lich King)'s forces and the Scarlet / Argent Dawn armies. It is this battle where the DK forces 'turned' good when the commander of the DK forces awakened from the dark side.

Again the conversations are pretty interesting. The entire 'introductory' quest and story of DK are well planned, and I think this is what sets WoW apart from many other 'hack and slash' MMORPG with little storyline to offer.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Singapore's Tangs joined others in Second Life

Seems like our famous shopping retailer in Orchard has joined others in setting up a Second Life store. Folks who want to buy the clothes and items from the Tangs store could use Linden dollars or the First Meta credit cards to pay.

pay for their purchases in Linden dollars, the game's currency, or via a virtual credit card. Credit card bills are paid monthly in Linden dollars, which can be traded for real money

The Second Life craze has caught up with our local retailers, but I just wonder if it is a bit too late in joining the craze. Earlier retailers who joined Second Life has reaped all the good publicity. Maybe Tangs should look at Facebook with its 140 million users instead of Second Life with its 13 million users. Oh well, NUS's second Life is also hyping up, and so there are still a good number of users who would be interested.

After Second Life, what's next? Facebook, Twitter, and?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Anime downloaders being sued by the anime studios

I read on the 'Banzai Effect' about how downloaders managed to get a lawyer for two folks currently being sued by the anime studios. The case would set a lot of precedents about the details for online unauthorised download.

Other than the legal stuff, I'm actually quite puzzled by the studios' actions. I guess over the past many years, we saw how music studios first decided to sue unauthorised downloaders, and later realised that there is actually money to be made from online sales of songs. It took Apple iTunes and others to show the music studios about the business models, which means Apple iTunes would be the main beneficiary of the system. A real pity, since the music studios are the guys who 'produced' the files.

Now, anime studios deciding to sue downloaders. Haven't they learn anything from the music studios examples? I think anime fans are simply that - anime fans! They would pay, given the right incentives, e.g. faster availability of animes with good subtitles. Look at the amount of money and effort put in for the anime related events - cosplay!

It doesn't help that the local newspapers always portray the downloaders as illegal pirates - it would be good if the journalists at least put in some sane reasons instead of quoting official statistics about the 'number of people bothered about infringement'. People are not bothered by the so called infringement precisely because there is a mis-match of views about what constitutes infringement.

Give the downloaders and studios a chance to work things out in a business sense. Lawsuits benefit no one except lawyers!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Real Life Financial Crisis - Virtual World Woes

It is interesting how the current global financial crisis has resulted in adverse impact for the virtual world. I was reading the newspapers and an article remarked about the changes at Google, including the impending shutdown of Google Lively.

Lively was launched just a few months ago, and earlier articles even commented that there are monetization potential for Lively, and now it's Lively No More, cos' Google has to "prioritize our resources and focus more on our core search, ads and apps business."

Now I wonder if other worlds will be 'hit' similarly by the financial tsunami. Would subscription based VWs suffered loss of gamer base, and the 'free to play' VWs (e.g. Second Life) crashed like what happened to Lively? Interesting to see articles that draw parallels between the VWs and real world economy, especially how they described the financial woes, e.g. Second Life's Ginko Bank.

Oh well, at the end of the day, both VWs and real world are inextricably linked by people like you and me; if we are hit by any woes, both type of worlds will 'feel it'.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

1 more day to the Wrath of the Lich King launch

One more day to a new cap level of 80...

One more day to new maps / continent of Northrend...

One more day to a new character class...

I bet after 13 November where the Wrath of the Lich King is launched, there will again be WoW players who take leave and race each other to reach the new max. level of 80. In the mean time, here's the trailer (which you can also obtain from the WoW page) and enjoy!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Golden Joystick Awards Results - Straw Hat Samurai came in 2nd

I got interested in the Golden Joystick Awards due to the review of one of the flash game finalists - Straw Hat Samurai. Straw Hat Samurai is a great game developed by LUT!.

Well the results were out last Friday, and Straw Hat Samurai got 2nd in the category of Grand Master Flash award. The other results could be found on the website, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare seems to have won quite a number of the awards.

It's great to have such Awards events that helped to pull attention to games and their developers, since oftentimes there are simply too many distractions online and too little opportunities to showcase good nascent game developers. :)

Ok, I'm going to try out other games mentioned in the Awards!

See also:
- Flash Game: LUT! Straw Hat Samurai

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Mainstream media article on virtual gold farming

It is interesting to note how mainstream media has first started noticing the online / virtual world, and subsequently giving recognition to online gaming as a recognised social activity, with their latest article on gold farming.

Academics have already studied gold farming to some extent, and for gamers, gold farming existed for as long as there are complains about grinding (repetitively killing monsters / performing same tasks).

The article from AsiaOne is interesting because it detailed out a particular transaction between gold farmer and the journalists, with description on the different steps of the transaction. Another interesting point is that there are actually gold farmers in Singapore too, lolz.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

New login page graphic for World of Warcraft

The latest patch for World of Warcraft (14 Oct 08) has installed a new login page graphic. I think with each major patch / version they do change the login layout. I think they changed the background music too if I'm not wrong. Here's 2 screenshots.

Afternote: The changes from this patch are very interesting, especially the achievements. Lolz, 'love the critters' as an achievements, really?? I've 'loved' some toads, snakes, and squirrels. Here's the screenshots while the game loads.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Flash Game: LUT!'s Straw Hat Samurai

I was visiting one of the local blog aggregators and came across this website with a game nominated for Golden Joystick. The local game developer LUT! has done up a couple of games on his own, and the nominated game is 'Straw Hat Samurai' for the category of 'E4 Grand Master Flash Award'.

Out of curiosity, I decided to try the game out. I managed to finish it, and here's a couple of screenshots about the game. In the game, the player control a samurai character in his quest to 'beat' the enemy chief. It's basically a 2D scroll game with very simple control. The samurai has his sword as a main weapon, with option of bows and arrows. This is the general overall screen, where the samurai (guy in white with a straw hat) can 'move' about.

In the game itself, the player presses the mouse left button and 'draws' lines across the screen to use his sword. If the player is using bows and arrows, the control is via the shift key and mouse button. The health level of the samurai is shown as a green bar located at the bottom of the screen.

Once the last 'enemy' is killed, the screen turns red. Enemies come in different forms, including knife welding types (easiest), archers, and spearmen. Spearmen may try to rush the samurai, and thus a bit tricky. The more tricky enemies are those with shield. Since the shield could block any fronter attack, the trick is to 'slash' low, i.e. below shield level when the enemy is walking, or slash from behind when the shield bearers squat down.

Along the way, the player could pick up items boosting health or increase the chance to dodge. Locations with treasures are marked with a mini-treasure box.

There is a second phase to the game where the player could 'deploy' troops (in blue) to help him break thru enemy grounds. So the trick is to slowly make the way towards the main enemy camp. The game mechanics for this part is not well explained, but generally if the blue number is bigger, it is easier to win over the red area. Seems a little bit like the board game of 'Risk'.

Here's another picture. The player could move the samurai into red area, which will trigger another fight, similar to the first phase, i.e. 2D scrolling with mouse button as 'slash'.

Once the player reaches the centre camp where the big boss is located, it will trigger a big fight between the two. Killing the boss ends the game, where general statistics will be shown. Generally this game is worth a try. The gaming experience is alright, with short learning curve. Needs a bit of intuition to figure out some of the game play though. My only complain is the game music, which lacks variety. I guess that could be improved in due time.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Machinarium by Amanita Designs

I've always been impressed with the game developments from Amanita Designs. Their Samorost and Samorost 2 are wonderful games that require minimal learning, and yet are great games that tease the minds to solve interesting puzzles. I've provided reviews and game clues in previous posts (Samorost and Samorost 2).

They are in the midst of developing a new game, named 'Machinarium', which utilises the similar feel and designs from the earlier ones. The animation techniques are different, but still provided that familiar 'strange' machina look. Here's the 1 minute video of Machinarium provided by the developer Amanita Designs.

Machinarium Preview from Amanita Design on Vimeo.

The graphics look good, and there is also this interview by Indie games with the developer. According to the interview, Machinarium takes place
in a strange rusty metallic place populated only by robots. The story is about a little robot who has been unjustly thrown out to the scrap yard behind the city. In the game he returns to the town where he meets the bad guys from Black Cap Brotherhood - they are just preparing a bomb attack on the central tower where the town ruler has residence in. Of course our hero must stop them and also rescue his friend robot-girl.
Well the game will be released (hopefully) in the 1st half of 2009 (according to the website), and I'm sure it will another award winning hit.

Afternote: Found the latest preview of the Machinarium:

Machinarium Preview 02 from Amanita Design on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Playware Studios & Magic Lanterns

I was at some corporate events when I was introduced to Playware Studios, a company who blends games with education, and develops applications for students in schools. Here's a brochure that I took from the event. Of course, they do develops casual games as well.

Out of curiosity, I search for one of their products, Magic Lanterns. Through the different articles, it seems that Magic Lanterns has garnered quite favourable reviews. Magic Lanterns has its own site, and interested readers could look at the screen shots or even try the game for free (it's a shareware, i.e. you need to pay for a permanent full version). One of my colleagues had obtained a 'cube' from the earlier games convention, and it features magic lanterns!

Schools and educators are starting to appreciate that games can play a favourable part in imparting knowledge to students. Through games, students can learn the softer aspects of group participation, leadership management, and resource planning. We see these important soft skills surfacing in guild leaders of various online games (e.g. World of Warcraft). The trick is to partner the correct games developer to create games that requires (and rewards) such soft skills. Unlike project works that attract points / marks from teachers, games could be more informal, and thus less stressful for the students.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Games Convention Asia 2008 @ Suntec - Free Posters!

Like the cube above? Cute right? There are many other designs available, and this cube is among the freebies that one could get at the Games Convention Asia 2008 @ Suntec City. There are plenty of other freebies, and I've collected quite a number of posters. Let me share the pictures of some of these posters.

Cherry Credits gave away quite a number of posters (pics below), Rohan, Trickster, Habbo, Fresbo, Bots...etc.

Nope, I do not play all of these games. So far I've only tried Trickster Online. :) Posters are also given for other non Cherry Credit games, for example Baja (racing game) & Zeng Tu (their official website not working somehow). I didn't take a photo of the Elan Online though they also gave away free posters and bookmarks. Too many freebies.

Other than posters, free installation disks, post it notes, notebooks, nicely designed cubes...etc, there are also free magazines. I got these two magazines, both featuring Star Wars (on Wii) on their covers. Yupz, there are demos of this game at the convention as well.

Like the above goodies? Get them at the Games Convention! The last day is this Saturday, i.e. today! So hurry while stocks last, lol.

Related Posts:
- Games Convention Asia 2008 @ Suntec - Short Tour
- Games Convention Asia 2008 @ Suntec City Convention

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Games Convention Asia 2008 @ Suntec - Short Tour

Games Convention Asia 2008 is here! Today I popped by the event during lunch, and spent quite some time on the 4th floor of the Suntec Convention centre. There were a lot of games, covering online MMOs, standalone PC based, consoles (XBox, Wii), handhelds, and even card games.

This year the exhibitors are quite generous with their posters and game disks, and I've collected a pile of these items. Will likely share them around since I would not be interested in playing all of them.

Let me show some of the photos taken today, and perhaps snapshot of those posters / freebies in another post.

Here's the booths of Cheery Credits and MOL. I'm quite glad that these companies exisit to fill the gaps of micro-credits for online games. Their existence will help players, especially those young players with no credits cards. These companies allow for consolidation of game credits that can be used among different games. Essentially, buy 1 card from them (I got a free Cherry Card!), and you can use it among their supported games.

Here's the booths for others, e.g. card games, handhelds (yes, that is a handheld game about SpongeBob). It is useful for gamers to try out these games before deciding if it is worth it to buy. Different games suit different people. More importantly, one could try out the different game consoles (which will determine what are the games one can play) before committing to one.

With all the craze about Formula 1 night racing, of course there are game booths about racing.

For students considering their future education paths, there are also education providers like the polys in this event. Guess the event covers almost all aspects of gaming. Those high level issues of laws, virtual properties, social behaviours ...etc etc are covered in the conference. There were also news articles about games development locally, including one where they mentioned that there are now more female games developers. I guess that explains why there are now more games targeting female players as well?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Games Convention Asia 2008 @ Suntec City Convention

Games Convention Asia (GCA) 2008 is here! It will be held in Suntec Convention (Singapore) from 18th to 20th Sep 2008. The full schedule can be found here. General public visit to the convention is free, but you will have to pay about S$ 200 plus to attend the conference.

They have also organised a special Students' Day on the 20th Sep, where students get to enjoy a separate conference for free. Topics include 'Free to play MMOs' and 'The future of games', 'GAMBIT Internship', 'Assassin Creed' ... by speakers from Nexon, MIT...etc.

Well, while public visitors can attend the event for free, some folks have given me the pass which I could also use for the event. Wonder if entry to the event via this pass would entitle me to any free goodies? I know last year they gave away some rather cool t-shirts, but any other types of goodies, e.g. free installation disks for MMOs, posters...etc are equally welcome!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Littles Lives, Pencil Farm, & National Day Parade

One of the games developer which I visit occasionally is The Pencil Farm. This developer creates very simple games that are easy to learn and play. The interesting part is that his games have attracted the attention of different national events organisers.

Previously his game was 'referenced' by the Beijing Olympics website, i.e. a somewhat negative development I would say. I covered that story sometime back.

More recently and definitely more positive, was the fact that Singapore's Little Lives engaged The Pencil Farm to develop this Singapore National Day Parade game. Little Lives is a social interaction portal set up for schools, students, and their parents, features include the 'poke' function that we commonly see in facebook. It is not sure what is their definition of students, and whether non-students can also join in.

I think the relative success of The Pencil Farm is a proof point that games' popularity is not necessarily linked to the complexity or sophistication of the game mechanics, and sometimes simple games with good ideas are all that is needed to make the game (and their developers) popular.

Related Posts:
- Beijing Olympics versus The Pencil Farm

Monday, September 1, 2008

Update about Smallworlds

Smallworlds has added more features to their service, which will be released in early September. With the new release, Smallworlds players can (thru the new Arcade Game Widget) design, build and submit their own games. Features of games ratings, high scores ladder and search capabilities will also be added. Those in-world games developers can gain fame and the in-world tokens for these player generated games, and potentially earn real money for these production. This design capability is extended to allow players to design their own missions, i.e. in-world quests / tasks.

Smallworlds players can also add 'spells, potions, stinkbombs...etc as part of their interaction with other players. It should be fun to throw stinkbombs at other players. Take a look at this YouTube for the demos on stinkbombs and rockets.

More interactivities will also be added to enable players to 'fly around', with special wings and gears. Players can also set up portals and doors to lead to different parts / extension of the players' rooms. These doors and portals could be activated via different puzzles like equipments. Players could also embed flash-like widgets to their own websites, including blogs or MySpace. I'm not sure how large (in kilobytes) or how 'smooth' would the interaction be, in the event when the website visitors want to interact with the SmallWorlds widget.

Last but not least is the function to buy and sell in-world spaces (i.e. properties), and items. This brings Smallworlds to the same level as other virtual worlds like Second Life. It is not clear whether such sales proceeds could be 'legally' converted back to real world cash subsequently. Smallworlds has a lot of potential due to its browser based concept with enhanced integration with other browser apps / sites (e.g. embedded YouTube), and hopefully they can achieve some level of mainstream recognition.

Related Posts:
- Simple Review of SmallWorlds - New Virtual World
- Smallworlds application in Facebook

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Xtrapva.dll Trojan in the Cabal Online folders

I was doing my usual virus scan when the Symantec Antivirus detected a Xtrapva.dll trojan horse. After a simple search on Google, I found out that the trojan horse has been around since June 2007. The trojan has infected a number of files, including one used by Xtrap. Xtrap is used by many online games (e.g. Cabal Online & knights Online) to scan and prevent third party 'unauthorised' software from running, e.g. bots.

Thus it is ironic that such 'prevention' software got infected with a trojan horse. For my case it's Cabal Online's gaming update such that Xtrap got installed.

There are plenty of solutions and discussions about it. Doing a simple virus scan should be able to cure this trojan horse infection. :) Guess it is time for those online gamers out there to do more scheduled virus scan!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Simple Review of Titan Quest: Immortal Throne

Recently I was busy playing this game 'Titan Quest: Immortal Throne'. This is a good game for those busy working adults who can only spare an hour or less to play games during weekdays. The reasons are that the learning curve is short, and the game is relatively simple to play. Those who have played Diablo would have some appreciation of this game. Conversely some players may feel it is another 'Diablo-like' game which is nothing new.

Oh well, different players prefer different things. Nonetheless here's some screenshots I took of three different characters. The following three shots are those of a corsair class player fighting the three gorgons, the dead gorgons, and the story plot of a girl from ancient China talking to the character (who is from ancient Greece). "I used character and player inter-changeably."

Overall the story is quite linear, taking the player from ancient Greece, to Egypt, and to ancient China. The fighting is relatively simple, with mouse clicks and number keys. Not much of a big tactics is involved unless one choose a higher difficulty level of play. The graphics is attractive, with relatively alright background music. Here's a screenshot of ancient Memphis in Egypt.

The game featured many 'classes' to choose from. While one is classless when the game started, the player gets to choose which of the 8 classes he/she wants to be in from level 3. Each level will grant 3 skill points and 2 character points. Classes are either melee or spell caster based. Some spell caster classes (and later for melee classes) can summon 'pets' like the lich king or wolves to assist them.

The character points could be used to upgrade 'Health', "Energy', "Strength', 'Intelligence', or 'Dexterity'. Sufficient combination of Strength, Intelligence, or Dexterity is needed to wear higher level equipments. Equipments could also have skill enhancers / attributes, and there are also 'sets' which give additional bonus for each additional equipment of the same set when worn. Skill points are for different skills (obviously) and the player could put the active skills into the number hotkeys. When the player reaches level 8, he/she can choose another class, and thus get the best of both classes. The 'designation' of the character also changed once the second class is chosen.

There are certain scenes where special effects are present. For example, when the player enter the burning olive farms in Greece, there are special smoke and fire particles effect. Since the graphics is quite good, one could occasionally zoom in to look at the finer graphical details.

Overall it is a good game and quite worth the money spent I think. I'm not sure if I will complete the game though, or if I will be distracted by other new games. Lolz.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Increasing recognition of games as mainstream activity

After a visit to the WCG 08, I unpacked the goodie bag and was somewhat surprised by the number of gaming related magazines available in the market (e.g. Playworks, EGM, DNA MO Times, and T3). These magazines in the goodie bag are but a small segment of what are available, and that speaks volume about the amount of advertising revenues that the industry is willing to pour in, even for a small market like Singapore.

It is true that there is now a much wider variety of games, thanks to the large increase in the number of casual gamers (effect of Nintendo Wii for example) that helped to push up demand for new games. It is a chicken and egg scenario; more gamers lead to more games creation that further attracts more gamers.

With large scale events like WCG 08 and the recent AsiaSoft's gamefest (held in Marina Square), more people are recognising gaming as a mainstream activity. This didn't happen overnight, since we already have a large number of official game launches with huge crowd turnout (example Cabal Online, Granado Espada, WoW's TBC expansion...etc).

What is actually surprising is the amount of money poured in in terms of advertising revenues, and also game prizes. What used to be prizes comprising of electronic gadgets from sponsors, organisers nowadays are willing to pour in actual cash sums.

So I guess we can look forward to more interesting events and game related materials in the days to come. :)