FunCom Releases In-Game Footage Of The Secret World

Posted by on March 26, 2010 - No Comments »

Stormy clouds threatened to blot out the shiny California sun at this year’s annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, but it wasn’t because of some freak weather phenomenon. Instead, it was Age of Conan developers FunCom finally revealing in-game footage of their next MMORPG project, The Secret World. Entitled “Dark Days,” the trailer gives us our first look at several of the title’s environments, characters, and a little bit of combat to boot (all presented in a cinematic fashion of course, no HUDs here).

If this is your first introduction to The Secret World, then you’ll notice right off the bat it’s a little bit different from your standard massively-multiplayer game. Taking place in more modern times, it eschews typical fantasy trappings in favor of a world run rampant with conspiracy theories come to life. From secret societies to mythical creatures and the occult, if you’ve heard it on Coast to Coast AM, you can bet it probably plays some role in the universe of The Secret World. If that analogy doesn’t work for you, think Deus Ex with a broader approach to the subject matter.

But the setting isn’t the only aspect of the game that stands out. Project lead Ragnar Tørnquist (perhaps best known for working on 2001′s sci-fi MMO Anarchy Online) promises that this new title will turn the genre on its head by getting rid of both levels and classes. Instead, all character advancement will be done through an extensive customization system and player skill. If you hate grinding, it’s worth keeping your eye on The Secret World (heck, you can even play it completely by yourself). In the meantime, check out the preliminary footage below:

You can also seek further information and check out some new screenshots and artwork by heading to the official site.

The Lore Hound Audio Podcast: Episode 1

Posted by on March 26, 2010 - 9 Comments »

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Join all of the Lore Hound regulars with this inaugural podcast! We’ll discuss what we’ve been playing, WoW’s Patch 3.3.3, and some other MMO news from games such as Champions Online and Star Trek Online. We also have a few rumors about Nintendo’s newest handheld, the 3DS. Click the player above to listen, download the podcast, or subscribe via RSS, and let us know what you think!

PAX East 2010: Free Wireless – The Hard Way

Posted by on March 26, 2010 - No Comments »

My hotel is fickle about the release of the Internets.  First off, there is no free wired access, something many hotels “feature.”  There is wireless, but it’s far from reasonable, and it likely sucks.  At $13 a day I said “nowai” and decided to grab access to the tubes the fun way, by being a gigantic nerd.

Here’s what’s going on in the above picture.  My desktop is tethered to a hacked iPhone, not the most impressive feat.  Said iPhone is then connected to a switch, that I had the forward thinking to bring, which links up not one, but two netbooks to the world wide web.

The command center, along with help from those hounds back home, will be delivering you all of the goodies of PAX East with none of the hassle or traveling.

Welcome to Lore Hound.

Posted by on March 25, 2010 - 5 Comments »

Well hello there, Lore Hounds.

Somehow, you have found our site. Congratulations. We hope that you like what we bring to the gaming community and spend some time looking around.

Actually, there’s not a ton of looking around you can do yet, but that will be changing very soon. Lore Hound, as you can see, is still in its beta phase. We’re all excited to be bringing you guys content, mostly focusing on MMOGs but branching into other areas of gaming as well.

So we decided to go ahead and get the site moving with content, and we’ll fix up the layout as soon as we can.

So, what is all this fabulous content? Well, we’ve actually got a ton of great stuff planned. Expect to see: innovative video content, live game-play streaming, exciting visits to top gaming conventions, conversational podcasts, discussions on game design, retrospective blogging and, as our name suggests, looks at the storytelling behind game lore.

Gaming websites should be fun. We believe that analysis, straight-up news and play-by-play guides aren’t worth your time if they don’t provide some entertainment value. Lore Hound seeks to bring all that, and then some. Site visitors will hear about all their favorite MMOGs and get a chance to read and watch engaging, first-hand accounts of the games that they have yet to try.

Watch out, gaming world. Change is coming. And here are the members of the five-person team behind the site:

  • Cavin Smith, aka Amatera
  • Timothy Tusing, aka Heartbourne
  • Patrick Mulhern, aka iTZKooPA
  • Brandon Sato, aka Juggynaut
  • Christa Desrets, aka pixiestixy

You may recognize this group from a past venture with which we all were involved. But now we’re moving past that and aiming to bring you something even better. We were united by a shared love of World of Warcraft, but will persevere with the collective goal to conquer all MMOG evil.

Cheer us on. You’re all Lore Hounds now.

Relationships and MMO's

Posted by on March 25, 2010 - No Comments »

Picking up an MMO is a life-changing event no matter what way you look at it. Not only will it become an integral part of your daily life depending on your level of dedication, it opens up a whole new world that’s just a username and password away.

An MMO can be so many things to a user but above all it serves as a catalyst to help feed any lingering social needs. It diminishes the requirement to approach a person face-to-face in order to find a common ground or spark a conversation. When logging on to a server you automatically have one thing in common with everyone: the game. Generally, in meeting a person outside of a game you can’t help but develop initial opinions based on visuals. But in an MMO, personality automatically becomes the deal breaker. You can log in to an MMO without heeding to real-life standards such as clothes, good self hygiene, and still be accepted. Race, class, ethnicity, and religion all become secondary aspects to a user. All walks of life delve into MMO’s from all over the world without feeling alienated based on any given set of social mores. 

Like any major decision, there are definite benefits and downfalls to developing an in-game relationship. Taking the next step can either do a world of good or create a bevy of problems depending on the circumstances.

The Benefits of an MMO Inspired Relationship

One of the large scale benefits of joining an MMO community is the social transformations that can take place. An introverted personality can pick-up on social skills that extroverted players display in order to develop their own skill set that can be exercised in and outside of the game. Not only can it help you develop personal skills, it can be the catalyst for meeting that special someone. This doesn’t mean that you should go into an MMO expecting to find your soul mate, but there is always the possibility of hitting it off with a person you commonly play with whether it be a friendship or something more. Developing in-game relationships can transcend the fantasy realm and become a long-lasting tie.

Not only do MMO’s warrant the blossoming of in-game relationships, they help build upon pre-existing relationships. The leader of my guild, Brad, is a perfect example. He went to high school with his wife, Angie, but never really talked to her until after they both graduated. They added each other on MySpace as friends and she messaged him because he had World of Warcraft content on his profile. All of Angie’s Everquest friends had quit for WoW but she hadn’t yet decided if she wanted to play. Brad suggested she try it. It was the final push she needed to join the community and so she bought it. Angie needed all the patches and at the time dial-up was the only thing available so Brad offered to burn the patches to a CD for her. She met him at his work to pick it up and they ended up hitting it off. After that, they began playing WoW together on a constant basis. It gave them something to do with each other even if they couldn’t meet up face-to-face. They believe it helped to bring them closer together because they were in essence able to spend more time with each other whether it be a date online or off. Years later they married and still continue playing MMO’s together to strengthen their relationship.

The Downsides of an MMO Inspired Relationship

In joining a game server you instantly have access to thousands of people’s opinions. Although playing an MMO can help an introverted personality expand, it can also boost pre-existing frustrations. Many people sign up to an MMO only to find that they are unable to connect with other players. This can further feelings of social alienation you may already feel out of game and deepen a depression. Since you are exposed to what thousands of people think, you will soon find that not everyone has a strong moral compass. There are no repercussions to what people say or do in a game because behavior isn’t regulated. You are exposed to racism, prejudice, and sexism. The negativity felt in-game from one persons dialogue can boost any issues you may already be dealing with. Above all, it’s easy to be taken advantage of whether you are emotionally stable or not which can then lead to rash, life-changing decisions. For example, there have been multiple reports of players committing suicide because of failed in-game relationships.  

An MMO ripens your possibility of creating a long-lasting relationship but these relationships aren’t always necessarily healthy. I had a friend dating someone exclusively in-game. He was on cloud nine until things began to fall through the cracks. Towards the end of the relationship he developed control issues and a deep jealously for all other players she played with. After they broke it off, he went on to become severely depressed not eating or sleeping from that point on. Even if an in-game relationship you develop is strong, it can condone the neglecting of more pressing personal issues such as waning self-health and failing friendships. When you are attached to someone in-game it encourages you to play the game more and let everything else fall to the wayside.

As previously discussed, playing an MMO with a loved one can create a whole new level of connection but it can also form an insurmountable barrier based on game etiquette. A prime example is a real-life friend of mine had their partner begin an in-game relationship that escalated to flirting, endless hours of voice chatting, and hiding conversations. They then discovered the in-game relationship which lead to serious trust issues. Since the betrayal was in game, the cheating party didn’t realize the severity of the issue. Meanwhile, my friend questions their motives from therein and can no longer look at their partner in the same light.

Overall, MMO inspired relationships have their ups and downs just like any other tie. All it takes is good judgment and to realize that as much time as you spend on an MMO it is still just a game and you can’t let it consume your life.

Disclaimer: This article is filled with merely observations and does not serve as any final judgment.

Get Those Ticket-Buying Fingers Ready: BlizzCon 2010 Revealed!

Posted by on March 25, 2010 - 4 Comments »

Start booking your flights to Anaheim and mark your calendars for October 22nd, ladies and germs, because that is the official date for this year’s BlizzCon. Quite a bit later than last year, but if you’ve followed the development of the event since its inception in 2005, you might note that it has alternated dates every time. The first, third (and now, fifth) BlizzCons have taken place in mid-late October, while the second and fourth played out towards the end of August. I don’t know if there’s some conscious trend here, but it does have at least one interesting implication for the company’s 2010 releases. Namely, World of Warcraft’s next expansion, Cataclysm.

The only hint of a release date we’ve ever gotten was that it would hit retail shelves by the time the next ‘Con rolled around, which means that it will likely hit late in the year at this point. Heck, let’s be honest. Knowing Blizzard’s track record with pushing back release dates, I wouldn’t be surprised if they gave Deathwing and pals one last hurrah at the convention before launching the game sometime in November. If that ends up being the case, then I’m not sure if 3.3.5′s Ruby Sanctum raid is going to be enough to hold people over, even if recreating Azeroth is an awful lot of work. But I’m tip-toeing into a completely different post here, let’s get back on topic!

Though they’re staying hush-hush about what games we might see this year (and what would surprise announcements be if they weren’t, you know, surprises?), Blizzard has put up a helpful FAQ with all known details of the event. It’ll likely be a few months before the ticket lines open, but you will only be able to order them online through the Blizzard Store. The queue system is reported to work similar to the way it did in 2009, meaning that you better start training your link-clicking finger for what is basically the equivalent of a nerd-friendly Olympic event. Come early, or don’t come at all. Might I suggest that you keep your skills sharp by perusing LoreHound on a regular basis (wink, wink)? Here, go ahead, click it. The burn feels good, doesn’t it?

On that note, hopefully we can look forward to a bevy of “Packing For BlizzCon 2010″ posts once October 22nd rolls around. And, should we all fail to be so lucky, paid event streaming through the television or online likely proved popular enough last time to warrant a second round.

Jack Emmert of Cryptic Studios gets honest with The Big Freaks.

Posted by on March 25, 2010 - No Comments »

My friends Ivan and Shamrokk over at The Big Freaking Podcast had a chance to sit down with Jack Emmert, Chief Operating Officer of Cryptic Studios. Cryptic has released two big AAA titles within 6 months of each other: Champions Online and Star Trek Online. He is proud to say that Cryptic is the only developer to release four MMORPG’s in its game developing lifetime. Counting City of Heroes, City of Villains’, Champions Online and most recently Star Trek Online, not many studios come close.

Jack Emmert, an avid comic book fan who reads over 90 titles monthly, says his favorites are The Green Lantern and The Hulk. He holds multiple academic degrees and was approached to do City of Heroes while he was working on his dissertation about animal sacrifices. He left a possible career of being a professor of Greek and Latin to create Cryptic Studios with Rick Dakin in 2000. While he reminiscing about the lean years during the parting of ways from NCSoft he says, “He never got misty eyed” over selling The City of Heroes/Villians franchise but thought they would be working on for the next decade. He claims that Cryptic and NCSoft had “divergent interests” and after rescuing the company from the brink of financial apocalypse they acquire the Star Trek IP along with the Champions IP (Intellectual Property, the right to an idea.)

It sounds like Jack Emmert has been through hell and back with Cryptic. He’s passionate about his products and like everyone who creates a product for a particular market he has to deal with the critics. The mention of the different ratings systems and the mediocre scores would seem to have an impact on future customers for both games. But as Jack Emmert explains how the ratings system itself is quite imbalanced. When websites like Metacritic, Massively and Gamespot reviewed Warhammer Online and Age of Conan they didn’t expect the player sudden player drop off. Leaving many of the reviewers burned [sic] by loss of credibility.

Jack Emmert says it isn’t the reviewers or the fans that are ruining the MMORPG industry, “Wow has almost destroyed the MMO genre” he says. “Not in a bad way”, he follows, it’s because (wow) epitomizes everything that an MMO is, leaving all the others to be compared to it. This is why many reviewers judge a game on what it is NOW instead of what it COULD BE. But he also feels that it will take a lot of money and a strong IP to rival the World of Warcraft. After spending over 100 million dollars he feels that Bioware’s upcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic could be the game to rival WoW.

The future plan for Cryptic Studios looks very promising. Jack Emmert seemed very positive about the new upcoming updates for both games, Star Trek Online’s Season 2 and Revelations for Champions Online. An entire survey of the taken by the Star Trek Online community is going to be created into the next expansion called Season 2. “What the players want is exactly what we’re going to give them”, Jack says with authority. When posted a question of a death penalty or lack thereof, he admits that the community has strongly requested it and it will be in an upcoming patch. “What is fun about a death penalty” he jokes but then tells us a deep, dark developer secret that the only reason why a death penalty is incorporated into a game is to get the player to play longer.

There is one thing to be wrong, but not to stay wrong. At certain  times during the interview Mr. Emmert admits to certain points where bothChampions Online and Star Trek Online they could be improved. He is looking to improve the company overall and make better product for the public. But the problem is a logistical issue of manpower, he doesn’t want to be detract from the developer team that is making new content to go back and fix certain issues. Problems ranging typos to quests that don’t tell the player where to go and ultimately description of powers and items that don’t make any sense, it will take manpower to make these changes.

Their latest campaign is to actively reach out to the community and the press to find their place amongst this universe of games. One of the many steps they are taking is something they practiced during their days as developers of City of Heroes/Villains’, they did this from taking a page from Richard Garriot’s book. By creating characters and actively getting involved with the players firsthand they get to see the game through the gamer’s eyes instead of a developer. In doing this they are looking to bridge the gap between gamer and developer.

Enter Bill Roper, the good cop to Jacks bad cop. As Shannon Posniewski ascends from the position of a software engineer to an executive role, this frees up Bill Roper to be the one who is going to oversee all games. One of Bill Ropers new roles as troubleshooter is going to be “making sure he play tests all of the taskforces in Star Trek.” Jack abruptly ends this subject with, “there is a little bit more going on than everybody knows yet.” Hmm, could there be a big surprise coming from Cryptic this year at E3!

Could it be Jack Emmert’s dream project of making a Godzilla MMO? Nah, never happen and I’m not one to speculate but one thing is confirmed that it will not be made for any consoles. “Consoles are not a current focus” he confides to the surprise of both Ivan and Shamrokk, he says he’s looking to “make the best PC products they possibly can.”

I will stop here; I don’t want to give everything away, but this was one of the most in-depth, personal and honest interviews I have ever had to chance to hear. This is a man that has made some tough decisions, choosing on becoming a video game developer than a college professor. During many sleepless nights he held up this company with the help of his staff. His employees look to him and put their trust in him not just as their boss, but as a leader.

Jack Emmert and Cryptic Studios seems resilient, they have bounced back from numerous setbacks. The selling of a successful MMO franchise to release other successful MMO’s and in dealing with bad press they learn from their mistakes and keep the future in focus. According to Jack, 100,000 subscriptions is a success and their mission is to keep that level of quality. This builds confidence in their customer base and opens the door for future business.

But his main focus is on his employees that depend on him and his customers that look to Cryptic Studios to have fun by playing their games. That is the bottom line over at Cryptic Studios; they are just looking to make fun games, at the end of the day Cryptic is just a bunch of gamers. To hear the rest of the interview and catch up on past shows head on over to The Big Freaking Podcast, download and enjoy!

Until then…

Play safe,

Frank Inktomi

Packing For PAX East

Posted by on March 25, 2010 - 3 Comments »

We’ll be covering a wide variety of gaming and MMOG news from PAX East as part of our opening flood of content.  I am based out of Philadelphia, so I’ve decided to take a road trip rather than be molested by TSA screeners and forced to take my shoes off.  In light of the trip I’ve packed the essentials and avoided bringing the distractions.

Essentials:

  • HD Camcorder – I hear viewers these days demand video content.  Not just any video content, but of the newfangled “high definition” variety.  Lore Hound’s got you covered, and I even remembered a spare battery and memory cards.  Heck, there’s even a tripod!
  • Camera – I don’t think the cosplayers would like me following them around with said camera.  Better to snap a photo and move on.
  • Netbook & Desktop – Writing and editing on the go…and stationary!
  • Nintendo DS – Complete with a fresh copy of The World Ends With You.  A handheld of some kind is a requirement at PAX.  Where else have you seen 20+ Pictochat rooms?
  • Paper & Pens – Believe it or not people still use those archaic things.
  • World of Warcraft: Stormrage – Who knows, maybe I’ll have some downtime.
  • Snacks – One thing I have learned about myself at these shows is I hardly make time to eat.  I want to see everything, talk to everyone and document everything.  Portable snacks, like apples, granola bars and crackers, get me from breakfast to dinner.  And second dinner.
  • Miscellaneous – Voice recorder, microphone, backup electronics equipment, business cards, hygiene products, hotel reservations and directions to the convention center.

Distractions:

  • WoW authenticator – There’s already a dozen companies waiting for me to play games.  I shouldn’t have any need – or time – for my WoW authenticator while I take over Boston.
  • Non-gaming Girlfriend – Sorry honey.  Just like I don’t understand Real Housewives of Local Metropolitan Area, you don’t understand Penny Arcade Expo.  We’ve tried to make a go of it before.  I have the scars to prove it.
  • Costume – I’m only going to be posing for pictures and videos for the Lore Hounds (that’d be you).

Shit, I forgot clothes.

There we go.